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A mousetrap is a specialized type of animal trap designed primarily to catch mice; however, it may also trap other small animals. Mousetraps are usually set in an indoor location where there is a suspected infestation of rodents. There are various types of mousetrap, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Larger traps are designed to catch other species of animals; such as rats, squirrels, other small rodents, or other animals.

Mouse trap designs

Spring-loaded bar mousetrap

A baited and primed spring-loaded bar mousetrap
Mousetrap, mouse, bait (chocolate)

The first spring-loaded mouse trap was invented by William C. Hooker of Abingdon Illinois, who received US patent 528671 for his design in 1894. James Henry Atkinson, a British inventor who in 1897 invented a prototype called the "Little Nipper", probably had seen the Hooker trap in the shops or in advertisements and used it as the basis of his model.

The traditional type was invented by Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim (who also invented the Maxim gun). It is a simple device with a heavily spring-loaded bar and a trip to release it. Stereotypically, cheese is placed on the trip as bait. Other food such as oats, chocolate, bread, meat, butter and peanut butter are also effective. The spring-loaded bar swings down rapidly and with great force when anything, usually a mouse or a rat, touches the trip. The design is such that the mouse's neck or spinal cord will be broken, or its ribs or skull crushed, by the force of the bar. Rats can easily escape from a mousetrap, so a larger version is used for them. Newer spring mouse traps have a plastic extended trigger made to look like a piece of Swiss cheese that is the color of American cheese.

John Mast of Lititz, Pennsylvania obtained an American patent for a similar snap-action device in 1899.

Some modern plastic designs have the advantages that the trap can be set by the pressure of a single finger on a tab and that a dead mouse can be removed from the trap without touching the corpse.

Mouth mousetrap

A mouth-type mousetrap.
This lightweight mousetrap consists of a set of plastic jaws operated by a coiled spring and triggering mechanism inside the jaws, where the bait is held. The trigger snaps the jaws shut, killing the rodent.

Electric mousetrap

This more recent type of mousetrap delivers a lethal dose of electricity when the rodent completes the circuit by contacting two electrodes located either at the entrance or between the entrance and the bait. The electrodes are housed in an insulated or plastic box to prevent accidental injury to humans and pets. They can be designed for single-catch domestic use or large multiple-catch commercial use. See and

Live-catching mousetraps

A live-catch mousetrap.
Uninjured mice can be released.

Other trap designs catch mice alive so that they can be released into the wild. It is important to release the mouse promptly – as mice can die from stress or dehydration – and at some distance, as mice have a strong homing instinct. Survival after release is not guaranteed, since house mice will tend to seek out human buildings, where they might encounter lethal mousetraps or may be eaten by predators. In the wild, house mice are very poor competitors, and cannot survive away from human settlements in areas where other small mammals, such as wood mice, are present.

Glue traps

Glue traps are made using natural or synthetic adhesive applied to cardboard, plastic trays or similar material. Bait can be placed in the center or a scent may be added to the adhesive by the manufacturer. Glue traps are used primarily for rodent control indoors. Glue traps are not effective outdoors due to environmental conditions (moisture, dust) which quickly render the adhesive ineffective. Glue strip or glue tray devices trap the mouse in the sticky glue; users can free the mice from the glue by applying vegetable oil. These types of trap are effective and non-toxic to humans.

However, death is much slower than with the traditional type trap, which has prompted animal activists and welfare organisations such as PETA and the RSPCA to oppose the use of glue traps. Many mice eventually die from exposure, dehydration, starvation, suffocation, or predation, or they are killed by people when the trap is checked. In some jurisdictions there have been proposals to ban glue traps, or to legally restrict their use. Other jurisdictions have banned their use.In Irelandmarker it is illegal to import, possess, sell or offer for sale unauthorized traps, including glue traps. This law, the Wildlife (Amendment) Act was passed in 2000.

Bucket trap

Bucket traps may be lethal or non-lethal. Both types have a ramp which leads to the rim of a deep-walled container, such as a bucket.

The bucket may contain a liquid to drown the trapped mouse. The mouse is baited to the top of the container where it falls into the bucket and drowns. Sometimes soap or caustic or poison chemicals are used in the bucket as killing agents.

In the non-lethal version, the bucket is empty, allowing the mouse to live, but keeping it trapped. The unharmed mouse can be released outdoors.

The variations are many with some being single catch and some multi-catch.

Inert gas mousetrap

The RADAR mousetrap, invented by Rentokil Pest Control, kills trapped mice or other rodents with carbon dioxide, then notifies the user by e-mail so that the trap can be quickly emptied and reset. Rentokil claims that the trap is painless and also reduces future mouse deaths by pinpointing the exact location of the trap and how many animals are caught so that their access can be controlled by sealing access holes. PETA has recognized this product as an "animal friendly achievement" .


Strychnine-soaked grain pellets were a common substitute for mousetraps for some time; currently they are rarely used because of the toxicity of the chemical, the inherent danger to children and pets, and the likelihood that the poisoned animal will die inside a wall or other inaccessible area where its carcass will be difficult to remove.

Similar devices

Similar ranges of traps are sized to trap other animal species; for example, rat traps are larger than mousetraps, and squirrel traps are larger still. A squirrel trap is a metal box-shaped device that is designed to catch squirrels and other similar-sized animals. The device works by drawing the animals by bait that is placed inside. Upon touch, it forces both sides closed, thereby trapping, but not killing the animal. The animal can then be released or killed at the trapper's discretion.

Mousetraps in literature

Reference to a mousetrap is made as early as 1602 in Shakespeare's Hamlet (Hamlet; act 3 sc.2) where it is the name given to the 'play-within-a-play' by Hamlet himself. There is a reference in the 1800s by Alexandre Dumas, père in his novel The Three Musketeers. Chapter ten is titled "A Mousetrap of the Seventeenth Century". In this case, rather than referring to a literal mouse trap, the author describes a police or guard tactic that involves laying in wait in the residence of someone who they have arrested without public knowledge and then grabbing, interviewing, and likely arresting anyone who comes to the residence. In the voice of a narrator, the author confesses to having no idea how the term became attached to this tactic.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with the oft-quoted remark in favor of innovation: "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door." In the June 1912 issue of The Philistine, Elbert Hubbard admits that his "kabojolism" (a neologism coined by Hubbard to describe what a writer, "would have said if he had happened to think of [it]") was "a mousetrap that caught a lot of literary mice intent on orphic cheese."

Mousetraps are a staple of slapstick comedy and animated cartoons such as Tom and Jerry, in which people commonly sit on the trap or have their fingers caught in the device.

See also



  • Tattersall F. H., Smith, R. H. & Nowell, F. (1997). Experimental colonization of contrasting habitats by house mice. Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde. 62: 350-358.

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