Rooting for the runt

I side with the underdog.

When I was nine, I brought home an undercat.  In my memory, she was the most beautiful creature ever with silken fur and intelligent eyes. Adults who witnessed the animal at this time recall a thin, sickly, moth-eaten, fleabag of a thing. (Naturally, she grew up to be an undisputed Ubercat).

Recently, I forged a relationship with an undermouse.

Runty Mouse - about 10 days old

Runty Mouse – about 10 days old

The poor little Runty Mouse had been causing me concern for a few days. Whenever I rudely awakened the mouselets, three would be curled up together and poor little Runty would be out on his own, away from the warmth of his siblings. I would put them all back together every time, but he’d always end up on his own; pushed out of the nest, as happens to the runt in nature. The poor little thing was so thin. Skin, a little bit of fur and an oversized skull. (Now, see, here, I want to write ‘like a rodent Calista Flockhart‘ but I feel unkind doing that. Oh, I’ve done it anyway. Oops.) And a forlorn tail, thin as a thread. He was clearly having a bit of a rough time starting out on this old life business, and his brothers and sisters weren’t showing him much fraternal or sororital love. All because he was small. Now, I know this is what happens to runts in the wild, but life at Burlington-Taylor Towers, though generally unkempt and occasionally unruly, isn’t yet feral, so I stuck my oar in, hoping that Runty would grab it with all four feet and hold on tight.

When they were 10 days old, some sort of mouse-empathetic-supersense kicked in and I was certain that this particular day was make-or-break day for Runty; if he could just get through this day, then he might stand a chance. So, I kind of cancelled everything apart from feeding mice. Which, in retrospect, puts me firmly into Mad Cat Woman territory, even though this was a mouse-related issue. So, having rearranged a few things and called off seeing a friend (I somehow feel that  ‘I have to feed the runt’ is worse than ‘I’m washing my hair’), I braced myself for some intensive paintbrush action.

The stronger three got their usual 4-hourly paintbrushings, but Runty was fed every hour. For about 36 hours.

I made him a super-saturated solution of kitten milk. And squashed molecules of banana onto the paintbrush as well. He was probably cursing me for depriving him of sleep, but he most definitely perked up over the intensive feeding period. You could almost see him fattening up.

And heck, you think of all manner of odd things, sitting there in the half-light, stuffing a paintbrush into a mouse runt’s mouth.

But odd things aside, the thought that I kept coming back to, as we went through the Long Dark Night of the Runt, was a song sung at junior school. Hymns at my junior school (St Paul’s C of E primary in Wokingham) were interesting; Mrs Aveling ruled the musical roost and had an aversion to traditional tunes for anything, (which is why I associate ‘Away in a Manger’ with something that is basically a rock ballad) but, at the same time, this long-haired, flamboyant, moustachioed, brilliant woman seemed to love more modern, twee-er hymns, such as:

There are hundreds and thousands, millions of sparrows;
Two a penny, far too many there must be.
There are hundreds and thousands, millions of sparrows;
But God made every one and God made me.

Except  on this particular night, I was singing about millions of meecelets and how God loves every one including Runt-y. Genius, huh?

I’m not particularly into God, but you don’t need to be to have the sentiment that everyone and every one matters. Especially at five in the morning with a minature mouse gulping down hope for tomorrow from your hand.

And thus Runty got through the night to shed his runt status and become simply the littl’un.

The next night, he wasn’t pushed out by the others. Hurrah! He’d just needed that little extra boost to be deemed mouse-worthy by his siblings. And, putting my Carrie Bradshaw hat on for the moment (Heck – wouldn’t that have been a great show if she’d been writing about small mammals? Mice and the City? Sex and the Mice? No, no, that’s just all wrong. Anyway, Sex and the City was basically He-Man with cocktails – have a problem, have an adventure, learn something and tell us about it in a little moral coda. [Shhh, Claire, you’re supposed to be telling the mouse tale]) Ummm, where was I? Oh, yes, Carrie Bradshaw… yes…. We all sometimes need just a tiny little extra boost to keep going, and sometimes we’re lucky enough to get it. And, sometimes, we can be the ones to give it. That little boost, which is usually just a minor inconvenience for the giver (eg a cancelled date with a buddy; sorry, Carl), can mean the difference between triumph and disaster – or even  life and death – for the recipient. And, well, that doesn’t just go for meece.


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