When faced with a pest problem, many people believe they can handle it themselves. Until last week, I was one of them. I’ve spent nights crushing spiders until the invasion itself was crushed and possibly hours prodding stink bugs into plastic cups, then rushing them outside. In college, I vacuumed up an entire colony of Asian lady beetles. It wouldn’t recommend it. This mano-a-mano approach to pests is likely a behavior learned from my dad who, when I was a child, was more than once the only thing that stood between me, my mom, and a wasp nest. For most of my adult life, bare hands, rolled up magazines, and pesticidal sprays were my weapons of choice in the war at home. This winter, however, I was defeated before I even saw my enemy.
The trouble began with a proverbial “cat lady.”
I’m a single writer with a guitar for a roommate. A one-bedroom apartment on the second floor of an old house is all the space I need. My downstairs neighbor was a widow with a cat for a roommate. In a neighborhood full of cats, she couldn’t resist herself. Plates of food would appear on the porch. Not cat food. People food. Like the pests they would soon attract, the plates multiplied and spread. I found them on the steps, the sidewalk, the grass…
There’s an inherent irony to a cat hangout developing a mouse problem, but I suppose that, when cats cartoonishly get fat on leftover lasagna, they’re less inclined to hunt. I also suppose cats can’t tell when they’ve become stereotypes.
The noises started as summer turned to fall. They were subtle, at first. Faint scratching followed by silence. An under-the-floor rattle that seemed to move across the kitchen. They were the sort of “It was probably the heater” sounds that allow one to live in denial until droppings are found while getting a parka out of the closet in late December. Still, I had never seen the mouse, and my apartment was clean. It was probably a one-time thing.
Then my neighbor moved, and with her went the porch plates. The cats were confused. The mice took action. With no more food downstairs, they adapted. A few days into having the house to myself (so I thought), I looked across the kitchen and saw a mouse pop out of my toaster, look at me, then run along the counter and disappear behind the fridge.
I bought traps, and the next day, found two mice in them. The following morning, a trap was missing. I found it under my couch with no mouse but the bait gone.
That day, I got ready for work with my toothbrush in one hand and my smartphone in the other. I had heard about Masters Pest Control from coworkers who trusted them to quickly and safely solve pest problems, so I went to their website and called the toll-free number.
As of writing this blog, I have an appointment with one of Masters’ technicians, tomorrow. At least one mouse is still at large, but I trust that the Masters will find the solution, the source of the problem, and maybe even material for another blog. I’ll let you know.