Mice: They’re Not Just for Snacking

This morning my husband comes downstairs, says good morning followed by “Kommando has another mouse.”

When we moved to exurbia awhile back, I understood that in return for the extra space there would be some adjustments. At the time, the house had LP heating (at better than $400/month to heat the house), a well, and a septic tank. We still have the well and septic tank, but fortunately a natural gas line was put through. The neighbor on one side is close enough that we could hear when he played really awful music really loud. But the other three sides are pretty much open. But what we don’t have in humans, we make up for in critters.

Most of the critters are pretty cute. Although it is almost impossible to have a garden, I like looking out and seeing the deer and rabbits. The raccoons and woodchucks are cute, if somewhat destructive. Every once in awhile, there’s a possum, skunk, or coyote. We have some small, harmless snakes. And then we have the rodents. I realize that the more scientific of you will disagree, but I count the mice and bats as rodents. Why bats? Both my grandmother and husband have tried to get me to like them by telling me that they are just mice with wings. I don’t like having mice in my house and I don’t like having bats there either.

Looking back, I do feel a little bad about making my husband get the bat off our son’s ceiling the same day he had shoulder surgery. But a few years later, while he was on a fishing trip another bat got in, and I had to call a neighbor to remove it. Both of those were pretty embarrassing, but the worst came a couple of years later. I had the house to myself, with everyone else out of town.

One night, I heard scratching at the baseboard in my bedroom, but couldn’t see anything. I turned out the light and went to sleep. My head itched, and when I scratched there was something in it. I screamed and tossed it on the bed. Turned on the light and couldn’t find anything. In the morning, there was the bat. So don’t let anyone tell you that bats won’t come near you. That one was trying to cuddle with me. Needless to say, he quickly joined his friends outside.

From the day we moved in, there was scratching in the walls. My husband said it was natural, we had moved into an old farmhouse. Lovely. I figured as long as they stayed in the walls, we could coexist. The day before Thanksgiving the first year, I was alone cleaning when I saw the first one. He was sitting in the living room looking at me. I do not like mice, and I particularly don’t like mice who look at me rather than running. Our two “city” cats were nowhere to be found.

Eventually Rascal discovered that mice were great fun to play with and made excellent gifts when dead. She became a skilled hunter, extremely patient and quick to pounce. The other cat, Critter, became more skilled as well. The highlight was the night she brought one of her “toys” to bed and started to play with it. Needless to say, that was a one-time event. Critter was also the one who pounced on the bat in the hallway. Apparently she thought they were just mice with wings too.

Unfortunately, like the rest of us, the cats aged. Eventually they both lost their hearing. Until the end, Rascal would sit in the pantry, watching for mice. For awhile, the mice held the upper hand.

Last summer, we got another set of cats. SuperSnoops (she put her nose into everything when we brought her into the house) aka Snoops came from the shelter. Kommando Kitty was left as a kitten. A repairman found her in the window well. He got her out, and she proceeded to try to leap across the window well again to get in the window. Sweet cat; a little impulsive. Unfortunately neither cat showed any mousing skill. I could hear snickering behind the walls.

As you may know, fall and spring are moving seasons for mice. They go to and from their winter homes. Ours had gotten a little too complacent. Snoops discovered that they like to come out at the basesboards. Every evening she goes on “mouse patrol”. This week she was finally rewarded. Three one day, two the next, and so on. Kommando has no patience, but is learning from a master.

I’ve never been a fan of those “circle of life” wildlife programs. It’s a little disconcerting to see it in your own house. Particularly since our cats have the instinct to catch the prey, play with it, and kill it, but absolutely no inclination whatsoever to eat it (they seem to find the idea somewhat revolting). Sometimes, we don’t even get to the kill part. Kommando in particular, subscribes to the catch and release school of mousing.

Before you start to think of our house as akin to a Roman arena, I would like to clarify that the mice brought this on themselves. Once we had put all of our pantry foods in plastic tubs and other containers, I thought we had sent them a clear message. However, they also like dry cat food – a lot.

So the cats are simply protecting their food. And my food. And my furniture. And my sanity (such as it is).

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