15 Ways to Catch a Mouse Without Traps

Mouse traps are a common method of pest control – and a cheap form of comic relief on slapstick TV. But while mechanical traps hold the mouse in place and manually snap or kill the rodent, poisoned bait invites the rat to run off with the food and share it with other mice.

In some ways, this is more effective because the mouse will die far away, which won’t alert its fellow mice to the position of the killing ground. It can also enhance the efficacy of the bait because the same piece will be exposed to multiple mice. But it’s a slower, crueler death.

All that said, you may not want to actually kill the mice. Maybe your ethics don’t allow you to end any life, whether it’s a jungle cat or a wispy spider. Or maybe you’d like to collect the mice and feed them to larger pets. Maybe you even plan to release them in a safer spot.

Whatever your reasons are, if you want the mouse alive, you’ll want to stay away from cats and kill-traps. And there are lots of ways to catch a mouse without traps. They range from DIY set-ups to ethical exterminators. You can even use gas or anesthesia as an alternative.

Something to keep in mind is semantics. Yes, you want ways to catch a mouse without a trap, but that could mean you don’t want to buy a commercial kill-trap or use poisoned bait. It can also mean you want a cheaper homemade option, so we’ll look at some of those as well.

How to catch a mouse or rat without traps

1. Use a Plain Bucket

Technically, this is still a mouse trap, but it’s a non-lethal one that won’t physically harm the mice. They may be scared and stressed, but they’ll be uninjured so you can grab them and dispose of them in other ways. It’s a pretty simple DIY technique. You’ll need a plastic or metal bucket with smooth sides. This stops the mice from clawing their way out of the tub.

Fill the bottom of the bucket with suitable bait. It can be anything from dried seeds to fresh fruit. Close to the top of the bucket, spread some peanut butter and stick some of the bait into the nutty spread. Position a ramp to guide the mice to the top of the bucket. As they lean over to reach the peanut butter, they’ll fall into the trough and can’t climb their way back out.


2. Try These Modified Bucket Traps

If you’d like to slightly upgrade the homemade bucket trap we’ve shown you above, you can try these handy tweaks. The idea is to lure the mice into the basin and stop them climbing back out, so you can test different kinds of bait to see what works best. You can cover the bucket with a pivoted cardboard piece or paper plate to make the entryway seem more solid.

Or you can place a roller or can across the top of the bucket. This makes it easier for the mice to slip in, though you’ll need to put some peanut butter or cheese spread on the sides of the can. Another idea is to use an old CD and popsicle sticks as a ‘diving board’ to lure the mice. Glue bait to the CD and pour water inside the bucket if you want the caught mice to drown.


3. Grab that Coffee Can

This is another example of a modified bucket trap that catches mice alive. It’s the same principle – it uses a rolling mechanism to catch the mice. But while it’s still a DIY project, it’s a lot more involved. You can make the bucket trap with or without water. Adding water keeps the bucket stable so it won’t tip, but it also drowns the mice unless you check it every hour.

You’ll need basic workshop tools to construct this trap. Peanut butter is a popular form of bait, but any sweet or cheesy slurry will do. And you’ll need to place the bucket in a safe spot because it needs to draw in the mice without calling the attention of your pets or your kids. It pulls squirrels too. Especially if you bait the trap with candy, chocolate, or marshmallows.


4. Buy Humane Options

The typical mouse trap is the kind that snaps shut, killing the mouse quickly and painfully. Plus, you now have messy mouse remains that are not only gory to deal with, but they can also spread diseases and cause infections. So why not buy a more humane trap? You could try something like the Mouse Cube, a sturdy plastic box that lures and locks mice.

The box has a one-way trap door, so you’ll have to put bait in the middle of the box and once the door shuts behind the mouse, you can easily pick up the box and move the mouse elsewhere. The cubes come in packs of four, are easy to clean, and are fully reusable. You can bait the trap with any nutty spread, peanut butter cups, or soft toffee bits, or chocolate fudge.


5. Use Sonic Tools

Mice are scavengers rather than hunters. So while their predators may use their eyes, nose, and ears to detect prey, mice use their senses to find out if danger is near. That makes sonic deterrents an effective way to get rid of mice without a trap. It will work if you just want to chase the mice away, but since it scares the pest, it won’t be helpful if you plan to keep mice.

These devices are often ultrasonic, which means the sound waves they produce can’t be detected by human ears. The mice will hear the noise though, as will other creatures that have the same sonic signals. The repellents are effective against rodents and insects. The waves can travel through walls so they work indoors, they won’t do any harm to your dog.


6. Look for Cages

No-kill traps are perfect if you want to get rid of mice without harming them. But if you want to collect the mice for sale or breeding, you can still find ways to catch a mouse without traps. One of the best options is to get a cage from Animal Control. You can also buy one, or borrow one from the local wildlife service. These are the kinds of cages used to catch strays.

These cages have a spring-loaded door with bait inside. As the mouse passes through the wire mesh to reach the bait, the door snaps shut behind them. The cages generally come in three sizes, so use the smallest available size. It might be too big for mice though because it’s mostly used on squirrels, chipmunks, and small rodents. You don’t need poison in the bait.


7. Go for Glue

It’s difficult for a mouse to survive a snap trap. It’s designed to break the mouse’s neck, spine, or limbs. Glue traps can be a gentler option. The feet, claws, and tail of the mouse will get stuck but the mouse won’t necessarily die. It may exhaust itself trying to pull itself free, but it’s unlikely to hurt itself, break its skin, or bleed. Just check the glue trap regularly.

If the mouse stays stuck too long, the mouse might starve or die from dehydration. Or your cat or dog might come to catch the stuck mouse. Also, be careful about the kind of glue trap you purchase. Some kinds of glue will snag the mouse without hurting it. Other harsh adhesives might grab the fur of the mouse, and this can be lethal as the mouse struggles to free itself.


8. Try a Toilet Paper Roll

We’ve looked at ethical mouse catchers made from soda cans, coffee containers, and hangers. Now let’s see how to make a smaller, quicker, safer one using cardboard rolls. These rolls could be from toilet paper, aluminum foil, vinyl rolls, or even Pringles cans. You don’t need any special gimmicks here – just the roll, a ledge, an anchor, and a bin to catch the mouse in.

You’ll have to know exactly where the mouse hangs out so do some detective work. Once you find it, select a table, shelf, or ledge nearby and paste your cardboard roll in place. You can use a heavy object to keep the roll in position. Place a wastepaper bin below the roll and slip some bait into the roll. And make sure the bin isn’t textured or the mouse will climb out.


9. Spoon It In

The best ways to catch a mouse without a trap are affordable and low-fuss. And they use items that are already in the house, preferably without digging through the attic or garage to find said materials. This option is especially user-friendly because all you need is a trash can, a teaspoon, and some squishy bait. Peanut butter works great, and so does melted candy.

The technique is similar to the toilet roll trap, but instead of using rolled cardboard, you’ll use a spoon. Tape the spoon to a ledge where the mouse often hangs out. The handle of the spoon hangs off the ledge, suspended over a waiting trash can. The mouse sits in the spoon to get its snack, and the spoon tips and falls into the trash can. Use a can with smooth sides.


10. Get Greasy

There are various ways to catch a mouse without traps, and some are messier than others. This next trick is especially unhygienic, so you may want to prep the area before you set it up. It’s an easy option though – all you need is a big bowl and some used oil. A glass fruit bowl will work well, but you could try using a plastic basin or metal wok – anything with curves.

The sides of the dish must be smooth and tapered. And you have to place the bowl in a spot that mice frequent. Bait the bowl and add a few inches of grease, vegetable oil, or any affordable lubricant. The mice will climb into the bowl in search of food and be unable to get back out. Check the bowl and empty it often so the mice can’t piggyback their way out.


11. Use a Plastic Bottle

Homemade bucket traps are quick, convenient, and if you don’t load them with water, they can be quite humane. But if maybe you’re looking for indoor ways to catch a mouse without traps. Or maybe you have small pets like kittens, gerbils, or hamsters, so you don’t want them getting into trouble. Turns out you can use a plastic water bottle or soda bottle instead.

The mechanics are the same – you need a ramp, bait, and smooth sides so the mice can’t climb out. But you can try different tweaks and tactics for your bottle trap. And once the mouse is caught, you can easily grab the bottle cap and release the mouse. You could even combine a bucket and a skewered bottle. Or grab some rubber bands and get complicated.


12. Toss Coins in Baited Glass

How good are you at coin tricks? Can you spin it or skim it off a lake? You may need dexterity and patience to set this next homemade mouse trap. And it needs precision – both for placement and sizing. After all, you’ll need a see-through tumbler that’s large enough to catch the mouse and sturdy enough to withstand the mouse’s panicky struggles and wiggles.

To bait the glass mug, spread peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, or cheese spread inside the glass. Balance the rim of the glass on a coin – a nickel works perfectly. As the mouse brushes the coin, the glass should slip shut, locking it in. This is a tricky trap because it has to sit where mice hang out and it has to be strong enough not to break, drop, or roll in the process.


13. Become a Fan

Since you’re looking for ways to catch a mouse without traps, you’re clearly a fan of ethical methods. And now you can be a bigger fan – or at least make one. You may need to riffle through the garage or visit a nearby junkyard – you’re looking for a metal grid you can use. Think of the outer covers of a spinning fan. Find one and place it on top of a smooth bucket.

Luckily, the typical size of a fan grid is the same as a standard bucket rim, so it shouldn’t be hard finding the perfect fit. You could glue the grid in place but that’ll make it harder to get the mouse out or reset the mouse catcher. Try drilling holes on the bucket rim then use zip ties, cables, or even twine. Alternatively, use metal mesh and cans in place of an electric fan.


14. Get a String Bin

This might be one of the cutest ways to catch a mouse without traps. Cute because it’s so ridiculously simple – it doesn’t seem like it could work! You need a big trash can or bucket. Oil the rim so that the mice slip in and have no grip to sneak out. Then get a tube – whether it’s a cardboard tissue roll, a hollowed-out plastic bottle, or a can with a hole drilled through.

You could also use hollow plastic tubes – the kind used for plumbing and piping. Loop the string through the tube and secure it to both sides of the bucket. Then put some bait on top of the tube. The only downside is if the tube is too wide, the mouse may end up sitting snugly inside the tube. If it doesn’t fall into the bin, it can stay on the tube unmolested for hours.


15. Humane Live Traps

The reason you want to catch mice without traps is that traps often kill the mice. But what if you could buy a live-trap for mice? Solutions Pest & Lawn is a company that specializes in rodent control, so they offer both ethical traps and insta-kill ones. Among their safer options, their two most popular models are the multi-catch trap and the repeating one.

Both these traps are made from solid metal sheets. The multi-catch trap is built for use with bait and can capture 30 mice at a time. Meanwhile, the releasing trap is built like a maze and doesn’t need bait. It has a capacity of a dozen mice before it needs to be emptied. The smooth metal is weatherproof and non-corrosive. You can choose to buy a model with a clear lid.


Pick your Pinkie Plan

If you just want to frighten off the mice without physically handling them, you can try natural repellents like onions, essential oils, ammonia, or feathers from owls and other birds of prey, Do you know any other ways to catch mice without traps? Tell us about it in the comments!

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