This Queer House, Vol 6: Of Mice and Murder

I do not like mice. I mean, I am obviously aware that they can be kind of cute and even smart, but you know what? There are a lot of animals that are even cuter and smarter, and they don’t try to hang out in my apartment uninvited. It’s like, do you pay rent here? Do you do the dishes? You absolutely do not, mouse. All you do is make me feel unsafe in my own home.

Yes, I am aware this is technically a cartoon, BUT THE SENTIMENT STANDS.

My wife and I have been living in the same apartment for three years and, up until recently, we had been blessed by the Mouse Powers That Be. Never once had we seen or heard any sign of pests whatsoever. I think you probably know where I’m heading with this, but I’ll tell you the facts anyway.

The beautiful sanctity of our apartment was cruelly dashed a few weeks ago when Steph, my wife, woke up to a grisly murder scene in our dining room. The perpetrators, aka our cats, did a real number on the “victim” (though I use that term loosely). And even though our cats are obviously heroes (and so is my wife because she did not wake me up before disposing of the body), the damage is done. The illusion of safety has been shattered and now I’m a paranoid mess who runs their robot vacuum maid (Rosie the Roomba) for protection almost every day.

So, what can you do to protect yourself from the same nightmare that has befallen me?

Preventative care around your home

Keep it clean. Here’s the thing: mice are going to be around, especially if you live in a city. As much as I wish it were not the case, there’s just no getting around that. My whole thing is just to hope that someone else’s apartment is more appealing to a mouse than mine is. To that end, I recommend cleaning regularly and storing food in airtight, unchewable containers whenever possible.

Figure out where mice could get in. If you have have any holes in your walls, take a look at last month’s This Queer House and fix them. If there are gaps in other places (like near pipes or under your cabinets or appliances), you can seal them with caulk or stuff them with steel wool, which mice cannot chew through. Make sure you look really hard for gaps! Those little fuckers can get through tiny spaces, like even one the size of a dime.

Actual steel wool in my actual kind of crappy kitchen

Get a cat!

Look at my little murder bbs I love them so much

Natural mouse remedies

Peppermint oil. I have read that mice do not like the strong smell of concentrated peppermint, so one thing you could try is to soak cotton balls in peppermint oil and leave them in susceptible areas of your home. I honestly do not know if this actually works, but even if it doesn’t it’ll leave your house smelling minty fresh so there’s really no downside.

Used kitty litter. I guess this is a thing people do. Not sure if there’s a black market for cat piss or anything, so you’re on your own there.

Less natural, but not murder-y

Ultrasonic Pest Repellents. These are things that plug into the wall and emit high frequency ultrasonic waves, which allegedly keep rodents (and other pests) away. However, Steph told me that she once watched a mouse casually amble across her dorm room floor, with no fucks to give, TOWARD one of these things, so I make no guarantees about their effectiveness.

Non-kill traps. I have heard that these traps work great as long as you bait them well (peanut butter seems to work best), but I’m not a huge fan for a few reasons. One, you have to deal with a live mouse at some point. Hard pass from me on that front. Also, like, where are you going to release that thing? How far do you need to go so that it doesn’t just immediately come back inside? Seems like A Lot™ in my opinion.

Burn them all with fire

Bait traps. These were recommended to me after my recent scare, but I haven’t tried them out yet. The premise is that the mouse comes into the trap and takes the bait (poison) and then they go die somewhere else. This could either be a very good or very bad thing depending on where that somewhere else is.

The “Rolling Log” bucket trap. I watched a youtube video about this and honestly I’m pretty scarred, so I don’t want to talk about it. The video is called “11 Mice In One Night. The Rolling Log Mouse Trap In Action. Best Mouse Trap Ever,” and you can check it out here (cued up to where the action starts), if you’re into that sort of thing.

Classic snap traps.

I hope things go better for you than they usually do for Tom

Ah yes, the Tom and Jerry Gold Standard. If you didn’t know already, I’m a total wimp about mice (and most things tbh) so I have never actually used one of these. It’s probably gross to clean up, but if you are planning to kill your rodent intruders this kind of seems like the best way to do it.

NOT recommended

Sticky traps. Listen, I know there is a section of this column called “Burn them all with fire,” but sticky traps seem inhumane even to me. Let me tell you a little story about one of the worst nights of my life. When Steph and I were just wee little scamps in college sharing a twin-sized bed, all of the mice in my neighborhood decided to mount a calculated attack on my apartment.

I won’t go into all the details, but there were at least five mice spotted in a span of like maybe twenty minutes one night. I ended up crouched on top of my toilet wearing nothing but underwear and galoshes. Steph ended up throwing a mouse on a sticky trap (that was trying to chew its own arm off) out my second story window into the dumpster below. We all do things we’re not proud of in the heat of battle, okay? Anyway, the point is just don’t get sticky traps.

Welp, fucking good luck out there. Do you have any other tips? Share them in the comments, please, for my sanity.


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Jenna is a designer and writer who lives in Boston with her wife, Stephanie, and their two cats, Flapjack and Ellie. She is very passionate about fictional queer women, interspecies friendships, and food. She's still hanging onto a semi-impressive DVD collection. Just in case, you know? You can find Jenna on twitter, instagram, or check out her design website.

Jenna has written 32 articles for us.

38 Comments

  1. i would definitely recommend against snap traps, as they are not always hugely accurate in regards to the body part that they break; if they don’t get the neck, you’ll have to drown the poor thing to put them out of their misery, and that’s pretty scarring (as the story in my family goes), particularly if you did not realise they could swim and that you would have to physically hold them under the water with a stick.

    honestly, as someone who has lived in a very uninvited-guest-filled house for always, if you want to be getting rid of your guests i’d be using a mixture of the ultrasonic repellers (they actively don’t like them, and will go to the trouble of moving them if they are large enough rodents – putting them near entrances will make them more likely to pick someone else’s house) and non-kill traps (to release in parks etc, they can be eaten by wildlife) or poison. Only issues are that ultrasonic repellers might bother other pets, and poisoned mice do not actually always have great self preservation instincts? and so might pose as dangers so your cats, if your cats eat them and ingest the poison.

    also i’ve never heard of the cat litter thing and as someone who has pet rats my reaction is ‘sounds fake’.

    i don’t like that i have these tips, but i hope they are useful!

  2. Jenna. I identify with this article so strongly. In fact, these are things I have said in real life in regards to my own pest problem: “The illusion of safety has been shattered”, “It’s like, do you pay rent here? Do you do the dishes? You absolutely do not, mouse”.

    My issue is I have no pets and tend to be on the quiet side at home, so the mice feel safe just fucking scampering around my living room while I am in the kitchen. Which has resulted in me standing on my kitchen table screaming into the phone at friends for emotional support.

    The powers that be (my apartment management) decided to use sticky traps. Which are the literal worst. Like, i did not ask for these roommates, but also I am not a literal monster. Like, looking into their sad little eyes while they are still alive and stuck on this horrible goo makes me feel like the worst. Then they put in poison, which did seemed to take care of the problem and I did not find any unpleasant surprises.

    But now I am on the snap trap system. It’s not as unpleasant as I expected, you don’t have to touch the mouse at all and can just lift the lever and let them fall into the appropriate disposal receptacle. I had no problems this last year, which was a relief after two years of being haunted.

    Best of luck to you in your battle, may you prevail with minimal emotional scaring.

  3. In my last apartment I learned the hard way that you cannot just store animal food in the bags it’s sold in because it created a million mouse infestation in a closet that I didn’t notice for about 2 months. Cue the most traumatizing six hours of cleaning of my life… I vowed, NEVER AGAIN. I admit, I used sticky traps out of fear for my poor curious kitties paws, and let me tell you – mercy killing those little boogers is so not fun but I’ll be damned if I was going to let them chew their own legs off or suffer unnecessarily. This was about two years ago. Then yesterday I found a mouse turd on my bed (EEEEK)…the cycle begins all over again. Such is the life of a New York City resident, I suppose…. at least it isn’t bed bugs.

  4. Apparently the gold standard in mice killing is electronic traps because they’re super effective, pet safe, and surprisingly humane. They zap the mouse with an electric shock, killing them really quickly, so you don’t get the awful glue sitch and you don’t have the snap-trap mess. If I deal with a bigger mouse issue in the future, that’s absolutely the route i’d go. But definitely y’all, DON’T use poison if you have cats – they can eat the dying/dead mouse and ingest that stuff!

    • These are the best! I worked at a school in a warehouse and had them. There is a little blinky light on top that tells you if it needs to be emptied and you just pick it up and tip the dead mouse out. Just make sure you check them regularly or you will have a rotten mouse puddle in the end of it!

  5. I unfortunately have more mouse stories than I wish I did, but I wanted to share that I CAN HEAR THE ULTRASONIC MOUSE REPELLER AND IT’S TERRIBLE. It’s been awhile since I was near one so I might have outgrown it but blegh! Actually, a few years back some stores started using high frequency sound emitters to prevent teens from loitering on their property. (For example: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/04/23/high-pitch-only-teens-can_n_98304.html ) And there are stories of teens who used the sound to their advantage by creating ringtones at pitches most adults can’t hear.

  6. Be aware that not all snap traps are made equal. Lots of them are too weak to kill unless perfectly aligned and most rodents seem smart enough to empty them unscathed.

    We’ve even had mice steal our snap traps to empty them in a safe place. When we tore down the bathroom, we found plenty of unsnapped emptied snap traps behind the plaster wall.

    The only snap traps I swear by is a French brand called Lucifer that looks like it was handmade from scrap wood and nails by a medieval executioner in their spare time. They look and feel pretty brutal compared to other more civilised snap traps, but the only time I’ve put one out and not had a dead rodent shortly is when we’ve run out of rodents.

  7. Ohh I would stay away from poison, especially if you have cats that could eat a poisoned mouse and get sick and if don’t like living with the smell of a decomposing mouse in your walls.

    I lived in a coop a few years ago that had been around since the 70s and also looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since then either! It was my job to kill the mice and I got over 35 in one summer. I have a ton of horrific stories about my rodent experiences in that house but all I used were reusable full body snap traps. They were great in that they could kill baby/smaller mice because they actually had to walk into the trap to get the food.

  8. If you own your home in Boston or have a landlord who might be amenable, these guys are worth checking out: http://mastermiceproofing.com/

    About eight years ago we had a mouse who would just walk up to those electronic mouse control devices and chill. I couldn’t sleep at night because I’d hear little mice feet. These guys (or possibly another company who does the same thing) came out one day and no more mice ever. They were one of few companies who would guarantee their work for even one unit in a multiunit home. So worth it. And not as expensive (at least back then) as I’d thought it would be.

  9. My previous place had a recurrent mouse problem, and the only thing that ever had any effect was poison. They learned how to get the food off snap traps without triggering them, repellents didn’t work, and my housemate was scared of cats so we couldn’t get a cat.

    Something to be aware of with poison: you may discover that it has worked because you get a sudden influx of flies from God knows where, God knows where being inside your walls where a mouse has died. Stick some fly paper up and the fly population will peter out after a few days, once they have eaten all of the dead mouse. Sorry. It’s gross. There’s nothing to be done about it.

    I still get paranoid about mice if I hear the slightest noise late at night when I’m feeling jumpy, even though I’m as certain as I can be that there are none in my current living space (or if there are, there aren’t enough for me to freak about it).

  10. Aghhh this has brought out glue trap trauma.

    So the first apartment that I shared with my now-wife was in a 100 year old house.

    A poorly maintained 100 year old house.

    A poorly maintained 100 year old house that (surprise!) turned out to be full of mice. (and wasps.)

    Having never dealt with mice before, I called my landlord, who very helpfully dropped off a few huge glue traps.

    The next night, I woke up to this frantic banging sound coming from my kitchen. I crept downstairs, and opened the cupboard that was housing a couple of glue traps, only to meet eyes with a shuddering mouse that was laying, still struggling, next to its own severed limbs. All of the limbs. There were more mice in the other traps. I have no idea how long they were stuck there, next to their limbs.

    I cried while drowning mice.

    Never again. No more glue traps ever. Fuck.

    I felt awful about these too, but the snap traps worked fine. We had these black and white plastic ones from Tomcat.

    http://store.tomcatbrand.com/tomcat-press-n-set-mouse-trap.html

    They always seemed to kill them instantly, and I never found a mouse that looked like it had been snapped anywhere but at the neck, so… That’s a thing. 😢

  11. I live in a large house next to the WILDNERNESS and our pests are more often deer and coyotes and bats and the occasional asshole bear. But. Every once and a while we get mice. Unfortunately, with a large house it is tricky to find where they are coming from. That’s where my roommate, the ancient fluffy snuzzle cat comes in. I don’t think he has ever killed a mouse in his life but he is a great mouse detector. However he is a horrible cat. I think he believes mice are either a) toys with batteries or b) his very good, if reluctant friends. Usually I discover that mice have moved in, when the afformentioned ancient fluffy beast brings me a live mouse and drops it in my lap. He is very gentle with them. If they die, they stop being fun to play with, you see. Sometimes he will even put one in the bathtub so that they can’t escape and he can play with them whenever he feels fiesty. Or lonely, who knows. Anyway, I am very glad that I am not at all afraid of mice, because an unexpected live mouse on your lap in the middle of an important video game battle, or say R.E.M. cycle, would SUCK if you were terrified of the little critters. Once the ancient fluffy cat (afc for short) has located the source of said rodents, we use live traps. I find them to be more reliable than murder traps, and since we live next to the wilderness, it is easy to walk out there two hundred yards and let them go. I have never had a return visitor, but let me tell you, the afc is practically distraught when you take his new toy/best friend away, pacing the house forlornly, meowing pitifully at the cruel unfairness that is human sensibilities. It is both adorable and really, REALLY annoying.

    • Oh and then there was the great mouse inquisition of 2015 at my old barn. I used to board my pony at a very old and poorly up kept barn, and one year, due to the owners procrastination, we ended up with a full blown infestation. Like probably over two hundred mice. And these guys were bold. When it was time to feed the horses their morning/evening grain, they would come out and stand between the horses’ front hooves and catch any grain that the horses spilled or dropped. They had no fear. Anyway, one of the other boarders took it upon himself to wage a one man war. The glee with which he murdered those fuzzy dust balls was a wonder to behold. Every day, a number would go up on the barn message white board with the number of enemy combatants killed along with some really graphic illustrations. In about a month, we were mouse free. It is a saga that will go down in history.

  12. oh man, drowning the glued up mice is such a better idea. my old landlords put down glue traps and i kept hearing this scratchity noise behind my stove. it was a li’l baby mouse. i called the landlords to be like LOOK WHAT YOU’VE STARTED, NOW FINISH IT, but they were really freaked out about it. i ended up crushing the thing with a cinder block while staring at the landlords and being like, let’s not use glue traps eh?

    i pass on this trauma to you all to spare you from cinder blocking your own bb mouse in future. say no to glue traps!

  13. Very well timed article. I’ve been putting off dealing with the mice in my shed problem. Normally I just shake my lawn mower and let them scatter before I remove it from the shed. However, when I pulled out the lawn mower on Tuesday, it wouldn’t start. And then I noticed there was a bunch of shredded paper jammed in parts that needed to not have paper jammed in them. The irony with the paper is that it’s the manual for the lawn mower that they have been shredding. I spend a good hour pulling things apart, pulling paper out, and then putting things back together. Thankfully they did not ruin the lawn mower entirely. But I know I have to declare war before they do.

  14. Given the fact that I continue to find dead presents from my personal in home murder demons who have two catboxes of their very own I call bullshit on the buy cat litter idea.

    Further Preventative Mouse Maintenance tips:

    Did the shitty contractors your landlords hired leave giant gaps surrounding the entrances of pipes into your apartment or cabinetry? Buy some foam and fill and fill those gaps in. As a bonus also works to prevent cockroach invasion! (Note definitely read the MSDS on spray foam before using it.)

    Does your first tiny fuzzy murder demon enjoy playing with the mice but not actually killing them forcing you to both A) Kill the mouse yourself and B) endure a sulky extra-bitey cat who you know for a fact has had a live mouse in his mouth recently for multiple weeks? Get a second slightly more feral cat! No more alive mice! Just dead ones.

    Do you just see your cat playing with a fabric mouse toy you don’t recognize? DONT PICK THAT TOY UP. ITS NOT A NEW TOY. ITS A MUMMIFIED MOUSE THEY FOUND IN THE FUCKING RADIATOR AND SOMEHOW DUG OUT. If you ignore my advice and choose to pick it up and throw it for the cats to chase, the following will happen. You will suddenly realize mid-throw that you are in fact holding the dessicated corpse of a rodent. Unfortunately this realization will come too slowly to stop the motion of the throw thus forcing you to fully live a moment in your life in which you picked up a mouse mummy and threw it as a toy for your cat. You will then spend the next 30 minutes running back and forth from the bathroom washing your hands to the room your wife is in shouting “I can’t get clean again!!” at her over and over again until she tells you to wash up your arms like a surgeon and this for some reason will break the death curse the mouse put on you for violating his afterlife.

  15. I’ve got a recent mousy visitor in my kitchen and I’m really hoping it’s a one-off thing, and not a Problem. One, because I’ll probably have to be house mommy and set traps if we decide to do that (and I hate snap traps so much. They give me more anxiety than mice do. I once had one explode in my hand) and I’m not sure one of my roommates won’t object strenuously to any kind of fatal method of removal, and I’ve never had luck with non-fatal means.

    I lived in an apartment building in a student-heavy (and therefore not maintenance heavy) neighborhood of Boston for a few years with an extremely mouse-phobic housemate and downstairs neighbors who apparently never cleaned anything and therefore gradually led to the building in its entirety but our place in particular being unacceptably infested with mice and other nasties, which was an awful, awful combination leading to me having to get very, very good at managing my housemate’s panic attacks.

    Once the neighbors moved out, things got better, but ugh, that one winter where we didn’t think to pick the snap traps up before we all went away for the holidays. I can’t remember how many gradually decomposing, horribly smelling dead mice I had to clean up.

    Oh, and there was the time my housemate saw one in the kitchen and we knew it was trapped there and I spent the entire evening of Valentine’s day sitting and watching for it, trying to kill it or get it out somehow. I’d also just been dumped! Such a fun day! I only managed to keep myself sane by texting a friend jokes about my situation as though it was a horrible sitcom (Mousewatch, renewed for 13 seasons too many).

    Eventually I had to build a hopefully mouse-proof barricade, and then spray all of the peppermint oil around its hiding spot and remove a bit of steel wool so it could escape under the doorjamb just so I could convince my housemate to go sleep and also let me sleep.

    I have a lot of mouse stories.

  16. I see that a few people have warned against poison because of pets, but another thing to consider is that since rodenticide is an anticoagulant, it can kill a bird of prey that catches a mouse. One barn owl can catch and kill over 1000 mice a year, so let’s do what we can to keep them alive!

    I will look for that Lucifer snap trap if I ever see a mouse again in my home. The one time I saw one, I terminated it with extreme prejudice with my broom, scooped it up with my shovel, and flung it to the edge of the yard with a spoken warning to any others that might be nearby.

  17. I just dealt with a mouse problem, and it was Not Fun. Just to clarify, I am not scared of mice – they’re just gross, and carry disease, and scurry through my walls, and I picture them crawling in my bed attracted to the heat….

    Anyhoo.

    A “mouse trap” I read about online that worked comically well, is totally humane, and doesn’t require any special materials is what my roommates call “The Mouse Bucket.” What you do is you take a bucket, smear peanut butter along the rim, and make a little staircase leading to the edge of it out of books or something. They climb up the “stairs” looking for food, try to eat, and fall in the bucket. Then in the morning, I take the bucket to the forest preserve and let them loose there. Did it for three days before mice didn’t come back, and it was hilarious to hear the little skitter, skitter, Plop sounds.

    Another note: deterrents like peppermint oil and sound emitters only work if the mice have not learned there is food in the house. After all, if you’re hungry, you’ll put up with an annoying sound to eat. So if you see a mouse, set lots of traps on your first night or two, catch as many as you can until they slow down, and then use deterrents after they’re all but gone.

  18. Thank you for some real talk on this fact of life. As a home owner in Orange County, we’ve had to deal with rats!
    To get rid of them we used a snap trap. It works about 95% of the time. As the designated house murderer it falls on me to do the dirty work. It’s brutal and I can’t bring myself to re-use the traps, but I will admit it gets easier with time.
    My wife sets the traps and I dispose of the bodies. One night we caught four. Yikes.

    • You have my sympathy and my admiration. I have a very deep seated loathing for rodents but can just about dispose of a deceased mouse but the line is definitely drawn for the other things. They’re my partner’s territory. My responsibility is for any kind of insect or moth. Not my favourite pass time but preferable to the other.

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