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

Via Joslyn Hamilton
on Aug 4, 2010
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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.

 

Find the cat:

 

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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 [email protected]

Comments

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Kara Noel says:

    You do realize that there is a long list of birds which are non-native to the states, likely even more that are non-native to your particular locale, and no doubt many live in your backyard and are killed by cats? Do you intend to trap and remove those, as well, or is it only when your personal enjoyment is interrupted that you decide you have a right to menace?

  4. Maynard Delapaz says:

    I Like Turtles…

  5. Mark says:

    cats need meat for their livers, they are not like dogs that can be vegetarians. As a buddhist, I understand it's their way of life.

  6. candice says:

    Great. Now I feel guilty about eating plants too. I think I'm going to become a breathatarian. Does air have feelings?

  7. Jeffrey Miller says:

    You may be Buddhist, but the cat is apperently a taoist, and following its tao nature,lol

  8. […] This cat looks like he is breathing into his pose quite nicely until the filmer comes along and pokes him. Like a good yoga student, he takes his practice being interrupted in stride. […]

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  11. Brian says:

    My cat used to catch snakes, and hummingbirds and let them go inside the house. I can't count the times I had to empty a closet, while trying to explain to the cat that his playmates needs to stay outside, just so I could get a small snake that was scared to death out of the house and back into the wilds of the backyard. All the while the cat watched and purred. I am pretty sure watching me was more entertainment for the cat then the catching of the wildlife.

  12. leeann says:

    I am glad for her that she gets to be a cat who acts as a cat. What would life be as a cat that did not live as one? Each has their place. Could you be a person without emotion or ideas? Help if you can, but why be upset with a cat for living as one?

  13. clea says:

    I thought it was a sweet article, you all are too harsh and critical of someones work. I had cats and when they bring in the dead things it was truly sad, when I couldn't bare it anymore, I found him a new home…:)

  14. YesuDas says:

    Hear, hear; well spoken, Jenn!

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  16. marilee r torres says:

    my cat seemed seriously saddened i did not allow him to bring his dead young bunny in house to share but i pet him and acknowledged he was a fine cat and i loved him-even of i did not want to share his fresh meat

  17. Jason says:

    Of course, it's not that they have these propensities because they are a cat, but rather that they are a cat because they need to explore the karma of these propensities. The problem is that, as with all samsaric existence, the karma becomes sticky and self-reinforcing because being a cat enables and empowers that exploration in a way the produces further causes for the arising of these same circumstances. Human intelligence, insofar as it bears a resemblance to skillful means, gives us the opportunity to see through these patterns, if not the guarantee of doing so.

  18. Jason says:

    Re: Tibetan Buddhists & Zen practitioners

    The situation is more complex than that they simply eat meat. Usually this is considered a question of skillful means, rather than simply one of general acceptability. Both the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa have requested that people be vegetarian whenever possible, but also do not proscribe meat eating strictly for two reasons: a) because it is not always possible everywhere to be vegetarian, whether medically, socially, pragmatically, or nutritionally, and b) because they do not want to create the circumstances under which those who must eat meat for whatever reason incur the negative karma of disobeying their teachers. In the case of the Dalai Lama, he generally does prefer vegetarianism for himself, though, under the advice of doctors, he does eat meat for certain stretches of time in order to help sustain himself. While not ideal, it is also indicative of the imperfections of samsara.

    A good start to understand these issues can be found by looking here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_vegetariani

    Of course, the views described here are not a full study. It might be worth the effort to explore even further.

  19. Jason says:

    You make a very important point about them requiring meat. Depriving them of it is cruelty. However, we can intervene karmically, providing it for them without encouraging the circumstances that give them the opportunity to kill. Giving them the right toys allows them the satisfaction of some of those instincts, while taking the karma of the meat requirement onto ourselves mediates the karmic results for them. We can then offer the merit of that intervention to their better future rebirths where the impulse is not so immediate for them.

  20. Rich Bordoni says:

    Our brains evolved from ape-size to where they are now because of the meat we ate. Omega 3 fatty acids, along with DHA. It's utterly preposterous to hypothesize that we were herbivores.

    Second of all, all the BS that meat causes disease is based on faulty research, like The China Study. I'm sick of people saying that eating meat is unhealthy. Humans were hunter gatherers for 2 and a half million years.

  21. Steve says:

    Every summer we spend a week at the family's house in Marshfield, MA. One of the joys of staying there is hearing the birdsong early in the morning from the salt marsh. A few years ago, we noticed that it was fairly quiet each morning, and when we took a walk along the marsh we could see several cats hunting through the tall reeds. That second summer the town passed an ordninance that all cats be kept indoors; any caught roaming would be taken in. The marsh birds have come back beautifully since.

    My advice would be to have your cat stay indoors, and don't worry about her cat-nature.

  22. amy feucht says:

    This has been my story ! Only my cat’s name is Emma and its chipmunks !!! However, today bc of this blog I had her drop a chipmunk and its life was saved!!!

  23. Moreyogathanu says:

    You people are insane. Its a cat for crying out loud. They kill things and they play with their prey. What color is the sky in the world you live in? Its blue here on Earth.

  24. sangye says:

    Well you could allow the cat to be a cat, the bird to be a bird, and the world to simply be. Cats catch mice and such, if you are tormenting yourself with a cats reality perhaps you could find a home where the cat is free to exist naturally. Maybe you could consider a dog, many tend not to catch and eat things. Sure they aren't as independent … it's harder to leave them on their own alone for long periods of the time. I think effort may be better utilized there than putting that energy into taking on a conceptual view of your cats karma. Your cat is not a human, as much as pet owners often project.

  25. Spartacus says:

    It is her dharma to kill. Do not interfere with it. She accumulates no karma from the death she delivers. Chill out!

  26. That cat needs a guru….

    🙂

  27. I think he just needs a Xanax…..

  28. Laney says:

    I agree. The author is a serial killer as well, like his cat. He just have other people to do the killing. You can not reach peace while you feed in tortured .

  29. hector says:

    wow, coming from the article and some of its commenters: turns out Buddhists can be just as ignorant about the circle of life and natural law as Christians and Muslims are. surprise!

  30. JoeC2K says:

    How can you even have the arrogance to use the screen name YogiOne with a comment like that? If you were in my neighborhood and I found out what you were doing with cats, I might trap you and drop you into a well like in "Silence of the Lambs" 😉 You seem to be more concerned about the entertainment and joy the wonderful animals in your garden give YOU than about Nature… I believe you have a grave misunderstanding about the workings of Nature.

  31. Lynda says:

    You're saying that vegans like myself and others.. who eat no meat or dairy therefore do not support the farming industry.. are responsible for the slaughter of billions of animals? Where is the logic in that?

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  33. neilio says:

    My cat brings in small prey almost every day. It’ s a gift.

  34. neilio says:

    OMG! Cat…predator n e thing else…prey!

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  36. 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.

  37. 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. 🙂

  38. April says:

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

  39. 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.

  40. alie marie says:

    I had a whole story about my cat. Every time he brought a bird to my door or through the window I would exclaim how he was good at killing. How is mother was a good killer.. Especially she was a manx, they are especially good at killing. We had the kittens running around the yard chasing the broom after she was gone. You could see how high they could jump. After him killing so many birds I realised my mistake. So I stopped calling him a good killer. Rather he is a good hunter although not as bad as he was. He, the infamous Boof, killed a rat the other day and brought it to the door. Same deal not allowed inside although I was proud of him catching that rat. It was the healthiest rat I have ever seen. We had been feeding it too well. along wiht the chicken and half the neighbourhood birds.

  41. Dee says:

    LMFAO throughout this post!

    All you judgey commentators should go take a look in the mirror: none off us are perfect, just walking our paths, trying to get closer to the truth. Get over yourselves.

    This piece was honest AND hilarious. I enjoyed it greatly, and even got a few real belly laughs. DESPITE my misgivings about unleashing an invasive killer on your native habitat.

  42. john says:

    Hi, sorry but the only responsible way to have cats is to keep them indoors, or have a secure outside run. No exceptions. No-brainer. Cats can’t choose compassionate support of life, they choose hunting, torturing, and killing. For fun. The human owners on the other hand have the responsibility to control their cats’ killing. Once you know, how can you simply allow the suffering to be perpetrated? Buddhist my arse. Re-home to responsible owners or give a painless sleep to the poor cat and never get another. Knowingly perpetuating suffering because it’s convenient? Fvcking western ‘buddhists’. Please do the right thing or stop pretending to be a Buddhist. I hope this message cracks your bubble enough for you put your little ego aside for long enough to see you need to alter your approach significantly. Facing reality is hard, I know, but by fvck as a buddhist your goal is eliminating illusion. Get on with it. Sincerely, JJ