You’ve heard the statistics from your friend who hates cats and reads Gawker: cats kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 billion and 20.7 billion small mammals a year, some of them endangered, some of them just trying to raise families in underground homes furnished with miniature furniture and tiny paintings that are actually discarded postage stamps. And with 80 million pet cats — a jump from 56 million in the late 90’s — roaming the countryside, presenting their owners with blood spattered “gifts,” this is becoming more and more of an ecological problem.
“See,” says your cat-hating friend with a terrible smirk. “Cats are a virus upon this earth. They exploit your sentimentality, your need to anthropomorphize in order to obtain food and shelter like parasites. An American Tail was less a cartoon than a documentary about an invasive species committing genocide against adorable rodents. If you were to die, they would not mourn or even care, but would immediately pry open your chest cavity with their jaws and play in your guts, such is their psychopathy.” In his glee, a rivlet of saliva runs down his chin onto his overalls, and his glassy bovine eyes glisten with delight.
But I’ll be honest; when I think about cats demolishing the biosphere, stripping the food web to a few tenuous strands, leaving only a silent empty wilderness ruled by a savage cat nation, I think: Good. Delightful. Fantastic. Who needs birds, anyway? Who needs voles? Do you even know what a vole is, or if you do, have you ever wanted to hug one? Have you ever searched for adorable vole videos? If you saw a vole taking a nap, would it alleviate anxiety? What the hell is a vole? So many irrelevant species polluting our planet, an endless mind numbingly tedious list of bird and rodent species, all serving no purpose, no function except to fill voids in the environment with superfluous life forms.
We think we need birds, these fat squawking sky beasts, but do we really? Their jerky movements and blank expressions seem disturbingly alien, unsettling on a deep primal level that probably originates in ancient times when our mammalian ancestors fled packs of feathered velociraptors. I can’t empathize with these creatures, can’t even pet them or they’ll take flight. My cousin once owned a parrot that would bite, poop on everything, and screech all night. Every day, she would ask her parents for a kitten, and they would answer, “No.” She would say, “Please!” and they would say, “No, it’d eat the parrot,” and she would say, “I know! That’s why I want the kitten!” Then she’d cry in the bathtub. I’m not saying all birds deserve extinction, but I will say their lives do not enrich the planet in any meaningful way. I look in their eyes and see no soul, just a winged husk fluttering pointlessly through a Sonic parking lot.
And since when did people care about “small mammals”? Small mammals includes mice, rats, voles, and shrews, all animals you would not want to be licked by. If one of these animals came into your place of habitation, you would jump up on a chair and scream for its death, so why not expand this rodent death zone to the rest of the planet. Who cares about the extinction of some obscure species of mouse? Imagine plunging your whole arm into a dumpster or crawling under your neighbor’s house or hiding in your neighbor’s walls without fear of rats darting out of the darkness and into your mouth — that’s my dream. A world with no rats, only cats. It looks like this:
Whenever a website posts these statistics, it’s always under a provocative headline like “Cats are Serial Killers!” or “YOUR CAT IS A MURDERING MURDERER WHO MURDERS ALL DAY!” They seek to subvert people’s natural tendency to love cats (excluding the obese throngs shuffling through malls and barns) by associating them with something repugnant: murderers. But stop for a moment and consider all the loveable murderers you know: Dexter, Sylar, Walter White, Sweeney Todd, Richard Harrow, and on and on. If cats are serial killers, it only means they’re complex anti-heroes with secret double-lives, probably deserving of an hour-long drama on AMC. After all, Dexter slaughters people we don’t need or want in society, hundreds of people, but no one says, “We need to get rid of Dexter. He’s hurting the homicidal maniac population that the police feed on and throwing the criminal justice ecosystem into disarray.” We say, “Good job, Dexter. And don’t have sex with your sister.”
The taxonomy of living things has grown too byzantine, too overgrown, and cats are a force of destruction and renewal, like Galactus or Bane Capital. They streamline the global ecosystem into a stronger, more efficient network in which better animals, like people and cats, can thrive. Rabbits, baby raccoons, frogs — all are wastes of organic energy that cats cleanse from the system like Drano, allowing for smoother operations. I for one don’t want to live in a lush tropical rainforest; rainforests have high levels of biodiversity but much of that is expressed in poisonous things, biting things, ugly things, slimy things, ew, gross, no, that’s gross. Unlike these so-called “ecologists,” I’ll always pick a cat over a poisonous salamander, but maybe that’s just me. Maybe you like poison.