Lileks: Mouse-proofing, 'Tom & Jerry' style, without the hatpin in the rear

·4 min read

The dog's kibble has a nice palette, no doubt chosen to flatter the sensibilities of the human who buy it. Brown, beige, tan — those are attractive hues of meat and grain. Or, they based it on a 1977 rumpus room.

Then again, perhaps it's the bathroom in the Arizona snowbird home you have no idea you will buy someday, but when you do, you'll think this has to go, and you'll replace it with something else. Get rid of that old outdated brown-beige-tan look, do something modern, like tan-beige, with brown accents.

I mention the color, because I only had a moment to notice that there was something in the torrent of kibble that was not Scottsdale palette-compliant. It was grayish, also fat, and alive, with a tail. A mouse.

It jumped out of the bowl, ran into a wall, and vanished.

If you have limited mouse experience, you might think "you mean it ran into a hole in the wall, and vanished." No. Mice are capable of passing through solid matter. A properly motivated mouse can pass through the hull of a battleship.

The fact that the mouse was in the bin in the first place was surprising. The bin is sealed. Granted, there's a tiny hole in the pouring spout on the lid, gnawed away by diligent, industrious mice who wanted to get into the bin and splash around in the kibble like Scrooge McDuck in his vault, but I hadn't thought they could get through a space so small. Wrong! Turns out a mouse is actually very, very small, and mostly fur. When you see "mouse droppings," those are actually dead mice.

Well, now I knew we had a mouse. Or four. Or 136. Objective: zero mice, which is as desirable and likely as an empty e-mail inbox, except you cannot unsubscribe from mice to keep the numbers low.

First step: find out how they're getting in. Checked the front door doorbell camera footage; nothing there. Unlikely it was the back door. Chimney? Had we seen mice in tiny parachutes on the rim of the chimney, jumping in? Because that would be cute. If I could get video, it would go viral. Checked the fireplace for small abandoned chutes. No. So it was probably in the storage room where the kibble was kept.

Behind some bins, which contain all sorts of vital things like my Cub Scout kerchief and my collection of vintage Taco Bell sauce packets — you laugh, but those green ones are going to be worth a lot someday — I saw it: a mouse hole.

Yes, the classic mouse hole I remember from "Tom & Jerry" cartoons. Minus the door with frame and lintel. I considered applying my cartoon lessons: WWTD? Tom would immediately produce an armload of boards and nails and close the hole with a flurry of activity, after which he would smile and exhale in satisfaction, unaware that Jerry's behind him with a big side grin and is about to take the hammer and bring it down on Tom's tail.

This will cause a scream. But it won't be the same high-intensity tenor yell that Tom emitted when he got a hatpin in the rear. I wonder if anyone did a study on Mass Audience Involuntary Hindquarter Puckering when that scene played out in the theater.

Anyway, lacking a Tom, I was off to the hardware store for some mouse repellent. It comes in a can. You spray it into the hole, and it expands. It also contains some stuff mice do not like to taste.

But, as I said, mice can travel through solid matter, so I needed something else. One of those fancy electronic things that emits a signal that mice hate? Checked the reviews on Amazon:

"Worked amazing, would buy again. All mice in county ran over the cliff and into sea, forming a carpet of drowned mice that dashed against the rocks in the tide for days. The gulls, they did feast."

Review #2: "Useless junk, just has a chip that says 'Please go away, mice' in Mandarin."

I settled on the repellent but also decided to try a "humane" trap that seals the mouse in a small plastic room. Apparently it is lined with lead and uranium, which keeps the mouse from passing through the walls. It had an indicator on the side that said "Empty" or "Full." Odd term. I've never patted my belly after a big meal and said, "Man, do I have a mouse within."

I sprayed the repellent, set six of the traps around the room, and waited.

A week later, no mouse has entered the traps. We've been mouse-free ever since I closed the hole. It's the repellent, I think — it has some remarkable properties that keep out unwanted pests. For example, I also sprayed it all over my phone, and I haven't gotten one car-warranty spam call since.

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks

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