Nature is sometimes glorified into something akin to godhood. I think sometimes we forget that it can be what humanity calls cruel.
Friday night, our cat Frankie hopped around the house like a little dervish while we watched Edge of Tomorrow. As he skidded pass my chair, Brad cried, “What does the cat have?!”
I looked over. “A bird!” I sat up, finding this spectacle way more interesting than Tom Cruise having a sci-fi version of Groundhog Day.
Our lovely Maine Coon mix kitty, with fur as luxuriant as silk, had what appeared to be a wren in his grasp. I say “appeared” because I never did get a closer look at it while it was still fully intact. Brad wanted to either get the bird away from Frankie or get both bird and cat out of the house. Frankie, though, was having none of that. With the grace of a born hunter, he evaded a bumbling (but well-meaning) human while keeping a firm grasp on his squirming prey. He dashed into the master bathroom, where he hunkered down by the sink. Brad approached. Frankie rolled his eyes up to glare at him and growled.
“Leave him alone,” I cautioned. “He’s going to want to play with it for a while.”
“He’ll make a mess,” Brad protested.
Truth was, I wanted to get him away quickly before he spooked Frank into bolting for some crevice. The last thing I wanted was a bird carcass rotting somewhere I couldn’t reach without a crowbar. And even if Brad got his hands on the kit, I was worried Frankie would turn on him.
“We’ll close the bathroom door,” I suggested. “That’ll minimize the mess.”
Unsure but momentarily mollified, Brad followed me out of the bathroom and I closed the door, leaving Frankie with his prize. For an extra measure, I even closed the bedroom door. The cat may get out of the bathroom, but he wouldn’t be able to squirm under the bedroom door. Brad shuffled into the kitchen, looking distressed.
“There was nothing you could do for the bird.” I thought maybe he felt bad for letting Frankie play with his prey. “It already had a broken wing.”
“I just don’t want…..stuff everywhere.”
I smiled. “You’ve never seen a cat clean up after a kill before. There will be some feathers and a little blood and that’s it.”
And I wasn’t proved a liar. Yes, there was lots of downy feathers everywhere and, yes, there were a couple of smears of blood on the linoleum. However, it was all cleaned up within minutes. On the floor was a tiny dead bird divested of most of its feathers. I bent to pick it up and, again, Brad protested, this time over my comfort with things dead and bloody.
“Why not?” I asked.
He paused for a second. “We have plastic bags you can use.”
“Don’t be a city boy.” With delicate fingertips, I plucked the carcass from the floor, posed with it while Brad took a photo, and then tossed it outside. (And, yes, I washed my hands right after.)
Cats will play with prey. However, it’s not a behavior isolated to them. When our dogs were younger, they’d play with bullfrogs that got into the yard and, once, they managed to get their paws on a small bird. But it’s not a behavior confined to the bored and domesticated. For example, Orcas have been filmed playing “toss the seal”. However, after some discussion, we decided to put a bell on Frankie. As much as I love the idea of him becoming a professional mouser, we do have some rare birds in the area.
I wrote part of this blog with Frankie curled up in my lap. He purred while I stroked that silky-soft fur. Like an embodiment of Nature, he is beautiful, intelligent, and can be, according to human’s standards, quite cruel. But I love him and I could never ask him to be anything less than what he actually is: a predator in miniature. And it is in accepting this side of him that, I think, helps me to love him all the more.