Tahlequah Daily Press

December 10, 2012

Warm weather may be to blame for mousy behavior

Managing Editor

TAHLEQUAH — If you are easily nauseated, you should skip this week’s column. If you insist on taking the plunge, I suggest you get a bucket.

A rancher friend of mine told me the mouse population has exploded, and he attributed it to the unseasonably warm weather. I probably should have checked with Roger Williams over at the Extension Service before I embarked on this topic, but at the time of this writing, I’m sure he had already gone home for the day, and would not relish a phone call from me.

He told me a number of field mice have fallen prey to his brush-hog in recent weeks. “With all the gore, it kinda reminded me of that Tom Cruise movie, ‘War of the Worlds,’” he said, and then added, “I knew it wouldn’t bother you to hear about it, ‘cause I read that column you wrote about how you and your cousins flushed mice down the toilet.” I didn’t bother to point out that jettisoning a small mouse into a septic tank or sewer line is a rather sterile and tidy procedure, not in the same league as shredding a far larger rodent with the blade of a brush-hog.

Many folks depend on a house cat to rid them of the occasional unwelcome house mouse. Until recently, our excuse for a feline, Zeus (known in some circles simply as “whitecat”) showed no interest in disposing of rodents. He often toyed with them until I took them away and pitched them outside. Otherwise, the critter would have crawled off and died where we couldn't reach it, but its stench could reach us.

There was that time my husband and I were in Palm Springs and our son was home on break, and he called to tell us Zeus had killed a rat that had gotten in through the garage, and then placed the carcass in front of the sofa. Perhaps the cat figured if he didn’t dispatch the interloper, it would compete with him for food.

One morning last week, the cat decided to get serious. At around 4:30 a.m., I was awakened by a squeaking, like someone was rubbing a couple of pieces of Styrofoam together. This was followed by a crunching sound, like – well, like a cat devouring a mouse. I turned on a lamp and aimed it at the cat, who was on the floor near the foot of the bed, head cocked, gnawing on something with studied determination.

I looked more closely. I wished I hadn’t. Dangling from the cat’s mouth were a tail and a hind leg. “Hey!” I yelled, hoping the cat would take his meal elsewhere. Instead, he increased the speed and volume of his chewing until the last vestiges of the mouse had disappeared.

When we got home from work that evening, I found what I first thought were two lozenges of cat feces on our clean flannel bedsheets, surrounded by a grease spot the size of a volleyball. I summoned my husband, because everyone knows if a cat defecates on your bed, the animal is sending a clear message that you’ve done something to offend it – and I figured the offending party must be my husband.

He looked at the mess, and said, matter-of-factly, “Those are mouse-fur hairballs.” Gross, I know, but that wasn’t the worst of it. The next morning, the cat began to retch right in front of me and deposited, on the living room carpet, something small and oval – with ears.

I thought I’d reached my mouse quotient at least for a few weeks, but a couple of days ago at work, the gals up front began to shriek. A mouse had been spied in the breakroom, and it had run behind the pop machine. Every time the critter popped its head out, more screams erupted, and the guys in the newsroom rolled their eyes. I would never scream at the sight of a mouse (I reserve my chick behavior for bugs, which prompts eye-rolling, too), so I got a broom and waited. When it poked its head out, I stabbed it with the bristles. We haven’t seen it in a few days, so maybe it expired. Then again, we haven’t smelled it, either, so maybe it has migrated to another part of the building.

If the warm weather is causing the mouse infestation, I’m praying for snow. Otherwise, I’m thinking of calling D-Con to see if they need a new spokeswoman. Mice disgust me, too, and I have no problem proving it.

Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.