Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Why I’m so fed up with mice taking the mickey

Frances Burscough
Frances Burscough

I saw a mouse! Where? There on the stair. Where on the stair?

Right there ... I’ve been singing that old song from the Sixties for the last three weeks and it’s driving everybody mad; but not quite as mad as the actual mouse (or mice) that inspired it in the first place.

Yes, I have a pest problem and there’s a moose loose aboot this hoose.

Don’t get me wrong — I love all animals, and cuddly critters in particular. In fact I’ve had assorted rodents as pets many times and love nothing better than handling and playing with them for hours on end.

But when they just appear in your house uninvited, without so much as a by-your-leave and then proceed to cause havoc, it’s a different matter altogether. I do have my principles, and they don’t stretch to a unilateral invasion of vermin, no matter how cute they might be.

It all started a few weeks ago when building work began on a house nearby that had been derelict for some years. An elderly neighbour had warned me that as soon as old houses are knocked down, the inhabitants that live there will need to be re-homed, so I ought to be extra vigilant.

She was right. Within hours of the first bulldozer, our new tiny tenants arrived. In fact, it was almost as though I had a ‘Vacant’ sign flashing in my front window. Full-board and lodging! Teenage boys who leave crisp packets lying around and a trail of crumbs wherever they go! Roll up, roll up! Come one, come all! Bring your mates!

Day one: a single tiny grey mouse appeared in my kitchen, via a small hole in the wall where the plumbing pipes come in. As it was its first visit, the poor wee thing was a bit lost and disorientated, so in this case I was able simply to bend down and scoop it up by its tail. Awwww and so cute he was too; just a tiny thing no bigger than my thumb, with beady eyes like blackcurrants and fur like the softest mink. As I held it, shivering in the palm of my hand, it felt like an episode of Autumnwatch happening live before my very eyes.

Obviously I knew I couldn’t keep him, as much as I wanted to. Wild? He’d be livid if I tried to impose the basic rules of law. So instead I took a few photos, gave him a bit of a talking to, then sent him on his way — with a consolatory Mini Cheddar — back to nature and out into the garden hedge.

What a sweet and life-affirming encounter, or so I thought. Humans at one with nature ... but with natural order ultimately restored. Happy days. David Attenborough would be proud of me.

But then, things began slowly to get out of hand. Either the damn thing was capable of a record-breaking Olympic sprint, or pole-vaulting over six foot walls, or he had an identical twin ready and waiting in the wings; because no sooner had I walked back into the kitchen than another with blackcurrant eyes and mink-soft fur appeared at the very same spot.

This time he was a bit more adventurous. He made it across the room in a flash and hid behind the mop and bucket before I could intercept Operation Kitchen Storm’s reconnaissance mission. Eventually I grabbed this one too, still filled with my natural bonhomie for all creatures great and small, before releasing him back into the wild.

Of course I gave him a complimentary Mini Cheddar to see him on his way too. Well, it’d be rude not to ...

Three weeks and an entire family-sized pack of Cheddars later, my goodwill for mice and men was starting to wear thin.

There was one residing somewhere in the bathroom; one somewhere under my bed; one somewhere under the dining table; one inside my kitchen cupboards, feasting on the dog chews and one on the landing going clip-clipperty-clop on the stairs.

This mouse was obviously taking the Mickey.

It was time to take matters in hand.

Attempt 1: Courtesy of Ebay, two humane mousetraps designed “like a cat-flap” — ie. a tin tube which you fill with scraps secured by a valve on the door, so that the mouse (in theory) crawls in but can’t get out. It seemed almost too simple to be true.

It was. My teeny Houdini simply sauntered in, held the trap door open and escaped red-handed with its dog-chew bait.

Attempt 2: Courtesy of Amazon, two humane metal bait boxes with spring-action entrances that allow rodent access but no egress. Again, a great idea in theory. Unfortunately by the time I’d got these in place, my friendly neighbourhood mice had grown tired of the dog chew bait and thus completely ignored the contents.

“Not that again! Can’t we have something else for tea for a change?”

So now here I am at Attempt 3 and I have to admit that being ‘humane’ is pretty low down on my list of priorities.

It’s time to call in the big boys. Rentokil here we come ...

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