Lordy mercy what's in the bedroom with us?!??
February 10, 2008 4:02 AM   Subscribe

So exactly what is crawling about our bedroom at night and how can we catch it, exile it or kill it?

We live in Central London in a two bedroom, two story garden flat.

About one week ago I woke up at night which is rather unusual as I almost always will sleep the entire night through. I've spent a lot of time working in Africa, sometimes in very, very crappy conditions (read that as tents out in The Bush) and that experience seem to have hyper developed my sense towards things creepy crawly.

So I heard some rustling under the bed, but soon fell back asleep. The wife slept soundly.

Same thing happened a few other nights. I'd wake up, hear this rustling (I've got a lot of finance books and research papers lying about the bedroom) but even if I turned on the lights couldn't see anything. And with the lights on the rustling would stop.

We've got these nifty little LED robot lights in some of the longer hallways, that will turn on when motion is detected. It helps us move about the flat in the evenings without turning on the overly bright hall lights. So I unmounted two of the robot lights, but them under the bed thinking perhaps I'd see the lights activate during the night. But even though rustling, still nothing (just a data point that of itself proves nothing as I'm aware that overly slow or rapid motion past a robot light will not trigger it).

Three nights ago I finally woke the wife during one of these episodes. Sure enough, she heard the rustling and her hearing, much finer than my live punk rock show damaged senses, indicated the point of origin in a particular corner of the room, later moving towards our bed (nice one that!).

So we purchase six of those glue traps and they catch. Nothing.

What the hell can this be? Surely if this was a rodent it would prefer to spend time either in the kitchen or a large, walk in upstairs closet where all the food is? And we've seen no rodent droppings. I lived in New York for thirteen years and know the ways of The Roach; specifically, if we had those insects then we'd be seeing them, especially so downstairs in the kitchen.

I fastidiously take out the garbage after each meal, but even so there is bread and potatoes other tidbits in the kitchen. But no signs of either insects or rodents. I might be inclined to think British House Spider but the seasons not appropriate and I've had them in the past; they just sorta scuttle about the flat and surely don't go rustling my research.

So we're foxed on this one. Any idea on what it could be? And how to dispatch it?

Yeh, our flat is indeed haunted but the ghosts never leave The Lounge and really don't bother us anymore than playing music and laughing sometimes late at night.
posted by Mutant to Home & Garden (36 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Could it be under the floorboards?
posted by Solomon at 4:29 AM on February 10, 2008

Have you noticed anything chewed or any tracks or poo for example?

If not, it's probably not actually getting into your room. Squirrels, for example, can live in between the floors of things. It is most likely under the floor or *gasp* in the walls.

"The Rats in the Walls" is a story by Lovecraft. It won't help you solve your problem, but it will increase your overall level of eldritch terror. I think it's a must read for someone in your predicament.
posted by yoz420 at 4:58 AM on February 10, 2008 [4 favorites]

It could be a snail or slug. They make a funny rustling/crunching sound when they eat. Generally only in the basement or ground floor. I've had them in London before.
posted by unSane at 5:00 AM on February 10, 2008

Almost all motion detector lights are pyroelectric PIR - passive infra-red - detectors, and work by detecting body heat. They won't trip to most non-mammalian animals e.g. insects, reptiles, etc.

Lizard? They'll come inside and find somewhere nice, warm, and dark to live. Hidden amongst papers and boxes under a human bed sounds like a pretty good place, if you're a lizard.
posted by Pinback at 5:11 AM on February 10, 2008

OK, I have no idea what this is, but I'll probably now hear rustling tonight when I go to bed. Anyhow, if I were you, I would immediately clean all the books, papers, and any other rustly clutter out from under the bed -- get that floor completely clear, as well as any other spots in the room that seem to be saying "Welcome, vermin, move right in!" Have a big can of bug spray, some paper towels and a wastebasket at the ready, and shake out each book or paper as you pick it up to dislodge any Thing that might be lurking in it. You might also want to gather a few other household implements that seem appropriate for fending off larger life forms.

If the intruder doesn't fall out of a wad of paper RIGHT ONTO YOUR LAP during the clean-up process, then you could place just one or two rustly bits of paper back on the floor in the general area where you heard It before and keep a big, bright flashlight next to your bed. That way, if you are awakened by rustling, you know just where to point the flashlight to spot the culprit. Once you know what it is, you'll know the appropriate means of removing it.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:43 AM on February 10, 2008

I think it could be rats you know. We had the same thing, a rustling in the corner of my bedroom, even though it turned out the buggers were mostly downstairs chewing through our boiler. We never saw any droppings until we cleaned out all the kitchen cupboards and even then we never saw a single rat - they always hid in the walls when we were around.

Normal rodent traps never worked for us - even the ones dosed with peanut butter - we had to get the rat-man in who put down some serious poison.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 5:47 AM on February 10, 2008

Thank you for horrible flashbacks.

We lived in a Cork flat next door to a building that eventually underwent renovations. Enter... the mice, fleeing their prior residence and entering ours. The flat was massive and the office was miles from the kitchen and yet, mice in the office, too.

I only ever saw three, but I could hear them and they made me insane.

We were able to get rid of them by emptying the kitchen entirely (pull absolutely everything from your cupboards and have a look for mouse droppings), hoovering out the lot, using more intelligent food storeage, and switching to using a metal ash can for rubbish.

The biggest issue for us was that we had not unpacked all of the boxes from our move from London. They are through the boxes to get at whatever tasty, non-human-food mouse treats were stored in there. It was bizarre.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:01 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

They ate, rather.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:01 AM on February 10, 2008

After living in Asia for quite a long time, I've also become quite sensitive to creepy crawlies, and was awakened a few months ago by a five-inch long venomous centipede in my bed. Of course, that couldn't possibly happen in London.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 6:33 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think regular house mice is most likely. They move indoors during colder weather. Regular mouse traps work OK as do the electrocution traps. There are tons of previous AskMe about rodent elimination.
posted by roofus at 7:09 AM on February 10, 2008

Best answer: Do you have a friend with a cat you could borrow for a few days? Cats are excellent at ferreting out all things rustly. Even the smell of the cat around might be enough to scare off your uninvited guest.
posted by 45moore45 at 7:11 AM on February 10, 2008

Best answer: Yes, whatever it is, a cat would help. Even if they can't actually catch it because it's in the floorboards, the cats will track it down and help identify the problem. Probably mice.
posted by thomas144 at 7:14 AM on February 10, 2008

My wife and I were troubled by a night-time rustling either under or behind our bed in our London flat a few months ago. After a long process of deduction and elimination, we established two things:

1. It was pigeons outside bedding down for the night.

2. We are terrible at telling the direction a noise is coming from when lying down in the dark.

One other tip from another, much older flat: no poo, no rodents. They're basically incontinent and leave wee and poo wherever they go.
posted by WPW at 8:01 AM on February 10, 2008

Best answer: I am compelled to mention that glue traps are cruel in an especially nasty way in case you are not aware of that. Of course, maybe that's what you want. But there are homemade alternatives. I have used humane commercial traps with success.

You didn't mention where you set the glue traps, but mice are easiest to trap if the trap is set against a wall (preferably behind furniture or appliances) since mice tend to prefer running along baseboards during transit whenever possible. Instructions on most mousetraps will say this. They will be too distracted while going through the papers under your bed, so setting traps near there are not likely to work.

Keeping a cat is definitely the best solution if possible. You will have an occasional massacre followed by many years without mice. That's why we keep barn cats on the farm.
posted by quarterframer at 8:08 AM on February 10, 2008

(I meant to say: Yes, I think you have mice).
posted by quarterframer at 8:10 AM on February 10, 2008

I have heard both mice and large roaches making such noises. However all this is just speculation. I think you may need to work a bit more at this... I'd recommend sealing all cracks and routes of escape beforehand, then sneak up on the noise in the dark as close as you can get and then use a powerful flashlight.
posted by crapmatic at 8:28 AM on February 10, 2008

Also a few years ago when we had a couple of rogue mice, they were not leaving noticeable droppings when exploring rooms, so I wouldn't put too much stock into that rule of thumb. I'm wagering it's a solitary mouse.
posted by crapmatic at 8:30 AM on February 10, 2008

sprinkle cayenne pepper under your bed. if it's a rodent, it will be repelled.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:31 AM on February 10, 2008

Best answer: Voting for mice. And getting a cat.
posted by Hey, Cupcake! at 8:46 AM on February 10, 2008

You have Filigree Siberian Hamster.

No spray, dust, toxin or trap will be anywhere near as effective as a 24-hour watchdog... er, cat. Get one from a shelter that was found on the streets. Not because it's "nice" or "saves the planet" or any such nonsense, but because shelter cats that have been living on the streets are excellent mousers.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:35 AM on February 10, 2008

eponysterical, and please consider a cat! Just make sure it is a tabby or a short-hair or another good mouser (I do think it is a mouse). We once had a Persian cat, and when a mouse appeared and startled my mother, she pointed him out to the cat, who deliberately turned away and hid behind her!
posted by misha at 9:41 AM on February 10, 2008

Can you set up a video camera at night to catch the culprit/s in the act? And then please post it to Youtube so we can all be horrified.
posted by iconomy at 10:24 AM on February 10, 2008

How drafty is your house? maybe there's a light breeze coming in from one window drafting towards another improperly closed window or door.

and it's rustling the papers on the ground. clean up your floor of papers and books, dump them all into a basket in the corner of the room, close the bedroom window shut and close the blind over it - and have a peaceful sleep.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:38 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

People are really suggesting buying an animal that costs - what? - hundreds of pounds a year in food and vet bills to maintain? Bonkers.

If you do have mice or rats, and it sounds like you might well do to me, I have a cheaper answer: ferret piss!

If you get some used bedding from ferret cages (ask at a pet shop), and wrap it up (in lots of plastic bags - it reeks), the critters can't stand the smell and stay away. This definitely works for rats, anyway - ferret bedding worked in an old flat of mine, after the local council's extermination people had come close to giving up, having pretty much covered the house in poison. (I feel moved to point out that it was a neighbour hoarding rubbish that caused the infestation, not my admittedly lax approach to housekeeping!)
posted by jack_mo at 11:20 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had a similar experience in a house in rural Ireland, which emerged to be caused by bats in the ceiling; the room was under a flat roof, and they were getting in from outside. I could have sworn that the sounds were coming from ground-level, but once the bat-ceiling situation emerged and was addressed, the noises stopped.

Once you've finished with Lovecraft on rats, try Stephen King.
posted by StephenF at 11:27 AM on February 10, 2008

Response by poster: yoz420 - nothing chewed and no poo to be seen. Strange, that's why I'm posting and a quick google shows I really shouldn't be reading that Lovecraft until this problem is resolved (maybe never heh)

FelliniBlank - cleaning was indeed the first thing The Wife (nicely) suggested when these noises started. I've held off as at least we know when the damn thing is about. But I expect this evening I'll be receiving new orders in that regard.

seawallrunner - we put new double glazed windows in about three years ago. The flat is very tight without drafts that would explain the type of noises we hear.

quarterframer - yeh, glue traps aren't my first option either and I certainly don't want to cause any living thing to suffer. But if I don't get this resolved ASAP the happy home isn't gonna stay very happy. And heaven forbid if whatever the hell it is climbs up the bed linen some evening.

We'd love to get a Cat for reasons unrelated to this thread and have discussed in the past, but we keep a second flat in Amsterdam and spend one week a month there. Even if we got two cats, if probably wouldn't work. That being said, we do like 45moore45's suggestion about borrowing a cat and will probably try that.

I just hope we're dealing with something of this hemisphere (thanks Etaoin Shrdlu); things would really suck large if a cat were weirded out to the point where it refused to enter the bedroom 'cause of what was lurking, waiting for darkness to fall so it could emerge to feed - WAIT! - I meant emerge to rustle some papers ...
posted by Mutant at 11:32 AM on February 10, 2008

Best answer: The more I think about this -- and I'm just so thrilled to be thinking about it frequently today, thanks -- I have to agree that it's probably mice, and they're probably in the walls rather than in your room. When I've had mice in my plastered walls before, the scritching did sound rustly, and it also sounds exactly as if it's on the human side of the wall sometimes when it's not.

About borrowing a cat, make sure you borrow one that has solid, impressive experience as a mouser; in fact, try to get testimonial letters to that effect. I have five cats who show plenty of predatory verve when it comes to twist-ties or the occasional stray wasp but are absolutely useless when it comes to rodents, to the point where a mouse managed to saunter 10 feet across a floor last winter, wedge itself under the fridge, die and aromatically decompose without any feline interference whatsoever. I also have witnessed a former passel of my cats sit, attentive and motionless, in a semi-circle around a stunned bat as if it were asking them Socratic questions.

Frankly, you might be better off going with Rent-a-Terrier.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:00 PM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

I hope it's The Borrowers...
posted by onepapertiger at 12:29 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

If not a draft, could it be papers sitting near a heating/AC vent?
posted by kookoobirdz at 1:17 PM on February 10, 2008

Reminds me of the time my daughter's dwarf hamster escaped from its cage, was lost for three days, and then climbed up the bed linen and woke me up in the middle of the night...
posted by tamitang at 2:46 PM on February 10, 2008

Beg/Borrow/Steal handycam with Nightshot feature... Use that. Set it up with AC power adaptor in an area where it has good field of view, then use remote control to set it recording when you next hear the noise.

If you still get nothing, then shove it under the bed when noise occurs, see what it can see.
posted by sycophant at 4:57 PM on February 10, 2008

Keep in mind that if you catch anything with those glue traps, you will have a live, terrified, glue-and-excrement-covered animal you'll have to put down yourself. If you can't handle that or think it's cruel ... I would remove those traps now. Seriously, ugh.
posted by bettafish at 5:28 PM on February 10, 2008

The night-time rustling sounds at my place are usually caused by moths.
posted by Coaticass at 2:08 AM on February 11, 2008

Response by poster: Ok, mouse confirmed. I went downstairs late last night to mess with a faulty broadband connection and there it was. I'm not sure who surprised who the most but as we own the place and The Rodent is just visiting, we hardly care.

So today we interviewed - and recruited - two cats to our cause. Sisters, both solid black, about eight weeks old. They've already settled in and are paying a lot of attention to the part of the kitchen where I last saw the rodent. We think an eviction (or sudden departure) is in order.

While we can't say the story will have a happy ending all around (Mr & Mrs Mutant and two felines will be rather pleased with the outcome while The Rodent will probably end up in pieces), we thank everyone for your replies!
posted by Mutant at 4:51 PM on February 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So, rather unexpectedly, this story has happy endings all around.

As previously posted, once we'd confirmed the mystery intruder was indeed a mouse we secured the assistance of two kittens. Confession: we'd both been looking for a reason to get cats, and the presence of the rodent allowed us to finally rationalise this desire.

Once the cats were settled into our flat, they not only explored a great deal, but spent a lot of time in one corner of our newly renovated kitchen.

Last December we installed a new kitchen, doing as much of the work ourselves as we're both frugal.

After the initial demolition and removal of the original kitchen & flooring, we had some time to clean, repair holes and paint. Most of the holes were rather small, and easily filled with putty. A few were larger, and needed some additional material before I could properly patch. But there was one near hole, a rather large depression at floor level in one corner of the kitchen wall, that was far too large to be filled using the putty and the other materials I had obtained for the purpose.

This particular hole was perhaps two inches deep, four inches high and one inch wide. As we were on a tight schedule - we urgently needed this work completed before Christmas - and this hole / depression would he hidden by the cabinets we didn't do anything with it. I thought I could always reach under the cabinets later and fill this hole in.

As it turned out, one of the kittens was always under the kitchen cabinet. We weren't sure what was going on, and in fact thought they were only exploring. But now with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight it is perfectly obvious what was happening.

One afternoon, almost a month after adopting the cats, I was sitting in our lounge reading a research paper with a kitten drowsing off next to me. I didn't know where the other was, hadn't thought much about it truth be told, perhaps thinking the kitten was upstairs with my wife. All of a sudden the kitten next to me started growling, which was a very unusual sound I'd never heard her make (but I have heard other cats I've lived with making it in the past).

Still growling, she then started scrambling trying to get off the chair, but I restrained her, laughing while asking "Where are you going in such a hurry kitty?" I was bemused, this was totally new behaviour for the little, very gentle and loving kitten. I stroked her back, and she calmed down somewhat. She was still growling, but much less than before, all the while staring intently in one direction.

It was that moment I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye and followed the cats gaze; in the far corner of our lounge (about twenty five feet) was a mouse rushing across the floor.

The rodent rapidly moved across the floor, running up to and against a stuffed chair. It froze, then seconds later the other cat came haul assing into the room, slid on the laminate flooring and crashed with a loud bang into the wall.

The cat immediately recovered, and start moving her head frantically, clearly looking for the mouse who, at this point, remained totally frozen against the chair.

I shouted for my wife, told her what the problem was, and she brought a bucket that I used to capture the rodent. I slid a piece of cardboard under the bucket, effectively imprisoning the beast inside.

Both cats were frantic at this point, clawing and scratching at the bucket. The rodent wasn't oblivious to the fact that there was clawed toothed furry felines wanting to deliver sudden death mere inches away; it was making all sorts of squeaking sounds, jumping frantically against the plastic walls of it's prison. Considering two cats were ramming the bucket, the rodent wanted out of the bucket, and I was holding the bucket / prison closed while trying to calm everyone involved down, this situation was close to getting messy.

Right then my wife had the insight to distract both kitty with treats. I took advantage of their sudden and total interest in feline snack food to hustle the bucket out of our flat. I headed several blocks away, near a block of flats that had greenland adjoining.

I released the rodent, but wouldn't you know, as I did some gals were passing by.

I told them what I was up to, and, as luck would have it, the mouse charged in their general direction. Why, I have no idea.

So after carefully inspecting under the (new) kitchen cabinets, we found evidence the mouse had been living there all along. We now think the kittens knew the rodent was living in that hole in our wall, and took turns either harassing or trying to play with - this depends solely upon your perspective, mind you, mouse or kitten respectively - the beast until it finally tired of all the attention.

And fled to someplace, anyplace to get away from the cats. As luck would have it, I just happened to be home and sitting in the lounge when the mouse tried to escape.

So, we got rid of the rodent. The rodent escaped from two cats. And we gained two feline companions.

Many thanks for all your suggestions and comments.

And, as I promised at the start of this post, happy endings all around!
posted by Mutant at 3:09 PM on April 23, 2008 [3 favorites]

I love it when I read an old post and there's a secret, happy-ending bonus tacked onto the end.
posted by cincinnatus c at 4:26 AM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

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