There are mice in my apartment.
I know this because my cat had one of them in his mouth, though he didn’t seem to know how or want to kill it. He just sort of carried it around until I got him to drop it.
What do you do, then? There’s a mouse on your floor, a bit damp, and though there are no obvious signs of damage, it’s not running away. It’s just sitting there, staring up at you. I don’t know the right answer to this problem.
Obviously, you could just leave the room. Then the cat could have it. You should have never interrupted in the first place, you idiot.
But this isn’t what I decided to do.
Having no better ideas, I scooped the mouse up with a plastic jar and poked some holes in the lid. At the time I did this I wasn’t thinking very far ahead, and my goal was to contain the mouse in some way while I thought about what to do next. Better off in a jar than in my cat—it might have diseases! Better off in a jar than escaping behind the furniture and ruining my entire week.
Accidentally, I had taken an action to protect and assist the mouse. Having done this, the mouse became my responsibility. The context of the problem shifted. Instead of thinking about the most humane way to kill a mouse, I was now looking up options to give it the best chance at a long and happy life.
If you’ve never done this before, you should know that there aren’t very many options, and none of them are any good at all. There aren’t any animal shelters interested in taking wild mice, unless they’re feeding them to their snakes. You can’t release them in the woods or a park or something, because house mice have no idea what to do without, you know, a house. Your best bet, according to all of my research, is to release them into someone else’s house, or near a garage or a shed.
So that’s what I did. I wound up choosing a public facility I don’t understand very well, called a Senior Resource Center. I’m pretty sure they have food and activities in there, but no residents. This seemed like a fair compromise, as the alternative of chucking my mouse through somebody’s bedroom window felt rude. Maybe they have mouse traps in there already, I don’t know, but you can be sure I labored over this decision and decided it was the best bet.
I spent the next two nights trying to distract myself through random fits of inexplicable weeping.
Whenever I’d stop to think about it for a minute, I felt like I’d failed the creature in some way. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Maybe it hadn’t even found its way inside of the building. I pictured it hiding in a bush, scared and alone in the dark, slowly dying as it looks relentlessly for the family I stole it from. Maybe it’s still there with the bit of bird seed and water I left for it. I had a constant urge to go back there and check, as if I could help in some way.
Of course, since then I’ve seen and heard others skittering about. I’ve stuffed the gaps in the heat register with steel wool, to trap them in the walls while I wait for an exterminator to swing by and destroy the whole lot of them. It’s hard to get sentimental about it. I’m not just going to live with mice in my apartment. They’ll all die horribly, and I’ll sleep better knowing it.
Putting that particular mouse into a jar, even for just a moment, changed the way I looked at it completely. And I’m not sure I did a very good job of taking care of it, but, if nothing else, it’s way better off than the rest of them are about to be.