Eggnog, is one of the sweetest-natured cats who has ever lived with us. She is placid, never one to make an uproar. We sometimes comment tolerantly that perhaps she is not the "brightest" of cats. Still, when I saw her lurking interestedly in the pantry on Friday morning I should have recalled that she has always been quick to note the rare presence of a mouse. I was busily packing items to take with us to Howard and Heidi's--the new teakettle, fresh salad makings, butter--mentally ticking off my list and filling a basket with perishables. Eggnog eventually wandered off for a nap and I tried to ignore that Charlie was now hovering in the pantry. Charlie is an amiable buffoon, a klutz, and not to be taken seriously.
However, I have recently stocked the pantry shelves with winter stores of red beans, white beans, pearled barley, cornmeal--most of these staples tidied away in glass or plastic containers. On the floor of the pantry reposed a 25# bag of unbleached flour, a 25# bag of raw sugar and a rank of small cooking appliances and oddments. I didn't want to undertake a mouse patrol, neither did I want to think of a mouse messing about with the supplies.
With Charlie at my elbow, I began cautiously shifting items on the pantry floor, hauling things out into the kitchen. Several cats arrived to see what I might be doing. I was almost satisfied that this was a false alarm, when moving a basket containing neatly folded paper bags, I saw a fat mouse cowering in the corner. Startled, I let out a yelp, which in turn sent Charlie out of the pantry. The mouse scooted past my knee and ran in dizzying circles around three sides of the pantry. Charlie crouched at the edge of the island unit and when I reached for him, darted out of reach. I scooped up Teasel and plumped her into the pantry, whereupon she immediately snatched the mouse and ran for the bedroom. I had no clear plan of action at this point, but was sure I didn't want the mouse to take up residence in the bedroom or squeeze under the closet door to die in my sweaters or in one of my best shoes! Fetching a broom from the entry, I followed a convoy of cats into the bedroom. On the way I picked up my camera--after all, everything that happens is a worthy photo op!
Our huge lodgepole bedframe sits solidly with only a few inches to spare between its rails and the floor. From this space came Teasel's warning rumble as several cats gathered to see what she had. Flattened on the bedside rug, I peered into the dim and slightly dusty cavern under the bed. The first thing I noticed was several of the toy mice which the cats smack about for fun. The second thing I saw was that Teasel, rather than speedily dispatching the mouse, was letting it go, then patting it with a playful paw.
At this point J., home from errands, entered to see me and a row of cats, bottoms up and intent on activity under the bed. The flurry of his arrival sent Teasel and the mouse rushing inches from my face as they exploded from under the bed. J. yanked a dresser away from the wall to find the mouse climbing the back of it. Jemima scaled the dresser in one leap and MEOWED at the mouse, who fell from the heights, shot between J.'s feet. careened past me with an army of felines in hot persuit. We wove through the kitchen and out to the entry. Charlie triumphantly seized the mouse and brought it behind the rocking chair in the dining area where he could gloat. J. attempted to herd Charlie toward the entry, Charlie let go of the mouse which scurried, squeeking madly, behind the cats' water dispenser. Bracing myself for the kill as J. tweeked the container aside, I watched as he grasped the mouse by the tail and carried it out through the garage to release it--alive--and probably well enough to invade again. Charlie gave J. a bewildered look, Teasel, disgruntled, stomped off, Eggnog returned to her nap on the bed, the "kittens" bustled around their dad-cat, Charlie, as if to say, "What happened, where did it go?"
We continued packing--and continue now to wonder how the mouse got in--the second one this month to find entry into a nearly new house.
The odds of two humans and 8 cats against one poor tiny mouse isn't very good sport, but I am reluctant to share even a grain of rice or a single lentil with mouse-kind.
Teasel under the bed with her victim and a fuzzy toy mouse ironically sharing the photo.
Charlie with his prize. Astonishingly, the mouse seemed quite uninjured with all this handling by its captors.