Monday, August 24, 2009

"The small, sharp teeth of a kitten"

At Granta, a moving and extraordinarily unsettling essay by Mary Gaitskill on lost cats and lost children:
I spoke to my husband on the phone about taking Gattino home with us. I said I had fallen in love with the cat, and that I was afraid that by exposing him to human love I had awakened in him a love that was unnatural and perhaps too big for him. I was afraid that if I left him he would suffer a loneliness that he never would have known had I not appeared in his yard. My husband said, ‘Oh no, Mary…’ but in a bemused tone.

I would understand if he’d said it in a harsher tone. Many people would consider my feelings neurotic, a projection on to an animal of my own loneliness and fear. Many people would consider it almost offensive for me to lavish such love on an animal when I have by some standards failed to love my fellow beings: for example, orphaned children who suffer every day, not one of whom I have adopted. But I have loved people; I have loved children. And it seems that what happened between me and the children I chose to love was a version of what I was afraid would happen to the kitten. Human love is grossly flawed, and even when it isn’t, people routinely misunderstand it, reject it, use it or manipulate it. It is hard to protect a person you love from pain because people often choose pain; I am a person who often chooses pain. An animal will never choose pain; an animal can receive love far more easily than even a very young human. And so I thought it should be possible to shelter a kitten with love.


  1. So what happened? I don't have the Granta (which issue--maybe I can read it online in its entirety), want to know how it got worked out. Yes it is deeply unsettling and I think Mary's going deeper is a wonderment. I have done a lot of feral and semi-feral cat rescues in my life and I can always tell which of the semi-feral cats which retrogress to a semi-wild state (most of my rescues go to a feral cattery where they live out their lives and some even cross the line to being adoptable)...which of the cats have had the experience of human love and caring at some point in their lives. ruby

  2. P.S. I found it. ruby