July 18, 2008

Audacem reddit felis absentia murem

In English: The cat's absence makes the mouse grow bold.

I thought I would post this animal proverb in honor of our new cat, Ralph, who is busily consuming a lizard as I write this. Yes, despite the ready abundance of cat chow in a bowl on the porch (on which Ralph eagerly chows down), our cat is a killer. My husband had just remarked a few days ago that since we had gotten the cat, we weren't seeing so many lizards running around our garden as we used to. Clearly, the lizards know that when the cat is around, life is not safe.

And, in fact, when I went out to see the cat just a few minutes ago, he was meowing piteously, gripping a still-twitching lizard tail in his paw, looking about frantically to find where the rest of the lizard had gone. After digging around in the grass for a few minutes, he emerged with a good-sized lizard (a skink perhaps?) dangling from his mouth. I left him to eat his meal in peace.

Ralph came to us as a stray about a month ago, and he is a wonderful cat. Watching him in our yard (he is an all-outdoor cat, and doesn't even seem to understand what doors are for; I suspect he has never been inside a house), we have seen him eating grasshoppers and also lizards. Probably that is how he survived on his own. Now that he has adopted us, he is in seventh heaven, since he has all this human affection he could want (he was even more starved for affection than he was for food), and he has several acres of grass and woods to hunt for grasshoppers and lizards - plus cat chow on the porch, tame and tedious as it may seem compared to lizard sushi.

So, whether they might be mice or lizards, the little creatures need to know to watch out for the cat, and to take advantage of the cat's absence whenever possible, as the Latin proverb tells us. Or, as the English saying has it, "when the cat's away, the mice play." Although I like the idea of the bold mouse, the audax mus, which the Latin version emphasizes.

Meanwhile, hoping that you have managed to avoid any predators in your world today, here is the Latin proverb read out loud:

1822. Audacem reddit felis absentia murem.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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Anonymous said...

I read your commentary wistfully, and then with nostalgia for those days, say, May, 1911, out in the mid-west somewhere, anywhere, and the children are hanging from the trees, the dogs are on their backs walking upside down, and a brand new Model T Ford is coming 'round the bend. The horses are neighing as if they know. Scott Utley LA-CA-USA

Laura Gibbs said...

Thanks for your comment, Scott! I too share a nostalgia for such days gone by... although I have to admit in the midst of a 90+ degree summer day in North Carolina, I don't mind having traded in the horse neighing in the pasture for an air conditioner humming instead. It's HOT today! :-)