Friday, December 14, 2012

Appreciating the Cat-Prey Relationship

These two might be the cutest fur-babies on the planet,
but given half a chance, they’ll both follow their instincts
and dig their sharp fangs into a nice juicy mouse.

One of the great blessings of cohabiting with animal companions is the fact that it gives us a cat’s-eye view into the wonderful workings of nature. While we believe in protecting the earth and all its inhabitants as much as we can, we also respect the natural life cycles, including the marvelous science of the food chain among animals. That’s why we don’t get upset over the fact that our cats call the seed we scatter for the birds that daily visit our backyard 'bait.'

It’s not as bad as it sounds. Our two happily domesticated fur-babies mostly spend much of each morning sitting behind the sliding glass back door and watching the show outside. The birds that visit regularly are excellent flyers and very quick take-off artists. They don't even have to taxi down a runway to get an excellent head start on the occasional predator. They can quickly rise up out of harm’s way, just like little feathered helicopters.

If the odd bird does manage to get itself caught in the jaws of one of our pets, it’s usually carried inside for a foolish game the cats call ‘gotcha.’ Much to the feline’s chagrin, the sport usually ends with the bird escaping and flying around the house to land on the highest spot it can find. Then we have to tease it with a long stick while it flutters from one tall shelf to another, until it’s finally convinced to fly through the open back door, all the way to the safety of its home nest.

When the cats do manage to successfully corral their prey, it's either a mouse or, more often, a lizard, especially in the warmer months of the year. If we happen upon this scene indoors and the poor victim has already been dispatched to the great pasture beyond, we just scoop up the remains and put them out in the garden, where it will be eaten by bugs and fertilize the desert ground. In fact, my standard requiem prayer for each lizard stiff as I carry it to its sandy grave is: "Bugs you ate and by bugs you will be eaten."

On the other hand, if we discover that the victim still survives, we try to interrupt the usual kitty-prey play time by catching it ourselves and carrying it to safety outside. When we return to find our fur-child wondering why his impressive conquest was prematurely terminated, we try once again to explain that our home is as much a sanctuary for all creatures great and small as we can manage.

And though we completely respect the wildest instincts that are inherent even in the smallest and cutest creatures on the planet, when they happen to be God’s perfect little hit-kitties, we’ve got to lay down the law: The killing fields shall continue to remain outside the confines of our house.

If a cat sees you first and you’re not
fast enough, watch out, little birdie!

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