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May 01, 2003

Your Domestic Predator at Work

Krissy went into the garage this morning and found the bloody head of a mouse right on the doorstep, a present from Lopsided Cat, who spent the night outside, quite obviously indulging in his carnivore nature. She suggested that I take a picture of it and put it up on the site, but I won't be doing that today. This site is a PG-13 site, which means gory severed mammalian heads are a definite no-no. She also left it to me to pick up the mouse head and put it somewhere else, and I did. Of course, I'm not saying where. I'm going to let that be a delightful surprise for my wife. I'm just that way.

Severed mouse heads are icky, but on one level I can appreciate Lopsided Cat leaving it at our doorstep. It means that Lopsided Cat has clued in that one of his jobs is kill small rodents before they get into the house, at which point either I or Krissy will be obliged to kill them, and then wonder why the hell we have cats in the first place. It's no small consideration around here -- because we live next to fields, we not surprisingly are at risk of field mouse visits. In the two years we've been here, we've seen two mice in the house; one I caught in a Tupperware container and deposited outside, back in the field, and the other had its neck snapped by a trap Krissy put in the pantry.

It's not that Krissy is more bloodthirsty than I am, incidentally; it's just that I actually caught the thing personally and couldn't bring myself to squish a small furry thing between my fingers. That's just mean. Likewise, had Krissy nabbed the mouse herself, she would be unlikely to murder it by her own hand. However, we don't mind if the mice die, because they're in our house, and that's no good. But like all good bosses, we prefer to let our underlings handle the dirty work, preferably underlings who lack opposable thumbs, have sharp canines and no feelings of residual guilt about disemboweling furry creatures smaller than they are.

And that's Lopsided Cat (and to a lesser extent Rex, who is mostly retired now but was known to bring down rather substantial creatures in his day). By leaving the mouse head where he knows we'll find it, Lopsided Cat is simply saying, hey, it's your friendly neighborhood predator, on the job for you! I'm glad for it; each mouse head outside is one less mouse inside, borrowing through our snack foods and leaving small turds where Wheat Thins used to be. And that's the way it should be.

Posted by john at May 1, 2003 02:27 PM

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Comments

Jon | May 1, 2003 02:52 PM

Mice? Oh ppppleeease!

Rats, baby, here we're talking Rats! And Possum. Big ones - bigger than Rex in the fat years. It requires a 60 lb dog to take these beasts down. Cats have to run in packs just to have safe passage from these creatures.

These things don't look at you and think; "I should run away!" they think; "I can take him."

I've got photos of the results of my neighbor's dog taking out a 20 lb possum. You don't want to know what it sounded like. But I'll tell ya. Well. I can't. I can't describe it. Too horrible. Screeching, clawing, barking, snarling. And I'm not talking about the other neighbors having sex - it's close, but not deadly.

They guy kitty-corner had three Rott's. The rat population has gone done. But now the city has taken them away, so I'm sure the rats will be back.

Late at night - when the city has shut off the street lights 'cause they can't afford the electricity - you can hear them in the street. Their claws scratching on the blacktop. You know where they are by the barking of the dogs along the block. It's like the ice cream truck with the kids yelling "STOP!". If you are in your SUV (yeah, we all have them), you can turn on the lights and they stop in their tracks. Glowing, beady eyes staring at you. Sometimes sets of them. Near the drain grate, they gather. You know if you open the door they'll attack. So you slowly put it in drive, then mash the pedal hoping they don't bite a hole in the tire before it smushes their skull.

Then you have to drive on the freeway in case one jumped on the running board - hoping for revenge when you finally do get out. Optionally, you could drive through the automated car wash to "clean off the under-carriage".

Mice. sheeze. Come back to the city, let's party.

:)

John Scalzi | May 1, 2003 03:00 PM

Oh, waaah. You chose your living quarters. Now live with the vermin.

There are other creatures out here, of course: Possums, skunks, raccoons, even crawdads, weirdly enough. However, the nice thing about having a lot of space is that there's a lot of space for them to avoid you.

What we worry about in terms of automotive incidents are deer. They'll kill you.

Phillip J. Birmingham | May 1, 2003 05:12 PM

If it takes a 60-pound dog to take out a possum, it could be that the dogs around you are are just wimps. (Just kidding.)

Back when we lived in Chicago still, possums would come to raid the compost pile. One night, I went out to see what the hell Barney (35-pound terrier-poodle-mutt mix) was barking at, and saw one of the little buggers in the compost pile. Well, I poked at it with a shovel a few times to convince it suppertime was over, and it did as possums do when threatened -- it played dead.

There's no talking to Barn in times like this, so I took him back inside to give the possum time to vacate the yard. After a decent interval, I came back out to find it perched on the fence beween our yard and the neighbors', so I began poking it with the shovel again, hoping to knock it over to the other side of the fence. About this time, Barn barrels back out through the doggie door, which I had forgotten to lock, and begins his impressive jumping act. I am poking the possum, Barney is jumping up and snapping at it, and the possum is leaning into my pokes to keep its footing, when the possum leans into a poke as Barney leaps and snaps.

I've never seen a dog that size shake something so big, so hard. He laid it down on the ground, where it lay still. I poked the poor beast a couple of times with my trusty shovel, all the while holding Barney back from making the mess he obviously intended to make of his kill. I pulled Barn back inside, and passed him off to Lori while I went outside to bury the dead possum.

I *did* mention what possums do when they're threatened, right? The sneaky bastard was gone by the time I got back.

Kit Smith | May 1, 2003 06:19 PM

Maybe it's just Lopsided Cat's way of saying, "You give me food, and I'll give you food," and trying to pay the rent.

Daniel H. Alvarez | May 1, 2003 08:10 PM

My ex had a lot of cats before I met her. She woke up one morning with one of the cats on her chest, staring intently at her. In her muzzy state, she wondered what the warm thing on her forehead was.

Then she noticed the rat tail in the cat's mouth...

Apparently, her screams had the neighbors calling 911 reporting a murder. True story.

Be glad Lopsided Cat is content with leaving them on the doorstep.

Bowler | May 1, 2003 08:44 PM

Yeah, I heard that cats bringing caught "food items" like that is them showing you that you're the boss. Kinda like bringing you a gift in appreciation of being the Alpha. Or something.

Jim | May 1, 2003 09:19 PM

Three or four Aprils ago Tiger [our faithful feline companion who graciously allows us to provide him with food, drink, shelter, and bathroom facilities] came in from our attached garage carrying a mouse in his mouth. He dropped it at my wife's feet. She got something to scoop up the lifeless corpse of the poor dead little field mouse -- when the mouse suddenly flipped over and began to run, with Tiger in close pursuit. When he cornered it again Nancy quickly swooped down, caught the mouse in a plastic container, then took him outside and tossed him into the clump of trees separating our backyard from a neighbor's. Tiger appeared to be quite cross about the whole thing; obviously his pet humans did not grasp proper behavior with a mouse.

debbie | May 1, 2003 10:01 PM

Since cats are not pack animals,lions excepted, they have no concept of acknowledging any being as an Alpha cat. Current behavior theory says that they consider you (the human) as a kitten, and bring you food and "mock prey" like a dead mouse or live lizard to feed and train you. That's how lame we look to them! When they hunt from their instinctive prey drive, you will almost never see their kill.

Scott | May 1, 2003 11:19 PM

When's the last time you displayed ANY competance to your cat? Have YOU caught mice by chasing them down? Have you lept off of structures 10x your size without injuring yourself?

I have enough trouble getting out of bed without hurting myself, it's no surprise that cat's think I'm an idiot. Then again, maybe I -am- an idiot...

Erbo | May 2, 2003 04:38 AM

I'd prefer to think that Lopsided Cat was doing his best to provide for the members of his family. Never mind that humans don't eat mice, birds, etc., that's just how cats think. That was my wife's interpretation when her former cat, Vincent, brought her little "gifts" like that.

(Our cats don't have much to hunt around here, except bugs. But they're very good at it. And they get in some practice by chasing each other.)

Jon | May 2, 2003 09:05 AM

"Then again, maybe I -am- an idiot..."

Can I quote you on that?

Oh, already did. :)

Lisa | May 2, 2003 10:59 AM

Did anyone see the recent "Six Feet Under," in which the mother and later the undertaker-in-training/houseguest said, "Mice carry germs. They deserve to die."? I love that show.

Harriet Culver | May 2, 2003 11:01 AM

When my company moved to its current premises in 1985, we found that we'd acquired a mouse problem. It was one of those old World War I vintage 12-story loft buildings in NYC (only two blocks west of your SF publisher, as it happens) and at the time, most of the other tenants manufactured handbags, or ladies' skirts and coats, or shoulder pads -- lots of bales of fabric and cotton batting, prime habitat for the local mice.

Many mornings we'd find a mouse in the wastebasket next to Tom's desk--apparently they dived in from the bookshelf beside it and then couldn't climb out -- and Someone was nibbling the edges of our delivery memo forms while they were still on the notepad.

A photo editor from Harcourt had come in to do some research, the day I found the lace-edged enhancements to the delivery memo pad; she took one look at the evidence and announced "Have I got a cat for you!"

And so we interviewed Jasper (an adolescent foster-cat who was making homelife miserable for the editor's senior feline) and awarded him the position of Office Cat. And the Mouse Problem became a thing of the past -- except for one little problem.

As a member in good standing of the Association of Pest Predation Officers, Jasper was naturally obliged to carry out all the provisions of their contract. And when it came to the clause mandating the 50% Deductible . . . .