Saturday, 30 June 2007

My Cat, Hunting Champion of Scotland

My cat is sitting in our veranda just now with a present for me. The reason I know this is because she is using her hunting call. It might be because her mouth is full of fresh rodent, but whenever she catches something, she has a particularly deep, mournful call that resonates across the house. I haven't seen whatever it is she has caught, but I am betting it is a dead vole. If it were a mouse, she would have eaten it already, despite the fact that I fed her only twenty minutes ago.

When my cat has been successful on one of her hunting excursions and the animal is already dead, I sometimes watch her through our front window. With the exception of voles, which must either be very tough or not particularly tasty, she devours her prey 90% of the time. She does this very delicately, but very thoroughly, licking up every drop of the blood and chewing her way methodically through the fur. In the end, all that is left is the tail and what would appear to be the gizzard, if rodents have those. I will admit that I don't get close enough for a detailed examination of the corpse.

If I can get them away from her, I catch the mice by means of an inverted cup and a piece of cardboard slid under it. I then take the little animal by the tail and send it flying over the balcony and into the adjoining hedge with instructions to get the hell out -- as far away from my murderous feline as it can possibly go. I would estimate that I have liberated two dozen mice in this fashion, and my kids and husband have probably released about that number themselves. My eldest kid is the one who managed to prise the neighbors' hamster from her jaws.

When she catches birds, it is so much worse. The mice are cute, but they can be a nuisance in the house. The birds do nothing but enhance the quality of our lives, however, and we have always loved watching them and listening to them sing. Unfortunately, we can no longer do this easily; because of the cat's hunting prowess we have had to put the bird feeders so high up we can barely see them, and the only ones that are really safe are the ones we can attach directly onto the window glass or dangle from the eaves of the house. I bought a bird table a few years ago, and kept wondering why the birds didn't seem too keen on using it. Then one rainy day I happened to see our cat standing poised a few feet from it, every muscle in her body tensed. Suddenly she took a flying leap and, after a few rather ungainly adjustments, was actually IN it. She seated herself, entirely filling the space, and when I called out to her flattened her ears back and gave me a look that clearly said "Yeah? So what?"

I won't give up. I will keep adding bells to her collar, keep chasing her away from the birds, keep setting free the little animals she catches when I can. And sometimes I just have to sigh and accept her contribution to the Circle of Life. In the meantime, I have written her a poem:

My Cat

My cat’s a cruel predator
(though meek and self-effacing)
I sigh and shake my head at her
But I can’t stop her chasing --

-- poor little mice, and great big rats
And tender little frogs
And voles and snakes and baby bats
And lizards under logs

I tell my friends about my cat
They don’t believe a word
(They haven’t seen the mouse, the rat
The frog, the vole, the bird)

I tell my neighbors and they laugh
They don’t believe it’s true
(Until they see her dragging half
a rabbit -- then they do!)

I feed her well, but even so
She's bound to ply her skill
She prowls and stalks just like a pro
Then leaps to make her kill

I yell at her, I stomp and swear,
Shout ‘Leave that poor mouse be!’
She just pretends that I’m not there
And races up a tree

What can I do to make her quit?
I can't remove her claws --
That wouldn’t help a single bit;
I’d have to wire her jaws!

Oh why did Mother Nature make
My little cat so vicious?
I wish for little creatures’ sake
They weren’t all so delicious.


Katie Alender said...

Brava, Mary! That needs to be a children's book! Except for all the nightmares.

But a really flawless little ditty.

Have you ever heard of "I Can Has Cheezburger"? It's a blog where people submit cat pictures with captions done in the style that a cat might use if a cat captioned a picture.

And your post, of course, calls to mind this.

Kim Ayres said...

I can't help but wonder whether your way of liberating 2 dozen mice is quite likely to be one mouse, 2 dozen times.

We've got those plug in things that are suposed to keep rodents away, but have a mouse (or mice) that's either deaf or likes the ultrasonic wail. We might have to resort to a trap, but after our last attempt, I don't have much of a stomach for it. Did you ever read my post Mouse Slayer?

Brian said...

In Wagga Wagga we had a nice rockery which attracted frogs, usually one big one per time. One night we heard the most dreadful shrieking sound -- a local cat had caught the main resident and was bearing it off . Leaping out of bed I rescued it . It went back into the rockery .
Next night -- same thing

Next night I was NOT in time - the cat got away with it


Mary Witzl said...

Katie -- I have just clicked on your 'this' and found the cat in the bird feeder -- and I thought my cat was the only one who did this! My kids have taken a picture of our cat in the bird feeder, and some day, when I get gadget-proficient, I will try and post it. Probably better for people not to hold their breath...

Kim -- I have just read your post and commented. Boy, would Maggie have trouble in this house. We have mice in the house every other day; I got so excited at first when I realized our cat was a mouser. She caught all the mice and we were so impressed and pleased. Then, having run out of house-bound mice, she began to import them from the great outdoors.

It can't be the same mouse! Some are tiny, some are large, some aren't mice at all, but voles...Okay, maybe I have saved the same mouse more than once. But flinging them into the hedge seems the only option...

Brian -- That is a great story, and I commend you for going to the trouble of trying to rescue the frog -- twice, no less!

Our cats in Japan used to catch frogs and toads; we had a fair number of both. One day, our landlady came over to our house utterly horrified -- there was a creature in her garden that she wanted OUT and could we help? We went to look and found that it seemed to be half snake, half frog -- until we realized that it was in fact a snake in the process of eating a frog. It was fascinating but pretty horrible, too...

Carole said...

Loved the poem, and think the cat is great. It is nice of you to save as many mice and birds as you can, but probably a hopeless task. I remember the first time I found empty bunny fur in our yard. It was no fun.

Mary Witzl said...

Carole -- You are right: it is probably a hopeless task, but it makes me feel a little less guilty for having a cat. Rabbits are a huge problem in our area, and I have often thought of loaning our cat out to gardener friends who struggle to keep bunnies out of their lettuces. But last night I was at the vet's (the killer cat has developed a toenail infection), and I saw a Doberman which had been mauled by a rabbit -- honestly! So I have given up on that idea, as the toenail infection is bad enough.