Sunday, June 15, 2008

Electric Avenue

Some of you gentle readers have already heard this story (or parts of it), but I have had several requests to recount the events of the past month on my new blog, so here it is. Be forewarned, this is a long story and there aren't many pictures because most of this happened before I decided to start my blog.

Remember children's books and TV shows that included stories about nice mouse families that lived in holes in the walls of houses or even in department stores (i.e. "Muffy" from Today's Special)?

Well, they never show the part of the story where the mice leave their nicely appointed abodes in order to seek out food, defecating along the way. When I was younger, these mouse stories were kind of cool. As an adult with her own home, I find mice far more objectionable.

Since I live in a log house in a rural area next to a creek, I expect to have some pest problems, including the occasional mouse. One evening at the beginning of May, I saw a mouse run from the area behind my TV along the wall and into the kitchen, so I attempted to set a snap trap to catch it.

(Since I don't have my own photos, I gathered a few illustrations for this entry...)

I have found in the past that snap traps are the most reliable way of catching mice--the small electronic traps were an expensive waste of money, poison leaves dead bodies in inappropriate places, and glue traps are just generally awful (more on those later). The problem is that I cannot set snap traps without snapping my fingers several times in the process. As usual, I wasn't able to set the snap trap, so I gave up in frustration and went to bed, hoping that the mouse would magically go away. The next morning, I noticed mouse poo in my kitchen drawers. Mice in this neighborhood really enjoy being in drawers like they are the Japanese tourists that Kramer kept in his Karl Farbman chest on Seinfeld.

Anyway, after removing everything from the drawers, washing the utensils, and disinfecting the drawers and drawer liners, I attempted once again to set a snap trap in order to catch the offensive creature. Half an hour later, I finally gave up and found some glue traps in the cabinet, which I don't remember buying, but they seemed like the best option at the time. I didn't catch the mouse on the first night with the glue trap, but it did poo in the drawers again, so I repeated the process of washing everything once again.

Then, the next night, I saw the mouse running from a hole in my baseboard again (please don't ask me why there is a perfectly drilled mouse-sized hole in my baseboard--the people who lived here before me were not the brightest stars in the sky). I hate seeing mice, so I was determined to catch it. I still only had the glue trap as I could not set the snap trap, so I put the glue trap on a piece of newspaper along the wall where I had seen the mouse and I went to bed. The next morning I woke up and McKenna and I came downstairs to find the glue trap missing and small pieces of paper all over the floor. After searching for over an hour for the missing glue trap, I found it. The mouse had dragged the trap from the kitchen to the living room, through the living room, and up several of the stairs that lead up to the loft at which point it apparently extricated itself from the trap, leaving copious amounts of fur behind, and ran off to hide somewhere.

I immediately went to the store in search of anything that might work and ended up purchasing a new kind of snap trap--one that is basically a snap trap in a plastic box so that you don't have to see much of the mouse and you can set it with the flip of a lever. I set the trap that evening and caught a mouse by the next morning, which I promptly disposed of.

Soon, I found more poo in the drawers, so I knew that there was at least one more mouse on the loose. By this time, I had cleaned the drawers and utensils at least three times, so I removed everything from the drawers, washed it again, and left it on the kitchen table until I could catch the mouse. The same day, while reorganizing my office in the loft, I saw a mouse dart out from the corner and then run back behind a bookshelf when I screamed at it--visual confirmation of the continued presence of the pest. And that is when it became war.

My grandmother had told me that she read in her AARP magazine that you should put cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil around the house to keep mice away and I figured that it couldn't hurt. I also read that you should put several drops of peppermint oil in a spray bottle with water and spray the mixture along the baseboards, windows, and doorways of the house. So, after an afternoon of cleaning and with a house that smelled like an Altoid, I set the new snap trap one more time and went to bed.

The next morning there was no dead mouse, but there was mouse poo next to the peppermint oil soaked cotton ball in one of the drawers. At this point, I was desperate and ready to do something drastic. I began to do some research online and I found that several people had success with this:

With over 70 positive reviews on Amazon, I decided that this was my best bet--a pest electrocution device the likes of which mankind has never encountered before. The Rat Zapper runs on four D size batteries and has an LED to show you when it catches something. It works on mice, rats, chipmunks, squirrels, and pretty much anything that will fit inside. Really, it is one of the most humane ways to kill mice if you are going to kill them rather than catching them in live traps. With the four D size batteries, mice are killed almost instantly without the blood, decapitation, suffocation, etc. that can be caused by other kinds of traps. Needless to say, I ordered a Rat Zapper Ultra immediately.

While reading about the RZU, I learned that this same company makes a few related devices. One of these is the Rat Tale:

This plugs into the RZU in case you have to put your device in an attic, under the stairs, or anywhere else that you might not want to have to climb up to or into in order to see if you caught something. This little guy sticks out of the attic or closet door and lights up when you catch something. For more serious problems, there is also the Battle Station (their title, not mine):

This is a package deal--you pay one price for five RZUs and a central control panel (shown above). Place the devices all around the house and check the central control panel to find out if and where you caught something. Thankfully I did not need this degree of pest control.

When my RZU arrived, I was thrilled to put it to work. I put batteries in it, baited it with the recommended dog food, put it on the wall where I had seen mice before, and waited. And waited. And waited. Nothing. Then I went for a little weekend trip--making sure to shut the RZU off before I left.

Upon my return, I decided to try a different kind of bait and to move the RZU to a new location. I baited it with cheese and put it in my laundry room, near the discovery site of the famous Sleeping Snake. About an hour later, the dog jumped out of her bed and ran into the laundry room. Following her, I saw the red "catch" light blinking and I began to hear something like this:

These noises were accompanied by small puffs of smoke and a slight "warm" odor in the air. All of this lasted about 10 seconds and I looked at McKenna and said "We got one!" I wanted to sound the alarm like Janine in Ghostbusters, but having no such alarm, I called my parents instead.

Gentle readers, I tell you this: While I do not claim to be an official spokesperson for the Rat Zapper Ultra and speak only from my own experience with this device, this was one of the wisest investments I have made in a long time. I have now caught two mice, which I have never had to see. I just take the RZU, dump it into the trash, throw some more trash on top, rebait the trap, and return it to its corner of the laundry room.


Melissa said...

Ah, Ken, such fantastic stories to brighten any morning! Thankfully, I've only ever seen one mouse in my apartment, and he ran away right quickly after seeing me. I think Rascal's rodent odor deters other rodents. There is still a little guy that visits under my sink, but as long as he stays there and does not venture to other cabinets, I choose not to declare war. Although, I'm sure he has a field day chewing up all the boxes that I have stored under there; I'm afraid to look!

Ken said...

If you ever want to borrow the Rat Zapper Ultra, I am considering renting it out for a small fee to recoup some of the expense, so let me know ;)

Leah said...

1. I snorted out loud when I read the reference to Kramer letting the tourists sleep in those drawers. That will never not be funny.
2. Also never not funny? References to the old Batman show.
3. Do they make a Rat Zapper Ultra for those tiny little ants that I get? Because the storm the other day pissed them all off and now they want to come inside. Which is going to get worse very soon, because I desperately need to weed my yard and they always get all excited when that happens.

Leah said...

Oh, and I forgot. I have Electric Avenue stuck in my head now. I hope you're happy.

Mary and Larry Smerk said...

Leah - you are not the only one. Larry was singing Electric Avenue for over a day.