Am I the Patron Saint of Cat Prey?
Ever since I was a very young child I had an instinctive need to rescue and help animals, both wild and domestic.
I recall being about 6 years old and visiting an elderly lady I had befriended who owned two cats that were natural hunters. Upon leaving her house one day I met one of her cats on it's way home with a mouse in it's mouth. I quickly rescued the mouse and it happily curled up in the edge of my coat sleeve whilst I walked it to a safe release area. After this there was no stopping me, and over the many years that followed I "saved" the lives of numerous wild animals that had fallen victim to any local felines on the hunt.
In spite of the fact both my Mother, Sister and Grandmother, were terrified of mice, rats and other small rodents, I never "inherited" or "learned" this phobia, and instinctively loved and wanted to protect all animals, no matter what shape or size they were. It wasn't long before I became the first person in the home to be called in the event any wild rodent was found in the home, (usually after one of our cats had brought the poor little critter into the house whilst it was still alive).
As my family stood wailing in horror from the safe height of the nearest sofa or chair, I would calmly go and scoop up the terrified little creature and carry it out to the nearest field or garden to release it, whilst locking our cats behind closed doors until the 'pardoned' rodent had been allowed a good head start with a view to going back to it's previous life without being eaten, or tortured to death.
Of course my love of such rodents didn't always go down well with my family, and on the occasion I made the mistake of telling my Mother that there was a "Pet" rat of mine living outside my outdoor Guinea-Pig (Cavy) hutches, and that I used to throw it food and watch it eat my offerings, she immediately called out the local Environmental Health Authority who poisoned my beloved " Crunchie" (as I had nicknamed this little friend). I was NOT impressed at all, and thought this very cruel, especially as the rat was not doing any harm and we did live in the countryside, so rats were to be expected.
Meanwhile the cats we owned at the time (called Pixie and Cookie), continued to bring all sorts of creatures back to the house, including birds, mice, rabbits, voles etc. On one occasion I rescued the same Magpie twice within 15 minutes, as our industrious "Pixie" caught him again after I had released the bird and it had flown away.
Another occasion I found a slightly injured baby rabbit with a small white "star" on it's forehead. I called him "Peanut", and kept him in a hutch until his wound healed, at which point he escaped on his own back into the wild.
Some years later, after I had moved to the UK, I adopted two cats, one of which brought me home not only a very dead large grey squirrel, but also a large (5 inch plus), live goldfish. Strange when you consider I lived in Bromley South in Kent at the time, which is a very built up area with few gardens, (never mind goldfish ponds). Sadly, this goldfish died, in spite of my taking it to a rescue centre in a tupperware container of water. It's injuries were too advanced. I never did find out where it came from!!!
I eventually ended up with more cats, and the many of the same problems. Fortunately I only had to rescue birds up until I met my late Husband. We eventually moved to a rented farmhouse in New Romney in Kent. At the time we owned two dogs, a Doberman and a Cairn Cross Terrier.
It wasn't long before we realised we had quite a bad mouse problem in the house, mainly because of finding droppings everywhere, plus being rudely awoken on a number of occasions by mice scampering over our faces in bed at night. Now even for an animal lover like me this was a bit too much, and having tried sonar devices etc to get the rodents to move out voluntarily, we finally resorted to adopting a cat.
Our new cat "Tarot" was fabulous, and quickly cleared the house of all but three mice!! One of these lived in our dining room behind my computer desk, (and if I sat in the dark with cat biscuits on my hand it would happily sit on my hand and eat the biscuits), the other two lived behind our boiler, and would sneak up and across the kitchen bench to pinch the food out of the cats own bowl!! (We had to keep the cat's food on our spare kitchen surface to avoid the dogs eating her food, fortunately this bench was separate to the food preparation bench by a number of feet).
Tarot quickly learned she could also hunt rabbits and voles etc outside of the property, and it wasn't long before her and our Cairn Cross Terrier "Misty" would hunt as a team, passing any prey between them alternately until it either died, or I saw what was going on and intervened to rescue the traumatised creature.
After my Husband died a couple of years later, I eventually moved back to Guernsey and took Tarot and Misty with me, (sadly my Doberman had developed a rare disease and had to be put to sleep previously). In the meantime I had also adopted a Greyhound that my Mother needed help re-homing, so "Lady" as she was called, came back to Guernsey too.
Well things calmed down for a few years after I moved to Tenerife following essential re-homing of my pets with both a friend (in Tarot's case), and my parents, (in Misty and Lady's case).
In Tenerife the cats I ultimately ended up adopting only seemed to catch Barbie Dolls or My Little Ponies, (at least one of them did anyway), See Bard of Ely's hub on the subject (he was my tenant then and later adopted these cats when I returned to Guernsey). http://hubpages.com/hub/Meet-Tiggy-my-cat-companion
Upon my return to Guernsey, I ultimately met my current Husband Richard, and about 4 months later we married. It was only another year or so before we adopted two kittens to make up our family. We quickly named them Reggie and Ronnie, and adorable though they both were, (and are), they quickly proved to be formidable hunters, and my role as "Patron Saint of Cat Prey" was soon restored.
The quaint little cottage where we live is surrounded by fields, woodland, countryside and our nearby fishing lake. It is truly a hunting paradise for cats as the area is full of thousands of rabbits, voles, rodents, birds etc. Suddenly rescuing wild animals has become a near daily event for me, and this is a 24 hour job!
Since we moved here about 4 years ago, our beloved cats have brought home a steady supply of very alive, slightly alive, nearly dead and very dead animals. Predominantly these are baby rabbits, although voles and birds are not uncommon.
The neighbours probably find me very eccentric, as the "strange girl in the dressing gown", seen prowling around the complex at 02.00am wearing slippers and a head torch, little realising I probably have a baby rabbit under one arm, and am half asleep trying to find a safe release site for the unfortunate creature!
The local rescue centre "Animal Aid", are on first name terms with me now, and upon my arrival it is a case of Sue saying, "So what have you brought us this time". Usually they get the injured or in need of putting to sleep, rabbits, although I have been known to take them in a large Bantam Cockerel that I found wandering in the middle of the road with his eyes glued shut with blood from fighting other wild cockerel's (yes he survived).
It is not unusual in our home to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and find a pet carrier with a baby rabbit in it awaiting the morning light so I can take it to the same rescue centre for treatment.
My life has been taken over by rescuing captured and injured animals. Not that I mind, but it is usually at such inconvenient hours, such as 03.00am in the morning, and in the pitch black of night. A classic example of this is below:
For some nights last month we had been hearing crashes and bangs coming from our under stairs cupboard. We couldn't be sure if it wasn't originating from our neighbours, so we ignored it for the large part. Our suspicions progressed when my Husband Richard found the empty plastic mop bucket, usually stored in the under stairs cupboard, knocked over several times. Eventually we decided at about 02.00am one morning, to empty the cupboard, (I know.....it seemed like a good idea at the time!)
Well, I started the process, but very quickly a huge creature scampered and scrabbled to the back of the cupboard. Even I jumped in shock, and quickly told Richard he could finish off the job, as if it was a Rat, it would no doubt bite once cornered in a small cupboard, (totally selfish and inconsiderate I admit, but hey, what are men for if they can't be our Knights in Shining Armour occasionally!!). Reluctantly Richard removed the rest of the contents of the cupboard, mostly carrier bags, shoes and general junk. Suddenly he announced he could see a rat at the back of the cupboard.
In horror we put one of our cats (Reggie) into the cupboard and shut the door behind him. All was quiet for several minutes, and then he began miaowing to be let out, so we released him, minus any prey, and wondered what to do next. Eventually I put on a head torch and crawled into the cupboard, only to see an arched back in a ridge at the back end of the cupboard.
I pointed out to Richard that this animal was rather more pale in colouring than I expected of a rat, and then, suddenly, a small pair of ears appeared within my view, and they definitely weren't a rat's.
Overcoming my fear of any hidden spiders, somewhat the worse for a few ciders, and wearing my dressing gown, I crawled right into the cupboard and managed to catch this poor bunny by the scruff of it's neck and bring it back out of the cupboard.
The poor little thing snuggled up to me, and yet again the pantomime of walking around our complex at an ungodly hour in the morning began. As I left the house, rabbit under one arm, head torch on my head, I came across of young female cat "Squish", chasing a squeaking vole across the car park. With one hand I grabbed her by the scruff of the neck, walked back to our front door, elbowed it open, popped Squish inside and told Richard to make sure the cats did not come out whilst I released the rabbit, as well as giving the vole a head start getaway.
On the way back to the house, I "kidnapped" another neighbour's cat for 10 minutes in case it too found the baby rabbit and pursued it. By now we had come to the conclusion this rabbit had been fortunate enough to escape from one of our cats within our cottage, and had luckily found a small hole under the stairs, where it had hidden out in our cupboard and crept out at night to drink the cat's water, plus it had nibbled at the onion sets I had stored in the same cupboard. The poor little mite must have been there for about 4 days.
Of course this is not the end of my rescues, and since then I have rescued another baby rabbit at 08.15 am trapped outside our house by my veg containers. Again in slippers and dressing gown, half asleep, I clambered round pots and netting to capture the scared little thing, before carefully re-releasing it, (soaking my slippers in early morning dew in the process), back into the fields where it happily scampered away unharmed.
The latest rabbit was not so fortunate, and clearly had a broken back, but this one I took to Animal Aid for euthanasia, the kindest thing, and so much better than the kind of death our cat could have offered it.
So the joys of having cats are marred by the sadness of the creatures that become their victims. I love my animals, all animals in fact, and whilst I cannot reprimand my cats for bringing home small animals, (after all, it is only nature), I feel dutybound to rescue the victims wherever possible, and am pretty certain this is why in many ways I am the "Patron Saint of Cat Prey", (at least within our vicinity).