Gigi has just brought another mulot into the house, and been quickly chased out. Mulot is the colloquial term round here for any sort of small country rodent. The usual suspects are campagnols or field rats, which is what they used to be called. It was my friend Georges-Louise Leclerc de Buffon, a famous naturalist, who came up with the term campagnol in the eighteenth century. (He’s my friend because back in the 1770s he suggested that llamas would be good animals to introduce into France.)

Campagnols aren’t mice. The latter have longer tails and are grey, whereas our mulots are brown with a relatively short tail. You get up to 1,000 of them per hectare in the countryside. They are burrowing creatures and do a lot of damage. Our poor old lawn is full of holes and as lumpy and bumpy as a lunar landscape. The burrows collapse after a while so there’s no hope of playing croquet on the surface above them. Come winter, when food starts to run short (they eat grass and sedge), the mulots  turn to roots and shoots underground and harm a lot of trees and other plants. They don’t have a lot going for them, do they?

Mulots are the chief prey of buzzards, kites, owls and various mammals, such as badgers and foxes, and of course our cats and Nessie, our dog. She gets through quite a few every day. They have an unpleasant effect on her digestive system, so unpleasant that she’s often exiled outside while we leave the door open to let some fresh air in! The little critters are parasite-infested, so anything that eats them will inherit these nasties. Our vet recommends worming our mulot-munching pet once a month, but we usually wait for evidence before we dose them up again. I don’t go for over prescribing.

Now that the cold weather is here, the campagnols will be starting to move in with us. We’ve already seen a couple scurrying around the lounge. The cats were asleep on the chair at the time. We prodded them awake but somehow indoor rodents don’t get their interest like the outdoor ones do. It looks like we’re on our own again this year in fending them off!