First off, it was -8 Celsius (17.6 F, to be exact) this morning when we got up. Bleaaaghk! Do you remember all the snow we got last winter? I still haven't recovered. I am not ready for this.
And with the cold weather come MICE in search of a toasty-warm winter abode. Last year I saw one mouse in the kitchen, then no mice all fall and winter, except for a dead one in the basement, clearly a botched assassination by one of my cats. Alex and Julius, the feline hit squad, were obviously doing their job last season. I didn't even see mouse POOP all winter, never mind living, breathing mice. Country homes mean country mice, and if the cats hadn't been at it, believe me, we would have found mice here, there and everywhere.
I am starting to think things may be different this year. Wednesday night I was woken from a deep sleep at midnight by noises in the kitchen. I lay there thinking, "Hmm. The cats don't have a toy that squeaks like that. Hmmmm." I asked Gordon if he heard the noise, but he was too bleary-eyed and drooling even to put together a coherent sentence. He said what he always says when I wake him in the middle of the night to ask if he heard something: "No!" It's always wishful thinking on his part.
So I went downstairs to investigate, knowing full well what I was going to find.
I flicked on the kitchen light, and there was Alex the tripod-kitty, chasing some poor mouse back and forth along the floor at bottom of the kitchen cupboards. Not catching it, just harrassing it, as it squeaked in terror. Not doing his catly duty and dispatching it. Not tucking in to a fine mouse snack. Just PLAYING. Just FOOLING around. Just being a totally LAME CAT. This from the guy who is on a diet and should be ravenous for fresh meat.
So I walked over in my semi-conscious stupor and caught the mouse in my bare hands. I then took it outside and tossed it on the lawn, came back in, washed my hands, and went back to bed. (Doubtless the mouse was back in the house before my head hit the pillow again.) I can't kill anything, let along a mouse. When we trap them, we use a "tin cat" humane trap, then drive them a mile or two down the road for release. (You have to go that far or they just come back into the house.) Maybe that's not particularly humane either, driving them off to a farmer's field, but I ain't killing them and Gordon can't either. I just don't want them in the house. If the cats take care of it, fine, all the better!
I thought that midnight adventure was a one-off, but evidently not. At 3:00 o'clock this morning, I heard a familiar noise in the kitchen. This time I knew what was going on. I went downstairs and what do I see, but TWO cats, Julius and Alex, sitting on their butts about a foot apart, face to face, playing ping-pong with some poor frantic mouse between them. I scolded them both: "You wieners! A mouse is NOT a ping-pong ball!"
Now, Julius used to be a magnificent killing machine. I once witnessed him dispatching a mouse with one great slap of his mighty paw. Before he became an indoor cat, he would drop presents of voles at my feet. He was a stray who fed himself in the wilds of Nova Scotia himself for many months before we took him in. Those homicidal days appear to be gone. Dead and buried, even.
So once again, I caught the hapless mouse (just before it ran up my pajama leg; it was a close call as it clung to my ankle), and took it outside. Yes, I know mice carry hantavirus, and dengue fever and ebola and tuberculosis and syphilis and cooties (I'm kidding about all of that except the hantavirus and cooties
), but at 3:00 am I'm not about to go searching for a net or whatever it is you need to catch a tiny rodent. I just grab the mice with my hands, and wash up right afterwards. They don't bite me. I don't do this often. And I'm not one of those women who get on a chair and scream at the sight of a rodent.
Given the amount of time the boys spend in the basement, staring at the woodpile, I believe that they are catching these mice, then bringing them upstairs to play with in the wee hours. Naomi is still spending her nights confined to the bathroom, but I am hoping that once she is a free-range kitten, the mice won't have much of a chance. She has been doing an awesome job of repeatedly murdering her toy squirrel.
If the boy-cats don't get their killer instinct back SOON, it's going to be a looooong winter.