once upon a morning

Once upon a morning (yesterday to be precise) I couldn’t find Jake the Cat. He’s not known to be elusive at breakfast time. Something was wrong.

I ran, not walked, all over the house, upstairs, downstairs, checking behind every closed door, every closet, cupboard, expecting to see his little oxygen starved body curled beside a note scratched into a baseboard: I give up, help obviously isn’t coming… p.s. do NOT give Cuddles my bowl

At this point Peter joined the search, shaving cream still on his face. He did a re-check of the basement while I did yet another circuit of the main floor.

Then I found him.

I called down to Peter. “I found him!”

“And??” He sounded cranky. As if I found him wasn’t quite enough info.

“He’s okay, he’s hunting something.”

We watched Jake pace around a basketful of fresh firewood and then, figuring whatever it was must be under there, we lifted it. As I ran out of the room I caught a glimpse of something running the other way.

Watching from the front hall through the glass of a closed door I saw Jake chase a mouse across the room and corner it near the kitchen where he then sat with his little cat arms crossed as if to say: think you’re smart doncha…what’s the big plan now, sucker?

You could tell that awful cat and mouse game was about to begin, where, instead of receiving a fast and clean, humane kill, the mouse gets batted and tossed and nipped and eventually has a heart attack while bleeding from the head. Which, by the way, Desmond Morris in Cat Watching tells me happens not because the cat is sadistic but because it’s not particularly sure of itself—so it’s essentially testing the waters. Either that or it isn’t all that hungry, in which case the hunt and kill instinct doesn’t click in but stays on permanent ‘hunt’ instead. This is the behaviour, in other words, of domestic rather than feral cats.  

The mouse, at this point, was hunkered down, head low, trying to be inconspicuous I guess, hoping maybe to not look like such a scrumptious morsel.

Nice try, mouse.

After some serious staring and tail twitching, and before Peter could intervene, Jake grabbed Mouse and carried him across the room, set him down, presumably to begin the pummelling—at which point Mouse keeled over onto its side, little legs pointing east.

I turned my head as Peter scooped him with a yoghurt container and took him outside. Meanwhile Jake, who loves and trusts us and would never dream we’d take away his mouse, assumed the thing had escaped and continued to look for it. Like Desmond Morris said, there’s a difference between feral and domestic kitties…

I went back in to console and thank Jake. He seemed so tired, must have been stalking the thing all night, for which I’m still very grateful. Only doing what he’s meant to do. Even so, more than a slight pall hung over things what with the demise of poor Mouse who was also only doing what he was meant to do.

And that would normally be that, except you can’t have a Once Upon a Morning story without a Happy Ending…so, yes, there’s more.

There’s Jake’s version of ‘happy’, where he got extra portions of treats for being a good mouse catcher—and then there’s everyone else’s, which is that the mouse was only playing dead. Peter said that when he went to scoop it, the little varmint got back to its feet and tried to run away and that when he let it go outside, Mouse let out a long, grateful sigh and headed, smiling, and at lightning rodent speed, toward the cedar hedge.

The End.



“I don’t get it—it was there one minute, and then…”


6 thoughts on “once upon a morning

  1. Good old Jake. Give him some extra kibble and a skritch behind the ears for me.

    Thelma tells me that when cats bring us dead beasties they are not giving us presents so much as trying to teach us to get food for ourselves, as if to say: “You need to learn to do this if you want to survive.” Not sure where she heard this. Don’t know if Desmond Morris would agree.

    Speaking of which, I don’t want to contradict such an eminent authority, but I’m wondering about his assessment of why cats bat around their prey. I suppose I would not consider our cats as feral, since they spend a certain amount of time in the house.

    But they spend even more time outside, gallivanting over 20 acres of wooded land, sometimes swimming and killing a lot of animals -mice, squirrels, birds, chipmunks, rabbits, a snake, even a weasel once. Their mother taught them well how to fend for themselves in the wild.

    They seem to take an inordinate amount of time playing with their prey (usually the smaller things like mice or birds) in the grass or on our porch. They sometimes carry baby rabbits around while still wounded.

    (Sally once dragged a dead adult rabbit from the woods to our cottage. It was much larger than her and it took all her strength to do it).

    Anyway, I suppose it’s possible they do this because they’re unsure of themselves, but they are such killing machines (especially Laine, the swimmer) that it seems to me they are just taking pleasure in the toying around.

    Thelma once saved a baby rabbit from Laine and returned it to the woods. Laine found it, killed it and left it where Thelma would find it, just to spite her. I love the cats but sometimes they scare the crap out of me.

  2. Ha! (I love your last line!) Although as you’re slightly larger than a rabbit, you should be safe.

    Sounds like your cats might be frolicking with the prey because they’re not driven by hunger (according to Morris), so their hunting instinct just stays in overdrive, whereas an ‘unfed’ cat would get down to the kill and therefore the ‘meal’ much sooner.

    But Jeezuz. You’ve got some feisty felines there! Happy too, I’ll bet. All those acres. Do you worry about them being targeted by coyotes, etc?

    Interesting about the possible reason for the ‘gifts’. Our girl cat, Cuddles, constantly brings us gifts in the form of her toys. Makes a very loud yowling, caterwaul as she does so, then plonks it near us and sits down in a very matter-of-fact way. I’ve always taken this as simple affection, but I love the idea of it being affection wrapped in survival training. She doesn’t want us to starve!

    Now I just have to find a recipe for catnip pillow, sponge ball and fuzzy fake mouse stew.

  3. We used to worry about letting the cats out after dark because of coyotes, but they have all spent days away from home and have yet to be eaten so we worry less.

    We do think their mother, who often took off for days but always showed up again, was most likely eaten.

    Our older cat Emma also does the yowling thing when she carries around a little spongy ball. The sound she makes sounds similar to a human baby and so I always think she is acting out some kind of maternal instinct. She doesn’t bring the ball to us, but carries it around in the basement. It seems to be some kind of private game. It’s probably not maternal because her brother Digby (who had to be put down this year), sometimes did it too.

    I suggest braised faked mouse with a side of diced sponge ball and garnished with shredded catnip.

    1. Steve, the braised fake mouse was sublime! I never would have thought of dicing the sponge ball. Tks. (Made all the better with Peter’s wine pick: a saucy cabernet meow)

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