Old farmer Johnson had troubles of his own
He had a ragged alley cat that would not leave him alone
He tried and he tried to give that cat away
And finally gave him to a man going oh so far away
But the cat came back, the very next day
They thought he was a goner but he wouldn’t stay away
The cat came back, he couldn’t stay away, away, away
I am in a metaphysical quandary. Although committed to the Christian theology of a ” one and done” afterlife, I am troubled by a nagging suspicion. After several years of close observation, I am convinced our cat was a serial killer in a past life. It all makes sense to me. You don’t have to be an FBI profiler to notice the behavioral pattern: loner, obsessive, fastidious, mercurial, prone to torture small animals, mocks authority, and plays bizarre intellectual games. Serial killer experts Resler, Berger and Douglas offer this chilling description: “At an early age, if the suspect is left alone, or forced to live in isolation whereby little attention is given to them for long periods of time, their minds become the object of their company, and thus begin the daydreams and the fantasy world”.
The behavioral profilers helped me interpret the disturbing piles of feathers, mounds of entrails and most recently, the eviscerated vole that was lovingly left on the front door step for Valentines Day. Whatever it used to be, it’s next of kin would need its dental records to determine its identity. Carefully placed next to its body was what looked like a small bean – – perhaps its heart or spleen. It was a holiday and in my kitty’s twisted mind , she was trying to communicate with us and take part in the tradition of gift giving: “ Spleen, Be My Valentine “ or maybe “Happy Valentine’s Day. I can’t give you my heart, but how about this one? “. Then again, it could be a more sinister warning. “If I had fingers instead of paws, ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ would seem like a Disney movie. Let this be a warning to you. Keep my kibble bowl fresh. “
Our feline Hannibal Lecter often exhibits psychotic nocturnal behavior. She seems to hear voices and often chases after fourth dimension phantasms and invisible prey. What does she see? She purrs loudly and touches her nose to my cheek. “Meeeee-ow” She may be having a sixth sense moment and crying out, “Dude, I see dead animals- everywhere.”
Our uneasy truce is not unusual. Throughout history, cats have been revered and despised for their peculiar habits and odd, indifferent demeanor. Domestication of cats began somewhere in the Middle East and achieved its zenith with the deification of Bast, the goddess of family, a divine spirit possessing a cat’s head and a woman’s body. Aside from ridding granaries and households of vermin, cats were thought to have mysterious healing powers. In the eleventh century, perhaps after a clutch of ravenous feral felines ate a local farmer’s child, the domesticated cat’s stock dropped precipitously – going from Bast to worst and ranking right up with politicians and snake oil salesman as social pariahs. Cats were painted with a more sinister brush and associated with the devil, black magic and sexually ambiguous male celebrities. What resulted was nothing short of a millennium of persecution and the now infamous association of black cats and bad luck.
In colonial America, the Salem Witch Trials alleged that a Barbados slave Tituba was practicing the dark arts. The fact that she owned a black cat and had figured out how to get her broom to sweep the floors -without touching it should have gotten her a promotion. But those Puritans were a feckless and fearful lot. Tituba was convicted of being a witch and for corrupting seven young girls — allegedly duping them into practicing the black art of witchcraft. If Tituba was living today, she would probably have her own television show and record label. Centuries later, animal researcher, Alain Gato pieced together the forensic and public testimony from the trials. All the evidence now points to Tituba’s cat, Methusela, as the one that framed her.
Gave it to a little boy with a dollar and a note
Told him to row way up the river and toss it from the boat
To tie a rope around its neck and a weight of 20 pounds
Now all that they can tell us is that little boy done drowned
Cats can be loving warm creatures or odd fickle personalities. Imagine if you lived with a mercurial person where every time you showed them affection they pushed you away. Yet when you ignored them, they came looking for you. They would disrespect you one minute and then feign affection when they wanted something from you. Oh wait, that’s a teenager! But now imagine if this same person, greeted you as you came home, by showering you with love and then suddenly biting your hand – – only to run off laughing. When you see them again, they pretend nothing has happened. Saying my cat is domesticated is a bit of false advertising. What other animals remove kidneys and proudly display them like first edition stamps? I often catch her watching me as if she is sizing me up. “Oh, yeah, I could definitely take you. I would eat like a queen. But, who’d open the cat food and clean out the litter. You are safe for now. On the day of my choosing, you’re a dead man. After that, I buy a pound of cat nip from the tough tabby Melon across the street and we have that wild party. Perhaps I might even take a three legged dog hostage and torment him”.
Man on the corner swore he’d shoot that cat on sight
He loaded up his shotgun with nails and dynamite
He waited and he waited for that cat to come around
Nine-seven pieces of that man is all they found
A few years back, we asked a male friend to watch our house and feed Lady MacBeth. Our cat despised him from his first “I love cats. We’ll get along fine”. The first night he returned to our home from work, he found a carefully positioned cat poop on the middle of the bed in which he would be sleeping. The only thing that was missing was a note that said, “ Yur next” in second grade handwriting. Each night, she chose to do her business on the bed until he finally waved the white flag and only returned to the house each night to feed her.
Cats are like spouses, they always get even. They will foul your nice linens, shred your furniture and swat your car keys behind the dresser. I am always nervous when I clean out the litter box ‘lest I dig up a human hand or a missing person’s wallet. Cats will come up and rub against you, seemingly asking”Is everything ok? You look a little tense ?” I can only imagine what goes through the mind of a rodent. There must be an entire night gallery of horror stories shared by our local rodent community. Tales of vanishings, disembowelments and ritual killings so grotesque, it causes the younger rodents to stare at the ceiling all night, wondering if that hairy, psychopath is somewhere in the vicinity. Squeaked one mole, “ I heard she killed a dog “. Another squirrel chimed in – – “It’s worse. She killed a postman and a UPS guy”. Sadly, even serial killers have a deep bench of those that would vouch for their character. In my house, it seems the mice and I are the only group that thinks something weird is going on.
I just got home from work and the house is deathly quiet. It’s just me and the cat. Even the dog, who she has come to loathe – is off on a run with my wife. The feline is sleeping on a pillow near a book that has fallen from the shelf. The title? In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.
Could she have been?………………….Nah.