We moved house in June, and within a few weeks I spotted our first mouse in the house. And then the second, third, fourth etc. To be fair, I’m no expert in distinguishing between them, so at first I was optimistic it was just one very active mouse.
I did some internet research and found out that mice are unhygienic horrors. I panicked. I Dettoled the floor, the work surfaces, behind and under appliances, put all our crockery and cutlery through a hot dishwasher cycle, and would give husband and daughter a quick swipe with an antibacterial wipe if they stood still long enough. I then repeated this routine every morning, but still felt grubby and beleaguered.
A quick message round to a local parents email group I’m part of revealed that we were far from alone in our rodent induced woe. Unfortunately, my innocent question as to how we rid us of these turbulent beasts didn’t receive any particularly encouraging responses. It seemed to boil down to ‘you can’t, unless you get a cat’.
At this point we had no intention of getting a cat, so I decided some mouse traps were the next best thing. I did feel very morally dubious about them – I’m an ex-vegetarian, and typical wussy city dweller. I eat meat (free range and organic, natch), but believe me, if I had to kill it myself, I’d go veggie again quicker than you could say lentil bake. On the plus side though, my research had led me to the conclusion that chocolate spread was the most efficient bate, and as you only need a tiny bit on the mouse trap, it would have been downright wasteful not to use the rest…breakfast times were greatly cheered for a couple of weeks.
And so we embarked on our double-life as mouse-killers. I say double life, because my daughter, raised on a literary diet of cute anthropomorphic mice, could not be allowed to find out what her parents were up to. Every day at dawn my husband would creep downstairs to empty the traps (I’m a feminist, sure, but clearly a very hypocritical one, as I have to admit, this felt like man’s work to me). It turned out there was definitely more than one mouse.
This was not a pleasant period. We both felt racked with Lady Macbethian guilt, and the mice (with a few dear, departed exceptions) were still running amok in our kitchen. Scuttle scuttle.
Then a chance conversation with a friend revealed the name of a Mouse Killer Extrordinaire. He was summoned. He arrived. He was French. He called me Madame, which I rather liked. He left poison (and, unnervingly, instructions on what to do should daughter unwittingly consume said poison. “Eet zhould not be eenough to keel a bebe.” he reassured me). He then returned a week later and spent several hours filling up every tiny hole and gap in our Victorian terrace. The mice departed forthwith.
True, there were some disconcerting moments, such as when I witnessed the death throes of a hapless mouse, and then tried to remove the body without Anna noticing, all the time continuing a phone conversation on an extremely serious issue with the Chief Executive of a charity I was then trustee of. Or the time I noticed a funny smell coming from behind the fridge and thought some food must have fallen down there, got my dad to pull it out, and found a decomposing mouse. Sorry, Dad. But generally, things were back to normal, and we put it out of our minds.
Until one evening a few months later when I was reading peacefully until I saw a familiar flash of mousy brown out of the corner of my eye. This time, we took no prisoners. M. le Mouse Killer was recalled immediately. It’s interesting, and rather frightening, how quickly moral qualms can be eroded. This time I felt far less guilt, and also far less repulsion. This was now simply a problem to be dealt with.
M. le Mouse came, acted, declared the house rodent free once more, but told me that in a house of this age, the only sure-fire way to a mouse-free future was acquisition of a cat . Husband felt this was rather in danger of going down the Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly route, but did concede that if they returned again then we would probably have to consider it.
I’m sure you can guess what happened next. Yep, they’re back.
So now, the cat issue.
There are lots of points in favour of getting a cat. I would love to have a pet, and a dog simply isn’t an option at the moment; Anna would adore it, and I firmly believe that children (especially only children) should grow up with a pet in the house; and s/he would hopefully scare the mice away.
However, the points against are that it would be someone else for me to clean up after(!), it would reduce our flexibility for holidays and travel, my sister-in-law is allergic to them, so the cat would have to be sent on vacation and the house thoroughly de-catted before she came to stay, and our furniture would probably get trashed. Or more trashed than it gets anyway with a three-year old and all her friends tearing round the place.
It has been pointed out to me that I could solve all these problems simply by considering the mice as themselves as pets, thereby removing the need to remove them, or to add another animal to the equation, but I’m not really convinced of that viewpoint. So, the dilemma remains. And in the meantime I’m back to my frenzied disinfecting routine.