Last week, I contacted clients of mine who’d moved into their new home two weeks ago to see how they were making out. “Everything went smoothly,” they said, “but there is a terrible smell in the house! We may have to tear up the carpets!”
The previous owners had a cat; they thought the cat might have been locked up in the basement during the move and perhaps used the carpet as a litter box.
I rushed over to take a look, with a big jug of Odoban in hand, but my immediate thought was “dead mouse.” Now, normally, mice don’t enter a house until the fall when the weather cools, but we’ve had a lot of rain lately, and I think any smart mouse would welcome having a nest indoors. I recently had another client who discovered a mouse nest in her kitchen, made out of paper towels. She had no idea she had a mouse problem. And she had a cat!
Anyway, I got to my clients’ house and sure enough, as soon as you walked down the stairs into the basement you could smell something awful. I got down on my hands and knees to smell the carpet; nothing. I borrowed a flashlight and walked around the basement but I couldn’t see any tiny carcasses. And then I saw a register on the wall where the screw was sticking out by a 1/4″. Sure enough, when I opened it up, there was the dead mouse. Problem solved.
Years ago, I had clients move into a new house who were ready to move out because of the stench. They thought maybe a raccoon had died inside a wall. Once again, it turned out to be a dead mouse. It’s amazing how much a tiny little decomposing mouse can stink up a house!
Many years ago, my father (who was in his late eighties at the time) asked if he and his girlfriend Martha could spend a week at my cottage. They’d reconnected after many decades (she was his high school sweetie) but she refused to stay overnight at his farm; I think she was afraid people would talk. So I guess they were hoping to have a little privacy, or what I called a dirty weekend.
Now, this was a very old cottage with lots of entry points for rodents (I later tore it down and rebuilt it), and it was absolutely mouse-infested. If I set out ten traps, I’d hear snappity-snap-snap within ten minutes. So I said “sure, Dad, as long as you keep the traps set” and warned him about the infestation.
It turned into one of those steaming hot weekends and I decided I’d best go out to check on them since there was no phone out there if they ran into trouble and they were both elderly. I found my dad in his underwear (gasp!) and Martha setting the table with crystal she’d brought out for their special weekend.
But I also walked into a property that smelled god-awful. “Did you check the trap-line?” I asked my dad.
“No mice in this cabin,” my father snorted. “Of course I checked the traps. Nothing there.”
I walked over to the cupboard below the kitchen sink and opened it up and sure enough, there was a decomposing, almost dessicated, dead mouse. I held the trap up to show him with the same glee as if I was twelve again and had proven him wrong.
“Oh Roddie,” Martha exclaimed “I told you it wasn’t the broccoli!” She’d been tossing out food all week thinking that was the source of the stench.
Now, a mouse doesn’t need gaping holes like the ones in my old cottage to get in and make itself at home.
I was showing a client a property a couple of weeks ago and we both watched in awe as a mouse flattened itself to the width of a couple of credit cards and climbed up the brick exterior and disappeared behind a soffit.
A week later, I was at a home inspection that uncovered mice in the attic – they’d excavated holes through the insulation and they were everywhere! I’ve read they can squeeze through a quarter inch hole.
So keep an eye out, and if you smell something awful, don’t assume your cat or dog has lost its training: take a look around for mice. One hint is if the smell keeps getting worse: that’s a pretty clear sign of decomposition.
The good news? Once you find the little carcass, it only takes a few days for the smell to dissipate. (But to help my clients along, I left that jug of Odoban with them to use on the carpet.)