Thursday, June 12, 2008

I like mice, but not in my kitchen

When I was about ten and lived with my parents about two hours drive from where a live now, a mouse got into the house. Or maybe it was two mice. Anyway, from my parents reaction, you would think that it was the end of the world. My parents more or less declared war on the mice and bought traps and such and seemed to spend an awful lot of time and effort trying to kill a couple of really small helpless animals.

At the time it seemed really cruel, since to me the little animals did not seem that different from my brother's hamster. I couldn't believe that my mother was doing this, and my father seemed to be angry a lot of the time. I was having no part of this business. Once they were chasing the poor thing down the hall, and I happened to be at the end of the hall, and I was yelled at for not preventing the thing from escaping into it's hole.

After a week or two of this they caught two mice in traps and announced that was probably all of the adults, and that if there were any babies that they were probably too small to live by themselves and would probably soon die. My parents had intentionally killed something and were happy about it. I didn't want to be around them for another week or so.

Once in a while we had some ants come in the house, and a cricket would get in and make everyone crazy for a night or two, and a few other bugs would come in. We intentionally brought in a praying mantis if we could catch one, and we brought in cicadas and such in jars, but we had no serious bug problems in the house. We did not have infestations. We did not have roaches. At least three times a year my father sprayed the house. That is not to say that my father did the normal thing of going to the store and buying a few cans of Raid. My father had this stuff that sort of looked like diving equipment and put serious amounts of chemicals all around the house. We did not have roaches. I am not sure that I had ever even seen a roach.

I briefly had a job at a pet store and spent a lot of time looking at mice and rats. I think that they're cute. They are not quite the same cute as a hamster, but a bunch of little mice together are really funny. They run all over the cage really fast and jump on things and jump over each other and run around in their wheels. Hamsters look quite lazy in comparison.

Anyway, the mice in the store are fun to watch, and except for the fact that they are white and black instead of grey and brown, they do not look much different from those that sometimes get into someone's house.

I got married. I had seen on TV whenever some young person would leave home for the first time that they either moved into a college dorm full of drunken idiots, or they would move into some tiny awful apartment with lots of roaches and such. And while I did not move into a tiny awful apartment, I did move into a small house that looked awful. But I didn't see any roaches, and I didn't see any mice. I thought that some effort into cleaning and painting and such would make me like the house better. In any case, I didn't care that much, cause I was married and finally moving out of my parents house and I had...other things...on my mind.

Neither of us were neat freaks before we got married, so it was a bit much to expect that either of us were going to volunteer to do lots of cleaning after we were married. Still, life goes on even when neither of us can be bothered to pick up socks or towels or make the bed, etc.... And, spontaneous generation has long been disproved, and frogs do not magically appear from mud, and roaches do not magically appear if one does not pick up socks.

I was soon talked into joining my husband in an odd hobby. He used to go to estate sales and garage sales and buy odd things to resale later. This was supposed to be something that we were going to do for a few months just to see if I liked the idea. It was okay at first, but I quickly grew tired of it. The house was already so small that I could not have normal things like living room furniture, and now we were walking around boxes and boxes of junk from sales that I didn't even want. Since this was supposed to be something that we weren't going to do anymore if I ever decided I didn't like it, after three months I said that I didn't like it. No more junk. I quit.

My husband did not recall this conversation when he asked if we could continue his little hobby on the condition that we stop whenever I wanted. He continued to fill the house with junk for resale. At the time it didn't occur to me that he was just lying to get his own way. I actually thought that he didn't remember, and that I shouldn't make a big deal about it. I just got married. I didn't want to have a big fight, and I certainly didn't want a divorce. I was in love.

So there was all of this junk, and I brought some things from my parents house, and he had some things from his mom's house. And somewhere in one of these boxes there were a few little visitors. Okay, these are roaches. They don't seem so terrible. They're not like spiders or anything. And apparently my husband had seen roaches before. He'd seen a lot of them. But here there weren't so many of them. You just step on them and get on with things.

Okay, maybe that would have been a good time to ask my dad to come by with serious amounts of chemicals. Except that I really don't think that would have helped us. I think that we brought the roaches inside ourselves with the boxes of junk, and spraying all the chemicals outside would have just poisoned our garden. Killing the bugs inside would have required spraying inside, which would have made the house unlivable for at least a week or two, and I didn't want to do that. Besides, my husband still insisted on being a junk dealer, and he would have just brought more of the things inside anyway.

Now the problem is starting to get serious. And while spontaneous generation still does not occur, and roaches do not magically appear under towels and socks that one forgets to pick up, they do make the most of the dishes you neglected to wash the night before and the trash that you can't take out til Wednesday. The bugs decided to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die. And while you're at it have try to have sex and lay eggs first.

So we had a serious roach problem, and we were trying to deal with it in ways that didn't smell too bad, though we did keep cans of Raid and such when it seemed to be more of a problem than usual, and if we were going out of town or something we would use foggers.

About that time I saw a mouse. I didn't want to kill it, but I wanted to catch it and take it outside. And I did that, but I guess it had some friends.

It took me a long time to figure out that I was going to have a serious problem with the mice. My first thought was actually something like worry that the mice would get sick and die from eating the roaches we had killed with poison.

After relocating a few more mice, a couple of rats got in. I gave up and bought some traps and some poison. That seemed to deal with most of it, though once in a while more would come in. Later, we got a cat, so we got rid of the poison and moved the traps to places that the cat couldn't reach. And while we did not intentionally get the cat to deal with the rodent problem, he did turn out to be an excellent mouse hunter.

Later, we moved to an apartment. I tried to be careful about moving stuff to the new place. I tried to get rid of a lot of junk, and a tried to wash most of the stuff that I did move, and I didn't move anything in old boxes. So we didn't bring any bugs or mice with us to the new place. We never had any rodents in the apartment, maybe because it was on the second floor, and the few bugs that came in were quickly dealt with by some Raid product.

I was very happy in my apartment, but my husband wasn't, so we moved into a duplex. After several years of not having to deal with many bugs or any rodents, I'd forgotten what a hassle it was to get rid of them. There are a few bugs, which are mostly dealt with, though once in a while they become very annoying in the evening, and the occasional cricket gets in and makes us crazy.

And then I saw a mouse. And I thought that I would catch it and take it outside. Which I did, but it had friends. Even after having this problem before I still a bit slow doing anything about it. I bought a few traps, which did not work this time. I have finally decided that it is time for poison.

I do not have a cat or any other pet at the moment, so the poison isn't a problem there. But if you use poison instead of traps, there is the problem of not knowing where the dead rodents are. At the moment only mice are the problem, which is not as bad as having rats. But even dead mice smell a bit, so if you don't find them right away that is a bit annoying.

Still, it had to be done. I feel like a terrible person for killing small helpless animals, and while they are dying I'm complaining when they don't die at a convenient time and place. I have found a few dead little bodies, and I have cleaned up a few places where they used to live. I didn't see any live mice for a bit.

But I am of the opinion that if there a few mice that you do see there a probably more that you don't see. And it isn't rocket science to figure out that if something was in a certain place and it isn't there anymore, it is probably in another place. But I thought that if I wasn't seeing them in the kitchen, the bedroom, or the bathroom that the remaining problem was probably in the back room.

So I had found a box of books that the mice had destroyed. The box was one of those cardboard boxes made for holding files, with holes cut into the sides to be used as handles. So it was quite easy for mice to get into those type of boxes. And, since other boxes are cardboard, they could make their own holes in any that they really wanted to get into. I moved anything that I really thought was important into plastic boxes and decided that the magazines and such in the remaining file boxes weren't worth worrying about. But I checked them once in a while, looking for mice, and did not find any. So I thought that except for the back room, I was probably safe for the moment, and I went back to the business of sorting through junk and deciding which items of clothing I could part with, etc....

So last week I mostly finished sorting through the clothes and putting them into plastic boxes with different labels, and if something didn't fit into one of the boxes it was probably something I didn't really need and could get rid of. I did this was all of the folding clothes. A while back I had already done something similar with the clothes hanging in the closet, so I didn't really need to look at those. But Sunday, as I was about to pat myself on the back for dealing with the clothes and move onto the books, I decided that I should at least have a look in the closet, so that I could truthfully say that I had sorted through all of my clothes.


And there was a mouse. Not on the floor of the closet, but climbing up my husband's suit. How did he even get up there?

I took the suit outside and tried to get the mouse to go somewhere else. He was quite determined to stay on the suit. While I was trying to convince it that running off into the grass really was his best option, another mouse turned up inside the suit. I finally got both of them onto the grass, checked the suit to make sure there were no more and went back inside. To be on the safe side I took all of the clothes out of the closet and inspected them outside. I found no more mice. I did, however, find what they were after. My purse was hanging in the closet, and the last time I had used the purse or worn anything in the closet was the funeral a couple of months ago, when I had a bit of a sore throat and had put several cough drops and starlight mints in the purse.

Okay, I think that I should wash everything in the closet. After closer inspection, I did find that I could live without just a few more things there were hanging up. Other than that, I finished sorting the clothes and can now concentrate on something else. We went to the store and bought some more poison. I hope this is over soon.


dmarks said...

Well-dressed mice like to wear suits, I guess.

I've seen mice destroy 50 year priceless old black and white family photos. They also destroyed my 1st edition "Silmarillion" book by Tolkien. That loss is tempered by the fact that they printed so many, it is worth one or two dollars anyway.

Once we caught one in the house. Since we don't hate mice and think they are kind of cute, we put it in a cage and kept it as a pet. Which would be fine, except it escaped... into the house again.

When all is said and done, though, I'd rather there were none of the things in the house at all.

Having to spray the house for bugs 3 times a year is, I guess, one thing that I don't miss when living in a frigid area where you don't know your exterminator on a first-name basis.

Dame Honoria Glossop said...

We never see any mice, nor any insects in the house since we got Buster.

He doesn't mention it, and I never ask.

Purple Pigeon said...

Hon, i feel for you! It sounds like one thing after another. Would it be out of the question to get another cat? It would sort the mice out sharpish. The image of mice climbing up the suit is quite chilling. And i quite like the little fellas.

laughingattheslut said...

Let's hear it for Buster.

For many reasons, I do not currently have a pet. We go out of town a lot and have no one to look after them when we are gone. I worry enough about the plants. And we aren't spending enough time and money on our own health problems, so if we got a pet we would have to deal with vet bills, etc.... An outdoor dog would destroy the garden, an indoor dog would probably dangerous for the ceramics, and an indoor cat would be even more of a problem with the ceramics.

Getting a cat does not automatically get rid of the rodent problem. Some cats are just not good at the whole hunting thing. They have to learn the skill, which is best done by learning from their mothers. Some are good at finding mice, but just play with them a bit and then let them go. Some catch mice and kill them, but do not eat what they kill and make a big mess. And some will be so into the hunt that they will destroy anything that gets between them and the mice, often in the middle of the night. So while I had a cat that was good at catching mice and did eat them and usually did not make mess or a lot of noise with it after dark, I could not have even that nice arrangement because of the ceramics. On the other hand my mother's cat never gets on countertops or shelves but had little mouse hunting skills and did not like to eat the rare kill from the garage.

And I do like the rabbits outside. I know from a neighbor that a really good hunting cat will also kill baby bunnies, which I'd rather not have happen.