2013.01.23 Mouse could have used a better friend than me

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

I’ve been thinking—a bit too much, perhaps—about mice and rats lately. Luckily, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to deal with any in my apartment. I’ve yet to have any since I moved to Fayette back in 2004.

I attribute that to Jeb, the late Fayette cat, and his friends. There is often a stray cat or two around the Dumpster in my apartment complex, and I’d guess they take care of any mice who show up looking for a meal. In previous apartments, I wasn’t as lucky.

In 1985, I moved into one side of a duplex in Adrian. The couple who was cleaning the apartment for the landlord  suggested I set some mouse traps as they had noticed signs of mice in the place.

I bought and set two traps and when I returned the following day to drop off some boxes I got a bit of a surprise. One of the traps was tripped and empty, lying about ten feet from where I had set it. Another five or six feet away lay a dead hamster. 

The hamster had obviously struggled to escape and actually was successful, but apparently had exhausted itself in the attempt. I still wonder if its owner had turned it loose or if it was crafty enough to escape from its cage. 

A few years later, I heard noises coming from the kitchen sink in the middle of the night. Something was rattling around the dirty dishes I should have washed before bedtime. When I got up to check, I found evidence of a mouse at work, but the culprit had made its escape.

This one made me wonder if it, too, was a high functioning hamster as it took me about ten days of moving two traps around to finally catch it. It turned out to be just a normal mouse. A smart one, obviously, but eventually, a dead one. 

I had much better luck after I moved to Blissfield. One day, I discovered mouse droppings in the basement and went to the local hardware store for some traps. I bought and set four traps in the basement and went back upstairs.

No more than ten minutes later, I heard a loud snapping noise downstairs. I went to check and found a dead mouse in one of the traps. I left the rest of the traps in place, but never caught another mouse or saw any signs that another could be lurking around. That invasion was handled rather quickly.

Shortly before I moved to Fayette, the Dumpster for the two restaurants nearby was relocated at the edge of my yard, only about ten feet or so from my side door. I wonder how many cold mice tried to come in to warm up that winter after getting a meal nearby? That was a problem for the next tenant.

Last week, while dining in a town outside of our coverage area, a man came into the restaurant from a pest control service. He was making a scheduled inspection and everything was fine until I left.

As I got near my car, I saw a small mouse outside the side door of the restaurant, trying to find a way in. Since the pest control guy was there anyway, I decided to give him something to do.

I went back in and told him of my discovery. The restaurant employee he was talking to wanted to see it, too, so we all went back outside. The employee commented on how “cute” the mouse was, whereupon the pest control man suggested she turn away.

He quickly dispatched the rodent with his boot, then disposed of the carcass in the back of his truck. When he came back, he said he hated to do that because he’s an animal lover himself. We agreed he really didn’t have much choice in the matter, although I felt a bit guilty for—BAD PUN ALERT!—“ratting out” the mouse in the first place.

And speaking of rats, over the weekend I rediscovered an article I had saved concerning a University of Chicago study on the empathy of rats. In the study, a rat was placed in a cage that could only be opened from the outside. Another rat was placed outside the cage.

Out of 30 rats tested, 23 ignored a nearby treat of chocolate chips to try to rescue the caged rat. Researcher Peggy Mason claimed that showed that rescuing another rat “is as important as eating chocolate.”

Maybe that’s true. Or maybe the caged rat told the potential “rescuer” that it was an experiment and to play along. Actually, I’m still not sure that rodents are that smart. Otherwise, why would a mouse try to get into a restaurant with a pest control truck in the parking lot?

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