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I must start by saying that my cats are both beautiful.

Tory, the elder, is sleek, elegant and aloof like some Egyptian Cat Goddess. She moves gracefully, almost floating, as she stalks her prey. She is grey like the shadow on a sketch, with white paws and tail-tip and shirt-front chest.

Libby, the little one, is soft and purry, and loves to smooch. Her fur is graduated in all shades from brown to peach and her eyes are yellow. She snoozes, until she catches sight of movement, then she's away, a streak of teeth and claws.

They are very, very different from each other, but they are both fine hunters.

Now, living in the country as we do, and being adamant and commited recyclers, we have always tended to have a problem with mice.

The cats decimated the population, and scared them off, so we had no more mice in the house. I was delighted.

Until...

They discovered there were no more mobile toys to chase up and down the wooden floors of the hallway at four o'clock in the morning.

And they found the compost pile and the mice nesting there.

And they started bringing them in to play with.

SIGH

Long ago, back when my parents had only two or three cats (they currently have eight cats that reside primarily in the house), one of them, the eldest of long ago, had an interesting method for dealing with mobile toys mice.

First off, one should realize that cats have a hunting instinct and with a little practice (typically acquired during kittenhood) are fairly good at catching mice and other small animals. However, two other things are necessary to be a successful mouser - reason and training.

  • A cat must have a reason to hunt. This can be for food, or for play things. A cat without reason to hunt, quite simply, won't.
  • A cat must know how to kill. This is done through practice. A hungry cat will eventually learn how to kill (though will get hungry too).
  • A cat must have training for how to, shall we say, eat what it catches. This is more along the lines of recognizing a particular thing as chunk of mobile food rather than a mobile toy.

I do recall various cats training others how to hunt... Beauty training her son, Blacky, how to hunt. Now, Beauty was a good hunter - she knew how to catch food and eat it, and that it was indeed food. She was a good teacher and taught this to her son by bringing him small animals that where still alive... she would make this sound which is best described as "meow with your mouth full" - because that is what it was. Blacky would come and she would drop the animal and sit back as he learned how to kill it and eat it (not sure how she instructed, but he certainly learned). Beauty would sit back and watch the goings on, determined not to handicap her son by making his life too easy (if he lost the mouse, well, he lost it) - once, the small rodent ran right across her paws and she didn't even attempt to catch it as Blacky bounded after it.

Blacky tried to teach the other cats years later after my parents had forgotten the muffled meow call (to my parents the muffled meow means "let cats out, not in"). I forget which cat he was trying to train to hunt (Sammy learned a bit, but none of the others did), but he brought in a (live) juvenile rabbit into the house resulting in all sorts of chaos. Sammy tried once, but he was better at catching birds than mice - which resulted in much more chaos.

Well, back to the story of twenty years ago rather than ten or five... Wendy. Wendy had an interesting way of dealing with mice that she recognized as toys (she never saw them as food). After some period of losing her toys once she left them alone for a bit she realized the need to have some place to put her toys so they wouldn't run away from her. Her chosen place was the bathtub. She could get in and out without any problem. However, the mice she caught could not climb out of it - the glazed ceramic gave no purchase to their small claws. Wendy did most of her catching and playing at night after all of the humans were asleep. My parents would occasionally enter the bathroom to find a half dead (though still alive - cats play rough) mouse trying to get out of the bathtub.

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