Grace, the cat, loves to hunt…and she’s very good at it. We are careful to praise her when she does such a thing. She likes to bring her ‘catch’ up to us to show us her prize. It leaves me with a conundrum. On the one hand, I want her to keep our house free of mice. I also want her to be able to defend and take care of herself in this wild country, especially should life as we know it end and there is no cat food to be bought. (By now, I’m sure you’ve figured out that I have ‘the-end-of-life-as-we-know-it’ issues. Yes, I do.) On the other hand, these critters she brings up are so darn cute! I can’t stand for any living thing to have pain.
Grace is never vicious. She loves to play and ‘re-catch’ them until they die. The butterflies, which she is highly accomplished at catching, have a high mortality rate. They are just too delicate to survive her fun. She has caught numerous rodents of varying types, but I’m happy to say that only one (so far) has not survived. It was a mouse which was inside the house, so I was semi-okay with it.
One time, she brought up a rodent (I think it was a mole), meowing, with the catch in her mouth. I heard her, and looked out the screen door and saw she had a rodent of some type in her mouth. I called Bud and told him she had caught something. He immediately started praising her with, “Good kitty! GOOD kitty!”
I said, “We can’t let her in.”
“SURE, WE CAN,” said Bud, in a doting tone.
So I opened the door, bumped Grace in the process and Grace dropped the rodent. It scurried off, and Grace ran after it and caught it again.
You’ll be happy to know that it got away.
More recently, toward dusk one evening, I heard Grace meowing outside. I opened the door and she had a little ground squirrel. She dropped it and I quickly picked Grace up and put her inside before she could catch it again. It was still alive. I touched it, and it was warm. It moved a little bit. I left it there, thinking it was just in shock and would scurry off once it recovered.
Late that night, I looked outside and it was still lying there on the porch in the same position it was earlier. I went outside and touched it. It was very cold, but it moved slightly when I touched it. I picked it up, rubbed it’s back, and talked to it, telling it that it was going to make it… and I prayed for it. I got a box, laid a thick hand towel in it, and wrapped the squirrel up. I put the box in a chicken cage which was on the porch to protect it from racoons.
In the morning, it was still alive, but still very cold. I got a ziplock and filled it with hot water, double bagged it, and put it in to the box with the squirrel. I would keep the bag filled with a continuous supply of hot water to keep the squirrel warm. I did some research online, and most websites recommended giving them puppy milk replacer. We happened to be going into town, and we stopped by a feed store and I was able to find some there.
I fed it regularly with the puppy milk replacer. I wrapped the squirrel in a dishcloth and fed it the milk with a syringe without the needle. It would put it’s little paws on the syringe when I put the tip up to it’s mouth. It would start smacking and swallowing the tip as I put drops inside it’s mouth. It was so cute!
I also put some pecan pieces in the box with it, and it ate some of the nuts also. It slowly got stronger and stronger. One of it’s eyes was closed. When I told my sister about it, ever the animal lover, she offered to pray for it. Not a day later, and that ground squirrel’s closed eye had opened.
I was never sure if it was a baby or an adult. Bud was eager for me to get it out of the house and set it free. I had brought the cage inside, and put the box inside of the cage. Grace was preoccupied with that cage. She looked at the cage, ears cocked. She sprawled out on the floor near it. She put her paws on the cage. She jumped on TOP of the cage. UGH! It was infuriating. She knew an animal was in that cage, even though she couldn’t see it, and to my human ears, it was not making any noise.
Early one morning, I awakened to hear Grace scampering around the house. I knew by the sound of her scampering that she was hot on the trail of something. Sure enough, the ground squirrel was feeling so much better that it had crawled out of the box and out through the holes in the cage where Grace was waiting for it.
I yelled for Bud to get up. He was still half asleep. In the excitement, neither of us had put our glasses on. We could not see the ground squirrel anywhere, so I had to keep letting Grace down to find it. She always went right to it, and I quickly picked her up again. I finally caught the ground squirrel. No damage done!
Needless to say, after that incident, I knew the time had come that I had to let the ground squirrel go. I fed it some puppy milk one more time, said goodbye, and let it go where there were a lot of trees and dead leaves on the ground. We had also seen other ground squirrels over there, and thought it might find a friend.
As I set it on a big rock, the squirrel looked at me with it’s healed eye. I thought I saw a tear. It turned it’s head, and quickly scurried off, never to be seen again.