THE WAYS TO KILL A CAT Sarah O’Connor (@notsarahconnor)
ome here Kitty,” I called to the cat from the bathroom. Long ago, my family gave her the name Whiskers, which she detested. If she needed to be called it was simply Kitty or the cat, she insisted to the family. “It’s time for your bath.” Kitty hissed. “Don’t speak to me like a child.” She jumped up onto the counter and sniffed disdainfully at the soapy water and slowly slipped in. “I don’t like this soap. Why didn’t you use the lilac?” I shrugged. “I thought you might like a change.” I had to kill the cat. For most women, this is a natural, biological instinct. A girl might be waking up, going to bed, or enjoying the afternoon sun when it happens: she kills a cat. Whether it’s one she owns or one she finds on the street, the girl will always find and kill the cat and then she is a woman. Men don’t have this instinct. Things are always easier for men. But I had never felt the need to kill a cat. Kitty had lived with us for ten years (she was bought specifically for me) and I never felt the need to burn her, skin her, or kill her in any one of the many ways one can kill a cat. The water in the sink is pink. Kitty scratches my leg and hides behind the toilet. The door is shut. With secret shame my classmates would speak about their own cat killings, relating the humourous and more often than not, embarrassing ways that they killed their cats. At twelve (the regular age the instinct starts) a girl in my class explained how it had happened in her sleep. Before going to bed she had
curled up with her cat Mittens and had sleep-walked through the process. In the morning, Mittens was a strangled mess staining the girl’s white bed sheets. At fifteen I was walking home with my friend Stacy’s when we came across a pretty tomcat singing to himself on a fence. Stacy had only looked at the cat from the corner of her eye when she pounced on the thing and bashed its head in. We then continued walking home, talking about the spectacle as a seagull began plucking out its golden eyes. After the first killing, girls have the option of taking a pill to control the instinct. It is a personal choice, but most girls end up taking it after a few years. It is difficult to wash blood out of clothes. Kitty is weak and tripping over her feet. Kitty is crying and begging me to stop. My stomach hurts. My mother told me I was a late bloomer and the instinct would come eventually. She bought me a pill that was supposed to help push the instinct along, and I’ll admit that I did start pinching and plucking Kitty’s fur, but it never went beyond that. I saw my mother’s fear in the way she twisted her wedding ring until it rubbed an angry pink circle on her finger. My father wouldn’t talk to me about it. These were women things that he did not need nor want to understand.
Men don’t have this instinct. Things are always easier for men.
After the first killing, girls have the option of taking a pill to control the instinct. Kitty is dead, her body half in the toilet as her blood stains the porcelain and turns the water pink. Blood trickles down my leg from where she scratched me. A knock on the door and my parents entered. I wondered how long they had been waiting outside; since they heard the door slam, or perhaps when I first called Kitty for her bath?
She walked over to the toilet and smiled as she peered at the bloody mess inside.
ARTWORK BY ELAINE WESTENHOEFER 40
My mother cooed, “My little girl is all grown up! I’m so proud of you darling.” She walked over to the toilet and smiled as she peered at the bloody mess inside. My father nodded awkwardly. Once again, these were womanly matters and he was in unfamiliar territory. I was 22, finally a woman and all I had to show for it was a dead cat and a bloody toilet. n INCITE MAGAZINE, NOVEMBER 2014