Of Mice…and Mom

I am hoping today’s search and seizure mission will prove successful. Otherwise, Mom may be in for a few surprises when she comes home from Auntie Sandy’s house. She’s been petsitting this week so that Auntie Sandy could go to Atlantic City with both Aunt Debbies and Cousin Amanda. In her absence, the cats have been extremely busy.

This soon-to-be-modern-day-homestead (we have a long way to go before we are a working homestead, providing all, or most of, our food supply ourselves) comes with a fixer-upper house that was built in 1915. Not being of the handy sort, it may be awhile before that fixing-up is done; financial constraints have put much of the work on hold for the moment. But that’s neither here nor there. What is here is an old house with plenty of little gaps to allow in the occasional field mouse (and that wasn’t meant to rhyme even if it does…). Considering mice can flatten themselves enough to get through a hole only the size and circumference of a dime, those little gaps can be easy to miss–for mere humans, of course. The mice seem to have little trouble spotting them. What is curious though is why they would choose to go through those gaps in the first place.

Having raised mice, hamsters and even rats–yes, rats!–for pets, I can tell you they are intelligent and affectionate creatures. Zady, Clara and Lulu would all climb into my hand for their nightly fix of sugar snap peas with Zady scurrying up my arm afterwards (these are rats, not mice) and onto my shoulder where she would reach up, plant a gentle ratty kiss upon my cheek then climb up my braid to sit on top of my head for awhile. Rueben loved baked mac and cheese, and rather than run on the stupid wheel going nowhere, devised a method of racing down one of his ramps and pouncing upon the wheel, causing it to shimmy and rock back and forth. He could do this over and again for hours. Anyway, their intelligence, also their low-cost maintenance (I could feed them for less than $10.00 a month–counting the special treats like sugar snap peas) is one of the reasons they are often chosen by science to participate (without their consent, of course) in behavioral studies. Like most animals, with love and patience, they are capable of learning and can be trained, or taught, a wide variety of tricks and/or habits. Amazingly, they also have their own individual personalities, something most people don’t consider whilst standing atop a chair, screaming like banshees, while said rodent scurries around on the floor. This is not my folly but it may be Mom’s–even if the mice in question are no longer capable of scurrying.

Of course, there is a distinct difference between the mice and rats found in either a laboratory or a pet shop. Mice and rats have long been considered vermin–and for good reason. In the wild, they are host to all sorts of diseases and, especially with rats, if not domesticated, they will think nothing of taking a chunk out of human flesh. I am reminded of a display at King Richard’s Faire many years ago. Now I’m not certain how much time, effort, and research King Richard’s Faire put into this display; many of these torturous devices may simply be the fancy of Hollywood and pop culture. However, it is part of their wax museum, a museum displaying the many different forms of torture and punishment inflicted upon the supposed criminals of the Middle Ages. One display shows a man with a cage over his head with a rat trapped inside said cage; the man has multiple bite marks upon his face and scalp. I do not doubt that a rat would do such a thing if trapped in such a way. I had a chunk taken out of a finger that I lightly tapped along the side of cage in a pet shop once. The cage was high up on a shelf and appeared to be empty, save for the fact there was a water bottle hanging inside about 3/4’s full. Even on tiptoes (and I’m a tall woman), it was impossible to see inside so I was hoping to attract the occupant to the side of the cage that I might have a look at them (going to the pet shop for me is the equivalent to taking a little kid to the zoo; I love all creatures great and small and each are deserving of at least a moment of my time and admiration). Anyway, the occupant was a rat, one that obviously had not been handled much because he (or she) struck with the speed of a viper, pushing his snout through the bars to grab said finger. Perhaps it was a lactating female–I don’t know for certain because she/he was too high up–protecting her young (could be the reason for the high location especially if the young were still in the cage with her to keep her from being disturbed–duh), but I am quite certain he/she was also a future candidate for some viper’s dinner, as the majority of rodents kept in pet shops are typically part of the food chain. Again, neither here nor there. However, while I am convinced of their intelligence as displayed in captivity, I find myself questioning that intellect in the wild. Sure, they are clever enough to find their way inside but, in this case, why would they even bother? Could they really be that desperate for food (of which none is left out for their consumption) and shelter?

I am in line with becoming the next “crazy cat lady”. There are 10 felines sharing this domicile with me. Can a mouse be suicidal? Or, in this case, it might be best to ask if “mice”, in the plural, can be suicidal, as in the past 24 hours I have watched first, Emmylou, and then Whitney, racing upstairs and into Mom’s room with the limp body of a mouse dangling from her mouth. Trust me. The first one that Emmylou caught did not get back up, race downstairs and allow itself to be re-captured by Whitney. So the first one had a friend or mate that blindly followed her inside.

I’ve come a long way. In years past, my affection for rodents, owing to their domesticated cousins being beloved pets, would move me to follow my lucky felines and attempt to save the poor mouse. Though thoroughly traumatized, those that were still living and breathing were placed outside (where they likely were stupid enough to come back in later on…); those that didn’t make it, received a proper burial, complete with a brief prayer. I still give them a proper burial but I’ve learned to let the cats do their proper job in dispatching said mice; I have no more love for their filth than the next person.

Today, it will likely be a “common” grave; there are at least two corpses lying in wait for Mom’s approval when she gets home tomorrow. Though I know Emmylou and Whitney intend them as gifts, I doubt they will be appreciated. No, they won’t be scurrying around anymore but Mom might still be climbing on that chair, shrieking like a banshee. So let’s hope my search and seizure mission is a successful one, lest, Mom be the one thoroughly traumatized.

May God bless you & keep you!

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