While I believe that having any kind of animal to share your life is a good thing, being home almost constantly for the last ten or so weeks has made me even more aware of the daily habits of our cat, Benji.
With the weather being so unseasonably warm from the beginning of lockdown, the kitchen door from which Benji usually accesses the outside world is left open during the day. The familiar click and snap of the cat flap as Benji comes and goes on her many investigations of the garden and her wider territory seem a lifetime away, as does the hesitant disappearance of back legs and tail as she squeezes through the opening.
As a cat owner, this time of year makes me nervous, with nests full of newborns and fledglings. Unlike previous cats in the household, Benji is not a prolific hunter, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been presented with tiny embryonic sightless bodies, dead on the door mat. Last year we tried to keep an injured robin alive by placing it in a shoe box with water and birdseed overnight. It died before I could take it to the vet.
A couple of days ago I heard the command, “No Benji, drop it, drop it! Leave it alone!”, and the agitated voice of my partner. I knew we had trouble.
Going downstairs to the kitchen, John was cupping a tiny live bird. It was beautiful, full feathered and speckled, possibly a wren or a young sparrow. The bird wasn’t flapping or trying to escape, just sitting quietly, we assumed, in shock. It looked around unmoving, eyes blinking very slowly.
There were no obvious wounds, but we knew from past experience that it was unlikely to survive. I put a little water in a dish and dripped drops on to its beak. To my surprise the red mouth opened wide and swallowed, as it would being fed a worm.
What to do? Our local vets had reduced opening hours and an appointment only service. We didn’t know of any open wildlife rescue centres, and did they take tiny wild birds anyway?
Finding a secluded bush to shelter the creature while it died might be the kindest option, hoping all the time that Benji didn’t revisit to finish the job.
John walked to the garden, all the time still holding the bird which, although quiet, was looking more interested in its surroundings. I returned to the kitchen, brooding on the unfairness of it all. A sudden excited shout from outside, “It’s flown away! Brilliant!”. A huge sigh of relief: one less thing to have to make a decision about.
There is a small addition to this story. As it suddenly flew away it left a small token of bird dropping in John’s hand.