Building a better mousetrap? (It won’t be a cat.)

Earlier this month, my wife and I were awakened by a mouse. . .in our bed. On my pillow.

In truth, it might actually have been the cat that woke us up. Hard to say, in hindsight. She brought the mouse into the bedroom, either because she wanted to share it with us or because she wanted us to finish it off for her, mash it up, and put it in her bowl. You know: Make it look like a can of Fancy Feast. My point? We were not awakened in the night by a mouse skittering in the attic above us or in the walls behind us. We had a squeaking, terrified mouse in the bed with us.

And, yes, we had the cat.

22377329368478653_xak32DRt_f          As particularly conscientious readers know, we have five cats. Yup, almost a half-dozen. This is what happens when your wife volunteers at an animal shelter. How is it possible to have mice anywhere in our house, given that we have those five cats? I have no idea. In theory, the two species don’t cohabitate well together in confined spaces. Don’t people actually get cats so they don’t have mice?

In any case, I turned on the light as my wife was burrowing deep beneath the quilt, squealing at a decibel level somewhere closer to jet engine than mouse. I watched the mouse dive off the bed and the cat. . .watch it. The mouse ran into the hallway. Did the cat give chase? Nope. She curled up on top of the shuddering mound under the sheets that was my wife. The cat wanted to go back to sleep.

The next morning, my wife recalled that the mouse had been pretty cute. It had, she said, adorable little ears. But she still didn’t want to sleep with it.

We were pretty sure the mouse lived upstairs in the attic, so we brought the cat there. This is a cat that will occasionally – but not often – catch a mole in our yard. (I say “occasionally,” because our yard has more underground tunnels than Disneyland. It’s a wee bit spongy.) A few hours later, the cat came downstairs. She didn’t bring a mouse, dead or alive, with her, but my wife and I hoped for the best. We hoped she had killed the

Not a chance. That night, the cat again brought the mouse into our bedroom. Once more, she brought it into our bed. The mouse was – and you probably saw this coming – still very much alive. Then the cat went to sleep, while I tried to capture the mouse myself. I tried to corner it behind a small bookcase, planning to herd it into an empty shoebox and carry it outside. This plan might have had some small chance of success if I had had an empty shoebox with a lid handy. But I didn’t. So the mouse again escaped.

I’ve read that cats bring the mice and birds they catch to a secluded corner somewhere so they don’t have to share it with other cats. I’ve read that sometimes they end up not eating the smaller animal because they take a bite and realize it just isn’t as savory as the pates that people spoon into their bowls from cans. And I’ve heard that sometimes cats don’t finish off their prey because they’re bored, and what once was food is now entertainment.

My wife is convinced that the cat brought us the mouse because the animal was proud: She wanted our approval. Was my wife anthropomorphizing? Was she giving the feline human wants and needs? Maybe. Maybe not. I tend to think my wife was on to something. The cat was positively basking in her accomplishment.

All I know for sure, however, is this: I need a better mousetrap. And it isn’t going to be another cat.

(This column appeared in the Burlington Free Press on July 20. Chris’s new novel, “Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands,” was published this month.)

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Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.