Icky in the Garden

Cats and snail traps? They mix only too well.

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY HANNAH ENGLAND


One morning in early Spring, a scruffy-looking, short-haired, gray-and-white cat showed up on my front porch. I really didn’t want to adopt a pet, so I did not feed or pet or encourage the animal in any way. Regrettably, the cat didn’t take the hint. The next thing I knew, I was putting food and water bowls on the porch.

He never left.

I named him Ichabod—for some reason he reminded me of Ichabod Crane from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Unfortunately, my 3-year-old niece couldn’t pronounce Ichabod, so she shortened the cat’s name to Icky—and it stuck.

It was mid-May by the time Winter released its grip here in northern New York and I could start preparing my flower and vegetable gardens. Icky followed me around as I weeded, watered, and pruned. Then he usually fell asleep in the warm sunshine and napped until I called him in for his dinner.

Icky shook his head, turned in a circle, and fell forward on the ground.

While working in the yard, I noticed that the garden was being invaded by snails. Well, maybe invaded is the wrong word considering the speed at which snails move, but the newly formed vegetation was besieged with the slimy critters. They nibbled the nasturtiums, bit the begonias, gobbled the gladiolus, and devoured the daisies, all at…well, a snail’s pace.

A local garden center suggested placing shallow bowls of beer around the garden. Supposedly the fermentation odor of the beer attracts the snails; they sip the liquid, slide into the bowl, and drown. The next afternoon I stopped at the market, bought a six-pack of cheap beer and shallow bowls, and set out snail traps.

That evening, just like always, I called for Icky to come eat. Usually the cat quickly emerges out of the twilight and hurries in the door, but not that evening. I called a few more times. When he did not appear, I slipped on my shoes and searched for him.

Icky suddenly stumbled out from between two rose bushes. He shook his head, turned in a circle, and fell forward on the ground. Something was obviously very wrong. I rushed to Icky, scooping him up in my arms. He purred loudly and attempted to lick my cheek.

One whiff of the cat’s breath and I knew what was wrong.

“Icky,” I exclaimed, “you’re drunk!”

A quick inspection of the garden confirmed my fears. Most of the beer-filled bowls were empty. I immediately called my vet.

“Oh, dear,” said the vet. “Beer can be toxic to cats. How much did he drink?”

“At least half a bottle,” I explained. “He’s really plastered.” “Well, just try to keep him calm. Hopefully he’ll sleep it off in a few hours.”

“He’s already sound asleep on the couch,” I said. “I’ll keep an eye on him.”

Icky didn’t move all night and, after a tentative morning, recovered in time to join me in the garden the following afternoon.

Nowadays, I use bowls filled with a non-alcoholic sugar water-and-yeast mixture to help control the snails. It also seems to control my cat.

He took one sip the first time I set it out and spat it out. I could tell by his scrunched-up face he thought it tasted, well…icky.


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