The kitchen became their main port of call because of crumbs and other minute detritus from the day’s work which escaped Fundi Dor’s vigorous sweeping. However, their behaviour never changed much and we were concerned that they might decide to make our home theirs on permanent tenure and we would have the same problem as with the stripey mother and her brood. Also, we did not want more tassel-less rugs.
But how to remove them? An ordinary trap cage for rats wouldn’t work because they were so small they would step right out through the wire mesh. Anyway, they were so light they couldn’t trigger the trap.
Therefore, make a pygmy trap. I built a five-star model which would win a medal at the Royal Expo. My neighbours thought I was crazy. For a mouse? Good God, man, what’s wrong with a mousetrap?
It was La Elegance, the George Cinq of mousetraps, pour prendre de souris without harm. All it needed was hot and cold running water.
It began as a simple wooden box with sides and roof of wire mosquito screen and a hinged door which could be tripped shut once the mouse was inside. It worked but Mr or Mrs Minutoides calmly chewed their way out through the mesh and headed for the kitchen.
So, reconstruct. It ended up as a wooden-ended box with a floor-to-ceiling perspex wall, a ceiling of stronger mesh, a trapdoor in the ceiling through which to supply room service, a small dark corridor where the current resident might wish to sleep during daylight hours, and the key to success – a portcullis which the mouse triggered itself. The whole thing was about twice the size of a shoebox.
A tiny hole was bored low down through the perspex. A cotton thread went through this, up the outside and over a stanchion to fasten to the top of the portcullis. A piece of tennis biscuit was looped on the end of the thread inside the suite to hold it there and tensioned just enough to keep the portcullis up and open.
Launching day came. We placed the box on the kitchen floor next to the cupboards and waited. Right on time a pygmy mouse emerged from somewhere (we never did find where they spent their days – our house is full of boltholes) and trotted briskly into the kitchen. It wandered about for some minutes before approaching the box.
Aha, something new. The mouse was no fool. It walked all around the box, sniffing busily. It smelt the piece of tennis biscuit no bigger than a shirt button. It paused at the open entry. The falling door was poised right above it; obviously it had no experience of mousetrap architecture. It walked in, step by slow step, across the floor of the box to the biscuit. It nibbled. The biscuit collapsed, the thread slipped out through the hole, the falling door fell with a clunk.
The mouse whipped around so fast it was a blur but not fast enough. It was caught, fair and square, unhurt. It shot up a wall, tried to bite through the mesh roof and failed and dropped back. For several minutes it scuttled across every centimetre of the inside of La Elegance until it reached the conclusion there was no way out. It tried chewing the thread hole larger but the perspex was too tough. Finally it gave up and sat there in the middle of the pygmy prison, quietly awaiting whatever fate might bring.
Through the trapdoor Fate brought more biscuit, a tiny pan of water, raisins, bread and pieces of fruit. The mouse did not try to escape when we opened the trapdoor and hid in the bedroom.
Although not as colourfully attractive as the four-striped mouse, the pygmy was beautiful in the perfect symmetry of its tiny body, its dark shining eyes and the fairy paws holding its food as it ate, so small one wondered how they could accommodate bone and muscle.
It moved with smooth grace and great speed when it wanted to, Mighty Mouse on steroids.
Okay, now that we had caught it, what did we do with it? Answer: take it far from the house and release it into the wild.
To be continued next Friday 16 Jan /-