There's a mouse in our house

There is a mouse in our house.

Or at least there was this morning, and for all I know, there's a ring of mice in the floorboards and behind the walls of our house, sleeping on beds made out of matchboxes and sitting on spools of thread for chairs. We discovered that we may have a problem over the weekend, when I was putting some of our daughters clothes away, and I opened up a sock drawer.

Suddenly, I'm staring at a mouse, staring at me. Then he darted deeper into the drawer, at which point I slammed it shut and, if we're going to be honest, I started shouting for my wife. No, it's not what you think. I didn't need my wife to protect me from a mouse. Well, maybe I do. But we also, thanks to my wife's propensity for finding stray animals, have four cats, along with two dogs, and I figured if a mouse was somewhere trapped in my four-year-old's dresser, we were going to make this a family affair.

PETA can drop its plans to write mean letters to me, however; we didn't kill the mouse.I should have seen it coming. My daughters didn't want to release the cats on the mouse, which meant that they wanted me to bring the snarling, vicious, probably rabid rodent out of the house alive. I won't describe everything, but the next 20 minutes were a bit chaotic. My wife and I pulled out the drawers and got the mouse to run out of the dresser and onto the carpet, which meant that my wife screamed and jumped on my daughter's bed, which was really annoying, since I was already there, and she was crowding me. Because this mouse was obviously wily, and an unwelcome, uninvited guest, I declared martial law over the family and wound up getting one of our furry white cats named Powder.

I waited for Powder to pull out her claws and do my dirty work. But instead, she looked at the gray mouse and then back at me, standing on the bed with my wife and daughters, as if to say, "It's a baby mouse. Are you kidding?"

Powder started licking her fur, no longer interested. Traitor.

Anyway, we wound up giving up for the evening, trapping the mouse in our daughter's room, and invited our four-year-old to sleep in our bed for the night. The next day, while my wife was out of the house, I finally trapped the mouse in a box and set it free out in the back yard. Alive and well. I have witnesses, my daughters, who came out with me and kept talking about how we should keep the little guy as a pet.

But I'm not so sure that's a good idea, considering we're talking about a wild mouse. According to the National Pest Management Association, mice are capable of dropping up to 25,000 fecal pellets each year, an estimated 70 times a day. That's one mouse, doing his business 70 times a day, 25,000 times a year, so if you have two mice, or three... and all of these droppings can help jump-start allergies and spread disease like Hantavirus, which is this lovely condition where you get a fever, chills, malaise, headaches, nausea, abdominal and back pain, and respiratory problems.

Given all of that, after we let the mouse go, I checked out the web site for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). If you have a mouse in your house, or in your apartment, condominium, trailer or what have you, they recommend the following, and I'm quoting most of the following verbatim:

* Vacuum often, so if there are mouse droppings or anything else that might make you allergic, they'll disappear
* Get rid of your garbage.
* Keep food sealed in containers to prevent contamination.
* Properly ventilate basements and crawl spaces to eliminate the mouse's safe harbor.
* Seal cracks, holes and space around utility pipes the lead into the home.

Lastly, if you think there is an infestation, they suggest you contact a licensed pest professional.

A few hours after releasing the mouse, my wife bought something called GREAT STUFF Gaps and Cracks for about $4.99. There may be other terrific products out there that will do the same thing. I have no stake in this product. I'm just telling you what she purchased.

Anyway, we began looking for holes outside the house, hoping to see if there was an entryway where mice might be dropping by. And sure enough... We knew that mice were coming into the garage, but that had never bothered us. We just figured it was inevitable, and as long as they stayed in the garage and did their thing, we would stay in our house, and do our thing. But as we probed, my wife noticed a small design flaw -- we have a corner of the garage that has a not-obvious-by-glancing-at-it area that doesn't have cement covering the wall, just insulation.

As far as we can tell, the mice have been going through there, (and yes, we've now boarded that up), and then after gnawing through this insulation, they've been popping out of a little tiny hole in our kitchen. That's when we brought out this Great Stuff Gaps and Cracks and sealed the hole. We also used it for some tiny openings that have allowed the mice to sneak into the garage. I do have to say, Great Stuff is great stuff. At least, it did fill the holes, and hopefully soon, our mice problem will be over.

But it's not over yet. My six-year-old daughter woke me up this morning with news that she had found another baby mouse, or perhaps the same baby mouse if it came through once again, before we plugged everything else up. And I have to say, if you don't have coffee or any sort of caffeinated product in the house, a wonderful way to wake up fast is to hear, "Hey, Dad, there's a mouse in the bathtub." I'm betting an even better way to wake up would have been if I had stepped into the bathtub for a shower and discovered it myself.

So it was trapped in the bathtub with Powder and another one of our cats guarding it. Or maybe they were just talking to it. What they weren't doing was killing or catching it. In any case, this time it was my six-year-old daughter who trapped the mouse in a plastic container.

"Don't get that near me," my wife shouted, when Isabelle tried to show her the little creature. "Don't touch it," I reminded Isabelle as we strolled down the driveway, ultimately releasing it into some bushes. I couldn't help feel pleased knowing that if someday the world is overrun by giant mice, my wife and I will be doomed as rodent snack food, but the next generation will probably do just fine.

Meanwhile, I know what I'm going to be doing this evening -- looking for more possible mice holes to seal up in case there are any more, setting out catch-and-release mouse trap and vacuuming and following every recommendation that the NPMA has. I may also start pricing exterminators in case it comes to that. But I'm also going to do something that requires little time and no money. I'm going to gather up our four cats, and two dogs for good measure, and put them in front of the TV for some educational programming. From now on, Tom & Jerry is going to be required viewing.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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