The mice in our shed are the size of gerbils, or possibly even small hamsters. I know this because one of them hitched a ride in the jaws of Oscar, our ginger tom cat, in order to nose around our house. It was obvious that Oscar was the willing accomplice because Sooty, our other cat, would have eaten him from the head down. Oscar wants them as friends. He has no idea that they could be tasty, but then he thinks all food comes in dry pellets and turns his nose up at real chicken. He’s like a child who thinks that fish has to be finger shaped and covered in breadcrumbs. My fault, I know.
So once the mouse found his way inside, all hell let loose and all in the middle of the night, which is the only time that both cats are not completely comatose. Oscar wanted to play tag, where he got to lick the mouse all over every time he caught him. Sooty just sharpened her claws and licked her lips. The mouse decided hide and seek was the best plan and started to run all over the house. That strange guttural rumble that a cat makes just before a kill woke me up. I knew there was trouble. As I stumbled down the stairs pulling my dressing gown around me I heard paws scamper into the front room and then back again with the staccato beat of uncut claws playing a melody on the polished wooden floor. When I finally made it down, Sooty was on guard with a fixed stare aimed at the small gap beneath the cupboard in the back room. Oscar was stretched out on the carpet watching the fun in a lazy man way.
I knew it was a mouse but I had no idea how big it was until I managed to move the cupboard away from the wall in an effort to catch the creature. There is a small hole in the skirting board behind this cupboard which has served as a life-saver for previous mice but there was no way this hulking great fellow was going to squeeze through there. He had clearly been pumping iron out in the shed or perhaps he’d been having swigs from the grow-rite tomato feed. I looked at him and he, with his dark almond eyes, looked back at me and then he bolted with Sooty close behind.
I wondered if I should let her do the catching, after all she is a specialist. Then I could gently persuade her to open her jaws and release the prize. Alternatively, she might just tear off its head and then there wouldn’t be a lot left to save. Deciding this was too risky; I picked her up and locked her in the bathroom. Then I put Oscar outside. He was bored with the game anyway. Now there was just me and the mouse. He had scampered back behind the cupboard and sat there quivering in the corner. I could see him if I lay flat on my front and squinted with one eye. I put down an empty kitchen roll tube to fool him into thinking it was a tunnel, but it fooled no-one. I tried again to move the cupboard gently so I could make a grab, but every time there was enough space for my arm to slide down he ran off round the room. Finally, I left the mouse behind the cupboard, Sooty shut in the bathroom and went back to bed.
As soon as she was released the next morning, Sooty made a bee-line for the cupboard and I could tell by her laid back ears and spring loaded rear end that the mouse was still there. I went out and bought a humane mouse trap. It’s a clever little device where you put something delicious, like jam, into one end. Then you stand it up to look like a dark enticing tunnel. The mouse smells the irresistible aroma of jam and runs inside. His weight triggers the flap at the front, shutting the door behind him. Then all I had to do was take it out into the garden and set it free beside the shed. But the mouse didn’t like jam, or cheese, or peanut butter. Night after night the trap went down, morning after morning it remained empty.
The mouse must have made its own way out. I can say this with confidence for two reasons. (1) It’s not there now, I’ve checked and (2) if Sooty had caught it there would have been two back legs and a tail left neatly on the side of the mat. She never eats the whole thing, clearly a cat with excellent table manners. I cleaned out the humane trap, which wasn’t easy as I discovered that jam mixed with cheese and peanut butter takes on the properties of super glue. Perhaps he was too fat for it, I pondered, as I tucked it away in the cupboard under the sink. I’ll have to move that bottle of grow-rite.