36: The Cat Who Stared Down Mice

36: The Cat Who Stared Down Mice

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Cat Did That!

The Cat Who Stared Down Mice

The clever cat eats cheese and breathes down rat holes with baited breath.

~W. C. Fields

We needed a good mouser, so when we learned of barn kittens born not too far from us, off we went. The kind farmer led us into the barn, and like many others in the same situation, when our kitten looked up from the furry litter pile we connected immediately. Big green eyes, orange-and-white stripes and personality galore — he was ours. We scooped him up, thanked the farmer, and took Sam home.

Home was a big, very old, cobbled-together house in the country, and we had just purchased it. At the time there were more crannies and nooks for mice to get into than there were asphalt shingles on the roof.

Someone had installed cabinets under the sink and left four perfectly round holes in the baseboard. We never found out what their purpose was, but when Sam was tiny, he’d scoot into the holes, turn around and poke his head back out. It was super cute, and we called him jack-in-the-box kitty for a while.

There was also an ancient stove along one kitchen wall, and we knew there were plenty of holes and gaps underneath it. I usually fed the cat his food in a small dish on the floor near the stove.

One morning as I sipped my coffee I noticed Sam staring intently at the space under the stove. He wasn’t moving a muscle. About twenty seconds elapsed before I saw the cause of Sam’s stare. A small mouse scurried from beneath the stove, heading for the food dish. Sam watched until the mouse reached the edge of the dish and with one pounce it was all over for the rodent.

Sam grew quickly and got along well with our dog Boots. They took turns grooming each other, and it was quite a sight to see the dog licking the cat’s ears or to see the cat play with the dog’s tail. Boots wasn’t very interested in Sam’s mouse-catching antics, though; I imagine because the dog was far less patient than the cat.

One evening my husband and I came home late and found Sam sitting on top of the portable dishwasher next to the old stove. He was focused on a pan that I’d left after making some marshmallow treats, intending to clean it later. I gave my husband the shhhh sign as we crept up next to the cat.

Following the direction of his piercing stare we saw a mouse, stuck fast in the marshmallow goo at the bottom of the pan. Ewwww. I picked the pan up, and the cat hopped down. I ran hot water over the bottom of the pan and went outdoors where I turned it upside down onto the patio. Sam followed me out, his eyes on the pan all the while. I let the hot water do its work, lifted the pan, and voilà — Sam enjoyed his first marshmallow-covered mouse.

That wasn’t the last time Sam had a specially prepared meal. Once my husband came home late to find Sam once again on top of the dishwasher. Since portable dishwashers in those days came with a nice counter top, we kept our toaster there. Sam’s focus that night was on the toaster slots. Again, no muscle in that cat’s body was moving.

Knowing what the stance and the stare usually meant, my husband walked quietly over to the toaster and pushed the switch down. Sure enough, when things got too warm inside that toaster, the mouse made a scramble for the top. Pop! Right into the waiting paws of a very thankful cat — the reward for his late-night vigil.

We’ve done lots of work on the old place since then, and nothing can rival our mouse problems of those long ago years. Although our faithful mouser, Sam, is gone now, I hope there are mice in Cat Heaven to keep him as happy as he was in our old house.

~Susan Sundwall

More stories from our partners