Are predators sometimes gentlemen? - Albuquerque Journal

Are predators sometimes gentlemen?

Third in a series.

Young Mr. Lancaster was a kitten whose behavior was sometimes, as they say in learning theory, undesirable. He did turn out to be a pretty good cat, hanging out at the reception desk, accepting attention from clients. On the flip side, even at 6 months, he was a wild animal masquerading as a cuddly pet.

We love our kitties like little people in furry suits, but they are stalkers, slayers and devourers of helpless creatures. Even in our compassionate veterinary clinic, there had to be somebody who needed killing.

One fine summer day, a couple arrived with a Pekin white duckling with a fractured leg. In their futile attempts to avoid veterinary bills, they had fashioned a homemade splint that failed miserably. The little guy’s mother and siblings, crowded in a muddy pen, had stepped on him, sat on him and pushed him away from the food. He arrived dehydrated, weak and dragging a badly infected leg.

Could we help? Well, we could try, but I explained the outlook wasn’t good. We cleaned the wounds, tubed food and water into the little quacker’s 4-ounce body, and kept him warm. Martha took on nursing responsibilities at the front desk. An hour later, responding to our call for assistance in the treatment room, she left her fuzzy patient in an open-topped box.

As she returned to her station a few minutes later, Martha spied our resident predator’s head and shoulders thrust into the box. Racing to pluck the duck from the jaws of Mr. L, she yelled (loudly), “Mr. Lancaster!”, startling the little brute before he could take a nip. That’s when a voice on the other side of the reception counter hastily sputtered apologies for being a day late delivering our stationery. You guessed it. The real Mr. Lancaster had arrived at just that moment.

Poor Martha had to explain that, no, we were not mad at Mr. Lancaster the printer, but, yes, we had named our murderous cat after him.

Next week: A criminal past.

• For help with behavior problems, sign up for a Zoom group conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.


Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in person and in groups via Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week, he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.

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