To catch a thief

I thought I was going mad. I was in the small, walk-in storage area which houses my hot water tank and freezer, where I keep excess food supplies: big bags of rice; tins of tomatoes; cartons of oat milk; tea bags – and treats, away from everyday temptation. I reached into the large carrier bag where I knew there were several packets of biscuits, including a cheaper version of Hobnobs which I’d found in Lidl. I’d made coffee and it was time to try them. So imagine my confusion when I reached inside the bag to find the complete, empty wrapper, clean as a whistle as if I’d emptied the contents into the biscuit barrel and absent-mindedly placed the packaging back in the bag. I stared at it for a few moments, shrugged and opened the chocolate digestives instead.

If they’d been normal Hobnobs I’d have assumed I’d just eaten them and forgotten. I don’t need to check the stock very often. Despite being greedy, I don’t have an especially sweet tooth; it’s much more common – and disappointing – to find the crisp storage empty. It was tempting, though unfair, to blame my lodger Josie, who has the junk food cravings of a teenager and can polish off a packet of biscuits faster than I can drink a bottle of wine. But she keeps her stash in her room and even if she had become desperate and plundered my supply she surely wouldn’t have left the wrapper as evidence. These, however, were ‘pretend’ Hobnobs. And I specifically wanted to try them, as they are considerably cheaper, and equally vegan.

It wasn’t until I began to hear rustling in the region of my vegetable rack in the kitchen, a sound which I noticed only when sitting quietly and which stopped as soon as I made a noise, that I figured out who the culprit might be. An extremely fat, and now probably diabetic, mouse. Evidently not a chocolate fan he was now after my onions, so something had to be done.

I’ve never had mice in a house before. But then I’ve always had cats. This has been a very long and rather lonely stretch without one and I have on many occasions almost weakened. I make the mistake of following several cat rescue organisations and my heart is bruised constantly. If I had adopted every one whose face and story caught my eye I would not be able to move in the flat for fur, none of it belonging to a rodent. On one occasion I snapped: I applied to rehome ‘Tatti’, the most beautiful sixteen-year old, long-haired tortie. I fell completely in love with her but luckily someone else also had, and she was snapped up quickly.

It was a narrow escape. My previous fur-kids lived to nearly eighteen and twenty-one. If Tatti or one of her contemporaries reached a similar age my travel plans would be on hold until I’m seriously ancient, something I am very keen to avoid. In addition I am away several times a year with Vistas painting clients, which would be unfair; neither is my current space, three floors up with no garden or obvious safe outdoor area, ideal for a rescue cat. Even if it did have a tantalising selection of scurrying prey on site. For now, until I’m certain I’m in my forever place, I sit on my hands while reading the harrowing stories and send money instead.

I could borrow a cat. I’ve done so before, but without time to settle, their minds were on Dreamies rather than patrolling the skirting boards. Conventional traps were not a consideration. Nothing for it, then, than the humane variety, swiftly delivered and set with their apparent favourite food: Hobnobs. We caught one every night for three nights, each one a brown-eyed, pointy-snouted, whisker-washing bundle of cuteness. Pet-deprived, I was almost tempted to keep them, but I’m certain they’ll be happier in the woods. Just as long as they don’t begin the long journey home, friends and family in tow, as I’m told they will. I might not be quite so ethical next time!