Mr. Mouse, top cat enjoys late afternoon rays of sunlight in the driveway. He reigns supreme in the heirarchy here, as he is so old none of us can quite remember how old, and he’s been around longer than any of the other domestic animals. His primary residence is an old garage, but he has been known to lodge in the loose straw in the attic of the chicken house or in a corner of the garden shed. His daily patrols take him to wherever he can hunt mice, and lately that is the coop where the guinea fowl reside. He enjoys the best store-bought cat cuisine twice daily, but still hunts just to keep the mice in check and to show us he can still do it. He has his routine down pat, heading out early in the morning and patroling the outbuildings, sagebrush flats and creek bottom in search of prey which he occasionally brings to us as his offering. He is cautious to avoid raptors, coyotes and other predators that could end his earthly delights, but his biggest threats are feral cats that seem to appear from nowhere and move in on his little fiefdom in the garage.
A couple of months ago Mr. Mouse appeared for his supper with his throat slashed in a gaping wound that ran from his chin to his ear. A visit to the vet revealed he had missed being killed by just a hair’s breadth. We began the tasks of nursing him back to health, and hunting a giant black cat that had been stalking the area in recent weeks. (I mistook this cat for the neighbor’s dog as he raced from the garage one night like a ball of black fury, which was a good indication we were dealing with a supernatural cat). It became apparent this larger-than-life black monster was an uninvited regular guest at Mr. Mouse’s dinner table, and was probably responsible for his life threatening wounds. We set out a wire cage to trap him, but all our efforts were for naught. He was too smart for any of the bait we set out, and continued to evade our efforts to capture him.
We devised a scheme whereby we secured the garage door each night and closed the cat door where Mr. Mouse had previously been free to come and go. During the day, the garage door was left ajar just wide enough for Rosie to inspect and do her search for stray cats. (Rosie knows not to give Mr. Mouse any trouble, and Lady used to be bunk mates with him on the back porch before a remodeling job did away with the porch). So in our house and barnyard the typical dog/cat enmity is not a problem: Mr. Mouse was here first, and he rules! Rosie continued her search and destroy missions of the garage in the hopes of flushing out the Black Interloper.
A peaceful hiatus ensued and Mr. Mouse began enjoyin his exclusive domain in the garage once again. Sightings of the black feral cat continued in outlying areas, and one evening as we ate supper, we saw two cats streaking across the hillside. My heart nearly stopped beating, as the cat in the lead was a blue-grey cat who looked like Bleu, our Russian Blue house cat who had escaped the house earlier in the afternoon for a walk on the wild side. He got more than he bargained for. I was out the door and up the hillside in hot pursuit (actually it was not hot all, as a freezing sleet-laden wind was blowing a gale and I hadn’t bothered to get warm enough gear to be out in it). Stumbling over cactus, sagebrush, rocks and frozen patches of snow, I searched the hillside and over the top to the other side and saw not a trace of the two cats. I walked back to the house to worry and wonder what shape Bleu would be in when the Black Interloper had finished with him. (Bleu has no front claws, so even though he is big and fast, he is no competition for cats who survive outdoors. Mr. Mouse, who was the runt of the litter and is very small in stature, has sent Bleu fast-tracking back to the house on the few occasions where they have come in contact).
Bleu found a temporary refuge somewhere, and my cries and calling must have frightened the Black Interloper away for the time being. Bleu made it back to the house, humbled and in one piece. Shortly thereafter, a propitious event occurred. We were working outside and noted the rural electric utility service truck driving through on the road to our neighbor’s house up the hill. We had experienced no loss of power, and wondered what might be the problem next door. Our neighbor reported that the evening before he had seen a large black cat running for its life and it shot right up the electric utility pole in front of his house. He pondered whether he should attempt a rescue or not, but decided if the cat could climb up the pole, the cat could climb back down the pole. He went to bed and forgot about it.
In the middle of the night, the power went out. We have frequent power surges, and usually it comes back on within a few minutes. Not this time. The Black Interloper used up the last of his nine lives when he apparently decided to climb to the top of the pole and hug a transformer. He had to be physically removed, or what was left of him. We did not inquire where the remains were taken, and that evening we joined Mr. Mouse in a celebration of his survival against the biggest, meanest black cat any of us could remember seeing. Bleu gave a sigh of relief.