At some point in their lives, everyone has heard the familiar scuttle of a mouse running across the floors, or even caught a mouse in the act of stealing crumbs and gnawing at furniture. Although mice are not dangerous, they can be a bit of a nuisance. A good starting point for anyone looking to combat a mouse problem is to first learn more about mice, and in particular, what their life cycle entails. This will better prepare you to understand what you are up against, and allow you to better assess the scale of your problem.
Mouse life cycle
To begin, it is important to understand the lifespan of a mouse. House mice typically live for approximately two years or longer, while outdoor mice usually only survive for about 12-18 months. This disparity in longevity is primarily a result of the improved shelter provided by human housing, as well as the absence of predators and abundant food storage. Additional factors that can alter mouse lifespans are sex, and whether or not the mouse has had offspring. House mice are well adapted to surviving off of discarded food scraps and stored goods in human homes. They have also learned to hide in the nooks and crannies of our domiciles, and as such, it can be tricky to catch them.
It is important to recognize that although two years is a relatively short lifespan, it is not a good idea to simply try and “wait it out” when it comes to seeing a mouse. This is because mice are prolific breeders, and where there is one mouse, there will be more. A single female mouse can give birth to anywhere from 80-90 offspring during her lifetime, and as such, an infestation can get exponentially worse if a mouse population is given the chance to flourish. Compounding the problem is the fact that mice have a very short gestation period of only three weeks. Additionally, each pregnancy can yield between five and twelve mouse pups, and a female mouse can give birth between five and ten times per year.
Further exacerbating the issue is the problem of rapid maturity in mice. As you may have guessed from the quick gestation period, mice do not take long to grow. They start off fairly defenseless, being born without the ability to see, without ears, and without fur. During this vulnerable period, the mother nurses and protects her babies. However, these early dependent days are short-lived, as, by day four of life, a newborn mouse will have fully developed ears. By day 10 of life, a mouse pup will have developed its protective fur coats, and by day 14, they will open their eyes for the first time. After day 21, the mouse pup will wean itself off of nursing and is considered almost a full adult. True adulthood begins when the mice reach sexual maturity, which occurs just a staggering six weeks after birth. At that point, the mice are fully capable of mating, getting pregnant, and having pups of their own.
Altogether, these features of the mouse life cycle enable mice to develop a large population very rapidly. This is a large part of why mice are so often used as laboratory test species, and also why they pose such a serious threat to human homes if an infestation is left untreated. It is easy to see how a single mouse can cause a big problem just a year down the road. To put it in perspective: if you start the year with just a single breeding pair of mice – that is just one male mouse, and one female mouse – it is possible that if left untreated, your home could be infested with hundreds of mice. Needless, to say this poses a much bigger challenge.
The implications of a mice infestation are varied and many. Although a mouse is unlikely to directly attack or bite a human, a large infestation can indirectly harm you or your family. Mice and other rodents have been linked to diseases such as the bubonic plague, salmonellosis, hantavirus and rat-bite fever. Additionally, the bacteria spread by the presence of mouse feces and other droppings can lead to a decrease in home sanitation as well.
How to keep yourself protected?
The best thing that you can do to keep yourself protected from a mouse infestation is to first, educate yourself about the potential problems at hand. Do research on how to keep your home sanitary and safe, and make yourself aware of easy to implement protocols that might help fend off an infestation in the first place. After all, the best protection is simply prevention. If however, you find yourself at the mercy of a new or ongoing infestation, it is time to call a professional and have them conduct an assessment of the problem you are facing. Many pest-prevention and detection companies can provide accurate estimates of costs and potential damages, as well as provide valuable insight into how to keep mice away in the future. There is no need to fear mice, but it is important to respect and understand the ways that they will impact your lifestyle, and recognize that an infestation can quickly get out of hand, due to their unique and rapid life cycle. By doing this, you will be able to make an informed decision on how to handle your problem, which will allow you to keep your home safe and welcoming- to humans only!