Are Predators 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 our 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 that 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 the nursing responsibility 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 just a few minutes later Martha spied our resident predator, his 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 in delivering our stationery. You guessed it. The real Mr. Lancaster was standing on the other side of the desk, waiting for Martha’s return.

Poor Martha was suddenly in the awkward position of explaining that, no, we were not mad at Mr. Lancaster the printer but yes, he was the namesake of our murderous kitten.

Next week: A criminal past.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by 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 Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.