Several years ago we had invested over $100 to humanely get rid of a stray cat which was terrorizing Che, our long-time resident crippled stray cat. Now Che too is gone and we are overrun with, as it turns out, wood rats living in the crawl space under our house, scritching around in walls, chewing through drywall, tearing into dog food bags and leaving droppings all over the garage.
Mark puts up a valiant battle. First he deploys traditional mouse traps. They are triggered and empty, in one case disappearing entirely. Then he brandishes the Squirrelinator which he uses to live trap squirrels that eat our fruit. The varmints eat the dog food bait inside that trap and exit left — or right, or however they want. We certainly don’t want poisoned dead rats under our house and so far three types of traps have failed. We need a cat!
We keep an eye out on Craigslist and in the newspaper. Nothing. We watch the webcams at our local shelter and Humane Society, and fall for a cute black and white female at the shelter. Described as shy, she lets me pet her in her little cloth-covered box with a white fuzzy ball hanging down in front of her.
“Does her little house come with her?” I ask, and they agree that’s where she’s most comfortable. We pay the $40 fee and decide to call her Aunt Bea. We stop on the way home for food, litter, and toys.
At home we set up the large crate we bought for our golden doodle and put Aunt Bea’s house there to keep her safely in the garage. We have been refinishing our garage door and want to make sure she doesn’t escape. When the door is done we open the cage and shut her in only when we take the car out. Every time we peek in, we spy her white nose and we notice she’s eating her food and using the litter box.
One day, curious, I lift the top of the crate and tip the cloth-covered box. No Aunt Bea! It’s obvious that stooping over and peering into the dark box, we’ve thought the fuzzy ball hanging down was her white face. But where does she hide? After searching all the nooks and crannies, we decide she must be going under the house through the hole rats chewed in the drywall around the washer drain pipe. Great! That’s just where we need her.
Later, Mark needs to drive out of town and just to be cautious, he looks under the car and under the hood. We’ve read many stories about the fate of cats hiding in the engine compartment. He drives the ten miles from our house through town, then onto the freeway when WHAP! What’s left of Aunt Bea flies out from under the car.
We grieve a bit for the cat we never knew, and then we see a Craigslist for two good mousers about an hour’s drive away. When we arrive the owners have managed to capture only one, which they chase around the house a while. “That’s okay,” we say. “We only wanted one.” The owner insists that we must take both because they won’t hunt unless they’re together and says she’ll bring the other one to us when they catch him.
Our carrying cage is no match for a large fiercely struggling cat and on the way to the car the top latch springs open, the cat flies out and away. The owner calls in a few days saying she’s found someone local to take them both. We’re relieved. Good luck, we think, keeping those cats around.
We watch the cat cam at the Humane Society until we again find a lovely female. We’re told our choice is too feral and they need to keep her longer. But next door to her is a handsome big male, black with a white chest and socks. He welcomes our pats, which is an encouraging sign. Chance is his name, and we take a chance on him, paying the $60 fee. This time we leave the car outside and don’t even open the garage door. He spends day after day squeezed into a small space behind the dryer. We are to take him to the vet in a week, but we don’t chance it yet.
Finally he will come out when we call; then he asks to come in the house. We hold him, pet and brush him, introduce him to Dood, and all is well. Finally we go the vet, where he behaves admirably and we drop another $40. Still we keep him captive, just to make sure. Finally Mark opens the pet door and makes sure he knows how to go in and out. Then we leave him free for good and WHEE! He’s gone. Once Mark sees him up the hill in the orchard and calls, but he runs away.
We put a bowl of cat food in the orchard and when it disappears, Mark sets up a infrared surveillance camera and we catch photos of a pure black cat, a skunk, Stellar’s Jays and what looks like a light-colored striped cat eating the food over a period of weeks. Definitely no Chance in the photos.
Meanwhile Mark found heavy-duty rat traps at the Grange and is regularly catching rats. Maybe by the time we’re rid of rats we will have seduced a cat into staying with us? Watch this space.