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Of mice and me

Content warning: This post contains discussions of small dead critters my cat brings in.

Brown Cat is no athlete. She’s short of leg, plump of pudding, and square of bottom. When we play games, she runs after her string panting like an overweight toddler. So colour me astonished when one morning, some fifteen months after their adoption, I awoke to find a stiff dead rat on my office floor. We had been out late the previous night and noticed nothing wrong, but first thing in the morning: burial duty.

A few weeks later, we had friends over for dinner and a yowling announced the entry of a cat. “That doesn’t sound like one of mine.” I said to my friends, assuming that one of the neighbours’ cats had made its way in for a sneaky treat. (Again.) It was Brown: this time the rat was not yet stiff, but was definitely dead. And we learned that Brown has a tell—a very peculiar trio of meows that announce her triumph and return.

Shortly after that, we were awoken early one morning to the sound of running feet. “How nice,” I thought, laying in bed at FIVE IN THE MORNING, “that they’re playing together for so long without fighting.” M arose with the dual intention of shouting at the noisemakers and making a cup of tea. Brown looked up, made her triumphant meow, and lifted her foot off a mouse that immediately ran under the couch. “Heck,” said Brown. It took us some twenty minutes of trying to figure out how to lift up the couch to catch the mouse without letting Brown run under it and risk squishification (all the while Brown flailing her arms under the couch trying to reach the mouse) before we realised the mouse had snuck out and was crouched in the far corner of the room. It was then a simple matter of popping it in a container and transferring it outside—except it was so very much still alive that it kept trying to leap out of the container and I had a bit of a job just getting it outdoors.

Just a couple of days later, we were awoken in the middle of the night to the triumphant meow. “Oh no.” Said M. We switched on the bedroom light and Brown immediately lost her mouse, which vanished behind the bedside dresser. Shutting Brown out of the room, where she scratched and yowled, we spent fifteen minutes unsuccessfully pursuing and eventually losing the mouse. We reluctantly let Brown back in and she found it (after a while), and we were able to catch and evict once again.

We started closing the cat flap overnight. Now, Brown has many sterling qualities, but figuring out cat flaps is not one of them. She can exit; she cannot enter. In closing the cat flat, we reasoned, two things could happen: she would have to meow at the door, thus forcing us to vet what she was attempting to bring in; or she would figure out the cat flap and simply keep bringing things in.

The grisliness of all this was getting to us, and we couldn’t work out why she was suddenly Master Hunter. The sound of a concrete jackhammering clued us in: the next-door neighbour was pulling down their old deck and turfing out a lot of mice and rat nests, showering our chubby enthusiast with ample opportunities. So at least this doesn’t appear to be the New Normal: it’s just taking advantage of the mouse harvest. That means the process should settle down soon.

In the meantime, we know she has a tell. The trio of howly meows that announce her victory and generosity is a unique event. On more than one occasion, we’ve ignored it only to discover something grim the next morning. So last night when we heard her tell, we both sprang out of bed and started switching on lights to find her and her treasure as soon as we could.

She wasn’t on the front step. She wasn’t in my study. She was, it turned out, snug in her bed, blinking confusedly in the light.

She talks in her sleep.

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