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Top 10 Pests: House Mouse

Argentine ant workers on leaf
House mouse, Mus musculus

Photo © iStockphoto/Geoff Kuchera

House Mouse

Scientific Name:
Mus musculus (also Mus domesticus)
Muridae (commensal rodents)
Rodentia (rodents)
U.S. Distribution:
All states



This page has three tables, (1) Identification, (2) Look-alike Pests, and (3) Biology and Habits.



Match the Shape and Size Match the Color
Profiles comparing  adult house mouse and young rat
house mouse
  • Adult ranges from 5 to 7-1/2 inches from the nose to tail tip (130-190 mm)
  • Tail as long as head plus body
  • Tail scaly, almost hairless
  • Body slender
  • Weight 1/2-3/4 ounce (14-21 gms)
  • Nose pointed
  • Eyes small; ears large
  • Light brown to dark gray, rarely black or pale gray
  • Belly usually lighter colored, white to dark gray
Illustration adapted from Pratt and Brown, PHS Photo by National Institutes of Health


Look-alike Pests

Look-alike Pest Differences

Deer mouse and white-footed mouse
(Peromyscus maniculatus and P. leucopus)

Tail hairy and bicolored, brown above and white below
Young Norway rat or roof rat
(Rattus norvegicus and R. rattus)
Head and feet comparatively larger and tail thicker than those of a house mouse; fur much fuzzier


Biology and Habits

Match the Food and Site Match the Habits and Damage
House mouse nest in drawer aerial view of neighborhood
  • Common in and around buildings, nesting wherever it is dark and protected
  • Indoors, nests inside walls and voids (including ceiling voids), under stoves and refrigerators, inside equipment, in boxes, behind kickplates, in clutter and debris, inside furniture and drawers, and in wire chases
  • Outdoors, nests in burrows, hollows of trees and logs, and in brush and debris piles
  • Prefer cereals and grains, but will happily feed on meats, pet food, butter, sweets, nuts, seeds, insects, and practically anything that people will eat
  • Primary feeding activity periods are dusk to midnight and just before dawn
  • Primarily nibblers, feeding on small amounts of food at many different sites
  • Get most of the water they need from moisture in their food but will drink water if available
  • Most common mammal inside buildings
  • Secretive, small, and prolific and can build to high numbers in homes and structures
  • Can climb vertical walls, run across wires (even upside down), run on narrow ledges, jump up 1 foot or down 8 feet without injury, live at temperatures as low as 24 degrees F. (-4 degrees C.)
  • Female can breed year round and produce 50 offspring in that year
  • Can breed at 2 months and breed again 2 days after giving birth
  • Can compress body to width of skull so can squeeze through a slot only 1/4-inch high
  • Curious when encountering anything new in their territory
  • Forage 10-30 feet from nest looking for food
  • Contaminate food with their urine (they dribble urine throughout the day) and droppings (75 per day), and damage materials with their constant gnawing
Photo © Pinto & Associates Photo © iStockphoto/Thomas Mounsey

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