1000 Ways to Kill a Cat. One Way to Kill 1000 Cats. There has to be a more humane answer.
A couple of weeks ago a colleague at the library suggested that we pull "The Diary of Anne Frank" as a response to the rhetoric around immigration.
“Well, we can do that,” I had encouraged. “I’ll look some more books up for you, but we should probably display some books with stories from other immigrants around the world.”
“You think?” This was a genuine question evidenced by her tone.
“Well, yes. Anne is easy to like,” I had responded. Later I fully formed my response to my dad when I recounted my feeling of joy at the interaction. I completed my sentence with this. “She, Anne, is culturally acceptable, because it was years ago, and society has worked through the conversation. She is an obvious heroine and/or victim in her story.” In short, Anne is easy to like.
I described to my dad how we did pull fiction and non-fiction books from all over the world, and I did notice that the display was depleted over the weekend, so someone was paying attention. However, in terms of immigration, I normally don’t have such an obvious example, steps or fuzzy feeling of accomplishment. When it comes immigration, I normally think about cats, my dad’s barn cats to be exact. Their situation is close enough to home that my stomach turns and my conscious hurts, because the easy answers are gritty, smelly, bloody, right outside my door, and I have yet to like any of them.
Mostly I don’t like the cats because they poop everywhere. The smell litters the lawn and it is difficult to get to my car with my work shoes still clean unless I pay very close attention. My dad and I have had the same conversation almost weekly. “Dad, it’s HORRIBLE. Can’t you do something about it?”
“What do you want me to do?” Dad always responds to my question with a question.
I think that there must be a thousand ways or one perfect ways, but we’ve only come up with these five so far:
Option one: Let the well fed and elegant Tom cat, (his hair actually looks like tuxedo markings) beat up the current males so they can’t breed the females. Basically intrude on the current way that the cats are mediating their social structure.
Option two: Chase off and/or kill the healthy Tom cat so that his less inbred sperm fertilizes the females. Basically intrude on the current way that the cats are mediating their social structure. Again.
*Both Options one and two are the “we know best for you” scenario.
Option three: Mash up sleeping pills in high doses into the food. Basically eliminate or erase the living creatures.
Option four: A gun. A .22 but you’d have to hit them right in the head. A .12 gauge would smear a bloody mess across the yard for longer than you would want to look at it. Basically eliminate or erase the living creatures. Again.
*Both options three and four are the “your life is worth less than mine” scenario.
Option five: Make them someone else’s problem. Put the cat in the cage and take it to the Humane Society with a story about how we found it lost.
*Option five is isolationism. Not my resources. Not my backyard. Except of course, it is all happening in our backyard.
In the end, the stinky make you want to throw up smell is my own prejudice. I have trouble liking the cats, because I think they might infect my dog with a disease, because they might get him dirty, because they are too stupid to use the house that my dad made for them and clutter up the front step when I try to go inside. Each time my dad and I have the conversation above it is because I once again have convinced myself that the cats deserve my disdain because of all the reasons above plus they stalk mice and voles, not to eat but to seemingly torture them. In this conversation I choose to ignore the plain fact that if my dog lived outside like the barn cats have been fated to do, someone could say the exact same thing about the four legged, silky clean and sweet smelling creature that I worship on my couch every night. What I don’t like are not innate characteristics, but traits of circumstance. Yet, instead of making those challenges disappear, which is a much bigger problem, I want the cats to disappear.
As the conversation makes its always final turn I offer, “Dad, what about the food? You spend a lot of money on that too. Just stop feeding them. Then it wouldn’t be so gross.” It seems to be the obvious, hiding in plain sight answer. Then maybe they wouldn’t hang around, or at least the poop might smell better.
“But if I don’t, they might put more stress on the bird population.” Damn it, the big picture.
We do have a lot of song birds around the farm. I don’t have anything against the birds. At least I don’t know that I do because the birds don’t do anything that directly affects me. I don’t want to be responsible for indirectly killing the birds. They’re pretty. They poop, but I don’t smell it. They steal nests and fight over territory, but I don’t’ see it. The birds are easy to like.
I think back to the options to get rid of the cats, and I know that we won’t. They will live here until they don’t live here anymore. I will have to step carefully, especially around the idea of who I want to save and who I don’t, because it isn’t about anything, not what, when, why, nor how. It is about who, the identity of the being I save, and the being for which I can justify my lessened apathy. Maybe Anne Frank is a bird to me today, but once upon a time not so long ago, she was a cat to someone else.
Conversation again. The answer is somewhere in the middle. I guess I have 995 to go.