It’s been three weeks since I have had to face a night of scurrying, couch foam-stealing, rice bag-nibbling, droppings-leaving rats in my house.
And I’m still jumpy.
It got to the point that any flicker of movement, any sound I heard, I would flip on the light, throw back the sheets, and shoot upright in bed. I awaited some flea-ridden rodent to scuttle across my floor, or worse, my ankles.
As the intrepid Captain of Adventures, I abashedly admit the above. That such small creatures put me so very much on edge is perhaps a testament to my weak countenance. Then again, what can I say? Rats freak me out.
To pick up where we last left off, Tonki had been treed by our house dog Woody. I tied Woody up before I went to bed. During the night Tonki scrambled down and ran home.
A couple of days later (after trying to play it cool with Hugo and Freddy, but practically begging for them to get another cat) I picked up Jaguar from my friend Felix who works at an exotic animal shelter. When I arrived at his home, Jaguar (who was yet to be named) was in a cage. Felix found a woven plastic bag, the kind that any and all agricultural matter comes in in Central America. I held Jaguar’s carrier vertical, Felix put the bag up to the opening. In tandem we shook until Jaguar fell into the bag. Little claws poked through.
The student who was with me asked, “Can she breathe in there?”
“Of course she can; it’s mesh. Besides, I’ve seen people carry two and three chickens in these bags. She’ll be OK.”
On the car ride home Jaguar lay peacefully next to me inside of her cocoon. When I arrived at the house, I ran around and closed all the doors and windows. I doubly checked that the rat poison was picked up. I found an old four gallon pot in the garage and filled it with sand for her litter box.
It was time.
Gingerly (and with camera in hand), I untied the knot.
She just lay there for a minute, somewhat stunned, probably by the flash. Moments later, her adorable little kitten-face was exploring the upstairs, not sure where to turn next.
I played with her for a little while before calling Kim to show off my new toy. Kim and I talked for about 30 minutes. All the while Jaguar was exploring. She found a nut and batted it around the floor for awhile. Then she made a ping pong ball her toy. I became concerned that she wasn’t hunting anything.
I heard scurrying in the ceiling above me.
Then, suddenly, I heard: thwomp! slap! slap! bzzzzzz!
I looked over and she was smacking around a two-inch live beetle.
Things were looking up.
During our conversation, Kim told me that I needed to physically place Jaguar in the litter box so that she would know where it was. The first time I put her in there, she jumped right out. The second time I put her in there, she scratched around, arched her back, and emptied her bowels exactly where she was supposed to.
Before long it was time for bed. I crawled into bed. She quickly followed me. Only, seeing as how she is a nocturnal creature, she was more interested in playing than curling up to sleep. Moments after I laid down, she began leaping off the bed, scrambling under it, and leaping back up onto it from the other side. After a couple of laps she landed at the corner of the bed. Carelessly, I moved my foot.
Jaguar pounced on it.
I snatched her up, put her outside of my room, and closed the door.
The next morning she was sleeping adorably on the couch. When the boys arrived for school they were unbearably excited. They held her and passed her back and forth all morning long. I had fashioned a toy for her out of a thin bamboo reed, some heavy nylon twine, and a six inch feather. Jaguar went crazy over the toy. So did the boys.
Nobody got anything done because everybody wanted to play with the kitten.
Eventually, school was over and night descended upon us. As per usual, I called Kim. We were chatting when I noticed Jaguar tossing something vigorously about and clawing at it with unprecedented excitement. As I approached her, I noticed little grey bits of fur on the floor. Then it dawned on me.
Jaguar had caught her first mouse.
She was pawing the body playfully here and there, casting fur hither-thither.
And loving every second of it.