One of the things that amazes me about living in Tucson is that the wildlife didn’t leave just because people moved in. On any given day I can look out at my front yard and see a dozen each cotton tail bunnies, round tailed ground squirrels and assorted lizards. Based on the canoodling and cavorting in our driveway, I can also tell that more will soon be on their way. With that kind of food around, it makes sense that the predators haven’t left either. Our neighborhood includes one bobcat that we know of, a den of coyotes, and a family of hawks.
My cat, Molly, has learned how to hunt here. At first she caught lizards. I really don’t like her to eat them as they are good bug control. So when she’d bring one to the back door, I’d get her to release it, and then give her treats in exchange. She liked this arrangement and learned to call me when she had a lizard, and then hold them until I delivered the treat ransom.
Mostly she hunts ground squirrels. They look like miniature prairie dogs with longer tails, and they have the same effect on yards as prairie dogs do on pastures. They dig holes everywhere and that means my neighbors appreciate that Molly’s been eating about one squirrel a day for the last month or so. I keep expecting the population to begin to diminish, but they keep on making new ground squirrels as fast as she can eat them. So I figure she’s helping maintain a balance in our yard and I don’t mind her hunting. Besides, they’re kind of ugly.
But the other day she brought me something I was pretty sure she shouldn’t eat. It was a baby rabbit. Now the rabbits cause a lot of havoc in the neighborhood too, chomping away at newly planted cactus and taking them down to nubs, biting drip lines in two, eating any plant that isn’t surrounded by a wire cage. But should they be eaten? They’re so cute!
That’s why I told Molly, “Drop it!” as she brought the bunny to the door. She looked at me like I was crazy and headed into the yard with me hot on her heels. I cornered her next to the fence where we faced off over her latest catch. And that’s when we had the conversation about which animals are too cute to eat.
Obviously she didn’t really talk. She glared. In the pause I suddenly thought of everybody reading On Pasture who raise darn cute animals into very tasty meat. I thought about the time I went to a week-long retreat where my only choices were vegetarian or vegan, and how the lack of meat made me a little crazy. I considered my past as a hunter, the difficulty of pulling the trigger, but how all winter long I was grateful I had meat in the freezer.
I get it when people say, “How can you eat that?! They’re so cute!” I know how that feels. I’m guessing that every farmer and rancher knows that feeling too. But I’m still an omnivore…with a dilemma.
And yes, Molly ate the rabbit.