How I Built a Better Mousetrap

One morning, while I was eating my breakfast, three little faces appeared from behind my stove. Uh-oh. They looked like Mousy—the little “mouse” who had been living behind the stove for half a year but had grown into an adult rat—and her offspring.

I don’t think it was just the square meals that she got that had caused little Mousy to grow into a full-fledged rat. She had been getting outside through a hole in the wall behind my microwave oven—and into, ahem, the family way. The time had come to take action. But a Havahart trap that I bought at the hardware store did not fool these clever rats. None of the animals walked into the humane trap that was waiting for them with tempting food inside for a full week. No amount of sunflower kernels and not even peanut butter could persuade them.

After one handyman let me down, my new German one, Uli, closed up the hole and securely sealed it with an expandable foam that has a smell that rodents dislike. After that, we only saw the little ones darting about, mostly around dinner time. I am not one who runs away from rodents or shrieks. I wouldn’t have had time anyway, as they ran over my feet.

Fritzie, my cat, had been having a ball watching all their comings and goings, never lifting a paw to trouble the rats. So much for cats catching rodents.

What eventually worked was a thermos/coffeepot with a spring-loaded lid that I laid on its side, in broad daylight (contrary to the advice that I had been given) while I sat there holding the lid. I got the rats acquainted with the thermos by leaving veggies in it. One of the rats gently sniffed my finger, which I had resting on the lid, ready to flip it closed behind her, but my finger trembled ever so slightly, and she was gone. Animals teach us patience, of which I’ve never had much.


One morning, while preparing breakfast, I caught two of the rats in the thermos, one after the other within 15 minutes. One was left, probably wondering where her sister or brother had gone, and went into the thermos not long afterward. I released them all outside, some distance from my condo complex, in a watery wilderness area, since I didn’t want them to get into someone else’s unit. And rodents like wet areas.

Having saved three lives against all odds and the disbelieving eyes of Uli, I felt like a hero. I had already told him that I don’t eat animals and therefore don’t kill any. In the end, I knew I had won him over when he started telling me about his daughter who had a pet rat when she was a teenager back in Berlin. She provided the rat with a tiny bowl of water to wash down food—in this case, veggies and dry cat kibble.

My thermos holds about a liter, but any thermos laid on its side with food inside and a bit of a trail leading to it does the job, as long as you keep your finger on the cap trigger and release it at the right moment. If you keep one on hand, you’ll never have to run out and buy a trap in a hurry. And you can use it for coffee, too!

Gundl Bhutani is a friend of PETA President Ingrid Newkirk, who introduced her to PETA via an eyewitness investigation CD while driving to a business meeting. Gundl stays updated on PETA’s work through quarterly telephone town hall meetings. She lives in Sarasota, Florida, and her passion is helping humans and other animals with nature’s unspoiled essential oils.