If I were a cat, I think I’d feel nothing but disdain for other cats who wasted their time hunting birds. Birds probably aren’t that great to eat, the first layer unappetizing feathers and then all those long, thin bones inside. The only reason to go after a bird would be that birds are hard to catch, and really more than catching a bird I think the allure would be being seen trying, getting a reputation for being the kind of cat who patiently stalks the hardest prey, like devoting one’s time to difficult tasks for no reason other than that they are difficult is something to be proud of instead of pointless and kind of inauthentic.
You could probably catch three or four mice or lizards in the same amount of time it would take to kill one bird. Mice are probably the better meal, and lizards don’t look like they’d taste great but I bet there’s a real satisfaction in raking one’s claws down that scaly skin and seeing it split open wide.
If I were a cat I think I’d end up feeling a lot of anxiety at maintaining a good relationship with my owner. I don’t think I’d have the kind of owner who got too hung up on treating me like a baby and posting pictures of me on instagram. I don’t think I’d be the kind of cat who acted like a baby, or did particularly photogenic stuff. The way I’m picturing it, my owner would adopt me as a kitten and we’d love each other and cuddle and everything, for a while we’d be very close, and then over time, maybe a year or two, we’d settle into a routine. It’d all become rote, my owner would feed me on schedule and I’d show up to be stroked while my owner watched TV, but it would all be without much enthusiasm. We’d have separate lives. I’d spend more time in the yard, and more and more of that yard time perched on the fence, looking over into the neighbor’s yard, wondering what kind of life I’d have if I lived over there, or maybe the next yard, or maybe beyond that the woods.
And that would freak me out, once I realized I was spending more and more time fantasizing about the kind of life I’d have with another owner, or no owner. I’d feel guilty, I think. So I’d try to recommit myself to my current owner. I’d rub myself on my owner’s leg more, I’d bat at their fingers playfully, I’d leap up on his or her lap a lot. I’d try to get us back to the good old days, when we were new and enamored with the novelty of one another. Maybe my owner would be into this, maybe he or she would dangle string for me to swat around or buy a little rubber ball with a bell inside for me to chase, but I’d end up pushing it too far, probably try to play when my owner was checking their email and knock their laptop over, shattering the screen, and my owner would shout at me and maybe even half-heartedly kick at me to chase me out of the room.
That would be so embarrassing, and shameful. I’d be heartbroken. And probably the way to deal with the situation would be to cool it for a while but I’ve never been one to let things cool. So I’d do that thing where I’d hunt and catch a mouse or a lizard and then present the corpse as a present to my owner as a gift. I’d carry the mouse or lizard in from the yard and drop its mangled corpse at my owner’s feet, an offering, an apology, but also a display of value. The little corpses I’d present would signify my prowess as a hunter and my love for my owner, that I’d go through the trouble of killing something and then give it away without eating it myself.
Or maybe I wouldn’t do that. Maybe, and this is more like me, I’d think about presenting my owner with a little gift-corpse and then not do it, hoping my owner would wonder why I wasn’t. I’d want my owner to expect a gift-corpse and not get one, want them to wonder more and more why I wasn’t leaving dead mice and lizards everywhere. I’d want my owner to obsess over this and eventually come to realize that I wasn’t presenting them with a corpse because I was pissed at them, more pissed at them then they were at me, and the also realize that when I broke their laptop I was just being affectionate and that they really overreacted, that they’re lucky to have such a great cat and that they’d been taking me for granted.
That’s what I’d want, and I’d mope around for like two days waiting for that to happen and it wouldn’t. So then I’d start thinking, I do really want to present my owner with a gift-corpse, I do really want my owner to see me as valuable, I do really want my owner to be happy. So I should just give them the damn corpse, really, and get out of my head. Be a part of the world. Maybe that’s why my owner and I grew apart in the first place, because I’m so much of a mess. So needy. So okay, I’d commit to finding a top notch corpse to present my owner with. But then, none of the lizards or mice in the yard would be right—none of them plump enough, none of them enough of a challenge.
And that’s when I’d end up going after birds. Fuck me, I’d do it. I’d clamber up a tree and wait for some bird to let its guard down. But not the birds on the lowest branches, the sparrows or whatever. They wouldn’t be good enough, because it wouldn’t be just about giving a gift anymore, it would be about getting a really fantastic gift. A gift I had to really work for.
And maybe that’s fucked up, too. That even in my guilt at being weird about giving a gift I’m making the giving of a gift all about me and the way I want to be seen and sort of cultivating the relationship. But we really were happy once, my owner and I, and we could be again. I mean, I’m the same cat, my owner is the same owner. Things change over time but not that much, right? It’s not like there’s a finite amount of happiness two people—or a human and a cat—can provide one another, is it? No, it can’t be. Relationships can sour and become complacent, but only if the people or the cat and its owner let it.
So I’d go higher in that tree, high as I could go, looking for the really big birds