Saturday, 28 February 2015

Practical Mouse-keeping

A cat is a predator, and even well-fed, domestic moggies like ours head out and slaughter the local wild-life, albeit without the volume and determination needed when living off the land. What a cat will catch seems to depend upon the cat – the late Bitsy was a connoisseur, seeking out the rare, the exotic, the down-right ridiculous. Bitsy brought in a rabbit, a live jackdaw (through two cat-flaps), a woodpecker, a squirrel, even taking a bird in flight... the list just goes on. It was as if he had a book describing all the things a cat could catch and was determined to try them all – he often didn't get the killing/eating thing, leaving us to escort the latest catch back into the wild. On the other hand, his brother Tigger was almost exclusively a small-rodent cat, although he did get deeply confused when a recently caught mouse tried to burrow under him for safety.

Of our three current residents, Squeak is another mouser, but does not go out very often now – something to do with Oatmeal and their on-going feud. Oatmeal himself is a ratter, we believe, although he does do small rodents as well. Maybe. We now have doubts about that.

How do you tell who caught what? I know Ginger is a mouser, because I have seen her catch them, and eat them, and before she moved into the barn, she was living off the land. Now, as we head towards Spring, the rodent supply is picking up. Last night, I was in the kitchen when she came through the cat-flap with a small, bouncy mouse – pretty much the same variety that Oatmeal had apparently caught earlier in the day. It made a break for freedom which lasted several tenths of a second. Damn, that cat is fast...

And then Ginger put it down for a proper look – presumably when one has a fine, fresh mouse, the experience has to be savoured. However, Oatmeal turned up, stared at the mouse for a short while, and then stole it, growling at anyone who came close to his ill-gotten gains.

So now we are not so sure. Is Oatmeal a mighty hunter, or a thieving bastard? Was that mouse earlier in the day a personal triumph, or pilfered? And that rat he brought in – it does seem suspicious that Ginger is the one who goes hunting where the big rodents hang out (and our rat population has plummeted).

Ginger did not seem too put out at losing her catch, and the food-bowl was there, nicely topped up. Meanwhile, Oatmeal defended his 'catch' as if it was the most precious thing in the world. And as if it was all his own work.

We have seen this before. Tinker was an elderly cat we took on from the rescue (Cats Protection), who spent most of his time asleep, but when an escaped mouse ran past him he caught it, smacked it on the ground twice and then went to sleep, using the newly-deceased mouse as a pillow. Or Trudy, our grumpy little tortoiseshell some years back, who suddenly started catching things. We were so impressed, until we discovered that she was mugging Tigger and stealing what he caught. Actually, we were still impressed – Tigger was twice her size, half her age and had a full set of functioning limbs (shame about the brain.)

That's the world of cat-and-mouse: if you caught it and really want it, best to eat it before some thieving bastard takes it off you.

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