Do mice discriminate when searching for bedding material? We have an old sleeping bag that became the nest for a family of five, but the foam mattress underneath was not chewed. Other heavy old mattresses that have been in the cabin for decades have no signs of being chewed, though their cotton covers have been nibbled. Do mice ever chew into feathers, as in real duvets? I am trying to figure out if some bedding is more mouse-proof than other bedding.—Jackie’s mom, via email
Hey, Mom! Before you hit up Bed Bath & Beyond, know that mice will chew on anything and everything. No material is 100 per cent mouse-resistant, so choosing cottage bedding based on the whims of mice is a fool’s game. “Unless you want to sleep on bare wood or concrete, with no mattress,” says wildlife expert Mike Webb.
Rodents chew for multiple reasons. Obviously, to eat—a cotton mattress cover might be nibbled if there had been something spilled on it, for example—to create nests, and to keep their teeth from getting too long. “Rats and mice have to chew,” says Webb. “If they don’t, they’ll die.” (Horribly. Their incisors could grow so long that they spear their brains, or curl around and pierce their jaws.)
Still, mice do have some material preferences in that, like pretty much every creature, “they’ll go with the laziest, easiest choice,” says Webb. “Animals want to use as little energy as possible.” So, a mother mouse might choose to nest in an already-cozy sleeping bag instead of shredding six rolls of toilet paper.
Or, mice might nest along “regular travel routes,” says Bill Dowd, the founder of Canada-wide Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control. It feels safer for them. If the cottage is empty for six months, mice can go wherever they want. But if people are still using the place, they’ll avoid high-traffic areas. This means they might ignore a blanket on a couch where people frequently sit in favour of something that’s hidden—the insulation in the wall or attic, for example.
The best way to protect your stuff from mice is to exclude them from your cottage entirely. But that’s way easier said than done. If you want to preserve bedding, store it or take it home. Where you don’t have a mouse problem. You don’t, right, Mom?
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This article was originally published in the June/July 2021 issue of Cottage Life magazine.