I woke to the sound of early birds and the thin light of a November dawn and wandered half asleep and barefoot into the kitchen to put the kettle on to boil.
That is when the drama began.
I have rather superior cat, or at least she thinks she is superior; she wouldn’t want to get her paws dirty – if you know what I mean. This particular morning she wasn’t sitting in her usual place waiting impatiently for breakfast, instead she was sitting in front of the wine rack, which for reasons too complicated to go into here is kept on the floor in a corner of the kitchen, and she had a fixed expression of rapt attention that immediately alerted me to the possibility of a problem. All you cat owners will know just what I mean, that sinking feeling – that Oh no what is it now, feeling.
Now I want to point out straightaway that I live in a very clean house, and mice, beetles, that sort of thing are unheard of here. But, we had been having some major building work done. At one point, only a few weeks ago, the whole of the back of the house had been open to the elements. So, as I gingerly looked behind the bottles hoping it was just a spider, I knew in my heart that this was a bigger intruder. Sure enough a brown field mouse, trying to look deceptively small and harmless, crouched threateningly.
Leaving the cat standing guard, I retreated to the other side of the room to plan my next move. The difficulty was how to catch the mouse without harming it. Drawing on readily available tools, I soon collected a broom (to entice the mouse out), a plastic waste bin and a magazine (the bin to catch it in and the magazine to stop it getting out again), and then, suitably armed and mustering all my courage, I set off down the kitchen and into battle.
I like rodents, in fact rodents have been some of my best pets. I’m not in the slightest bit afraid of a sweet little furry animal curled up in its nest behind the bars of its cage. But I’m ashamed to say that it’s a completely different kettle of fish when they are out, loose as it were – on the run. And on the run this mouse certainly was the moment I teased the wine rack away from the wall with the broom handle. It went streaking across the floor, fast as lightning, and the cat, momentarily losing her dignity, set off in completely the opposite direction and leapt to a place of safety in the middle of the kitchen table.
Well, whether it was the excitement of the moment, the stress of having builders in for weeks on end, or the fear of it running straight up my pyjama leg (do they do that or is it just ferrets?) I don’t know, but suddenly I heard someone screaming, the note rising to a crescendo, and I was stopped in my tracks by the horrific sound. I glanced over my shoulder at the cat who was giving me a truly horrible stare. Clearly the screaming did not come from her. Since it wasn’t the mouse and there was no one else there, I have to admit it must have been me, and I had to fall back to the kitchen table, alongside the cat, to regroup.
There followed a frantic forty-five minutes as I simultaneously struggled to catch the mouse and fought to contain my mounting hysteria, while the little blighter easily evaded my every attempt and eventually disappeared completely out of sight behind the kitchen sink cupboard. It was at this point that I conceded temporary defeat, and with the mouse safely out of sight the cat jumped down from the kitchen table and stalked off as if nothing had happened. But I needed a strong cup of chamomile tea and a long sit down in another room, before my frayed nerves began to mend and I felt ready to plan my next campaign.
Later that day I made a trip to a nearby hardware store to purchase a humane mousetrap. The owner of the shop was very helpful; he advised me to use peanut butter in the trap, not cheese as you might have thought, so on the way back I popped into the corner shop and bought a small jar of peanut butter. When I found myself wondering whether mice preferred crunchy or smooth I really began to think I had lost the plot. In the end I bought a small jar of smooth, because I reasoned that mice have very small mouths and the bits in the chunky one might be too big to bite. I bought a small jar because I didn’t expect to need very much of it, the blurb on the side of a humane mousetrap packet seemed very impressive; I optimistically expected to catch the mouse that very night.
That evening, as I placed a large dollop of gooey peanut butter into the see-through plastic box, I was blissfully unaware of how many more times I would have to set this trap.
I have to say at this point that the cat must take some of the blame for the lack of success of this whole operation. It’s not that I expected her to actually catch the mouse, because I am well aware that type of activity is beneath her contempt, but I wouldn’t have expected her to be so deliberately obstructive.
It was several days later, having had no result with the mousetrap, that I discovered at least one of the reasons why it wasn’t working. I was up just a little earlier than usual and as I cautiously entered the kitchen wondering what I would find, low and behold there was the cat, sitting right on top of the mousetrap. So, after that I was reduced to trying to find places to put the trap where the mouse would find it, but the cat couldn’t sit on top of it.
Several weeks have gone by now and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of the mouse, either in the trap or out of it. The cat has lost interest in the whole affair and I think maybe the mouse has slipped out and away while the back door was open. I have just now carefully washed and dried the mousetrap and put it on a shelf in the garage. After all, surely it must work; the instructions that came with it reassured the buyer of its complete effectiveness. Maybe, after all, I should have bought crunchy.