Monday, August 5, 2013

Basic [Feline] Instinct

Yesterday my cat killed a hummingbird. She left the little bird on my front porch. My mother told me I needed to clean it up because she cleaned up the sparrow Rosie left last week. I opened the front door and looked at the mat.

It was tiny, even smaller than I expected it to be. It was lying on its back, a cream colored belly looking up at me, small dark brown head, teeny little feet (claws? talons?). Once lightning wings now halted and tucked reverently at its sides. She must've hit it hard with her paw. She has strong, clawless paws. There was no blood, no guts. But looking at it, in stark contrast to the apple green doormat, what could be classified as indifference turned to upset.

I closed the door and went to the kitchen to get a plastic bag. Rosie was triumphantly lounging in the hallway. She looked at me like she expected a reward. "Now that I see it, I'm really mad, Rosie" I told her as I walked past.

The first thing I did with Rosie when I brought her home as a kitten was put a collar with a bell around her neck. She's worn a collar her whole life. Yesterday, sometime in the afternoon, she lost her collar. It's one of those breakaway kind, so if she gets the collar caught on something, instead of choking to death, the collar will release in the struggle and she can get free. The bell lets her prey know she's close. Only a grasshopper and the sparrow had fallen victim to Rosie with the bell collar on.

I went back out to the porch and hesitated on the step above the mat. I took a wide step over the mat to the garage door. It was locked. When I went in to get a key to open the garage, Rosie tried to go out. I used the plastic bag to block the door. She tried to bite my leg. So she went in timeout downstairs.

My dad walked out onto the porch as I unlocked the garage. He stopped and looked at the little hummingbird. "Poor little thing," he said, then took the bag from me and gently scooped it up. A moment later I heard the lid to the garbage can close. I felt guilty, like I should've buried it under the Paul's Scarlett Hawthorne in the backyard.

I took my flip flops off before opening the door to the basement. I needed them as a shield. Collarless Rosie was sitting on the top step. "Nope," I told her, "You don't get to play upstairs or outside. You get to stay down here." She bit the leather strap of my sandal. I walked down the stairs. She stayed near the top. I turned and looked at her. "You don't get to kill hummingbirds, Rosie. Hummingbirds are off limits. So are quail. If you wanna kill a bird, kill a magpie. No one likes those. Everybody likes hummingbirds."

Then I went about my business. I sat on my bed and filled my pill boxes for the week. It didn't take long before Rosie jumped on my bed and curled up. She didn't look triumphant anymore. I looked at her. Her fur was filling in nicely from the awful lion's cut she'd gotten in May. She was now properly fuzzy, to the point of perma bed head. It's adorable.

She's a beautiful little cat, with a silky gray and white coat. Tabby stripes show up in the gray of her fur, barely noticeable color variances on her body and tail, with dark gray tabby markings on her face and three gray freckles on her little pink nose. I wanted her to be an indoor cat, to avoid the danger and dirt and unknown of the outdoors. I didn't count on her instinct.

And instinct is exactly what I was punishing her for. I realized this as she laid on my bed. That wasn't fair. She didn't do anything wrong, she was simply doing what her instinct told her to do: catch a bird. She didn't know it was a hummingbird. If there had been other kinds of bird available, she would've gone for them too. She lost her collar and could sneak up on the little hummingbird. And she shouldn't be punished for her basic feline instinct.

I'm the absolute worst, especially when considering I'm her person. So I got up and opened the door. Then I took her food bowl into the storage room and topped it off. When I turned around, she was sitting quietly in the doorway waiting for me. I walked over to her and scratched her head. She seemed melancholy. I picked up her favorite toy, a green bendy straw, and played with her for a while.

After a time she ate some food and found her spot on my bed again. "I'm sorry I punished you for being a cat," I told her softly. She licked my hand. And when I went to bed, she settled herself on my legs, just like she always does.

This morning she sat at the foot of my barstool looking up at me hopefully for my empty yogurt container. The cat loves Yoplait Greek yogurt. Her greenish-yellow eyes were huge and round, waiting for her morning treat. She does a little dance when I put the container on the floor. And this evening, after work, I bought her a new collar. This one is red with a subtle white pattern and a silver bell. It's perfect for football season. And it's a reflective breakaway collar so she'll be safe.

I also got her her favorite cat treats. She does a little dance for those too.

1 comment:

  1. Damn animals. So cute, so deadly.

    Have you seen this:

    Great writing. Love you cuz.