My Sunday started off quite lovely, despite having been a tad hungover. I spent the day with friends watching football and playing a lengthy game of A Game of Thrones: The Board Game. Once home, I was having a lazy evening, knowing full well I could spend my Monday off being productive. I was enjoying a bit of late night TV when I heard something moving around in my kitchen, picking at what sounded like plastic. At first I ignored it, thinking it must just be something rattling in my heater. But it persisted and the sound of something scuffling around and ruffling plastic was definitely there. I stared from my seat on the floor of my studio’s living space into my kitchen, to the bottom shelf of my makeshift pantry. My heart thrummed in my chest, up into my ears, and despite my rational mind telling me to calm down, fear overtook me. And then I saw it. A small flick of a tail and the gleam of a dark eye peering up over my bag of bread. There was a mouse in my kitchen. A thousand things raced through my mind. Do I run at it and scare it away? Try to catch it and throw it outside? Beat it with my broom that was on the opposite side of the kitchen? Run to a friend’s? Call my mom? Call a friend? Yes, call a friend. Call every male friend I know and ask them to get over to my place within five minutes and kill this terrifying beast for me. But it was late, and some people did have to work in the morning. So I called up my best friend and we talked through the situation. I’d just let it eat my bread, I’d go to sleep, and set traps the next day. After all, it was just a wee little mouse. Which is what another friend assured me as well, like one would an irrational child, “Remember, it’s more afraid of you than you are of it.” So I took a deep breath, named the intruder Matthias (yes, like from Redwall), placed a roll of wrapping paper by my bed (because I’d have to get by the rodent to get my broom), put on some music to drown out the sound of gnawing plastic, and slipped into a restless sleep filled with dreams of finding and catching mice everywhere.
And so began the next week of living with a mouse.
DAY 1: FEAR
The next morning I crept into my kitchen, keeping an eye out for anything that moved, and using my wrapping paper roll, poked my bread and the small canvass tote it rested on top of. Nothing ran out of it, so I carefully grabbed the bag of bread and saw this:
Evidence of one hungry mouse (I refused to think there had been more). Of course, I had announced my mousey guest on Facebook the night before, so by morning, I had several helpful comments about how to deal with a mouse in my hou–er, apartment. I began with putting my bread in the garbage, my other bread products in the microwave, moved boxed pantry goods to higher ground, and covered my tote with tin foil and heavy jars and cans. No mouse can move a jar of spaghetti sauce to gnaw through metal, right? I emailed my landlord and spent the rest of the day working from my couch where I would see the mouse if it showed its face and be far enough away to not feel too threatened. But Matthias did not appear the next day, and I didn’t buy any traps because the more I thought about it, the more I felt bad about killing the poor creature. It was after all just trying to survive a cold winter. And besides, I found out I was not the only apartment in my building to have been visited by mice. So, I figured I’d leave the killing to the braver (and crueler souls). I decided I would first try to determine where it was coming from and prevent it from coming back.
DAYS 2-3: RESEARCH and MOUSEPROOFING
Before I went to bed on Monday, I devised a plan to figure out where the mouse was (or was not) coming from. Clever me stuffed a wrapping paper roll between my cupboard and refrigerator and placed another in front of the fridge. In front of that, I put a thick line of flour that the mouse would have to walk through if it came from under the fridge. I could then see where the mousey footprints went! The cupboard above the fridge didn’t close because my pots didn’t quite fit, so I put a line of flour on top of the fridge, too. Although I suspected the mouse was afraid of heights or had come from a ground hole as it did not try to eat the toast I had left on a plate on the counter the night it ate my bread. I didn’t think it came from my heater as the heater is contained to my apartment. I taped my cupboards shut everywhere, especially the one under my kitchen sink. I kept my garbage under there, and I figured I’d check on the bread the next day to see if it had gotten to it even with the doors taped shut. The space between the oven and wall I thought surely was too small for even a mouse to squeeze through, so I left that area alone. I was confident I’d learn something that next night.
I did learn something. It appeared nothing I planned worked. The wrapping paper was still in place. No flour footprints anywhere. But I did see a bit more bread gone from the top of the loaf in the bag. The mouse climbed right in the garbage and ate a quarter-sized bit of bread out of it. So after work that day I decided to be brave and look under my sink. Indeed, there were four possibilities the mouse could climb in from behind my walls and into my cupboard. Wherever a pipe of any kind came in, there was a huge gap surrounding it. So, I took some old rags, stuffed the holes, and took my sister’s idea and soaked them with really terrible smelling carpet cleaner to try to deter the mouse from chewing through rags saturated with the cleaner. I took the garbage out, too. No more bread for poor wee Matthias. But I did leave five popcorn kernels in a bowl on my stove. Juuuust in case the mouse did feel like braving heights. But I never thought corn kernels would interest a mouse.
DAY 4: PEPPERMINT
Matthias proved me wrong again. The rags were left in place under the sink, but from the bowl, one kernal was missing and another was left sitting on the edge of my counter, right where there was some space between the cupboard and a slab of wood that was peeling away from it. So it had a way of getting around besides the cupboard under the sink. There had to be a hole behind the fridge or behind the oven. Now, I have to add in a bit about how I was feeling emotionally several days after I first knew I had a mouse in my hou–er, apartment. While I was generally not at ease the first day or even the third, and was afraid to go into my kitchen, open my cupboards, was stopping at every sound, walking into my kitchen with the broom at the ready, etc., I was beginning to be okay with the thought of little Matthias milling about. For one thing, I hadn’t seen him in my living area, and I didn’t even hear him scratching around during the previous night. My sleeps were uninterrupted, and fear was being replaced with empowerment. I knew I could get rid of this mouse without killing it. Because no matter how accustomed I was to having a mouse around, it was still a nuisance, and it was changing my comfort level in my own home. Which brings me to the peppermint oil.
One of my aunts let me in on the secret of using peppermint oil. Mice don’t like it. And neither do I it turns out. But I did go a liiiittle bit crazy when I bought it. I mixed almost half the bottle with some hot water (so that even more vapor would be created, obviously) and I went on a spraying frenzy. I sprayed under the sink, in the garbage, around the fridge, around the oven, in the heater, around my bed, in my bathroom, in my closet, anywhere and everywhere Matthias was or could have ever been. Then I soaked gauze pads (I was out of cotton balls) in the mixture and tossed them under the fridge, next to it, next to the oven, and under the sink. Within minutes my apartment had turned into a peppermint wonderland. It was difficult to breathe and my sinuses cleared up. It felt like I had snorted Altoid powder. Or, compare it to the hottest breath mint you’ve eaten. You know, that feeling in your mouth when you breathe in? Yeah, imagine that, in your nostrils. It’s not fun. I took a nap, breathing through my blanket, fighting off nausea. Luckily I took a trip to play some trivia later, and one girl thought I must just clean my teeth extremely well. After two short hours, I was a walking candy cane. And when I returned to my abode, the smell persisted, but slightly weaker, and no sign of Matthias. I thought I had won.
DAY 5: TAKING CHARGE
Now, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my adventures with Matthias, it is how correct everyone is who said that mice are smarter than one thinks. When I didn’t find evidence of Matthias for a bit, I thought I must have done a good job at mouseproofing my apartment, or I figured it must have stumbled into a trap in another apartment. But I was wrong. Friday night he came back. I heard something scratching around in a bowl I had left more popcorn seeds in. (Call me stupid, but I figured I’d at least test the peppermint oil strategy.) It was almost midnight and the sound woke me from a Friday evening nap, so it was time to take charge and deal with this mouse business once and for all. I had bought traps the day before, and I was getting ready to use them, but I decided to do one last thing, something I should have done the very first day, but then I had been a frightened girl living alone. Now I was an emboldened woman who was taking charge of her territory. I decided to first pull out the oven as that’s the place I had underestimated the most. And there it was. The answer to everything. Old chewed fabric. Mouse droppings (everywhere). And two convenient holes, one in either corner of the space my oven took up. So I spent the next hour cleaning that up and then stuffed the holes with gauze drenched in pure peppermint oil. No diluted crap this time. I did the same with the refrigerator. I saw no sign of droppings there, but the beginnings of holes that could maybe allow a mouse to squeeze through. So I plugged them with gauze as well. Gnaw on that Matthias.
But of course, I know peppermint gauze won’t keep a mouse out forever. I have also invested in steel wool to plug the holes with instead, and I may just duct tape that in place like the hardware man said. But I’ll do that in a day or so. This mouse hunt is exhausting. I also, as mentioned before, have two traps I may set if Matthias insists on disrupting my home. But I did buy a live trap, too, so I’ll probably set that one first. So while I’ve had little mouse disturbance the last couple days, I’m sure he’ll be back. In the meantime, I’ve rearranged my kitchen a bit to make for easy access to where the fridge was, moved my pantry items to the actual cupboards (after thoroughly checking that there weren’t holes anywhere in them), and I’ve learned to not leave any food lying around. So, really, Matthias has helped me. I cleaned my kitchen like crazy, scrubbing grime that had been accumulating since before I moved in, and I’ve even kept my clothes and blankets from being too unprotected (in case Matthias thinks he is entitled to chewing it up for his nest somewhere), and I clean up after myself better than usual so he’s not tempted to break through his peppermint barricade. So all in all, having Matthias around hasn’t been all that bad. A nuisance that had to be reckoned with sure, but am I afraid of the wee beast? Hardly. But he’s probably had the most terrifying week of his life, because my friend was probably right after all. I’m sure Matthias is more afraid of me than I am of him (or should be).