What we need is a better mousetrap

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fifteen years we've lived in this house. We've never had a mouse problem. Until now.

Cooler temperatures have, as might be expected, made our warm house a destination for the mice who live in the ivy patches in our backyard. Fifteen years ago we handled the invasion with the latest technology of 1997: something that has to be plugged in. Thank God it didn't need batteries.

The devices we purchased were small emitters (we were told) of high-pitched noises that mice can't stand. We have to take the manufacturer's word for this, because we can't hear the noise. There are lots of things I don't hear these days.

As long as the little red light on the plug-in device is working, the anti-mouse noises are doing their job. Again, we have to take some slick marketing at its word.

But the fact is we haven't had mice. For 15 years. We became believers. We urged our friends to buy these devices, because we believed they worked.

Never mind that the former Miss Kitty and the current Missy Kitty catch outdoor mice. They were and are good hunters. But Missy Kitty doesn't seem to be aware of the mice menace that has developed in our house. I suspect she would be confused by an indoor mouse. After all, we have no ivy beds inside.

The only one who has seen mice this fall is my wife. You can tell from a long, long way that she had spotted one of the rodents. As soon as she saw the first mouse, I checked all the plug-in devices. Sure enough, the red lights were still showing. But after 15 years, you have to wonder if they still work.

So off I went to the Big Store where I knew I could find a mousetrap. Sure enough, the Big Store has them. It has a whole wall filled with mouse-capturing devices.

Did you get that?

A whole wall.

In the past 15 years, building a better mousetrap apparently has turned into quite an industry. And it appears to be recession-proof. After all, the mice have no idea the economy tanked. They couldn't care less about out-of-work job seekers. They just keep committing hanky-panky in the ivy. If mice were added to the DJIA, it would be well over 20,000 by now. We would all feel better about our retirement accounts.

But, alas, mice are relegated to the category of menace. Or infestation.

So I stood there looking at all the kinds of mousetraps and baits and poisons. I was in a daze. This was worse than picking a candidate for public administrator in the Republican primary.

While I was trying to sort out the mousetraps, another fellow came up beside me. He, too, had glazed eyes. Finally, he reached for the small row of old-fashioned spring-loaded wooden trap that snaps down on your fingers when you put cheese or peanut butter on it. Seventy-nine cents apiece. A bargain. And reliable, too.

But I was more mesmerized by the doodads and gadgets and high-tech whatzits. We live in a new age. I was surprised that there wasn't a single mousetrap that you could plug in, used batteries or required downloading an app.

See, there's still a long way to go for mousetraps.

Finally I selected two kinds of traps. One is a spin trap that you bait with peanut butter. If it works properly, the mouse goes into the trap to feast on the bait, and the trap spins shut. Then you throw the whole contraptions into the trash.

What a brilliant invention ... for the trap manufacturers. Why build a trap that you can use over and over -- like the 79-cent variety -- when you can spend more than a dollar on trap that can only be used once?

We put four of the baited spin traps upstairs where the cat roams. Safety first, I always say.

In the utility/storage area of the basement I put glue traps. If a mouse steps on the glue, it's the end of the road. No more ivy beds.

And if, while putting out the glue traps, you happen to touch the sticky surface with a finger or thumb, you too will get a sense of real terror. I say this from experience.

After four days, we hadn't caught a single mouse. I thought the glue traps would come with a bit of birdseed bait, but they didn't. So I added a dab of peanut butter. On the fifth day we trapped a mouse on one of the glue traps.

What I really hoped is that the lack of trapping success meant the mice couldn't stand the high-pitched noise from the plug-ins. Now that we've trapped one of the critters, we know that at least some mice will risk their hearing to grab a bite of peanut butter.

Miss Kitty, meanwhile, has made it clear that she has no interest in indoor mice. Unless they're made in China and filled with catnip.

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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