How Sex, Politics, Money and Religion are Killing Planet Earth

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Kitties - The Modern Failure of Natural Human Selection and what it Means for Mother Earth

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.
-Monty Python

Seven years ago, give or take a few months, my beagle Prudence found a newborn kitten in my front yard. The kitten had suffered an injury to its leg and had been abandoned by its mother. The umbilical cord was still attached at the kitten’s abdomen and he was even a bit sticky. What is a person expected to do in such circumstances?

I brought the pathetic creature into the house, dressed its wound and thus began several weeks of sleep-deprived nights, bottle feeding the babe like it was one of my own. I never really expected the wretched being to survive, but survive he did. For some unknown reason, the cat became known around our house as Wasabi Jones (Jonsie, or Mr. Jones for short).

Within several months the ravenous waif evolved into a robust feline, but soon it become apparent that something was not quite right with our Mr. Jones. He drooled a lot, was overly-affectionate at times and then out of the blue, and for no apparent reason, would viciously attack whoever was unfortunate enough to be in his crosshairs (political pun intended). Sometimes these attacks would happen when one was sound asleep in bed. Not nice.

At first we brushed off Jonsie’s psychopathy as the maladaptive behavior of a young cat that didn’t have the benefit of growing up around other kittens. He would grow out of it. But 7 years later, he hasn’t. For seven years, we have nurtured, cared for and tried to love this fellow mortal, but he has made it very difficult. While he seems to be of reasonable intelligence – he holds his own against the other cats and even managed to hunt down a rabbit once (actually probably just another symptom of his lunacy) – he seems to lack the ability to connect on any level with the other organisms who share his domicile.

After a recent, bloody attack and having done some current reading on psychological dysfunction for some previous blog posts, it occurred to me that our Mr. Jones is a feline sociopath. 7 years ago when his mother gave birth to him and then instantly discarded him on my front lawn, she must have had some inkling of how he would turn out. Felines and all other members of the animal kingdom seem to have an innate sense to dispose of the genetically unfit. Mother birds boot the weak out of the nest. Mice, rats and rabbits eat their less than par progeny. If I knew then what I know now about my psycho kitty, I would have taken him into the woods and let nature have her way.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Wasabi Jones now that he is part of my family. I put up with him and my husband and adult children also seem to accept his presence in our home as a cross we all must bear (unless there are any Good Samaritan takers out there in the blogosphere:). But, when I took in what Jones’ mother, in her instinctive wisdom, threw away, I committed a natural no-no. Why did I do this? Because I am a product of Western culture.

Contemporary society demands acceptance to the creed that every human life is sacred. Some even contend that fertilized human eggs should be extended Constitutional rights. I say there are too many people in the world and we should seriously consider reasonable population controls (no I am not suggesting any form of genocide), but that is fodder for another blog post. I personally don’t think every sperm is sacred, but I do have a problem turning my back on any living thing in need; thus, I am suffering the consequences. Nature has a kind of brutal beauty that regularly sacrifices the few for the sake of the many. Those who are unfit are recycled back into the system to take up shape in new life forms. Humans are clogging up the system with too much Homo sapiens biomass.

After Wasabi Jones came to inflict himself on us, we were visited by two more kitties. The first, Peter Snowball, was a stray from school who came home in one of the kids’ jackets on a cold winter’s night. Peter wasted no time getting comfortable, immediately gained about 10 pounds, and has been a loving, contributing member of our household ever since.

The next feline acquisition came in the form of a brazen intruder. My husband was collecting his boots from the mudroom one day and was greeted by a small black kitten sitting on a shelf. Loco Stinky is now three years old and continues to be brazen, but she too is a loving, contributing member of our household.

The tale of the two kitties Snowball and Stinky – contrasted with that of Wasabi Jones - is one that demonstrates the wisdom of natural selection. Both felines must have faced extreme adversity immediately after coming into the world, and their survival is a testament to their genetic and social fitness. Snowball lived for over a year off the kindness of strangers, begging for french fries and other unwanted scraps at the school’s dining hall. His winning personality ensured his survival by this methodology.

Stinky survived as only the fittest can. Weighing in at a few mere ounces, she had to brave Bruce the 150 lb. wonderdog and the beagle on the porch to make it into the house. Once inside, she cemented success by being personable enough not to end up on Craigslist. Through a combination of sociability and street smarts the two naturally-selected, fit kitties managed to arrange pretty decent lives for themselves.

For a long time, the problem with the cat society in the Wood household was that originally, the psychopath ruled the roost. Knowing he could be subjected to a brutal attack without provocation, the more mild mannered Snowball submitted at every confrontation. Wasabi Jones claimed all the choice turf (like the master bedroom) for himself and dominated at the food dish. With the introduction of the bold and beautiful Stinky, who is unwilling to take any shit from anybody, and the benefit of numbers, Stinky and Snowball have managed to turn the tide of power. Stinky has not only liberated herself from the tyranny of Wasabi Jones, but in doing so has freed Snowball from his life of subjugation. Sanity has been restored.

While compelling in its own right, the above narrative of my three cats has a telling parallel in the human world. Anthropologist Ruth Benedict once theorized that throughout history the world has had “good” cultures and “bad” cultures, with the good cultures, being peaceful and ecologically sustainable and bad cultures being warring and environmentally-destructive.

Benedict’s research found that good cultures were characterized by egalitarian and communal rather than hierarchical and individualistic social and economic structures. In the good societies, people who blatantly accumulated resources and who were prone to violence and greed were ostracized. In the “bad” societies, those individuals who dominated through violence and accumulation were exalted to positions of authority in the hierarchy. Western culture today would fall into the “bad” category here.

In the modern world, he who possesses the most weapons of mass destruction and the most predatory economic model wins. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Peace-loving, sane people who really don’t want more than their fair share of resources are a majority. The problem is that the few aggressive psychotics have intimidated everyone else into submission. Like Snowball and Stinky, we need to take the Earth back from the lunatics and restore sanity before it is too late.

Recommended Reading
The Chrysanthemum and the Sword by Ruth Benedict


  1. I read your comment on the Reagan entry at The Raw Story and you comment was so good that I followed your link. After reading your first few posts, I have bookmarked you site and will return soon. Good work!

  2. I don't know about all kittens who have been reared without their mothers, but I have never known one who did not have great social problems. The mother teaches her kittens many things, including social skills. Without that education, they simply don't know how to act. Being loving and then suddenly attacking and running away is common -- and very sad for all involved, most of all the cat, who has no clue as to what they have done wrong. It's a sad and difficult thing to think of letting the innocent kitten go, but it does everyone a favor.

  3. @Charlotte, thank you for your input. All I can say is lesson learned.

  4. I followed a link from your comment at the NYTimes, which I found clear and concise. I am so glad I did. You have already been bookmarked!

    That is one of the best-written pieces on the "cruelty" of Nature and the so-called "good" that we do by intervening with her processes that I have ever read. I absolutely agree with you, yet I surely would have done the exact same thing you did with the kitten who became Wasabi.

    Humans like to think they are smart and know best about everything. As your very small individual experience demonstrates, that is not at all true. The "greatest good for the greatest number" philosophy can seem harsh at times, but in the long run it is clearly the best for the larger society.

    Anyway, good luck with Wasabi. I am glad to hear that Snowball and Stinky have had at least some ameliorating effect.

  5. @David, thank you very much for your positive feedback and support. I will look forward to an ongoing dialogue.

  6. I have enjoyed reading your post and must admit that I cannot share it on Twitter or Facebook as I am not a user of either. I do enjoy personal enrichment and seeking knowledge. I loved reading about your cats and must share my Mikey's story. He was adopted at 3 months as a fat and healthy Siamese/Tuxedo black & white kitten from a home. He entered a home of 4 month old brother and sister tabbies. He immediately dominated. A stray later joined and gifted with a litter. One was killed by Mikey the second day they were brought to the family group. Two of which were kept in the family. As it goes with life, years later it was Mikey and Jasmine, one of the babies. He alternated between loving, kissing, washing .... to brutal attacks on her on a daily basis. He would be chastised. She was crying. Zoom to 8 years later and it is just me and Mikey. My mostly loving boy still has his moments and bites me hard with hatred on his face at times. Other times he purrs so loud I cannot hear the TV. He demands constant attention when I am home and gets all I can give and still accomplish the housework as needed. He is my joy, my 'sonshine' and I love him and he loves me.

  7. Dear Gator Girl,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I guess every living thing deserves to be loved no matter how damaged, just as long as the emotionally-damaged are not wielding positions of power:)

  8. Thank you for your wonderful story!

    We have Ed. Edward came to us at six weeks old, flea/worm-ridden, filthy, and smelling awful. I did not want him. My daughter did. In a cowardly manner, I told her to ask her father if we could keep him. I didn't expect him to say yes...

    The first thing I saw next morning was a tiny, black-and-white face with huge eyes looking at me. I've loved Ed dearly ever since. When Ed was about 18 months old, he appeared to be a strong, healthy young kitten. One day he started leaking. I thought he had a bladder infection and took him to the vet. Ed was diagnosed with pyelocystic kidney disease. The vet promised me that without removing his right kidney he would die. With the kidney removed, he would live a long life. Fast forward: Ed is now six, quite large, all muscle, quite the hunter. He is also a loving comedian, uncanilly intelligent. He is a bright light in all of our lives. We've figured out that he is at least part Angora, a breed prone to PKD.

    Reading your post gave me a clue as to how he wound up in the condition he was at such a young age. An unscruplous breeder might have just thrown him out. Or, he may have been feral, with his mother sensing his severe illness and abandoning him. He horrified me, but fortunately my husband and daughter saw his beauty.

    I am sure Ed knows that we saved his life, and loves us for it. We love him, too, and cherish every day we are blessed with his presence. Our other cats like him, also. One hated him at first, but Ed finally won her over and now sits with her.

  9. @BarbL, Congratulations. It sounds like your Ed is among the genetically fit. Thank you for sharing your story.

  10. In early January, my almost 18 year old cat, died.
    She was originally kicked out of her litter because she was the runt and had extra toes all around her paws.

    In almost all the time I had her, she was never a problem.
    Never sprayed, never tore things up, didn't get in fights or anything aggressive at all.
    She was happy, loving and very expressive.

    While genetic mutations may well have caused her to be abandoned by her mother, they may have made her become a great pet too.
    I can't say, but I know I would have never found her had she not been rejected.
    Ironically, she may have lived a longer life than her other siblings too.

    Thank you for your excellent writing.

  11. @Anonymous, I am very sorry for your loss. After 18 years, your feline friend must have been an integral part of your family. Thank you for sharing your story.