“There is magic in this sad, hard world. A magic stronger than fate, stronger than chance. And it is seen in the unlikeliest of places….It lives inside every human being ready to redeem us. To transform us. To save us. If we can only find the courage to listen to it.
It is the magic of the human heart.”Jennifer Donnelly, Stepsister
I may have mentioned in the past that I like animals. I’m actually unsure if there exists an animal I do not like. I mean, probably, but off the top of my head, I can’t honestly think of one. I try to live my life without disrupting too much of the natural balance or local wildlife around me. Obviously, sometimes that can be hard. Neighborhood Murder Cat disrupts the local wildlife by murdering my birds, but she also helps keep the rodent population down, which I am thankful for. We live on a nice little piece of property in a lesser populated area. There are several empty lots surrounding us, and therefore, we get quite a few mice in our shop and basement. We have three cats that are indoor only, because, well… the birds. For about a year, we had the cats living in the shop to help control the mouse population out there. They had their own little Kitty Condo with a fenced-in outdoor enclosure. And they did a really good job with the mice.
In February 2019, my eldest cat, Zeke, passed away. I had him living inside the house, and after he died, extreme guilt poured over me for the other three cats living in the shop 100 feet away (or whatever it is… I’m a bad judge of distance). At this same time, we noticed we were having an increase in mouse activity in the basement and they were being super sneaky about getting around our traps. I don’t generally like traps and I don’t generally like killing mice, but I also don’t like it when I find mouse poop or bird seed in my clothes. So, we moved the cats into the basement.
I assumed the cats were doing their job. We would still find mice in the traps, but we would also find random spots of blood, an occasional organ or foot, or the rare whole corpse. I always feel like a Cat Crime Scene Investigator when I find blood. Where did this come from? Is this from a mouse or did one of you get into a fight? Is there any evidence of a struggle? Organs? Feet? Is there a mouse in the Murder Box? Oh yeah, the Murder Box. One of my cats has a Murder Box. It’s a cardboard box that he puts his murderings in, or does his murderings in? I don’t honestly know what occurs in the Murder Box. I do know that when I throw the Murder Box away, he just makes a new one.
I don’t know where this post has gone but this is not where I intended. Alright. So. The cats were killing mice. All was good. Everyday, twice a day, I would check three locations: under the water softener, under the bathroom sink, and the machine room (which is a little Harry Potter-type room, but it’s not underneath stairs and all that’s in it is our furnace and some space for storage). In these locations, we have several traps. Occasionally, mice will not die when they get stuck in a trap and then Markie Mark will have to come in and assist because I cannot handle that kind of stress in my life. On three occasions I have been alone when this has happened. I don’t want to discuss what happened with the one. I will tell you, Lady Luck was with the other two and we’ll leave it at that. End of story.
I guess maybe there was four occasions. But there was a special occasion, and this one was very different, for several reasons. And I mean… several. Like, specifically… five.
In June of 2019, I came home from work one evening and did my normal check of all the locations. When I walked into the machine room, I immediately saw her. She looked terrified. Only her foot had gotten stuck in the trap. Okay, how do I deal with this? Then, I saw the other thing. It was just a small blob… this little pile of pink sitting next to her. Oh no. I moved closer to get a better look. Oh no. Five pinkies. All alive, all moving. OH NO. That was literally all I could think to say. Seriously, how do I deal with this? I can’t even deal with one mouse, one adult mouse, and Mark isn’t home. What the fuck am I going to do with a mother who stress birthed and the resulting babies? Well, what do you think I did?
I made them a Tupperware nesting home. I drilled holes into the lid. I added paper towel, wood chips, straw, and dryer lint so mama could make a nest. I added bird seed so she could eat and a shallow lid of water (I read that I wasn’t suppose to do this because mice drown themselves but these are wild mice… how do they drink in the wild? Clearly not from bottles, right?) Yeah, yeah. Again, I am the crazy woman with the baby mice and the spiders in my room. Whatever. Stop judging.
Mama did good and took to nursing her babies right away. She made a little nest and nursed the shit out of those pinkies for two weeks… the exact time she needed to. She didn’t leave them at all for the first week, and then after about 12 days, she started getting antsy. I don’t think she ever stop being terrified of me. Every time I opened that lid, she was so scared. All she wanted was to get out. Looking back, I feel bad. I didn’t know. There was no way she would ever get comfortable with me. So as soon as she could, she started sneaking away from her babies, jumping up on the handle indent, and little by little, started chewing a hole in the plastic. She did it on the underside so I didn’t see what she was doing until it was too late.
Obviously, I checked on them morning and night. But a lot of times I just assumed everything was good and I tried not to disturb them too much. I peeked in, saw a pile of fur, and closed the lid. So, I’m not entirely sure when she escaped. In the evening, I would change out the water, inspecting more thoroughly. That’s when I noticed the hole. Oh no. I gently lifted up the top of the nest to look for a mama. Just five little babies wiggling around. OH NO. Fuck. Like, literal fuck. She abandoned her babies?!? It’s okay. Calm down. Maybe she’ll come back. Leave her like, a ramp or something. I did. I totally made her a ramp. She did not come back. Do you know why? Wanna take a guess? Yeah, you do.
She didn’t come back because she fucking died. My cats murdered her. And they were kind enough to leave the evidence behind so that I knew. I found her, two days later, behind the broom. She was completely intact, which is why I knew it was her. That little trap foot. Poor girl. She went the wrong way. Should have gone out the wall hole. Well, I guess now I’m a mouse mother.
I did some googling and… lucky for me! Mice only need to be nursed for two weeks. Mama did her job before she bailed and died. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to train them on how to actually be mice and survive the world. So that kind of left me in a predicament. What the hell am I supposed to do with five baby mice?
I continued to feed them bird seed. I added some cheese and dried/fresh fruit on occasion. I added some more dryer lint and paper towel. As they got older, they started building tunnels in the wood chips and straw. They mostly always slept together. They weren’t afraid of me and I was quickly becoming very attached to them. But I was also quickly coming to the realization that I needed to make a decision about what to do with them before it was too late. There were five of them and at some point, in the very near future, they were going to start “doing it” and making more babies and then I would really have a problem.
I had them for five weeks before I decided they were old enough to potentially survive on their own. I took them out to the back part of our property where there’s a bunch of trees and places to hide. I made them this super useless area of hay and bird seed and dried fruit that they very quickly moved on from and never touched and I cried when I released them. They sort of stuck together for a minute before going their separate ways. And probably lasted a whole 45 minutes before getting killed by Neighborhood Murder Cat or a hawk or something, I dunno, because they didn’t have any survival skills and they grew up in a Tupperware. Ugh. I’m the worst.
“As long as there’s light, we’ve got a chance.”Poe Dameron, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I have absolutely no idea what happened to my five little mice children after I released them into the world. I would like to think they lived out their short little mice lives in the empty lots around our property, or maybe somehow made it into the shop where there’s no longer the threat of cats. Of course, if they did survive, that means they probably bred and created more mice, which becomes more of a problem for me, and yes… I understand the contradiction. But you see, I truly believe that everything in the world, no matter how big or small, deserves a chance. And even though I had set up those traps to kill the mice coming into our basement, I still believed that the situation was not only unfortunate, but could be slightly remedied. Those pinkies didn’t understand the world they were coming into, and they didn’t deserve for me to take their lives as soon as they were stress birthed. They may have died as soon as I set them free that day, but at least I gave them a chance. And that counts for something, doesn’t it?