What Woke Me . . .

May 11, 2014 at 12:51 pm (By Amba)

. . . at three a.m. may have been the cats chasing something round and round the house. I didn’t know whether it was a giant roach or a house gecko, and I didn’t want to know, though from the zeal and style of the hunting—a rapid slapping down of paws in which running doubles as serial pouncing—I suspected the latter, having seen Buzzy hunt an anole the same way.* This morning I found the gecko, tailless (the least of its troubles), multiply punctured, and bled-out pale. It was still alive, and it cocked its head and looked up at me, as if to say, “Are you going to torture me now?” When I stroked it with a finger instead and put it on the outside stair landing railing, it closed its eyes wearily. A little later I found tiny ants already probing it. Alive, it had haunted me; almost as soon as it was dead, its little sand-colored scrap of a body merged into the inanimate, and it was of no further separate significance, except as a bonanza to the ants.

That’s how our consciousness has to withstand being hunted and tortured by death until it can’t hold out any longer, too much damage has been done.

The next time I hear such hunting I’m going to get up and gently intervene.


*I did save the anole from Buzzy in time. It appeared dead, but on closer inspection could be seen to be surreptitiously breathing. I laid it in the sun, and when its protective death-mimic shock wore off, it took hold and ran away. I think I have seen it, tailless but robust, going about its lizardly business.


  1. brunobaby said,

    My former cat Pongo did that with a mouse. I felt very bad for it as I flushed it crushed and bleeding down the toilet. But at the same time, I don’t feel like having my home overrun by mice. Pongo “belonged” here; the mouse didn’t.

  2. mockturtle said,

    A bear killed a fawn not far from our house, where we used to live. The doe was pleading with us to do something but, alas, it was too late. All that remained of the little fellow were the hooves and the head. It was, I believe, the same bear that hauled our full garbage can about 50 yards into the wood. I also saw a snake swallow the last of a nest of baby birds, the parents flying madly about my head, trying to enlist intervention. Nature is often sad, violent and cruel [to us].

  3. amba12 said,

    Cats control mice. But house geckos probably control ants and other bugs, so they belong here, too. Usually they live on the ceiling and the upper walls, torturing the cats with unfulfillable longing. Natural selection in this house is definitely favoring geckos that favor the ceiling.

  4. mockturtle said,

    I take it you’re still in Florida?

  5. amba12 said,

    Yes. Still in Florida. In June I escort my parents to Chicago for the summer, hang around to see some new babies, come back here and drive my cats north. I’ll be back in NYC around the end of June.

    I just finished a book called The Trauma of Everyday Life. That’s not only true for humans.

  6. amba12 said,

    I would have loved to have some house geckos in New York when the roaches were a problem. But I don’t think they’d thrive in the climate. And anyway, the roaches seem to have lost the war to the bedbugs!

  7. mockturtle said,

    I really like geckos. Had never seen them before going to AZ. Plus, they will save you 15% in 15 minutes! :-)

  8. amba12 said,


  9. karen said,

    hahaha- i love that, mockT!!

    I cannot tell you how many times in my life i have rudely put myself between the cats and whatever other being they are hunting. Baby Robins, mice- moles- shrews… other birds… i have now learned to turn away and let ~nature take it’s course~. Usually.

    You’d think, having lived my whole life on a farm, i would have toughened up- learned how to turn a blind eye. I guess i’m more intent on how the other cheek feels, instead. That doesn’t even touch upon how we feel when we have to put an animal down. The resilience of animals is amazing &, i think- the life force w/in humans ,as well. The invisible strands that connect us all together is almost impossible for me to imagine- sight unseen- until the strings pull at the heart of things.

    ~The Trauma of Everyday Life~.
    Ain’t that the Truth?

  10. amba12 said,

    My way of dealing with it seems to be to intervene when I can — but gently. I don’t blame the cats, I praise them (of course, unlike dogs, they don’t need approval, though they do bask in admiration) for doing their jobs so well. I am amazed at the resilience of the little creatures that can take quite a beating and not succumb, and amazed too at the way the choreography of the hunt builds in chances to escape. The cat, if not too hungry, wants to have fun and thrills first, reenacting the moment of the catch over and over, which necessitates the risk of release. Small creatures “play” dead (though it’s probably more automatic and shocky than deliberate) to deflect the cat’s interest and relax its vigilance, giving them a chance to suddenly reanimate and dive for cover. You win some, you lose some—whether you are the hunted, the hunter, or the observer playing god. (I suspect that, unable to imagine omniscience and omnipotence, we can’t help picturing God this way—as a being of incalculably inconsistent ability and willingness to intervene.)

  11. kngfish said,

    ‘the choreography of the hunt’ — that’s a good book title! Stealing it!

  12. A said,

    “That’s how our consciousness has to withstand being hunted and tortured by death until it can’t hold out any longer, too much damage has been done.”

    That’s a haunting sentence. OTOH I just looked at the viral YouTube video of the cat chasing the biting dog away from the little boy…

  13. amba12 said,

    LOVE that! The utter commitment with which that cat came barreling out of the house, with no thought of failing . . .

  14. karen said,

    I wonder if cats- like humans- don’t know what’s in them until they meet that kind of threat face to face. Some people run out of a burning building while some run in… i really can’t see any cat of mine doing that- or even a dog.

  15. amba12 said,

    You’re probably right; even bugs have some individuality. But cats have more protective courage than you might expect. I’ve heard of a cat attacking a burglar, attaching itself to his face . . .

  16. mockturtle said,

    Cats I have owned have systematically terrorized dogs I have owned. Even big dogs. ;-)

  17. amba12 said,

  18. mockturtle said,

    Exactly like that!! :-D

  19. kngfish said,

    I remember a huge St. Bernard growing up in Detroit that was. for the most part, laconic and even sort of friendly. But not to either my friend, Leo, who was the paperboy, (I had to take the paper from him and deliver it) and cats. He was too slow to catch them, usually, but when he did…..yow! He shake them like mad in his mouth and then throw them(!) into trees, buildings, rose bushes….man, he had such a grudge.

    When the roses would bloom, he would lay in the middle of all of them…he let me rest my head on him like a pillow…I’ll bet he was 150-175 pounds…

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