Gimme-Gimme-Gimme A Mouse After Midnight
Copyright 2006, Sarah Hartwell

The banging of the wardrobe door finally wakes me. Sure enough, fluffy white-and-black Cindy had brought in a mouse and trapped it between the sill and sliding doors of the wardrobe. The mouse ran back and forth under the sill while Cindy ran back and forth outside the sliding doors, trying to get her paw underneath.

Bang! Pound-pound-pound of running cat. Bang of wardrobe door against sill.

Bleary human gets out of bed, shuts bedroom door and switches on light. It's a well-rehearsed drill get the riding crop, long since relegated to the status of cat toy, flush the mouse and bash it on the head. Cindy grabs dead or stunned mouse. Owner grabs Cindy. Whole assemblage is bundled out of cat flap and not allowed back indoors for 10 minutes (owner occasionally has a tot of whisky to while away the 10 minutes), by which time mouse has either recovered and escaped or cat has lost interest in dead mouse.

Riding crop is duly grabbed from hook inside wardrobe. Cat sits back. This is part of the game. Cindy is teaching me to hunt. My reflexes are sharpening and my aim has improved greatly. Using the leather flap of the riding crop, I force the mouse along the sill until it is flushed into the open. Cindy pounces, but the mouse makes a dash for safety behind a chair leg. That's normally when I make my "kill" either during the mad dash or while the mouse is caught between the cat, the chair-leg and me.

This mouse is more canny. It dashes behind the dressing table. Half an hour of dismantling furniture fails to find the mouse. I open the bedroom door leaving Cindy on guard. Cindy continues to pound at the wardrobe door as if she can't believe the mouse has escaped. With 3 cats in the house, it won't go far.

Next morning, Cindy hasn't killed the refugee mouse. Three traps are baited with sultanas. The traps are set under the bed, behind a box in the wardrobe and under the dressing table drawers. These are all places Cindy can't get her paws. I go to work, expecting to find a dead mouse upon my return. Thus endeth Day 1 of High Mouse Alert.

A day and a night pass, but mousie does not take the bait. When I return from work, Cindy is still sniffing around the wardrobe as though mousie will miraculously reappear. Meanwhile, I am working in the back bedroom.

"Mwow!" the sound from the study is rather muffled. Small wonder, it comes from a cat with a mouthful of mouse. Mousie had been caught on my computer desk, coincidentally next to the computer mouse. A triumphant Cindy, jaws clamped tight around the mouse, is carried to the cat flap and ejected onto the patio to finish the game.

After several minutes of patting the limp mouse, Cindy sits back to wash. The mouse has been waiting for this moment and is straight off into the rhubarb with Cindy in hot pursuit, face-washing forgotten. Unfortunately, mousie wins the rematch. An hour later, following her vain her vigil at the rhubarb patch, Cindy comes back indoors for a cuddle. Thus endeth Day 2 of High Mouse Alert.

Traps are disabled, bait thrown away and traps are stowed under the stairs. I have 3 cats and still need mousetraps! Tortoiseshell Motley is a pacifist. She is possibly the gentlest cat I've ever known, with no sign of the supposed "naughty tortie" personality. She once caught a baby mouse under the hi-fi though I think Thenie or Cindy had originally caught and lost the mouse. Thenie prefers pigeons. There's more meat on a pigeon. Sometimes I get home to find some pigeon feet and what looks like the contents of a burst pillow. Among the feathery disaster area is a full up fluffy black Thenie. Cindy didn't start hunting until Thenie moved in, but the pair of them now seem locked in competition.

Day 3 starts quietly. Cindy is still keeping an eye on the rhubarb patch, but comes in for breakfast. I return from work that evening to find her in the hallway looking insufferably smug. At her feet is a very dead mouse. It took her 3 days, but Cindy finally got that mouse. Thus endeth Day 3 of High Mouse Alert.

Having displayed her trophy, Cindy takes no further interest in it and flounces to her food bowl. Mousie is disposed of unceremoniously in the dustbin. The rhubarb patch and wardrobe hold no further attraction for Cindy.

Sadly, several months after the 3 Day Mouse Alert, Cindy suffered a punctured eyeball, probably from running into a thorn. Because she was hyperthyroid, surgery posed a risk. She never regained consciousness. A few months later, Motley was diagnosed with mammary cancer. It was removed and she had no sign of cancer in her chest; sadly she succumbed to a brain tumour soon after.