My sister's uneasy co-habitation with mice.
| OF MICE AND MINTS My sister Sherry has lived reluctantly for years with mice. They've grown accustomed to her screams, her 'shoos', her stomping of feet. They no longer scatter when she knocks on her laundry room door indicating her intent to enter. Her mice are in a word, comfortable. Over the years, Sherry's hubby, Terry, has attempted to persuade their unwanted guests to leave. As an animal lover, he was uncomfortable with hurting or killing them. Terry used live traps to capture wayward mice which he released into his backyard. At the most, these miscreants endured a brief night behind bars and a quick romp outside before they returned; refreshed and ravenous. With 'do something' pressure, Terry was forced to resort to the use of mousetraps. Disposing of bodies is not for the squeamish or the guilty. One day, he found a nest of newborn mice which he felt compelled to nurture; after all, the wee orphans were his doing. Sherry needed a repellent, a mouse deterrent. I suggested that she place scotch mints in her cupboards, closets, and drawers. It was a tip gleaned from the all-knowing internet and it seemed to have kept rodents from my house trailer. Sherry was desperate and scotch mints are plentiful, cheap, non-messy, and they have an agreeable odour. Apparently, Sherry's mice were quite delighted with their new toys. At night, trying to sleep, my sister and her family hear the sounds of round scotch mints rolling and pinging off pots and pans. The scrabbling of mice feet echoes with clinking, clanking, and knocking from the wooden cupboards. Scotch mints are especially noisy as they tumble along the laminate flooring. Investigating in the light of day, Sherry discovered several scotch mints missing, some clearly showing signs of nibbling, and others bored/eaten through the middle, leaving a lovely little round mint frame. As Sherry sees it, her mice definitely have the freshest breath in Sundridge. Perhaps her houseguests despise a different mint; maybe spearmint? What attracts these mice to her home? I have two working theories: the mice come to party or they move in. I envision a mouse party/rave promoter. He scouts a location and prepares it by creating an entrance. Next he promotes party particulars via word of mouth. This is the easy part; mice love to mingle. He crafts a catchy theme like 'Night of the Blight' or 'Squeak, Sleek, and Single'. At the door, there may be a cover charge, or a secret paw shake, or a password; but nothing too restrictive. Mice seem to believe 'the more the merrier'. The words 'infestation' and 'over run' are not in their vocabulary. Eager mice will be encouraged to play games such as 'mouth stuffing', 'the snatch and scurry', 'scotch mint soccer', and 'dog kibble hide and seek'. Sherry has found evidence of just how popular the hiding of dog kibble can be. Her mice are ingenious hoarding this in bureau drawers, coat pockets, and footwear. They certainly have a knack for filling nooks and crannies. Mice also are attracted to walls; specifically the juncture of walls and floors. Is it the square angles or the straight lines that appeal to them? They scurry, scamper, and skip along one wall, then a second, then a third; revelling. Wait, is that another wall? For the daredevil mouse there's always the 'spook and scoot'. It involves boldly approaching my sister and taunting her. Executed properly, this evokes a satisfyingly bloodcurdling scream and a heart-pumping run. Every party goer eventually encounters a mousetrap. Imagine two newbies talking next to one. "Dude, I hear we're now a blight. Wait a minute, what's a blight?" "I don't know man, but it sounds awesome. Hey did you get a lick of this stuff? Mmmm, I think it's peanut butter. It sure hits the spot." "Yeah, I tried some. What's with this end? It's wound so tight; I sense tension." "I've heard about this thing. You're right, man. It can snap suddenly." Not all mice want to party non-stop; some seek a home in which to raise their fruitful families. Perhaps these rodents employ the expertise of a mouse realtor; a mouse familiar with living conditions in his neighbourhood. I imagine Sherry and Terry's house is every mouse's dream domain. The realty listing was probably as follows: a spacious, rural house with multiple entrances, no basement, easy access, one well-stocked pantry, a sixteen-cupboard kitchen, furnished, heated, hundreds of nooks and crannies, cat-free, move-in ready, ideal for the growing and discriminating mouse family. Short of an exorcism or an extermination, my sister seeks solutions. Research amongst local amateur mice-minimizers has yielded an intriguing remedy. Supposedly this is a barn trick, but I can't foresee this not working in a house. All Sherry has to do is string up a pail of beer. The details are a little fuzzy. Do the mice become tipsy and drown? Are drunk mice more accident-prone; fatal accident-prone? Are they susceptible to alcohol poisoning? This will not be a problem with my sister who is a non-drinker, but I realize some beer aficionados may not want to sacrifice or share their stash. Perhaps the true anti-mice solution is to imbibe so much beer that a euphoria develops. A rodent problem will not seem so bad if one is feeling relaxed, chilled, and worry-free. On the other hand, some drinkers don't need the camaraderie of new drinking buddies. The mice I write of are very real, not hallucinations. Of course, cat people have suggested that my sister get a cat. What's a bit of fur on furniture and in cupboards and dishes? Shredded furnishings and draperies or a mouse infestation? Although a feline seems to have a high opinion of itself, a cat is not perfect. A cat might be lazy; disinclined to embrace the physical effort of stalking, hunting, and dispatching mice. Some cats cannot stomach eating mice. They are squeamish and too fastidious. Many felines expect catered meals with no fuss or muss. A few cats consider mice to be nothing more than playmates to knock about. Snakes and owls are rodent predators, but I don't envision my sister sharing her home with either of these animals. For now, Sherry will have to scream, shoo, stomp, and knock as she continues to co-habitate with mice. They seem to appreciate her reluctant hospitality and soon it will be candy cane season. ( composed before Christmas 2014)