Mouse in the House

Monday February 25, 2013
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Winter has arrived in sunny California, just in time for the House mouse to find a warm and cozy place to build a nest. …

There’s a Mouse in the House!

Mice and humans have lived together for eons in a “commensal” relationship, meaning they live on the same premises and eat at the same table (sometimes, literally!) People are often afraid of mice and given their propensity to carry disease, they probably should be but others have a love of mice and keep them as pets. For decades, mice in literature have captured the imagination of both children and adults. Mice figures in anthropomorphic drawings depict them with human characteristics in stories about these tiny-tailed creatures.

Three mice and cheese

Three mice discussing how to get a very large
hunk of cheese back to their “living quarters.”

One of the reasons mice are used in literature may be because we find story tales that represent these timorous critters who act so brave and bold (despite their small size) and we think, “If a little mouse can do it, so can I!”

The History of Mice

The word “mouse” has been traced to the Sanskrit verb “musha” which means “to steal.” The House mouse lived in Israel 12,000 years ago and was found in the first agricultural settlements in Mesopotamia and Egypt. This adaptable creature followed the earliest migrations of people around the world as a stowaway in grain supplies. Today, the mouse still prefers grains but will eat just about anything. And eat it does, 15 to 20 times per day!

Mice eating agricultural crops.

Mice were present in the first agricultural settlements of Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Su Casa Mi Casa

Like humans, the most important needs of the mouse is food and shelter. What better place than a warm home with a variety of favored grains (within a private room – pantry) such as oats, cereals, beans, rice, and pasta? Mice are not picky eaters so any cheese crumbs dropped from the kitchen table is a welcome addition to their diet. They are also grateful for the soft batting used to line their nests from your favorite comforter and/or chair. The 50 babies per year are grateful too. A battle between cook and mouse (`member The Three Blind Mice?) and homeowner vs. mouse is a never ending one.

mouse caught in an 1885 live mousetrap

A mouse caught in a trap – his fellow mice plotting an escape


How to catch a mouse: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” A phrase attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, philosopher and essayist (but misquoted from his original statement).  OK, here is the original so you don´t have to look it up, “If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.” Emerson´s statement has spurred entrepreneurs and inventors to create the ultimate mousetrap for the “oh so desperate” individuals determined to gain back control of their home.

Victor spring-loaded mousetrap

Spring-loaded Mousetrap

Since the time of Emerson, Americans have been trying to improve upon the mousetrap for more than 100 years; 4,400 patents later, the spring-loaded “Little Nipper” invented by James Henry Atkinson in 1897, is the basis for spring-loaded traps made today. Of course, there are other forms of trapping, including live-traps fashioned after earlier versions; and then there is the “all natural,” – a cat.

1883 Mousetrap

Old-fashioned Mouse Trapping – 1883

Keeping Mice out of the House

In order to keep mice within the pages of a book, where they can be admired and not in your home, remember mice can squeeze through an opening a ¼ of an inch in diameter; blocking off potential entry points is important, oh, and keeping food in tightly sealed containers prevents mice from “borrowing” from your pantry.

Article by Donna Walker


Illustrations are copyright free and within the public domain; source: Jackson, Nicholas. “Mousetraps: A Symbol of the American Entrepreneurial Spirit.” The Atlantic, 28 Mar. 2011. Mallis, Arnold, Handbook of Pest Control, 10th Edition, The Mallis Handbook Company, 2011.


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