The Uninvited

6th January 2016

It’s that time of year when my routine now has to include a daily check of the mouse trap. Most days in January, the “Little Nipper” – now nearly 30 years old – has extinguished the once-bright eyes of yet another mouse. Some are house mice, but most at the moment are field mice.
I’m not sure why these creatures want to move indoors and live with me. There’s no ready supply of food, and it’s not as if the temperature outdoors is so cold that the mice are going to be noticeably more comfortable inside. But the mice droppings are clearly unhygienic, and so their donors have to go.
I mention this because, as a bit of a traditionalist, I still use a small square of cheddar to bait my trap. But the other day I found myself caught up in an oddly fierce debate over whether this was really sensible.
Cheese, I accept, is not something that mice would eat naturally in the wild. Fortunately the government is never far away with useful advice. A Rural Development Service Technical Advice Note tells me that: “Cheese is not necessarily an ideal bait. Consider using foodstuffs on which the mice are already feeding. Examples of suitable baits include biscuit, porridge oats, other cereals and chocolate.”
The thought of any wild animal sitting down to a natural meal of biscuit, porridge or chocolate is something that hadn’t occurred to me before, so if the cheese starts to fail it’s good to know that I now have other options. A friend tells me that when it comes to catching mice, you can’t beat peanut butter for bait. Unless you use a malteser.

I once believed that pet cats would keep mice out of the house. In fact, the reverse was true, as the cats would bring all manner of prey indoors, spread a paste of feather and fur all over the place, and then sprinkle the scene liberally with vomit.
They do say that if you ever build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. So spare a thought for manufacturers of “sticky traps” whose business plan consists of glue-coated card or plastic which attaches itself, permanently, to any mouse daft enough to walk onto it.
There is now an animal-rights campaign to ban such traps, because apparently some mice bite their own limbs off in their efforts to escape. The captured mouse cannot easily be separated from the trap, so if it’s still alive you have to kill it, or wait for it to starve to death.
Who would have thought it could all be so controversial? Your suggestions would be most welcome. Meanwhile I am content to stick with my wire-and-wood spring-loaded contraption, unchanged since 1897.