Mice are destructive little rodents who can cause big misery, especially when they end up dying in the walls of your home or inside your car. It's amazing how one cute little animal can make such a huge stink.

What do dead mice smell like?

The odor of a dead mouse is a mix of sulfur dioxides, methane and other noxious gases that are produced as tissue begins to decompose.

Unfortunately, this smell can be produced by any member of the rodent family (mice, rats, etc.) that may have found its way into your walls, attic or crawlspaces and died. So, if you’re experiencing a smell of this nature in your home, it’s hard to say with certainty the culprit is a mouse without visual confirmation.

However, you can look at some context clues to get an idea of what kind of critter you may be dealing with.

Both mice and rats are nocturnal and prefer small dark spaces that offer a place to hide. Mice love to make nests and will shred material, especially fabrics and paper, to line them. They may also burrow into upholstered furniture and claim your couch as their own before eventually dying there.

Do you see any animal droppings in your cupboards, drawers, attic or other more secluded areas of your home? Examining the size and shape of any waste you see could help you determine the animal causing the smell in your home. Rat feces are typically three-quarters of an inch long and one-quarter of an inch thick, while mice feces are roughly one-quarter of an inch long and pointed at each end.

Rats are larger than mice, so, when the end comes, a dead rat may smell worse than a dead mouse and for a longer period of time. Unfortunately, it’s also true that a single mouse carcass can produce an unbearable and long-lasting stench. No matter what kind of rodent may be involved, the odor will continue until the body completely dries up. So, if a mouse dies in close proximity to a moist area such as near water pipes, the process can take even longer and the smell may be even worse.

How to get rid of that dead mouse smell.

In short, find the source and neutralize it.

Locating the offending dead mouse may not be easy. You may have to "follow your nose," and keep sniffing around until you find the area where the odor is strongest. Also, look for stains. Sometimes a carcass leaks fluid as it dries out.

Death attracts insects. Keep an eye out for increased presence of flies, maggots, beetles and other bugs. If flies are gathering around a certain spot on the wall, you may have found the target area.

Once the carcass is found, removal may not be a quick or cheap fix. Unless you get lucky and the mouse expired in an easy-to-reach area, dead mouse removal often means cutting through walls or floors. In some situations, you can't get to the dead rodent at all and have to settle for drilling holes in walls and applying odor-neutralizing chemicals or heavy-duty deodorants.

If you are able to get to the carcass, put on gloves and other protective gear before attempting to remove it. Rodents can carry diseases and viruses that are dangerous to humans. Seal the dead mouse in a plastic bag before disposing of it and thoroughly ventilate the affected area. Even if you’re wearing gloves, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

Mouse-proof your food storage areas. Store dried grain and meats in metal canisters, glass jars or other tightly sealed containers.

How can you avoid living with dead mouse odor?

Stopping mice and rats from living comfortably in your home is one way to prevent them from dying and smelling up your house.

Poison baits can be effective at killing mice and rats, but the use of poisons often leads to animals dying inside your home. Contrary to popular belief, rodents don't ingest poison and then leave your property to look for water, and there’s no such thing as a poison that kills the animal and then quickly dries the carcass to dust.

Instead, try traps. And, as best you can, find and seal off access areas. Trapping may be preferred to poison. Whether you're trapping to kill or trapping to relocate, the benefit of using traps is that you have more control over where the animal ends up, and removal is easier.

Once the animal is out, look for access points and seal them. Think small. Mice and rats are very limber animals, and mice in particular can squeeze their bodies through a hole the size of a dime. Of course, the best method for avoiding a terrible dead mouse smell in your house is to prevent mice from entering your home in the first place. Call Terminix® to learn about options for getting rid of any mouse problems you may have and to find out how to prevent them—and their fellow rodents—from finding their way into your home.