This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This is the face of a killer. Ain’t she sweet?

Thanks to a genetic anomaly, Nikki is a permanently small cat who rather resembles a fuzzy-furred kitten. Lola, strikingly larger, looks like a feline contract killer yet her hunting skills are no match for her sister’s. Nikki is one of the deadliest, most efficient hunters I’ve met; her grandpa was an African serval (Lola’s from a different litter and only the great-great grandkid of a serval).

I guess blood tells. If I were a prey animal I’d MUCH rather take my chances with Lola.

The Resident Carpenter made a squirrel door in his office, a ragged hole in the window screen, to invite his beloved Willow-the-squirrel and her kids in for afternoon tea. He’s stocked the window seat underneath it with a variety of favorite squirrelfood, nuts and sunflower seeds, fruits and veggies, a little bowl of water, Willow’s favorite stuffed animal for cuddling.

The squirrel “door” in the window, above the squirrel nesting box. We used to block the hole at night when Willow was very young (she could freely roam the office, but we didn’t want her popping out at night until she became predator-savvy). One morning, we forgot to unblock the hole, so Willow made her own exit. Voila! A second squirrel-door. The branches propped up on the sides give smaller squirrels an easy path.

They love it. Unfortunately, so do other critters.

A crow once chased Willow inside, popped its head through the hole and saw the bounty. It pushed its way in, and would have made itself at home in the house if I hadn’t been standing there to shoo it away. We’ve had small birds pop in for a bite, as well as other squirrels (they’re carefully regulated by Nathan, and if they infringe on the Willow family visits, out they go).

Willow, sitting on the nesting box outside the window and eating a stolen peanut butter cracker.

“I think,” said Nathan one day, “That rats are coming through the squirrel door.”

He said that casually. As if it was perfectly normal to invite rats into your home for a late supper.

I’ve seen the movie Ratatouille maybe 30 times and I love it. Still don’t plan to live with a rat.

“Don’t worry,” he reassured me (as if that would work), “They’re just wood rats, not Norwegians. Think of them as cute little squirrels with skinny tails.”

“I don’t care. I don’t want rats for roomies,” I replied, intending to put my foot DOWN on the rats question.

He grinned. “Oh, I’ve taken care of that; I’m letting the cats back into the office.”

Ever since they started seeing Willow as entree instead of sister, Lola and Nikki have been barred from Nathan’s office, during the day when squirrels are actively visiting. When darkness falls and squirrels go to bed, Nathan carefully shuts the squirrel-door, er, window, and lets in the cats for cuddles.

Ratty intruders now altered this routine: The cats still aren’t allowed in during squirrel visiting hours, but once they’re gone, Nathan lets them in AND leaves the squirrel-door open. He openly invites the cats to dine on whoever sneaks inside.

Last night, Nikki bounded into his office, apparently caught sight of a rat whisker just outside, and froze. She quietly dropped to the floor, out of ratsight, and waited patiently for a rat to poke its nose through the screen. A half hour later, one did exactly that.

CRAAAAAAASH! She leapt to the window seat, maybe four feet away, in a single, powerful bound, grabbing the back of the rat’s neck as she flew, and bouncing back to the floor with a rat in her mouth.

“Holy sh…” gasped Nathan. My jaw dropped. Nikki proudly marched to my chair and laid the rat at my feet. The rat took two steps and keeled over on my toes, dead.

“She broke its neck,” Nathan observed, “Nikki, sweetheart, you are one GREAT hunter!”

Nikki preened at him adoringly and purred. She gave me an impatient glare, waiting for praise, but I was still in shock.

What do you say when your cuddly kitten turns into vicious killer? “Uhm…good hunting, Nikki? Nice job,” I said awkwardly.

The Resident Carpenter grabbed tissues and picked up the dead rat by the tail. Close up, it was kinda cute and cuddly-looking, pretty much like the promised squirrel-with-skinny-tail. I almost felt sorry for it.

“I’ll just toss this in the backyard,” he said.

Yuck. “What’s wrong with just tossing it in the garbage can?” I asked, and got a reproving glance.

“We shouldn’t waste this little guy,” he explained carefully, “If we put him in the backyard, he will feed the other animals, the owls and coyotes, scavengers.”

I sometimes forget to recycle soda cans but he thinks I’m now recyling bodies? I have visions of a post-apocalyptic backyard, strewn with corpses, my very own personal charnel house.

Just shoot me now.