Saturday, September 26, 2009

Harlequin and El Raton

I was out in the back yard today cleaning up the detritus of Boyfriend's wine pressing last night when Harlequin the Cat came trotting up with something in her mouth. Something BIG.

I finished moving a piece of the wine press into our shed, then came back out to see if it was what I thought.

Indeed. It was a rat!

I was a little worried, because normally when Harlequin brings me a kill, it's not all the way dead - she likes to play with it for a while. Read more...
But I was relieved when I saw her drop it to the ground and it just lay there, clearly dead. She'd had the good sense to make sure this one didn't get away.

So instead of watching over her to make sure Rodent Madness wasn't released into the garden (as I usually do), I lavished congratulations on her as she arched her back, pressed against my leg and purred ecstatically, the limp rat by her side.

This was a big deal. Normally Harlequin targets baby birds, and this year, lots of young mice from the Back 40 of our yard, which we've allowed to go wild to leave a little habitat for small critters. But a rat is HUGE, and it must have taken some cunning to get him.

I was very proud of her, and it was hard to tear myself away to get back to work. As I hosed fermented grape stuff off the shiny red press, I watched her out of the corner of my eye as she celebrated, hurling the rat into the air, pouncing on it as it came down, swiping it with her fearsome claws and bringing it to her tuxedo-front bosom to nuzzle it.

Damn, cats are weird. But hey, we all celebrate a successful hunt in our own way.

At one point, Harlequin stretched out on her side and laid her elegant head on the grass, the picture of bliss. The rat was in much the same position in front of her - stretched out and ... well, what could've been mistaken as blissful if I didn't know better. It was as if they were spooning.

So what's she gonna do now? I wondered. With mice, she usually eats them in a couple of bites, gnawing on the head first, then finishing the body in another bite or two.

But this rat was like an elk to you or me. It was a lot of meat.

Right about when my work was done, Harlequin finally started gnawing on the rat in a serious way - signaling she was done playing and ready to eat - so I went over to watch her work.

WARNING: If you wouldn't want to watch something like this yourself, you might not want to keep reading. I just find this stuff endlessly fascinating. I would have as a kid, and now that I am in the habit of killing and eating animals, I find myself very curious about how my brethren in the animal world do it.

So I sat in front of Harlequin and watched. Funny thing about Harlequin and her indoor sister, Giblet: They LOVE IT when we watch them eat. They like for us to sit over them. In fact, if I walk away before Giblet has finished, she will meow at me until I follow her back to her food.

Harlequin had started with the tail, gnawing off about two-thirds of it before I got there, then moved to the right front leg, then the right rear. Nang nang nang - she would gnaw until every necessary bone was broken.

If I weren't a hunter, I might've been horribly grossed out, but instead I was fascinated with her choice. I'd've thought she'd've gone straight for the belly where all the soft, good stuff was.

After she gnawed off both hind legs, she finally broke into the belly and I watched as she pulled out intestines. Rather than take a big bite, she tugged at the end of the small intestine, chewing down the strand, then pulling out more, and chewing down again. Reminded me of that spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp, except this was a different kind of love here.

At one point, I heard something to my left. It was a squirrel on the fenceline, ambling toward our silver maple. When I looked at him, he froze, realizing that his nemesis was in the yard.

He turned to look at us intently. Are a squirrel's eyes good enough to see what she was doing at 30 yards?

Harlequin was clearly too busy to trifle with an irritant like that squirrel, but that guy tiptoed all the way back down the fenceline to safety. He wanted nothing to do with this.

Harlequin looked up momentarily, as if to say, Yeah, I saw you, pal. Not interested. Then, diligently, she continued eating. After the intestines, she gnawed up the backbone until she got to the liver. After the liver, there was the diaphragm to punch through. After that, lungs...

But she was getting tired. This was a lot of work! She looked like Boyfriend after he's broken down an elk - exhausted. And full, too.

She took one more lick and dropped to the ground in the shade of a wheelbarrow, ready for a long nap and a grumbling tummy full of bones, fur and meat. I stroked her back and she purred, more languidly now. I pitied her a little because she hadn't made it to the heart. I love heart!

The rat lay beside her, looking like a victim of a shark attack, all of his bottom half missing. I picked him up by an ear and tossed what was left of him into the shade, hoping she would finish him later, but sensing she would tithe the ants instead.

Three hours later, the ants still enjoying the fruits of her kill.

So that's the news at Lake Wobegon. Well, my version of it, anyway.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009


Albert A Rasch said...


Yummy! That I were a cat and led as simple a life...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles.

Holly Heyser said...

Yeah, no kidding.

I still want to see her actually catch something - I've never seen the hunt; just the fruits.

SimplyOutdoors said...

Pretty cool! I would have been just as interested as you were, and watched the whole thing as well.

It would be cool to actually catch her on the hunt, and get to see the actual kill.

That might require some patience on your part, however; a little hunting yourself if you will.

Holly Heyser said...

Perhaps I should set up a game cam for Harlequin!

Illiena said...

Hope the rat was a clean forest rat and not one of them full-of-pesticides human-dwelling one's.