Are Mice Smart Enough To Avoid Traps?


How to Attract Mice To Your Trap In A Nutshell:

  • Test using different bait.
  • Use gloves so they can’t smell humans around the trap.
  • Check all traps daily; don’t leave a dead mouse in a trap longer than a day so as to avoid decaying smell which can put mice off.
  • Place traps near mice activity i.e. mice runs
  • Identify mice runs by using a camera trap
No Mice Aren’t That Smart

The answer to this question is a bit of yes and no, actually. If you have a mouse infestation, then setting traps will mean that mice will be caught in the traps. Will the mice become wise to the fact that every mouse that has mysteriously disappeared, coincidentally entered a mouse trap?

No, they are not that smart, but they may start to avoid traps for other reasons. If this happens, it can appear that the mice have figured out what happens to any one of them who enters the trap. The truth is usually more down to earth.

Mice have a very keen sense of smell. If they start to avoid traps, it could be because they sense a human smell around the trap. That is why it is always best to wear gloves when handling mouse traps. You also need to clean the traps thoroughly.

When a rodent is killed by a mouse snap trap, or an electric mouse trap, if the mouse lies for perhaps a day or so before being removed, the smell of the dead mouse can be very strong to other mice. When you bait the trap again, other mice may sense the dead mouse smell and be repelled by it.

This is one reason why some people think mice are very smart, and can work out that mouse traps are dangerous things for them. It’s actually more likely that they sense the build up of the smell of death on the trap, or the build up of a human smell through repeated handling. They will likely not know that the trap can kill them, just that a dead mouse was there, or that a human was there, and they would rather not be there.

For this reason, humane mouse traps work extremely well. Mice dribble urine almost constantly. The smell of mice urine is reassuring to them. So, when a mouse is caught in a humane trap, it will spend the time trapped dribbling urine from time to time.

If you subsequently release the mouse and refresh the bait, then when another mouse comes along, it will smell the urine. The mouse will think that if the first mouse was happy to spend time in the trap, there can’t be a problem, and it will happily enter the trap, only to be caught.

Another possible reason why some people think that mice can grow smart about avoiding traps is simply that they don’t position the traps where there is the most mouse activity. They may also not use a bait that the mice are enticed by. So, when you know there are plenty of mice in your home, but they are not getting caught in the traps you have laid, it’s easy to think they know how to avoid traps that will kill them.

The answer here is obvious.

  1. Work out where the best place is to position the traps – mouse runs.
  2. Use a bait that the mice will find irresistible, and you may have to experiment with this.
  3. Clean the traps thoroughly or throw them away after each use.
  4. Only handle the traps wearing gloves.
  5. Learn everything about how to get rid of mice and the mice will be caught in your traps.

However, if did want to read about how clever they are in general, then this what was written by some neuroscience researchers.


Mark has a strong background in Engineering and a huge interest in Pest Control as a way of getting rid of rodents and other unwanted pests who can cause a nuisance in your home and garden. You can subscribe to his free daily paper on Pest Control Solutions and follow him on Facebook or Twitter

View Comments

  • There is a mouse or 2 in my home that they keep avoid touching my traps as i saw in my camera. I have tried snap trap(2 types), electric trap, glue traps, d-con covered no see trap, ..etc
    I set the wooden snap trap 2 months ago in the basement and didnt realized there were two caught two weeks ago, and one in my kitchen got triggered but didn't caught any. I then found a hole and blocked it. So now it looks to me only 1 mouse left. May be it saw his families got killed and he also triggered one snap trap so that now he is very smart. Yes, i also started to wear glove but still cannot catch it.
    May be these past 2 weeks i kept changing traps every 2 to 3 days that he always felt no time to adopt to new object. I am thinking to set out all of these new traps at the same spots for weeks to see if it works better. Any idea please let me know.
    Yes, i have tried traditional peanut butter, chocolate, bacon, cereal, and victor special gel...etc.
    I am also think mouse trap bucket, the one fill with water and mouse would drop into the water when they walk to the top.

    • You could try laying out your traps with bait but not setting them so the mouse will get used to them being there. Once it has started eating the bait (as seen on your camera) then you can set them.

  • I am currently using Victor original mouse traps baited with peanut butter. They are so sensitive that they go off like three times just trying to set them down but mice are licking them clean without setting them off. I tried using cotton balls caught one but no more so I tried tying cotton balls over small amounts of peanut butter and all four had been set off and licked clean but no mouse had been caught. I think I have super smart mice. I found two baby mice in a return vent and can hear them on the far side of my attic where I can't even reach to set traps. I don't know what more to do. I tried an exterminator he just put poison around (also using gloves) but the mice avoid it. I've also tried glue traps, electronic repellants, and various plastic traps, I've caught like 6 mice but every trap I try that is successful only works once, they figure it out, lick it clean and it never works again. I'm out of new kinds of traps, any ideas?

    • Are you sure it is mice licking your traps clean? A mouse trap won’t trap a rat. Invest in a rodent camera trap and see exactly what’s going on.

  • I live in a very old house and have battled mice for years. I have finally found an excellent way to catch mice. I place three traps in a row where I know they run. I don't bait the trap or worry about gloves or anything like that. I used to watch mice run along the wall and jump over the trap. I do know that 90 percent of the mice I catch are caught in the middle trap. I believe that I am winning the battle.

  • I caught 4 mice in a 12 hour period, do I keep putting glue traps or will they communicate to each other not to go in that house. Also can mice come in from a sump pump hole?

    • Yes keep putting down traps until all signs of mice are gone. I would assume they can come through the sump pump hole.

  • We have a mouse 1 that we can seeat least and have 3 traps. He actually left droppings on top of the one. And its on top of the kitchen counter in the corner.but wont go near the inside of it. How do we get rid of this one?????

    • Set more traps, use a combination of different types of traps. Experiment with different baits. Don't leave traces of human scent on the trap - wear gloves when setting them.

  • I (with the help of an exterminator) have caught 5 mice in the kitchen/ pantry this summer. Everything is sealed but I am still seeing droppings. We have bait stations, snap traps and glue traps with no luck. I have peanut butter scented glue traps. They're all over. Any suggestions?

    • Think like a mouse. Either you've missed a hole and they are still coming into your kitchen or there is a nest in your house. Remember that it is in the exterminator's interest to make sure you have an ongoing problem. I suggest you check and double check there are no holes. They can get in through very, very small holes.

  • So after I catch a mouse and pitch it. How long should I keep other traps around the house if I see no more ‘mice’ activity

  • Should I wash the trap after it's killed a mouse before using it again and if yes, how?

    What about washing the surface if there was no blood?

    Is anything in particular that you'd recommend washing with?


    • If you are using a snap trap, to avoid spreading diseases, I would dispose of the rodent and trap together. However, if you did want to wash a snap trap, then place it in boiling water for one minute. Do not use any detergents because they leave a scent.

        • For the floor, I would use a detergent that kills 99% of all germs/ bacteria. Ideally, you want to use bleach but whatever you use, test it on the floor to make sure it doesn't damage your floor surface. Test it in a small area out of direct line of sight.

  • My answer to, "How do you catch a smart mouse?" would be to get an even smarter cat! LoL this really is the most humane way to catch & kill rodents as it's the circle of life continuing on as it should and if you're lucky enough, the cat will just take it's "kill" outside to bury (or whatever it is cat's do to celebrate a successful hunt, lol) & ypu won't find a dead fury little "gift" in your shoe. If you do find the cat's kill don't be too hard on your cat, he is only trying to make sure you've got enough to eat. We are all just silly humans in his mind, lol.

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