Sofia doesn’t wear a bell. I’ve been chastised for this, shamed into guilt. When she was little I made her wear a collar, and her fur wore away to wound. I am leery of collars. And it is my belief that if a cat stays still long enough, no bell is going to keep her from her prey once she pounces. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe I am fooling myself. None of it matters when she hunts. I agonize each time, wrestle with my guilt. She is a cat. Cats hunt. But she is my cat. I tend to be nearby, try to get the creature away from her. Sometimes they aren’t wounded. Lizards seem especially lucky. If they are not gouged, I place them on the fence in the winter sun, or in the shade in summer, where she will no longer have a trail to follow. Once she had a mouse in the bushes, and I couldn’t reach her. The mouse was screaming. “Kill it fast,” I told her. “Kill it fast.”
The other day I heard a flurry, and there she was crossing the courtyard with a Mourning Dove in her mouth. I jumped around, trying to catch her. “Drop it,” I said. “Drop it.” I am a dog person. Even after 26 years, those words arrived without thinking. Of course she didn’t obey, escaped with her prize to the hibiscus. I poked her out with a broom, chased her back across the yard. I was yelling. She surprised me, abandoning her catch by the aloe vera. The dove landed on her back. She was already dead. I think Sofia must have broken her neck in that first instant. I was glad it had been quick. The dove’s eyes were closed. I don’t know what it was that had me reaching for my camera. It didn’t feel weird at the time, though later I knew it would seem wrong to some people–wrong to take the pictures, twisted, even, to post them. But there was something about the dove’s closed eyes that spelled peace, or maybe it was surrender. She looked like an angel, lying there with her wings spread. Sofia came back after I’d taken a handful of photographs. She was quiet and furry, this beast of mine, her gray coat and the dun of the dove’s feathers both soft, both vulnerable, both dear. She didn’t snatch the bird away. Her touch was gentle, as if in honor of the somber moment–as if she was accepting an offering, not claiming her kill.