How to kill a mouse when someone you love is watching
Content warning: animal cruelty in the form of misguided attempts at humane pest control
My apartment had mice.
The slumlord who owned the place clearly wasn’t going to take care of it.
Getting mice in your apartment is a true test of a relationship.
See, I’d been living alone, while the man I was dating at the time was abroad. I’d been taking care of the mice. I had tried a number of methods to get rid of them and unfortunately, the only ones that had worked were incredibly inhumane: glue traps.
The mice just weren’t going for the snap traps, or the tunnel traps, or the poison. But whole families of mice, moms and babies, were going for the glue.
I had tried to make them more humane. It was possible to remove the mice from the glue traps by dissolving the glue with oil, then using other methods to kill the mouse. It was probably not worth it, and only excessively stressing the mouse, to bother freeing it first. But the mice struggle so hard to free themselves from the glue traps that they can tear off their own feet; they often die of apparent heart attacks in the traps.
It is difficult to know what is really humane, in terms of killing an animal. But when it is necessary to kill an animal, we sort of make wild guesses at what is humane. And perhaps what we are doing is actually torture. And perhaps it is humane, but will be perceived by others as torture.
And of course, what is considered “humane” for a mouse is based on exactly how much humanity a person thinks a mouse deserves.
So while I was alone in my apartment, I used several methods to kill mice that I had read online were humane. Some argued that the most humane method was to smash them with a hammer or a boot, and I wasn’t willing to do that. But the blunt object approach is a normal way to kill something, and I resorted to methods that were less normal: like injecting them with good Scotch, putting them in the freezer, or gassing them with carbon dioxide.
Having to research how to kill an animal, having to do it in an elaborate manner that isn’t just smashing it with a brick, experimenting with different methods of killing, makes it seem cold and calculated.
Serial killer shit.
Human beings have been killing animals for longer than we have been human beings, and yet I worry that being able to do so makes me somehow inhuman.
My other options would be:
To throw the glue traps whole in the garbage and let the mice scream and tear themselves apart until they die.
Or throw them outside, and let them be mauled by feral cats, which will themselves become ensnared in the glue traps.
Or free the injured mice and throw them outside so they’ll run right back into my house.
There is truly no kind way to kill an animal: death is horrible. But if you want to do it humanely, you have to start thinking more like a killer.
It is worse to have to do this with rats: they are intelligent. They are incredibly destructive. They dismantle traps. They mourn their dead.
When my boyfriend returned, we still had mice.
So I had to start involving him in the mouse-killing.
He was a vegetarian. I was afraid that the methods I had thought were maybe humane would not be humane enough for him. I was afraid that he would think I was a monster if he saw me killing a mouse, the wrong way.
So I didn’t tell him how I’d killed mice in the past. I would have to run methods of killing by him as though I hadn’t already done them, in case he thought they were horrible.
I decided to let him take the lead on the mouse hunt. We still had glue traps out, and he didn’t seem to have a problem with that. But then, one morning, we woke up to a large, healthy mouse writhing and screaming in one of the traps.
We had to decide what to do with it.
I had previously used a method to kill mice that involved carbon dioxide gas, made by combining baking soda and vinegar. In the ideal method, the mouse would be kept in a separate container to keep it dry and isolated from the frightening noise of the chemical reaction. The gas would first put it painlessly to sleep, according to some shit I read online, then kill it. However, I had not bothered to build a mouse execution chamber. Partially because it seemed difficult and partially because that sounded like some neo-Nazi shit. I had simply put the mouse in a takeout soup container with baking soda and vinegar. This made the mouse’s death somewhat less peaceful, but much easier; much less risk of something going wrong.
I suggested to my boyfriend that we build a mouse execution chamber.
It was, I believe, two plastic containers connected with a tube made from a plastic bag, held together with tape. The idea was that the CO2 would be created in one container and flow through the plastic-bag-piping into the other, which contained the mouse.
My boyfriend named the mouse Mickey.
Mickey was a handsome little mouse. They were all adorable, and they were all nibbling my food and my paper towels and my handmade books and shitting and pissing all over my house and they could have given me hantavirus and, you know, they had to go.
We released Mickey from his trap and sealed him into one side of the death Tupperware.
We put some baking soda and vinegar on the other side. The reaction created a high froth, releasing invisible CO2. We could tell the gas was flowing into the second container because Mickey was drifting slowly to sleep. But it was taking time: the mice had collapsed nearly instantly using the one-container method.
There wasn’t enough gas.
There was almost surely a leak in the shoddily constructed gas chamber.
And after watching Mickey for maybe fifteen minutes, my boyfriend took him out of the container and picked him up in his hands. Just held him, looking at his unconscious body, mourning poor dead Mickey.
Until Mickey began to wake.
And he just kept holding him; words of sorrow for poor Mickey, as he slowly roused. Mickey started to move his little feet, opened his little eyes. The drowsy mouse acted for several minutes as though he were tame, as my boyfriend fawned over him like a pet.
Then in an instant, Mickey perked up, leaped from his hands, and disappeared into the wall behind the radiator.