The Day the Mouse Family Left Maine for a Better Life in Massachusetts

Last summer, I was in the middle of my high season of my vacation rental when I received an email message from my guest. 

“….We arrived last night.  Everything is great except the refrigerator doesn’t seem to be cooling our food.  We’ll check it again in a few hours and will let you know…”


The original rental house fridge. Who knew it was going to be a Trojan Horse.

A few hours later she emailed me back.  The refrigerator was still barely cooling the groceries.  Immediately I jumped on the phone with the nearest appliance store (I used Wall’s Appliance in Machias — their customer service is excellent).  They had good news for me as well as bad news.  The good news – they had one fridge in stock that would fit my cupboard measurements and it was reasonably priced.  Yay.  The bad news – it was your basic, plain, white refrigerator.  Freezer on top.  Fridge on bottom.  Bo-o-o-ring. Stainless steel would take a week to arrive, but they could deliver the white fridge immediately so, of course, I agreed to have the boring white one delivered.

After I ordered the fridge, I remembered something that I had heard from another vacation rental owner.  She had once mentioned that her guests sometimes complained about the fridge not cooling.  However, the refrigerator wasn’t actually broken.  In the warmer months, if you take an empty refrigerator and fill it to the brim with warm or room temperature food, the motor works harder and it can take days to cool everything down.  In fact, she leaves a little note on the fridge for her guests telling them to add things like soda and beer a few cans at a time instead of putting an entire case in at once.  So, instead of hauling away the old fridge during the new fridge delivery, I gave instructions to my property manager to leave the old fridge in the garage so I could evaluate it at some point.

Not long after that incident, my own refrigerator in my Massachusetts home starting making noises that no kitchen appliance should ever make.  Husband had a repairman out who could not breathe life into it.  So… I sent husband over to the rental to evaluate the garage fridge.  It seemed to be working fine, so I was very relieved not to have to purchase two new refrigerators in a one-year period.  I told hubby to bring back the ‘garage fridge’ to the Massachusetts house.  He arrived and we wheeled the beast into our kitchen and I plugged it in and filled it with our salvaged groceries.


My fridge that I LOVED (and a vegan cat). I couldn’t afford to spend more money for the repairman.

Within a few minutes, I noticed an odor wafting though the kitchen.  I asked hubby and kids if they smelled anything.  Nope.  I guess it was just me.  But then an hour later, at dinner time when the family gathered in the kitchen, everyone was holding their noses.  In my life I’ve had dogs, dozens of cats, chickens and other small creatures.  I knew that smell — urine.  Warm, wafting urine.  My refrigerator had transformed itself into one of those things that warms up and fills the room with fragrance.  Unfortunately, the fragrance of the week was ‘Eau du Mouse Pee”. 

No sooner did we all have the revelation that a mouse must have made a home in the mechanisms of the refrigerator motor, when a giant grey mouse scooted out from under the fridge and promptly ran across the floor and disappeared down the heating duct.  Another mouse ran under the kitchen stove.  And another!  Our refrigerator was a Trojan Horse for a mouse family apparently looking for a better life down south.  And these were no ordinary mice.  Although logically, I knew they were too small to be rats, I am convinced that they were the “Maine Coon”  equivalent breed of mice – huge and very healthy.

Now do you remember my mention of dozens of cats?  I don’t have dozens now, but I do have three.  Here was their time to shine!  Of course my pampered indoor cats didn’t have a clue what to do with the fleeing mouse family.  In fact, I’m convinced they are vegan. They barely looked around and yawned before settling back to their catnaps.  Clearly they would be of no help.

My daughter ran and grabbed a fish hook, put a piece of cheese on the end and lowered it into the heating duct.  She was going to do some mouse fishing.  Husband was more traditional – he pulled out some mousetraps and baited them and put them next to the stove.  The trap was almost instantly triggered by a dog nose trying to get to the peanut butter on the trap.  Take two.  Husband baited the traps and pushed them UNDER the stove.


My daughter mouse fishing down the heating duct.

Over the next two days, we caught two of the critters in the traps.  One of the kitties must have finally discovered her inner cat because there was a half of a mouse on my sofa one morning (yes, ON my sofa) and on the floor, vomit with assorted mouse parts.  Fresh game apparently does not agree with my cats’ delicate constitutions.

It’s now been about a week with no more signs of mice.  The pee scent is gone.  In case anyone is interested, it takes about 48 hours for the scent of urine to burn off of a refrigerator motor. Which is faster than I expected – it takes at least a week to burn off of an electric stove.  But how I know that tidbit of information is a story for another day.

Maria Lamb

About Maria Lamb

Maria is the owner of Wicked Awesome Maine Vacation Rentals based in beautiful Washington County, Maine.