Friday, August 27, 2010

A Mouse Slayer Becomes Part of the Family

We moved into our house, built in 1913, six years ago. I didn't notice the mice families that made my home their home until the winter of our first year here. They decimated a box of Red River cereal that had fallen in a back cupboard.

This sad, sick mouse sat here in the kitchen for Madi's viewing pleasure.
Mice are curious creatures. They feature strongly in christmas carols (it was the night before christmas/and all through the house/not a creature was stirring/not even a mouse), poems (Of Mice and Men's title was a line taken from an 18th century ode to a mouse family who'd nest was tilled), and films(ahh, sweet Stuart Little). They are kinda cute for a rodent. You also have to respect the house mouse's resiliency. They can enter a space the diameter of a pencil and are always willing to try new foods.

Much of their resiliency is surely due to their capacity to breed. Five to 6 young are born 3 weeks after mating and they become sexually active from 6 to 10 weeks old. So, not theoretically, females could have 6 litters per year equalling 36 new mice. Half of them then go about breeding just like their mamas.  

Of course if I were looking for a house now, I'd notice the 'mouse' signs: the steel wool around entrances and jammed around plumbing, the baseboard joints with slightly curved exits, the black poison boxes tucked behind furniture. Controls in our home has also included traps but I can't do the sticky paper! Sometimes I feel that our mice have become super-evolved. They are complacent about peanut butter, and have worked out how to steal chocolate without setting off the traps. They are ambivilent to the poison (and I'm squeamish about putting it out).

But two weeks ago I snapped. On two separate nights I heard the familiar scratching of a soon-to-be mama mouse tearing off the insulation from the ceiling tiles to use for her nest. The thought of more babies made be set aside my peevishness about cleaning litter boxes, cat hair on my clothes, dead mice at my door and itchy excema... I went out and got me a mouse slayer.  
What's worse? Dead dried mice in my walls or dead mice as presents on my bed side. Its a draw. 

Dubbed Biscuit by the three year old in the house, this mouse slayer hangs out in the basement's joists- choice mouse highways. In fact, one morning last week we awoke to find ceiling tiles on the floor. He'd fell from the roof in his hunt for choice morsels.

He's introduced my kids to the animal world's gladiator fight style.  This has brought up interesting questions for me. I want to shield my kids from the truth of what animals do to other animals. I also don't want to see it myself. Mice have brought the 'wild' into my house. And, like usual, I don't want to face the natural world unless its on my own terms. Like meat which I prefer to buy in a clean, non-animal-looking bundle on styrofoam, I want the benefits without the (necessary) 'gore' and 'mess' of the natural world.  I suppose this is one of the many perks of being at the top of the food chain: we can lie to ourselves then construct realities to confirm these stories. This cat, so languid and social, is teaching me a lot of about my own foibles regarding my role in the natural order of things.

Philosophical ramblings aside... our cat is an unrepentant mouse slayer. The mice are finally running scared.

1 comment:

Janetcetera said...

The other day I woke up to a dead mouse at the end of our bed and felt real gratitude towards the cat, Chica. It was an amazing moment when I realized that it was a present if I chose to accept it that way. The way you see mice and cats really changes when food storage is part of your livelihood and sustainability.