The Cat & Mouse Game — Reconciling the Predator/Prey Phenomenon

A while back I posted a blog that questioned whether we could override an animal’s instinctive behavior through animal communication (you can read that post HERE). In it I talked about how I appealed to my cat, Lily, to please stop killing birds. Mice in the house were allowed, but no birds.

I found myself later embroiled in one of those internal philosophical arguments about why I would say killing mice was okay but killing birds was not. After all, it is natural for Lily to want to kill both, being a predator, and killing either is not an immoral act for her species. It was I who made the choice about which was fair game and which was not, seemingly arbitrarily.

I guess most of the time, in my belief system and lifestyle, the predator/prey phenomenon seems natural and okay. I have almost always lived in the country where it was a very real part of life. On my ranch in Texas we had coyotes, foxes, big birds, cougars, and wild boar, to name just a few of the predators who were eager to eat my chickens … and my cats if they could catch ’em. Here in the New Mexico high desert we have at least as many, and as fierce and bold, predators, if not quite the same mix.

I feel it’s my job to set things up so that my prey animals (i.e. my cats, chickens, and small dogs) are not subject to the predators that would catch and eat them. But I don’t hold it against Mr. Coyote or Mrs. Owl that they view these animals as snacks.

But some folks do. Some people cannot stand to see a wildlife film where the natural drama of predator eating prey is played out and shudder and cover their eyes when a kill is made. Or, another example, one friend of mine, an avid bird lover,  is so adamant about cats not killing birds that she thinks all cats in North America should be destroyed. I kid you not.

I’ve been to Africa twice now. The first time I went, within minutes of touching down on African soil out in the bush, I felt the impact of a visceral awareness I had never expected:  I was WAY low down on the food chain, and there were quite a few animals we were passing in our 4-wheel drive vehicle who would happily have done away with us! Boy, does that gut-level realization take one down a notch! And the fact is, lots and lots of people on safari are killed every year by these big predators. You just never hear about it because it’s too damaging to the African safari business.

So the “cat and mouse game” is part of life. But, if I accept that and live with it, then back to my internal argument with myself. Why did I allow Lily to kill mice and not birds? All I can come up with is that the mice she was going after were encroaching on my space, including my counter tops and cookware. Not hygienic, especially since I live where mice and rats carry plague.

Lily still hasn’t touched a bird, ever since that talk I had with her. And she hasn’t even brought me a mouse in some time. But I see no more evidence of them in the house either. For whatever reason, Lily is not currently engaging her natural predator instincts, but if she does, at any time, I won’t judge her too harshly because the cat and mouse game is simply part of her make-up.



Can Intention Override Instinct?

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