Sunday, June 3, 2012

Nothing Says "Love" Like a Dead Chipmunk in Your Shoe

If you’re going to live in the country, you can’t be wimpy about animals – alive or dead.  Especially when the live ones bring you dead ones.

It’s a matter of perspective.  While most people don’t appreciate something dead brought into their house by a cat, I do realize it’s a sign of affection.  I would be alright if they didn’t love me quite so much, though.

The other day was a new level of love.  I found a dead chipmunk in my shoe next to the table.  Later that day, Larry found a dead mole in his.  We are assuming it was Bella, as Augie tends more towards birds while Bella favors smaller mammals.  Thanks guys, but come on already.

The sound that makes our ears pick up is the cat door swinging open.  The cat door is in the door leading to the basement, where the litter boxes are.  The basement leads to the outside world for the cats during the day, as we leave the hurricane door open a crack so they can come and go during the day and close it in the evenings so the cats stay in.  They may be mighty hunters during the day, but once the sun goes down, they move down the food chain significantly.

The sound of the cat door swinging means, about a third of the time, a cat is coming in with something.  I was doing dishes when I heard the door swing, and a few seconds later something went thud on the floor.  I looked to see a very large, very dead squirrel lying in the doorway, Bella sprawled under the table looking at me like “Tah-dah!!”

Not all gifts are deceased, however.  I was on the telephone with stepdaughter Bonnie the other night when I heard the cat door and a minute later heard “Bwaahaaap,” which is not the sound a tortured mouse normally makes.  ”Bwaahaaap” it went again, and I turned to see a frog come hopping out from under the table, Augie keeping a slight distance which said “That really didn’t taste too good.”  “Bonnie, I gotta go get a frog away from the cat,” I said as I hung up the phone and raced to get the frog before he went under something and became unretrievable.

Bella is the snake catcher in the family, and I have taken numerous small snakes away from her and tossed them back outside.  (For all of you who ask, no, I never did find the faucet snake.)  I’ve also come home to a dead fieldmouse, on its back, all four legs comically in the air, right smack dab in the middle of the couch cushion.  The only thing missing from the picture were little x’s in its eyes.  And let’s not forget the drowned chipmunk I found floating in the toilet.  I grabbed Augie and showed it to her; she peered into the bowl with a look of “What’s it doing in there? 

The wildlife in the house does get old.  I came in last Saturday to see Larry lying on his stomach on the floor on one side of the woodstove, Augie on the other.  “Um, whatcha doing?” I asked.  “What do you think?” Larry said, and at that moment I saw a chipmunk run out from behind the woodstove towards the open door.  Augie made a halfhearted move towards it which sent it running over the back of Larry’s legs (he gave new meaning to the word “flail”) and under the chair. 

Augie had a chipmunk behind the woodstove, which started to run up the bricks behind it, then jumped in the window to the right of the woodstove.  I opened the front door, which is next to the window, figuring I could shoo him out the door.  Instead, the chipmunk ran past the open door and dove into the shoes, while Augie ran outside on the porch and looked around for it.  I am dealing with idiots.

For as good the cats are at catching things, once they turn them loose in the house they absolutely suck at catching them again.  Then it’s me who has to catch them.  My success rate is better than theirs, but not perfect.  Sometimes I have to wait until the prey has been worn down before I can help them.

Indoor sports - waiting for the mouse
to come out from under the chair
One night the cats were in mild pursuit of a chipmunk they had brought in earlier, but I could not catch.  I left them to their own devices and went to bed.  In the morning I went into the kitchen and saw it in the cat’s food dish.  I stopped – had they killed it and put it in their dish?  I looked closer and it looked up at me, its cheeks full of cat food, exhausted, with a look on its face of “You would NOT believe the night I’ve had!”

One of the good things about winter is that most of this nonsense ends with the cold weather.  But for now, when I come home, I take a quick look around before I step too far in the house.  Right by the front door where we keep the shoes seems to be the dismembering area, and I have found heads, innards, wings, legs and other innumerable body parts on a regular basis.  Our late cat Rocky used to leave us chipmunk tails on the porch.  Larry pinned them to the doorway. 

We have a feral cat who comes a visitin’ now and then, whom we have named BoyToy.  A beautiful black and white male, he is friends with Augie (who’s our social butterfly) while Bella keeps her distance and glares and growls at him.  He keeps a very healthy distance from us; there is no getting up close and friendly with this guy.  Larry keeps hinting to put food out for him, which I have managed to discourage him thus far.  There’s plenty of wildlife for him to sustain himself without help from us.

Meanwhile, like the toddler who picks a dandelion and presents it proudly to a parent, we’ll keep thanking our cats for their own displays of affection.  It is love, after all.  Gag reflex aside.