The Cat

I have always had cats and I would say I am neither a cat person nor a dog person. I like both for different reasons and I like having both. In particular I like the esthetic quality of cats around a house, they add something visually to the landscape of a room or garden that I find quite pleasing. At least when they are not throwing up or shedding, those things I find less pleasing.

In our house there are two cats and three dogs. It is too much but there is no going back now. The cats are a pair, brother-sister and I prefer to have cats in pairs. They seem to help each other be better and I enjoy the way they interact. As kittens they would play together, as older cats now (fifteen just recently) they have a comfort with each other that is nice to watch and be around.

But here is the thing about cats – they are fluffy dichotomies of snuggly affection and cold-blooded murder. I know they are natural hunters, really that is one property I especially like about keeping a cat – rodent control. But they don’t take orders on what you want killed and the communication breakdown leads to some sadness, at least on my part. When my kids were younger and had hamsters the cats upped their game on bringing us rodents as gifts. They seemed to make some connection about our desire to play with them and so in an effort to please brought extras. We were all younger then and they liked to stay out until late at night when they would come in not infrequently with a live mouse for our chasing pleasure at 1 in the morning. Before the hamsters they would just leave us parts on the doorstep, which though less attractive I have to say I preferred.

The cats are not young anymore, though they are still spry and so they seem to hunt less. They certainly don’t do it for the food since they have all day kibble, and they know how to hunt me down to open the can of tuna (or mackerel as the case may be). Most days are spent napping in a sun spot, or if chilly out curled into the covers of my son’s bed – two furry rounds curled in opposite directions from each other tails just touching. Sometimes they sleep on opposite sides at the end of my bed, pushing my husband and I into a narrow middle.

We have always let the cats go inside-outside though I am conflicted on doing so. Cats are decimating the song-bird population across the country, and they keep the rats out so good and bad. And cats, even the most domesticated are still a little wild so I struggle with the idea of keeping them in. My husband and I have discussed the situation and don’t think at this point we could keep them in without causing major havoc on many fronts. We say to each other, “maybe if we ever get more cats we can start when they are young, but Samson and Delilah are old, they don’t really go after the birds so it isn’t terrible now.” Oh that that were true.

We have repeatedly tried to bell them and they won’t have it. The collars are off in a day. Samson won’t have a collar at all – we tried for years. Delilah will wear hers, the one with the rhinestones that I hope might alert some unsuspecting creature with its glimmer that they need to flee and that honestly delights me, but when a bell goes on the collar comes off. And they do mostly stay in. But then this morning she went out and returned, very proudly to the door with a pair of fledgling finches. She had to have pulled them right from a nest because they were still cloudy eyed and downy. She waited to be stroked and appreciated for her gift – I patted her head and scratched her back as you are supposed to, but I said “oh no no no,” and I hoped she understood.

My son and I justified the killing by saying perhaps a bird that builds where the cat can get them is not too bright so this is an evolutionary gift, but we didn’t really mean it. We both felt awful. We all love the birds – and maybe that was the problem, Delilah misunderstood our affection. I suppose that happens quite a lot in gift giving – maybe next time she will just bring a gift certificate to the back door.

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