Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Of Mice and Men

Dear Reader,

In 1786, the Scottish poet Robert Burns inadvertently disturbed a mouse nest whilst ploughing a field. The poem To a Mouse, followed as an apology to the uprooted mice. A necessary excerpt follows (with translations):

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [you aren't alone] 
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry] 

Perhaps not the most promising start to a post I know, bear with me.

In 2012, I was summoned in no uncertain terms by the Dear Lady Wife from my upstairs position on the computer. When I say "in no uncertain terms" it was quite clear from the volume and repetition of the high pitched screech emanating from downstairs that I must come immediately.

I arrive in the kitchen, where the youngest of our cat brood, Randall, is sitting, smug, cheeks stuffed, like a hamster. There is a thin grey thing sticking out of his mouth. He then spat out the contents of his mouth, which transpired to be a field mouse covered in cat saliva. This post is an apology to that saliva covered field mouse.

The determination is real, the mouse tail isn't.
If I could do puffed cheeks I would.
Episodes involving field mice happen. One does what one can. Attempt to quarantine the cats, then capture the mouse and finally return the mouse to the wild. This is not always straightforward.

This occasion was particularly convoluted, some bullet points will be introduced:
  • Discover Randall in kitchen, mouse in mouth
  • Pick up determined Randall (see above) who is rigid, like a plank and then fights like a banshee
  • Eventually, Randall exhales mouse from mouth
  • Saliva covered mouse does not run away, instead sits between Randall and another resident cat, Pippy, blinking
  • I attempt mouse rescue
  • Randall, sensing what is coming, stores the mouse in his mouth again
  • I pick up Randall, who is stiff as a board, screaming instructions at Dear Lady Wife which amount to "bring me a glass"
At this point I have to drop out of the bullet points to make an observation. Cats are stronger than you think. Randall is not one for being picked up, or cuddled. He will tolerate about four seconds and then will start to squirm until you put him down. He squirms this time, but it is with the strength of ten Randalls, I place him on the floor, for fear of hurting him and the mouse is ejected again. Back to the bullets...
  • Quarantine cats
  • Find the mouse, which proves to be fruitless. I didn't see which direction it headed as I was too busy dealing with the banshee Randall cat. At this point there are choices, either give up and let the mouse meets it fate (the outcome of this can be very smelly) as our furred friends may or may not finish the job, or, release the hounds (cats) in the hope that they will find him/her before I do (highly likely)
  • Release cats
  • Wait
  • Wait some more
Whilst the waiting is going on a picture needs to be painted, regarding the behavior of our three cats in this situation. They begin alert, sniffing and searching, through many objects. Having exhausted the obvious possibilities (slippers, boxes) they revert to a state of mild disinterest, feigning sleep, whilst always pointed in the direction of where they think the prey might be. Are they trying to fool the mouse?

Guys, stay focused, it must be behind the radiator.
Two of my cats were on guard duty when this photo was taken so we had to use stunt doubles. Guard duty is not an exaggeration... if the prey does not emerge immediately (within ten minutes) they take turns observing the perimeter, whilst the others go and eat, stare at fish, sleep, lick bottoms etc.

Guard duty was being held around the base of the TV cabinet, designed (it seemed) for field mice in a bind. Too small a space for a cat paw but just the right height for a field mouse. As it got later in the evening I realised I would have to come up with another plan, as the cats would wait all night if necessary. I know this to be true as a mouse once hid in the vacuum cleaner, which I subsequently released. The cats chose to ignore the fact that I had released the mouse and stared at the vacuum cleaner for three days. They are determined little kitties.

More bullets...

  • Quarantine cats
  • Find object that will fit under TV cabinet that is long enough to poke out the other side. This proved to be a squashed roll of wrapping paper
  • Insert object under TV cabinet and fish around until the mouse emerges
  • Mouse emerges
  • Attempt to capture mouse in glass
  • Mouse goes back under TV cabinet
  • Insert object under TV cabinet and fish around until the mouse emerges etc
  • Repeat until bored
  • Eventually, out of sympathy, the mouse wanders into my clumsy trap

Once ensconced in the glass, the mouse is transported to the garden and released, out of sight of the cats, who, released from quarantine are staring at the TV cabinet again.

Three days later, the cats are released from their hypnosis, (might have been the Jeremy Kyle re-runs) and return to their normal lives.

On the fourth day, this happens...

Yeah, I did it again. You are getting real good with Photoshop.
And the whole mad saga begins again.

To complete my apology to mouse-kind I leave you with my favorite mouse-related quote from the legendary Les Dawson...

I can always tell when the mother in law's coming to stay; the mice throw themselves on the traps. 

More soon Dear Reader,


1 comment:

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