Photo by Irina K./Adobe Stock
Here’s a mind-blowing stat: Every year, 21 million homes in the United States are invaded by legions of mice.
They’re diabolical, these creatures.
Equipped with a spongy skeleton that must be the envy of wannabe jailbreakers the world over, mice are able to squirm through the smallest cracks and holes. Once they take up residence, they proceed to prolifically reproduce, eat whatever they can find and (pardon my French) crap wherever they please. Because they are spreaders of hantavirus, salmonella, and God knows what other nasty diseases, mice are a pestilence worthy of extermination. And yet, the laws of natural selection have enabled them to survive for eons, building immunity to the most toxic poisons.
You may take exception to this harsh appraisal if you are a fan of, say, old Tom & Jerry cartoons and think mice are cute. Not me. I always root for the cat.
Nobody freely admits they have mice. It’s like saying you have hemorrhoids, or worse… scabies! But look: Confessing to an infestation of Mus musculus is not worthy of shame nor should it necessarily lead to a denial of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. You can live in any ZIP code and be as anal retentive as Martha Stewart and Dr. Fauci — it’s all the same to the mice, who either way don’t give a, uh, rat’s ass. (Speaking of rats, I’ll leave that disgusting subject for another day, though it should be noted that New York City — home to the third-biggest rodent population in the U.S. — has seen a huge spike in rats, a phenomenon attributed to outdoor restaurant sheds, spotty garbage collection, and other side effects of the pandemic.)
Okay, so let’s stipulate that you have mice. Take a deep breath. With my best Joe Biden whisper, I’m here to tell you the simple truth: Most of your neighbors have mice too.
We got the little bastards in our basement (there, I said it!), and we were at war with them all winter; our body count for January alone was eight. Our weapon of choice is the standard snap trap, a simple but effective killing contraption that has a fascinating history all its own.
At this point, you might be thinking that I’m a little crazy. Mice will do that to you. But if I sound nuts, check out my wife, who hates mice so much, she sent away for an electric mouse trap — a small, coffin-like device that touts a “100 percent kill rate.” When the thing came in the mail, she gleefully exclaimed, “Oh yeah, here it is. Ol’ Sparky.”
An online testimonial from a satisfied customer named Joel reported a successful electrocution, saying, “This made us all very happy, so we rebaited the trap and set out to murder the rest of the mouse’s family.” Joel also stated his fear that he would be attacked “by the reanimated corpse of the mouse.”
Between 1838 and the dawn of the 21st century, the U.S. Patent Office has granted more than 4,400 mousetrap patents.
Like I said, mice can make you crazy. Anyway, the electric mouse trap failed to work for us.
My wife is convinced that the mice are outwitting us — even though they have pea-sized brains, weighing only 400 milligrams. Once, a few years back, I cornered a mouse with the assistance of both our cat and our dog. I didn’t want them to kill it and make a mess, so I trapped it in a shoebox, ran down to the Bronx River and hurled it into the Stygian murk. To my horror, I saw the little guy swimming back to land.
Yes, mice can swim.
I couldn’t reach a certified exterminator to comment on the stealthy intelligence of mice, so I will do the next best thing, by quoting actor Christopher Walken, who played one in the 1997 film comedy Mousehunt.
Normal people are not psychologically equipped to catch mice. You have to get inside their mind…. If you can do that, if you can think like a mouse, you can anticipate their moves, then boom! Sayonara, mouse.
Mad scientists have repeatedly tried and failed to meet the challenge of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who supposedly proclaimed, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” American Heritage magazine once reported that mousetraps are the most invented machine in history, noting that between 1838 and the dawn of the 21st century, the U.S. Patent Office granted more than 4,400 mousetrap patents, classified under 39 macabre categories — among them impaling, constricting noose, choking, and of course, electrocution and explosive.
A former executive of Woodstream Corp., the premier mousetrap manufacturer, recalled receiving reams of letters with mousetrap proposals — none of them practical. All the would-be inventors, he said, mentioned Emerson’s famous line, as if it had been written “just for them.”
I bet mice can laugh.