Small deaths

I don’t think that I’m supposed to say Shehecheyanu (the prayer thanking God for having arrived at a special moment, often a “first”) for my first time seeing our barn kitten catch and eat two mice.

It’s exactly what we got her for. Have goats, have grain; the mice were getting so bold in the middle of summer that they were hopping in and out of the goats’ grain pan while they were eating. It’s not to be tolerated. I don’t mind mice, as a rule; but I do mind the waste and destruction that they cause.  Trapping them is a lot of work and hard to keep up with.  I can’t put out poison around the chickens.  So the vet found us a really friendly barn kitten, and she’s been pouncing on leaves and wrestling with pebbles and batting at hay, signaling that she has the potential to be a good mouser.

So tonight I got to watch her play with and then eat not one but two small mice.  It wasn’t terribly pleasant, when I focused on the suffering and death of the mice (one died quickly, the other not).  But I felt obligated to watch.  I had set this in motion.  This was my intention.  I am responsible.

I was curious to note that there wasn’t a moment when she executed a kill.  One mouse seemed to expire pretty quickly, and she ate it shortly thereafter.  The other was still alive when she started eating it, though not for long.  Fur, bones, tail, everything.

I think it was Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle who wrote that romantic notions of nature as gentle are written by people quite unfamiliar with nature.  Nature is, as Tennyson so famously wrote (yes, I had to look it up) “red in tooth and claw.”  What I watched this kitten do happens all the time with or without human intervention; it is the natural way of things.  And unless you are a vegetarian or, really, a Jain, you are already responsible for much death, you’re just not paying attention to it.

And it is a source of pleasure, really, that this kitten will fulfill the duties (can I accurately call them duties? function? purpose?) for which we got her.  And I do have hopes that our mouse population will be kept under control.

But I don’t think that I should say Shehecheyanu for these deaths.