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The Problem With Mice (and Drats, Rats!) in the Home

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

It was puzzling to us why my wife’s relatively new car, safely housed in the garage, wouldn’t start one morning. It was absolutely shocking to learn that the reason behind it was that it had been invaded by a family of mice who had taken up residence in its motor as the winter cold approached and had eaten away some wiring critical to its operation.

That wasn’t the only time that mice had interfered with our daily lives. Some winters later we experienced burst pipes in our crawl space because mice had eaten away the insulation around them. Some years after that, the entire pump and heater to our pool had to be replaced after mice had spent a winter eating their way through the mechanisms.

Most of us at some point experience problems with mice. It’s funny, but it’s almost embarrassing for us to admit, as witnessed by a work associate of mine who shared with me the most alarming (and ultimately expensive) story of her experience this winter with mice in her home. When I asked if I could share it with my readers, understandably she asked me not to use her real name.

So, let’s call her Amy, who lives by a lake in northern Westchester.

“I’ve been used to hearing mice under my floor when winter sets in, but this time around, I heard something completely different,” she said. “It was a loud, gnawing, crunching coming from under my kitchen sink.”

Amy said she purchased poison pellets from Home Depot, scrubbed the whole cabinet beneath her sink (“the yuckiest of kitchen jobs!”), found her whisk broom in shreds (“This is mice?”), put out the pellets and waited.

“But the nighttime gnawing kept on,” she said. “It was like someone was rubbing two pieces of rusted metal together.”

Next, Amy reported that something went terribly wrong with her dishwasher. Water poured out from under her sink while it was in the rinse cycle. She just didn’t put two and two together. She called a plumber to fix or replace what she thought was the water line to the dishwasher. When the plumber pulled the dishwasher apart, there, in the water well at the bottom, was a hole the size of a baseball chewed out, with a rat’s signature teeth marks.

“This is war!” Amy declared. She called JP McHale Pest Management, the trusty Buchanan-based exterminator. They came and put down the big black boxes and snap traps. A week later, there were a few dead rats in her basement.

“Their advice to me was to take down my bird feeders, which they said was attracting rodents which were then coming inside my house via the basement and coming up under my sink,” Amy said. “And in the process, they ate through my sheetrock and pulled out a good portion of insulation in the basement.”

JP McHale installed copper mesh and steel wool in all entry points of her house, along with a foam sealant. For Amy, the next step, unfortunately, must be to buy a new dishwasher, one with a stainless steel bottom and inner components.

Mice are one of the more common pests to be found in the home, not because we don’t keep a clean house, but simply because our homes offer warmth, food and shelter, and they find a way in.

Entries are any holes on a home’s exterior such as those needed for air conditioning and electrical wiring leading to the house. Also, mice are good climbers and if branches of trees overhang the roof, they provide easy access to the attic.

Once inside, mice can create a good deal of damage in a short period of time.  Their gnawing might start innocently enough with soft items like clothing and stuffed animals as they search for nesting materials, but can lead to the most dangerous kind of damage by chewing on the home’s electrical wiring which can create a major fire hazard.

If you decide to tackle the mice problem yourself, I would implore you to use wooden snap traps, baited with peanut butter or Slim Jims, rather than rat poison. I say this because of a sad story related to me by a young, very sensitive pest control fellow I met years ago who said that snap traps are the most humane way to go for the animal.

If you choose to use a service, I would refer you to JP McHale, which I have used for many years. JP McHale Pest Management can be reached at 800-479-2284.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

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