Fuck Ratatouille. (I'm sorry. I still love you, Pixar. Don't cut me off.)
November 17, 2008 9:08 AM   Subscribe

There are mice in my apartment. Hijinks ensue. Now what?

I live with my boyfriend and 1 roommate in the 2nd floor of a 3 floor apartment building in Brooklyn. I have only had experience with outside mice coming in my parents home in the suburbs.

Here's an approximate timeline because I am in slow burning freak out mode and I don't think I can make a coherent paragraph.

A week ago:
BF finds rice grains on the kitchen floor. Looks at rice bag, finds holes, throws out the rice.

Saturday night:
Roommate is in 3rd bedroom/office, sees mouse along the wall and then flatten itself to get under the door.

Sunday: I buy traps.
Trap 1 - Inside cupboard where rice was. Lots of droppings in there.
Trap 2 - just outside the cupboard. There is floor space between that cupboard and the stove.
Trap 3 (bedroom side) & 4 (kitchen side) - opposite ends of the door where Roommate saw the mouse crawl.

Sunday night: Caught a mouse (Trap 4)! Yay. Relief... Oh shit. Caught a second mouse (Trap 4). Boo... Waaaaah We are doomed, caught a third mouse (Trap 3 - saw the possible source hole). Researched online. Sprinkled cayenne pepper around the hole, under the stove burners (mouse droppings there), behind the heater near Trap 4. Called the landlord. Since the cayenne, I didn't get any mice so I thought - yay cayenne pepper.

Late Sunday night: Roommate sees mouse on countertop near edge of wall.

Caught a mouse (Trap 3). Landlord is here now. He checking for other holes - he closed up on in Roommate's bedroom that is near the heating vent just in case. He and his brother moved the stove and there were no gaps in the hole for the gas and there were mouse droppings back there. He's going to come back tomorrow and bring poison (currently, our dog is in Pennsylvania) to poison up the hole and then seal it up. I also found 2 droppings on the middle of the counter so I guess they are getting bolder.

1. Anything else I should do? BF is going to get peppermint oil, more traps and steel wool but I won't get it until later tonight when he comes home (I am home sick today and I don't feel well enough to go out). The hole is currently caulked up but it still needs time to dry. Should I insist that our landlord get an exterminator or hire one on our own? Or try home methods first? My paranoia says exterminator, but my wallet says try the other stuff first.

2. How do I stop being overdramatic because I feel like I am the only one doing anything even though BF did contact the landlord and Roommate has helped me in disposing of the mice. Being sick also isn't helping my disposition. I am acting like a whiny, bitchy baby asshole yet I feel like they are being blase about the situation. I'm trying to put the situation in perspective thinking of historical times where mice were everywhere - the thought wasn't comforting.

3. Is it a dick move (to the cleaning service) to hire a cleaning service once we know the mouse problem is over to deal with the mouse poop cupboard?

4. I think I am going insane because I keep on hearing squeaking and freak out at any squeaklike sound a la The Telltale Squeak. Anything I can do about this? I am really trying to have a sense of humor about this, but it's been a struggle. (i.e. Jokes about Willard, then actually remembering the movie Willard)
posted by spec80 to Grab Bag (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 3: Absolutely not. Cleaning services exist entirely to clean things that customers do not want to clean. When they show up they'll say, "Spec80, what do you want cleaned?" You'll say, "Get all the mouse droppings out of places X, Y, Z and then thoroughly clean them so that we don't have to worry about contamination." Then you pay them.
posted by Science! at 9:15 AM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: Poor you! I've been dealing with the same thing for about a month now. I finally sucked it up and borrowed a friend's cat. She's been there for a week and no mousies! I did this once before when I lived in Brooklyn (I posted an ad on Craiglist asking to borrow a cat/do free cat-sitting) and it got rid of the mice for good. Once the mice smell that cat, they take off.
posted by jrichards at 9:16 AM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: I had a minor mouse problem once, there were a couple in the house, but only one ended up in the traps. Move all of your mousey-favorite food into tupperware, or put it in the fridge if you have to so that they can't get at it. Bait your traps so that the only food they can get is that. When the food dries up, or they smell the stench of death of their own, they'll move on.

I've heard that a mouse can make it through a pencil-sized hole in a wall, so it'll be tough to completely caulk them out. Don't give them a reason to be in your house, and it should be easier.
posted by hwyengr at 9:23 AM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: My experience has been, you gotta keep up with the traps. Frequently change out your sticky traps for new ones. It may take a week or so, but the key is to trap and kill the wee tresspassers faster than they can reproduce, then ensure the entire joint is cleaned of any food remnants. You'll continue to find that rice everywhere: Behind your drawers, in the backs of cabinets, in the backs of closets, behind and under your stove and fridge, under your bed, and even (eew) IN your bed, at the foot of the mattress. Anywhere they can go, and you cannot see, they will have stashed food.

Depending on where you are, your landlord may be responsible for the cost of extermination and also for managing any efforts towards that end. Usually, pros are not necessary (I've dealt with mice three times successfully with no pros involved). Just place a sticky trap anywhere you see a mouse run, or find signs of mouse activity. Bait with Egg Nog (they love the stuff) and wait. Replace traps often, until you no longer find poops or stashed food anywhere.

To answer your last two questions: You should be able to clean up your spaces yourself. If a phobic lazy SOB like me can get it done, so can you. Rubber Gloves and Lysol and discipline are all that you need. Clean, clean clean. You will have to go through every cupboard, every drawer, in every room and wipe and wash everything you find there, as a means of reclaiming your space from the interlopers.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 9:26 AM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: Okay -- I used to live above a restaurant on the Lower East Side, and we had mice. The absolute worst thing that happened involving mice was that one time I was juuuuuuust getting into a nice warm bath and my cat trotted into the bathroom with a mouse he had just caught, one that was still wriggling and alive and everything, and he chose to use the bathroom floor as his Killing Field while I cowered in the tub, afraid to get out in case I interrupted the proceedings. It took him about 15-20 minutes and the tub went cold.

But that's all that happened.

You've honestly done everything. The mice probably are "more afraid of you than you are of them," which I know sounds like a total cliche but it's true. What this means is that you may be having paranoid fantasies about a mouse biting you in the middle of the night, and they really, really won't be doing that -- they are far more interested in staying the hell out of YOUR way because you are 100 times their size and could squish them, and they know that.

But I've also known people who've had mice and wanted a stopgap "I want some extra step to take for a couple days until I calm down," and - for whatever reason, them borrowing my cat did the trick. My cat is a pretty good mouser, and the mice also seemed to smell "wait, shit, they got a cat" and kept their distance. The people got to play with a kitty, my cat got a lot of attention, I got a break from feeding the little putz for a couple days, everybody won. If you have a friend with a cat you can borrow a few days, that may work.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:29 AM on November 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It seems you have the problem under control. I recommend getting a cleaning service: that cupboard sounds awful. And more than anything it will put your mind at ease that your apartment has been thoroughly sterilized, giving you peace of mind, which is what I think you're really after.

We used to have a large rat problem in Boston. We also didn't have money to pay for any pest control, and our land lord was an ass. We learned a trick from some of our MIT brethren to track down the source of entry. Rats are not really afraid of cats, especially the famous Boston rats which borrow through cement and grow to the length of a grown mans forearm.

1) Place a plate of peanut butter in the center of a room they have been active in
2) Surround said plate with laundry detergent
3) The rats would walk through the detergent, covering their bellies and feet
4) Using ultraviolet flash lights, we were able to track those little guys back to their homes
5) What you do from here is your business

I don't know if mice have the same affinity to peanut butter, but this might help you if you're sick of dealing with exterminators.
posted by teabag at 9:29 AM on November 17, 2008 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Hey Spec, here is a detailed plan of action.
Best way to get rid of them: borrow a cat. Hands-down. 3 days with a cat = no mice, yay!
Do not borrow a cat if you have used poison, as the cat will be eating poison mice. Check with your landlord to make sure the timing works out. Once the poison goes down, the cat must be outta there immediately.

Option B, no cat? Ok.
Bait taps with peanut butter, or with bits of sausage you have warmed up (hold a cigarette lighter under them until they sizzle). Mmm, bbq buffet for rodents. Apparently this works better than any other bait because it smells better.

Cleaning time.
Buy Clorox wipes or Lysol wipes or whatever Wipes make you feel disenfecty, & a few pairs of rubber gloves. And rent a DVD of 30-Rock while you're at it. Drink a shot of your favourite spirit for courage if you must. (Hint: yes.) Put on some energetic music, may I suggest something by Modest Mouse. Now put on the gloves, hold a plastic bag for trash, go around the apartment, and wipe everywhere you see mouse poo. One wipe to grab the poo & toss it out, the next wipe to clean the place the poo was. Repeat. When you're done for the session, you may toss the gloves as well. It's bad for the environment to toss the gloves, but since you're freaking out we'll make an exception. Tie up the bag, boot it outta the house, wash your hands compulsively for a couple minutes, and you may have another shot!

Remember that mice are everywhere. In every apartment, in every restaurant. Gross, or adorable, but really, who cares? They are no big deal. Think of them as like those gross photos of dust mites, oh noes, those live in my pillow? Yes, and they will not make you sick. I know a lot of people in a lot of shitty squalid apartments, and none of them have ever gotten sick from mice. You are solidly middle class and shower frequently. Mice won't kill you. You are more likely to develop complications from your cold than from mice, so just take some vitamin C and watch 30-Rock and you will feel much better. We're all rooting for you.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:30 AM on November 17, 2008 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I just got some of those ultra high (or is it low?) frequency speakers you plug into the wall that supposedly sound incredibly irritating to the little fuckers, since then I havent seen any of them, but who knows they are probably fucking and shitting on my couch as I am at my office typing this so I would have to wait before ! can fully vouch for them.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:52 AM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: I completely understand why you are freaking out. I had a pretty ridiculous infestation last year around this time and felt like a neurotic whiny baby until it was taken care of. Some things that worked for me:

1. Industrial strength glue traps. If you can find the ones that are mostly flush to the floor, not in a little tray they are best They are nasty, but totally get the job done, especially if you have tricky little mice who can steal bait off the traps

2. Mice killing pellets. Obviously these are only ok if the dog can stay away, and be super careful to clean well before the dog returns. I had the best luck with a brand that was in a yellow box

3. This sounds obvious, but make sure there isn't anything they can eat or burrow in. I put all my food in sealed rubbermaid type things, got all of my paper towel and pots and pans out of cupboards down by the ground, took everything out of the drawer under the oven, basically made the mice stand out in the open. I read somewhere that if they can't hide and burrow, they won't have baby mice in your house-I have no idea if that's true, but I figured it was worth a shot

Now, as far as feeling more comfortable being in your house and not like every sound is a mouse crawling into your bed-I made a seamless line with the glue traps so that the mice couldn't cross into "my" side of the house. I hadn't ever seen one outside the kitchen so I made it nearly impossible for them to exit there without a sticky death. Depending on your layout, this may not be possible, but it made me feel way better sleeping in my bed on the other side of the sticky line. I will also admit to laying a towel across the gap in the bottom of my bedroom door just because it made me feel better.

After I started the mouse war in earnest, it was about a week until I was pretty confident they were all gone. I left some glue traps out for about a month just to be sure, but never caught anything else. And I did hire a cleaning service after it was all over.

And I do remember feeling like I was losing my mind and was a wimpy ridiculous wacko, but just remember that this will pass and you will be laughing about it in less than a month. I had a shockingly large mouse population (all told killed over 20 in a 500 square foot 1 bedroom, plus several more that I think died in my walls) that I thought would never be all gone, and it really was all over in about 2 weeks. It sucks now, but it won't be long and you really will be mouse free.
posted by mjcon at 9:55 AM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: Just want to chime in and give you my sympathies, as a mouse-o-phobic who has had mice in every single apartment I've ever inhabited in the NYC metropolitan area. Sounds like you're doing the right things: a) seal up any cracks or holes with steel wool, b) set traps (snap traps are better, believe me you don't want to deal with a live mouse stuck in the glue!, also, avoid poison because you don't want a rotting mouse in your wall), c) clean, d) make sure all your food, especially things like flour and cereal and bread, is in plastic or glass containers. I personally think that exterminators are useless in this situation (they'll throw down a packet of poison behind your kitchen cabinets and call it a day), and as for cleaning, I'd trust myself far more than anyone I hired.

I will say that my mouse problems ended when I got cats--they've occasionally caught one. Not only are they great at actually getting rid of the mouse problem, they provide the best psychological protection because you know they're on the job 24/7 and would love nothing more than to have a mouse wander into their habitat. They will also immediately indicate where the mice are and where their hiding places are by staring intently at a spot in the wall for hours and hours. Highly recommended. Good luck; as people told me during my first freakout about this, Welcome to New York!
posted by agent99 at 10:01 AM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: P.S.--I think your auditory hallucinations are not unusual; for weeks I thought I saw a mice darting across the floor / behind the toaster / along the walls out of the corner of my eye. Horrible.
posted by agent99 at 10:03 AM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: take advantage of the dog's absence to put out the heavy duty poison. i've had good luck with decon (little green pellets)- it's like magic. plus they crawl away somewhere else to die (and i think that the poison causes them to shrivel up somehow?) so you don't have to do any disposal duty.
posted by genmonster at 10:07 AM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: BF is allergic to cats. I am willing to risk this for a few days.
posted by spec80 at 10:13 AM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: snap traps are better, believe me you don't want to deal with a live mouse stuck in the glue!

I heartily second this. My uncle used to work as an exterminator and regaled me with tales of mice that chewed off their own feet in a desperate attempt to escape glue traps. The snappy ones get the job instantly and humanely.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:15 AM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: I'm currently battling a serious mouse problem as well. As far as traps go, ours were stealing the bait out of the snappy kind, so we got one of these and it has worked really well. It's easy to dump out the mouse and reset it without really looking, and no issues with them not being quite dead. I've been very impressed with the success rate.

I swear I would buy one of the $100 giant electronic traps if I could find one...
posted by thejanna at 10:38 AM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: In my experience, the glue traps work very well, but they can indeed be gruesome and/or depressing.

I've had problems in the past with hungry and determined mice chewing into plastic, especially the 'gladware' type thin disposables, which are nice for leftovers in the fridge, but pretty easy for a mouse to chew into if left in a cabinet. Heavier gauge plastic was secure but still sometimes got unsuccessful and unsightly tooth marks. For best protection, I used glass whenever possible.

Regarding #2: mouse problems are harrowing. Drama is justified.
posted by gimonca at 10:40 AM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: Don't count on a cat. I have one (had two) and neither were mousers. Period. We have an old leaky house near the woods, which means we get mice every autumn.

As said before, there are three ways to get rid of mice:
1. Make the home inhospitable (ie, remove food, drop the temperature)
2. Make the home inaccessible (hardest - according to our exterminator a hole the size of a dime is all it takes)
3. Kill them before they make more (traps)

Set traps and keep replacing them until you get no more hits. When the hits go down, set a few humane mouse traps to serve as a canary in the coal mine that you need to step things up. Humane mouse traps are pet-friendly.
posted by plinth at 10:48 AM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: I second the electrocution boxes. We killed many a mouse that way and I like to think they are more "humane" than slowly poisoning them. Oh, and as an added bonus, they kill house centipedes (which creep me out far more than a mouse ever could).
posted by hooper4 at 11:26 AM on November 17, 2008

posted by swbarrett at 11:33 AM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: Have you talked to your neighbors about this? When I lived in NYC we had mice, and we did all the stuff everyone has mentioned above. Food in glass cannisters, set both glue and snap traps, sealed the place up. Pulled out all the appliances and plugged every single nook and cranny.

And then I watched one of the little buggers squeeze through under the front door.

If your neighbors aren't joining you in this campaign, it's going to be a long battle.
posted by ambrosia at 12:57 PM on November 17, 2008

Response by poster: I nutted up and went out to a hardware store and got a Rat Zapper. They didn't have any of the electronic Victor traps mentioned above. I put a Ritz Cracker with a little peanut butter on it and activated it and it's in the kitchen. I also got 4 pairs of rubber gloves for the clean up (2 sizes so BF and Roommate can pitch in).

I e-mailed a friend who has a cat and am awaiting her answer. Until I get an answer from her, I'll hold off on the poison.

I have not spoken to my neighbors yet, but plan on it when I can't spread my cold or I'll have one of the guys do it. Our landlord said he would install a door sweeper. I'll make sure he gets a metal one that have a lot of grooves under the door.

I still need to get more containers. Do I need to repackage long bags of Ritz crackers or individually wrapped things like granola bars? I might as well to be safe, right?

Thanks everyone!
posted by spec80 at 1:54 PM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: I really recommend the Victor electronic zappers. They are completely reusable, they hide the dead mouse, and they kill it instantly, avoiding the slow pronlonged death of glue traps or snap traps (when the snap only partially kills it)

The Rat Zapper is good too, but it's a little overkill for a mouse infestation. And not as discreet. You can have the small Victor traps to the side and no one knows what they are, but it's pretty hard to pretend the RatZapper is something else to a squeamish visitor.
posted by waylaid at 2:12 PM on November 17, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, waylaid. I will order them online, but the Rat Zapper was the only thing electronic available at the store and I wanted something immediately.
posted by spec80 at 2:47 PM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: Ultraviolet light. Even without the peanut butter/detergent trick, mice leave a fluorescent marker everywhere they go, namely (sorry about this) their own urine. Fortunately, urine is a pretty hostile environment for germs to live in, so you don't have to freak out too much when you see it. Just follow the glow and hope you find a hole near where the tracks converge. You can clean it up later.

Gloves and mask for cleanup jobs. And I do endorse the snap traps as well.

Other than that, it looks like you've got the interspecies front covered. As to the interpersonal front, you know how you've been acting. Now you've got to counteract. When you find yourself thinking accusing thoughts, vocally contradict them and review the things that other people are doing. When you act whiny, apologize out loud ASAP. Your inner brat will take a break once it loses its monopoly on the situation.
posted by eritain at 3:01 PM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: Do I need to repackage long bags of Ritz crackers or individually wrapped things like granola bars?

Yes, the mice will eat right through plastic and cardboard packaging. Get sturdy plastic containers (stronger than the Glad disposable type), or, better yet, glass. Keeps them from eating stuff and also keeps you from having to throw everything out if a mouse should wander through your cupboards again before you've gotten rid of them permanently.
posted by agent99 at 4:04 PM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: Spec- I experienced my own Mousapaloosa here, not once but twice. At first, I thought I would be all nice and do the humane traps. That was until I found the fuckers living in my boots in the closet (I had no idea they could move so much dog food by themselves such distances).

To be certain, they can absolutely eat through plastic, and the exterminator said that without a doubt to not leave any open water or food out at night (we have dogs and had to pull up their bowls at night).

I was very big on sucking up the mouse poo with the Dyson, btw. I then just rinsed out the chamber afterward.

Good luck and Godspeed.
posted by dancinglamb at 4:07 PM on November 17, 2008

You'll love the Rat Zapper. We had one of those for rats back when I had an infestation in college, and while it's actually not powerful enough to kill sufficiently large rats (I am SO glad I never saw that rat) it makes trivially quick work of mice. I was going to recommend one but I see you beat me to the punch :) They're nice because you can just dump out the carcass rather than having to clean up the mess of a snap trap. Bait with peanut butter. We spread it into a bottlecap and slid it across the metal floor of the Zapper.

We lived in kind of a slum-type situation so we actually never managed to get rid of the rats, so I have no advice for you except that if you manage to prove that your apartment also has termites, you won't see much rodent activity for a while after fumigation. It's a nice side benefit.

Best of luck.
posted by crinklebat at 7:32 PM on November 18, 2008

The other problem with poison is that it makes the mice feel sick & weak before they die. Sick weak animals hide. They hide in your walls and stuff. Then they die, and three days later do they ever smell like ass, and how you gonna find a tiny dead mouse hidden in a wall? With traps, at least you know where the dead animals are and can easily get them outta the house before they stank up the joint. I am really opposed to poison, I gotta admit. We're all mammals- what kills the little ones gives cancer to the bigger ones.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:28 AM on November 19, 2008

Latecomer to the thread - I love my ratzapper but it doesn't seem to keep up. I must have killed two dozen on a daily basis by now. Going mad.
Just wanted to tell you that you don't have to actually bait the thing. Mice are so curious they will wander into the killing chamber on their own.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:10 AM on December 7, 2008

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