Horrors! A Rat!

Wildlife woes in California

Alice recalls her adventures in Wonderland.

Alice in Wonderland having a very bad dream. Original drawing by Melody Caba.

By Susan Caba
The Resale Evangelista

My friends, I’ve told my tales of animal encounters while on the house-sitting trail but the worst (I hope) has just occurred. Sometimes, no matter how simple things get, they just don’t contribute to an artful life.

Thursday began with the discovery of a pretty gray bird huddled low in a corner by the kitchen windows. I hadn’t rubbed the sleep out of my eyes before noticing, on the way to the coffee maker, several little puff-piles of feathers on the floor around the table. Even then, I didn’t register the bird until it made an attempt to escape. But with two cats circling, the bird was going nowhere.

I shooed the cats away, then tried to shoo the bird toward the front door. The bird didn’t cooperate. Panicked, it fluttered against the louvered kitchen windows, trapped and unreachable behind the table. I finally captured it in the folds of a linen shirt and released it outside as the cats looked on, tails twitching.

I was up early on Friday, practically predawn. The cats, all three, were impatiently awaiting their morning rations of dry food. I filled one bowl and bent to fill the other. As the crunchies clattered into the dish, something gray under the edge of the cabinet caught my eye. Something big and gray. I prayed very quickly that it was a baby rabbit. No such luck. Horrors! It was a rat!

My response? I fled. My sister, Celia, lives next door. I planned to enlist her help. On the way down the driveway, my other sister, Mary, arrived. We ventured back into the house. I moved the cat bowl while Mary stood ready to toss a box over the rat. He made a run for it, but Mary was fast with the box. The rat was trapped. Now what? Mary and I went next door, and returned with Celia.

The plan was to inch the box over to the door and shove it out, freeing the rat as it went over the sill. The plan worked perfectly. Except the rat wasn’t in the box. Horrors! We opened all the doors from the family room and left, hoping the rat would, too. I could only hope. I sure as hell wasn’t going to look under the couch to see beady little eyes. If he wasn’t gone, the cats would surely hunt him down–wouldn’t they?

Saturday morning passed uneventfully. Sunday, no such luck. The cats had been hunting all right, but all they caught was a mouse. Which was under the kitchen table, eviscerated. Yuck! I know from  experience these cats will bring a stream of trophies, mice and hapless lizards. Resigned, I went to fetch a plastic bag.

What did I find? A big dead rat, right in the middle of the floor, all four feet in the air. He hadn’t escaped after all. The least the cats could have done was carried him outside.

And I haven’t even mentioned the bobcat that locked eyes with Mary down the block, or the yapping coyotes in the foothills out back.

The Resale Evangelista is winding up a year of house-sitting and getting ready to move to Virginia. No rats or other varmints are invited.

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