CAT TALE: Let's say you're against murder. Especially murder just for the sport of it. It sort of sickens you, let's say.

OK, but then let's also say you're against wanton vandalism against your property. And let's say that's been going on a lot. Here's an ethical question: Is it OK for you to, let's say, "arrange" to acquire the services of these murderers-for-sport that, as we've already agreed, you find more than a little abhorrent?

Your initial reaction is no, it's not OK. Murder, even of the "arranged" variety as you have so coyly put it, is way too extreme a reaction to the destruction of personal property. Surely, there is a more balanced, reasoned and civilized way to handle vandalism. Hours of community service, maybe. But not death by evisceration.

Yeah, well, that won't work. We've tried to be reasonable. We've tried everything. We've tried traps, we've tried a battery of deterrents ranging from sophisticated sonic devices to concentrated lynx urine, and still the vandals breach every defense.

The vandals are rats and mice. Their victim is us. The solution is a cat.

There is no more efficient and ruthless killer than a cat. Just two weeks ago the journal Nature Communications reported cats kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 billion and 20.7 billion small mammals each year in the United States.

The bird-killing we find unforgivable. Next to dogs, dolphins, giraffes, elephants and sparkly unicorns, birds are people's favorite animals.


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Birds would be No. 1, except a few people find them kind of creepy.

As for the 6.9 billion to 20.7 billion small mammals killed by cats, well, that seems a bit overly ruthless. The cat, in its raw form, is a horrible blight on the planet's wobbly eco-system.

Factor cats out of nature and we'd still have all manner of cuddly things, like Furbies, that have instead gone extinct. Still, the mammal murdering is tempered by the fact that some of those mammals, to use the old Texas defense, "needed killin."'

In the past several years, rats and mice, lured by our tropical backyard and its lush groves of avocado, lime, grapefruit, Satsuma mandarin, and banana trees (the banana trees don't actually produce bananas; sometimes things are given a name that promises something that's never delivered, such as our St. Augustine grass which has yet to yield a single fourth century theologian-philosopher despite our obsessive horticultural mollycoddling), have developed a taste for home appliances and other gadgets.

They've destroyed a dishwasher, a dryer, TV and Internet cable, in addition to more conventional comestibles as a box of liquor-filled chocolates, half a loaf of Russian rye bread and several dozen Milkbone and T-Bonz dog treats.

There are more ways to get a cat than there are to skin one, but we've found the easiest method of feline acquisition is to simply refrain from throwing our shoes at them when they come into the yard.

Cats used to never come near our yard back in the days before our dog Jimmy got old. He's old now. He's mostly deaf, he's mostly blind and his legs don't work so good. Welcome to our world, old pal.

Now, after a few weeks of noisy and vicious border skirmishes among the neighborhood cats for the bit of real estate that has become available, an orange and white cat has emerged as the lord of our backyard, and the noisy rustling of varmints outside our window at night has stopped.

The cat, which we're not going to name until we become an old woman, has become bolder and has quit bolting out of the yard when we go outside. It's even taken to getting inside Jimmy's stash of dry food when we carelessly leave it out. We closed it, but we left a handful of kibble outside for the orange and white cat which, if we were to suffer a sudden bout of senility and give it a name, would be Dreamsicle. Here, little Dreamsicle!

Lord, what is happening to us?

OK, here's the deal. The cat can stay. We won't throw shoes at it (we don't know its gender. We're not on lifting-up-the-tail level of comfort with it yet.) as long as it continues doing whatever it's doing to keep the vandals at bay. 

But no food, no ball of yarn, no coming in the house through the dog door. And no name.

tim.grobaty@presstelegram, 562-714-2116 or twitter.com/grobaty