Twelfth Day of Christmas: Peace on Earth and goodwill to mice

Several years ago—I suspect after watching The Waitress, or a Pushing Daisies marathon—I decided that it was important for me to become an accomplished pie maker. I don’t cook, harbor a deep fear of the oven which I wish I could say was secret but clearly is not, and I’m just not interested in devoting time to creating something that will ultimately disappear in a manner of hours or even minutes.

But I figured that if I specialized, got really good at making one thing, I would forevermore cease being a deadbeat at office potlucks. Y’know, the person who forgets about the potluck entirely, then runs to the nearest gas station and comes back with a bag of Frito’s, which won’t look festive or thoughtful no matter how fancy the bowl? Being the type of person who can’t do anything half-assed, or reasonably, I bought a 20-pound bag of flour, rolling pin, a pie recipe book which looked as comprehensive and daunting as the Bible, and enlisted my boyfriend’s help in the likely event that everything went awry.

The baking cabinet where I stored all my pie-making paraphernalia became a popular hangout for an unexpected and uninvited guest, who I call Frank, but who is probably known to his family as a series of squeaks I could never replicate. Frank is a mouse who chewed a hole through the bottom of the cabinet and took up residence in the baking cabinet, rendering it utterly useless to me because I was afraid to go near it. Frank ate through an entire box of cornstarch and made pretty good headway on the flour when Colin and I finally decided that we’d had enough.

For more than a year, the cats have paid special attention to that cabinet, sitting in front of it with wide, eager eyes for hours on end. We had to put a spatula through the handles to prevent them from getting into the cabinet and eating Frank. I recognize that is one theoretical purpose for cats but we were worried they might pick up a disease from the mouse, or make a mess with it, and, frankly, I just don’t like the idea of my pets killing another animal unnecessarily. They’re neither of them hungry and, as far as I’m aware, the mouse’s only crime is taking up residence in a space that is warm and provisions are more than adequate to last an entire lifetime. If I were a mouse, odds are, it would be my kind of hangout.

And I’m a sucker for animals. Always have been. Always will be. I consider my empathy for the animal kingdom to be one of my better traits. So when Colin proposed purchasing a trap for the mouse, I had to ask “catch and release, right?” even though I knew my boyfriend would never kill a mouse. I have to admit that I agreed that Frank had outstayed his welcome; I couldn’t use my baking cabinet, the rustling noises were disruptive late at night, and I know for a fact that Frank pooped in the storage cabinet where I keep my Christmas ornaments.

We went to CVS and purchased Tomcat’s Mouse and Rat Live Catch Trap. (They have several traps Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 10.51.21 AMdesigned to kill mice, so don’t just go out and buy the first Tomcat trap you find.) When I first looked at the contraption, it was with confusion and just the slightest bit of doubt. But we baited the back of the trap with peanut butter, removed all other edibles from the cabinet, and removed the tape barring the mouse from re-entering the cabinet.

Within an hour or two there was some commotion from the cabinet, and Frank was in the trap. It was pretty late, and has been particularly cold lately, and I worried about releasing Frank in such inhospitable conditions. Still, I figured that was more humane than leaving him sitting in a tiny box, Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 10.47.08 AMterrified, all night long. Colin walked him to a field near our house and set him free, documenting Frank’s moment of liberty with his phone.

As soon as Frank was free, we cleaned, baited, and set the trap. The following morning we found Frank’s cousin, Desi, who Colin released before heading off to work. Trap cleaned, baited, and set, and Colin got home from work to find Lucy, scared and a little frantic. Then, by the time I got home after working out, Vivian was in the trap. Four mice in a period of 24 hours. Infestation is an ugly word, but when the infesters are adorable little mice who look terrified when they finally make their way out of the chute and make their very slow break for Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 10.52.32 AMfreedom, it’s hard to be mad at them. Besides, you can’t move to the country and then complain about having to share it with nature. Well, you can, but that would make you kind of an ass.

Still, I worry about Frank, Desi, Lucy, and Vivian, out in the cold, once again vulnerable to predators more serious than obese housecats that mostly entertain themselves by swatting at ornaments on the Christmas tree. I hope they’re not cold or hungry or scared. I hope they find each other. Also, I really hope they don’t find their way back to the baking cabinet.

Here’s video footage of the catch and release, with narration by Colin.

(Images are screenshots pulled from the video footage.)

 

 

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