Of Mice and Men
This time of year in old houses in the countryside, the few mice who moved in to keep warm in the fall have had time to raise their families. As the population rises, the homeowner often has to take drastic measures! And not all cats see it as their role to take action. This was originally published on November 7, 1989.
There for a while it seemed that nothing was sacred. I mean, if mice want to carry on their revels in one of the back bedrooms, I'm inclined not to ask questions, but when they start whooping it up in our own bedroom - while we are in residence - it seems to me that Something must be done.
(Actually, the back bedrooms are equally off limits if Tertia, our third daughter, happens to be in residence. Tertia draws the line well before mice. Her vocal imitation of a steam calliope that has just burst the pipe that plays E-flat-above-high-C should cause the mouse that is responsible to go completely bald and totally deaf. But mice are made of sterner stuff than you might think.)
Anyway, as I say, the parties in our bedroom were a bit much. Probably even the mice downstairs would still be living the good life if it hadn't been for the parties in our bedroom.
Now I'm afraid I have to say that the resident cat is quite useless in these situations. Many years ago now, we came down one morning to find him calmly sitting upon the mortal remains of a "very large mouse" and the event entered into the family's song and story. In fact, the rat in question may simply have had a heart attack and died for all we know. No autopsy was performed – or contemplated – and the cat has never confirmed or denied his role in the whole affair. He has, however, rather used this now long-distant triumph as sufficient justification for his present policy of non-intervention. 'Live and let live' seems to be his motto, although I suspect that his awesome respectability (not to say stuffiness) causes him to disdain food that has lived an untidy and no doubt unhygienic life.
Another problem with the cat at this time of year – just when he could be really useful – is that he cannot reliably be left inside overnight. Around three o'clock in the morning he decides that it would be a grand night to take a stroll and perhaps do a bit of yowling on the side. Ignoring the mice cavorting about the place he betakes himself to the door of our bedroom and rattles the door-handle. A rattling door-handle can be heard, I want you to know, even over the carryings-on of the mice.
So, there for a while we had mouse traps set all over the house. It was a little risky, padding about in the dark, I grant you, but sometimes you have to be willing to take a bit of risk in order to accomplish a higher objective.
It was also a little awkward entertaining. The snap of a mouse trap is hard to translate into some more benign event, and there for a while, although there was no "rockets' red glare," the snapping of mousetraps at unexpected intervals rather made our quiet home reminiscent of Fort McHenry the evening that Francis Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner.
One evening we were sitting in quiet conversation with another couple in the living room, when the trap in the kitchen snapped during a lull. I could see afterwards that the problem with explaining that it was a mousetrap was the unspoken assumption that where there had been one mouse there might well be others.
But social awkwardnesses aside, we're now down to one or two mice a week, and at least they have stopped the partying in our bedroom.
Words & Images
We moved to our farm in Sussex, New Brunswick from Toronto in 1977, only moving away in 2014.