I originally wrote this as a comment on Jaquandor's blog, but decided to post it here as well.
This evening on our way home from a trip into town we ran over a cat. It dashed out in the road immediately in front of us. My husband hit the brakes and tried to avoid it. But then - BUMP - CRUNCH. No doubt about it. Kitty was toast. I felt sad, even though there really wasn’t much else we could do.
We were out on a quiet, rural road away from any residential area, so there’s no telling if it was somebody’s pet or just one of the many feral cats that abound in this area. Should it matter? Do I feel worse for the CAT that we actually killed or for the PERSON who may be missing it tonight? I admit, I can't help but wonder if it may have come from one of the distant farm houses where some child may be weeping over the loss of her beloved Fluffy. Or, even if it were a stray…it may have had babies holed up in some culvert, that are now left mewing and hungry this cold, dark night.
I can't quite shake the creepiness that the THUD of impact gave me. I find myself wondering …should we have stopped? We didn’t. We kept on driving home. What if it didn’t die right away? What if it suffered? I shudder to think on that too much.
I find myself curious about my own emotional response to the event. How long or how deeply does it make sense to mourn for a cat that jumped out into a country road at twilight? It would feel totally heartless to me to just shrug my shoulders and say “stupid cat!” Yet on the other hand…how much sorrow does the snuffing out of this feline life merit? What does feeling bad or not feeling bad mean? If I just forget about it does that make me a cold, heartless bitch? If I keep lingering over my sorrow and remorse am I being a sensitive, caring person or a fool?
The other thing I’ve noticed is that for all my genuine regret over the incident, my sadness if considerably less than if it had been a dog we’d hit instead. I like dogs better than cats. I think cats are ok, but I don’t have one nor do I want one. I would be heartsick had we hit a dog. I am just sorta sad we hit a cat. I’m neither comfortable nor uncomfortable with that distinction. I just notice it.