My Serial Killer

Rob Woutat


Officer, I wish to report a homicide. A murder, actually. A cold blooded, premeditated, serial murder. I witnessed it this morning in my back yard.

The victim is one Tamiasciurus douglasii, AKA Douglas’ squirrel.

The assassin—I guess I’m supposed to call him the suspect—was my cat Milo, a duplicitous figure with a long record of felonious behavior.

The facts are not in dispute: The squirrel, attracted to my back yard by sunflower seeds in the bird feeder, was scampering through the shrubs in an entirely non-provocative manner. Just as he passed the acuba japonica, the cat—with malice aforethought—sprang from his place of concealment under a cedar tree and landed on his hapless victim with all fours. It was a savage ambush, over in an instant.

The assailant—excuse me, the suspect—then trotted toward the house, the victim hanging lifelessly from his mouth, and deposited his prey on the mat by the door, as cats do. I didn’t want to watch what happened next – he has previously deposited the grisly remains of bats and birds and small rodents, some of them not quite dead—so I pretended nothing had happened and escaped into the morning paper.

About an hour later when I had to go outside, the cat was still crouching attentively by his victim, seeming to work it over with his mouth, but—strangely—the corpse of the squirrel was still intact. Well, not entirely intact. Its head was missing. Apparently Milo is not only a terminator but a decapitator.

Since I’ve already fingered the culprit, this story is obviously not a whodunnit. The mystery lies elsewhere. Since the cat didn’t seem interested in actually eating the decedent but only in pretending to eat it, what became of the decedent’s head? I could guess, I suppose, but I’d rather not think about it.

What is far more mysterious and does bear thinking about is this: Cats have ostensibly been domesticated for thousands of years, but in the eons we’ve spent trying to civilize them, they’ve only pretended to buy into the program. It’s all a front. Underneath, they’re still creatures of the jungle. Give them all the food they can eat and they’ll still pounce lethally on rubber mice and anything else that moves.

Why do I harbor in my home a creature I know to be a calculating, cold blooded, self-centered, unrepentant serial executioner? Not only do I house him, I feed him, water him, pay for his license, and foot his expensive medical bills. I buy him little toys for his amusement, as well as a spiffy little collar with his very own name tag. I provide a warm lap when he’s inclined to want it, and I arrange for his care when I’m out of town.

I am then complicitous in his little murders, just as I aided and abetted in the death of the squirrel by inadvertently baiting him with sunflower seeds. Oh heavy deed. My offense is rank; my guilt is burdensome.

So why do I go along with him? Because although he’s a terminator and a decapitator, he’s also a skilled ingratiator. That’s it. I have no other excuse. Side by side with his impulse to kill is a cunning, conniving knack for appearing lovable, and—poor dupe that I am—I’m completely taken in by the trick. To the charges of entrapment and harboring a serial killer, therefore, I plead guilty and ask for the mercy of the court.

But what about the cat? His court appointed attorney would argue this: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, defendant Milo is entirely blameless in this affair. In taking the squirrel he merely did what Nature has destined him to do, what cats have done for thousands of years. Killing is his raison d’être. Well, killing and sleeping, to tell the whole truth. Killing is a congenital part of his psycho/genetic/cultural/biological make up. In fact he is fundamentally incapable of not killing, and therefore can no more be guilty of murder than he can be of eating or breathing.

“But I’ll go even further,” Milo’s lawyer might argue. “It’s clear that by flaunting himself so brazenly in front of the afore-mentioned acuba japonica, the squirrel intentionally baited my client. It was a case of wanton titillation. Simply put, had the squirrel not behaved so provocatively, he would still be alive today. You must therefore do your duty and find in favor of my client Milo.”

If that gets me off the hook, it’s good enough for me.

TheScreamOnline regular Rob Woutat has contributed a wide variety of pieces to newspapers and magazines and to the National Public Radio affiliate in Seattle/Tacoma. He has written two family histories and a memoir and is now working on a novel. Please check the Talent Index to see his other work.
He can be reached at rwoutat[AT]
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