Cats earn their keep at times

Useful pets seem to be the theme for me lately. Some of you might remember being introduced to our new house cat Jack a while ago.

For the rest of you, Jack is a huge black cat that my stepdad found and gave us after our previous elderly cats had passed on. I?m a firm believer in having a house cat to keep the vermin out of the house, but little did I know how really valuable they can be.

There are normal cats, and then there?s Jack. He?s so huge that we sometimes wonder whether his mother was a panther. At the same time, he?s so tolerant that his dad must have been a carpet.

Jack lets the kids lug him around like baggage, and has managed to become the first animal I allow on the bed (since he minds his manners and stays by my feet). He?s still young enough to be playful, even downright goofy sometimes.

The other day, I was knitting happily, minding my own business and stitch counts. Jack was bounding around in the dining room. I glanced casually over to see what bit of lint had caught his attention this time. Oh, I said to myself. He?s playing with one of the kids? rubber snakes…. Wait. Rubber snakes don?t have moving tongues, and they sure as shooting don?t raise up like that. That. Is. A. REAL. Snake.

Rather calmly (I thought), I called to my intrepid hubby to come see what Jack was playing with. That wasn?t a tremor in my higher-pitched-than-usual voice. It must have been one of those earthquakes we?ve been having lately.

He emerged from the office and jumped (on the inside). He prides himself on his inner gymnastics, and didn?t disappoint this time. As Jack batted at the 3-foot snake that was busily trying to be somewhere else, Hubby went downstairs to grab the fireplace tongs.

Jack pounced and swiped, and managed to keep the snake in one area until our resident snake remover arrived, got a grip on the writhing reptile, and carried it outside. I was hoping to see the guineas in action (they?re supposed to eat snakes), but apparently this particular specimen was more than they cared to swallow. The chickens had a peek, but soon got interested in other chicken pursuits.

Finally, the barn cats decided to take turns at snake relocation. The last I saw, the snake was headed elsewhere at the highest possible speed. We all breathed a sigh of relief, except for Jack. He looked rather put out that we had removed his entertainment.

So, that?s two snakes in four or so years out here on the farm. I know, most of you are thinking, man did she get off easy. Not so fast. The very next day, same scenario. Me, yarn, needles. Jack pouncing around the dining room. I really didn?t want to look up. I really wanted him to be playing with some lint, or a feather, or even a ticking time bomb.

No such luck. After I finally persuaded my neck, head, and eyes to cooperate and look in that direction, my suspicion was confirmed. Somehow, that cat had found yet another snake and brought it out to ?the spot? in the dining room.

This one was smaller and brown, and had much more of a problem with a cat acting like a combination of Muhammad Ali and a Flying Wallenda in his general vicinity. Make no mistake about it folks, this little critter was MAD!

Hubby?s internal gymnastics didn?t show at all this time. He didn?t even get the eye twitch I sometimes see when I bring home more chickens. He must really be practicing hard lately. He got the trusty tongs, and took the little seething ball of snake outside.

Jack, again deprived of his afternoon?s entertainment and workout, spent the rest of the day sullenly eyeing my houseplants to see if perhaps there were any more snakes lurking around that he could nab without me bothering him.

His attitude improved markedly around suppertime though, so I assume he?s planning his next surprise reptilian diversion. Here?s hoping he sticks to the nonvenomous variety.

More power to him. As creepy as it is to find your cat playing with snakes in the middle of the dining room, it would be far creepier for you to discover said snakes with your bare foot in the middle of the night.

Even barn cats get some credit here. Sure, they hang out in the coop and eat the chicken feed sometimes, but (knock on wood) I have yet to find a snake in the coop or in the nestboxes. And that?s absolutely fine by me.