#68 Become a killing machine

In home on January 5, 2011 at 1:20 pm

One of the many bad things about 2009 was the death, from old age (cat no 1) and a broken heart (cat no 2) of both my cats.

Obviously I’ve missed them (though enjoyed the vomit-free floors, un-scratched carpets and fur-free jumpers) but the ramifications of their absence only became fully apparent this morning when the British Gas engineer took the front off my boiler and… let’s just say that the carpet of tiny black droppings that fell out looked like someone had spilt an entire jar of chocolate sugar strands. ‘Eeeew!’ doesn’t really cover it.

It turns out that the mice I had assumed were living behind the skirting boards in conventional mouse fashion, have actually made a multi-level, centrally-heated condo for themselves inside my boiler.

‘That could cause you problems,’ said the engineer.

I asked for a less vague diagnosis.

‘The urine could cause corrosion and if the mice get hungry, they will eat the insulation off the cables, and then…’

A minor boiler malfunction? A major explosion?

‘Well, if two bare wires touch, there could be a spark… and the water doesn’t help…’

As I see it, I have now two options. Either:

1) become a ruthless killing machine, or

2) start leaving out tiny cheese sandwiches to ensure the cables don’t start looking appetising any time soon.

(option 3 – get more cats – has been vetoed by husband; option 4 – move house – has been vetoed by being penniless and unemployed.)

In the past I have favoured the conventional wooden traps on the grounds that they are a) design classics and b) cheap (in that order). Plus they do kill mice instantly, snaps their necks before they know what’s happened, which I like to think is humane. Or as humane as mass extermination can be.

And I had thought (before boiler-geddon) that I’d been having some success with them; several mornings I’ve had to remove tiny limp fury bodies, their little lips lightly brushing the crumb of cheese or chocolate with which I’d spiked the trap. Oh to die in the throes of such euphoric anticipation must have been to die happy!

As the local council rodent hit squad charges £83.21, it’s a quick trip instead to our well-stocked hardware store (I love a good hardware shop, an emporium of things you didn’t think still existed like moth balls, french chalk, beeswax, and proper string) where they have no fewer than 16 different options for mouse-centric slaughter.

As well as the wooden Tom and Jerry traps (five for £5!) you can get several types of live capture traps (my son likes to resettle live captures in the playing fields of a local private school) and ones that kill with electric shocks (bit too American). Avoiding ones with punning names (eg Big Cheese) on principle, I opt for the ‘killer pasta’, or to be precise ‘Rentokil Mouse & Rat Killer Pasta Bait’ (£8.98), and a jumbo pack of wire wool (apparently they’ll squeeze through anything except wire wool).

This is war. mus domesticus v laboriosus domesticus.

All tips, advice, anecdotes, and poisoned pasta gratefully received.

  1. We waged war for two years, then gave up and got more cats. Don’t poison them, because they die under the floorboards and the smell of decomposing mice is horrible. Don’t bother moving house unless you are planning to leave South East London.

  2. Our infestation of mice learnt fast to avoid the live traps and the snappy traps. Glue traps worked up to a point but then you need to kill them fast. V unpleasant. It might have to be another cat…Hobbes is worth his weight in mice. (Eh? sure you know what I mean!)

  3. The Tom and Jerry traps and live traps are pointless. The survivors will breed faster than the martyrs can be eliminated.

    Unfortunately, the only final solutions are the holocaust options. Poisoned bait that they take back to the nest to exterminate whole generations.

    By the way, it’s a myth that mice especially like cheese. They’ll eat it because they’ll eat almost anything left out that’s even vaguely edible, including insulation wires and poison. They prefer sugary foods, like chocolate and biscuits.

    With housemates with such excellent taste in snacks, it seems a real shame not to learn to live with the risks of death by explosion, electrocution, freezing, toxoplasmosis, etc.

  4. You could borrow our dog – he has caught a vole, a rat and a squirrel to date and am sure he would be more than happy to add mice to his cv.

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