If Three’s A Crowd, What Does Eight Make?

A true story about a time when an entire family of mice moved into my car.

Photo by Colby Ray on Unsplash

It was the summer of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, and I was working from home. As such, I was only using my vehicle sporadically to do grocery pickups or pharmacy runs.

I drive a Subaru Crosstrek and if there’s something you should know about Subaru owners, it’s that we tend to be obsessed with our cars/SUVs and generally take good care of them.

I’m certainly no exception to this.

My black leather interior gets cleaned and conditioned often. I vacuum the carpets meticulously, then cover them with Weathertech mats to ward off sand and salt. I get it Krowned yearly to prevent rust, and always select the luxury option at the car wash. I don’t even keep a garbage bag in my car because I don’t want trash lingering. The only thing rolling around in my dash compartment is a spray bottle of hand sanitizer.

So I was awfully surprised when one morning, while moving my vehicle to make space for his work truck, my husband found a small dropping — likely from a rodent, on my passenger seat.

Now while our house does back onto woods, I’ve never seen as much as a hint of rodents sharing in our space. Granted, we have two indoor cats, but even still, I wouldn’t be too surprised to discover a small mouse searching for warmth in our home during the winter months. Yet I never have.

We do get squirrels in our detached garage from time to time. Once, my husband started up his old 1988 Pontiac Fiero only to smell popcorn and notice a pile of seeds spitting out of his exhaust pipe. But because he didn’t drive his car often, and most of the year it stayed parked in the garage, it made sense. Finding a rodent in my car did not.

Though reflecting on the popcorn incident made me wonder if it was actually a mouse that got into my car, or if it could have been another small creature like a squirrel or a chipmunk.

Actually, I’d been feeding the neighborhood chipmunks recently and they’d run into my sunroom a handful of times looking for more birdseed. They’d even gotten so bold as to crawl up my boot to get my attention if I was standing outside. I joked to friends that I was actually becoming Snow White during the pandemic. It might’ve been wishful thinking, but I thought maybe the chipmunks decided to search for my car for more food and left some evidence behind?

Unfortunately, a quick Google search revealed the dropping my husband found on my passenger seat was in fact that of a mouse. So my next thought was maybe the discovery of a single dropping was a fluke, something I could clean up and never have to worry about again.

I reasoned if a mouse got into my car looking for food, that meant it could also get out once it found none — right? I imagined maybe it went into my car to stay warm, thinking there’d be ample food supply a few feet away at my back door. Unfortunately, I’d stopped feeding the chipmunks, so if the mouse was looking for food – it wouldn’t find any.

I wiped down my seats, vacuumed my carpets, and put mint teabags in every crevice as the internet told me mice are deterred by the smell of mint. Then, I got really upset the following day when I found even more droppings littering my trunk.

“I think I have a mouse in my car,” I texted my neighbor frantically.

He’s a father of adult children around my age, and since my own dad passed away two years ago, he’d been helping me out a lot — especially when my husband was gone weeks at a time for work.

“Uh oh! Need some help setting up traps?” he replied, to which I quickly texted back “Yes!”

Now I hate killing animals and will avoid it at all costs if I can. But I knew mice were hard to get rid of, multiplied quickly, could do a lot of damage, and often harbored bacteria and viruses. So there’s absolutely no way I was going to let a mouse live in my car.

I also spoke with a local pest control company to ask their advice, hoping they’d recommend something I hadn’t thought of to deter mice. “Just keep trapping them,” is what they replied.

And so my neighbor and I decided to set traps and leave them in my car overnight, as rodents are most active when it’s dark out. Apparently, they also love peanut butter, but since I’m allergic I opted for whatever was in my fridge at the time — which ended up being provolone cheese.

My neighbor helped me set three provolone snap traps — one on the floor of my passenger seat, one in the back seat, and one in the trunk.

“Text me in the morning if you catch anything, and I’ll help you dispose of it,” he told me before heading in for the night. I agreed and went to bed convinced that I’d trap the mouse the next day and be done with the whole ordeal.

The following morning, I woke up early and decided to take a quick peek through the windows of my vehicle to see if any traps had gone off. I’d never caught a mouse before and didn’t quite know what to expect.

Would there be a mess? Was it hard to trap a mouse? Could it eat cheese and not get caught in the trap? Would it still be alive if it was caught? Would I be able to see anything at all?

But what I did not expect was the fact that not one, but four, mice were caught in my traps—and one of my traps caught a hattrick (3 mice at once). I was horrified. I texted my neighbor something along the lines of “Oh my God, there are four” and texted my husband “I think I caught the three blind mice.”

My neighbor came by and actually took a picture of the mouse hattrick because he said he’d never seen anything like it. He laughed for a while at the number of mice we’d caught in one go, then he helped me dispose of them and reset the traps. My husband told our friends about the mice and they started nicknaming me “the butcher.”

At this point I figured, come on — there’s no way in hell I’d have more than four mice, right? Boy, was I ever wrong.

About an hour after resetting the traps, I stepped outside and noticed two more had gone off. This is when my anxiety really started to peak.

The final total was eight. I trapped an entire family of eight mice who’d moved into my car. This also meant I DROVE AROUND FOR DAYS with an entire family of eight mice in my car, and I had no idea.

I couldn’t have made that number up if I tried. I didn’t sleep calmly for weeks, because I kept waking up thinking there were more mice around me. I was grossed out, angry, and personally offended that they chose my clean, treasured car to bunk in.

After the snap traps had spent an entire night not going off, I finally was able to clean my entire vehicle top to bottom, including shampooing the carpets and engine. It’s in doing so I discovered the mice had nested in a soundproofing compartment beneath my cabin air filter. So that’s where they got in and were sleeping during the day.

I replaced the cabin air filter, threw out the insulation the mice had nested in, and also added a small metal mesh lining to block the intake and prevent entry to any other animals — rodents, or otherwise.

If you knew me, you’d know this ordeal was particularly traumatizing given how neurotic and hygiene-focused I am. My God, there wasn’t even a food crumb in my car before the mice got in. This sort of thing doesn’t “just happen” to people, but of course, it happened to me.

And I mean, one mouse would’ve been more than enough — but eight mice, now that takes the cake.

Moral of the Story:

In my quest to become Snow White and feed the local chipmunks, I’d likely caused the chain of events that led me to be responsible for the death of an entire family of mice.

Be careful what you wish for.

I’m basically a house cat with a penchant for introspection | IG: @shannonleighwrites

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