The Nature Lesson

My children received a first-hand view of nature in action today.

I was in the middle of my lifting when my son ran into my office, excited because the cat had caught a bird. I told him to take the body out into the corn field, like we have with the other birds we’ve found on the porch.

“No, he just caught the bird now, and it’s still alive!”

I grabbed the camera and we ran outside. I thought the bird might chase him off and I’d get a few pictures. The cat’s not quite a year old, and he barely touched a mouse we caught in a trap once. I half wondered if the birds we’d been finding actually belonged to some of the other cats who prowl near the house, cats we hear Ghost fighting with from time to time.

Instead, I discovered Ghost had broken the bird’s wing and bit a hole in its back. I moved in to put the bird out of its misery, but it still had some fight left in it and it hopped away. That’s when Ghost pounced one more time and finished it off.

The kids watched as the cat settled in for supper.

Ghost's Kill

The kids' lesson in natural selection.

I thought the kids might be upset, but they handled it well. They asked a few questions, and they kept their distance until the cat wandered off. Then the two boys took the bird’s body out to the field. They didn’t play with it, or kick it around, or chase their sister with it, they just scooped it up with the shovel and disposed of it.

I think I felt bad for the bird more than they did. Nature is rarely gentle, though, and cats get hungry. Cats know their place in the food chain, and so do we. It was a safe way for the kids to observe in person the kinds of things they’ve been watching on nature shows on Netflix. It wasn’t bloodsport, it was just… nature.

Ghost

Less than a year ago, he looked like this

It amazes me how instinct takes over. Ghost was only five or six weeks old when we adopted him, and he didn’t spend a lot of time outdoors until this Spring. He had no mother cat around to raise him, so I don’t think he was ever taught to hunt. He just does it, and now we know those other birds belonged to him after all. We adopted him with the hope he’d become a mouser, and I guess birds come with the package.

Yet he’s gentle as can be with the kids, and he is very patient with other, smaller children who have visited and put their hands all over him. A friendly family pet one moment, a vicious predator the next. Maybe he just got tired of dry cat food.

Of course, he didn’t eat much of the bird. He ate some of the meat off its back and gave up.

I said “Hey Ghost, you didn’t even finish that bird. Why’d you kill it?”

He looked up at me with a lazy blink as if to say “Because fuck that bird, that’s why.” Then he curled up on the couch for a nap.

Damn. I hope I don’t forget to change his litter.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

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