Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Mousetrap – my version

From ghoulies and ghosties
and long-leggedy beasties
and things that go bump in the night
may the Good Lord deliver us.
-  Old saying.

I’ve always adored cats, particularly since when as a 10 year old I read “Jennie” by Paul Gallico, the story of a little boy who while unconscious after an accident believes himself transformed into a cat and is taught to think like one to survive by Jennie, a wise female alley cat. (A wonderful story, I can’t recommend it highly enough)

I eventually got a grey tabby female when I was 17 and was heartbroken when she died as a result of complications after giving birth to too many kittens and probably because of my neglect born of ignorance.

I was only brave enough to consider it again 30 years later when I moved from a flat into a house with a garden, and in 2001 was overjoyed to get two 12-week old male kittens, Rusty and Banjo. This time I was in a country which encourages pet owners to learn about their pets and understand their needs, and I did all my homework. Neutering, chipping, vaccinating, worming, systematic flea programmes – all boxes regularly ticked.


But I never properly understood that when you take in pets there’s a catalogue of other living creatures with which you will be forced into contact and you simply can’t be squeamish. Except that I am, and John inevitably has to deal with unpleasant situations while I run away screaming like a prissy Victorian schoolgirl.


The boys – as I refer to them – have been known to 'bring friends home to play', in the shape of rodents or winged creatures of different dimensions, since the house backs onto a field. They may seem dead as they are roughly transported through two cat flaps held between the jaws of whichever triumphant feline has been lucky enough to catch them, but once in the warm and deposited on the carpet in front of a singularly unimpressed screaming female human, the victims' senses recover and their survival instincts return.

The rodents scuttle away as fast as their little legs will carry them, and should they be lucky enough to dodge the cat that bounds delightedly after them as the game is unexpectedly resumed, refuge is sought under a sofa, armchair or the fridge. The latter is the ultimate bunker, as it’s far too complicated to move said kitchen object, and there it stays long beyond the date it’s gone to meet its maker, until the smell forces us to prise it out somehow. Should the game be initiated without the knowledge of humans, then any hiding place is discovered by the same method – eventually.

With birds the scenario becomes more obviously dramatic, since anything less than a chicken in size has been forced through the catflaps at some point or another. Birds flap frantically around at ceiling level looking for a way out, with both cats using anything whatsoever – a piece of furniture, a plant, a vase, a picture with a substantial frame - as a means to reach the correct height to catch them, and the screams from the prissy female human are just an irritating distraction. If it is already too late for the poor avian and the humans come home to find it has perished, they can be assured that most of the corridor, the study and the sitting room will be strewn with feathers as one follows with horror the agonising trail of the struggle. Can these really be my sweet purring cuddly boys?

It’s cosy and heart-warming to see them curl up on the bed, all four residents of the house jostling for position on the same surface, trying to get a decent night’s sleep. Aaah. Then comes the unexplained little itch on the ribcage, followed by another on the arm, a third round the ankle somewhere. Too cold for mosquitoes, must be fleas.

FLEAS??  I thought the vet said that pet fleas don’t bite humans? Don’t tell anyone at work they’re fleabites. Yes but that means we’ve got fleas in the bed. And the female human threatens to scream in horror again.

I laugh as I tell friends over drinks about these extras I’ve had to learn to cope with. “They’re eleven years old now” I say “thank goodness there are no more surprises”. Mmm

“When did you last worm them?” asked John recently.

“Oh I don’t know can’t be more than a few months – I’ll get some worming stuff from the vet next week”.

But it wasn’t a few months, it was a year since I had wormed them, and I still shudder to remember it. It was inattention rather than neglect, and the worms thrived. I was having a very rare hypo one night, and at 2 a.m. found myself staggering to the bathroom to take a swig of honey because I had overdosed on insulin by mistake, and as I sat there half asleep with my head hanging, waiting for the glucose to kick in and make me feel better, I noticed that my ginger cat was unwell and was trying to tell me so.

I realised as if in a dream that he was about to be sick, but I still hadn’t enough energy to do what I would normally have done: pick him up and deposit him firmly in the bathtub.

Squeamish poorly female human therefore was forced to witness his unwellness, followed by what was to me, seeing it for the first time in my life, a scene from the film “Alien”. The unspeakable result was alive, with worms wriggling everywhere, to his obvious relief and considerable curiosity.

John was asleep, so it wouldn’t have been fair to do my dying fly routine. Weakly I stared at it all in disgust and sheer horror until the glucose did its bit and I was able to move, when I covered it with a bucket. After checking that little ginger was now clearly better, I went to bed with nightmares.

And yes, John cleaned it up for me the following morning… For my part, I went straight to the vet and purchased the necessary anti-worming stuff and diarised for next time.

The real drama came with larger creatures. A couple of years ago I went into the kitchen in time to see a very large mouse running across the sink, with Rusty monitoring its progress with great interest but no initiative. (“I caught it for you but you’re too late, it’s escaped. Oh well”). True to form I screamed the house down, but the subsequent visit by the rodent operatives found nothing.

And then a few weeks ago we gradually became aware that there were tiny black “things” all over the kitchen, and the drawer where I kept the carrier bags had shredded plastic remains in it. We have learned from past experience that rather than a rodent without a satnav, this is more likely to be a ‘playmate’ which got lucky and managed to disappear after being dragged through two catflaps. John bought a mousetrap, (which we judged to be the most humane method of dealing with the problem) and the vigil began.

A piece of cheese was temptingly placed in the trap, and the following morning it had been delicately removed with the spring still set. The following night another piece was placed further back, but he managed to rescue it from the jaws of death. On the third night we changed the cheese, but he wasn't fussy. Then we put the cheese in a tiny box shape so that he had to climb inside to get it – which like the trouper he was, he did, emerging unharmed. And so on it went, and by the end of a week we certainly had a victim, just the one: John’s thumb (nail still black). Where were the cats throughout all this? Blissfully unaware and uncaring, that’s where.

I was actually a bit sad when he was eventually caught – the tiniest field mouse you ever saw. But he only ventured out at night so there would have been no question of returning him to the field.  I was glad that the strong spring caught him squarely and he wouldn't have had time to know what was happening to him.

This constant confrontation with the local fauna is stressful, though I won’t deny it’s good for me to get used to these things. I tend to forget it all when I see the culprits curled up on my bed, purring and pleased to see me. I’m such a WUSS.


Photo Finish
from Lonicera's digital archive

First shots with my new camera




Tina said...

Yup been there. It is funny though how the person who has to do clean up changes depending on who is the wimpiest. With my first husband I cleaned up nothing..all mice were collected and caught by him. Now I am the clean up crew. David does set the traps and I dispose of all bodies :)

Way to remind me why I don't have a cat anymore. I was starting to weaken. We have a nearby pet shop with a cute little golden tabby in the window.


Sara said...

I really laughed while reading this. And also had to shudder. Our cat brought us a live mouse a couple of years ago - to our bedroom. The best part was watching my husband dance around in his underwear trying to hit the mouse with a shoe. The cat just sat and watched - probably just as amused as me.

Sandy Lee said...

I love cats too. And they are so sweet to bring all those "gift". One trick I learned with mousetraps-use a bit of peanut butter. Most times the spring is sprung on their first lick. My hubby tells me when there is a dead mouse in the trap-a reminder for me to throw the little bugger out- the mouse that is.

Joyful said...
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Joyful said...

I chuckled all the way through your story.

The book about Jennie sounds delightful. I confess I'd never heard of it.

I didn't think I was a cat lover until I adopted my dear cat many years ago. She was an indoor cat though she did like to get outdoors whenever she could. She would gaze longingly at the birds in the trees but she never went after them. Instead, she chased the butterflies and practised killing insects that managed to get in to the house in spring. It was fun watching her. Thankfully I never had to deal with worms or mice. I miss her and I haven't yet had the heart to get another cat she she passed.

Joyful said...
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Vagabonde said...

I enjoyed reading about your cats. We are cat people too and have two lovely felines. They do not go outside so they don’t bring unwanted creatures to us – it is for their safety as well as for the birds. We have 5 bird feeders very close to the house with a multitude of birds and would not wish to have them harmed. My veterinarian told us that cats live much longer inside – my daughter’s cat just passed away and it was over 21 years old.

Lonicera said...

Tina - is Grace wanting a cat? That golden tabby sounds wonderful...I think the pro's definitely outweigh the con's.
Sara, that visual image of your husband is just terrific, made me laugh too!
I'll remember the peanut butter Sandy, didn't realise they liked it.
Wouldn't you have another cat Penny? They're such lovely company... I could get you a copy of "Jennie" if you're interested...

Lonicera said...

Wow - didn't know one could keep them inside. All I think about is that I welcome the non-use of the litter tray! My cats are 11 - it would be lovely to have them for another 10 years...

Coral Wild said...

What an enjoyable story:) Cats are sooo much fun, I miss mine so much.
I love Paul Gallico but have never read Jennie - will have to find a copy!
The photos with your new camera are gorgeous - you must be having so much fun?

Joyful said...

I do want another cat, Caroline. I love their company. But at the moment and for the last while, I have been too busy with mom and my own health issues...so I felt/feel it best to wait and just enjoy my time. If it wouldn't be too much trouble, I'd love a copy of "Jennie". I could send you some funds for it. I know the post is expensive. Let me know and I can send it via pay pal ;-)

Lonicera said...

Absolutely not - I'll let you know how much it is and you give it to Missions of Hope. It would be something like £6-8 or so - are you OK with that?

Jonah said...
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Joyful said...

Hi Caroline, I am always happy for donations to be directed to the Missions of Hope, however those donations may come. Thank you so much!

I hope it isn't cold there as I hear that there is a big freeze in Europe. We are having wonderful, sunny weather here for a few days so that's a treat. Have a wonderful weekend.

Joyful said...

Hello Caroline, the book, "Jennie" arrived today. I've already started it and am enjoying this delightful little book very much! Thank you for sending it to me :-) Hope you're having a marvellous weekend so far.

Lonicera said...

So glad it's arrived Penny! Make sure you have tissues to hand!

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