Monday, 6 September 2010

And the winner is...

picture: Postman Reading Mail, Norman Rockwell. Saturday Evening Post.

Overwhelmed as we were by the 3 (three) responses to our first of its kind competition, we have now studied all entries and, along with further research, can make an informed decision on how to tackle the mice infestation at home.
Still recovering from coming face to face with the god-awful creature ON MY KITCHEN COUNTER AS I COOKED, I summoned the 2 lazy, ungrateful cats and discussed our options.

option 1: do the job you were put on this world to do and keep pests away from my home. Which is an arrangement that always worked fine, with the occasional nocturnal offering of an agonising pigeon, wings still flapping, hoping against hope for a way out.

In the past month, however, I have witnessed - despite the failing eyesight - 3 bouncing, free-raging mice, going about their business, undisturbed by the resident felines.
JonJon the cat cited Health and Safety concerns as chief motivator behind industrial aciton.
Under scrutiny, Johhny mumbled something about early retirement, while Carmela opted for giving me the How Dare You look and left the room.

Fine, be like that. I don't need you anyway.

option 2: call a pest controller, leave the house for a week and never ask any questions. Perhaps receive an anonymous call one morning: "Mrs R, job done. He won't be bothering you no more". Click. And just go on with our lives, erasing the episode forever from our memories."

option 3: accept that option 2 may be cause suffering on an animal that has no idea just how pathetically scared it makes me feel. With that newfound compassion, look for humane solutions.

I must confess I am having a hard time caring about the well-being of an animal I find repulsive and terrifying. For the last couple of weeks, I became convinced that the old urban myth of city residents never being more than 20 feet away from a rat is not so much of a myth after all. I really am starting to get quite paranoid with the figure of one rat per urban resident in my head. According to Robert Sullivan, author of Rats, this figure is more like one rat per 30 households. He should know, after spending a year in very close company to New York City’s rats to write a book about them. But I’m afraid I am well past the rational stage, after my recent close encounters.

I’m also beginning to fear my beloved compost bin will have to go. Are they the cause of this invasion? Having never quite forgotten the horrific tale told by Melanie Reid in the Times last year, I am counting myself lucky to get away with mice rather than full blown rats.

Always for the sake of this blog, I shall stick to option 3, though.

Mice and rats are the preferred option for lab testing because their anatomy and genome - and pain threshold - are very close to ours. With that in mind, the old mechanical snap trap starts looking like medieval torture and is out of the contest.

At the same time, start getting too friendly to rodents and you also risk learning more than you probably want to know about a catalogue of diseases.

For reasons that I prefer not to question, there are people out there keeping hamsters, mice, rats and gerbils for pets. But these have been bred under sanitatry conditions and vaccinated. A mouse infestation is different. If they've been in contact with wild rodents, your intruders could bring along leptospirosis, salmonella, hantavirus, hemorrhagic fever, to name a few unsavoury companions. While we don't exactly risk going through the black death again, and the bacteria responsible for the plague is treatable with antibiotics, the World Health Organization still registers regular outbreaks of the disease in a few African countries and in India, as well as isolated cases in America.

picture: Psycho. Universal Pictures.
Another reason we urgently need to deport Mickey and his family is the neighbours, who have now petitioned to have us removed should the screaming continue. I am sorry, but I cannot stop myself from acting like a hystrerical lady in distress, screaming my lungs out every time I see the devilish little beast. Besides, I am getting sick of finding well intentioned literature on domestic violence discreetly left on my doorstep. I tried to explain that the late night screams of terror were not caused by marital dispute gone out of hand, but I might as well have said I walked into a door.

And so we explored option 3, the humane one.

We began by looking at the the sticky board trap. It doesn’t look pretty. It offers a slow and painful end as the mouse faces dehydration, starvation and may even resort to self cannibalism. Poison? Ruled out on the basis that making the animal bleed to death is not an acceptable solution.

Helpful readers of this blog were divided between the ultrasonic trap and the Trap Man.

The first option works by emitting a sound inaudible to humans, but apparently so annoying to rodents that they pack up and leave. This sounds clean, neat and pain-free. Unfortunately, the reviews are quite mixed and I’m not convinced of its efficiency. I’m willing to use it as a backup, but I really don’t want to take my chances here, as we’re after something guaranteed and fast acting. There was a mouse on my kitchen counter, remember?
The Trap Man shelters and even feeds the captive mouse until you’re able to release it in a park or in the wild. I find this idea impractical and a little irresponsible. What you’re doing here is passing on the problem to someone else.

As desperation was beginning to set, I found the clear winner: the Rodent Activated Detection and Riddance, or RADAR. This is how it works: the mouse is lured into a tiny plastic box (not large enough to trap the cat instead), and once there, the box locks itself and – very quickly – knocks the animal unconscious, into a one way CO2-induced sleep. No pain, no mess, no stress or time to realise the end is imminent. If I still had any doubts, learning that RADAR inventor Dr Nigel Binns was awarded PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) man of the year in 2005 sealed the deal for me.

Who’d have thought that I, lover of chicken hearts and pork scratchings, would one day be on the same page as PETA? The charity also offers helpful tips on how to mouseproof your house. My favourite: use lots of essential peppermint oil, apparently a smell hated by rodents – and loved by me!

Before I contact Rentokil to order my RADAR, however, I'm having a final round of talks with the cats, to see if we can resolve our differences as I put my final offer on the table. I am hinting at the withdrawal of Whiskas and other benefits, but I need to consult my legal representatives first.

Failing that, I will be forced to increase my CO2 footprint that little bit by gassing my uninvited guests to death.

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