I let my kitten go. She dipped into the alleyway, fur whipping in the icy breeze, bounced over wall and slid under fence and was gone. She was only as big as my forearm, her patchy fur like urban camo, and I lost sight of her immediately. Oh well, I thought. Hawks need food too.

I’m not trying to get rid of her. If I were actually trying to break up with this cat I would, first, spend a couple months in denial, becoming depressed and hostile and withdrawing into comic books and long baths; and then eventually lose my temper, shout something stupid, and storm out forever – leaving her the apartment, and all my stuff, as usual.

I’m not breaking up with her. I just want her to shit outside, instead of in the box of sand in my bathroom.

I got the kitten a couple months ago. She had slipped into a neighbor’s house through their cat door, the runaway runt of a feral litter. They couldn’t keep her, so I took her home. I’ve never lived without roommates before, and I find a clean, quiet house unnerving.

I’m not an animal lover. I’ve lived with lots of cats and dogs and goats and such, but I’ve never felt that gooey attachment some people seem to get. This cat is alright – she keeps the house dirty, at least – but if she wanders off and never comes back, it won’t be a tragedy. Except perhaps ecologically: if you haven’t heard, cats kill billions of birds and tens of billions of mammals per year in the US alone . That hawk is just looking out for his best interest.

Proper Pet Owners would probably chastise me for teaching the kitten to roam. If they’re not worried about her getting eaten, they’re worried about her getting pregnant. More cats equals more dead birds, after all.

You’re supposed to get your animals spayed in this town, or pay for an Intact Animal Permit. If you get them spayed at a vet, they’re required to install a microchip. If you get them spayed somewhere other than the vet… where is that? Is it sanitary?

All pets must be chipped. They must be tracked. They must be registered. They must be Owned by someone, and that someone will be responsible if the animal breaks any laws – such as pooping in the wrong place, or biting a person who tries to interfere with its pooping experience. These laws are communicated to the animals via the microchip, presumably.

Oh, no, this just in: the Owner must Discipline the animal. Ideally through the same Skinner-box method with which our Owners programmed us. Multi-level mind control.

Don’t get me wrong, I like teaching the cat. That’s why I’m letting her outside: she’s smart, and curious, and wants stimulation. I bring her into my cold sterile home because I feel lonely, then lock her up alone while I go to work? That’s twisted.

But I’m not in charge of her. Cats aren’t domesticated, not really. Genetically they’re the same as their wild cousins. They can live independently, and when they do live with us it’s not like they fetch the newspaper. They nap, and demand food, and shit in a box. Not unlike some of my former roommates, come to think of it.

Cats are highly evolved murder machines that happen to look kind of like human babies, and they use that fact to hack our minds. They’re small, and warm, and have big eyes, and your genes tell you “love that thing.”

They don’t even meow in the wild. To most animals they’re silent (because, ninjas), and to other cats they hiss or purr. The whiny baby-talk voice is another human exploit. They walk around literally mocking us, saying “wah waaah waah” because to them we sound like adults on the Peanuts cartoon, but we hear “I looove yoou!” and “I don’t miiiind that we’re poooor!” and “It’s not thaaat cold in heere!”

Who’s training who?

There was a brief period at the end of the last century where digital pets were a thing. The genus included Tamagotchi tamagotchi , Tamagotchi gigapetus , and Tamagotchi furbii , if I recall correctly.

These were also people you Owned, and you had to discipline them and feed them and scoop up their LCD droppings. Like cats, they hacked the part of our brains that evolved to love babies. And we do need a whole brainpart just for thinking babies are cute and worth feeding – if you’ve ever looked at a baby objectively , you know what I mean.

If you didn’t feed these critters (if, for instance, you locked a furbii in your closet and desperately ignored its screams, while obsessing all night upon the fact that biological life must eat or die, and upon the ethics of creating artificial life with such suffering built in, and further upon the suspicion that a capitalist system, where artificial suffering is seen as a source of profit and entertainment, may not be capable of maintaining a balanced biosphere long enough for you to even have a tenth birthday) then they would die.

That’s on your hands, kid. No take-backs.

Okay, obviously the digital pets didn’t actually die. That furbii isn’t really haunting you. It probably didn’t even have a soul, and if it did, how were you supposed to know?

Real animals clearly do have something that, once you take it away, you can’t put it back. They’re dead. (And yes, I will protect my real cat from real dying, if I have to. Feel free to not email me with your concerns.)

There’s probably some worldwide cult of Tamagotchi herders that I’ve never been exposed to. But for the most part, people don’t have digital pets anymore.

Instead we have our phones, which we feed and stroke and carry everywhere with us. If you don’t feed them they whine, and if they run out of energy they “die”. If you neglect them, they demand your attention. If you let them out of sight, they’ll get eaten by a hawk. They shit in a box, but the box is your mind. The parallels are all there.

Phones are microchips. All persons are required to carry chips. All persons must be registered. All persons must be tracked.

Cats aren’t the ecological disaster. We are. Cats, Tamagotchis , smartphones, they’re just camp followers. Edge creatures that thrive in the shadows of human settlements. They’re exploiting the niche we have created. If they murder billions, it’s because we build murderscapes.

We love them because they look like us. We hate them because they act like us.

I don’t Own this cat. The cult of Ownership, where living beings are Property for other living beings to buy and sell and register and track, is at the heart of all the problems we face It’s ecologically unsound.

Even ants don’t Own each other. There’s a so-called queen, but she doesn’t command every ant in the colony. She just makes larva. They all communicate with each other, using chemical signals, in a sort of Internet of Stinks. Nature is interdependent, cooperative and complex. The achievements of billions of years of evolution are not, can not be, the Property of some buttnecks with law degrees who signed each other’s pieces of paper to prove it.

Multi-level mind control is a scam, man. If I have to tell the cat what to do, then she’s only going to tell me what I want to hear. If she can’t be real with me, then I can’t adjust my behavior to help her. It’s
Celine’s second law
true communication is possible only between equals.

So I let her go. If she comes back, it’s because she wants to. We’ll negotiate from there: as friends.

Thanks for reading,

– Max

P.S.: Of course, the cat actually came back as soon as I sat down to write. She sang at the door and I opened it for her, but the screen door opened outward into her face, and she got confused and ran away. We repeated this little opera a few times before my galaxy brain realized I could leave the screen door open. She devoured a can of pureed fish product like it was cat fentanyl, took a heaping shit in the box of sand, and passed out in my writing chair.

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