The Feline Fifth Column
There is a lot of shredded paper in the bottom of the closet. I don’t know exactly how that happened. A roll of paper towels is now confetti. And I hear small feet scrambling inside the walls and running across the ceilings. At first I thought it was a flying squirrel. Or a regular squirrel. Or maybe a rat? But, no, it isn’t quite that simple.
Romie the cat, my cat, the cat who lives here, is feral. She came here as a tiny kitten rescued from a nearby barn. She is a small, lovely, affectionate cat. I love her deeply. But, alas, she is no vegan. And she is no tree hugger. She is and always has been a fierce and persistent hunter. And a killer of rabbits. Mice. Voles. Birds. Squirrels. Moles. She has terrorized local fauna, large and small, for more than a decade despite her being so petite. She is such a very skilled hunter who sometimes turns her nose up at her dinner. Why? Because she is full. Having eaten her prey, she is no longer hungry. At all. And she makes no secret of the fact that she prefers live kill to organic cat food.
Which brings me to today. She came to the door with a large, completely alive, brown mouse and a clump of weeds hanging from her mouth. No surprise. She wanted to come in. I do not let her in when she is carrying her prey. Ever. She was, of course, calling out, as she always does, so that her family can come and eat what she has brought them, so they too can eat fresh meat. In this case, her family is now only Maya the Dog. “Come,” she screams, “Come quick," she meows, "There is live food for you, my sweetie.” I do not let her in. She walks off with her prey.
As I am watching her slink beneath the porch with the mouse secure in her mandibles, I remember that it was only yesterday that I saw her run through the kitchen— the back door was open-- with a nice, round grey mouse clenched in the jaws. I assumed that she ate it. I assumed that the dog cleaned up any remains. I assumed that. And then it struck me. The shredded paper. The small feet scrambling. No. Romie the cat is not devouring all of the prey she brings home. That would be nice, and clean, and hygienic, and thorough, but that’s not her plan. No. She has another idea. She is constructing a zoo. In my house. An edible zoo. A pantry if you will. A rodent butcher shop for felines.
Here’s what she does. She catches her prey, but she doesn’t eat it. She calls to her family just to divert my attention. She sneaks the live animals into the house despite my refusal to open the door for her. And then, and this is the diabolical part, the part she tries to hide from me, she lets the animals go free. That’s right. She frees them in the house. She frees them and lets them in their vast shock and panic find hiding places in my house. Why? Because she plans ahead. Now it’s Spring. But the memory of Winter is fresh. She lets the animals go in the house so she can eat them in winter. So she can eat them when the hunt is too challenging, too difficult, when it’s too cold, when there’s ice. And snow. And winds like a razor. When no animal, including the hunter, wants to be outside.
This is extremely alarming. As I am typing this, I imagine that Romie is building vast cities of mice in the walls. A huge suburb of moles may be hiding in the basement. Vole families are probably building fluffy nests in the narrow spaces between the floor boards and the ceilings. Flying squirrels are hiding in warm, dry insulation the attic.
When I think about the shredded paper in the bottom of the closet and the sound of scrambling feet, I am filled with dread. I may think this is my house. But that is plainly ridiculous. It is entirely an illusion. The cat is taking it over. Who knows what it will be like here in a few months?