It all started in my mind when I read Walkabout. I mentioned to a friend at our Friday after-work-week debriefing at a local refreshment spot that what we think is okay to eat seems to be driven by more than hunger. Some things some people find repulsive, others consider delicacy. The children in Walkabout had not yet developed a sense of prejudice about what they ate, their other prejudices notwithstanding; I wondered if I would have survived at all, despite the best training efforts of the bush boy.
Of course, this was not a brilliant new idea to the group, it was just fresh in my mind. Someone at the table said they had recently heard a comment about how good cat is to eat.
The idea of eating cat drew a universal ‘yuck,’ until another party related that during Peace Corps service she was offered cat. She couldn’t bring herself to eat it, but the locals found it great. I will be happy to send on to her that cat, apparently, appears on the menu in more than far away, exotic places.
I am completely untrained in the psychology of eating. While I sat reading on this crisp New England morning, my own domestic house cat, now 17 human years old, came by and snuggled up on the comforter next to me. He wakes me up promptly at 5 a.m. – not a minute before – and leads me to whatever he needs: water, food, or an opened door. He has a different look in his eyes than the feral cat the BBC is using for its feral cat stories. (The cat in the “US shoots the cats” story looks eerily like the same cat in the “Australians eat the cats” story.)
All of this has made me muse and wonder: when do cats cross the line into the savage beasts that should be shot and eaten? how do we know when survival requires us to?