Itís a wonder rats fear him at all.
Thatís my main motivation in having a cat. If not actually to kill rats, he should at least frighten them. Wagug is mainly a deterent-in almost a year Iíve seen him with just two rats. One he caught outside and tried to bring inside to play. His smell and his noise making do give the rats a little to consider.
Taking care of a cat is a big job for me, but it is nice to have him meet me in the yard when I get home from work. ďWelcome home. I missed you,Ē he calls repeatedly, though phonetically it sounds the same as when he wants canned mackerel. His feline vocabulary consists of one word-meow-so you have to pay attention to his tone and the context to translate. Maybe it always means: ďIím hungry.Ē
In his cat life, Wagug is hitting puberty. Heís really into the night life around here now. Iím not exactly sure what he does, but other teachers have cats, too. Iím ready to nod off at 10 p.m. and he wants to go out. Heís waiting at the doorstep at 7 a.m. saying, ďIím hungry and tired.Ē He eats and goes to bed; I eat breakfast and go to work. I must not be as lively as I once was, because Iím not jealous at all.
This arrangement was fine until I started hearing rats in the roof a couple weeks ago. Then I started seeing rats in the house. They are larger than any mouse Iíve ever seen in Minnesota, but smaller than the fearsome creatures in my imagination.
Wagug is no longer holding up his end of our bargain. His only chore is to keep the house rat-free.
I wanted to keep him inside at night to put some fear back into the rat population. The problem with that was Wagug figured out how to open the louvers several months ago. He ripped a hole in the screen of one bedroom and now he jumps down 10 feet to the yard.
I put a crimp in his night life last Saturday, but it was my slumbers that were disrupted the most. I coaxed him inside for a late plate of fish. I nailed the louvers shut, left him to battle the rats, and went to bed, expecting to hear the rats scuttling away.
I didnít hear that at all. All I heard was Wagug whining ďLET ME OUTĒ in his most forceful tone. He made more noise than an elephant in a china shop. He meowed. He clawed at the louvers. He fell on cardboard boxes. And I thought cats were supposed to be coordinated and clever.
Had he been subtle, he might have had a delicious meal of fresh rat, which I am sure would rival canned fish in his preferences. Instead, he kept me awake. I was in the miserable position of being dead tired and not being able to sleep. Finally I dozed off, and when he woke me an hour later I threw him out.
Waiting for a teenager to come home by curfew must be even more nerve-wracking, so I may pass. For now, the pitter-patter of rats running in the ceiling is easier to sleep through than my cat.
(Michael Jacobson was a reporter for the Paynesville Press before joining the Peace Corps.)
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