The scritch-scratch and pitter-patter of a house mouse is something no homeowner wants to hear. These vocal rodents can make a real mess in our pantries, attics, basements, and wiring. If you’re hearing squeaking or scratching, you may be wondering if it’s a mouse or something else?
Mice use a wide range of sounds and noises to communicate with each other. These can include squeaks, chirps, and high-frequency sounds that are inaudible to humans. Mice can also make physical sounds like scratching in cabinets and ceilings, gnawing on drywall, or dragging materials to their nest.
If you’re hearing noises inside your walls, don’t worry, you’re not going crazy! It’s probably a mouse, and in this article, we’ll go over all the different noises they make inside your home.
Mice Squeak And Chirp When Communicating
The thought of having a mouse in the house might be terrifying to some, while others are willing to live with it. Either way, having a mouse as a roommate is not ideal.
According to the University of California, the most common mouse you will find in your home is the house mouse, Mus musculus. Occasionally, the deer mouse can be found in cabins or outbuildings, but they are far less common indoors than the house mouse.
If you had to choose one sound that you know a mouse makes, it would probably be a squeak, right? Squeaking and chirping are common noises that mice make to communicate with one another.
Unfortunately, if you’re hearing squeaking and chirping in your home, that means there is more than one mouse inside. Yikes!
So, what exactly are mice saying when they squeak and chirp?
An article in the Journal of Genes, Brain and Behavior states that laboratory mice will squeak to communicate stress or pain, such as when being handled. Female laboratory mice will squeak when a male mouse approaches them and they are uninterested.
Laboratory mice are one thing, but what about the squeaks and chirps we hear inside our walls, beneath our floorboards, and in our attics?
Truthfully, there’s not a lot of research out there about the audible squeaks and chirps we hear and exactly what they mean. However, there are a lot of theories out there about the familiar noises of a mouse.
Some of the reasons mice make squeaking and chirping noises include:
- Finding food (usually squeaking)
- Mating (squeaks and chirps)
- Fighting (squeaking)
- Calling each other (squeaks and chirps)
- Interacting, such as a female communicating with another female (usually chirps)
The more thoroughly-researched squeaks that mice make are done in the ultrasonic wavelength, far outside the range of human hearing.
What To Do About Mice Squeaking And Chirping In The House
If you are hearing tiny squeaks in your home and you’re certain it’s a mouse (or mice), there are a few things you should do.
Firstly, figure out where the squeaks are coming from. Squeaks will occur more often at night or early in the morning, so pay extra attention during these times.
Once you’ve located where the squeaks are coming from, zero in on this section of your house and try to listen for returning squeaks or answering chirps from other mice.
Mice have a fairly small home range, so if you hear noises in your basement, it’s unlikely there are also mice in your attic. Once you identify where the mice are, you can focus your efforts on this location to rid your house of mice. But more on that later!
Mice Make Scratching Noises Inside Your Home
One of the more destructive noises that mice make inside the home is scratching. The noise will sound like scraping and scratching such as against rough rock or wood.
Mice are just as good as cats at ruining things with their scratching. But before you get too worried about scratching, it’s important to identify where the noise is coming from.
Kitchen: If you hear scratching noises in your kitchen, a mouse is likely trying to get into a cereal box or some other cardboard-like container. They might also be scratching holes in the interior of your cabinets to make runways from a food source to their nest.
Ceiling: According to the Montana Department of Agriculture, scratching noises can be caused by the mouse simply moving from one place to another. As the mouse grips a rough surface, its claws will make a scratching noise. This is especially true if they are traveling on an angled surface, such as above a ceiling.
Walls: Scratching is one of the main noises that mice make when they’re being extra destructive. It means they’re trying to scratch through a surface (such as drywall) to get to the other side. If you hear scratching in the walls, a mouse is likely trying to make a hole through something.
You can expect to hear mouse noises most often at night or in the early hours of the morning. This is when mice are most active and are the most mischievous.
What To Do About Scratching Mice Inside Your Home
For how small mice are, their scratching can be super loud! Don’t be fooled if it sounds like a rotund raccoon is scratching behind your walls – It’s still more likely to be a mouse. The noise may be amplified by the cavity behind your wall, making it sound louder than it really is.
If you are experiencing scratching in your walls, cabinets, or ceiling, you’ll want to follow a similar procedure to hearing squeaking. First, try to pinpoint where the scratching is coming from.
As mentioned before, mice have a small home range, so if you can identify where the scratching is happening, you can bet the nest is nearby. If the scratching is happening in your kitchen, you can set out mouse traps like Linrone Humane Mouse Traps.
These traps are catch-and-release and can help identify whether the problem you’re dealing with is a mouse or a rat. Mice tend to be very inquisitive and will be easier to catch in a trap than a rat.
If you’ve left the trap out for days and still haven’t caught a mouse, you may be dealing with a rat or some other small mammal.
Mice Pitter-Patter When They Run
Mice are TINY! They only weigh half an ounce. That equals out to about the same weight as five pennies or half a slice of bread.
When describing the noise such a tiny creature makes when they run, pitter-patter is about the only viable option.
Mice that are pitter-pattering away in your ceilings may be looking for a nesting area, checking out their surroundings, or moving materials to their nest. If you make a loud noise, the sound will stop as the mouse freezes and assesses its surroundings.
Pitter-pattering is most often heard in ceilings since mice use them as a highway system to and from their nest. The noise can be heard in walls as mice traverse through them to gather insulation for their nest or to store food caches from your kitchen.
You may also hear the pitter-patter of tiny mice feet in the pipes around your house. Mice will use pipes to traverse your house and can even use them to get inside in the first place.
What To Do About Pitter-Pattering Mice Inside Your Home
If it sounds like a teeny-tiny creature is running across your ceiling at full speed, it can set off some alarm bells!
Unfortunately, the only thing you can do when you hear the pitter-patter of mice is to realize you have a mouse problem. When mice are running around, the most likely reason is that they are exploring new areas or traversing to and from their nest.
This noise may be the first alert that a mouse has entered your home. From here, you can use some of the other noises they make to pinpoint their location and hopefully remove them from your home.
If it’s the first mouse (and hopefully the last), you can even use the black pepper method to naturally repel mice if you don’t have a large amount of them in your home yet.
Mice Gnaw Through Wood To Create Holes
Because mice are active at night, people rarely see these critters skittering around their homes. Most of the time, the only thing that alerts you to the presence of mice is the noises they make.
One of those noises is the sound of mice gnawing and chewing on (or through) wood. When mice gnaw on wood, the sound almost resembles a handsaw being rubbed across wood. It can be quite loud and is less consistent than scratching noises.
Gnawing can occur anywhere in the house that contains wood or wire insulation. So, virtually everywhere. However, according to the University of Kentucky, mice rarely travel further than 25 feet from their nest. Sometimes, their range can be as small as just a few feet.
This is really helpful in narrowing down where your rodent roommate is living so you can take proper action to get them out of your home. If you hear gnawing in a specific location, you can bet the mouse nest is not far. You can learn more about where mice go and live during the day here for more specifics.
Gnawing can also occur on wiring insulation. The main reason mice chew on wiring insulation is simply tooth self-care.
Mice incisors never stop growing. Because of this, mice have to chew on something to keep their teeth from growing too big for their mouth. Wire insulation is soft, making it the perfect mouse chew toy.
What To Do About Gnawing Mice In Your Home
Gnawing is one of the least helpful noises when trying to identify where a mouse is. The reason is that gnawing often occurs inside the walls in an inaccessible area.
Sometimes, gnawing can take place near accessible areas like an attic or in kitchen cabinets. In these cases, you can use mouse traps to try to catch the little critter before it gnaws through everything!
If you understand the layout of your house well, you can try to use the gnawing sound to identify where the mouse is trying to get to. It might be that the mouse is gnawing into an accessible area where you can try to control it.
In that case, you can put down a layer of stainless steel mesh which mice can’t chew through in order to keep them out of that area.
Mice Drag Materials Across Surfaces
We mentioned before that mice are small, but their size is actually an important characteristic in understanding their behavior.
Because they are so small, mice are sensitive to the cold. This is why we often find mice in our house in fall and winter – they’re trying to get out of the cold.
Being sensitive to cold means that mice must be quick and careful when constructing their nests. They need the right material and they need the right location so they can stay warm once the temperatures drop.
According to the University of Michigan, mice will use paper, rags, clothing, and other soft objects to construct their nest. Once this is completed, they’ll line the nest with shredded material for extra warmth.
As soon as a mouse moves inside, it will start gathering nesting materials. During this time, you may hear the sound of light objects being dragged across surfaces. The dragging noise is the mouse carrying items to construct or line its nest.
The dragging noise may be accompanied by the tell-tale pitter-patter of running rodent feet. If there is more than one mouse, you may also hear squeaks and chirps as one mouse communicates to the other that it found nesting material.
What To Do About Mice Dragging Noises In Your Home
Unlike gnawing or chewing which indicates a mouse is already moved in and comfortable, hearing dragging noises can be a good sign.
Dragging noises means the mouse has not yet established a nest, which means it probably has not yet had a litter. This is the perfect time to catch a mouse early before a real problem arises.
Mice Make Plopping Sounds When They Drop Or Jump
You may be surprised to learn that mice are pretty acrobatic. Despite being small, these rodents are talented at running across cable wires, balancing on beams and rafters, and even jumping.
Despite being tiny, mice still make a soft ‘plop’ noise when landing from a jump. Mice jump from about 8-12 inches vertically if landing on a flat surface. This noise might be accompanied by some scampering or scratching as the mouse digs into the surface for a better grip once it lands.
Mice can also make plopping noises when they jump off of surfaces!
What To Do About Mice Plopping Noises In Your Home
Similar to dragging noises, plopping noises from mice can be a good thing. Typically, mice only jump to and from surfaces when they are foraging.
If you hear mice jumping and plopping down on a surface, it’s probably out in the open. This is an excellent opportunity to spot the culprit of your sleepless nights.
If you’re brave enough, you can try to catch the mouse using an upside-down Tupperware container or something similar.
If you’re not fast enough to catch the mouse, that’s okay. As long as you see the mouse, you can establish the places it likes to scamper across, meaning you’ll have a better idea of where to place traps.
What To Do When You Hear Mice In Your Home
If the song of the mouse is playing inside your walls, ceilings, or attics, it’s time to do something about it. Don’t worry, we have all the info you need to have a mouse-free home!
While most pest control companies will suggest rougher methods, there is another way to rid your house of mice without using harsh products or cleaning up a mess.
- Catch-and-release: We mentioned using catch-and-release traps above such as Motel Mouse’s Humane Mouse Traps. These work well if you aren’t keen on using traps or other game ending capture methods. Be sure to release the mouse nearby such as in your backyard. They will not survive if you drive them far away to release them.
- Scents and Smells: You can use scent deterrents to keep mice away from certain areas of your home like the kitchen or basement. Check out our article – 9 Scents That Mice Hate (And How To Use Them), for which scents work the best.
- Seal entry points: This is the BEST method to keep mice from moving inside. But, the problem is, mice can chew through a lot of stuff. You can use wire mesh such as Origin Point’s ¼ Inch Mesh to cover any holes or openings in your home.
NOTE: Mice can squeeze through anything larger than ¼ inch, so be sure to get a mesh that is ¼ inch or smaller
- Keep the kitchen clean: Mice are attracted to food items and they don’t need much to survive. Be sure to clean up any crumbs, keep bread, cereal, and grains in mouse-proof containers, and fix any holes in your cabinets caused by mice immediately.
That’s A Wrap!
Whether it’s a squeak, scratch, or pitter-patter, hearing a mouse can make you cringe and scour the internet to find out what it means and what to do about it.
Mice communicate using a wide range of vocalizations, but most of these are out of the human range of hearing. Instead, we hear physical noises caused by mice such as scratching and gnawing. Now, for a bit of recap:
Here are the 7 sounds and noises that mice make inside your home:
- Dragging (materials back to their nest)
- Plopping when jumping
There are several things you can do if you hear mice, such as sealing all entry points to prevent further mice infestations, keeping a clean kitchen, and using catch-and-release traps to physically remove them from your home.
If you’re hearing squeaking all over the house and suspect there are a lot of mice, you may need to enlist the help of a professional to get the mice under control. Our nationwide pest control finder can get you in contact with a pest pro near you!
Best of luck in getting your home mouse free!
Lahvis, G. P., Alleva, E., & Scattoni, M. L. (2011, January 21). Translating mouse vocalizations: Prosody and frequency modulation. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 10(1), 4-16.
Latham, N., & Mason, G. (2004, June). From house mouse to mouse house: the behavioral biology of free-living Mus musculus and its implications in the laboratory. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 36(3-4), 261-289.
Portfors, C. V., & Perkel, D. J. (2014, October). The role of ultrasonic vocalizations in mouse communication. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 28, 115-120.
Sidorov, G. N., & Putin, A. V. (2010, November 07). The house mouse (Mus musculus L.) in Omsk educational institutions: Seasonal migration, abundance, reproduction, distribution, foraging, and associated damage. Contemporary Problems of Ecology, 3, 601-605.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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