Battling mice in your student house
For roommates Poppy, Sarah, and Kate it all began with hagelslag. The three international students of international and European law had finally found a cosy house in city centre.
‘When we first moved in, we had a hard-core cleaning session for three days straight. The radio was on and everyone was just bleaching everything and throwing things out’, says Kate. ‘We noticed that there was a lot of those chocolate Dutch sprinkles – hagelslag – around the kitchen.’
The mouse girl
There was another odd thing: when the girls decided to throw out the carpet in their living room they noticed it was soaking wet. ‘And then we found some more of the hagelslag,’ Sarah says. ‘At that point, Poppy and I were starting to get suspicious, but neither of us wanted to say it out loud.’ Kate, on the other hand, was in denial. ‘I just kept telling myself “wow! The previous tenants must have been a hungry bunch.”’
I saw something run really fast from the couch into our footrest
And then there was the beautiful couch that the previous tenants had left behind. Poppy, now known amongst her friends as “the mouse girl”, was waiting for her mattress to be delivered and decided to sleep on it. ‘I fit in it really well and I was comfortable.’
But in the night, the impression of sudden movement woke her. ‘I saw something run really fast from the couch into our footrest. Then I thought I saw another one. I was really freaked out.’ But by the next morning, she thought she must have dreamed it. She continued to sleep on the couch.
One day the neighbours were blasting music from their unit. Annoyed, Poppy and Kate pounded on the walls. Suddenly, a mouse bolted out. ‘We jumped onto the couches and called Sarah’, says Kate. Neither of them had ever even seen a mouse before. ‘When I got home an hour later, they were both still standing on the sofas’, laughs Sarah.
In the end, an exterminator examined the Poppy’s couch. On the underside, the fabric was all torn up; an entire mouse family had made a nest inside the couch. Grossed out, they wanted to ditch the couch immediately. ‘But He told us that we should put poison into the couch and leave it for a week before we throw it out.’
The girls are not the only students battling a mice problem. City exterminator John Brantsma goes on ten to fifteen calls every week to get rid of mice in student houses. ‘Sometimes it’s the landlord who calls, other times it’s students. If there are holes in the walls and other constructional problems – which is how mice get there in the first place – then it’s the responsibility of the landlord. But usually mice are the responsibility of students.’
The mouse just ate all the peanut butter
Hygiene and food are the most important factors. ‘Students usually leave their waste-bags in corridors or beside their bins. They should make sure that they throw away their waste. And it’s better to keep food in boxes; if you leave it around on tables or open shelves, mice might come for it.’
Brantsma says that he only advises poison when you have a lot of mice. If there’s only one or two, traps would be more efficient. ‘Most people use wooden traps but it’s better to go for the plastic ones, they go off faster. Peanut butter on the traps is a great idea!’
But Malin, and international relations student who also has a major mouse problem, traps have not been so successful, not even with peanut butter. ‘The mouse just ate all the peanut butter, even the bit on the side of the trap!’
The mouse just sat on the trap. He looked at me; I looked at him. Nothing happened
She even made a peanut-butter trail from the mouse hole in the wall to the trap, in an effort to lure the mouse to its last snack. ‘I even wore gloves while I was setting up the traps! I read online that mice can smell humans on the traps.’ She finally resigned to buying large boxes to store all of the food on her shelves.
Psychology student Wiljo has been more successful. He knew he shared his century old house with mice, but decided to do something about it for his girlfriend’s sake.‘I finally decided to confront the problem because she was getting scared’, he says. ‘The mice were really confident. They could be half a meter away from my head and they wouldn’t move.’
His first attempts with traps were a failure. ‘I set one next to my bed. The mouse just sat on the trap. He looked at me; I looked at him. Nothing happened.’
But then he checked out the holes in the walls, tracked their pathways, and rearranged his furniture to corral the mice in the right direction. ‘I got five mice in one week like that!’ he gloats.
But Poppy and her roommates had to resort to poison. ‘The exterminator also put poison into the walls so that the mice would die in them’, says Kate.
We would sniff the walls trying to find where the smell was coming from
He had promised them it wouldn’t smell. But within a week the stink was unbearable. The girls continuously burned scented candles and kept all their windows open for days on end. ‘The smell in my room was so bad that I couldn’t even enter my room. I searched for hours and I couldn’t find anything – it was in the walls!’
‘We would literally sniff the walls trying to find where the smell was coming from’, Sarah adds.
Clap, stomp, yell
‘Before we moved in, when we went to visit the house to do paperwork with the previous people who lived there, they always had candles lit. We thought “aww they’re so cute, how nice, it’s so cosy” but now we know why’, says Kate.
When the girls enter their house now, they clap and stomp their feet. ‘We say “hellooo” really loudly so that if there are any mice, they hear us and hide’, says Sarah.
Kate recently saw a mouse while she was sitting on the toilet at one in the morning. Though she was still terrified, she says that they’ve mostly acclimated. ‘We left the house and stayed at a friend’s place the first time we saw a mouse. Now we just shout, hope it goes away, and try to deal with it’, says Kate.
How to get rid of mice
City exterminator John Brantsma is often called when students, or landlords, have a problem with mice. ‘Report the problem to your landlord’, he advises. ‘Make sure he is aware of the situation.’ Then, he says, clean up your house, make sure you have no waste inside, and place poison or traps.
Other methods won’t work. ‘There is a market online for machines that make noise to chase the mice away. But those don’t work.’ The same goes for mint: mice really don’t care about the smell.
Prevention is the best solution. So: clean your house, lock away the food in plastic bins, don’t leave cookies in your drawers, make sure your bin is closed, and keep pet food out of the way. Remember: mice only need a few grams of food every day, so every crumb is a feast to them.