Thursday, October 27, 2011

Feral Cats and the Power of "ick"...

It was a cool, early autumn day. The local trees are in mid-change, though no one notices because it isn’t the mountains or some far-away place that isn’t where we live. I notice. I drove with the window down, smelling the autumn air and smiling at people who must have thought I was mad. But the day was a good one.

I picked up some dinner for Laine and I. We already had a couple of Cornish game hens in the fridge, but I needed a few items to go with them. Artichokes, some crusty bread,  . ingredients for chocolate chip cookies…which consisted of a Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie log and some 2% milk… And wine, of course.

I pull into my quiet neighborhood, the trees sliding from green to yellow, some having gone as far as bright orange on the tips, making most of the trees look as if they were on fire. I wave at a woman whose name I don’t know but who’s dog I recognize. She waves back. The dog glances in my direction and then goes back to leading the woman to wherever he was taking her.

I pull into my driveway and get out with my groceries. Near the front door sits a solid grey cat. I’ve never seen the cat before, so I figure it must have come with one of my new neighbors. I advance toward my house, figuring the little scamp will skitter away as soon as I get within ten feet. But, no, this grey feline is brave. And I notice for the first time that he’s eating something near my front door. Not just eating but gorging himself on something. I smile, thinking something like, “aww, the little guy has found himself a prize from someone’s trash.” It was a very Leave It To Beaver moment.

I walked past to my door and the cat barely looks up at me. Kudos. I reach into my pocket to pull out my keys and look down at the cat to see if he has a collar. He does not. I glance to see what it is he’s eating. I guess I was expecting a chicken bone, or a fish head like in those old Disney cartoons. What I wasn’t expecting was watching this cat open its tiny jaws and crunch down on what I think was a robin’s skull.

“Are you kidding me?” I yell to no one in particular, taking a few steps back as if the robin might try to jump up onto my pants leg or something. “Help me, help me!” Or maybe I was worried about dead bird goo getting on my Old Navy jeans. I mean, I paid $11 for these. I’m not about to get Robin brains all over them. Or maybe I was just freaked out. I mean, this was fucking gross! 

I’ve seen my share of death. Hell, I even have a cat. I know I’m statin’ the obvious here, but that’s what cats DO. Still, I couldn’t get my key into the front door lock fast enough. And once I was inside I ran for the kitchen window and stared out at the grey cat and his feast in a combination of fascination, horror and disgust. I couldn’t get the narrator from that Honey Badger video out of my head. “Ew, gross.”

I watched for a full two or three minutes before the cat grabbed what was left of his Kibble’s and Bird Bits and went to go finish in someone else’s yard, leaving nothing but a few stray feathers. And I’m not going to lie: I was relieved to see it go. I took a deep breath and tried to clear this live action Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom out of my mind’s eye.

I start pulling my groceries out of the two plastic bags and open the refrigerator. Two Cornish game hens staring back at me.

Maybe it’s not too late to pick up a few steaks.