This is how I see me:
This is how some journalists (and now some of their readers) see me:
I know this because I saw shocking headlines like this one exploding forth from my Twitter feed last week (just click on the article title):
As you might imagine, I was astonished to see such a sensationalistic headline attached to a story about my own species, so I clicked immediately on the source link. The article was a call to action, imploring pet owners to keep their cats indoors to prevent an ongoing bird slaughter of epidemic proportions. Apparently, cats in the United States dispatch 3.7 million birds annually. There were no figures available for Canada, but I imagine the story is much the same here. This journalistic claptrap was full of dire predictions about the possible extinction of some bird species, all due to the nasty predator mentality of cats.
Ahem. There seems to be a slight tinge of hypocrisy attached to this latest brouhaha, does there not? Consider this: are chickens, turkeys and geese not birds? Are they not “taken down” by the human species in numbers that, I dare say, are even greater than 3.7 million per annum? Having grown up on a farm, I recall quite clearly the fate of birds that had the misfortune to live their short lives in an agricultural setting.
Well, perhaps that last statement was a bit harsh. I have no quarrel with humans eating birds. I too find them to be quite a delicious and healthy supplement to my diet. What troubles me is that the humans who write these hyperbolic news stories do not seem to see the big picture. Cats are predatory by nature, as are many other species around the globe. I wonder what it is that humans find so outrageous about our hunting versus that of any other creature, including Homo sapiens. As is my custom, I have spent some time thinking about this conundrum and have come up with a few observations and a question or two.
After reading through a number of on-line “killer cat” articles, I see that some humans – mainly those living in urban and suburban areas – are concerned that cats hunt small and “cute” creatures such as field mice and songbirds. Cows, pigs and chickens are distinctly non-cuddly and, unlike the morning chorus of songbirds, the sounds they make are hardly music to the ears.
I will admit quite freely that cats are predatory creatures and that we hunt creatures smaller and, I dare say, “cuter” than we are. It is our nature and we experience a deep sense of fulfillment from the process of stalking, catching and proudly carrying home our food. It is a source of great disappointment to us when our providers fail to appreciate these little hunting successes.
Most humans do not personally kill their prey, so they have little understanding of the hunting instinct. Could it be that they are a tad jealous that they have lost their own hunting skills? Perhaps they miss the thrill of the chase? They must find it somewhat boring to bring home those anemic looking, plastic shrouded chunks of meat from the grocery store.
Predatory, you say?
Perhaps some of the humans who read this blog are cringing a bit at my talk of humans being predatory. They may balk at my description of farm animals as “prey”. Considering this, it might be a good idea to define the word “predatory”.
Definition #1: relying upon other organisms for food. (Dictionary.com)
Definition #2: living by predation, i.e. a mode of life in which food is primarily obtained by the killing and consuming of animals. (Merriam-Webster.com)
I imagine that “consuming of animals” refers as much to a 12-ounce prime rib steak as to a small rodent. As such, I fail to see any difference between humans and cats at this very basic level. But then, maybe “prey is in the eye of the beholder”.
I do understand that humans enjoy watching birds and appreciate the sound of their chattering and singing. Although they may shrink back in fear or disgust at the appearance of a small mouse in the vicinity, the idea of a cat toying with and eventually dispatching one of these furry creatures is abhorrent to them. Also, my research has informed me that humans are worried about the possible extinction of some bird and rodent species. However, most of the scientific studies I have read consider the main culprits to be feral (wild) cats and not well-fed domestics.
For Your Consideration…
I would suggest that both humans and cats spend some time thinking this through because there is more to it than meets the eye. For their part, humans must recognize their own predatory instincts and, perhaps, gain some small understanding of the feline species. We do not hunt small creatures out of malice or because we are evil killers. Rather, we are merely obeying the call of our natural, feline instincts. Hunting is part of us, down to the very marrow of our being.
On the other hand, my fellow felines would be well advised to eat their prey quietly and with no fanfare, as opposed to dropping them at the feet of humans, expecting a positive response. As one who has learned to understand and read human language, I have a unique ability to study people, including their preferences and instincts. I may use this information to good purpose by helping other cats to understand some of the perplexing attitudes humans hold about the thorny issue of killing and eating.
Additionally, you may or may not be happy to hear that this particular “killer cat” has been well and truly belled. Miranda and Jacob have been reading all the same articles I did and the result is very upsetting. Not only do I have to wear a collar (with a rather tasteless leopard print motif), there are two bells attached which greatly hamper my hunting abilities. The silver lining, though difficult to appreciate at the moment, is that Miranda has taken to buying fresh fish and cooking it exactly to my taste requirements. In time, I may even forgive them for locking the cat flap each day at sundown.
Addendum: I was most interested to read about an establishment in Toronto that is run solely by cats. A journalist visited one evening and I admit to chuckling a few times while reading her report in the Globe and Mail newspaper:
One extra (more balanced) article about predator cats: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/animals/pets/responsible.shtml