Rod Liddle

If the mice have to face my wife, they’ll have only themselves to blame

5 January 2013

I was in bed by one o clock on New Year’s Day. We did the countdown thing, for the kids, and then hung around for a while looking tired; it was only later, when my wife and I were upstairs in bed, that the real fun began. A long and corrosive argument about the mice, probably the 15th we’ve had on this subject since we moved in back in August. We could both hear the mice downstairs, whooping it up, holding some sort of shindig of their own; the relentless skittering across the stone floor tiles or the parquet wood blocks in the living room. I was tempted, at one point, just to shout downstairs: ‘Keep it down a bit will you, we’re trying to get some sleep up here.’ My wife, listening to the sounds of revelry — just wait until they work out how to use the CD player — turned over and said, full of contempt: ‘So much for your bloody entente cordiale.’

She has a point. I thought I’d struck some sort of deal with the mice but it now looks like I was as deluded as Chamberlain. You cannot deal honestly with these sorts of creatures. The deal was that they were allowed in and out of the house, especially in very cold weather, and were entitled to crumbs and stuff they found down the backs of things. But they had to keep out of sight and not gnaw at any of our food; in return, the doveish clique in our marital coalition, i.e. me, would hold sway — and so poison and those horrible traps which snap the creatures in two would not be deployed. Only humane traps have been used so far, the ones in which a mouse enters a tilted black tunnel at the end of which I have deposited some Green & Black’s organic fair-trade cocoa powder; when it reaches this bourgeois manna, the trap snaps shut. The captive mice can then be released a couple of miles away, near where the gypsies live.

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This deal sort of held for a while; we stopped seeing the mice, our food remained untouched and every so often one mouse would give itself up to the trap and be released to a new life with a static travelling family, as the census describes gypsies who tend to stay in one place. My wife held her peace, but I know was unconvinced. She would have the mice first held in some sort of Guantanamo isolation unit, perhaps wearing orange boiler suits, before being executed, one after the other, with a shovel. But for as long as the mice kept their part of the bargain, I was able to demonstrate that such callousness was not necessary. However, just recently, the mice have started taking the piss. They are breaching both the spirit and the letter of the agreement, flagrantly. If the concordat is eventually torn up and we follow the policies of my hawkish wife, they will only have themselves to blame, the mice. They can’t say they weren’t warned. They will enter a world of pain. They will reap a whirlwind. My wife already has her eye on a range of chemical weapons available over the counter from Rentokil.

And the big problem I have is that she is also beginning to deploy the argument that the black tunnel traps are not in the least bit humane, really. Far from it, she asserts — the mice emerge from these traps after being held captive for as long as eight hours, disorientated, terrified and soaked in sweat and stumble off towards the gypsy encampment looking hopeless and forlorn, a nice chocolate covered snack for the stoats. She has a point here, too. Of the 16 mice we have caught, two were dead by the time we opened the trap and of the remaining 14 at least ten were in as bad shape as it is possible to be without being quite dead. The most heartbreaking — for me, not for my missus, she just cackled — was the night we caught two mice in separate traps. I opened the first one and a little baby mouse, a pup, scampered out looking appalled and ran straight over to the other trap and huddled up next to it — the creature’s mum was inside. That gave me nightmares, I can tell you. Poor little thing.

I can point out to my missus that at least 14 of the creatures lived, or had a chance to live, under my regimen — whereas my wife would have had them all killed. But it is a thinnish argument. The problem is, in order to release them without being held there for eight hours I’d have to nip down every hour at night. That seems to me a bridge too far in the battle to remain humane.

So what do we do? I won’t have a cat in the house; I despise these insinuating and casually murderous creatures — I would far rather have mice than cats. Readers of my Spectator blog suggested one of those electronic devices which somehow annoy the mice with some shrill high-pitched noise inaudible to humans, a bit like one of those Lib Dem women ministers on Question Time when they’re asked about Israel. But they don’t work. Friends of ours put one in their kitchen and the mice built an entrance hole directly beneath it. Are there better humane traps available? Or some sort of unguent which might deter them from coming in? Help is needed, because my wife has got that bloodthirsty look in her eyes, and it’ll be mouse-carnage.
The argument continues online.

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Show comments
  • mingefunkster

    Rod may I suggest…Keith Vaz..he seems to be concenered with eveyones ..thats eveyones..Bristol, Westminsters rape Victims…(I`m sorry cheap shot) etc concerns for mammal feline fish but so much more if our indian sub continent dwellers working here in the UK privately run hospitalls….RING ..
    078121-18159…for emergeny Keith relief…….He will help you….

    • Bob

      A friend used a humane trap. One night he caught a mean looking mouse with one ear chewed off and only half a tail. He released it a couple of miles away. Then about a month later he caught the same mouse again!

  • Noa

    I feel your pain.

    Perhaps you could donate or arrange for the captured mice to be humanely collected by the local gerbilling community for re-insertion elsewhere?

  • Adam Maguire

    Rent a Cat?

    Just borrow one of the neighbour’s cats every
    so often and get him to plod around your house a bit.


    Just borrow some of his stench. Rub the neighbour’s cat over with an old cloth and then rub this cloth or deposit it in or around the places where your mice most like to go.


    Leave the sticks and move back to the smoke, preferably to a guaranteed rodentless
    seventy second floor duplex in The Shard.

  • Sue

    I am with your wife-all the way. She is brave. We suffered for about a year. The only way to stop them humanely is wire wool. You don’t feed it to them (they don’t like the taste) you go around the house and you block up every single hole and gap in every floorboard and wall. Traps and poison don’t work. It’s
    Ike putting a bucket under a leaking roof, it catches the water but doesn’t stop the leak.
    The breeding cycle is six offspring per mouse every six weeks. That’s a lot of mice. You have to stop them getting in.
    In the end we got a cat but we haven’t seen a mouse since the last hole was filled.

  • Sarah

    So when is the Spectator going to mention what’s happening in India,
    Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka?

    Don’t tell me you’re avoiding it because promoting the rape culture is a bit socially awkward at the moment or because Jim Davidson is a bit creepy.

    Or are we just going to ignore it and carry on talking about Eton and fluffy cats and fluffy mice?

    • Austin Barry

      Sarah, I do hope that, contrary to the evidence of your post, you do have a sense of humour and don’t live your life with a sour face. (I apologise if you’re naturally costive.)

      • Sarah

        It’s more of a quizzical look at the moment.

        I’m wondering why the satirical blogs on sex abuse have dried up. Afterall the Indian media were accused of being complicit, they need a defender.

  • dalai guevara

    The high pitch contraptions do work, although I would recommend to put up at least six of them in various socket positions in and around your food storage areas. Other than that, perhaps increase your general level of cleanliness by employing…an immigrant cleaner?

  • The Red Bladder

    Absolutely guaranteed a winner – get an owl!

  • Thick as two Plancks

    Why not compromise, ie let your wife have her own way.

  • John Steadman

    You could close the fridge door, Rod – that way the milk will last a bit longer too.

  • Rtd Colonel

    good quality sticky boards only way to go – inhumane in the extreme but the most effective way to go

  • sunnydayrider

    Get a cat! Sorry.

  • FrenchNewsonlin

    Why inflict them on the stat-travs, want the NHS to pay for your squeamishness? Poison the diseased vermin, your wife is right!

  • Picquet

    What a pussy…
    But I agree; mice are infinitely preferable to cats.

  • Stephen Rae

    Rod – I agree that cats are insinuating and casually murderous. There is one in my household against my wishes. However I disagree that a cat in your home would get rid of your rodent problem. A cat does not necessarily get rid of mice, rather it will as likely or not import them into your house, play with them, kill them and leave the carcasses on your carpet as some sort of trophy. Sometimes our cat fails to kill her victim and it escapes into the kitchen to scurry around behind the skirting boards.

  • Neffi

    Rod, you have our sympathy. Our mice also live in the fridge, making our cat ( a long haired ginger tom) redundant. They build their nest on the compressor at the back, and enter via the drain hole. We have tried to block the hole with both wire and fibre glass wool, but to no avail, they just pull it out. The solution for us is to keep everything in sealed plastic boxes,which is a pain. We have been doing this for several weeks now, and they seem to have got the message at last. We have not seen a mouse since.


    Of Mice and Moths…..there is a very intelligent engineer called Bill Craster who has invented a device to deter mice, rats and cockroaches.that avoids using poison and does no harm to rodents or cockroaches.. It plugs into any mains socket and uses microchip technology to affect the electric signal given off by your ring main.. You cannot buy it in a shop but only direct from Mr Craster: 07803 178 118 or See more details
    It works, as my neighbours will testify. When I asked Bill why he wasn’t a millionaire, he said he was ‘no good at marketing’! He has now invented a spray to kill insects, clothes moths for example,, that is safe enough to use on one’s dog or cat!!
    I do not benefit in any way for recommending pestfree-products. Bonne chance!

  • davina

    put down some peppermint essential oil by their entrance hole

  • Max07

    Don’t waste time getting all sentimental about Missus Mouse and her family, Rod. If you’re catching that many mice in those useless ‘humane’ traps (my mice just laugh at them – they are HARD), then you have a major infestation. It’s not just a question of food getting nibbled; they’re incontinent beasties that are almost certainly relieving themselves all over your nice clean kitchen. Found any funny little grey pellets on the work surfaces recently? If not, you will, believe me. The best way of controlling mice is get a cat, assuming you’re lucky enough to get an energetic one rather than a useless couch potato. But I know I’m not supposed to mention the c-word to you. So shove lots of poison down and do it quickly. Then pray that the buggers don’t die behind your fridge.

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