I woke up this morning to a heartbreaking incident. Our family dog Matty and our prodigal dog Shiro had just killed a stray kitten in our yard. They had heard the kitten meowing loudly and started barking loudly in return. As soon as someone opened the front door, they quickly ran outside. Shiro attacked first. Although our helper was on the other side of our perimeter wall, she saw what was happening and shouted Shiro’s name. As soon as he let go, Matty grabbed the kitten. It took less than a minute for our helper to get to them, but by then it was too late for the kitten.
I was shocked. Here are these two dogs that our family love and adore. I cuddle with them, call them cutesy names and play games with them. They are like children to me. And today I am faced with their violent, predatory side.
When they first came to me this morning, just minutes after having killed that kitten, I couldn’t bear to cuddle or pet them in my usually affectionate way. In my mind, I was seeing them as vicious animals who had just attacked and killed a tiny, helpless, innocent creature. And here they were, looking at me with their tails wagging, strutting about like nothing happened. I was so bothered and conflicted.
I read up on why dogs attack cats. I learned about dogs’ prey drive – a natural instinct to hunt. It dawned on me that Shiro and Matty were just following their instincts. I remembered Shiro’s owner having told me the story of how he had witnessed his mother being attacked by a cat. Since then, he has been angry and vicious with cats. Matty never liked cats but she has also never been violent towards them. I don’t know why she did what she did today. Maybe seeing Shiro attack that kitten brought out her own prey drive.
Dogs, while very close to the hearts of humans, are not human. They are not subject to our morality or our norms. They are intelligent, trainable, loyal and affectionate creatures. But we must not forget that they are animals born with natural instincts that we should respect and understand. How to harmoniously and happily live with them in our homes and in our streets is our responsibility.
(As of this writing, I’ve already taken Matty and Shiro for a walk and given them their daily doses of cuddles and kisses. It didn’t take long for me to realize that they didn’t do anything wrong. It was a tragic accident for the kitten and a wake-up call for me.)