I think my cat is a Buddhist. She is eight years old, and to my knowledge, has never caught so much as a black fly. She does enjoy quietly studying insects with great interest, however, as the picture above will attest (that would be Maggie, inspecting a lady bug on my pillowcase).
She certainly looks like a tiny Buddha: despite a fairly ‘strict’ diet, her tummy grows rounder with each passing year. Our veterinarian says she is currently 3 pounds overweight – an astronomical amount of weight on such a tiny little body. Over the years, I have had to add stairs to help her heave herself into each of her favourite resting perches in the house.
Now I will admit that to my husband’s consternation, I do give her the occasional treat (and by ‘occasional’, I mean daily). They are tiny treats, mind you, but she and I both look forward to them. And to be fair, she is a consummate actor: I have seen her convince my husband to feed her (as she writhes in agony at his feet, meowing pitifully in the throes of obvious starvation) only minutes after she has been properly fed her allotted quarter cup of food, by me. Because this trick has worked so often, we have taken to asking the other ‘if Maggie has been fed’ because we simply cannot take her word for it.
But I digress. I was talking about Maggie’s Buddhist tendencies; not her acting acumen. At our former house, Maggie’s best friend was a ginger cat who lived next door. Jim (the cat) was a prolific hunter. We often found the sad remains of his victims in our backyard: mostly nothing left a few feathers or the ghastly fragments of a mouse or a mole. Based on Maggie’s obvious preference to simply watch the critters who entered our yard, I was pretty sure that none of the grisly remnants I was finding resulted from her actions. My husband was not convinced: “She’s a cat, Patti” he would laugh. “It’s what cats do – of course she’s hunting!”
One summer, we were blessed to have a family of doves lay their eggs in a planter hanging from our porch. For several weeks, we watched with great interest as they built the nest, incubated the eggs, and finally, began feeding their noisy little brood. We were thrilled that they trusted us enough to build their nest so near the chairs where we, our dog and Maggie sat each evening. One can imagine our utter dismay the day we returned from a shopping trip to find the nest – hanging six feet up – in violent disarray and very much empty. Nothing was left but a huge tuft of bloody feathers as a testimony to the terrible massacre that had taken place while we were gone. Some neighbours had witnessed the whole thing so we had no doubt that Jim had done the deed, but in any case, Maggie was always left in the house when we were away.
I have never had a burning desire to have the final say, but I will admit that once in a while, it feels great to be right: in this case, when I was finally able to confirm that my cat is not and never will be a hunter. Early one morning as I was letting Maggie out for a pee, she and I both spotted Jim, just a few feet away, engrossed in something on the grass. As Maggie trotted over to get a better look, my curiosity got the better of me and I quietly walked over to have a look myself. Jim was playing with a little grey mouse – very much alive and as yet unhurt. He was studying it intently, ears forward and tail twitching ever so slightly. He would let the mouse creep a few inches and then stop it by placing a paw gently over its back. Maggie sat down quietly near the two of them to watch the proceedings with avid interest.
Something about Jim’s absolute acceptance of another cat sitting so close by and watching him hunt told me this was something the two of them had done many times before. The feeling was confirmed when the mouse crept over to Maggie – sitting upright like a little princess – and parked himself between her paws. Maggie glanced down in what can only be described as bemusement at the mouse, and then she and the mouse sat there together for many moments, both looking over at Jim, who was still waiting patiently a few inches away.
Now I know that this is where I am supposed to tell you that I charged in and saved the mouse’s life, but alas, I understood the futility of such a gesture and I also understood that Jim was only doing what he was born to do. I said a little prayer for the mouse, hoping his journey to mouse heaven would be mercifully quick, and then I gently picked Maggie up and carried her unprotestingly back into the house.
There are some things that a Buddhist cat should not have to watch…
Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com