We have mice in our house. It’s a perennial problem: as the outside temperature drops towards freezing and lower, the mice, being not stupid at all, gravitate towards those big roomy wooden boxes that radiate heat, and as a bonus, contain food. Every fall we get this migration inwards, and I end up setting up traps everywhere around the house. Little do the mice know, though, that in our house, they also face a demonic force…our cat.
It’s not that our cat is an efficient mouser. No, our evil cat is a bumbling incompetent who rarely kills a mouse. Instead, she thinks mice are a wonderful new toy.
So I’m awakened at 2am, 3am, 4am by the sound of this klutz of a cat bouncing about and knocking over random objects. I got up and turned on the lights to witness the barbaric spectacle. Some poor mouse had been battered and stunned and was reduced to scurrying around in circles in the middle of the floor while the evil cat pounced and leapt up and down, and when the mouse broke the circle of torture, she’d chase it down and bat it back into the killing ground. Except, no killing. She’s got needle sharp claws and nasty teeth, but she didn’t use the more deadly weapons, preferring to keep the game going with blunt pummeling and terror and cruelty. This is what I live with.
I struggled just to get a little sleep in between the bouts of bumping and clattering and gleeful meowing. I might have been a punchy, because I swear she got into the bed and wormed her way up to my ear and hissed at me with fishy cat breath.
“Thisss iss my houssse. I posssesssss you. Sssuffer, fool, ssserve me, I will taunt you for my pleasure.”
“Now to busssinesss. I sseee there are only four cans of Fancy Feast on the ssshelf.”
“I must have more. Your poverty embarrassssessss me. When you awaken, you mussst tout your Patreon account and your fundraiser. I am disgusssted that you have pitiffuly permitted a SSSSSLAPP sssuit to diminissshh the ressssources that should be dedicated to ME. End it. End it NEEOW.”
I must obey. I am exhausted today. I cannot resist. Obey the cat. Save me.
So your cat is Cobra Commander.
The rural moggies we had where I grew up were effective terminators.
The purebred luxury cats have been bred for other criteria, so I am not surprised.
-Now the cats are well on their way from being mental symbiotes to outright parasites. In the final stage they will compel us to bring them along to the stars, and use us as monster-fodder in case we run into something nasty along the way.
PZ Myers says
If my cat is Cobra Commander, that would explain a lot. Like how she is so ineffectual at fighting mice, yet somehow spends all her time trying.
Ray Ceeya says
And now it’s time for CATS IN SPAAAACCCCCEEEE.
All our kitties were rescues, so were very good at mousing. Even after suffering a stoke which destroyed her optic nerve and ophthalmic division of the trigeminal, our last was pretty good. We finally had to put her down since she was also suffering from kidney failure.
fusilier, missing the quiet “crunch” at 3 am
I do hope you’re not keeping your cat on a diet of Fancy Feast. That stuff is like McDonald’s for cats in terms of nutritional value..
I believe that cats have to be taught to actually kill and eat their prey. Stalking and bouncing is instinctive, but if they depend purely on instinct, they won’t actually be effective mousers. In the wild (which barn cats count as), the mother cat teaches her kittens the necessary skills. My guess is that kittens that are born to house cats don’t learn, either because the mother doesn’t have the opportunity to show them how to catch mice (or birds), or because the mother never learned, either.
@1 I hadn’t thought about it, but now I am wondering if PZ speaks parseltongue. (And his cat too for some reason.)
Allison @8 is correct, cats must be taught. I saw a cat mother once trying to teach her litter to kill prey: poor thing, the silly kittens were just bouncing around ignoring her, of course. And, most adopted cats were adopted too young and haven’t learned.
I’ve never had a cat who knew that you’re supposed to kill prey. They just see small animals as playthings, like their indoor toys that they bounce around. I’ve even had cats invite me to join in the fun, or continue to try to bat a mouse around and continue playing after it was dead. Apparently they don’t know how sadistic they’re being: they just think it’s another cat toy.
We had a cat that could definitely kill and eat mice. Now that you mention it, I don’t know for sure whether her mother taught her. We might have found her as a stray, but as a kitten I think. I just thought it was instinctive. I don’t remember any of the other cats doing that.
Assuming the cat manages to kill the mouse, you’d think at least some of them would try eating it. We had dogs that ate bugs and I don’t think they had to be taught that.
The only bloody mice here are the ones my bloody cats bring in alive and then let go .
I have got some humane traps to catch the mice ,which i then let go .I am sure they bring the same mouse in every time ,it does look pissed off .
I have got a photo of three of my cats staking out the heater in the hall way ,because they can smell some critter is hiding in it .
My cat gets very upset when her toy breaks and stops running away.
So…you don’t quite have the ultimate way of dealing with mice: A ball-bearing mousetrap. (aka A tomcat.)
Friend of mine once had a cat that would go out, hunt, and bring back (dead) rattlesnakes. He once actually saw the cat doing the deed.
Disturbed sleep ,luxury ,wait until you have just had a circumcision and a cat jumps into your lap .
PZ Myers says
The Cat gets ONE (1) spoonful of Fancy Feast a day. She’s mainly fed on Beyond kibble.
We have tried other wet foods, and she won’t touch them. Also, it must be a seafood flavor — beef and chicken flavors are despised. She is extremely dedicated to getting her spoonful every morning, though, and I am greeted every morning by a hyper beast who attacks my ankles and yowls at me until I deliver up her taste of the Feast.
@15 I missed the boat on that one. At least, I don’t think there was a cat involved in the process.
Have you tried the Gravy Lovers Fancy Feast? Or the FF Seafood with extra gravy? Your cat will love you for that! Hint-it’s best to give them the entire can all at once-cats HATE leftovers.
Pierce R. Butler says
… this klutz of a cat bouncing about and knocking over random objects.
So it appears to the uninitiated. Having been assigned the duty of tending to two Bengals since the c-virus forced their owner to grandparenting necessities out of town, I have had it impressed on me that said cats do not merely knock things over: they conduct leading-edge gravitational experiments, even using their own bodies as required in the name of Ssscccienccce.
They seem to have made significant progress, judging by occasional demonstrations of up-the-walls anti-gravity exercises.
This perspective may shed some light on our esteemed host’s troubled relations with felines and physicists, previously considered separate phenomena.
So, to summarise this post and the comments, cats are not only cruel and evil, they’re also greedy and incompetent. (They really are supervillain material.)
@17 HAHA ,this happened a few days after the op.
Agents of Entropy
Hairhead, Still Learning at 59 says
When I was growing up my family had a cat that was dedicated to fighting, killing, and eating everything it could. Mice, rats, birds, once a whole seagull — a gopher! She didn’t kill for fun; she ate everything she killed, and I didn’t see her “playing” with her food either. She also fought dogs, successfully. I watched more than one dog enter our yard and leave, howling, with four deep claw marks across their noses.
Yet she was the offspring of a housecat and a housecat herself. She lived to 19 and died peacefully.
For many years she slept on my bed at night between my legs, with no clawing or biting.
Only annoying thing about her was that she was half-Siamese and her vocal range, variety, frequency, and power was something I have never found in any other cat.
I’ve got to disagree with the notion that kittens must be taught to be effective hunters. Our kitty came to us before her eyes had opened; my wife fed her with an eye dropper. She was coddled indoors for a while until in the fulness of time she was pushed out the door to go be an outdoor cat (which I know some consider to be the pinnacle of cruelty, but there we are). She became one of the best mousers I have ever seen. She brought us our portion of her victims regularly. Our house, despite being right next to a large field, never hosted mice. Best kitty ever. We loved her for about 20 years before she followed the great laser pointer in the sky.
I had once upon a time 2 cats had them since they were very young probably barly young enough to be away from their mother they were from different litters. They knew nothing about being a cat except what they did for fun. They liked chasing balls and feathers on a string and each other and things like that and sleeping as well. The older one caught a mouse one day would not the the tom near it it was her toy! She beat that thing for a good hour or more until it was just a wet grey ball dead as yesterdays meatloaf.
The little tom liked to play with cotton balls he would bat them about a while then he would stand on them with his front paws and pull up with his jaws until the cotton ball was 2 or 3 times its normal size.
he feamale finished with the mouse so he could have his turn he batted it around for a while the skin had not been punctured yet apparently because when he started in with his game of puffing the thing up he did puncture it and blood came out. At the moment he “growled ” a little cat growl he had discovered that mice were made of meat! The other cat who was sitting right next to him got very interested in what he was doing and she also now understood the mace were made of tasty meat.
That led me to the conclusion that the missing part was learning that other animals were meat.
I have helped o another occasion. The wicked black alley cat that had chosen to live in my yard had mostly become very good at eating out of the binns in the alley. I had been troubled by invasive none native squirrels and had shot one my little tomcat and the wicked missy were not very interested until I started to dress it out. then the wicked Missy became very interested and when I gave her a front quarter she took it away to her kittens a couple of days later when they had eaten all of it I found near her food bowl another headless squirrel. I guess she just brought it to her lair to finish it off.
It is not chasing and catching stuff so much that they need to be taught they like to do that it is hunger and they’re are made of meat that gets the job done.
Autobot Silverwynde says
@23: Meezers have quite the voice. My husband and I had one for seventeen years and Sammy let you know if he wanted anything. He was a wonderful cat and I miss him. :(
When my son was young (he’s 46), there were two small trees growing about 6 or 8 feet apart. We had a cat that would climb one tree and when a bird flew between the trees, launch himself, catch the bird in mid-air, and land in the other tree.
My cat was born in care, has always lived indoors and, to my knowledge, has never actually seen a real mouse. She plays with toy ones well enough though.
What she has learned to catch, however, are the moths. She has become quite the ninja when it comes to leaping and plucking them out of the air. Since she is seven now, and very lazy, I encourage this to get her some exercise. About half the time she can’t stomach the things though, and so cleaning up regurgitated moth carcasses has become a regular chore.
WMDKitty -- Survivor says
Gracie is 100% a momma cat. She tries to take care of the humans, even to the point of trying to teach me how to hunt. (Spoiler alert: I’m terrible at catching mice.) She set the mouse loose in my apartment and between me, Gracie, and Dad (and a few mousetraps), it took us months to get the little fucker. Gracie was the one who finally caught and killed it.
Later, my parents learned the hard way to listen to the cat. Gracie was insisting something had gotten in. Parents didn’t believe her until she caught the mouse. It was living in the kitchen cupboards and eating the cat food. (Said food is now kept in a large plastic mouse-proof bin.)
You should get some snakes and release them around the house. Rat snakes perhaps. Great climbers.
I have fond memories of my ribbon snake eating pesky Cuban tree frogs. Unlike cats, snakes don’t fuck around with all the playful torture and stuff. They get down to business. Efficient tubular killing machines.
Hairhead, Still Learning at 59 says
My aforementioned cat had taught herself a couple of interesting hunting techniques.
You know how birds will fly into a bush or a hedge and then flutter around inside, all safe?
Not around our cat. I once watched her track a bird flying above her. The bird fluttered here and there, clearly marking the location of the cat, then it dove into the bush between our yard and the neighbours. Wrong move, birdie! Our cat launched herself four feet in the air, landed belly-first on the hedge, reached in with one paw and adroitly snagged the bird. Pulled it to her mouth, pushed herself off of the hedge, dropped to the ground and trotted off to enjoy her snack.
I live-trap any cat that kills birds in my yard, and take said cat(s) to the animal shelter. Cats don’t need to be outside killing birds. It is a huge problem, world-wide.
My cat, Princess Leia, is a Lynx Point Siamese. She’s a mix of a grey tabby with a Siamese, with gorgeous markings and a Siamese voice. She fancies herself to be quite the huntress, even though she has been with us since she was about 5 weeks old, and has never hunted actual prey in her life.
She has a favorite toy, which she’s loved for five years now. It looks like a fuzzy weasel with the head and tail poking out of a sturdy cylinder, wrapped with sisal. She drags it all over the house, making her “mighty huntress” noise. She even sleeps with the thing.
At night, she bangs her toy against our bedroom door, calling out to us. Her vocalizations sound, for all the world, like she is calling “Mama”.
With three cats and two litter boxes, we think that no rodent in its’ right mind would dare to enter our house – he, he, he.
Re: rabbitbrush @ #33…
That gets into points of law. Laws distinguish between domesticated animals, like dogs, and animals that “wild by nature”, such as bees. Liability of owners for damage done by animals depends on which category the animal falls into.
It’s a huge problem in areas where genus felis is an invasive species. In the UK for example, the Royal Society for Protection of Birds is fairly adamant that cats are not a significant threat to smaller songbird species; habitat destruction is far more of a problem.
In most of Europe felis domesticus has taken over the ecological niche of felis sylvestris; now, you can make an argument that housecat density is higher than wildcat density, and bird conservation organisations are certainly wary of the pressure housecats can put on already stressed populations (like the common Sparrow), so the advice is generally to make sure cats and birds don’t mix, aka if you have an outdoor cat, don’t put out a bird feeder, and if you have vulnerable populations in your garden, by preference keep your cat in, or bell it.
But anyone with a cat and a garden is familiar with the pattern: you let out the cat, and at least one bird will throw an alarm call, and all of them head for high cover. No matter if it is the ‘ching-ching-ching’ of a blackbird, or the ‘ek-ek-ek-ek’ of a magpie, every bird gets out of the way.
The Natural History Museum Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition
Grand title winner
Photo of a tiger marking a tree
We bring cats into the house so we can touch the tiger.
Some of these photos are so gorgeous that I don’t know whether to feel inspired or woefully inadequate as a photographer.
The Serengeti in your backyard!
I mentioned these because, although I right now don’t have a cat, my bedroom adjoins the ground floor appartments’ gardens, and I often wake up at the noise of blackbirds and/or magpies scolding a cat.
(Note that that is bad practice: don’t let out your cat early in the morning, when the local bird population is the most active, is the advice given by at least three bird protection orgs here, the UK RSPB, the Dutch Vogelbescherming, and the ornithologist department of the German general nature conservancy NABU)
@38 When I was growing up (in the 70s in the exurbs with a lot of surrounding open space), my family had a few “outdoor cats”, a practice that I know many now consider unconscionable whether it’s because of their effect on birds or that the cats are exposed to cold and hazard.
Oh, and they weren’t neutered. Sorry, I had no part of this decision, and will never do this! Long story, but I am the youngest of a large family where cat allergies are widespread, and these cats tended to be acquired surreptitiously by my siblings after which “it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission” was the order of the day.
The cats themselves seemed happy enough. The one mouser I remember was an unaltered female and she would make short work crunching it down, leaving only the tail. The tomcats were ornery enough but I can’t remember them doing any hunting. I spent most of my early adulthood in settings where pet ownership wasn’t allowed. Also, as I said, I’m allergic to cats and would not have had room for most dogs. So I just never got into the habit of owning any pets.
My kids probably missed out on this, and I feel a small twinge of regret, but actually I don’t even like the idea of having a pet all that much. I like animals, but I don’t think they need to bond with me.
My cats used to bring home, uninjured, very active live adult bats, release them in the house, and then play and play the game of jumping up and catching them on the fly. Then release the bat again and play more!
I became, out of necessity, very skilled at stopping this fun game ASAP: I can now catch any bat indoors in a few seconds and release it unharmed. Another skill mastered, thanks to cats!
Saw one of my cats perform a new trick today, recapture the mouse they had let go ,then take it back outside .
Me and my ex used to have a pedigreed Maine Coon (he’s still living with her, crotchety old age pensioner at 16). Now, this breed is derived from farm cats, but I know all too much how breeders can screw up perfectly fine animal breeds; this one would have been perfectly fitted to roam my grandfather’s farmyard.
In an old ground-floor apartment in Amsterdam, he turned out to be an excellent mouser. Not playing with his prey, but a direct, fast, merciless killer, and an extremely patient stalker, sitting outside suspect spots in the kitchen for hours.
Living in an enclosed block, with all the downstairs neighbours cat-friendly, he had the run of the back gardens, and ruled them with an iron fist (still does; old he may be, but he lost nothing of his authority): our garden and the two neighbouring were prime territory, and he resolutely chased out every other cat vigorously; he was surprisingly cool with sharing the rest of the courtyard though.
But for all that, he was comically bad at hunting birds. A slow stalk in the open and a fast sprint does not work very well on prey that gets to fly up, and he never learned to set up ambushes in the undergrowth. We used to laugh at his “That’s not fair!” look.