I have two orange tabby cats. The above photo is of them simultaneously yawning. How precious and disturbing at the same time, no?
They’re not related. I got the oldest one, Biscuit, after my sibling found the cat in a Walmart parking lot in Houston. The younger one, Tangie, was found in a Cabela’s parking lot, and was my roommate’s kitten, then I looked after her when my roommate moved out.
They are two beautiful little garbage monsters that I love so very much, and lately, they’ve been murdering cockroaches in the middle of the night.
It’s been about a week or two since it started. I didn’t know what to think the morning I found a single furry roach leg, on my way from the living room to the kitchen. I should have assumed my gremlin children were behind the abandoned limb, but I mulled about the kitchen getting coffee and breakfast and went about my day, assuming, I don’t know, that somewhere close by a roach was missing a leg.
And then lunchtime came.
My boyfriend and I were back in the kitchen when he noticed something embedded in the rug — a chip, brown and small. We also live with a dog, who sometimes has an accident if I don’t take her out early enough. But as my vision shifted from the brown fleck in the rug, recognizing the several small, brown flecks littering the material, I froze, the horror of my realization washing over me.
These scattered brown chips were what was left of that roach leg. They were what was left of that roach. My precious, curious cats, at some point during the night, had found, killed, and mutilated a roach, leaving its shell scattered about the kitchen. I shuddered, finishing up lunch as my boyfriend picked up the mess.
I was shocked, but not surprised. These animals love to hunt the random rolly-pollies that crawl their way into the bathroom, or the moths and flies that bolt inside when we leave the doors open a hair too long. They love a moving target, but they’ve never found a bug large enough or slow enough to want to terrorize to death.
And despite our home being inhabited by those other bugs (something I am not proud of but used to in Texas), we’ve never had a roach problem. Now, we might, my only suspicion being that the murders haven’t stopped.
A few nights ago, my boyfriend went to the kitchen to find the demons ganging up on another roach, the cats hunched over and their shoulder blades protruding as they loomed over their prey, watching it squirm on its back, legs flailing. He watched as one of them batted at it, setting it upright before continuing their pursuit as it tried to flee. Not wanting to wake up to another disemboweled roach body for him to collect, he decided to take care of the roach himself.
When he told me this, I thought he meant that he took the still-live roach outside, where it could live out the rest of its days, or hours, before a snacking grackle picked it up. But no. In fact, I am even more horrified to report that he picked it up with a napkin, crushed it IN HIS OWN FIST, and threw it in the trash. I live in a house of roach killers, and it would not surprise me if the dog’s in on it, too.
But I know I am just as bad, if perhaps not worse. On Tuesday, I came upon one of these poor, innocent roaches, still intact, sitting on a different kitchen rug (where a beloved kitchen table one stood). These cats were now breaking records — the roach was intact, but definitely dead, and all before the sunset. But when I went to pick it up, paper towel in hand, it squirmed at the towel’s touch, its legs skittering for new life. Nope! Big fucking nope!!!!
I guess I thought it had a chance to escape, and was maybe just trying to rest to regain. its strength, so I let it lay, where it suspiciously returned to stillness again.
I could have just picked it up with a fly swatter and kept it at arm’s length as I tossed it outside, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and risk my good deed being punished by a nervous, flighty roach jumping on me in response. I didn’t find its body until Wednesday afternoon. These sweet, lovable assholes had taken a chunk taken out of its ass and discarded its body nearby.
I know I just need to put bug repellant down. My dad already bought me a container of the stuff, and even scolded me for not already treating the house when I told him about the first roach. But it takes so much effort, specifically because of the pets. You have to put it down around the perimeter and let it dry before letting pets back into the room. And it’s not that it wouldn’t be so difficult to corral the animals into different rooms and let them chill while I treat the house, but I haven’t carved out the time.
Even amid a pandemic and a nationwide insurgency against the prison-industrial complex, when my therapist has forced me to schedule some time to focus on something other than work, bug-spraying the house is still the last fucking thing I want to muster my leftover energy to do.
And so, until I do, I will continue to look around the house for my cats’ latest victim, examining the kitchen floor cautiously and inspecting rugs for a leg, or an antenna, or a shell. I am disgusted at myself for it, but I will continue to blame the cats for torturing a harmless bug, because it remains easier than anything else.
Photos by Samantha Grasso