She ran through the house, screaming. What could elicit this blood curdling reaction, a burglar in the garage? Perhaps an injured kid? Nope, “we have a mouse in the house”, yelled my panicked wife.
“We’re in good company” I laughed. Dr. Thomas Cucchi of the Museum National d’Histoire naturalle, Paris recently found evidence that mice have infested human habitats since the beginning of permanent settlement.
Mice aren’t naturally attracted to humans or their homes. However, with settlement comes food storage and mice like to eat. In inclement weather, sturdy human structures also provide easy shelter.
How not to remove a mouse from the house
Removing a mouse is easier said than done. If you have one mouse, you have many mice. Yet mice spread disease and cause a mess. They gnaw through electrical wires causing fires. Something clearly had to be done.
Of course hiring an exterminator with years of experience is the obvious choice. But their tactics can be cruel. Instead, we decided to handle the problem, in hopes of dealing humanely with the little critters.
1. Live Traps – Our first attempt at mouse removal was setting live traps. Sadly our success rate wasn’t great. We caught one mouse. Most mice are too clever for a novice’s live traps. Even when enticements like tasty treats are included. I had the distinct impression our mouse colony was amused. We found instances where treats were missing, but no mouse was caught.
Making matters worse, my wife was broken-hearted separating our captive from its family. After serious debate, I convinced her not to release the mouse back in the house. Instead, I drove to a nearby field and freed our prisoner, providing ample rations from our pantry.
2. Hire a Cat – There’s a reason cats were domesticated millenia ago. I suspect shortly after permanent settlement began. Cat’s are good at catching mice. While they kill mice, to us it seemed like a natural process. Just like an episode of Animal Kingdom featuring a great feline hunter and its prey.
We have neighbors who employ “barn cats” with good success. The only problem, barn cats are both hunter and prey. Given our local population of foxes and coyotes, cats don’t last long.
In addition, my wife is allergic to cats. From my perspective, what’s a couple months of sniffling compared to a mouse infestation? I was willing but she wasn’t, so this option didn’t work out.
3. Lethal Traps – As we grew desperate, my moral compass drifted. “I just wanted my house back”, I muttered then Googled lethal traps. These scary contraptions come in a variety of designs; from the classic spring-loaded bar trap to the jaw trap and the glue trap. More recently electric traps have become available.
After considerable research I was relieved, even excited purchasing our first spring-loaded bar traps. Yet there’s an art to setting these seemingly simple devices. An art I couldn’t master. Expecting to drop traps in a few corners and watch as the helpless little critters jumped to their doom. I became frustrated when we didn’t catch a single mouse.
4. Poison – In failure my moral compass completely broke. Yes, I stooped to the “nuclear option” – rat poison. Instead of fair treatment, my main worry now focused on inadvertent accidents.
After convincing my wife, poison was the only option left. I discretely hid small wedge-shaped boxes of pellets in nooks and crannies, then waited. Every time the dog barked or a kid yelled I ran towards the noise fearing an unintended consequence.
Thankfully nothing bad happened. However, for weeks nothing good happened either. Until one morning my wife screamed again. This time she found a disoriented mouse staggering around the kitchen.
I consider myself manly. Heck, I was in the military. But disposing of this helpless creature was very difficult. Especially knowing I caused its torture. Over the next week, this ritual of screaming and disposal became a regular occurrence. In the end I was frazzled.
A Better Solution to the Mouse Problem
Removing mice from a home is both physically and emotionally difficult. Ultimately I realized a better strategy is preventing them from entering in the first place.
The reason we had mice was because of our remodeling. After this terrible experience, I became zealously proactive. Realizing mice can squeeze through small holes and cracks, I sealed everything. Gaps at pipes or ducts entering the wall became my enemy and were eliminated at all costs. Doors were tested for good fit and solid weather-stripping was installed.
Yes, garage doors are especially tough to seal. So I made sure that if mice got into the garage they wouldn’t find an easy place for shelter. Everything was placed on shelves above the floor slab. No food was stored in the garage either. I even double-checked the wall between garage and house. Sealing any possible entry points.
Thankfully we’ve had no mice in the house since our remodeling. Given the historic relationship between mice and humans. I suppose we’ll have unwanted guests again some day. Next time I’m calling an exterminator.
House Mouse original image by Chrstphre Caempbell Flickr, adpated for water-color by Todd Remington
Helen Briggs, How the Mouse Came to Live Alongside Humans.
BBC News, March 28, 2017