I was about two weeks into my very first NYC apartment when I heard the sound no one wants to hear: the scurry of a small creature across a hardwood floor.
Naturally, I woke up one of my roommates (The boy, of course. Feminism is all but dead to me when it comes to vermin.) We stood together in the kitchen for a few minutes, and then we saw the sight no one wants to see: a little flash of gray darting across the kitchen floor as a mouse found its way into an unseen hole behind the oven.
Once we felt it was safe to climb down from our respective perches on the chair and sofa, we went directly to Duane Reade and spent what felt like a respectable amount of money on mouse traps and poison, hoping never to see another mouse again.
We ended up catching 15-16 more mice in our apartment over the next few months. I say 15-16 because at one point I lost count.
At this point, you are perhaps too grossed out to continue (understandable), in total awe of the sheer bravery I demonstrated by living under these conditions (thank you, I am quite inspirational), or you, too, have dealt/are dealing with this problem and are looking for a little empathy and some answers. As far as the empathy goes, I’ve got you covered. I know how unnerving it is to wonder if you will encounter a mouse, dead or alive, on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. And as far as tips for dealing with mice, I’ve got plenty– many of them courtesy of my boyfriend’s sister, Jenny, who patiently told me everything she knew while I was probably crying inconsolably into the phone. (In addition to being quite inspirational, I am also extremely calm under pressure!)
Before going forward: I am not a lawyer and none of this is legal advice. If you are at the point of needing legal advice in your own mouse saga, good luck, and please refer to a legal professional.
- There is no such thing as a better mouse trap. There’s a reason that Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” There is no such thing as a better mouse trap. The old-school snap traps work, and if you want the mice out of your apartment, you have to use them. I know it’s tempting to use those traps that hide the dead mouse so you don’t have to look at it, but they don’t work. Better to get that fact out of the way now than to spend money on something that won’t be effective.
- There are ways to make traps more bearable to use. This is a Jenny tip, and it is genius. Put your traps on top of plastic bags so that when you catch a mouse, you can just pick up the handles of the plastic bag and throw it away. You don’t have to pick the trap up or touch it at all.
- This is not the time to become an animal rights activist. I am a vegetarian and all for animal rights, but once mice get in your home you have to get them out– that involves traps. It’s either you or them, and they don’t pay your (unreasonably high) rent.
- Peppermint oil may or may not work, but try it anyway. Apparently mice hate the smell of peppermint, so if you spray some peppermint oil in your apartment they might stay away. Some people also soak cotton balls in peppermint oil and stuff them into the corners of their kitchen. I bought essential oil and a spray bottle from Amazon to try this myself, and while I’m not sure if it worked I can say for certain it will make your apartment smell fresh and weirdly Christmas-y.
- You have to block the mice from entering your apartment. Mice can fit into extremely small openings the size of a pencil, so you have to diligently plug all holes in your apartment. Use steel wool to fill the holes, not just plaster, because mice can chew right through the plaster. Steel wool is much more preventative, though it can cut your fingers, so use gloves!
- Use poison in addition to traps. We put this poison behind our appliances and after a few weeks we never saw another mouse. There’s always a chance you end up with a dead mouse behind your oven, but so far that hasn’t happened to us.
- If you’re renting, your landlord needs to help you (at least in New York). In New York, state law requires your landlord to keep your apartment free of pests, including mice. If your landlord doesn’t do anything about the problem, you can try telling them you’ll call 311 and report them to the city if they continue to do nothing. Be extremely direct with your landlord about getting rid of the mice, and don’t worry about being annoying or aggressive– it’s your right to live in an apartment that is free of pests!
- Document everything. Just in case you do have to go to court over this, it helps to be prepared. Document every mouse you catch and every bit of “evidence” (read: poop) with a time-stamped photo. My roommates and I have a whole Google Drive folder of dead mouse pictures and I worry occasionally someone might find them and think I am extremely unwell. But there was a time when we thought we may have to take our landlord to court, and we were happy to have these just in case!
- Put all of your food in containers. Put all of your sugar, flour, etc. in Tupperware and put whatever you can in the fridge. I think it goes without saying that you shouldn’t leave food out, either.
- A mouse never crawled into my bed while I was sleeping. This isn’t exactly advice, but it is one of the most Googled things about mice so I thought I’d put your mind at ease.
And finally, remember– this too shall pass. If you do a diligent job trapping, poisoning, and blocking mice, you will eventually beat them and get your apartment back. The more I talked about this with people, the more I realized many city dwellers deal with a mouse problem as a rite of passage; you’re not alone. It totally sucks, and there’s no way around it, but you’ll definitely end up with a story or two– and an apartment that smells like a fresh peppermint leaf.