Mouse Mindgames

Small fella, big brain!

I am pleased to report that, once again, our house is home to wee rodents, this time a pair of gerbils named Salt and Peppa.

Salt is the smaller of the two, clever, energetic, and mischievous. Peppa is more reserved, less social, and also mischievous.

Basically, if you own a rodent, you’re going to have to accommodate some degree of mischief.

Case in point: In 1970, my parents purchased their first home in the North Jersey suburbs, a modest, two-story fixer upper. My father wasn’t very good at fixing-upping, however, so he left the painting, hammering, and electrical stuff to Mom and searched out a task that was better suited to his unique set of skills.

When the house revealed itself to have a mouse problem, Dad was on the case.

He toddled to the hardware store to pick up a humane Havahart trap and borrowed an unused, dusty, rusty birdcage from Grandpa. Dad’s plan was simple. He would trap the mice in the Havahart and deposit them in the cage. Once the mice were all caught, he would take the cage to a wooded area some distance away and release them.

That night, Dad set the Havahart using peanut butter for bait. Then he fixed up the cage, stocking it with everything a mouse could ever want: plenty of food and water and high piles of shredded up newspaper to serve as bedding. (Dad was nothing if not a good host.)

Less than an hour later, the trap sprang shut. His first mouse! Dad deposited the critter into the cage. He covered the cage with a sheet (I’m not sure why that was necessary, exactly. For privacy, maybe?), got more peanut butter, reset the trap, and went to bed.

The next morning, Dad awoke to find a new mouse in the trap. He pulled back a corner of the sheet, put the new mouse in the cage, replaced the sheet, grabbed the peanut butter, and reset the trap. Late in the afternoon, the trap clattered shut yet again. Again, Dad pulled back a corner the sheet, deposited the new mouse in the cage with the other two mice, replaced the sheet, got out the peanut butter, and reset the trap.

And so it went. For days Dad caught mice and put them in the cage. He replenished the cage’s food and water supplies as needed. He also began to ask himself—with increasing alarm—Just how many freaking mice are in my house?!

The answer to his question was: one.

One mouse.

One mouse who really liked peanut butter.

This mouse liked peanut butter so much, he would escape the cage several times a day and get himself re-caught several times a day just so he could keep eating the Havahart’s bait.

The sheet draped over the cage was the means for his escape. The mouse had grabbed a corner of the sheet in his mouth and pulled it into the cage until the thin wire bars stretched apart wide enough for him to wriggle through.

The mouse—with help from Dad—had carved out a wonderful life for himself. He had complete freedom of movement, a safe comfortable place to sleep, and an endless supply of good food and water.

It was Mom who discovered the escape plan. When she did, she expelled what would be the first of several lifetimes’ worth of exasperated sighs. “How on earth,” she asked Dad, “did you not notice that there were no other mice in the cage?”

“I thought they were all hiding under the newspaper,” he replied sheepishly.

“It was at that moment,” Mom told me many years later, “I first realized that your father needs constant supervision.”

Mom was right, of course; Dad was not a guy one could leave alone with a task. But, to be fair, when a person engages in a battle of wits against a rodent, the smart money should always be on the wee one.

46 Replies to “Mouse Mindgames”

  1. By that point, I’d almost consider keeping the mouse as a pet! 🙂 This is an absolutely wonderful tail. TALE. I meant tale.

      1. Amen to that. I once had a long-haired hamster I was quite fond of, until he got out and ate nearly all of a duffel bag! Sadly, that killed him.

      2. Belvedere. 😀 Just thinking of him brings a smile.
        Since then I’ve moved up the phyla to a wee dog~ my little westie. He brings a smile, too, always inviting me to drop what I’m doing and come play. He’s a tiny one….not all that bigger than a hamster, actually!

  2. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahhahahahaaa!!!

    Your dad was SO proud of himself………………for awhile………

  3. Mike, there’s a picture book there that YOU should write 🙂 The anecdote is SO amusing and funny, and I’m sure your book version would be ROFL-worthy 😀 LOVE this!

      1. Scampers: thinks like a survivalist 😀 She gets lost or “caught” in the mousetrap and ends up in a situation like with your dad with the man eventually returning her to her home with her pals 🙂 Something to that effect? Can’t help it…this is just begging to be a book!

  4. Your dad, as always, was very entertaining. Your mother was long-suffering, but clearly loved the guy. Great parents, Mike.
    You know my feelings on rodents, so I will refrain from reiterating them.

    1. My parents are pretty awesome, I must admit.

      And while your views on rodents are well known, did you consider clicking on the hotlinks in the story above? You really should meet Salt and Peppa!

  5. Ha! Ha! I suspected it was only one…but I never imagined it pulling on the sheet until it pried the metal wider. I’ll have to keep that in mind when I’m trapping squirrels. I put a cloth over the cage ait’s time for you to leave town!s well because it calms them down during transport, other wise they freak out. Speaking of clever rodents…just the other day I put some nuts and seeds under one of the traps and I watched one squirrel grab the side of the trap and pull. He did that three times, after which he proceeded to eat the food I had set out for him. Sadly, he didn’t fare so well when I put the peanut butter in in. I think he got my message…it’s time for you to leave town!

      1. He was a big piggy, eating every bit of bird food in sight, He would not share, though I left plenty of food for all of them and instead bullied his way around the four feeders I have, chasing the birds away! The only ones who have to go are the ones who won’t let the birds have some too. After all, they are BIRD feeders!

      2. You rat lovers justify every hateful attribute…they are BIRD feeders! Had he been polite, I would have gladly welcomed him to our feast. But he wasn’t…he hogged all the food and harassed the birds when they tried to eat. Honestly, if I came to your house and helped myself to your food, you might be offended. If I then refused to let you eat any of it, you most likely would have thrown me out the door! Same rules apply! Poor manners means no more invites to the party! Harrumph!

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