The body is grayish-brown above and lighter, never white, below. Generally, it is a permanent resident in homes and other buildings. Wild mice enter dwellings in late summer or fall, spend the winter, and leave in the spring. All mice are excellent climbers and can be found at all levels of the house from the basement to the attic. Mice can be controlled.
House mice are mainly nocturnal, although at some locations considerable daytime activity may be seen. Seeing mice during daylight hours does not necessarily mean that a high population is present, although this is usually true for rats.
Mice have poor eyesight, relying on their hearing and their excellent senses of smell, taste, and touch. They are considered color-blind; therefore, for safety reasons, baits can be dyed distinctive colors without causing avoidance by mice, as long as the dye does not have an objectionable taste or odor.
Mice constantly explore and learn about their environment, memorizing the locations of pathways, obstacles, food and water, shelter, and other elements in their domain. They quickly detect new objects in their environment but, unlike rats, do not fear them. Thus, they will almost immediately enter bait stations and sample new foods (baits). The degree to which mice consume a particular food depends on the flavor of the food in addition to its physiological effect. Mice may reject baits simply because they do not taste as good as other available foods.
When house mice live in or around structures, they almost always cause some degree of economic damage. In homes and commercial buildings, they may feed on various stored food items or pet foods. In addition, they usually contaminate foodstuffs with their urine, droppings, and hair. A single mouse eats only about 3 grams of food per day but destroys considerably more food than it consumes because of its habit of nibbling on many foods and discarding partially eaten items.
House mice cause structural damage to buildings by their gnawing and nest-building activities. In livestock confinement facilities and similar structures, they may quickly cause extensive damage to insulation inside walls and attics. Such damage also occurs in homes, apartments, offices, and commercial buildings but usually at a slower rate because mouse populations in such structures are smaller. House mice often make homes in large electrical appliances, and here they may chew up wiring as well as insulation, resulting in short circuits which create fire hazards or other malfunctions that are expensive to repair. Mice may also damage stored items in attics, basements, garages, or museums. Damaged family heirlooms, paintings, books, documents, and other such items may be impossible to replace.
Among the diseases mice or their parasites may transmit to humans are salmonellosis (food poisoning), rickettsialpox, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis. Mice may also carry leptospirosis, ratbite fever, tapeworms, and organisms that can cause ringworm (a ungal skin disease) in humans. They have also been found to act as reservoirs or transmitters of diseases of veterinary importance, the hantavirus, swine dysentery, a serious bacterial disease of swine often called "bloody scours."