Monday, April 25, 2011



Anguished screams come from the living room, ripping me out of my sleep again.


Ever since Coyote learned how to hunt about two months ago, he has been dragging home his kills and bringing them in through the kitty door every night. I’d be upset with him, but unlike many cats he’s not bringing it home as a present - he actually eats what he kills. Most mornings the only evidence that he was successful is a blood stain on our nice, grey carpet.

Scrubbing rodent blood and entrails off the carpet is such a pleasant way to wake up.

You wouldn’t think a clean, southern California neighborhood would have so many rodents, but we’ve learned otherwise.

I’ve learned to identify his kills by what he leaves behind. Mice are my favorite thing for him to catch, since they only leave behind a tiny bit of blood.

Rats leave behind a larger pool of blood and have too large of a skull for him to completely finish, so if the stain is larger and there’s a set of yellowed teeth pulled back in a death grimace beside the stain, then it’s obvious he killed a rat.

Gophers are my least favorite of all. Baby gophers leave behind patches of inedible fur, a stubby tail, and what appears to be a section of intestine.

Adult gophers are too large for him to finish, and are generally eviscerated, leaving loops of intestine lying in delicate, widening spirals. They always manage to die in the most bone-chilling ways, their anguished expressions and curled toes seeming almost human. Finding a dead gopher in my living room feels like walking into a serial killer’s lair – it’s disgusting, and completely unnerving. You can almost hear the whispers of, “It puts the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again.”

Coyote's propensity for hunting is surprising, considering he's the most mellow cat I've ever owned. I rescued him from the streets of Taft the weekend of my grandma's funeral. Depressed and stifled by the press of well-meaning relatives and stale cigarette smoke, I handed DragonMonkey off to The Bean and went for a walk. I'd walked the streets of the sleepy town many times during the years I lived with my Grandma, and there was something healing about feeling the same stretch of pavement beneath my feet once again. The sun beat down on the back of my neck, and I began to relax. It was comforting, losing myself in the familiar ache of being too-hot, feeling the aching scorch of the sun making my skin tingle. I stopped beneath the shade of a tree, leaning against a block wall as I took a moment to cool down. Glancing at the house, I noticed a pack full of lanky kittens staring curiously at me from beneath the shade of a bush.

"Kitty, Kitty! Tch, tch, tch!" I waggled my fingers enticingly, and to my utter delight two black kittens began to emerge from the sleepy pile. I seated myself on the wall, and grabbed both of them. The first to arrive was slightly taller, and I could hear his purr even as he trotted towards me. The second was a little quieter, and instead of throwing himself at me in ecstatic abandon, he flopped down beside me companionably.

"You can take them, you know." I looked up at the voice, and saw a woman peeking through her front porch, smiling at me. "You can take them all, if you want."

"No, I'm just loving on them. Thanks, though."

"No, really, you should take them. I don't even want them - they're not really mine. The neighbors across the way moved and left their pregnant cat behind. I couldn't watch her starve so I fed them, and now they won't go away."

I held the first kitten beneath my chin, and it rubbed its head against my chin, purring increasing in volume. "I've already got a cat, thanks."

"Well, if you change your mind, feel free to take one." She disappeared back into the air-conditioned shadows of her house.

I flipped the kittens over on their backs, scratching their tummies and marveling at their placid behavior. For nondescript, run-of-the-mill black cats, they sure had incredible personalities. I spent a few more minutes cuddling and murmuring into their fur before returning back to the house.

As I slept that night, I couldn't get those stupid kittens out of my head. Life for a street cat in Taft is generally short, and not easy. It gets hot during the summer months, and water is hard to find. That, combined with the unusually high number of stray dogs tends to make most outdoor cats live no more than year or two. Those kittens were so sweet. Most kittens are cute, but every once in awhile you run into a kitten that you know is going to make a once-in-a-lifetime cat. It seemed like such a waste for those kittens to languish in a front yard until they eventually got hit by a car. Besides, I felt like taking something with me - some memento, some part of Taft. With my grandma gone, I knew I wouldn't be making the three hour drive anymore.

I wrestled with it throughout the night before finally deciding to leave it to fate. If the kittens were there on the way out of town, I would take one.

I grabbed an old laundry hamper and lined it with a towel. We said goodbye to family, loaded up the car and then passed by the house on the way out of town. I opened the car door, the late-summer heat enveloping me. I looked over at the bush, and then up at the porch. No kittens.

I felt a surprisingly sharp pang of sadness.

"Tch, tch? Kitty, kitty?"

"Prrt?" A soft noise returned my call, and I looked down at the shade beneath a low-hanging tree. The second of the two black kittens looked back at me, mellow and friendly. I waggled my fingers at him, and he stretched slowly before meandering over. I picked him up, burying my nose in his fur, tears sliding down my face, dotting him with dampness. I don't know why, but finding him there felt like the real moment of saying goodbye to Grandma, and to the life I had known with her.

I wiped my tears away in his fur, returning to the car. It was almost unnerving the way he reacted to being shoved in a dark hamper - I expected lots of loud meowing and skittering. In stead, every time I peeked inside he looked back at me --- purring.

He adjusted to life in our house seamlessly, with a mellow, friendly attitude. We named him Coyote as a tribute to the life he escaped - kittens in Taft are often referred to as "coyote candy", a fairly realistic term. The DragonMonkey abuses him mercilessly every time we turn our back for more than a second, picking him up by his middle and dragging him around like a stuffed animal. I try to encourage Coyote to fight back--- scratch him, for goodness sakes! --- but he's just too good-natured.

I think that's why his sudden desire to slaughter every small animal in sight is so surprising. Who is this carnivore, and what did he do with my mellow, sweet, peace-loving cat?

I’m thinking of renaming him Dexter – friendly by day, serial killer by night.

The other morning Coyote brought home a gopher that was so huge my first instinct when I saw the disfigured skull in the morning was, “Holy crap – he’s gone cannibal and eaten a cat.”

At any rate, on nights when Coyote isn’t that hungry he takes his time killing whatever poor, hapless rodent he’s brought back. I used to get up and try to save them. With their large, terrified brown eyes and adorable faces, I couldn’t stand the thought of them slowly being eaten to death.

The night I walked in on a half-grown rat with a broken back changed that.

EEEEK!” screamed the rat. I rounded the corner and stared in horror as it scrabbled around in lopsided circles while Coyote stared down in bemusement, stroking it gently with a soft paw, claws sheathed.

“Prrrt?” asked Coyote, staring up at me with mellow, golden eyes. Do you see my new pet? Isn’t it funny?

“EEEEEK!” screamed the rat again, thrashing in terror.

“Prrrrt?” Look! It is amusing, isn’t it? He stood up and padded over to me, leaning against my ankles. Pet me? Hold me? I want loving and cuddles.

EEEEEK! Please, for the love of all that is holy, end my agony! The pain! The pain! Please! AAAARGH! EEEEK!” screamed the rat.

Love? Cuddles? Snuggles? Coyote continued to press against me, purring. Snuggly wugglies?

I stood there, frozen in horror.

No cuddles? Okay. Perhaps later. For now I will go back to my plaything. Coyote walked back over, sitting calmly beside the rat, and continued to pet it softly with a velvet paw, appearing amused as the rat redoubled its fruitless efforts at escape. Shhhh. Shhh. It’s okay. Shhhhh. I’m just going to torture you before eating you alive. Shhhhh.

I'm a coward.

I crept back into the bedroom, ashamed at myself for not putting the rat of out of its misery. I shut the door and pulled the pillow over my ears, trying to block out the thin, piercing squeaks. Please, just die. Please. DIE. PLEASE DIE.

I started hating the rat, resenting its stubborn tenacity to life. PLEASE, DIE ALREADY. I have to work in the morning. PLEASE? PLEASE DIE. JUST FRIGGIN’ DIE!!!!

Eventually it did succumb, and by the next morning all that remained were a few drops of blood and an anguished-looking snout.

Coyote looked up as I entered the room, stretched lazily, and padded over to me. Loves? Hugs? I love you.

With a sigh, I scooped him up, and he flopped himself bonelessly over my shoulder, purring loudly.

Creepy, serial killer cat. I don't know what I'd do without him.



Blogger sahara4d said...

We had a cat that would take the gophers in the bathtub and play soccer with them. You would hear thump, thump, thumpety, thumpthump. At least it was a self contained mess to clean. I do hate it when they bring in birds...feathers everywhere!

April 25, 2011 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Veronica said...

I weeded my garden yesterday and it appears that underneath the kale has become some sort of sacrificial grounds, because I found rabbit bones, lots of tufts of fur and feathers from at least 3 birds.

April 25, 2011 at 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My sweet curly blond cockapoo used to behave in that sicko killer way. She would eat her victim outside but then bring in the leftover "bits" and stash them around the we never knew, until we looked down, that we were standing on the tail of a pack rat, or the foot of a bunny or the head of a bird. YEESH. Hated that, hated it!! That is no way to wake up in the morning that's for sure, UGH.

April 26, 2011 at 6:12 AM  
Blogger mugwump said...

I've always believed the reason cats have been bred to stay small is because as soon as they are the size of a golden retriever they will begin to eat us.

April 26, 2011 at 7:10 AM  
Blogger River said...

We have a cat that caught and ate a huge bird when she was just a couple of months old. Left nothing but feathers, feet and beak. No idea where she put it all, she was and is tiny.
Is there a way you could lock the kitty door after Dexter/Coyote has gone out? Then she couldn't bring the kill inside.

April 27, 2011 at 2:47 AM  
Blogger Rob and Kaje said...

Ok, at the risk of sounding like a stalker, about two weeks ago i found your blog after googling "boppy pictures" for my husband, who had no clue what a boppy was. And yes, I spent 4 hours at work reading through every single post. Sorry, I'm a 9 month pregnant woman desperately waiting for maternity leave. Anyways, I was pretty sure that I had eerily just discovered a kindred spirit and thought about writing you...And then I read this post and now must comment simply because you must be my long lost doppleganger. I'll spare the details of what we have in common, and sorry if this is terrifyingly stalkerish. What forced a comment was my beloved cat, who is named Dexter after our favorite tv show, and her nighttime escapades which include a deceased baby squirrel laying desolate at my bedroom door a few nights ago. Anyways, you are a very entertaining writer!

April 27, 2011 at 1:59 PM  

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