SuttaCentral

How to Contend With House Critters


#1

From time to time I discover that there are field mice who get into my house. I wouldn’t mind except they get into food and leave their droppings in the house. My practice has been to use live traps and then release the mice outside. If I release the mice close to the house they just come back inside, so typically I walk about a mile from my house and release the mice into an open field.

This morning I caught a mouse. I didn’t have time to walk to the field, so I took the mouse to the university where I work and released the mouse into a garden area with plenty of landscaping. When I got to my office my secretary inquired about my progress with the mouse (I had previously told her that there was a mouse getting into the food donations I set aside to take to the Wat to give to the monks). When I told her I released the mouse on campus she told me that the maintenance folk place kill traps in campus buildings so if the mouse gets inside it might be killed. I asked her what was I supposed to do? She said that I was just moving bad karma from one place to another.

I should add that my secretary routinely uses kill traps to contend with house critters. She lives in a rural area and routinely has mice that get into her house. She says that snap traps are the best method because the mice don’t feel any pain. She also sets kill traps for the gophers that get into her yard.

Sorry, I can’t bring myself to set out kill traps. Using live traps and then releasing the mice seems much more consistent with the Buddhist precepts I follow. Once I release the mice I don’t have much control over what happens. Assuming there is the risk that the mouse I released this morning gets into campus buildings and is killed by a trap, would the field a mile from my house be a better option? I live in a rural area. I regularly see birds of prey swoop down into fields and snatch small rodents. I also frequently see mice run across rural roads where they can get squashed by vehicles. Who is to say the mouse would have better odds in a field versus in a landscaped portion of a university campus?

Any advice for what to do the next time I catch a mouse in the house? What are “best Buddhist practices” in this area, to borrow a tired phrase from corporate higher education?


#2

Give the mouse a blessing and send it on it’s merry way. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


#3

I have the ‘mouse issue’ where I live as well.

I use catch and release traps. There are many on the market, some which work better than others.

Regarding ensuring the ongoing safety of the critters… The mouse lives in a world of dangers, for which we are not responsible. By releasing the mouse back into the outside world, one is not creating additional dangers. Where I live mice and rats are a particular problem, if they find ways to get into the house. If they can get in, then so can the venomous snakes that feed on them. As such I expend most effort in blocking access points - though sometimes they can be hard to find. Good luck :slightly_smiling_face:

:anjal::dharmawheel:


#4

I think you’ve all already mentioned this but I think it’s worth teasing it out a bit more…

Ultimately, we can only have very limited control and responsibility for ourselves. Dukkha suggests we can only do what we can for others and beyond that point, their kamma, the inherently unstable, suffering and chaotic nature of the world comes into play.

Within this kind of contextual perception, it is possible to feel at ease when you link back into your kind intentions towards the mouse, yourself and even your monastics.

Personally, I think you’re doing great! :slight_smile:


#5

Much appreciated! :pray:

I guess my anxiety was caused by putting my own concern for time against the best way to send the mouse on its happy way. If I had taken the time to stop by the empty field to release the mouse instead of releasing it on campus I may have spared it from what potentially awaits it if it seeks refuge in campus buildings that have kill traps in place. My secretary, who sets out kill traps in her home, was having a little fun at my expense by observing that my kind intentions might have unintended consequences.

What can I say? I’m kind of a sensitive person. Whenever I release a mouse I catch in the house I say to it as it scurries out of the trap, “There you go little guy. Enjoy your new home.” I am really taking my practice to heart, so if I come up short I try to re-double my efforts.


#6

This is cool, because you may be able to arrange your life so you can live with them. Not everyone can.

Can you maybe put the food that you want to keep for yourself into mouse proof containers? Maybe encourage them into any suitable out-buildings by leaving their favourite food there and releasing them there also? When I lived in the countryside and had some lovely mouse shaped house guests I noticed that they liked chewing through things to get to their favourite food stuffs, so don’t make it too easy for them to get their food in the out-building (presuming you have one). Thick cardboard is good fun for them I think, but they can be tough little buggers, they’ll gnaw through thick plastic to get to some Sugar Puffs.

The droppings are not terrible because you can at least see them. For me it was the urine. You need to make sure that all of your cutlery, crockery, pots and pans and food preparation surfaces are cleaned before you use them. If you can seal them away after washing, all the better.

I’m pretty certain that mice live in families and only roam close to their nest, so it’s likely to be pretty daunting to for them to be taken a mile away and released.

Good luck.


#7

I like mice and would adopt them as pets. Getting a vegetarian cat would be another option. :yum:


#8

I do my best to make the outside areas of my house as inviting a place to live in as possible. I don’t have any outbuildings, but I do have retaining walls and rock formation holding up hillsides. There are a number of readily visible burrows on the property where larger mammals live. Just a few days ago I was doing some yard work and a possum and I engaged in a staring match until s/he ambled down into he/r burrow. The municipality where I live recently passed an ordinance making it illegal to feed the deer. Fat lot of good that will do. Everywhere you look there is vegetation. The deer see my little village as an all-you-can-eat snack bar.


#9

Chant the Khanda Paritta. I did this when I had issues with pigeons on my balcony :slight_smile:


#10

I would say get an outdoors cat… they are cute and cuddly… and — murderous. You would find less mice, and less birds, and less insects… I would say get a cat, but I might be guilty of advocating killing in some way knowing what they are capable of.


#11

Plenty of my neighbors have outdoor cats. One of my nextdoor neighbor’s cats kept getting into another neighbor’s yard where it killed birds. One day the cat turned up dead, killed by a 22-caliber rifle. My nextdoor neighbor called the police and fingered the other neighbor. Both men had been long-time friends. The police declined to expend resources to do a forensics exam to determine the weapon used, nor go to court to get a search warrant to search the second man’s house for weapons. The men are no longer friends, Nasty stuff. I think I’ll stick with catch-and-release traps for now.


#12

perhaps it would be helpful to study “animal repellent s”. The idea seems to be using scent or other markers to cause critter avoidance.


#13

Good idea. I just ordered a set of six ultrasonic pest repellents online. I had thought about these in the past but I had a dog. The dog has since passed on, so now would be a good time to see if the ultrasonic devices work. Only $25.99 USD for a pack of six. It’s a low-cost experiment so if they don’t work it didn’t cost me much.


#14

We use Have-a-heart traps and then release the mice into a large plastic tote box where they can stay for a few hours until we have time to deal with them. Inside the larger box (which has a lid, of course) is some food (a bit of sesame and sunflower seeds) and some grass, paper, small cardboard boxes etc. to keep them interested in their space and reasonably comfortable. This holds them overnight, whereas the traps themselves are too small and the mice may die after a few hours of confinement and in the meanwhile make a lot of frantic noise, disturbing our sleep. By placing them in the larger totes from the smaller traps, we avoid this problem. You can also put a blanket over the tote to muffle any noise. Then we find a suitable place to release them away from the house. We also use 'sonic balls" which plug into electrical outlets and make a sound the mice dislike. You can find them at hardware stores or online. The use of such balls discourages them. and, of course, be impeccably clean in kitchen and elsewhere. They go where they can find food and shelter. Good luck. An age-old problem.


#15

I use the Have-a-heart traps as well, and recently purchased the ultrasonic devices. From what I have read, many mice eventually adjust to the sounds emitted by the ultrasonic devices and become accustomed to them. I will just have to wait and see. Mostly my concern in the past has been with where to release the critters. Mice are, after all, prey animals. Sooner or later many of them end up as food for predators (of which there are many where I live). I am more comfortable releasing them into the wild than around buildings. I think I would rather have them meet their fate in the talons of a hawk than in a kill trap or by the poison that many people set out in their homes or places of business. That’s what haunted me when my secretary informed me about pest control at the university where I work.

I understand life entails death. Perhaps what I should be working on in my practice is better acceptance of the impermanence of existence. Everyday I make progress, but there is always work to be done.


#16

We are all born to die, and that includes mice. Their survival strategy is to reproduce large numbers, which ensures that there are always some to carry on. The remainder fall prey to natural predators and the devices of humans. There is nothing we can do about the situation. It is as it is. Only we can practice kindness to the mice that happen to find their way into our homes.


#17

I had field mice and rats around my last place. When we went there 17 years ago Harry the cat came along too. But of course his life was limited and at that time I was becoming aware of the carnage that introduced animals, especially cats, were wrecking on native species so he was never replaced. Our solution was to rodent-proof the whole house, which meant repairing holes in the fabric, maintaining the fly screens over the windows, keeping grates over drains and using steel wool to stuff small holes. The rodents stayed outside, but still came by at night to eat up the bird seed ignored by visiting parrots, and we were well protected inside.


#18

Brief update: I have placed plug-in ultrasonic pest repellents in strategic locations in the house and sealed up every trace of food in the kitchen. To date, no evidence of mice coming in the house. But given my location in a wooded area I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually some come back. When I lived in rural upstate New York many years ago some friends of mine discovered that mice had been gnawing on wooden chopsticks in their cutlery drawer. They decided they needed to get mouse traps. One of my friends said to her partner, “What should we use as bait?” Without skipping a beat I responded, “Chopsticks!” :joy:


#19

My neighbour has a pet seagull called “Archie” who lives on his roof and hangs around for snacks. The local cats don’t like Archie. :yum: