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I don’t know why it is that none of those worthy tomes about growing things on allotments ever talk about mice and rats – but in my experience, these twin scourges are second only to slugs in terms of what damage they do to crops. This year their tally includes my entire early pea crop, eaten to the ground when just seedlings, and now the first of my sweetcorn cobs to ripen.

I’ve tried everything: humane traps (they laughed scornfully and nicked the peanut butter while holding the door open with their tails); home-made not-very-humane traps (sweet jars sunk in the ground – they find their way in and then can’t climb out. Trouble is, the rain gets in too and then they drown – I don’t hate them that much); and not-at-all-humane traps (the conventional kind: once again, scornful laughter, no peanut butter and no dead mousies).

So it’s time for the nuclear option. Meet my new mouse traps.

Mousetrap No. 1: aka Sweep. And…

Mousetrap No. 2: aka Sooty. This is about all I’ve seen of her so far – she hides under the soil sieve in the corner nearly all the time – and Sweep, though more courageous in that she’ll come out if you’ve got a tin of cat food in your hand, isn’t exactly trusting.

These are feral cats – I got them from the Cats Protection League after reading that they were very short of homes for these basically wild animals. They aren’t pets, which is of course what most people are looking for when they want to rescue a cat – so they need people with outhouses, barns, stables or in this case sheds on allotments who can look after them but don’t expect them to be very domesticated.

As far as I’m concerned, they’re working animals with a job to do. Doesn’t stop me being a bit soppy about them – they’re very cute as they’re only about 6 months old and have that kittenish look still – but I don’t try to stroke them. I let them out for the first time this weekend – until now I’ve been keeping them in the shed so they know where home is – and am now keeping my fingers crossed that a) they’ll come back and b) they’ll massacre the mousies. And I hope rats, and possibly even bunnies too. Oh, I may be an animal-lover, but where my veggies are concerned it’s war…..

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