If You Give a Mouse CPR

Most people know I’m not a cat person, and yet, despite this we have a cat. The reason for this is simple: Our house was being overrun by mice last winter, and conventional methods such as traps and poisons failed to stem the tide. A cat, therefore, seemed like the only other cost-effective option. After a brief search through Craigslist my wife found a suitable feline candidate that was even advertised as being a good “mouser.”

In short order our mouse problem was no more, even though I only ever saw the cat catch one of the furry little bastards. My guess is that our cat’s mere presence was enough of deterrent to keep the mice at bay.  Since then the cat has been splitting her time between being an entitled indoor cat and a prey-stalking outdoor cat—something akin to a Kardashian living a dual life as a ninja assassin.  It’s not uncommon to open the front door and find the limp body of a once perky chipmunk or hairless baby squirrel at least two or three times a week.
I know the common belief is that these little “gifts” are a cat’s way of showing they are happy, but the reality is cats have an inherent kill pattern programmed into their brains.  That and they are very bad at disposing of the bodies. (See this infographic.) Thus, if you suffer from Phagofelinephobia, take heart, once the cats have had their fill your corpse will be found (of course, on whose doorstep is anybody’s guess). I digress.

What I’m getting at is that cat has been taking a proactive approach to rodent prevention as we ease into the winter months. Admittedly, regardless of my personal feelings towards the cat, I‘ve been pleased by the results which is why the other night I was okay with being roused from my slumber by the cat digging at something under our bed. A cursory, if not blurry-eyed investigation found that the cat had cornered a baby mouse.

Apparently, though, this must have been one of those “non-murder” days for the cat because she made no effort to end its young life. Instead she looked up at me with an expression of, “Are you going to take care of this thing or what?”

I rolled my still sleepy eyes. Fine. And with that I picked the mouse up by its tail, and gave it a once over. Disgusting. Even so, I wasn’t in a killing mood myself, and rather than smashing its head with a hammer or crushing it with a nutcracker I tossed the little guy outside into the cold dark night. It could fend for itself—survival of the fittest and all that.

I will say here that it did occur to me that if there was one baby mouse, there were likely others, and if this one was under the bed then where were the others? Putting two and two together was a tad disconcerting, but not enough for me to care about anything beyond crawling back under the covers. If my wife happened to wake up screaming I’d deal with things then.

Fast forward to later that afternoon. My boys are hauling in their bags for the weekend when I hear one of them exclaim, “Look! A baby mouse!”

Apparently I hadn’t done a very good job of getting rid of the thing. Somehow it had managed to crawl under a crinkled up leaf where my kids, who have some weird, uncanny radar for finding helpless creatures famous for spreading the plague, discovered it. In less than five seconds they had the mouse in a shoe box filled with premium grade toilet paper for a bed.

Great. Now I’m stuck with the damn thing, and once it dies because I sure as hell ain’t gonna do anything to help it out, I’ll have to give the “death talk” to a bunch of distraught kids.

If I thought that was the end of it I was about to find out that the situation was only about to get better.
A few hours later I heard the excited rush of children bursting down the hallway. “We found another!” they all cried with glee holding another hairy brown creature smaller than my thumb.


But they weren’t done.

Later that evening they came across yet another baby mouse. Apparently they were part of a happy little mouse family living tucked up neat and snug behind the basement heater. My guess is that the cat caught and killed the parents on a murder day, but dislodged the babies in the process. Whatever the case, three very lucky mice were now being fawned over by a bunch of ecstatic children who saw themselves as the animal world’s Florence Nightingale.
All through the next day the kids would make periodic checks on their orphaned babies, and then report their findings. Why they felt the need to provide me with the details I don’t know. My stance on the matter was fairly obvious, but as time wore on there was a growing desperation in their voices. The mice were slowly dying of starvation.

Out of sympathy for my children I felt compelled to step in.

To Google!

A quick search yielded a litany of tips and facts related to the care of orphaned mice. Did you know you shouldn’t give baby mice cow milk? Yeah, it gives them cramps, and they die. Instead these lactose-intolerant creatures require baby formula—the expensive kind that’s gentle on their digestive track.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” I said to my wife on the way out of the door to the grocery store.

By the time I returned home, though, one of the little fellows had passed on to the great cheese barrel in the sky. The children were saddened, but they quickly turned the focus of their concern to the others as I mixed the formula and feed droplets of it to the other two. (By the way, if you ever find yourself in this situation it’s recommended that you feed mice from the sides of the mouth. If you do it from the front the food can clog their nose and suffocate them. You can thank me later.)

Turns out simply feeding baby mice isn’t enough. No, you have to help them digest the food too. This is accomplished by gently rolling a Q-tip back and forth across their tiny bellies until they poop which made them squeal with glee to the delight of sons and stepdaughters. Yes, you read that right. I was massaging the tummies of the very rodents I had reluctantly consented to get a cat in order to kill. Talk about irony.

This done, I then placed the two survivors back in the shoe box, put on the lid, and placed it under my desk lamp to keep them warm for the night.

Incidentally, later, in the wee morning hours I was again woken by the cat. This time she was on top of my desk. Several items, including my phone had been knocked to the ground, this as a result of her genius plan to push the shoe box onto the floor and gobble down the contents therein. The look on her face said, “What? I thought you were keeping dinner warm for me?” Tonight must have been a murder night.

Sadly, by the morning a second mouse had gone on to meet St. Peter’s mouse counterpart at the pearly gates. I was now down to one mouse, and as my worried children left for school I promised I would do my best to take care of it. Throughout the day I fed it formula and rubbed its belly, but it was for not.

In the evening after the children were in bed I pulled out the mouse for another feeding. Everything seemed to be proceeding as before until I noticed the little fella was no longer making that petite sucking sound. In fact it wasn’t wiggling anymore either.

No. It can’t be. I did everything right. It was just fine earlier.

I thought about my children and their hopeful eyes staring at me. Even though I made them no guarantees there was an unspoken expectation that I would save the day because I was their dad. A feeling of determination swept over me. I wasn’t about to let a dying mouse dispel the faith they placed in me.  
Fueled by this thought I did the only thing I could think to do—I started pressing on the mouse’s chest with my index finger.

One. Two. Three… Hey, I didn’t get certified as an EMT for nothing you know. One. Two. Three…

It was then that my wife looked over and asked, “What are you doing?”

“Not now, hon. I’m trying to save this thing.”

Then I saw it. The mouse jerked and let out a barely audible cough.

Yes! I saved it!

Then the mouse exhaled and went limp.

I wasn’t enough. The lone surviving mouse was now with his mouse family in mouse heaven.
And a single though ran through my mind: The things we do for our children.

In Memory Of

- The Last Little Mouse -

November ? 2013 - November 12, 2013


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