“A guy needs somebody…

“A guy needs somebody―to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. I tell ya, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick.” – John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

I’ve been pondering a playmate for my cat Roscoe for a while now. I’m about 80% convinced this is a brilliant idea, but I’ve been wrong about these things before, so now I offer it to the public for comment.

I love Roscoe. I didn’t know how much I could love a thing until Roscoe and I met, which was during a half-off adoption sale at the Richmond SPCA. I like to remind him he was a discount cat whenever he gets uppity.

We met in the catillion, a big room designed for cats to mingle with other cats. Roscoe was laying on a bench. I sat down next to him. I looked down at him and he looked up at me with his two little teeth poking out, making him look dumb but adorable. He got up, walked over to my lap, and plopped down in it. I’ve often fancied that his thoughts were immediate: Done deal. I’m going home with this one. The feeling was mutual.

I know I love Roscoe because I was completely wrong about him when we first met, and I don’t mind at all. The looking dumb part? Not an act. He really is a dumb cat. Other cats learn to get the hell out of the way after being stepped on a few times. Not Roscoe. His favorite part of the hallway is always exactly where you’re about to step. Roscoe hates getting wet so he avoids the bathroom. But when anyone goes in to do their business the bathroom becomes the most interesting place in the apartment; he’ll meow himself into a coughing fit trying to get in. I could go on, but it’s unkind to linger on the poor cat’s deficiencies.

And he’s not nearly so friendly as he made me think in the catillion. Turns out he was sick–he’d picked up a touch of giardia from the other cats–so mostly he was looking to cuddle until he felt better. He’s still a friendly cat, but, well, he has a hard time showing it. Chalk it up to his slowness. He really only has one emotion–excitement. He’s either not excited and sleeping somewhere, or he’s excited and eager to attack something. It’s a sliding scale–in between the two extremes he can be amusing as hell–but anyone looking for emotional depth or complexity would struggle to find it in my handsome beast.

Despite his retardation and his claws, I love that damn cat.  He’s my comfort on tough days, my amusement on boring days, and a faithful companion every time in between. All I have to do is click my tongue and he’ll poke his doofus face around the corner and come visit. Plus we both share a love of milkshakes. Oh Roscoe.

While we’re talking about Roscoe, I should clear up a common misconception about him. Despite using alcoholiccat.com as my personal domain, Roscoe doesn’t have a drinking problem. He’s as sober as a judge. My domain name was inspired by a completely different cat with a booze problem. Roscoe won’t even drink the beer I offer to him, the dick.

All of this is preamble to what I really want to write about, which is my idea for a playmate for Roscoe. I’m taking deliberate pains here to make it clear that what I’m about to propose I propose mostly out of love for my feline buddy and only a little bit for selfish reasons.

I want to purchase a feeder mouse from the pet store and set it loose in my apartment for Roscoe to hunt. That’s the plan.

Stick with me now. Let me at least sell you on my plan before we start talking about all the reasons this is a bad idea. If there’s anything Roscoe loves more than milkshakes it’s a sporting hunt. A cicada flew in through an open window a few weeks back. Roscoe stalked it through the apartment for an hour and played with it for another two once he caught it. I’ve never seen him so pleased. He’d let it get a little bit away, then grab it and pull it back to him. Or he’d carry it in his mouth from one vantage point to another, presumably to find a place his cicada-friend would enjoy too. A preying mantis came to visit a few weeks before that, and Roscoe spent two days in my closet staring at it on the ceiling.

He once caught a mouse at my last apartment and laid it next to his toy mouse to complete the set. Then he meowed in my face like a madman until I woke up. “I didn’t mean no harm, George.”

I figure a mouse would at least have a sporting chance compared to a bug. Any critter with half an instinct knows to run away when Roscoe lumbers into the room. And imagine Roscoe’s view of the matter–it would be the highlight of his year! A mouse hunt!

Let’s not bandy about here. Cats are instinctively hunters. Carnivores with a taste for blood. Roscoe wants to hunt. It’s in his genes. Why deny him then, when I have to go to the pet store for food anyways and a mouse would only cost a dollar or two?

You can’t convince me this is cruel to the mouse. Maybe if I snatched a field mouse from the wild and whisked it away to my apartment of horrors for Roscoe’s amusement, well, then you could call it cruel. But the pet shop mice have no memories of freedom. They were bred for one purpose: to die as food for another animal. Their sole contribution to the world is as a link in the food chain.

I once dated a girl who would get outraged when people would bug her about not clearing all the food from her plate. “You know there are starving people in Africa who would slit their mother’s throat for the rest of that rice pilaf,” they’d say. She’d look right back at them and give a physics lesson. “Really now? How would that work? Are you going to put my uneaten rice in a box and mail it to Nigeria? Because I don’t think anyone in Africa gives a shit about the rice on my plate right now.”

Same goes for the pet shop mouse. Let’s call him Albert. Ol’ Albert’s a goner whether I buy him for Roscoe or not. If I don’t bring him home, someone with a snake is going to buy him and it will lead to the same inevitable and brutal end for Al. At least setting him loose in my apartment gives him a sporting chance at life. I’m not sure whether a feeder mouse has the same savvy for self-preservation as a feral mouse, but Albert’s odds of surviving the apartment must dwarf his survival odds in a terrarium. You want to talk cruelty? Talk to the snake owners first.

My roommate isn’t completely opposed to the idea–much to his credit–but he did propose a modification. Why not put the mouse in a hamster ball and let it run about in the relative plastic safety? Roscoe still gets to chase a mouse, but the quarry never has a chance to be maimed or to escape. I hate this idea. It’s like going to the rodeo and calling yourself a cowboy afterwards–participating in a copy of a copy of the real thing and confusing that with an authentic experience. Not to mention using a hamster ball is unsportsmanlike. Neither the cat nor the mouse can win, so what’s the fun in that? There are winners and there are losers in this world. It’s a cruel feature of a capitalist system, and we all need to get more comfortable with that.

Others attempting to foil my plan have asked: “What happens if Albert gets away?” Then congratulations to Albert! In the first genuine challenge of his life he emerged victorious! We should all be so fortunate. He’s probably a goner when the alley cats catch his scent, but hey, we’re all bound to lose eventually. At least Albert made a good show of it. A related concern is that Albert might get behind an appliance, set up a little home among some cozy electrical wiring, and start a family. As cute as the image is, that would take two mice. It’s possible my detractors are confusing mice with aphids, which reproduce through parthenogenesis–a single aphid can mother an entire colony. I oppose releasing aphids in my apartment just for that reason.

It’s bloodsport. I would enjoy the crap out of watching Roscoe hunt a mouse; I won’t deny that. Is it so wrong? Professional boxing matches pay two grown and dignified humans to punch the living daylights out of each other for twelve rounds and no one seems to mind, so watching blood spurt for entertainment must not be that taboo. I can hear the retort already: “But that’s between consenting adults.” So? You’ve probably eaten meat or worn an item made out of leather recently. A living thing had to die so you could stuff your maw or look fashionable, so apparently even overt brutality can be tolerated so long as the ends are delicious or pretty. Why shouldn’t Roscoe be allowed the same opportunities?

Call me 90% convinced now.

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