Eek, a mouse!
June 10, 2011 6:54 PM   Subscribe

I am terrified of all manner of bugs, rodents, and other creepy tiny things. I just found mouse droppings in my kitchen. What are the steps I should take right away that my panic is keeping me from thinking of? What steps are totally delusional and unnecessary?

At the moment I am in "disinfect everything, including the spice jars randomly sitting on the counter where the droppings were found" mode. I plan to take out every possible trashlike object I can find as soon as the severe thunderstorms stop in a few hours. And I've got plastic tubs to put every non-sealed bit of food in - plus as much paper as I can find. Tomorrow I plan to buy lots and lots of poison. I rent, so I'll be advising my landlord, but I have a feeling they can't do much, because there are open fields four meters from my backdoor.

I am deeply, horribly afraid of these creatures - instead of jumping on top of tables and shrieking, I do the completely frozen in terror thing when I see or hear them. It's honestly surprising I've been able to come up with a plan this coherent; it helps that I've only seen secondary evidence so far. I boiled the pasta for dinner for over half an hour because I saw the droppings right as I was getting the pasta started.

Should I be boiling all my silverware? Should I put poison in my cupboards? How on earth do I figure out where these hateful things have been living, short of ripping my house apart? If I find droppings near my books, is there anything I can do to save them? How do you know when what you've done has worked? Is it a good sign that I can only find droppings in the kitchen itself? Is disinfecting all the packages and objects in my house (e.g. the pens on my desk) excessive? Can you get diseases from surfaces the mice have touched but not pooped on?

In short: is there an Idiot's Guide for rodent abatement? One geared toward people who have been known to move across town just because of pests would be especially helpful.

(I have no pets or small children. I am willing to consider tactical nuclear weapons, bleach and fire. But I can't put poison outside, because people love the squirrels and birds in my neighborhood.)
posted by SMPA to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Call an exterminator.

Don't just put poison around. You will have dead mice decomposing in your walls, and it will not be a pleasant place to live if you have working olfactory glands.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:13 PM on June 10, 2011

I also rent, and had mice a few years ago. From the droppings I was convinced there was a whole clan of mice running around my apartment. I put out a mouse trap, maybe two, and a mouse was caught within 24 hours. I put the trap out again, expecting I'd have to do this until every mouse was caught. Never caught another mouse. Never saw another dropping. So, as much as possible try to calm down (I know that's hard for you to do right now) and focus on catching the mouse or mice. You don't know how many there are and likely it's not as many as you fear. I would not put poison in the cabinets and in fact I would start small and only escalate if you need to. Maybe you only have one mouse and it's hardly walked on anything. Can't answer your questions about disease or disinfecting. I'm totally freaked out by mice and can't stand to see them or hear them. I had built up this whole mental picture of many mice and was relieved when I took action and found out it wasn't quite as I had imagined.
posted by daikon at 7:18 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

An exterminator would be a good bet, could you get your landlord to call one for you? A conversation with a good exterminator could put your mind at ease, because they know a lot about the natural behavior of the animals and can tell you more effectively what you should and shouldn't do in order to remove the animals.

Also, regarding all of your things, you don't need to completely disinfect your entire house. A mouse just walking on something (particularly if that something is non-porous and hard) is not going to give you any germs. What you really need to worry about are the droppings, which can carry disease (hanta virus comes to mind). So if you find urine or droppings, clean that and the surrounding area well with bleach. You probably won't have to clean the whole room.
posted by nasayre at 7:24 PM on June 10, 2011

The good news is: You are not afraid of the animal as much as you are afraid of the necessity of killing the vermin as soon as you spot it. This psychological conflict is the root of your fear. This phenomenon has been documented in the psychological literature.

For the sake of hygiene, however, you need to get a licensed exterminator to clean out your apartment.

Also, invest in airtight containers for your cereals and grains so the smell doesn't attract more vermin.
posted by Renoroc at 7:39 PM on June 10, 2011

I had mice last spring/summer. It was awful, because I had never really dealt with rodents before, but in a way it was good, too, because it gave me motivation to clean things and organize and generally work toward being a better housekeeper (not that I'm saying you aren't a good housekeeper, but I was not).

I started with traps because I wasn't sure if I wanted to deal with poison. I have read that if you have mice that are all generally the same size (ie, not tiny babies) then that is good because it means they aren't nesting. I bought "reusable" plastic victory brand traps which worked really well - in total I think I ended up with eight dead mice (and the traps went straight into the garbage). I baited them with strawberry jam.

I cleaned everything in the kitchen - the counters, the sink, the table, the top of the stove - with paper towels and tilex (the shower cleaner) which has bleach in it (and comes in a convenient spray bottle). The mice had gotten into the recycling bin so I stopped recycling. Everything went straight into the trash and the trash got removed as often as possible. Every place that had droppings got wiped and washed/bleached. Buy rubber gloves and lots of paper towels. I also started putting a little real bleach in with the dishwashing water, because I knew they were running across the counters and that is disgusting. Wear gloves.

I ended up resorting to warfarin when they started emptying the traps without springing them. I cut an egg carton into sections and sprinkled some into each of the little cups. It did smell a bit bad for a week or so but I never saw a single poisoned corpse. Wear gloves. And take a deep breath! You are bigger than a mouse.

I hope this is helpful and not too long.
posted by janepanic at 7:42 PM on June 10, 2011

• Clean everything

• Buy some steel wool from the hardware store

• Open up the cupboards underneath the sink (or other floor-level cabinetry) and move appliances out from the wall

• Stuff all cracks, crevices and holes larger than a dime with the steel wool

• If you own the home and said crevices and holes are not visible, spray insulation foam works as well (just be sparing with it, as it expands a great deal as it dries)

If you block all ingress to your kitchen, hungry mice will move on to other, easier targets.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:58 PM on June 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

Living in a city environment, bugs are a part of the hot, humid, summer months deal. Mice too, if you are amongst the unfortunately catless. It's always a good idea to be neat and keep food well contained, but even if you do, you will see at least some bugs.

If there's evidence of mice, it is a good idea to clean diligently were you found said evidence. But it's also a good idea to talk to people in your neighborhood to see what is "normal" as far as urban/suburban summertime invaders.

Moving across town would likely only provide you with critters with slightly different regional accents. It's the height of summer and creatures are in full force. I'm not saying to ignore it, I'm just saying that it may be a good idea to evaluate how rational your responses (Nuclear Warfare, that may poison neighborhood pets) are in relation to the actual threats (maybe some evidence a mouse passed through but no obvious infestation).
posted by troublewithwolves at 8:03 PM on June 10, 2011

Yikes! Don't worry, you will live through this just fine. :) I lived in Manhattan for a year and I found I had way more neighbors than anticipated, especially in the winter. Granted, seeing mice in my apartment made me hopping mad (while I'm deathly afraid of roaches. Go figure.) after awhile, instead of afraid.

My super put out poison for them, but the mice laughed and scattered it around, making a huge mess. We tried normal snap traps, but those wily city mice somehow managed to eat the bait without setting off the traps. The glue traps worked ONCE, and seeing the mouse struggle and bleed to death was too much for me. I actually called my super (God bless the man), who came and took care of it for me. Electronic repellent was absolutely useless. I sprayed peppermint oil everywhere, which did nothing except make our apartment smell like a candy cane store. I spent hours scouring the internet for solutions. (At one point I was worried my roommates and I were exposed to hantavirus, which is absolutely ridiculous and paranoid. So don't waste your energy getting upset about that; been there, done that.)

Lo and behold, the best solution for us was an electronic trap, the kind that electrocutes the mice. The first night we caught at least 4 with this trap (which used to have great reviews, perhaps from a different seller?); we caught probably more than 20 until winter ended and the mice disappeared.

When you smear the bait (I used peanut butter and sometimes a melted chocolate chip), make sure you use only a smidgen on the wall of the trap. If it's too much, it'll slide off the wall and make contact with one of the plates, deactivating the trap. Unfortunately with the kind I had, you had to flip the top open and toss it out, unavoidably seeing the dead mouse. You also have to check it daily to see if you've caught a mouse, as the blinking indicator will only work for 24 hours. You could try this one or read up on other electronic mouse traps to find one that's a little lower maintenance and easier on the heart.

We had to put all foodstuffs in hard plastic and glass containers and make sure the kitchen was spotless, including the stovetop and the sink. Generally they won't go where there isn't food. Even then, sometimes the mice will come in anyway to get warm or find some morsel you've missed. If only for peace of mind, you can put everything in glass and hard plastic containers. Even then, my roommates and I are still alive and healthy even after prolonged warfare against the little smarties.

Don't worry. They won't be around forever. If it's something you feel like you can't handle on your own, please consider a professional exterminator. Good luck! Hope this wasn't too long, and pm me if you need clarification or moral support.
posted by sums at 10:03 PM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Don't use poison. Use ordinary snap traps. Bait them with a goodly blob of well-melted tasty cheese glurped all around the baiting station with a spoon; this will set nice and firm, and mice will not be able to steal the bait without setting off the trap. I generally find that a properly glurped blob will outlast at least half a dozen mice before needing re-application.

A properly baited snap trap is the quickest and most humane way to execute a mouse as well as being the cheapest, and it won't fill your kitchen with the stench of rotting mouse corpse or burning mouse fur.

Use elbow-length rubber gloves when you're handling traps with dead mice in them if you need to do so to avoid being crippled by germophobia. You should be able to hold the trap over your compost bin, ease open the spring and shake off the dead'un without touching it.

Silent, still, pathetic, sad little dead mice are much less threatening than the squeaky, speedy, sneaky, gimlet-eyed and scrabbling live ones, and you'll probably find the trap-emptying process more disgusting than terrifying. And once you've pushed through that and emptied a few, I bet you'll end up less afraid in general.
posted by flabdablet at 11:18 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Based on my experience yesterday at work dealing with this, I would call an exterminator and have them handle it. Thursday we found mouse droppings; Friday, my boss called Senske and they came out and put out traps. The crucial part to me is that the Senske guy gave me a card with his cell phone number and told me I could call him to come deal with the traps when they catch mice. That really put my mind at ease, I can tell you. If it were my house, I would totally pay the money to not have to deal with dead and half-dead mice.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 5:39 PM on June 11, 2011

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