Animal, Defender of the Home, Killer of Mice

“Hey, um, can I ask you a question?”
When that’s the first thing I hear when I get home, I know something interesting has happened.
“Do we have a really, really realistic mouse toy?”
Apparently, despite the fangs the vet had to remove from his mouth, our Animal is a mouser. It looks like eleven years of training and hundreds of determined butt-wiggle-and-pounce attacks on the purple catnip mouse finally paid off. At some point last night, Animal found and killed a real made-of-meat-and-fur mouse, and delighted in batting it around the computer room to show off in front of Dave.
And of course, Dave saved it to show me.
For those of you wondering how long you can store a dead mouse in a Gladware container before it smells absolutely rank… most definitely under twelve hours. Probably much, much closer to no hours at all. Just… yeah, don’t keep dead mice. Or if you do, and your spouse really wants to see it because they’re weird like that, I cannot stress enough the importance of not opening the container you have stored it in.
I have no idea where this mouse came from. We found a few in the garage when we first moved in, and the problem seemed to disappear when we cleaned up their nest area and laid down some traps. There’s no evidence of more mice anywhere in the house, so this guy likely ran in unnoticed while we were coming in from the garage. Just one mouse, not a big deal.
No big deal, because I’m not afraid of mice, and it’s clear we don’t have an infestation, but with the recent study linking toxoplasmosis to suicide and self-harm in women, I’m a little uncomfortable about it. You see, the Toxoplasma gondii parasite is carried in mice (and birds), but requires a trip through a cat’s digestive tract in order to reproduce. It manages to do this by messing with a mouse’s neurotransmitters and making it attracted to the scent of cats*. Mice walk up to their new feline BFFs, and suddenly find themselves dead and eaten. People can become infected when they come into contact with cat feces, which is why everyone knows pregnant women aren’t supposed to scoop the litter box – Toxoplasma is particularly dangerous to a developing fetus and can seriously mess with brain development. And since recent studies seem to link Toxoplasma infection with schizophrenia, depression, and self-harm, the non-gravid among us get to be paranoid too, hooray!
But, as all these news articles are happy to report, if you have exclusively indoor cats, they’re not out eating Toxoplasma-infested rodents, so your home’s litter box is not a danger zone. That meant my home was free of Toxo-related worries… until the mouse incident. Is it possible that the mouse walked right up to Animal and offered himself up as a sacrifice to the Toxoplasma parasites running his foggy little brain? I hope not, because I don’t want to think of Animal, or us, getting sick. I need to stop watching medical dramas and those “OMG Scary Diagnosis” shows on Discovery Health.
I’ll just keep washing my hands really well after dealing with the litter and try not to have nightmares about parasites in my brain. And I’ll buy some special treats for Animal, Defender of the Home, Killer of Mice.

*It needs to get into a cat, so it controls mouse brains to get it there. Science is awesome. Also scary.

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