Friday, August 22, 2008


House cats are not a welcome sight in parks and nature preserves, and for good reason. They are rapacious alien predators that wreak havoc on the songbird population. I've certainly done my share of preaching to people about not letting their cats run loose and not feeding feral cats--and yet, I have to admit, I always smile when I see a somebody's spoiled tabby creeping around in the woods enjoying an unauthorized adventure.

A couple of weeks ago I came across a fat orange kitty on a pretty isolated trail. It was very early in the morning and he was clearly in search of something small, furry and delicious. He was crouched in a hunting posture with his back to me, about to go after some unlucky varmint hiding in the leaf litter. He heard me and turned around with an expression of absolute outrage on his face. Then he lumbered off through the trees projecting that particular air of disgust for the human race that only cats possess.

In all the time I've spent hiking, I don't think I've ever seen a dog wandering through the woods on its own. Dogs, whether they're strays, escaped pets or truly feral, just aren't interested in getting away from it all. Left to their own devices, they seek people, garbage and other dogs--not necessarily in that order. Cats, on the other hand, are in the woods to escape from people and to kill things. In other words, they're there for the same reasons we usually are. Personally, I leave the hunting to my gun-toting neighbors, but I completely understand the cat's desire to be where humans aren't. I always feel a little sorry when I intrude on a prowling cat's solitude. We're kindred spirits, unable to resist the lure of a place that would be better off without us.

Photo by רוליג from Wikimedia Commons.

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