To Skin a Cat

MacAvity's picture

Literally, is there really more than one way? How else would one do it but an incision from genitals to throat, belly to ankles, chest to wrists?

Anyway, that's what we're doing at school now. I'm good at it, of course - all the experience, though none with cats (other mammals aren't any different, though) and none preserved and bloodless (this does make a difference). But I wasn't always so callous.

It was a cat that desensitised me, actually. A mass of black fur at the bottom of a ditch at the side of the path where my dog and I were walking. A mass of black fur with a cat's face, one foreleg, a purple collar, and a bit of exposed flesh where its chest and everything after had been ripped off. A coyote had gotten it, that was sure, and gotten it very recently. But this had been somebody's pet. It was the most clearly I had yet seen a freshly dead mammal, and the sight disturbed me. I was fourteen.

When I got home, minutes later, I immediately sought out my family's cat. To prove to myself that she was okay, I suppose. The rest of the day passed with only a mild perturbation in my mind. But that night I had a dream that I've never shared with anyone until now, not even with my mother after I moved to spend the rest of the night in her bed.

I dreamed that, for the unknowable reasons that rule the dream world, we had to kill our dog. With blunt, wooden swords. We wept as we drove them into her body, wept and apologised, but she did not understand our words. She looked at us with an expression of pain and love - she did not know why we were hurting her, but her canine devotion was never shaken. And she would not die. Too long, she would not die. With three wooden blades buried deep in her body, she would not die. We could not kill her, and yet we could not save her.

That dream haunted my waking hours for days afterward, though, by some blessing, it never returned by night. And when I had recovered, I was desensitised. Dead bodies - human or animal, intact or decayed or ripped to pieces - do not disturb me, so long as they be dead. Scientific specimens, they are, or relics - nothing more. And I can skin a cat without caring that it is the same color as mine, that it was once a kitten of irresistible cuteness, that it was once a living being. It's just a body now.

And I prefer myself this way. I write all this with no irony or nostalgia, no wondering where I lost whatever-it-was and vaguely wishing it back. No, this story is merely a chronicle of how I came to be the way I am in this one regard.

Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie...


Grace Hughen's picture

A worm I could handle. A

A worm I could handle. A frog. Even, by some miracle, a pig. But there is no way I could ever do that to a cat. (So much for believing we're all created equal.) Sorry you saw that cat and had that dream... and good for you, I guess, that you don't have a problem with it.

funnyflyby's picture


I can't think of any other way you could skin a cat...
That is a horrible dream, yet it seems to have had a positive effect. So... good for you and too bad!

whateversexual_llama's picture

other ways i can only assume

other ways i can only assume would be messier and less effective...

but there's always vegetable peelers and power sanders?

lonewolf678's picture


i totally have desensitization towards many things. guess that makes two of us on this site?