A few weeks ago I chanced upon the above image.
“What a cute kitty,” I thought, then squinted. “Wait… Is that a dead mouse clamped between her teeth?”
After zooming in and verifying that, yes, that is a poor rodent meeting its unfortunate end, I came to a profound realization: Cats are cute even when they’re committing murder.
Like this little guy below: Totally cute. Totally thinking about murder.
We welcome them into our homes, adjust our schedules to their needs, and fret about how they might not like a new brand of litter or a newly-arranged living room.
We laugh when they shred paper and enthusiastically tear into plush toys.
We trim their razor-sharp claws, kiss their little heads and give them names like Buddy, Gizmo and Puddin’ Head.
And yet cats aren’t just murderers, they’re serial killers. They’re the bane of birds, rodents and lizards on six of the seven continents. They’re so ruthlessly efficient at killing, in some countries it’s illegal just to let them outside.
Thankfully I haven’t had to deal with my cat bringing me “presents” of dead rodents or lizards. We live in an apartment, Buddy doesn’t want anything to do with the outside unless I’m with him, and if our games are any indication, he’s a hilariously inept hunter who probably couldn’t catch a rodent even if I slow-tossed one to him like a pitcher serving up meatballs in a home run derby.
Yet I’ve heard many stories from friends and acquaintances whose cats are little terrors. Murderous cats are even the subject of this week’s pet advice column on Slate, where a reader complains that her cat proudly presents her with dead mice, frogs and rabbits.
So what sort of powerful magic is at work here? Why do we disregard the murderous side of our little friends? Or is this the work of toxoplasma gondii, that infamous cat-carried parasite that is rumored to take over human brains?
In truth, it’s just who cats are. They’ve been companion animals for so long, it’s easy to forget the reason cats and humans came together in the first place was to kill rodents who were eating their way through stored grain in the very first human agricultural settlements.
So instead of fretting about their murderous ways, maybe we should just be thankful they’re not large enough to eat us too. Isn’t that right, Mr. Fluffy?