Yesterday evening the cats were noisier than usual out in the kitchen, which, in retrospect should have tipped me off. However, I ignored them, and didn’t wander out that way until it was time to start supper. At which point I found the lovely fluffy gray cat living up to his name — Pretty Boy Floyd — while Grendel and Trouble crouched eagerly behind him, and Tenzing, the oldest, fattest, and loudest, sat on the kitchen chair and supervised.
They were all staring at the kitchen wastebasket, and Floyd was batting at it, trying to get his paw under the back edge. For some reason, I thought he’d lost a toy under there — he’d been chasing a big twist-em for the past couple of days — so I tilted the wastebasket back a little, and there it was.
Floyd lunged for it, and I reflexively dropped the wastebasket, protecting the mouse, but not solving my problem.
A mouse. In my kitchen.
My first thought was, Lisa, help! My second, equally irrational, was, at least mice don’t eat yarn. (This only makes sense if you are a knitter, and have several large baskets of expensive yarn sitting in your living room.) The third thought — the first useful one — was, OK, it’s trapped. There’s time to think this through.
Lisa’s family always said that the little bitty mice were field mice, while house mice were bigger. This was a tiny mouse, probably not much bigger than the first joint of my thumb: field mouse for sure. Plus I hadn’t seen any droppings or any signs of nibbled food, and six years’ working at a historic house museum with periodic rodent issues has left me hypersensitive to such things. Plus there are four resident cats, and, while they haven’t exactly rid me of this one, they certainly are making its presence known
So I probably don’t have an ongoing problem. But what am I going to do about this stupid mouse?
Before Lisa died, it was easy, or at least easier: yell for Lisa, and we’d deal with it together. I indulged in a brief fantasy that she would have pushed Floyd away, whipped back the wastebasket, scooped up the mouse and removed it all in one smooth gesture. Then reality asserted itself. Lisa never dealt well with mice. At her job prior to Heinemann, the ancient building had a mouse problem, and she’d come home regularly complaining about being startled by a mouse jumping out of her wastebasket, or running along the shelves out back where the inventory was stored. (The company ended up getting a pair of office cats, who grew fat, sleek, and oddly corporate, sitting on the windowsills looking like presidents and CEOs.) In fact, Lisa never dealt well with small animals: I was the one who had to catch the injured bird that wandered into the back yard, though Lisa knew who to call and where to take it. Cat-sized or larger, Lisa could and did handle: that’s where two of the cats came from, not to mention the various lost dogs that she rescued and got back home and who paved the way for Vixen’s entering the household. But a mouse.... No, mice would have been my responsibility anyway.
I grabbed a big wad of paper towels off the counter: the mouse hadn’t looked injured, but if it was, I didn’t want to add to the problem. I hissed at Trouble and Grendel, moving them back, oh, a whole eight inches, and picked up Floyd and tossed him out into the hall. (We don’t have a kitchen door any more because we took it down to make room for Lisa’s wheelchair.) I pushed Trouble out of the way, blocked Floyd from making another charge for the wastebasket, and flapped the paper towels to make Grendel retreat. That was as much space as I was likely to get, so I quickly picked up wastebasket, put it down between me and the cats — and the mouse, of course, ran straight for the gap behind the stove.
Luckily, something stopped it — it may even have been too large to fit — and I grabbed it. It ran over my hand and dropped to the floor. I grabbed it again, and this time I had it. It was pretty clearly uninjured — scared, certainly, and probably tired, but I could feel all four legs working inside the towel, so I figured it was safe to just let it go outside.
At which point Tenzing, who had done nothing (as far as I saw) to trap the mouse or chase it, who had been sitting calmly in the kitchen chair the whole time, let loose a yowl of complaint loud enough that I nearly dropped the mouse. I got the back door open, let the mouse go — it scrambled off into the leaves — and went back in to find all four cats lined up on the kitchen floor. Tenzing yowled again, and kept yowling the whole time I washed my hands. As I had handled a mouse, this was probably a good minute. When he stopped to breathe, Trouble chimed in, and Grendel gave a few Siamese-ish wails. Only Floyd stayed silent, but he had a distinctly disapproving stare.
What would Lisa have done, confronted with first a mouse and then four reproachful felines? Poured a stiff bourbon, and given the cats a treat. So that’s exactly what I did.