Rats, Cats and Cows

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Part 21 of total 37 stories in the book Tales of Tenali Raman.
  

In the kingdom of Vijayanagar, the public distribution system was managed by the courtiers. The courtiers ran grain and grocery stores in the different parts of the kingdom. After a bumper harvest season, a new problem cropped up in the kingdom: rats.

Huge amounts of grains were being stored in the various storehouses around the capital city. Armies of rats were now devastating these stores.Courtiers panicked. It was not just about loss of income for them. The situation had become very serious. A food shortage was looming in the horizon despite the spectacular harvest season.

King called for an emergency session of the court to address this menace. The courtiers were wracking their brains for a solution. Using rat poison was out of question since that could contaminate the food supply. Rat traps were useless. Very few rats would get into the traps when food was in plentiful supply outside.

Chatur Pandit had a novel suggestion: cats.“O Keeper of the Kingdom,” Chatur addressed the King, “I suggest that we import as many cats as possible into the kingdom. Let each courtier be given a cat to guard his granary.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” said the King.

The courtiers were averse to having a cat in their homes. Dogs at least guard houses. But cats themselves are known for stealing from the kitchen. They would an added headache along with the rats. Chatur Pandit saw that there was going to major objection to his plan, so he tried a new tact.

“Indeed, it is the best solution, my Lord,” said Chatur Pandit excited,” But I think the cats should be looked after properly. So I request the King to provide one cow from the royal herd as well to each courtier so that its milk can be used to feed the cat.”

The courtiers wholeheartedly agreed to this idea. They were excited about getting a free cow. They knew that even after feeding the cat, there will be enough milk left over for their families. It was a great free deal for them. Tenali Ram kept his mouth shut and let matters unfold. Next day guards arrived at the homes of each courtier with a cat and cow. The King had also made it a point to conduct monthly inspection of the cats to make sure that these animals were treated well.

After a month to the King’s dismay most courtiers complained that the rat problem had multiplied. Several storehouses already had to be abandoned and more were risking ruin. When the guards conducted the monthly inspection they found that all the cats were well and in fact, fattened. They were just too lazy to move around and slept all day. Well all the cats except the one given to Tenali Ram. Tenali Ram’s cat was a lean and active animal. Moreover, rat problem was completed eradicated from the storehouse under Tenali’s charge.

“How did you get you solve the rat problem, Tenali?” asked Krishna Deva Raya curious to find out the secret of his minister.

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“Using the cat, my King!” said Tenali

“But all the other courtiers also had a cat. How come they still have rats?”

“Because of their cows, my King!” said Tenali

“How is that? You also were given a cow.”

“Yes, I was, Dear King. But I returned the cow and kept only the cat. Cows have no business in a rat problem. If you keep feeding a cat good milk every day, it will obviously have no interest in catching rats. Just like how a man who gets good food for free, will grow lazy and useless over time; so do the cats. Why should they keep themselves awake and run after the rats to feed themselves, when every morning and evening big bowls of fresh milk is provided.

All animals should be allowed to be true to their nature. Only then they will retain their vitality. Men who don’t labor for their sustenance also lose their liveliness. A cat that is fed cow’s milk will become fat and lazy. A cat that chases after rats will always remain a healthy, active cat. “

King immediately ordered that the cows be returned to the royal herd. With the cats no longer fed with milk, they began to chase and kill the rats. Within a few weeks, the rat problem was eradicated from the kingdom.

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