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the mighty hunter

Things The Cat Dragged In
By Nick Barnett

My pets have brought me many gifts. The gift of companionship, the gift of play, the gift of warmth on a cold night. But there are other gifts...a lot less gifty.

The gift of bugs:
My old cat Pierre (sadly missed) used to catch huge moths or thumb-sized beetles and deposit them inside the house. Pierre's interest would wane so I'd have to catch the injured bug and release it outside. "Fly free!" I'd cry, as it fell on the grass.

The gift of lizards:
Sometimes I'd spot the wiggly tail bit first. Once, I discovered slightly too late that a caught lizard is quite likely to hide in an empty shoe. Eww.

The gift of rodents (alive):
Another of Pierre's tricks. He would head out at night to the gathering places of the local rat and mouse fraternity, find one who was lonely or easily led, and bring it back inside through the catflap. For a while he'd play with the rodent, inevitably lose track of it, and then lost interest.

So I'd be left with a mouse or rat to deal with. Not all of them left the house alive, but I'll say this: I saved more than I dispatched.

The gift of rodents (no longer alive):
Whole ones, half ones... I have learnt to step carefully in unlit rooms.

The gift of birds:
On one occasion alive - I managed to pick it up while distracting Pierre, and free it out of a window. On other occasions dead in a feathery mess. Pierre would sometimes sit at the door waiting to be let in, his mouth full of struggling bird, and make the strategic error of meowing for attention. The bird would shoot from his mouth like a cruise missile.

(My current cat Merrick is a rare hunter. I'm glad to say I've never seen him catch a bird.)

The gift of food:
My partner's old dog Ozone once arrived at home with a whole, heated, supermarket chicken complete with foil bag.

The gift of What the Hell is That?:
Imagine, if you will, a bleary-eyed early-morning view down the stairs into an entrance hall. Imagine the heart-stopping moment when the object is seen, lying half in shadow and 10 metres distant. Imagine the tentative, nauseated approach. Imagine the wave of relief when closer inspection reveals it to be... merely a raw pink sausage.

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