Watching Acadia gobble up a lacewing that she’d just patted to death at a friend’s house over the weekend, I was reminded of the “crittercam” footage that NatGeo and others released a few years ago revealing the secret life of cats. They’d strapped tiny video transmitters to the cats’ collars, set the equipment to record and let the cats out to make their nocturnal rounds.
The carnage was breathtaking.
Frogs, lizards, birds, rats, mice, bugs, worms. Killing and killing and killing anything that came within range. Like sharks, they were. Some prey eaten, but most not. A few corpses – about one in four of them – brought home as gifts for owners.
And the death toll is ecologically significant, I understand. The crittercam footage confirmed naturalists’ long-held belief that cats, both feral and outdoor domestic, are contributing to the disappearance of several species of birds.
I’m no fan of dogs, but I must admit that from a public relations point of view, they have cats beat all to hell. Yes they bark and dig holes and leave their feces wherever the spirit moves their bowels, and yes they sometimes do very mean things, sometimes to cats, but dogs by and large, those whose owners don’t abuse them, just want to have fun. And while it might be argued that cats are just as fun loving, which I happen to believe they are, cat fun, unlike dog fun, has faux predation written all over it. It’s practice for what they do at night.
Take my sweet Acadia, for example. She’s an indoor cat, of course, but she stalks me constantly. She “kills” my shoe with me in it, or my hand with me attached to it, then falls asleep curled up beside me on the sofa, her soft underbelly exposed to the presumably unretaliating world.
She “kills” the pom-poms when we play fetch, she “kills” the odd spaghetti noodle that I might drop to the floor. Her body language is unmistakable as she goes through these maneuvers, too. Freeze, calculate distance, tighten haunches, pounce, dismember. Sometimes suffocate. Sometimes consume.
My old friend Ginger used to draw blood, but Acadia pulls her punches and her bites. Maybe because she’s a girl.
And maybe because I’m a cat fancier, I’m charmed by the contradiction. The Manichean dualism of it, you know. To think that such a creature, after a night of mostly recreational slaughter (or, in the case of Acadia, a night of practice for it), greets the day all rumbly and chirrupy lapping milk from a saucer. That’s just too just too damn cute, don’t you think? I do.