Tom: In Memoriam
Tom was a feral cat that lived on my property. I fed him every day for two and a half years, two or three times a day. He was half blind and quite lame; he often had wounds on his head. I used to pat him occasionally, but then one day he bit me, so I stopped. I had no intimate relationship with Tom, such as I have with my own cats, and in truth he was not easy to like. Also, he would sometimes get into the house to eat my cats’ food, urinating as he went; I had to chase him out with a broom. In addition, leaving food outside for him was a problem because it attracted possums and raccoons. No doubt, Tom was a very mixed blessing.
The other day I found his body lying in the carport. Evidently he had died of natural causes, and was lying in a pool of urine. I buried him in the garden in which he had long lived. I wondered if I had done everything I could to make his life as good as it could be, and had my doubts. Thus he bit me morally even in death. This made me think that there is an aspect of moral obligation that goes unremarked: that it is biting.
When Tom bit you, he was merely telling you to back off. He appreciated your help but, given his feral nature, didn’t want to get too close. Perfectly understandable. When some humans “bite,” however, it is often for a much less understandable – or forgivable – reason: petty self-interest, including financial gain. Anyway, my deepest condolences about Tom. You did right by him, and – unlike some humans who really “bite” – I’m sure he always appreciated it.
His was an innocent bite that you could respect; not so the human bite.
Am I “hopelessly sentimental” about animals? I hope so!