Monday, July 21, 2008
Home sweet abattoir
We are among the luckiest of the lucky New Yorkers. We have outdoor space—a thrilling 400 square feet of deck, right outside our living-room window through a pair of French doors. We've created a little miracle of a garden there. The syrupy fragrance of petunias and sweet pepper masks the stale beer-and-ashtray odor from the bar next door. But there is trouble in paradise. When we got our cats, we decided it would be cruel—and way too difficult—to keep them indoors. We knew there were risks. Our inherited cat, Josephine, once lunged for a pair of cockatiels ingeniously caged in a window frame across the airwell and plunged into a deep bed of pigeon shit three floors below—and survived (she died several years later at the age of 17). But mostly it seemed to give her pleasures—the ability to sniff the wind, sunbathe, bite leaves—that few city cats get. So when we got Ivy six years ago, we had no qualms about allowing her full access. And she didn't abuse the privilege (she's a little "slow"). Giving the same air rights to Iggy when we adopted him three years later seemed a no-brainer. And at first when he was just a frisky kitten, all went well. Then, about a year ago, he set out on a killing spree. Now every day or two we hear weird flump-flump noises under the couch or behind a curtain, and we know it's a half-dead pigeon in its last throes. Or we hear nothing, but some uncanny intuition tells us to look under the couch or under my desk, where we see piles of feathers and the most poignant inedibles—flightless wings, say. Occasionally we see a drop—no more—of blood. We don't see him actually eat these creatures, so we can't figure out how he does it with so little spillage of fluids—or, ick, maybe there is spillage, and he licks it up. Now, the occasional culling of the pigeon herd, I could see, but what we are witnessing now is ethnic cleansing of "rats with wings" (as Other's father used to call them). It's hard to confine a cat used to his freedom, but we're now trying to do just that. We keep the French doors shut whenever we leave for the day; we can rescue birds when we're at home. But he still finds things to kill—waterbugs, house centipedes, flies: Is there anything more macabre than a cat "with a buzz on"? Or one with little twiggy legs wriggling from his mouth? I don't like vermin, but I don't like hosting this unstoppable murder rampage either.