Death of kitten by predator disheartening

Published 9:34 am Saturday, July 14, 2012

by Clarence Foster

On Wednesday, June 27, I left the house on one of my customary morning ventures to Windsor’s nationally recognized Dairy Queen.

I think of it as coffee and biscuits, served up by as fine a fast-food staff as you’ll find, working for and among as loyal and pleasant a customer fan-base as you’ll find. Yes, this 67-year-old retiree is happy to be one of them.

But on that morning, that moment in time, that happy ritual was dampened by the sad discovery of the lifeless body of a small cat, my new favorite. You see, although, I’m the proud owner (or vice-versa) of a still vibrant 18-year-old housecat, I have an assemblage of outdoor cats — “the herd” — that I hold in somewhat less regard, but regard nonetheless. They are four adults, with two frequent visitors and two charming tennis balls that were starting to lengthen out.

The larger of the two tennis balls, a colorless beige-tan multi-breed, brightened every moment that I saw him. I say “him” out of convenience; a personal convention that streamlines things.

It seems that some wily predator had cut him off from my jury-rigged escape hutch. It was worrisome that his 10-yard ventures, his baby legs, his yet inability to climb, his total lack of survival experience, all posed a mortal threat. However, I rather enjoyed the nobility of his large head, held high, propelled along by a gradually steadying and slightly strutting gait. Yeah, he made it all worthwhile.

I’ve struggled, and not always unhappily, with the presence of the herd. They’ve ranged from the two I met when we first returned with our housecat from New York (eight years ago) to as many as 12, and now to their present number. I’ve worried over the management of their numbers. But left to its own devices, nature has its (sometimes terrible) remedies: road kill, dogs, foxes, coyotes, etc.

Several months ago, with the numbers at six or seven and two females pregnant, overwhelmed and feeling a gathering gloom, I prayed for a little managerial help. All I would see of the two litters was two small bodies dead in the yard.

One re-pregnancy produced the two that included the Wednesday tragedy. I can say without doubt that I’ve been blessed. The whole thing yet serves as a reminder: be careful of what you wish for.

It was never easy to be an adult in the country. Yeah, I can imagine that it looks idyllic to the city dweller, starved for space. Be careful what you wish for.

I remember my first hog killing. I was about 5. Uncle Herbert had gathered a gang of middle-aged henchmen. They proceeded (among them a sought-after professional, and cousin-in-law, Eustace Colbert) the 40-odd yards to the hog pen, where a docile, chubby, hog had resided for a year or so. They scaled the walls of the pen, cornered the hapless animal and closed in.

My brief sojourn into manhood vanished at the first shrill scream. I raced from the scene, bound for the far side of the house and any measure of civility that time could bring.

Head of household would also shoot anything that could make a meal, harvest barnyard animals – and kill, in anyway he saw fit, any unwanted dogs or cats. Not for the squeamish!

I never thought the phenomenon of extreme fighting would catch on, either petering out due to a savage attrition, or a finally horrified fan base, bombarded and sickened by a barrage of various limbs torn and tossed from a blood-soaked ring. Perennial shows presenting animals in the wild, now feature a brutal drama of predaceous stalking, topped-off by ghastly close-ups of the most savage final moments or seconds.

We may have moved away from old “do-it-yourself” survival practices, but now circle back in the name of sport. We sink beneath the ever-mounting carnage wrought by gun enthusiasts.

I’ll say it again: anyone with a gun is dangerous. [It should be said that today’s hunting is more than mere sport. You can ask almost any farmer, concerned about his crops, of the relative benefits. Or you can ask anyone who has ever dined on Zuni’s Eugene Harris’ scrumptious squirrel potpie. It is just that such interest seems to have drifted way too far afield. And gaining momentum.]

Yes, I’m disheartened by the loss of a small cat, a docile innocent that was killed for mere sport. The predator did what predators do, and simply moved on. It is even more disheartening that there are people out there who would have promoted the event, sold commercial time, and rallied an all too common blood-thirsty crowd.

It is said, from time to time, that one can be too sensitive. Well, one wonders, from time to time, when even that one is no more.

CLARENCE FOSTER is a resident of Southampton County and a 1963 graduate of Hayden High School.