September 22, 2014

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Coughlin: Dogs aren’t the only animals that kill

Dog fighting disgusts me as much as it disgusts you. I am also repulsed by bullfighting, but it enjoys grudging acceptance in many parts of the world. I wouldn’t be comfortable watching a cockfight, either, but the FBI rarely raids one.
The Michael Vick story won’t go away. It’s the story of a gambling cult that turns man’s best friend into animals. It’s the story of the NFL, the league with the kill-or-be-killed mentality, banning Vick from training camp. Has anybody tried to rationalize that yet?
Let’s stop pretending that we’ve just discovered dog fighting. Jack London wrote about it more than a century ago in “The Call of the Wild.” In that Yukon adventure, a gentle husky named Buck was thrust into the ring to fight for his life. No one burned the book.
In certain cultures, dogs are expected to kill. One of Elvis Presley’s biggest hits was, “You Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog” and you probably remember the line, “You ain’t never caught a rabbit and you ain’t no friend of mine.”
In all this commotion about Michael Vick, let’s spread our contempt around. Cats, for example, are getting a free pass. Pit bulls fight because their lives are at stake. If they lose, they die. Cats kill for the fun of it.
I once watched a well-fed house cat pounce on a chipmunk. Did the cat kill its prey quickly? Not a chance. For the cat it was a game. The cat wounded the poor creature and then played with it, batting it with its paws, biting and clawing and tossing it into the air. The game lasted several minutes until the hapless rodent died and the cat deposited it at the front door, expecting praise and a pat for work well done.
We had a blessed event at our house not long ago. A rabbit gave birth to five bunnies in a burrow she dug into the middle of our backyard lawn. In three or four days, the bunnies started poking their heads out and hopping around. It was quite an event. Some neighbor children came by and held the bunnies.
And then the gray cat up the street came calling and began picking off the bunnies one by one. This wasn’t mischief and it wasn’t vandalism. It was cruelty. The kill pleasured the cat. He got all five of them.
Tiny bunnies or 200-pound sportswriters, we’re all fair game for the feline stalkers.
Back in about the year 1970, I was sitting in a large overstuffed chair in a friend’s living room when I noticed a Siamese cat in a corner giving me the evil eye. My right arm was draped over the back of the chair so, just for the heck of it, I scratched the fabric of the chair. The cat’s stare intensified. I scratched again.
I lost interest in the cat and turned away. We were deep in conversation, but my arm remained dangling over the back of the chair. It was summer and I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt.
I never saw the attack. I don’t know if the cat crept slowly on its velvet paws across the living room floor or made a mad dash. But at the moment of attack the cat leapt against the back of the chair, clung by its four feet and dug its four incisors into my forearm down to the bone. There were four neat incisions.
I dabbed the blood away with my handerchief and reassured my hosts, “No problem. Just a little bite.”
Six months later I picked up my sister’s new kitten and my head exploded — eyes watering, nose running, throat tightening and a rash popping out all over my face and neck. I soon learned that the cat’s saliva activated a latent allergy. For the next 30 years I knew within 30 seconds of entering someone’s home if no cats, one cat or multiple cats resided there. Even outdoors in the old Stadium or on the street it would take less than a minute to detect cat dander on someone. My allergy has almost disappeared and I can touch cats now, but usually I don’t.
I realize that feral cats who live in the wild kill for food, but bored suburban cats kill because they like it.
With Michael Vick out of the dog fighting business now, perhaps he could try cat fighting. No special breeding or unique training is required. Just throw a mouse between two hungry cats and let them fight it out.
Contact Dan Coughlin at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.