Monday, September 12, 2011

Of Mice and Me

There was death on the doorstep this morning.

Neither reader--knowing, as they do, of our seven cats--will be surprised by this statement.  Nor was I, having been the recipient of more than one newly or nearly dead small creature at the door in the morning.

Often this 'gift' is only half of said small creature, leaving me curious to understand why.  I mean, which half has been presented as an offering and which half was simply too tasty to leave uneaten?

I am not terribly grossed out by having to dispose of an unwanted half a creature first thing in the morning, and it's not the worst thing I have found on the doorstep.  The carcass (or half thereof) of a small creature is less likely to turn my stomach than discovering a pile of freshly chewed and still-warm-from-the-stomach cat puke.

But this morning, my 'gift' was not upchuck, or newly dead or even half-dead.  It was mouse, and very much alive.

To be perfectly clear, this was not a rat.  Admittedly, I've not dealt with a lot of rats in my day.  The actual number of rats that I've seen with my own eyes numbers around two.  But I have seen rats.

This was not a rat.  It was a mouse.

It was rather large mouse, about six inches long, nose to tail.  It had a light brown coat with a white belly and two very black eyes.  Although it wasn't injured, it was very frightened, likely the result of having been chased by one of the aforementioned septuplet of felines who reside in and around our environs.

None of the cats was present at the door when I opened it, however.  Just the mouse.

And I didn't even see it until after I went out, picked up the cat bowls and opened the screen door to go back in.  That's when I saw it, wriggling under the door and making it's way into the house.

Now, lots of people hate snakes.  And spiders.  Not me.  I don't exactly love snakes, but I won't go out of my way to kill one, and spiders, well, haven't you read Charlotte's Web?  I love spiders.  They eat mosquitoes, and that's just the start.  But this was a rodent.

I hate rodents.

Well, ok, hate is a hard word.  And, to be fair, like many people, what I really hate are rats.  I don't hate them because they caused the Black Death--although that would be a pretty good reason to despise them, I think.  Some say the Plague wasn't actually their fault, they were just carrying the fleas, but I'm not buying it.  I'm no fan of fleas, mind you, but rats are just bigger and nastier and must consequently bear an inordinate share of the blame.

I'm sure this position will not offend many, as the collective opinion of rats is (fortunately) very low.  Not so the general opinion of other rodents, though I doubt we'd find many people who actually like mice, either.  The misperception of mice as cute pink and wiggly creatures that is such a deep disservice to many has been fostered by the proliferation of the little white lab mouse--Algernon, anyone?

Size and furriness notwithstanding, I think that there are very few people over the age of ten who actually find mice adorable.  The same could be said of gerbils and hamsters.  Even though I confess to having had a number of hamsters in my youth, I never liked mice, especially after I saw them being fed to a snake in a pet store once when I was about seven.  Later, when I lived in the country (see my adventures on Maufrais Lane) I saw my first field mouse.  Cute--admittedly--but still a rodent.

So, though I might have written the script differently with more time to think and act, in the spur of the moment, the rodent on my doorstep this morning was destined to die.  Alas.

When I first spotted it, although it was still breathing, it looked like it's heart was about to explode.  It dipped and whipped and jumped around in front of me in response to my whoops and swoops with the cat bowls.  Somehow, I managed to turn him around and head him back out the front door.

In the back of my mind was the thought that I had just summoned the cats for their breakfast.  They were coming--as I turned back to the door a moment earlier,  I had seen three of the four older cats slowly making their way to the deck.

Fortunately for the mouse, my idly approaching hunters were still unaware of the potential to supplement their usual early morning cat crunchies with a bit of blood.  For my part, I sure didn't want to see this mouse get eaten right before my eyes, but I also didn't want it in the house.  So, honestly, I felt no angst about pushing it toward the hungry predators assembling on the porch.  Luckily for me (but not the mouse), things unfolded so fast that I really didn't have time to think much more about it.

As the mouse made his made along the edge of the house where it meets the deck, he was being pursued from behind, not just by me, but also by Jolie, who had jumped up from the side flower bed.  As I pushed the mouse forward, hoping he'd make it to the edge and wriggle under the deck, we came to the corner of the house.  The mouse turned the corner.  I turned the corner.

And there was Bitty.  Our oldest, and possibly most toothless cat.  In a flash--and I'm not exaggerating, it was a blur--she pounced, delivering a classic death blow to the neck of the fast-but-not-fast-enough mouse.

Lord knows that must feel really good to a cat, especially an old one like Bitty, who hasn't the energy to chase her prey much any more.  It actually looked merciful to me.  The mouse went limp instantly and Bitty raced off, head held high with her prize.

Moments later, she abandoned it, of course, in exchange for her 'proper' breakfast.  Later as I got in to the car to go to work, I saw one of the kittens playing with the corpse, tossing it up and batting it around.  I doubt he had any desire to eat it, leaving it instead for our one true blood lusting cat, Diablo, who was perched nearby.

I was a little perturbed by this turn of events, but as I've thought more about it, I am not upset by the death of the mouse.  I believe that all rodents, including rats and their smaller cousins, the mice, are inherently dirty and potentially lethal carriers of disease. That includes squirrels, who make it worse by being cute.  And even though they are not technically rodents, I reserve a special place in hell for  pigeons, who are just flying feathered rats by their nature.  Cf. Tom Lehrer, Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.

So sorry little (erm..semi-big) mouse.  But it's the Law of the Jungle.

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