We had mice.

In our house.

We’ve lived here for five years and never had any sign of them indoors. Outdoors is a different story: when we moved in there were tunnels all over (or, more accurately, under) the garden. A few years ago, I found some young mice that had somehow escaped from their home under the garden shed and rolled down a slight slope onto a patch of gravel. They were so young that they couldn’t manage to scramble back up the slope to safety – so I carefully lifted them up and returned them to the spot from where I thought they’d probably started their bid for freedom.

Nibbles in the conservatory, anyone?

We feed the birds, so there’s always food available for mice in the garden, but until recently they’d always stayed outside.

Evidence of their incursion into our territory was found when we came down one morning and discovered that a bag of birdseed left in the conservatory had been nibbled. Seed had spilt out and was mingled on the floor with bits of plastic bag.

Pulling the sofa out, I discovered more evidence of mice – not only bits of food, but also, inevitably, droppings; thankfully there was no damage to the sofa itself.

Worse was to come, though: a search of the kitchen revealed that some of the cupboards had been used by the mouse or mice, with cleaning cloths having been chewed and droppings scattered around.

I thought that was bad enough, but then realised that our visitor/s had been entering and/or leaving via an opening at the back of the void where a washing machine used to sit. The opening – which I’d been meaning to block up ever since we moved in – gave access to pipework running upstairs, as well as to associated cavities and gaps under floorboards.

Access all areas

It was effectively a way for them to access the whole house.

And there was definitely more than one of them. Lying in bed, we could hear scurrying in the loft, above our heads. Lots of scurrying noises, made by lots of little feet.

They got bolder: one walked across the kitchen floor when I was washing up; another sauntered off when my better half opened the kitchen door one morning (it was broad daylight and we’d been stamping around upstairs for a good five minutes; he or she should have been well and truly out of the way by the time the door was opened).

Hear that?

It was surprising how quickly the thought that we were sharing our home with mice got to us psychologically. Just days after finding the first evidence, we were half expecting to find a mouse every time we opened a cupboard.

Our imaginations started playing tricks, making us think we’d seen movement where there was none and hearing scratching and scuffling almost anywhere in the house. And we were seeing droppings everywhere: the suspected mouse poo often, though not always, turning out to be detritus brought in from the garden; usually they’d be unremarkable ‘bits of stuff’ on the floor, but with mice around, they provided further fuel to light our over-active imaginations.

Please release me …

Within a few days, I’d placed traps in all the ground floor rooms. Mostly humane traps, but with a couple of ‘killer’ ones too, and all baited with peanut butter.

I caught seven mice over six nights: six in the humane traps and the other in the killer one. (Unfortunately, it hadn’t been killed, and I had to finish the job of breaking its neck. Deep breath … you can do it … deep breath …)

Those caught humanely were release in the garden. They were generally reluctant to leave the trap and it took some effort to persuade them to do so, but after a minute or so a bedraggled body would emerge and scurry off into the undergrowth (they sweat inside the plastic traps; they also poo – sometimes a lot, which can make the release process a rather messy affair and leaves a trap that must be cleaned before being used again!).

‘It’s just the same one getting caught and coming back again,’ someone said. No, it wasn’t. Those released didn’t look like the same creature; I saw variations in size and colour, so was convinced we had more than one rodent wandering around the house.

Once a florist, always a …

To our great surprise and disappointment, our dog Benge seemed oblivious to the presence of the mice. A Cocker Spaniel who’s always keen to follow scents in gardens, fields and woods, he gave no indication at all that anything was amiss.

According to the lovely girl from Rentokil (who told me that before taking a crash course in pest control she used to be a florist) Benge’s behaviour was not unusual. She said she’s known cats who ignore the presence of mice in their homes, yet will bring dead mice in from outside.

Rentokil eh? Yes. Sorry mice, but we just couldn’t have you enjoying the freedom of our house. Your place is outside. I’m happy for you to live in the garden, mopping up bits of birdseed, but please don’t try to move indoors.

We had three visits from Rentokil. They were expensive but, by the time they signed off, the mice had gone. We don’t like killing things, but couldn’t bear the thought of providing a home for what would surely have been an ever-growing community of rodents.

Yes, we felt bad about it, but think we made the right decision.

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