“I have the honor to present you with this mostly dead chipmunk.”
– Henry Beard
I picked him up. We stepped softly to the open patio door. I shifted several times to aim his head so there would be an unobstructed line of sight. Eventually, finally, his body stiffened and his ears stood up; he had seen it. Not far from the deck a young deer was decimating my flowers nourishing itself in our garden, and now Albert, the mighty hunter, was ready to take care of business.
He leapt out of my arms to the deck, then bounded from the deck and covered the distance to the garden in 4 leaps. He skidded to a halt, looked up, and the standoff began. Albert was frozen, and the deer, a sweet young buck with wee velvety antlers, was curious. The deer took a cautious step toward the gawking gray feline, and then another.
And that was all she wrote. Faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap the entire deck at a single bound, Albert charged through the open door and hustled to the safety of the cellar. Poor Albert.
Albert and his consort, Victoria, are a charming and entirely loveable pair of cats. But unlike every cat I have ever owned lived with, they both seem to be missing what I have always considered to be an essential element of cat-itude. They seem to be entirely missing the hunting instinct. No, not the instinct – the skill.
I have had cats who were hunters extraordinaire. The most notable in this department was Boris, a long haired tuxedo cat who lived to be nearly 20. He spent the first 7 years of his life as a city apartment dweller. He wasn’t allowed outdoors, but, alas, there was plenty inside to keep him amused. He and his fellow tuxedo cat, Itch, would double team any resident vermin. Boris would assiduously flush a critter out, mouse and occasional cockroach alike, and then Itch, large but not terribly bright, would schlump down upon it and devour it with gusto. Boris preferred his Fancy Feast, but loved the thrill of the chase.
When I married and moved to upstate New York, my city cats came with me. Both adapted well to the great outdoors, Itch continuing in his subordinate role as bagman for Boris’s ferreting out of a variety of rural wildlife. But Boris really came into his own in the countryside. Even without Itch’s backup, mice and the occasional large (ugh!) hairy spider didn’t stand a chance in our house.
There was a field of high grass adjacent to our house, and one afternoon I looked out to see a black and white head bobbing up and down in the grass, drawing ever closer to the house. Head – no head – head – no head. Fascinated I waded through the grass only to find Boris and a mostly dead full grown rabbit. It was almost as big as Boris, and the only way he was able to transport his prey home to triumphantly present it to us was to lift one forepaw under the limp bunny and hold it under his chin as he hopped three legged toward home. As Boris proudly deposited it at my feet, the bunny decided it was somewhat less than mostly dead, and hopped away with alacrity. A happy ending for me and the bunny, but Boris was highly insulted.
On another occasion, I watched the movie “Willard” on TV with Boris purring contentedly at my side. (For those too young to remember this movie classic, Willard was an odd fellow who befriended a bunch of rats) The next day, and the only time this ever happened in Boris’s long and bloodthirsty life, he brought me a rat. A somewhat innocuous rat as rats go, from a neighboring woodpile. But a rat nonetheless. Coincidence? I choose to think not.
So, several cats removed from Boris, was it too much to hope for that Albert and Victoria would carry on the feline hunting tradition? Apparently, the answer is yes.
Living in the country as we do, we get our share of visiting rodents anxious to escape the hostile outdoors for a while. Albert and Victoria have the locating and chasing part down pretty well. We will notice one or the other staring intently at a particular area, and then, sure enough, an anxious and twitching little mouse will emerge and scurry away.
The dynamic duo will give chase, and now and then give it a not unfriendly bat with a paw, but then the little critter invariably escapes down some other mysterious hidden mouse hole.
Sometimes the cats must inflict some kind of damage, entirely inadvertently I’m sure, on their furry playmates. Because sometimes they end up dead, usually in an extremely inaccessible area locatable only by that peculiar unpleasant odor. We have resorted to dead mouse lessons for the pair of them.
“See this?” as we dangle a decomposing corpse in front of their noses. “This is what you’re supposed to do with mice. ”
They gaze cross-eyed and benignly at the thing swinging in front of their faces, and either stroll away or start taking a bath.
“You don’t even have to eat them. Just leave them this way and we’ll be happy to dispose of them!”
Yawns. Less interest. More grooming.
So now, when a mouse happens to intrude on our happy home, the ritual is the same.
“Where is it,” cries Ol’ P.
“Over here, behind the couch,” I respond, dragging the couch from the wall.
Ol’ P then resolutely dispatches the offending rodent with a well placed whack with a wooden yardstick. I place the tiny corpse in a baggie, and bury it deep in the trash.
Albert and Victoria look on, highly entertained at the show their humans have put on for them.
Rodents, beware. Trained humans inside.