Mouse visits now by invitation only

Nine years ago, I wrote about our first encounter with a mouse in our house. Our old, indoor cat was happy to take on a new roommate so long as it meant no interruption to his busy sleep schedule.

That cat, beloved, despite his universal indifference, has long since departed this world; may he rest in peace. Since then, we have been adopted by a youthful, indoor/outdoor cat, who is anything but indifferent toward mice, birds, and, to his periodic detriment, skunks.

Smokey, the new cat, is a top-notch mouser. It almost seems a shame, to him, that we have not been plagued by mice since he joined our family. It would make his sport perfect if he could have some indoor hunting available on rainy days so he wouldn’t have to get his toes wet in the pursuit of happiness.

Most cat owners can take comfort in the idea that their sweet little killers will help keep mice away from their homes. We were quickly disabused of this false security when Smokey began bringing mice home with him. Fortunately, these visitors were no longer in any condition to cause havoc by the time he brought them.

Not until last week.

Saturday night, Smokey showed up on schedule at the back door. It seemed a routine end to his evening until, after letting him in, we realized he’d brought a friend with him. This was a very healthy and able friend, the only impediment to his extraordinary vigor being that he happened to be held in a cat’s teeth. This condition was soon remedied when Smokey set him down and invited him to play another round of Chase.

Treats in the fridge for Dad, and under the fridge for Cat.

The mouse was game, and also significantly heartier than most mice who drop from cats’ mouths. Smokey might have grazed him in batting the right paw, but by the time the cat realized the left paw bat was a swing and a miss, the mouse was under the couch.

Thus began the humans’ night of playing Cat and Mouse with a cat and a mouse. We closed off the back room and commenced lifting every piece of furniture as the mouse juked the cat from one hiding place to the next. It turns out these games are not well suited to people, and the fun rapidly diminishes, though you might not be able to tell it by the steady increase in volume of their voices.

Eventually, the mouse took sanctuary in the underworkings of the minifridge wherein Daddy’s precious beer is chilled. Neither man nor beast could get him out. I picked up the fridge and set it outside. Mice don’t have fingers strong enough to pop the tab on a beer can, or the cat might have been in a lot more trouble.

Next day, the fridge came back inside—to our knowledge, without a mouse. The beer was saved, and so was the cat.


It’s suddenly Smokey all through the house

We didn’t seek a cat.

For the last five years, our only pets have been a pair of aquatic turtles, and except for sharing our home with a pair of turtles, I’ve been fine with that.

I didn’t need a new pet.

The universe thought differently.

The cat belonged to the neighbors. When they couldn’t keep him, the universe, with a little coaxing from our children, sent him across the street to us.

At first, it was easy to accept the will of the universe. The cat preferred to be outdoors. He slept, ate, and conducted all his other animal business outside. This was his main selling point. Imagine having a pet—a mammalian pet at that—without the sheen of hair on the furniture, without the odors, without the mess! My wife imagined it with gusto, and the picture her mind painted was a heavenly masterpiece of hygienic pet ownership.

With all the angels singing above our heads, how could I object?

Alexa, the electronic matron who watches our every move and tells us what to do and which products we should order right now from, told us to name him Smokey. We obediently named him that, because we didn’t want the CIA, or the even more powerful, to put us on the naughty list.

Giving us our order for the day

I don’t know for sure if it were Smokey or the universe that pulled the old bait and switch. Possibly, it was my wife.

It must have been the universe that sent the Yellow Jacket to investigate Smokey’s outdoor food bowl. It was definitely my wife who immediately insisted that Smokey’s food bowl be moved inside the house, where nasty insects couldn’t tamper with his kibble.

And then Smokey came regularly inside the house. The next time I saw him, he was resting on a chair in the back room.

The dominoes had begun to fall. With Taliban-like speed, he conquered the rest of the house. The master bedroom fell to him within days. I found him curled up beside my wife one night. I gently explained to him that it was only a two-person bed. He gave me that indifferent cat blink that says things like: “Yes. And there are already two people in it.”

The goalposts have been moved on me. The enticements about having an outdoor cat are long gone. My wife no longer goes to bed without calling Smokey inside. He has made a habit of sleeping with us, despite the balmy outdoor nights he once claimed to adore.

My wife now puts a cat sheet over the comforter. Smokey begins his naps on this, but in the midst of his air-conditioned sleepy raptures, he often stretches himself onto the bare comforter. You can tell by the sheen of cat hair.

He’s a nice cat though, and he still does his dirty work outside. Everyone’s happy about that, except Alexa, who’s burning up with the knowledge of where we can scoop up great deals on litter accessories.

This tail was made for pulling

face-off with cat

“The thing I love best about you is that you’re so unpredictable.”

Our baby and our cat are best friends. This is an unexpected development. When the big boy was a baby, he and the cat had an awkward relationship. The thing they had most in common was a wariness of the other. They might have been reality TV show contestants.

Since the big boy was the first baby, it is possible that the cat resented the way he stole the limelight. In a childless house, the cat was a pet. After baby-number-one arrived, the cat became more like a mobile piece of décor. The squeaky, helpless, crying wheel got the grease, and the cat got to make adjustments in his expectations. This may have soured the cat on the idea of human babies. The baby’s herky-jerky, heavy-handed flailing may have played a role as well. We’ll never know for sure.

Baby-number-one and the cat had their rare, sweet moments, but these were mostly when the baby was very drowsy or already asleep. The two of them were never best buddies.

Baby-number-two has taught the cat a lesson in demographics. Mr. Cat is outnumbered now, and since he hasn’t had all of his man parts in more than a decade, and there are no eligible bachelorette cats in our house anyway, he’s not likely to roll back the tide. Facts are facts.

To his credit, the cat has adjusted to his changing world. He has reached out to this new baby in an effort to mend fences with baby-kind. He flops down beside the baby and allows himself to be petted, if petted means having little fistfuls of his fur grabbed, his tail tugged, and his ears pulled. All of this is a form of attention, and the cat has come to appreciate that.

The cat also understands that this baby means no harm. He has a lighter touch than his brother did and that probably helps. If his grabby style of petting hurt the cat, the cat likely would not keep eagerly subjecting himself to it. But it doesn’t hurt, or at least it hurts better than nothing.

Their relationship is not all sunshine and lollipops, though. They’ve had their spats. One time the baby must have tugged upon the wrong piece of cat, because the cat had to yell at him. “Stop it! That hurts!” the cat said. That’s what I think he said, anyway. It was in cat language. It sounded mostly like “Rrrairrrlw!” but I think my translation is pretty close.

The baby cried after the cat scolded him. His feelings were hurt. He was only trying to play with his friend.

Another time I warned the baby in a stern voice not to tug the cat’s leg like he was. I was hoping to avoid another cat-yelling incident. I did avoid it, but the baby cried at my warning anyway. He’s very sensitive about his cat.

It’s tough when all you want to do is play with your best buddy and all it does is get you yelled at.