I’m a Buddhist, but my cat is a serial killer.

Via on Aug 4, 2010

I’m trying to come to terms with our conflicting dharmas.

To say that one is a Buddhist implies that one is a pacifist. After all, one of the main tenets of Buddhism (and most religions, in theory—if not practice) is that you don’t kill.

I’ve been studying Buddhism over the last few years and trying to entrench myself in mindful values that are in line with my newfound paradigm. When I find a spider in my shower, I coax it out before I turn the faucet on. I drive slowly in my residential neighborhood because I know there are a lot of pets and kids running around. And although I do eat meat, I am educated on my sources and am prone to long chats with the vendors at the farmers market about just how nicely they treat their chickens pre-rotisserie. I’m that annoying person who always asks the waitress, “Where do you guys get your beef?”

Sadly, my cat, Budapest, does not share my attitude toward non-harming. She is a blithely ferocious mass murderer of small animals. One might say she has a knack for killing.

Once an urban indoor cat, our recent move to the country has unleashed a fury for the hunt in Budapest (affectionately and not-at-all-appropriately known as “Buda”).  Buda’s main pastime and dharma in this life seems to be to kill things. I don’t begrudge her this and realize that nature is cruel and that it’s a cat’s God-given instinct to hunt. Budapest had a mysterious and unquestionably challenging childhood and I find it touching that she has managed to not just thrive, but that she has taken to cold-blooded murder so cunningly. It warms my heart that she has found her path.

However, I am an aspiring Buddhist with my own path and so have an obligation to protect life whenever possible (or, at least, convenient).

The first time Budapest brought home a stone-cold-dead vole as what one can only assume was an offering of her utter love and devotion to me, I was mildly revolted, but also a little bit proud. “It’s normal,” I told myself. First vole was followed soon after by second vole, and then Buda surprised me by catching a hummingbird, and then a quail… and that’s when things started to go quickly downhill.

Before long Buda was catching a bird a day, sometimes two. It got to the point where I sincerely started to worry about the songbird population in these parts.  To make it even worse, Buda likes to keep her prey alive as long as possible. She is adept at carrying baby birds gingerly home in her mouth, where she deposits them on the kitchen floor and then sits back to watch them freak the eff out. She gets the most pleasure out of torturing them in this way, but doesn’t necessarily find much use for them once they stop moving, which inevitably leads to a prolonged death for the animal, and much hysteria all around.

Mommy’s nerves soon frayed—not to mention my moral compass. I called everyone I knew in the world for advice.

Accordingly, this is what I tried:

  1. Freaking out. Crying. Praying for the bird. Begging Budapest to stop with the bloodthirst. All to no avail. I still ended up vacuuming up feathers off my kitchen floor.
  2. Just letting her have her way with the bird. In the house. This was a disaster because I am a sissy when it comes to watching or listening to baby animals die.
  3. On advice from my dharma teacher, Mark Coleman, I tried rescuing the birds from her mouth whenever possible, which is actually not that hard, since she gives them to me willingly. The first time this happened, I called the Humane Society, and they sent a guy down to pick up the bird. Unfortunately, that did not end well because I naively neglected to close the lid on the box. The bird, who at first glance appeared to be in a coma, was actually perfectly mobile, and jumped out and ran away as soon as I turned my back. The humane society dude did not believe me that I ever had a bird in the box, which was kind of embarrassing and made me wonder how many other people think I’m crazy?
  4. Rescuing the birds from her mouth, and driving them up to Marin Wildcare —an amazing facility that takes in injured wild animals, no questions asked, and nurses them back to health before releasing them back into the wild. This seemed like a reasonable solution for a while. But then my daily hour-long trips started to cut into my ability to actually work for a living.
  5. Putting a bell on her. You would think I would have tried this option earlier, but Budapest, for all her rugged coolness, throws herself into utter histrionics when you try to put a collar on her.  Previous attempts to get her to wear a collar resulted in bloodletting (mine) and dramatic gagging (hers). Nevertheless, I got the bell on her. It was a nice silver bell on a matching silver disco collar. I was pretty pleased with it. It took her seven minutes to bring back a baby quail with the bell on. The cat knows how to make a point.
  6. Keeping her inside. Again, a no brainer. Have I mentioned that I live in a one-room studio cottage? A few hours of nonstop scream-meowing and other shenanigans later, and this freelance work-at-home writer was reduced to tears. Buda went back out.

Here’s one piece of advice I was given but did not try: putting Budapest on Prozac. Because I really don’t think she’s depressed. In fact, I think she’s happier than she’s ever been.

My latest philosophy on bird brutality is thus:

If you have a bird in your mouth, you cannot come in the house. No exceptions.

It’s not an ideal solution, but I feel like it’s a worthy compromise, until I think of something better.

About Joslyn Hamilton

Joslyn Hamilton is a freelance writer living in beautiful Marin County, California. She is one of the co-founders of Recovering Yogi and also launched Creative Truth or Dare. Joslyn has an imaginary spice + skincare line called SimpleBasic. She is a functioning craftaholic and counts hiking, cooking, reading and rabid tweeting among her many chaste vices. Reach her directly at joslyn@recoveringyogi.com


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91 Responses to “I’m a Buddhist, but my cat is a serial killer.”

  1. amyhaynes says:

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  2. Lisa says:

    I have "cat bibs" on my cats and they work great. My super hunter has not caught one bird while wearing his bib. The bibs are made from neoprene and fasten over the cat's collar. You can buy them on the internet. My cat lost his so I made one out of a neoprene soda can cover. It's a win, win, win.

  3. 3Jules says:

    Erm..but you eat meat yourself? Not really that conflicting. At least your cat has the cards on table morality to hunt and embrace wholeheartedly his path. Sounds like you may have a wee way to go before your ideology conflicts that much with your animal hunting cat. :)

  4. April says:

    one more option for you and your kitty (or anyone else with this problem) – the Cat Bib! http://catgoods.com/

  5. Janet Fitch says:

    This was excellent, I really needed to read something like this–my cat is a killer too, just brought in a baby bird, it's spring so the cat's found the nest… feel so sorry for those birds who have lost their brood because this cat (well-fed) is so good at hunting. I live in a big city, tons of cats, it's a miracle there is a songbird left. The cat was adopted by my family, I just have to either keep it inside (but the urgency of his need to go out is insane) or find a way to wrap my head around its killing instinct .Thank you for this piece, and also for the many points of view it elicited in the comments.

  6. Kyle says:

    Being that I'm really the only one who took the militant approach here, other than the vegan, I'm guessing this is an indirect jab at me. You know what, if you're someone who employs censorship towards the experience coming your way, i.e. an 'offensive' word causes you to stop reading something, than you're in reactionary avoidance la-la land just like the New-Agers and that is unfortunate. You're speaking to being productive, well I think addressing the real problem here rather than trying to tip-toe around it is doing just that.

    I am not a Buddhist. I do not believe that every situation deserves lovingkindness. If that were the only response given to others, no being would ever evolve, in fact we would not have the complex thought process or large brains that allow us to read this article and comment on it. We would have not even survived as a species. Nature has two poles, mercy and severity for a reason. Truthfully, I wish stupidity were painful, it would solve a lot of world problems. I actually don't think the author is stupid, in fact, I think deep down she knows better and is publicly displaying her particular neurosis in this article because she's exhausted her options and is seeking help. That alone deserves compassion, but not accolades or acceptance of the unfairness she's imposing on her cat. I just feel sorry for her animals, that's all.

  7. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Hear, hear; well spoken, Jenn!

  8. Padma Kadag says:

    Hi Eric…Please point me in the right direction as to where the Buddha, in scripture, is specifically advocating vegeterianism.

  9. Joslyn Hamilton says:

    I'm really not such a fan of tapeworms, Kara. So I think you're right. (Now the tapeworm constituency is going to get on back. Oh well.)

  10. Joslyn Hamilton says:

    But I think you're making a point here: I should have made that way more clear in the article! Consider myself duly humbled.

  11. Kyle says:

    This aspect is thought provoking. I take back many of the things I said now that I have more clarity on the stance that this article was written.

  12. Kara Noel says:


  13. Kiwi Yogi says:

    Yes, it just karma playing out. Is there anything wrong with a bird catching a worm?

  14. Padma Kadag says:

    And you site Osho….Why? So while a master who has eaten meat and is said to attain rainbow body and completely go beyond samsara and nirvana according to the highest authority…we are to rely on Osho to determine in what realm this master is residing? I think not.

  15. Padma Kadag says:

    Eric…Please site the scripture and stanza in which the Buddha is specifically advocating vegetarianism. We all know his conditions for eating meat. But please point to the specific time and place where he advocated vegetarianism and strictly forbade the eating of meat.

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