Slugs 'n' Snails and Pussy Cats' Tales

We are being invaded. There's always been a thriving slug population in the back yard. They seem to like the untamed, virgin wilderness and cool grey flagstones to ooze across. I never bother with trying to control them as the yard is hardly something out of 'Homes and Gardens' and Spookie, the monster moggie considers slug pellets a delicacy — they can't be good for him. So the slugs continue on their slimy way unhindered. Their supremacy is now threatened.

I live on the east side of the railway, slug territory. The west side is snail city, but they are staging a take over bid. The snails live in a sad little tangle of stunted sycamore on the run up to the rail bridge, between the car park and a block of flats. It's not uncommon to see snails at eye level as they go on their snaily way up and down the trunks and leaves of the sycamores and after a rain storm, the footpath is an obstacle course of determined little gastropods.

They are spreading out and have reached our yard. Spookie is puzzled by them. Apart from his taste for pellets, the fuzzy one's main contact with slugs is bringing them in through the cat flap, adhering to his tail or back. They dry out and die on the living room carpet, looking like sinister strips of black liquorice. Lovely. Snails are new to him. During the wet of June, it got silly. They were everywhere, up drain pipes, all over the honeysuckle, they seemed of the inside of the watering can, particularly ramming themselves up the spout, which led to fun later in the summer when the sun deigned to show itself and the watering can was put to its original use as opposed to a squat for snails.

I took to evicting the invaders by the simple method of picking them up by the shell and launching then back over the wall into the back entry (perhaps I should draw a veil over their eventual fate, as one of my fellow caballeros is a renowned snail lover, still, the sparrows are getting fat) you can't really do that with a slug... yuck. I mean, the only cure for a slug is salt, really.

One of my friends, Dee, earned herself the epithet "Turdsbane" after rushing out of her prospective mother-in-law's house armed with the salt cellar and proceeding to liberally douse a cat turd with salt... mistaken identity, could have happened to anyone. Not as bad as another acquaintance who, while staying in a house with an outside loo, poured salt on the slugs on the loo seat and was horrified at the resulting mess. When questioned about the wisdom of her action, she claimed that she expected the slugs to run away.

Baby and cat
"Sue, you do realise your hard-wiring is all wrong? You're
supposed to coo over babies, not cats."

The snail situation came to a head a couple of weeks ago when they bravely invaded Spookie's territory. I was washing the pots at the kitchen sink and the immense mog came along and started to hassle me to open the back door for him. I mean, what's the use of a cat-flap when one has a mum to open the door for you? So, his every wish being my command, I dried my soapy hands, rummaged for the key, moved the rug from behind the door, struggled with the rusty lock then, eventually, opened the door and he waddled happily down the steps to his tub. Spooks is fond of his tub. At one point it had some plants in it but no mere plant is proof to 20 pounds of cat sitting on it so now all that remains are some sad, slightly green wisps with a neat, cat's-bottom shaped hole in the middle. He stopped beside his tub, glared at it, glared up at me and went *meep*. So I ignored him. He glared at the bucket and went *meep* again. Then he waddled back up the steps and sat at my feet and went *MEEP* a serious, urgent sort of meep . Back down the steps. *Meep!* It was just like Skippy the Bush Kangaroo! And little Jimmy had obviously fallen down the well so I went down the steps to investigate further. Right in the middle of his tub, just where he wanted to sit, was a massive snail. I removed it for him and he ascended his throne with an irritated huff and curled up with his back to me. Nice to know I can be of service.

Still, could have been worse, could have been an invasion of wasps.

Sue Mason

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