Mouse!

MOUSE!!” I yelled out.

Immediately I could hear feet shuffle upstairs. I yelled a few more times for good measure but I knew they were on their way. See, the number one rule in mousing, for people at least, is to always keep eyes on your target no matter what. Because a mouse can move fast and a house like ours has an infinite number of hiding spaces. We don’t hunt our mice to kill, we prefer a live capture and release outside. If I kept my eyes on him, I knew our chances were good to catch him alive and get him out of the house.

‘Cause we’d done it before.

An Unwelcome Visitor

Early in December I went down to the storage room to clean the litter boxes and noticed some wall insulation fluff on the ground by the water treatment equipment and litter boxes. Looking up I saw a big ball of fluff on top of our foundation wall. My first thought was that our little cat, Daisy, had gotten up there and was pulling out insulation or maybe there was some lose insulation from when they built the house and she knocked it down. Daisy has gotten into the basement ceiling joists before so it was no surprise tome. I called up to the wife to come down. I was thinking I’d share Daisy’s latest escapade with her, then clean up the mess.

What neither my wife nor I expected to see was movement up there. We both about jumped out of our skin (me more so) when we saw a small, yet plump, brown body dart from one bay to the other, followed by a very long tail.

Holy crap it’s a mouse!

This stunned me because our house is suppose to be air tight, relatively speaking. But it obviously got in somehow. I know I was bringing some things in from the garage over the past few weeks. So maybe as a stowaway in a box. On the other hand the weather had just gotten cold; we had our first snowfall. It is the time of year for mice to infiltrate our homes.

How the mouse got in was secondary to how to get the mouse out though.

Mouse Hunt

I set a humane mouse trap up next to the fluff on top of the shelving unit I had made just a few months prior. I baited the trap with peanut butter. It’s a lever so when the mouse goes inside, its weight tips the lever and the door shuts behind the mouse, trapping it.

I checked that trap for five days and nothing.

Meanwhile our two cats were spending a lot of time in the storage room. Obviously they could tell we had a new visitor that week. My personal policy was that if the mouse got in the trap, great! I’ll let it go in the yard. Now if the cats got the mouse that would be okay too. In fact, with a certain degree of pride, I was hoping the cats would get the mouse. Poor mouse, but then at least the cats would finally be earning their room and board. I recently read though that well fed house cats usually don’t make for good “mousers”.

Well, during those five days the cats didn’t catch the mouse as far as I could tell. They’d sniff around the storage room. Daisy seems like more of the mouser than Dixon. She’d be in there every day but seemingly nothing. If the mouse was dead, she’d hid it’s little corpse deep in the stacks of crap in the storage room.

Point of Entry

There is an air intake and exhaust port on the back of the house for the air exchanger. I thought one of those might be the culprit, but upon inspection both looked fine. Though, as a side note, the exhaust vent was clogged shut with lint so at least the mouse-ca-pade prompted me to clean that vent before any more long term damage was done.

exhause-vent

The air exchanger exhaust vent after I took a wire brush to clear it.

One day, after the snow melted, I was outside setting out our live Christmas tree. I noticed along the foundation in the back yard, blue foam debris on the ground. The debris corresponded with where we’d seen the mouse inside the storage room. There you go, I now knew that the mouse was not a stowaway, rather he had broken and entered the house illegally.

I used a mirror to see if I could figure it out. As best I could tell, the mouse slipped between the siding and the termite flashing, then gnawed its way through the blue foam and from there somehow into the house through the rim joist apparently.

I put investigating the entry point and sealing it up on my “to do” list and went about my business for a few more days. I figured maybe the cats got the mouse or he left on his own accord.

Things That Go Bump In The Night

It was about midnight. I had just settled into bed and was dozing off. Dixon was asleep next to me. All was quiet.

Then he perked up.

A pause.

Then he jumped off the bed.

A moment later I could hear him by the window sill fussing with something. I knew right away what was going on because I’m pretty attuned to my cat (best friend really). Clicking on my bed light sure enough.

Dixon had the mouse cornered on the window sill of my bedroom.

dixon-and-mouse-on-sill

Dixon corners the first mouse on the bedroom windowsill.

I texted my wife, hoping she was still awake. I wanted to keep my eyes on the mouse and I needed backup. A minute later she was on the scene. The mouse darted into the closet. We closed the bedroom and bathroom doors. With her a one end of the closet and me at the other, Dixon in the middle spotting the mouse’s location, we had it pretty well contained.

We then spent the next half hour working to capture the mouse. I created barricades at both ends of our otherwise open closet. Dixon eventually lost interest but I kept putting him in there. We called for Daisy and eventually she came on scene. We placed her in the closet. She’s definitely the more aggressive mouser of the two. She hunted up the mouse quickly and gave it no room to escape. Almost to the point where we thought she’d hook it good if given the chance.

daisy-in-closet

Daisy and the mouse in our closet

Eventually we were able to chase the mouse into a paper box. I then scrambled to the front door, out into the yard and dumped the mouse out into the freezing cold night. I don’t know if he survived or not (he ran off but it was cold and he was surely scared), but I didn’t really care at that point.

Congratulations were given to Dixon for discovering the mouse in the first place, and to Daisy for hounding the mouse to the end.

Mouse Hole

For the couple weeks after the successful mouse capture things returned to normal. The cats didn’t spend as much time in the storage room. I didn’t notice anything out of place. This past week Daisy has been spending more time in my office, which is adjacent to the storage room, while I work but that didn’t seem out of the ordinary. After all I feed the cats treats regularly when I’m working.

Finally an open Saturday came around so I decided to clean up the fluff and see if I could discover the mouse hole. I gingerly poked around and vacuumed up the mouse debris. The last thing I wanted was a mouse jumping out at me. I hate how they dart around and I will easily scream like a little kid should one get within my proximity unexpectedly.

I looked up by the air exchanger outlet and I could see a cobweb moving in the “breeze”. Sure enough there must be a hole to the outside up there. I got up my ladder and “voila!”. Mouse hole.

the-mouse-hole

I could feel, see cold air coming into the house through this 1″ round hole in the rim joist.

I then hopped over to the big fluff pile on top of the wall, above the water filtration system. The fluff was from my actual walls. The mouse had gone up into the wall through a hole between a heating duct and the plywood floor above. I’m not too worried about the loss of insulation in my wall. There’s not much I could do about that, but I could clean up the fluff and seal the opening with some expanding foam. I vacuumed up the fluff after poking it a bit to make sure there wasn’t a mouse inside the fluff ball.

After everything was swept up I grabbed my trusty expanding foam and sealed up the hole where the heat duct went up into the wall. It looks like this after:

Then I don’t know what the heck I did, I think I stepped out for a second then back into the storage room. But as I went to reposition my ladder to spray foam the mouse hole at the other end of the foundation, I saw this:

mouse-2

Mouse number two. He has wet spray foam his side. I had just cleared out the area and was foaming the vent, not sure where he came from.

I don’t know where he came from but there was another mouse, or maybe the same mouse from a couple weeks ago. Anyway, actually I know where he came from because he had wet spray foam on his fur. He had been hiding out near the vent duct while I was spraying it. That’s when I yelled “MOUSE!” and the wife and kids came down with the “mouse box”; the same paper box from the last time we did this.

The mouse went back and forth on top of the work bench then inadvertently fell to the floor about six feet. I was able to corner him and in about five minutes got him to run into the paper box. He was covered in debris. I felt bad but there was absolutely nothing I could do for him. There’s nothing that will take that stuff off, short of taking the mouse to the vet and having the vet shave the mouse fur off. I’m crazy, but not that crazy.

My kids and I took the box outside and let the mouse go on the porch. The mouse scurried under the porch, out of sight.

I went back inside and spray foamed the mouse hole. I put everything back the way it was in the storage room. I’ll keep an eye on it but my fingers are crossed that our mouse encounter is over.

To fix the hole on the outside of the house, I really think I’ll have to hire a handyman or siding guy to take the siding off, and figure out exactly how the mouse got it, and seal it up. Also have to close that gap between the siding and the termite shield. There needs to be a gap but it needs to be just a few millimeters, not a full inch.

I’m definitely over the excitement of having rodents in our house. Having a tight house was always a source of pride, so when a mouse gnawed its way in, it sort of dinged my pride. More importantly though I was able to figure out where the mouse or mice were getting in at, and I am hopefully able to prevent it from happening again.

Now I just hope Dixon isn’t waking me up like that again.

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