Dear readers, have you picked up on the fact that I love pretty much all creatures, no matter how great or how small? Well, I do, but I’m also (for the most part and excepting a Praying Mantis that would have otherwise frozen to death this fall) a firm believer in certain animals that belong outside staying outside. Case in point: the fat, black, cue ball of a mouse that frequented my under-the-sink cupboard last winter.
When I woke up at 4:00 A.M. on January 1, 2010, to trudge downstairs, start some Folgers, and pump out a few chapters of a children’s book on coyotes, the little—or maybe not-so-little—critter literally grazed my feet. I’m not typically skittish (cleaning up the bodily fluids of pets and children will stiffen your backbone), but I shrieked louder than the matron of the house in an episode of Tom & Jerry. After my rather embarrassing reaction, I rolled up my sleeves and got down to business. Lysol—check. Airtight containers for dog kibbles and other dry-food items—check. Glasses to search crevices for miniscule mouse droppings—check. Totally useless humane trap—check.
I tried to place nice. Really. After all, I didn’t want to explain to my then-five-year-old the hypocrisy of us caring for a pet rat but murdering a chubby, helpless mouse. (Not to mention that I fretted about baby fingers getting sliced and diced by snap traps.) Unfortunately, all of the no-kill metal boxes and homemade/organic repellants that I sprayed into cracks, corners, and mysterious holes were a complete wash. One week later, mouse poop and Purina bites continued to line the cupboard beneath the kitchen sink, and I called in the big guns.
Our exterminator paid us a visit and laid our little soldier to rest after a few stressful days during which I thought every snap, squeak, and scampering sound were a morbid reminder of my cruelty. On the flip side, I justified my actions by reminding myself that I didn’t want to explain to our pediatrician why I had set the stage for a curious infant shoveling rodent excrement into his toothy mouth. Sometimes, it’s a tough balancing act being a responsible mom and a compassionate animal lover.
Nonetheless, the ink-colored, bewhiskered cue ball in our kitchen did not perish in vain. In the spirit of the season, his memory has inspired me to spread the word about what routes people in similar situations can take besides all-out war. I hasten to add that several of my friends have experienced success with pest-removal techniques that don’t result in fatalities. Check out the site below for a sampling of ideas:
The point is, you may try, try, and still not succeed, but at least you—and your kids—know you tried. I realize it seems silly, but I firmly feel we live in a world where it’s far too easy to stomp someone or something under heel and to ignore occasionally avoidable suffering. The gray zone that exists between being a witless master of the roach motel and the iron-fisted leader of the rodent Gestapo is where compassion lays. If I can teach my children to toe the line and venture into that area, I think I deserve an A for effort as a mom, animal guardian, and person who respects all creatures—be they great, small, pests, or pets.
PS: If you know if any tried-and-true rodent- or insect-removal techniques that fall under the “humane” label, please post them below!