Powerful you have become, the dark side I sense in you.
Last night I came home after a very long work day, a 25 minute ferry ride and a 15 minute walk to a scene that defies any palatable description. As I unlocked my door I told my parents, who I had been speaking with on the phone, that I would have to call them back, there was something dead on the floor.
Those of you who know me, know that I have two cats and said felines have a rather brutal streak with regard to the flora and fauna of our surrounding environs. I have, on various occasion, had to remove snakes, rats, mice, frogs, toads, giant spiders, birds and geckos to name but a few of the formerly living things that have either met their end in my home or been brought in as a trophy of some sort. It should be said that I have also managed to catch and release a good number of the aforementioned animals as well. In fact, just the night before last I was awakened at 4:00 a.m. by a sound that I could have sworn was a baby, or a mouse, or… a tree frog? Yes, a tree frog that my cats had taken for a bouncy toy. I caught it and put it out, alive and uninjured, it not fully well.
As I walked in my house last night what I saw was horrible, it was the stuff of horror movies. A good-sized bird whose chest had been ripped open, was strewn across the floor. A foot was several inches away, parts were clearly missing and feathers were everywhere. EVERY.WHERE. My female cat was there, watching me take in the scene (they have open access throughout the day and like clockwork they meet me when I come home; the giant, walking, beacon of kibble.) Matilda followed me around as I went to get the vacuum and surveyed what I can only imagine she helped orchestrate. I saw that all the things on my sideboard were upended or on the floor and that feathers were visible on my bedroom floor, bathroom floor… I walked into the room I use as a closet.
And I began to weep.
Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.
On the throw rug in the middle of the room was another adult bird ripped apart but not necessarily consumed and at least three other smaller, baby birds. All thrashed. And then left behind. An entire family. This was not the remnants of a hunt for food. This was pure carnage and had it come at the hands of a human there would be no way to say it was not a crime of passion – of total rage. It was one of the most horrible things I have ever seen with my own eyes. Writing about it today makes me cry.
I took the rug out, I collected all of the carcasses, and I began to vacuum the feathers: under the bed in the bath tub, in my shoes, in the laundry hamper, under the sofa, under the table… I saw Norman peek in from around the open door. I looked at him and he ran. I had yet to say a word. Matilda sat on the couch grooming.
When I finished I sat on the big wooden chair under my clock and cried. I couldn’t stop and I didn’t understand why. They are just cats. Cats kill birds. Why all of a sudden did I feel like these animals were nothing I would want in my home? I looked at Matilda in awe. She is so small. And funny. Like a sprite or something. I saw Norman again. He skulked in past me, not making eye contact. Did he understand that a line had been crossed? Could he? A stupid cat? I closed the doors and the sat back down unsure of what to do. I did not want to be there – I did not want to be around my pets, often one of my favorite elements of coming home.
Always in motion is the future.
I called my parents back. “They are cats,” they reminded me. “Predators. It is what they do.” It did not ameliorate the situation in the least. Hadn’t I just spent five days hanging out with them and enjoying their ‘catness’? I recall I even laughed about how cat-cam would be such a stupid idea because my cats were the epitome of hedonist lay-abouts. Perhaps it is time to consider cat-cam redux.
The thing is, it is true, they are predators. They kill. Can I punish a cat for acting on instinct when it may be all they have? Can anything really fight its own instincts to the point that they master and moderate their innate behaviors?
Do we all have issues fighting instincts? Or with the instinct to fight?
I considered some of the things that are instinctive to me. Judgment. Supporting the underdog. Believing in people. Competitiveness. Can I fight them? And then, do I instinctively fight? Fight or flight, they say. I think I may be the worst combination: start a fight then take flight. Perhaps. Or maybe I just feel gloomy today. And what would I have these animals do? Make a carnivorous being go vegan, like my cousin does with his cat? Try to convince myself that I can control cats, or any other being for that matter? How would I feel if I had come home to find the carcass on the floor to be my cat, dead and ripped apart at the hands of my neighbor’s dogs? What would I do?
Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.
I believe that as humans we strive to control our instincts. I hear it is this ability that separates us from the animal kingdom. I don’t know. It seems like there are a lot more readily available examples of people acting on instinct than behaving rationally. With my limited religious training it seems to me that this is the basis of almost all theological endeavors, or even in more mundane terms: To be the master of your domain. But there is also this idea everyone keeps going on and on about to do with honoring yourself, your spirit, your nature. What then, Yoda? What are we left with?
The cats spent the day inside today. My free-roaming jungle kitties were locked in. Unhappy they will be. But dead things there will not be. Is this an illusion of control? You bet. Is it an attempt to override instinct? I don’t think so, because truth be told, you must take the good with the bad and what I love about cats has much to do with their instincts, their behavior –> their ‘catness.’ I am fighting my own instincts to fight in my own little ways. Maybe they will understand this. No they will not. They are cats. When they see me tonight, they will again see a big, giant, walking bag of kibble.
And I will be totally okay with that.
May the force be with you.