Yesterday morning, I went to bed early, well, early for me. Like I’ve said before, KR works second shift; so our sleeping hours are off from the norm. I went to bed at 3 am. I awoke a little after 5 am to KR snapping on the bedroom light, moving the large dresser in the corner, and banging on the wall. My confused, blinking stare received a response. “I can’t sleep with that gnawing!” he exclaimed.
Mice in the walls!
Shaking the sleep from my weary brain, my first thoughts returned to my childhood. I grew up in an old two-story farmhouse. I don’t really remember those early years, but Mom told me that when we moved into that house we had a serious mouse and rat infestation. I do, however, have a vague memory of waking in the middle of the night as a child to that same gnawing sound from within the walls and feeling terrified. I’m pretty sure I had more than one nightmare as a kid that involved rabid, giant rats trying to eat me.
Had KR not awakened me, I probably would have been none the wiser. I knew mice would be an issue here due to the country setting and the sheer amount of mouse droppings resulting from this place being vacant for so long. Hence the reason for spending a couple of weeks cleaning/disinfecting prior to us moving in. Honestly, I thought the fact that we have 5 indoor house-cats would be enough to deter the little vermin from venturing indoors again.
As the weather got colder, I began hearing the familiar rustle in the leaves next to the backdoor whenever I would go out to smoke. I even spotted a small field-mouse one night. When I shined a flashlight on it, it darted underneath the trailer through a tiny opening where the heat pump connects to the house. So I knew for a fact they were around. Still, the cats caught none. Don’t get me wrong, our cats are usually fantastic hunters. Our male cat commonly brought moles to me during a time when I swear he must have thought I was starving to death. Every night he would sneak out, he brought home a mole. He must have decimated that population! And our oldest female caught two mice in the last house we lived in; so I know that at least those two are capable hunters.
These mice are smart! Highly intelligent.
A few weeks ago, I began noticing that our cats were taking turns standing guard in the kitchen by the washer and dryer, where their food bowl is located. At first I thought it was a dominance issue. Even though these guys have all lived together for the last 8 years, they still enjoy bullying one another — some more than others. Watching their behavior more closely, I recognized that what they were actually doing was hunting. These mice were smart enough to stay just out of our cats’ reach; but the cats definitely knew they were there. So often I caught our cats staring at walls in that eerie manner that only cats can (that stare that makes you think they’re staring at some spirit from the underworld — creepy). Nope, our cats weren’t losing their minds. They simply heard the mice in the walls long before either KR or I did.
Monday night, I noticed mouse droppings in the heating ducts because one of the cats was staring hard down through the vent. I also found mouse droppings under the washer and dryer. Gross! When KR woke me up Tuesday morning, it really wasn’t much of a surprise, but highly coincidental. I told him I would buy some mouse traps later that day while I was out running errands.
I’m too clumsy to set a mousetrap. I’d end up snapping a finger off, with my luck; so I left them for KR to set when he got home from work last night. About an hour after he set them up with peanut butter and placed them in the heating ducts, SNAP! The trap in the kitchen duct caught one of the beady-eyed buggers. KR was in the shower. I thought to myself, “I can handle this. I’ll get it out and dispose of it.”
I put on a pair of rubber gloves and carefully pulled the trap out of the duct. Oh god! It was still twitching! Even though the trap’s arm perfectly snapped the mouse’s neck right behind its ears, it was still twitching! The mouse lay in a puddle of its own blood. I collapsed to kitchen floor — in tears. I bawled like a baby as I gazed into the bulging, glossed over eyes of this poor dead creature. I placed the trap on the floor and tried to compose myself as I heard KR finishing up in the bathroom.
I walked back and told him, “We already got one,” as I began crying again. He gave me a pitiful look, calling me a sap. He gently said, “I’ll take care of it.” Relieved, I blew my nose. I have no idea why I cried for the better part of half an hour over a dead mouse, but I’m thankful that KR used his usual sense of humor and rationale to ease my troubled mind. Yes, I know that mice carry diseases and can cause a lot of damage to homes. My rational mind knows this; but my sensitive heart and soul feels great pain in causing another creature to suffer, even one so small as that mouse.
We apparently have quite a problem with mice because I heard another one early this morning as I was trying to get to sleep, gnawing in the wall again — loudly. KR disposed of a second one before he left for work today. Again, it was in the same trap, the one in the kitchen. This afternoon while I was on the phone with my mom, I found a third one in that same trap. I had to enlist the help of the cats in killing mouse #3 since KR is still at work. Unfortunately, the mousetrap only snapped on the mouse’s arm, trapping but not killing it. It was still very much alive, twitching in agony, rapidly pounding heart. Given my reaction last night (and today), I knew I couldn’t kill it myself. I saw no other choice but to let the cats kill it, hoping they would be swift in their execution. It was more of a slow torture to death. Perhaps it died from shock. Cats are sadistic hunters!
I cried for that one, too. Honestly, I’m not sure if it was dead when I finally took it away from the cats. It didn’t look like it was breathing. I couldn’t bear to watch them “play” with it any longer. I tossed it into the woods behind our house, asking for forgiveness of myself and from the mouse.
All the tears in this world for the suffering of others do no good without the compassion to take action.