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Helpful Hints

by Heloise | April 3, 2021 at 1:41 a.m.

DEAR HELOISE: We had a mice problem at our ranch house, so it was time to get innovative. This might sound odd, but bear with me.

I took clumps of used cat litter and left it around the house, inside and out. The mice got the message (that a cat is here) evidently, because we haven't seen any mice since.

The odor was not bad to me; it can vary, of course, and may be offensive to some.

-- Nancy O. in Texas

DEAR HELOISE: I've been following you for years and years. I believe in recycling and upcycling. Especially during the pandemic, I've received many deliveries in boxes. Rather than put them in the recycle bin, I break them down and save them until I have enough to give away. I remove personal labels and offer the boxes for free on the many social media platforms.

Usually within four hours, the boxes are all gone; people always need boxes for whatever reason.

I save the packing material for my charity resale shop owners, who are so appreciative of this material they'd otherwise have to buy.

-- Vicki C. in Fredericksburg, Va.

DEAR READERS: Spring is upon us, and you may be heading to the lake. Spot some ducks and want to feed them? Please don't grab the bread.

Bread does not contain the correct nutrition and calories for ducks and birds. Birds of all varieties cannot digest bread; bread in the water causes pollution; foul-smelling water and algae can kill fish and also give birds disease.

What are good foods to feed ducks? Here are some ideas: cut seedless grapes, cooked rice, birdseed, cooked peas and corn, oats and chopped lettuce

DEAR HELOISE: My dog suddenly has black stools. What could that mean?

-- Hilda S. in Texas

DEAR READER: Black stools can be serious. It might mean that the dog is passing blood from a digestive upset, an infection, an injury, or even cancer.

It also could result simply from eating dark-colored foods. A trip to the veterinarian is called for; take a sample and be prepared to talk about any oddities in the dog's behavior.

DEAR HELOISE: When I buy spices and condiments, I take a magic marker and write the expiration date on the label. I also do that when I open items that only last for seven to 10 days once opened, such as drinks, cottage cheese, hummus, tomato sauce, lunch meat, etc. I enjoy reading your column.

-- Lorraine E., Staten Island, N.Y.

Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000; fax to (210) 435-6473; or email

[email protected]

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