My Cat Has become a Serial Killer


Cookie watches Namir prowl through the grass.

He prances across the yard with the little gray bit of fur in his mouth, ears cupped forward, eyes in slanted slits, tail straight up in satisfaction, despite the fact that he is fourteen years old with congestive heart failure and a compromising bladder condition—and he’s only been out in my backyard for about five minutes.

First let me explain that I do not let my cats roam at will. I keep them all safe indoors with lots of toys and things to do and places to sleep, and we get along fine. At some point as they age we reach a certain point of trust, and they of need, and I feel it’s beneficial to them to take them out into the backyard with me for a few minutes each day under direct supervision.

They do what cats do and for a short time forget about the effects of old age or chronic illness, build a good appetite and help keep themselves limber—they survey their kingdom, check their pee-mail and upload a few responses, eat some grass, have a little bath in the sun, then they are ready to either take a nap, or go kill something. This process takes about a half-hour, and when I see them going on patrol around the garden I herd them back inside.

Namir is a favorite of everyone who stops here socially or for business, he’s the one who sits by the door and waits for someone to visit, who gives a reminder swat when someone stops petting him, and who has nearly left the house hidden in a visitor’s coat.

He has been struggling with the aforementioned conditions for several years and I give him four medications a day to help control his heart function. I noticed this past winter that he was losing his appetite, and he was beginning to show the general symptoms of chronic illness and long-term diuretic use in early symptoms of kidney failure and weight loss. I was already taking my older tortoiseshell, Cookie, out to the yard, so I invited Namir to see how it worked for him.

My yard is a registered Backyard Wildlife Habitat, designated by the National Wildlife Federation. This means that I provide food, water, shelter and breeding space for local flora and fauna within a designated area, which is actually my entire 75’ x 125’ yard, front and back.

I started allowing natural areas in my yard when I moved in 18 years ago, and as species showed up I learned to identify them, determine if they were native and what their needs were. I also maintain a large vegetable garden, and in fact get most of my food from this plot, both fresh and preserved.

I have never used a chemical anywhere in my yard, but instead depend on this little ecosystem to balance itself. The abundant birds eat just about any insect that arrives, and native plants keep non-natives under control and provide that important food and breeding source for native wildlife. I allow berms of these native plants around and even within my garden to encourage snakes and toads, and to give the Hester the bunny and her babies something else to eat on their way to my lettuce and beans.

These berms of native plants are a hotbed of small animal life, and little rustlings and movements are constant all over the yard.

And a cat is a cat, and rarely will it NOT kill if given the opportunity to do so, like if a little gray vole runs squeaking past his paws. Who could resist?

Honestly, I’m not thrilled at little voles and other little critters overrunning my garden, but I’m also aware of the screech owl who visits at night and the red-tail hawks by day—even in my small yard they hunt for their subsistence, and I can’t let Namir take it away mouse by mouse, as indeed he would.

And I need to remember that even these little voles and mice and other creatures have their role in the ecosystem I’ve allowed to develop in my little yard. They’ve come here because the grubs are plentiful since I don’t use chemicals, and other such tidbits are freely available, too. If Namir kills off a portion of the population and the rest leave because they know instinctively it’s not a safe place, there goes the balance of species in my garden.

So, sorry Namir, I have to put you out of commission for a few days.

Please also read "On Planting Peas" here in my writing section, and visit my blog, "The Creative Cat" to read "My Feline Garden Sprites".


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