the hunter

by bam

looks innocent enough, our ferocious cat, on this side of the glass. boy accomplice at his side. gaze locked out the window. just beyond, the critters romp; not a one’s at risk, in danger.

ah, but this is my cat in winter.

you should see what’s happened since the snows have melted. the full-blooded hunter gene seems to have been catapulted from its winter sleep.

back then, a week ago, in depth of winter, he was content to press wet nose to pane. to keep an eye on things from the comfort of his lookout rug.

but that was then. this is spring, the season of a cat’s deep stirrings. he’s on the prowl, well, whenever he’s not curled up napping. like at 3 o’clock this morning, when he nudged me for escape from house. he was in the mood, it seems, for mouse.

just yesterday morn, as i stepped out into the march morn masquerading as june, there was trophy no. 1 for the season. shall i spare you the gory details? let’s just say our mouse population is down by one. and i’ve got the head to prove it. (oops, hope you didn’t spit your coffee out.)

meet turkey baby, the meanest cat in town. ol’ turk (that’s short for turkey baby meow meow hi cat bye cat choo choo space shuttle, a name derived from early passions of a boy then merely four) is son of prowling farm cat.

and it seems, as ol’ papa farmcat strutted past sweet turkey’s mama some fateful day, he made sure to sink his prowling gene deep into the mix, into the kitten once so small we carried him home tucked in one sleeve of an otherwise empty cardboard six-pack.

that was almost 10 years, and heaven only knows how many chewed-up critters ago.

i had thought this past winter that our ol’ turkey baby was finally showing signs of slowing down. i was thrilled to see him sitting by the glass. thought perhaps he’d finally turned the corner, would let me off the hook of being the not-proud owner of the ferocious feline flesh-eater.

you see, my little gray-striped cat is my moral dilemma. especially in hunting season.

i am, no surprise, pacifist from head to toe. proudly raised boy no. 1 who never once chewed grilled cheese into g-u-n. (then along came boy no. 2 and quickly dashed my future claim to two boys, no weapons.)

so what to do with cat who hunts? hmm.

we’ve tried bells around his neck. we’ve tried keeping him indoors (that was swell, he found an open third-floor skylight and took a leap at 6 o’clock one morning; i flew down the stairs upon hearing his desperate meeeooww amid descent, and met him unharmed but staggering around the side of our old city house).

just the other day, boy no. 1 suggested a chinese gong. strapped around his little neck, mind you. perhaps a high-tech advance warning system. a little air-raid siren for all the critters: “prowling cat, duck for cover.”

thing is, our cat is fast, our cat is super sly. he just might be the toughest cat around, it’s hard to know these things. what i do know is that many a morning he leaves an offering on the mat.

this morning as i let him out, i offered this: “no feathers.”

if he knows what’s good for him, that darn cat, he minded my admonition. discerned fur from feathers as he made his rounds.

i can’t say i cry over every mouse, or even chipmunk (yes, my cat has killed whole colonies of chipmunks), but when it comes to birds, i crumble. i shoosh and flutter. i don’t make nice. i thought for sure my cat would be in line for psychotherapy, poor thing. there he is doing his proud cat thing, there i am getting weepy. talk about conflicted id.

dr. freud would have a field day with my cat who does in field mice–and birds who flutter.

so here i sit in the season of my moral rumblings. i have a cat who kills. a murderous cat, most certainly. and i have birds i dearly love.

my mama, bless her, always tried to assuage my guilt, to tell me that the only birds who die are ones who aren’t so fit. my bird man, though, this winter set me straight. said that wasn’t so. said millions of birds–fit birds, fine birds–each year are killed from mean cats on the prowl.

it’s a mean spring out there, all right. if anyone’s keeping score, the fat cat’s ahead–at least by one to none. i haven’t ventured out this morn, to gather up who might be fallen.

i don’t think i want to know. how’s that for moral failing?

all right, people, any fine ideas for how to keep my cat at bay from unsuspecting birds?