January 27, 2011

Mouse Traps

When Benchley the cat joined our household, we soon realized he was a good mouser. He brings us birds, moles, mice---and it is a little sad that we don't appreciate him more for it. He would have made someone SUCH a good barn cat. We've discussed how we didn't want to hurt his feelings by rebuking him in any way when he thinks he is being SO good---but that on the other hand we wished he would, er, STOP.

That was before we realized the mice were COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE. Well, or else Benchley brought some in and didn't sufficiently kill them, and THAT is the reason we now have a thriving mouse metropolis. But if they were here already and he's been doing his little cat job by killing them for us, that changes my whole point of view on the issue.

I first noticed mouse droppings and little tufts of mouse fur in the oven drawer. Then in the laundry room, on the windowsill over the washer and dryer. Then I went to get a bag of chocolate chips from the shelves in the basement, and it had been gnawed open, and fully a third of the bag was gone, and I was PRETTY SURE I would have used scissors if it had been me.

So. Getting rid of the mice. The thing is, I know there are various virus/germ/dirt/wiring/takeover reasons that mice should not be living in our house, but mice don't horrify me OF THEMSELVES (though you can bet I'd be screaming and leaping back if one SKITTERED OUT when I didn't expect it). I would, in fact, like to have mice as pets, for our next Household Pet Acquisition. So I briefly looked into the idea of capturing some of the mice we apparently ALREADY HAD, and putting them in a cage---but as you may have instantly intuited, this is not a good idea. Wild mice are not the same as mice that have been bred to the cage life.

I started with this 12-pack of Mice Cube no-kill mouse traps. I could just return the mice to the outdoors! We have several wild areas of the yard where they could live peacefully! This plan would be a total fail, of course, if there was an undiscovered place where the mice were coming into our house (I'm picturing a Family-Circle-style cartoon where Swistle is lovingly freeing a series of mice into the yard, each of which follows a dotted path right back into the house), but would work pretty well if our mouse population was the result of Benchley sparing the lives of two captured mice who subsequently found love in the oven drawer.

I put out just three traps to start with: one in the oven drawer, one in a gap under the cupboards the cats have been keeping a very close eye on, and one in the laundry room. The next day, the bait was missing from a trap, but no mouse was in the trap. Another trap, the one from the laundry room, had been tipped off the windowsill, and contained neither mouse nor bait. The third trap had a mouse in it. A terrified, quivering, ADORABLE SOFT LITTLE mouse.

I prepared to release it into the wild, and this is where I ran into the part of my plan I should have thought of already: it is WINTER outside. There is SNOW on the ground. Tossing a mouse into that snow would be the same as killing it with a mouse trap, except it would take longer and the mouse would suffer more and we'd end up with a carcass in the yard---or possibly a carcass brought back into the house by a cat.

I took the mouse back inside to think further about this. And the result of all that thinking was, I gently turned the trap upside down (which allows the door to open), and I put it back in the oven drawer, and I closed the oven drawer. My thought process was this: I have not ADDED anything to our mouse population; I have merely canceled one poorly-thought-out transaction and given myself time to think things through with the new information about what season it is right now.

The problem was, I still didn't really want to kill the mice. And yet, they are eating our pantry supplies and/or possibly spreading disease, and that can't be allowed to continue. And yet, it is going to be winter for quite some time.

So. My second purchase was of the Victor M2524 electric mouse trap. It kills the mice with a quick electric shock. It claims to meet "International Humane Kill" standards, which was comforting even though I've never heard of such a thing and have no idea what those standards are. For all I know, the standards are "Anything it takes to get rid of the little suckers HAR HAR HAR!" But it SOUNDS good: electric shock is one of the two ways we execute PEOPLE, and I couldn't find little mouse-sized lethal-injection needles. More important to me is that it doesn't use poison and it doesn't snap.

I set the trap before bed, and in the morning the green light was blinking---meaning it had caught a mouse. I removed the mouse and re-set the trap. In the evening I checked the trap again, and the light was blinking again. I removed the mouse and re-set the trap. This morning I checked the trap again, and the light was blinking again. I removed the mouse and re-set the trap---and ordered a second trap so I can put one in a second location.

The trap is EXPENSIVE ($20) and the reviews are mixed, and if you try one I highly recommend reading the very helpful review by CF, which has a lot of troubleshooting stuff. It's not that it's a complicated trap (you put batteries in, you put a smudge of peanut butter in, you flip the switch on), but there are a few things it would be easy to do wrong (like putting in too large a portion of peanut butter) that the instructions don't give you any idea about.

In short: I like both kinds of traps, but I'll use the no-kill traps when it's nice outside, and the electric shock one when it's not---or if the mice keep coming back in.

39 comments:

d e v a n said...

I have never heard of these! This colder-than-usual winter we seem to have our attic turned into a full mouse city as well. We just bought that bar-bait poison and threw it all around up there. (and under the sink, behind the stove and behind the deep freezer) I'm jealous that you have a good hunter. Our 2 cats will chase flies and ram into windows trying to get birds (they stay inside only) but they have never once caught a mouse - which I now know we have A LOT OF.

Also, I had to smile at the image of you releasing the mouse back into the oven drawer.

beyond said...

ah! the part where you put the mouse back in the oven drawer gave me the heebie-jeebies and made me grin simultaneously.
the problem with mice is that there is never just one, and there are never just two (etc). i found out the hard way once many years ago, when i thought we had one mouse (because i would only see one at a time!) but we really had whole colonies... shudder.

Nik-Nak said...

Omg when I even think of the word mouse I get ticked off! We had some living in the walls in our old house one summer (while I was pregnant) and the combination of the random mouse turds and the scurrying in the walls waking me up every night did me in with mice.

Glad you found something that works...we had a hard time trying all the different methods.

Gina said...

We have always had cats, so only see mice from time to time, but I'm like you - they don't really bother me (as individual mice). The last one I saw in the house alive, I caught in a cup, petted, fed and took it out into the woods. I joked that he probably beat me back into the house.

The one thing I WON'T use is poison, because of the kids and pets. And also - We used to have one cat that liked to go outside for an hour or so each day (he came to us as a stray and it was hard to make him a total indoor cat). Anyway, we think he got hold of poison or maybe a poisoned mouse from somewhere, because a few moths back he went out and the next morning, we found that he had died for no apparent reason.

Pickles and Dimes said...

Hmmm...I could use those electric ones in our garage. Do you have to SEE the mouse when you dispose of it? Because that's what I hate about our current traps.

Nowheymama said...

You are SO much calmer than I am about this. I have been FREAKING about our mice this winter. Juuuust when I think they're gone, we find another one in a trap. GAH.

Swistle said...

Pickles and Dimes- I think you could arrange it so you didn't have to. It's a hinged lid, so you could turn the trap upside down over a bag and open it and not look.

artemisia said...

Oh, mice. They are so cute, but their diseases and their odor are not.

We had a Mice Metropolis about five years ago, and Dear God, did I lose my mind. I was not on anxiety meds then, yet, and I am sure that had a big part in my state. But I would bleach EVERYTHING in my kitchen, almost daily.

I got to the point that I LOVED to hear a trap snap because I was finally WINNING.

I am much more sane about it now, but we've had maybe one mouse per year, since.

Good luck. I will have to look into those traps; I've never seen them.

P.S. LOVE the visual of you tipping the trap open in the oven drawer as you ponder how to move forward. ADORABLE.

Naomi said...

So what does Benchley do with the mice in the house? Is he constantly chasing them or is he losing interest cause it's not the same as outside?

Good for you for trying to go the most humane way possible. I want to say that that's what I would do too, but if I want to be honest with myself I have to admit I'm so afraid of them I might do whatever it takes to get rid of them asap. *hides in shame*

Chez Bacon said...

Oh, you are so much calmer about this than I am! I have an actual phobia about rodents and CANNOT handle seeing them in the house or dealing with traps. It was a condition of our marriage that my husband TAKES CARE OF IT every time- lucky man, huh?

Anyway we got these little mouse buzzers at target a few months ago- little discs that you plug into an outlet that emit some sort of sound mice hate. People/pets aren't affected, supposedly. (I can't hear it, but I don't have any pets to test this out on.) I was skeptical, but they work beautifully. Perfect for us since all I really want is for the mice to decide that my house isn't very nice and they should live elsewhere; I want nothing to do with dead ones.

Swistle said...

Naomi- I'm not sure! We had a week or so where Benchley was bringing us a dead mouse daily, but he hasn't done that for awhile. Maybe the mice are on to him now?

Naomi said...

Hahahaha, i can't stand mice in houses but the visual of a tiny mouse chasing a cat around is adorable

Anonymous said...

Why do they always go in the oven drawer???

I had mice in my old house once, and I put out poision pellets...and had to listen to one dying in the over drawer over dinner!

Alice said...

it is SO HARD that mice are adorable, isn't it??

but then i think about them in my pantry, IN MY FOOD, and they are less adorable. and i am OK with the killing dead.

Bailey said...

Three mice in two days, huh? And yet you seem so calm and rational. I would be Freaking Out.

Misty said...

You're so cute with your 'adorable fluffy mouse' bit. I would be running and screaming in the opposite direction.

Now I am chanting, 'oh please don't let us get mice, oh please don't let us get mice.'

AAAHHHHHHGGGGGGHHHHHAAA!!!!

cakeburnette said...

The fact that your traps keep having "visitors" suggests the mice are coming in from outside somewhere. A cheap alternative to the mouse "buzzer" mentioned above is cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil or citronella oil. Apparently mice don't like either. We used this method when I had a toddler & a crawling infant and a mouse problem (I wouldn't have poison or snappy-type traps in the house with them). It was amazing!

Oh that reminds me, when we were searching for non-poison, non-snappy-trap options, the interwebz said that female cat pee would also deter mice. Guessing you can't convince Mouse to pee where you're seeing mouse droppings, huh? Thought that might kill two birds with one stone (keeping her from peeing on your bed being #2).

cakeburnette said...

The fact that your traps keep having "visitors" suggests the mice are coming in from outside somewhere. A cheap alternative to the mouse "buzzer" mentioned above is cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil or citronella oil. Apparently mice don't like either. We used this method when I had a toddler & a crawling infant and a mouse problem (I wouldn't have poison or snappy-type traps in the house with them). It was amazing!

Oh that reminds me, when we were searching for non-poison, non-snappy-trap options, the interwebz said that female cat pee would also deter mice. Guessing you can't convince Mouse to pee where you're seeing mouse droppings, huh? Thought that might kill two birds with one stone (keeping her from peeing on your bed being #2).

lifeofadoctorswife said...

My parents live in the country, so they have dealt with mice a lot. And their cat - wonderful hunter that he is - used to bring them lots of mice as proof of his hunterly prowess.

But I personally think the electric shock ones are more humane than Death by Cat (the cat PLAYS with the mice - yick) and more humane/less disgusting for the human, who might, in a sleep stupor, step on a mouse heart, or who might one day wake up to a dismantled mouse bundle on her pillow. EW.

AnnetteK said...

I'm dying here. You put the mouse back in the drawer??! Um. Speechless. And trying not to pee myself from laughing.

momma on the run said...

I love this post. I would've loved to see you put the mouse back. :) I had mice just before Christmas and I was on the verge of hysterical, full fledged panic attacks. They had been in my bathroom cupboards and all my kitchen drawers and cabinets and I was disinfecting everything and keeping them stored in the dishwasher and microwave (where I knew the mice couldn't crawl around on them). You are handling it all so calmly. I admire that.

Swistle said...

cakeburnette- AHA HA HA!! ...And actually, I might be able to work with this.

Emily said...

I am *not* trying to discourage you from no-kill traps, but I do know that if you don't take the mouse at least a mile away (maybe it's two...) from your home when you release it, it will come right back. Housemates and I ran into that issue before.

Side note: everyone but me was *all for* no-kill sticky traps until a mouse got stuck, and then it was all "HIT IT WITH SOMETHING HEAVY!!!" I was the one that half-drowned the poor thing in vegetable oil to get it un-stuck and took it far away to freedom.

Firegirl said...

The inlaws have a plug-in whatsit that keeps them from coming in. They SWEAR it works but we are skeptical.

Plug every hole you find (sink pipes, dryer & stove vent) with tin foil. They don't like tinfoil for some reason.

Oh, and UGH.

ixBeths said...

i don't think i could remove the little mouse bodies. i'm kindof shuddering just thinking about it.

Swistle said...

ixBeths- It's not too bad! I mean, it might be too bad. But, like, on a scale of mouse-removal: not too bad. You open the lid and tip the mouse out---no touching, no releasing a spring or whatever. I tip them right into a bag, so I don't even see them if I don't want to.

Nellyru said...

You know mice are very hardy little things...they'll do fine outside. Or, you know, back in your oven...either one. =)

Linda said...

I have nothing on the mice in the house. It's interesting to read about, though.

On the mouse-as-pets front, I offer that my nephew has a pet white rat. At first I gagged at the thought of the thick rat tail, but after I had spent some time with him, he's really nice. He's calm (there's no scurrying) and friendly and definitely cute.

Lippy said...

I am trying to stop jumping up and down screaming like a ninny. Gah, I hate mice. That sort of thing fall completely to my husband. You are very brave.

Francesca said...

"He would have made someone SUCH a good barn cat."

Or such a good New York City cat!! I could use a cat like that...

Chez Bacon said...

Oh! And a friend of mine once told me that the best mouse deterrent is snake poop- SNAKE POOP- scattered wherever you think the mice are coming in. Can I repeat SNAKE POOP again? SNAKE POOP.

She claims it is odorless to humans and easily accessible at pet stores. Can you imagine asking a pet store employee for a bag of snake poo to bring home? And then sprinkle about your house? Again, rodent PHOBIA, and I think I would rather catch the things with my bare hands than go through any step in that process.

Superjules said...

Dammit, I don't WANT to feel sad for the little mousies. But I do....

Carolyn said...

Ick, I hate mice so much after they infested my duplex. The only thing that ended up working for me was traps and poison. For me, it was all out war.

I used steel wool (SOS pads) to plug up the holes in the wall where the pipes connect (think under sinks, in vents, etc.) Apparently steel wool (and maybe tin foil) are the only things mice can't chew through.

Swistle said...

Linda- YES, it is totally the rat TAIL that bugs me! I wonder if I could get a little SOCK for it or something? Because I've heard they're really smart and make great pets.

Chez Bacon- OMG we are on the SAME WAVELENGTH here, sister.

Wendi said...

Oh gosh, I really can relate to this! I love mice (and did have one as a pet, til my mom made me return it to the pet store, lol...I bought it all by my 9-year-old self). But they do startle me when they run across the floor unexpectedly!

We have 5 cats and haven't had mice in years, but I've done the catch-and-release thing too. Never heard of the electric shock traps but they sound MUCH better than the sticky traps. Even better if you can find a way to use Mouse's urine to deter them!

DawnA said...

I don't mind them as long as they stay outside. Can't deal w/ them in the house. Not because I'm afraid of them but good gosh they are dirty and they chew stuff. We had bats get in our laundry room two times. EWWWW. Just stay outside guys and we'll be great friends.

Kalendi said...

We tried the sticky, no-kill trap and the poor mouse struggled and stuck and I'll spare you the details. We now use the old-fashioned spring loaded ones, because they are quick. It's my husband's job to empty them and plug up the holes. Fortunately, we only have a few every winter, but I get the heebie-jeebies and love the sound of the trap. I'm sorry I don't think they are cute at all!
Kalendi

Christine said...

I thankfully don't have mice now, but did have quite the metropolis pre-cat in an old house. We used the snap traps, because I figured a good beheading was faster than the electrocution, and also because somehow a mouse had gotten into that same electric trap you use, and then got out and I felt HORRIBLE about it. I mean, electrified, and still alive, my gosh. So yeah, but now that we have a cat, I'd probably have to go the electric route again.

Shelly said...

This whole post was hilarious, but my favorite part was that you were PRETTY SURE you'd have used scissors to open the bag of chocolate chips. I'm PRETTY SURE I would have, too, but y'know, sometimes ya gotta have that chocolate.