By Jackie Johnson

Mice, a member of the rodent family, can cause a great deal of damage inside a home, from destroying walls, woodwork and wiring to contaminating the food products they eat. Signs of mice include shredded paper, black fecal droppings, a strong musky smell and tracks left by their paws or tail. Besides destroying property, mice also spread diseases, making mouse identification an important skill to have to safeguard the home and family.

A mouse can contaminate many surfaces in a home.

Shredded Paper

A box of cereal with shreds of cardboard beside it is a sure sign that mice are present in the house. All rodents have sharp teeth on which they rely to survive. Mice chew through paper packaging to get at the food inside. Rather than eating the same food until the mouse satisfies its hunger, it nibbles a little from as many containers as it can chew its way into. Since mice carry diseases and can contaminate the food with its waste products. Putting the food in a covered waste can or container reduces the risk of disease.

Waste Matter

The urine of mice shows up under ultraviolet lights, just as cat urine does. Going through the house when it is relatively dark with a lighted black light points out pathways and places where the mice have urinated. Mouse droppings are black and can be segmented. Mice are not particular about where they deposit waste. If you see small black deposits on your shelves, floors or counters, it may indicate mice in the house.

Nesting Identification

Mice prefer nesting away from trafficked areas in the home and use their teeth to create soft and warm nests from paper or fabric. Spotting a pile of finely shredded fabric and paper can indicate mice. Mice can nest inside appliances like dishwashers and refrigerators and their nests are difficult to spot. A large appliance that stops running may indicate mice, since the rodents eat the insulation off the wiring, creating a dangerous situation.

Sights and Sounds

Mice can leave behind trails when they travel across dusty surfaces. The feet on a mouse have four toes on the front foot with five on the back foot. The tail print may even show on a dusty surface as a thin line. When mice run through walls or ceilings, the animals make noise. Any scratching or scurrying sounds in or near a wall can indicate the presence of mice. Alert cats and dogs can hear these sounds and may spend time sniffing the areas or whining around the places where mice travel and nest.


Gnawed holes in walls, around baseboards, cabinets or doors could signal the presence of mice. Mice can compress themselves to enter a home in a crack or hole as small as a quarter inch. The definitive signs of mice around cracks are the urine or fecal deposits.