• Catfood isn’t safe anymore: The Saga of Chutzpah Mouse

    • Posted on Feb 12, 1985

    2-12-85

    Of all the billions upon billions of mice in the world, only a few have ever been noticed by humans.  Of that select few, hardly a handful have been individualized enough to have been given names, and most of them are either pets or cartoon stars: Mickie, Minnie, Mighty.

    I have a candidate for your noticing, and after you read this you’ll agree that his name is appropriate: Chutzpah Mouse.

    Chutzpah, by the way, (pronounced Hootspah, not Shutspah) is a Yiddish word that means brazenness or gall.  The classic example is the kid who murdered his parents, then claimed he deserved mercy because he was an orphan.  That’s chutzpah.

    Chutzpah lives more or less behind my refrigerator.  Nothing brazen about that, of course.  Most house mice probably lurk around kitchens, since that’s where the dietary rewards are.

    To know why Chutzpah has earned my admiration for his chutzpah, you have to also know that I live with three cats.  Two of them are indoor cats, meaning they see mice like toys with legs.  They’re well-fed, content to doze all day, filling chairs and soft surfaces with their slug-like bodies. 

    Kliban, the cat-cartoonist, notes that such cats have much in common with meat loaf, and he’s right.  The other cat, though, is an outdoor cat, Shadowfax by name.  Shadowfax sees mice as meals, delicacies to be treasured as the best nature has to offer.  During warmer seasons, she litters the patio with the leftovers- little ears and tails that cause indigestion, I assume.

    But Shadowfax stays indoors when it’s below zero, content to eat the other cats’ dry food.  I can tell she’s anxious to return to the delights of mouse-meat, though.

    Enter Chutzpah mouse.  With three cats pawing about the house, two of which would like to play (with claws), one of which stalks and kills all things furry and smaller than itself, you’d think a mouse would play it cool.  Maybe head for safer territory.

    Not Chutzpah.  He yells and squeaks behind the refrigerator to his heart’s content, driving all three cats crazy.  At times he even seems to holler and scratch just to get their attention.

    And he eats their food.  Their food consists of little round balls of meal that come from the vet (on prescription) at 18 bucks a bag.  It’s probably he best cat food in the world, so a mouse could do worse.

    What gives Chutzpah his name, though, is that he steals the cats’ food while they’re eating it.  I swear I’ve seen this, and I’m still filled with admiration for the brazen little furball.  There will be a giant cat, biting away at the little hunks and there will come tiny Chutzpah, grabbing the hunks practically out of the cat’s mouth, and disappear.

    The cats are as dumbfounded as I.  No mouse can be that dumb, they think, so they just bat him in wonder.  One of them gave the mouse a good cuff on the head, but Chutzpah came back within the hour.  And the cat food still disappears whether the cats are around or not.

    I’ve thought about setting out a trap, but I can’t do it.  Any mouse that can live on cat food deserves to survive.

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