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To Catch Or To Kill, That Is the Question

2010 March 4

While I was on my way home, my daughter Mariam franticly called me because she had seen a small mouse running in our family room. I told her that I would stop by the supermarket to buy mouse traps. She insisted that we catch the mouse live and dispose of it. She didn’t want to kill it or use any poisons that might hurt our three house cats. In fact, the scene was quite comical because in our time of need, the three cats were no where to be found!

I wasn’t worried about having a rodent infestation in the house because we observe integrated pest management practices. Furthermore, I hope that the cats’ presence should serve as a natural deterrent. I suppose that the small field mouse, which seemed to be as frantic as my daughter, must have entered the warm house while I brought the garbage can and recycling bin inside. Yes, I had left the kitchen door open in the process, me bad.

When I got home with two sets of mouse traps (including a live-catch one) my daughter kept insisting that she didn’t want to kill the mouse. Surprisingly, while the mouse was scurrying around the family room trying to escape, it jumped into a box full of toys. My husband quickly took the box, dumped it out on the deck, and the small mouse leaped to freedom.

So what are the do’s and don’ts to get rid of mice and other pests in the home? Simple tips include removing sources of food, water and shelter. If you have to use pesticides, read the label first and keep children and pets away while these pesticides are being applied. In the home, traps and baits pose less risks to children and pets. Nonetheless, place them in areas where your children or pets cannot reach. In fact, the use of rat poison in the home leads to accidental poisonings of children on a yearly basis. The Agency has announced stricter policy guidelines to prevent rodenticide poisonings.

I must confess that while the mouse trapping scenario was hilarious this weekend, rodents and other pests in the home are not a laughing matter. They present many health risks and need to be handled properly. With preventive measures, you can keep everyone at home safe and the pests far away.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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36 Responses leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    March 4, 2010


  2. samyalabed permalink
    March 4, 2010


  3. samyalabed permalink
    March 4, 2010

    kill killl killl

  4. Deb permalink
    March 4, 2010

    Armadillo anyone? While the story of the mouse is a positive approach to a not often situation; what is a person to do with a bigger constant invader/destroyer of property (holes all over my once beautiful lawn). Nothing seems to deter my newly acquainted Armadillo from attacking my lawn in the evening. While I don’t want to poison it; if I catch it what will I do with it??? I love all animals but the nuisance factor is weighing heavily on me and it my turn into a matter of life or death for Mr. Armadillo~ I’m completely torn on what to do.

  5. armansyahardanis permalink
    March 4, 2010

    Your daughter is really good, smart ….. In our neighborhood, here, rat is enemy. Maybe, it is a symbolize of clean houses. In paddy fields, they are also enemies, because rodent infestation to destroy rice stalks. Here, rat identical with the symbolize of corruptors that stolen of our money. I choose, law enforcement to kill them.

  6. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 4, 2010

    Have you contacted animal control? Would they take care of something like that?

  7. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 4, 2010

    Personally, my preference would be to trap with one of thos sticky traps not the old-fashion mouse traps, but my daughter was insistant that the mouse be kept alive.

    I’m glad for us and for the mouse that it was able to leap to freedom.

  8. Ambrosia permalink
    March 4, 2010

    I always thought mice were cute little things and would never think of killing one. The live catch traps work great and there is satisfaction when you let him go free.

  9. joan permalink
    March 4, 2010

    I’m with you, Ambrosia.
    Live, and let live.

  10. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 4, 2010

    Ambrosia and Joan,
    That was my daughter’s preference. This obviously was a little field mouse that lost its way. It was seeking a way to get out the house. Glad we were able to make that happen. It was quite an amusing scenario, I must add.

  11. Jackenson Durand permalink
    March 4, 2010

    Receiving time to do a test exam, answering 100 questions in 50 minutes, would it be a problem too?
    We can always try to take time to write history by avoid living in action.
    – When we think about the way a mouse is smart, so smart it would be able to play or use human mind.
    – Would it be better to take time to study (know) them before thinking about killing.
    While give thanks to the evolution of science, we must think about philosophy there.

  12. Deb permalink
    March 4, 2010


    I’m on a budget and would hate to spend too much money on this; they would be my last resort. The poor things is oblivious to me or my dog, I so I dont think trapping it would be to difficult…its a lot more intimidationg than a cute little house mouse.


  13. David Mc permalink
    March 4, 2010

    Well, I have to admit, I have an electronic one. Smear a bit of peanut butter inside, close to the top, it goes in and ZAP! Clean and no chemical residue. I do use fresh batteries to make sure it’s quick.

  14. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    March 5, 2010

    So many people if they saw a mouse would think kill it as the first step. Better that it was able to be returned to the wild. Of course, the mouse’s life expectancy in the wild is not that long. In the condo complex I live at I am on the Board of Directors of the Association and if anything comes up, we hear about it at Board meetings. We have not yet had a case of mouse or rat infestation. I think that is for 2 reasons: (1) we have a great landscaping crew who do a good job keeping up the trees and plants; and (2) the complex is in a large open park-like area with Oso Creek running past so we have lynx, bobcats, and coyoties that help keep the mice, rats, jack rabbits, and gophers in check without the need for a lot of poisons or traps that kill. We also have ringtail hawks that patrol the area during the day and owls at night. Our biggest pest problem is termites getting into wood balcanies and patios. We have an exterminating company that takes care of them when they happan. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  15. Al Bannet permalink
    March 5, 2010

    The mouse entered the home in search of food because it could smell it. Obviously a good idea is to cover all food and quickly dispose of scraps. If that doesn’t work, since mice potentially carry really dangerous germs, I would consider it an invasion of my private space and kill it, as I do roaches and flies. Children’s natural sympathy for all life is temporary until they discover that planet Earth is 99% predatory.

  16. Anne Nonimus permalink
    March 5, 2010

    when i catch mice i find they flush down the toilet well. I use the “Clamshell” style kill traps. You dn’t have to touch the dead critter and they reset easily. Peanut butter or jelly beans have been my most effective baits. We caught almost a dozen mice in my office one week using jelly beans.

  17. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 5, 2010

    Interesting. So the trap is reusable?

  18. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 5, 2010

    Seems like a nice environment where ecological balance keeps everything in check.

  19. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 5, 2010

    Dozens in the office? Yikes! Sounds like an infestation! Hadn’t thought about jelly beans as bait. Interesting.

  20. Linda permalink
    March 5, 2010

    Deb, I suspect the armadillo is being drawn to your yard by something other than your lovely lawn: most likely, you have a grub, worm, or insect population that he’s finding tasty. If you can control the little pests, I think the bigger pest will go away too.

    If you do try and trap the armadillo to release elsewhere, be very careful not to touch it with your bare hands. The armadillo can carry Hansen’s disease (aka leprosy), especially on its feet.

    You could try sprinkling red pepper flakes on your yard–I do that with my bird feeders; birds love the spicy treat, but squirrels and raccoons would rather dine elsewhere than endure the burn. Maybe it would work for the armadillo as well.

  21. Linda permalink
    March 5, 2010

    I’m definitely in the “catch and release” school. My area is rural enough that the mice have to look sharp to avoid the hawks, owls, coyotes, and sundry other predators. While I like mice, I’m also very fond of the great horned owls that nest near my home.

  22. Jesús Torres Navarro permalink
    March 5, 2010

    Hola Lina, me parese muy interesante la experiencia que casualmente sucedió en tu casa, es en verdad divertida pero lleva a una reflexión y a buscar una alternativa con la que todos, sobre todo tu niña, estén de acuerdo, pienso que una buena alternativa sería contactar con un centro de investigación al que un ratón pueda serles de utilidad y capturarlo para enviarlo con ellos que finalmente sabrán mejor que nosotros que hacer con el
    Considero muy importante prevenir las plagas en el hogar y sólo usar, con mucho cuidado, productos que puedan combatir estas plagas sin dañar la salud de personas y mascotas

  23. David Mc permalink
    March 6, 2010

    Linda, are you talking about the Hawks or the electric thing? Yes, it’s reusable. My sister even borrowed it a few times.

  24. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 8, 2010

    I think in rural areas people might prefer the catch and release option because you know that nature and natural predators will keep things in check. In suburban and especially urban areas, we don’t have the natural elements to keep mice in check. And that’s why we have zero tolerance for these creatures. Still prefer to get rid of them without the use of chemicals, if possible.

  25. Jesús Torres Navarro permalink
    March 8, 2010

    Hola Lina, fíjate que estuve reflexionando sobre mi comentario anterior, donde señalé que sugería que el ratón se atrapara y se llevara a un centro de investigación, pero pensándolo bien creo que es lo mismo que matarlo, solo que no directamente sino a través de otro; entonces se me ocurrió que si se atrapaba y tratándose de un ratón de campo, sería bueno conservarlo o regalarlo, pero como mascota
    Te comento que aquí en México y me imagino que en muchas otras partes, los ratones (algunos, incluidos los de campo) son muy apreciados como mascotas, bueno, felicidades en el día internacional de la Mujer, un cordial saludo a tu familia y que Dios los bendiga

  26. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 9, 2010

    Primero–Gracias por las felicitaciones en el Día Internacional de la Mujer.

    Es cierto que enviar el ratón a un centro de investigaciones porbablemente significaría matarlo de alguna manera, sea tarde o temprano. Personalmente no me gustaría adoptar un ratón callejero o de campo como mascota porque uno no sabe las enfermedades o microbios que podría estar transportando. Definitivamente es mejor combatir las plagas de una manera en que podamos utilizar menos sustancias químicas tóxicas. Voy abundar más sobre el tema en el próximo blog. Espero que podamos continuar el diálogo. Muchos saludos.

  27. Georgegot permalink
    April 19, 2010

    The only downside to live traps is that if you don’t release the vermin far away from you house, they will probably just come back in. Electric shock traps are the most humane way of killing mice. That new Victor-Multi Kill traps seems to be pretty popular.

  28. Ruth permalink
    April 20, 2010

    I prefer to kill as humanely as possible. Electronic traps, like the Multi-Kill, exterminate mice instantly with a shock.

  29. Lina-EPA permalink*
    April 28, 2010

    I prefer the sticky traps, but I have been out-voted in my house. They want to release the mouse alive. Luckily they were able to do so, but I didn’t approach the vermin with a 10 nor 20 ft pole!

  30. Chuck permalink
    September 16, 2010

    I have a problem with the person having 3 cats and having to find alternative ways to catch or kill mice. I would never use poison because as previously stated the cats would probably get into it.
    I would do nothing, because the cats would, left to their own devices, take care of the problem. I know mine do. I haven’t had a bad mouse problem since i’ve had my 3 cats. Every now and then, we get a stray mouse or two, but it is quickly taken care of by my cats. So don’t panic, let your cats do the job. They will if they are truly cats and not dogs in disguise.

  31. Walter J permalink
    September 24, 2010

    While I must agree any rodent infestation is a problem and therefore can and most likely will grow into a health risk, Killing them seems to be the only viable option when quick results are being sought. The only time I can truly say these creatures should be caught is when we are dealing with an offshoot of their genetic family such as guinea pigs, hamsters, dwarf hamsters, gerbils, or any of the burrowing rodents we use as pets.

  32. thebestmousetrap permalink
    February 22, 2012

    As a mom of 5 kids, and one who live in the country and we have loads of rodents of all kinds, I have to say, after 19 years, I love the electronic mouse traps. The just work. We used the giant, well its not really that big, but big enough, multi kill in our garage. Now the animal foods we keep outside are rodent free. We had them in containers, but those stinky mice chewed right through them. Thanks for your story.

  33. permalink
    February 15, 2013

    Mouse traps are one of the most effective ways to capture mice and ultimately eradicate the mouse infestation that has invaded your home. Before professionals choose poisons and products with toxic chemicals, they will choose traps to honor the safety of your home. Not only are traps effective in mouse control, but mouse traps are economical in that they do not cost a lot of money to buyTo

  34. mouse deterrent permalink
    February 22, 2013

    Often times, although business owners and homeowners would like to quickly eradicate a rat infestation by using poison baits, but they are unable to use them because of their high chemical content. In areas where the use of chemical baits is prohibited or it is a chemical sensitive location, baits is not always the best method to use for rat control.

  35. Mike Loshe permalink
    September 10, 2013

    Thanks for the share. Have you tried just baiting the area with some Mouse Poison covered in peanut butter? I have done this a few times and it has taken care of the problem within a matter of days.

  36. Andy Miles permalink
    November 22, 2013

    My main concern is to do it humanely whether you choose to kill or to catch. This brings me to the point of using GLUE TRAP. Glue trap is a cruel way to kill/catch animals.

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