I don't know how to deal with this
October 20, 2009 12:45 AM   Subscribe

There is a half-dead mouse in my room. Instruct me on what to do as if I were a little child.

My very excited cat woke me up this morning to show off the seemingly dead mouse he had left in my doorway. I'm not proud, but when I saw it I groggily thought, "fuck this," and went back to sleep for another hour. When I woke up again, it was gone. I theorized that one of my roommates had done the responsible thing and picked it up, or the cat had carried it off again.

I got home this evening and curled up in bed, and then my cat seemed very preoccupied with something in the corner of the room, and then I heard terrified squeaking. My "don't kill the innocent creature" reflex kicked in and I yelled, "NO!!" and sprayed the cat with the spray bottle and he ran off.

So long story short, either the mouse from this morning or a different mouse is half-dead in the corner of my room. I feel totally paralyzed. I can't bear to watch/hear my cat finish it off but I don't want to just leave it there to die a slow painful death. Finishing it off myself is out of the question. I am scared to scoop it up and take it outside, because that just means it will die a slow painful death out of eye/earshot, and that makes me feel like a Good German. I am the only one home and it is almost one am. Tell me what to do, please. This is really embarrassing.
posted by granted to Pets & Animals (35 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Is the mouse small enough to flush down the toilet?
posted by kmennie at 12:47 AM on October 20, 2009

Response by poster: I'm not sure, so I'm going to err on the side of "no."
posted by granted at 12:49 AM on October 20, 2009

This is what I would think to myself:
Good and evil are not in operation in the animal kingdom. Yes, your cat is a pet, but it is also predator. When it hunts and kills mice, it is just doing what cats do. It is most certainly not murder. You are projecting and personifying these two animals in a way that is causing suffering. Let the cat do its thing. If you can't bear to see/hear it, leave the room or the house for a little while. It is better to let nature take its course than to just let the mouse die outside. FWIW, I once found a dying/paralyzed mouse, no cat involved, and I put and left it outside. In morning it was gone. Maybe an owl or some kind of scavenger got it or something?

(Note that this should NOT be taken as a well-thought out moral or ethical stance, but it's what my conscious tells me and I'm trying to think/feel quickly to help you do what you gotta do in a timely fashion.)
posted by lalalana at 12:55 AM on October 20, 2009 [6 favorites]

Do you have vinegar and baking soda handy?

I haven't had to deal with your problem but just looking online, using CO2 may be a solution.
posted by lmm at 12:56 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's safe to say that whatever you do at this point, Mickey will die. So my vote would be: take a duster, scoop it up, and release it somewhere in your garden. Then, go back to sleep.

Next time, let your cat finish off the mouse. Then throw it in the garbage can. Easier that way. Mice have no place inside your home. They carry a lot of diseases, they eat your food and they crap in your kitchen. They also crap in and on your food if they feel like it. Feeling better already?
posted by NekulturnY at 12:58 AM on October 20, 2009

Scooping it up on something and taking it out into the yard may be the kindest thing, if you don't want your cat to finish the job in a long and tedious way. Especially if it is cold out tonight where you live.

Freezing to death is supposedly one of the most painless ways to go. Better than torture via kitty claws.

If it isn't mobile, it isn't like you can save it. You aren't going to call the emergency vet for it, right?

I'm not meaning to be callous about this. I grew up in the middle of a couple of pastures and field mice would end up in my bedroom and gross me out. For instance, I walked into my bedroom one night and one jumped off of the pillow on my bed and scurried away into my closet. So, I have no problem sending them to a quiet demise.
posted by lilywing13 at 12:59 AM on October 20, 2009

A quick blow from the heel of a shoe to the skull of the rodent is the most humane course. Mice are carriers of hantavirus in your state (CA), so wear latex gloves, and a face mask if you have it, to avoid any blood or other fluids, while handling the corpse.
posted by paulsc at 1:03 AM on October 20, 2009

Do check to make sure the mouse isn't just playing dead. Sometimes cats don't really injure the animal that much; they play dead and then come zooming back to life in a terrifying way. It might still be OK, in which case you can put it outside and it will just run away.

If the mouse really is half-dead, and you don't want to just leave it outside, then the least gory way I can think of for you to kill it quickly is to drown it. I mean, it'll still be awful for you, but, well.

I am no MacGyver, but what I am is the biggest wuss in the world. So, in your situation, what I'd be able to handle (because although I think paulsc is right, I would not be able to handle doing that) is getting a big jar with a screw-top lid, filling it to the brim with water, dropping the mouse in the jar (you could use oven mitts and a pair of kitchen tongs if you don't want to touch it directly and I would not blame you for a minute) and putting the lid on until the mouse drowned. You don't have to watch or anything; just quickly put it outside and then later put it in the garbage.

Good luck. I really feel for you. I would be a mess in that situation.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:12 AM on October 20, 2009

I do not know about mice, but rabbits will appear to be paralyzed when threatened. Perhaps the mouse is not mortally injured. I would take the mouse outside in a plastic container with food, water, and airholes, away from where the cat can get at it, and see if it perks up.

A quick search (I am not a vet) suggests that AVMA recommends decapitation or cervical dislocation as the most humane methods of killing a mouse. If you are not up to it, call your local animal control and ask what they recommend.
posted by zippy at 1:15 AM on October 20, 2009

Response by poster: OK. I decided to try and scoop it into the dustpan and toss it out the window. But it scuttled away when I approached it. So, it's mobile...this complicates matters.
posted by granted at 1:19 AM on October 20, 2009

There are now two courses of action available to you - neither of them end well for the mouse.

1) Let the cat do its thing.

2) Buy a cardboard mouse trap. These things are ingenious.

It's basically a piece of foldable cardboard with glue on it. Lay it out on the floor where you last saw the mouse (they tend to scurry in the same places). At some point in the night the mouse will run over the glue, get stuck, and then in the morning you can fold up the cardboard with the mouse inside and throw it into your outside garbage bin.
posted by awfurby at 1:36 AM on October 20, 2009

Response by poster: I herded it into an empty yogurt container and put it in the backyard!! Its paw seemed a little fucked up but otherwise it was bright-eyed, so I think zippy and hurdy gurdy girl were right. I feel as proud as a person can feel about a filthy, disease-riddled creature who thanked me for saving its life by shitting on my floor. I'd probably still cuddle it, though.
posted by granted at 1:41 AM on October 20, 2009 [14 favorites]


Do not hit it with a shoe.

Do not flush it down the toilet.

Unless you can see that it is seriously wounded (blood, guts) pick it up with something and put it outside. Animals, especially mice and birds when under attack from cats, are expert at playing dead and it may be perfectly fine. Cats usually toy with mice for a long time before killing them and if you disturbed the cat there is a good chance it has only batted it around a bit. If it is wounded, my advice is still pick it up and put it outside, and let nature take its course.
posted by fire&wings at 1:42 AM on October 20, 2009 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you guys so much for your advice and commiseration!
posted by granted at 1:42 AM on October 20, 2009

Should have previewed - you did the right thing.
posted by fire&wings at 1:43 AM on October 20, 2009

Catching it and putting it outside is the best thing here given you don't know how to euthanase it humanely and you're probably too squeamish to really try anyway (it's not something you want to half arse). Try to block it in a corner and catch it in a box or small container. Sit very quietly for a while to let it settle first. Small animals can die from stress relatively easily but it's lasted quite a long time already, if it was injured I wouldn't expect it to still be running around. Being outside gives it the best chance of surviving.

Whatever you do don't drown it or freeze it. That's most definitely inhumane and is really horrible. The people suggesting it clearly have no clue what they're on about. Don't try to jury rig some kind of cardon dioxide or carbon monoxide either. CO is inhumane and CO2 is very easy to do wrong (which is, you guessed it, inhumane).
posted by shelleycat at 1:44 AM on October 20, 2009

Yeah, also didn't catch your reply before I posted mine and I'm glad you caught him. Outside was the best thing to do here.
posted by shelleycat at 1:47 AM on October 20, 2009

Belatedly, for anyone who looks up this thread later and needs to know, this is how you euthanise a mouse "by hand". Those with delicate sensibilities should look away:

* Catch the mouse. This could be the hard part.

* Don't try and hold it by the tail, it'll twist up and bite you. You can grab it in your fist, with the head sticking out, but the aim is hold it by the scruff of its back.

* Pin it belly-down on a flat surface, your fingers behind the neck, so that the head and neck are held firmly in place.

* Pull the tail sharply and firmly up and away from the mouse, twice. This breaks the neck.

I did this a lot as a biomedical researcher. It's quick but unpleasant, quicker and less unpleasant than CO2 asphyxiation. Apologies for the gory details.
posted by outlier at 3:03 AM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Oh, and I've apparently swapped the tags section with the title section. This is definitely not my finest hour.

I like the title. It's poetic.
posted by delmoi at 4:34 AM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

Glad the situation resolved itself, but for future reference, this is nothing to feel ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed about. Most pet owners will have to deal with this situation at least once or twice in their lives--I've had to with both my cat and my mother's Jack Russell. Remember, that domesticated animals were once kept around by people for exactly this reason. I've found that it makes me feel better if, if the animal is dead, to give it a proper burial.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:49 AM on October 20, 2009

Lots of great advice already.

I would only add that spraying your cat for being a mouser is not going to be effective (or even a good idea). This is an innate characteristic, and trust me, it is a very good thing. You don't want mice running around your house.
posted by purephase at 4:52 AM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

One more thing--if you let it go in your yard, don't be surprised if it comes right back in again. (Shudder.)
posted by corey flood at 5:12 AM on October 20, 2009

In the past I've just herded the little buggers into a box and chucked them out into the night. I've always dreaded finding one half-disembowelled and twitching after the cat lost interest, and my (as yet purely theoretical) plan has been as follows:

1. scoop it up and put it outside
2. get a brick
3. smash the brick down on the mouse, very hard, very fast
4. jump up and down on the brick a few times
5. scream (mouth closed)
6. run back inside
7. watch tv (foetal position)

My spider-killing technique is not entirely dissimilar.
posted by SebastianKnight at 5:25 AM on October 20, 2009 [10 favorites]

I used to be super sweet to the mice (and rats!) we caught in our hundred-year-old home. And then one day one bit my dog and made her bleed everywhere. And now they all die.

I just wanted to point out that humane killing is NOT necessarily non-violent. I believe that smashing a small creature, or severing its head from its body is potentially more humane that co2 asphyxiation. Creature goes from alive to dead faster than it can possibly comprehend the change.

I would much prefer to die sans-head than stuck in someone's freezer or slowly exsanguinating.

I have drowned rats and mice. I have stomped them with heavy boots. I have, one one occasion, dispatched one with the pommel end of my lacrosse stick. I have decapitated with a hoe, I have used regular and tom-cat style traps.

So now the little mousie that we couldn't kill is outside in a place that's not his home, in daylight for the birds and cats and dogs, with a fucked up paw, hiding under a leaf, dead soon if he's not already dead---whether from talons or claws or shock.
posted by TomMelee at 6:08 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Try not to scold your cat for catching a mouse. As purephase says, it's part of a cat's nature to hunt rodents. Also the presenting their accomplishment to you is perfectly normal (See mom! Look what I caught? Aren't I a good kitty? ^_^).

You may end up with more mice in your house, and you'll want your cat to catch them. If he thinks he's going to get scolded for it, he might not hunt them. (Then again it is a cat and doesn't usually grasp that scolding = bad behavior and I shouldn't do it. They're usually like: Why are you yelling and spraying me with water?! Mean mom!)
posted by royalsong at 6:24 AM on October 20, 2009

Outlier, I don't think you should be advising people to cervically dislocate mice on the internet. At least in my institution, the first time you perform this action you need to be supervised by DLAM to ensure your technique is correct.

It is very easy - and I've seen a lot of people - just break the back of the mouse instead of properly cervical dislocating it. CD is a skill that is practiced, not something people should just go around doing.
posted by sickinthehead at 6:52 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I live in the country and have cats so I perform somewhat frequent interventions. The mouse will go into either a bag or a jar with very little effort. Present it an enclosed thing where the cat might not get to it and the mouse realizes this is a better option that being out in the open. Scoop into presented container with dust pan/newspaper/cardboard/etc. Head outside and either pour out mouse or leave container open on side near tree/bushes/hiding places and the mouse will be gone when you come back.

I do recommend wearing shoes for the whole scooping the mouse into the jar part as sometimes there is a bit of sudden running about. But just move simply and with intention and all will be well.

Also don't put jar over top of mouse but jar next to mouse and scoop mouse into jar. Putting jar over mouse just complicated the scooping.
posted by countrymod at 7:02 AM on October 20, 2009

Try not to scold your cat for catching a mouse.

Every time my cat catches a mouse I throw the guy a parade. Three cheers for Lucius!

Unfortunately Lucius gets bummed because I then take away his new playfriend.
posted by yeti at 7:05 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't pick up such mice, I just push them into a ziplock bag with whatever implement is handy. You can deliver a quick mercy-blow to the doorframe without making a mess this way, and even give it back to the cat afterward if you can stomach the idea. A couple times when I'd bagged an apparently unwounded mouse, letting the bag sit unmolested for a couple minutes got it moving again. Whether release is an option depends on you and the availability of somewhere to do so, of course... not much point to just throwing it out the door, it'll just come right back inside.

You really should fight the instinct to scold the cat, though... it's very confusing to them. I make sure to always praise the cats I've done this with, and they never got upset when I nudged them aside and killed and/or disposed of their toys. A couple cats I've done this more than once with even ended up adopting me into their game, getting into the habit of alerting me whenever they found anything alive (usually bugs). They'd keep them contained (or watch them if they couldn't reach), and just wait for me to kill them... and expect praise afterward, of course.
posted by Pufferish at 8:18 AM on October 20, 2009

My only ethical or moral problem with letting the cat be is that most housecats have "incomplete" instincts. They feel the urge to catch and play with or maim tiny critters, but they just aren't trained (or hungry enough) to actually finish the job. A predator will hunt the thing, possibly play with it a bit to make sure it isn't sick or diseased, and then chomp its little neck with dispatch and commence with feeding. Not particularly pleasant for the mouse, but at least it is The Law of the Jungle.

We got adopted by a nearly feral cat who promptly birthed kittens. She did all the right mother cat stuff and trained the kittens in the dark art of rodent catching. Sadly, because the kittens were well taken care of and well fed by us, they never really developed the taste for raw flesh. Whenever they would catch a critter, they (I swear to god...) would get to the maiming point and sort of look up and wonder what the point was. Sort of "ok, now what?"

So, I'd either let the cat eat the mouse, or train it to not want to hunt. Good luck with that, training a cat is like ... herding cats.
posted by gjc at 8:52 AM on October 20, 2009

It's a non-truth that hardcore predators humanely dispatch their prey before consuming. An absolute non truth. I have personally witnessed raptors gleefully ripping the guts out of still squirming creatures. Same with raccoons and possums and foxes and coyotes and wolves. You've watched a pride of lions bring down a wildabeest. There's no lead lion whose job it is to snap the neck of the animal. Sure, they sometimes suffocate it, but just as often they're ripping out the guts while it's still squirming.
posted by TomMelee at 9:26 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am scared to scoop it up and take it outside, because that just means it will die a slow painful death out of eye/earshot, and that makes me feel like a Good German.

Are you joking? It's a MOUSE. A half-dead MOUSE. Your job is to finish it off and dispose of its body in the trash because it's the humane thing to do.
posted by xmutex at 11:06 AM on October 20, 2009

Response by poster: In theory I have no ethical qualms about my cat hunting mice, especially if the alternative is an exterminator. The spray bottle was a reflex because I wanted the mouse to stop screaming. But I agree with gjc - my cat has a short attention span and will lose interest before the deed is done. I'm not a fan of needless suffering, and I was worried that if it was the same mouse from this morning, he'd been horrifically injured and had spent the day drifting in and out of consciousness, yanked awake for yet another round of torture from The Beast, desperately craving the sweet release of death. He kept emitting these lone squeaks, like muffled sobs. I was afraid that if I scooped him up his eyeballs would fall out or his intestines would get all over me. Would I then have enough courage to end his life? I created a whole story.
posted by granted at 1:00 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Our cat ALWAYS eats his kills. Birds, mice, baby rabbits -- everything. Usually we know there's a kill because there is a little pile of guts left and some feathers or fur scraps. More than once he killed a baby rabbit and ate ONLY its head. What's that all about? Is our cat a zombie (MEOWBRAIIIINSSS!)?

He's also the friendliest, most loving cat. So go figure.
posted by Wyrmspace at 1:43 PM on October 20, 2009

Something similar happened to me the other day. A mouse wasn't killed by the trap I set. I just slammed it good and hard with a book. It didn't suffer any further.
posted by DarkForest at 2:01 PM on October 20, 2009

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