Once dead, it’s a cat no more

Some time ago I wrote about finding a dead cat in my front yard, and a gentle reader responded with an anonymous letter—a delivered, paper letter, probably the best way to be anonymous nowadays—that began, “What a disgusting article! I am deeply saddened, disturbed, and appalled by your complete lack of compassion and respect for cats.”

Although she has the proper regard for the serial comma, boy, is she wrong. I like cats. Cats like me. In fact, a Siamese hangs out in our yard because her housemates pick on her, and now she pays me no mind if we’re out there at the same time and passes close to me. I can imagine petting her in a few more years. She doesn’t come in the house and I don’t have to feed her or deal with my cat allergy, so our relationship is remarkably equable—we don’t owe each other anything. I may plant catnip anyway.

Cats, like the rest of us but maybe not, die. I don’t wish any cat ill, and when I made the acquaintance of that lump of decaying protein its catness was gone. There was no catlike grace and assurance, no nothing. That was my judgment, and because for me cats are spirits and personalities, and not so much a particular configuration, I was dealing with a corpse, which is a matter of disposal, not respect.

I do too have compassion for cats, and, after a feral cat gave birth under the deck a few years ago, I gave them fresh water. If one of them had died, though, Waste Management would have been my disposal method of choice.

I suppose all this depends on what we think happens to cats, and us, after death. Even if I thought that physical death was the end of everything, funerals and graves and memorial services and the rest are for the living and not a reliable indicator of respect paid Whatever. I think a corpse is a corpse, and however much you esteemed the late Whatever was obvious while Whatever was alive, whether you realized it or not. What you do now is irrelevant to Whatever because Whatever isn’t around anymore. I don’t doubt that if I’d met the cat that once animated that lump we could’ve gotten along famously, but, alas, that was not to be.

She, and yes I think it’s a woman I’ll call “Sacramento Sally” because of the postmark, accused me of “heartlessness and arrogance” and said, “Your insensitive, uncaring attitude and behavior make me sick to my stomach!” Given the enthusiasm of her judgments and the power over her well-being that she forces on me, I bet it’s hard to be her. Bless her.