My old cat played games with me during the gas shortage crisis of 2021.
You see, there’s so much rain. So. Much. Rain.
And during the rain, mice enter my home. They zip in through little holes and the main door when we leave it open for the pets.
It used to be that my cat, Dolce, would catch the mice before they even entered the house. The Great Huntress, as she demanded to be called, left little body parts around our property like an untidy serial killer. Sometimes a pile of feathers. The remains of a vole outside the front door. “We need a little mousie chalk outline,” I would yell to Stephanie. She disposed of the bodies.
No mouse dared to sleep in our house.
Now, she’s about to turn 17 and her main activities are sleeping in sunspots, eating, and demanding pets and treats. She pops up onto the couch beside me as I knit and snags my hand with one long claw, pulling it toward her head. “Oh, you want lovings,” I cry, delighted even as she scratches a red line across my knuckle. I plunge my hand into her soft belly fur and ruffle and rub and give her the pets she desires. Then, I return to my knitting, rejoicing that she chose me to snuggle and injure.
The Great Huntress has retired.
I suspected mice were back when I heard strange clunkings and clankings in the kitchen late at night. The whole family curled together in the bedroom. Another thunk alerted Dolce. Ears pointed and eyes narrowing, she stalked out into the kitchen. A small crash and a scurry across the floor told me the hunt was on.
The next morning, a mouse laid dead in our master bathroom. Sprawled at the base of the toilet, it appeared to have died more from fright than anything else. I didn’t study it for tooth marks. Like most retirees, the Great Huntress couldn’t resist a chase, but she’s not up for the down-and-dirty part of the job.
One mouse means more. Sure enough, mouse poop hid in the cracks and crevices of the counters at the edges of baskets and under towels. Yuck!
Time to pull out the live mouse trap.
A little peanut butter baited the trap. I settled it on the favorite mouse route and turned off the light that evening. The door slapped closed about ten minutes later.
Padding out into the kitchen, I turned on the light. Dolce stood over the green tube, reaching her paw out to knock it into the middle of the kitchen floor. As far as I can tell, slapping the trap across the smooth floor brings her more joy than catching the mice these days. It’s like a labor-saving device. She looks up at me as if to say, “Did you know? It’s miraculous! It catches the mice and then I can play with them for hours!”
Ah, the wonders of technology!
I left her playing for a moment while I retrieved a dishtowel. Dropping it over the top of the trap, I scooped the whole thing up and put it on the dryer in the laundry room.
Wrapping the trap with a towel protects surfaces from the mouse droppings. Plus, the darkness keeps the mouse calm.
Dolce sprawled across my space on the sheets when I returned to bed. So satisfied with herself. Looking at me as if to say, “And that’s how a professional does it. Thanks for cleaning up.”
I know. I’m fooling myself to think she thanked me.
When I woke up the next morning, the mouse and I took a drive while Dolce cuddled with Stephanie. We circled around until I found a sort-of deserted area just over a mile away from our house (the minimum distance required to keep the mouse from finding its way back). Saying a prayer of blessing and encouragement, I tumbled the animal out of the tube into the grass.
They gave me the little mousie finger and sprinted off.
When I live-trap these mice and relocate them, I know that I’m sending them out into the arena for their real-life Hunger Games. However, in my area, finding a field at least a mile away from any other home is a challenge I’ve yet to overcome so they have a good chance of relocating into another house. We humans packed ourselves into these hills, all of us wanting our one-to-three acre plots. My best hope is that the mice get to live their regular little lives, eaten by a fox or some other mouse-eating varmint instead of slinking into a house that uses killing traps.
Especially the sticky traps. Don’t use those! What an awful way to go!
Back home, I washed the mouse trap in water with dish soap and bleach, and soaked it overnight.
The telltale sound of mice thumping into the dog food bowl woke me in the dark. As I tried to go back to sleep, Dolce alerted us to the hunt with a series of peeping meows and the uncertain crackle of a cat trying to sneak through a series of plastic bags and broom bristles.
Losing speed and grace in her old age was what sent the Great Huntress into retirement, so I shouldn’t be surprised at waking up. However…
Trying to stay sleepy, I wrestled her out of the broom closet (more of an alcove. There’s no door) and dumped her back on the bed. She cuddled in, content to allow the mouse to zip back to their hiding place.
Mice show up in pairs, so I knew I had at least two more catch-and-release adventures ahead.
As I caught-and-released, repeating the process over several days as mouse after mouse appeared, the gas crisis showed up. I laughed when Stephanie told me about it. Surely, this wasn’t so dire.
The next morning, I drove my mouse out in a new direction.
I go in new directions so they can’t find each other and share information on how to return.
Along my route, a line of traffic at a gas station trailed into the highway. A group of computer hackers (what do you call a group of hackers? A nerd of hackers? A code of hackers? I should know this!) had broken into the system of the local gas supplier and somehow prevented the gas from arriving at stations. Panic spread across the region. Trucks and cars blocked the opposite lane as I passed them. People filling their tanks and piles of red gas cans packed into the beds of pickup trucks. One video shared online showed a woman filling a plastic bag with gasoline, dragging it back to her car while sloshing gas all over the ground.
I reflexively checked the gauge. A little over half a tank. I work from home and rarely drive, filling my tank once a month instead of once a week. They were predicting the pipeline and subsequent delivery system would be resolved by the middle of the next week.
The mouse scuffled across the rocking floor of the trap, clicking the plastic back and forth. I pulled through a side road and lingered at a lonely stop sign to grab the mouse and tumble him out onto the grass.
That damn cat! I thought. She could catch these mice herself instead of waiting for the trap to contain them, waking me up with the scratching slide of the plastic across the floor. I’m spending all my gas driving these mice into the country!
Now the mouse-release adventure became a saga. Would I run out mice or gas first? I combined trips. Release the mouse on the way to the chiropractor, but not so near the chiropractor he would show up at that house. Release the mouse in the park as I walk to the library to pick up books I had on hold.
When I dropped off the last mouse into the grass next to a highway exit, the gas tank was just under half and the waits at stations reducing from hours to minutes.
I won this round, little mousies.