CAT AND MOUSE
Jan Marsh has won our annual Halifax Hunter of the Year competition with this amusing story of role reversal. Her cat Po brings in the mice but Jan has to catch them! Jan tells it best in her own words…
“When I hear Po the cat come in during the night with that certain yowl/growl, I huddle beneath the duvet and tell myself she’s just playing with her ball and that tail-less skink on the kitchen floor was a fluke. Anyway, I’m not going out there barefoot at 2am.
And the next evening, when a metallic clatter comes from the pantry, I’m still in denial – it’s something outside, the weka maybe.
But the pile of mouse poo among the dishes is unmistakable. I pull everything out, wash the crockery and wipe the shelves with disinfectant. The cake rack, stacked on a brass tray, has that distinctive clatter but no actual mouse has been revealed. Surely it escaped outside.
In the evening there’s a rustle and urgent rattle in the recycling box, as if something fell in and panicked. Po looks at me. It’s clumsy for a mouse. I remember last autumn’s field mice, so tiny, with cute round ears, tip-toeing across the living-room rug, spotting me with a cartoonish double-take and disappearing under the TV cabinet. I caught two or three of those in a juice bottle baited with peanut butter and put them in the hedge across the road. I figured that’s where they’d prefer to be.
The next day I’m on the phone to my daughter when a huge mouse runs along the bench, shimmies down the electric cord and disappears behind the fridge. It’s a conversation stopper. No denial is possible now.
I bait the juice bottle but this is no naive field mouse that will sit in the bottle and wait to be caught. It eats several helpings of peanut butter on cracker crumbs and whenever I hear the clunk of the bottle tilting and make my stealthy approach, it jumps out and whisks back under the fridge. I admire its sleek agility but I grew out of pet mice when I was seven.
That night there is a scrabbling in the hallway – or did I dream it? I get up and stuff a towel under the door. I lie back in bed, ears wide open to the the tiny sounds of the night, imagining the mouse has moved to the linen cupboard and, being a pregnant female, will make a nest and have babies which will multiply and take over the house…
In the morning, sadly, I get the poison out of the shed and put a tray of it on the floor behind the fridge. For the first day the bait is untouched, then it diminishes till only half is left. Every rustle and tap makes me stare at the fridge, fearing a maddened mouse will burst forth seeking water. I wait another day, hoping the poison has done its nasty job.When I pull the fridge out I see a quivering tail in the drip tray. It disappears as the mouse crawls further in. Great, so now I have a dying mouse in the back of the fridge. I feel bad because I know it’s a slow painful death. And I’ll have to reach in later to extract and dispose of the body.
Finally, I pull the fridge out again and vacuum, tense in anticipation of a thonk that will be the body getting stuck in the hose. I’m using the smallest nozzle and poking into the workings of the fridge. No mouse. Po is studying the gap under the back door. Did it really escape? I feel relieved to think so. For the first time in days my shoulders relax and small noises are just the small noises of an old house breathing during the day and night. I decide to invest in a humane trap – humane for me as well as any future mice.
In the meantime, I’ve locked the cat door. It’s a bother letting her in and out but did I mention I never had mice inside until I had a cat?