Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
17 Mar

The Tale of the Cat and the Crickets

huntingcatLet me tell you a story I recently heard from a friend of mine. My buddy has a pet that is one of nature’s most ferocious and stubbornly independent obligate predators, a creature that quite honestly has no business living among the gentle citizenry of refined society. A creature that frequently enjoys the luxurious trappings of civilization while periodically giving in to base desire. I refer, of course, to the common house cat. The house cat, unlike its larger canine counterpart, maintains close ties to its recent wild past. Feline domestication happened a scant few thousand years ago, and it’s only in the past half century that cats have moved into the house.

Yeah, they’re house cats now, but through most of their domesticated history, they were barn cats, farm cats, and alley cats – lurking, stalking denizens of the night who only came inside for a saucer of milk or a quick chin scratch. Fifty years is not nearly enough time to extinguish the urge to hunt small beasts, both furry and feathered. Cats will stalk insect intruders, attack toes wriggling underneath blankets, hunt reflected light dancing along the wall, fling themselves at dangling strings, shred shoelaces, and murder defenseless houseplants. Unless they’re sleeping (which is most of the time) they are on “hunt mode.” It’s an essential part of the cat’s identity.

In the past year, my friend learned firsthand just how essential; his cat began exhibiting signs of urethral blockage. He would strain when trying to urinate, drops of blood began to appear, and, eventually, the cat was unable to go at all. He was totally blocked and surgery was nearly inevitable. The vet’s diagnosis was stress-induced inflammation of the urethral sphincter. Something had been stressing the cat out, and the resultant systemic inflammation led to a compromised urethral passageway which could no longer handle the flow of urine. Urinary crystals, which normally pass through without problem, began to accumulate, worsening the situation. He eventually had (expensive) surgery to correct the situation (he would have died otherwise), but that didn’t take care of the stress. My friend had to figure out what was stressing his cat out and how to fix it to prevent any future incidents.

Living indoors, the cat’s catness had been stifled. Chasing feather toys and getting loaded on catnip only worked for so long. Eventually, the urge to kill became too much to ignore. This conflict between essential cat nature and artificial environment caused tons of stress. Now, my friend briefly considered making him an outside cat, which would give him access to wildlife and adventure, but that comes with its own set of risks, especially in high-traffic West Los Angeles. He didn’t want a dead cat. What if he brought the prey to him?

A quick trip to the pet store and three dollars later, my friend had several dozen large live crickets in a box. Crickets are agile, crunchy, inexpensive, not nearly as messy as rodents, and packed with protein and minerals, making them attractive prey for a bored house cat. He figured setting a couple loose and letting his cat have a go at them would make up for the hunting deficit and possibly reduce stress.

And it seemed to work. The cat was a master cricket hunter and began hunting and eating several a day (sometimes up to a dozen in a row). He’d play with them, bat them around, snap off a leg or wing, and take his sweet time. More importantly, he stopped showing outward signs of stress. He purred more often and more easily, he slept through the night without going crazy meowing and getting into trouble, he just seemed a lot happier and more content. All in all, he was a changed cat. And he was peeing without issue, largely due to the surgery, of course, but also, according to my friend, due to the reduction in stress. Why does he think it wasn’t just the surgery? He recently moved across the state. As a result, he noticed a recurrence of stress-related symptoms in his cat, including odd litterbox behavior; upping the daily cricket quota eliminated the symptoms.

As he told me this story, I could only think of how analogous this is to our own situation as what Erwan le Corre calls “zoo humans.” Sure, it’s far more complex with people, as our prime directive isn’t just to hunt and kill, but we are animals with certain inherent inclinations toward certain acts, or ways of being, that often directly conflict with certain aspects of our civilized surroundings. And then there’s my friend and trusted colleague, Richard Nikoley, whose blog, called “Free the Animal,” is largely about exploring how our animal natures conflict not just with modern foods/lifestyles, but with political systems and society itself.

What does this cat and cricket story mean for us? Is it just further evidence that animals should be aware of where and how their health might suffer in modern “zoo” life? Does it simply reinforce the refrain to avoid evolutionarily novel foods, habits, and stressors, so long as they are shown to be harmful?

It’s more than that. We’ve got to acknowledge, as Richard says, that we are animals. Moreover, we are animals that seek to be free – free to pursue health, happiness, and free to revel in our animal natures. Animal nature isn’t a negative thing. It doesn’t deserve the negative connotations (savagery, rape, war, hate, fear) cooked up by thousands of years of repression. Animal nature is not “good” or “bad”; it simply is. Empathy and love and compassion are innate and animalistic, and I think everyone would say those are good things.

And so I ask you: what are your crickets? Do you have any Primal, animal instincts that are being stifled? If so, how do you work around them? Or has civilization completely conquered and subdued the human animal inside?

I don’t know about you, but I need my crickets. That’s why I eat all the meat I want, lift what I want, wear the shoes (or don’t) I want. Here are a few others:

  • I need frequent “forest bathing” to feel normal. Hikes, paddle boarding excursions, snowboarding, even just sitting on a beach regarding the waves and sun dipping down below the horizon – immersing myself in nature, even using modern “technology” like books or boards, is a requisite stress fighter. The key is getting away from walled enclosures and into unpredictable surroundings.
  • Lifting heavy things and sprinting keep me sane, whereas endurance training never scratched that same itch (even when I did it for a living). There’s something about giving maximum effort and knowing that this is all you have to give because it’s so brief and impossible to maintain for more than a few seconds that it satisfies you deep down. Running long distance is also a kind of maximum effort, but more mentally trying than physically: is it really a test of physicality if you’re able to do it for hours at a time? I like being limited by objective physical energy, and pushing that limit.
  • Sex. Yeah, it’s the most notorious and frowned upon of all “animal instincts,” but boy does it make you feel alive (and glad to be so). You can stick romantic love in there, too.
  • A bloody steak. I need at least two or three a week. I’m even guilty of not letting the steak rest for five minutes before digging in. I dunno – I sometimes like the juices to get everywhere. I also lick the plate.
  • Companionship, camaraderie, friendship. Having dinner with friends and family. Sharing a laugh. Confiding in someone. Arguing with someone whom you respect, ideally courteously but not necessarily so.
  • Going shirtless. I know, I know. It sounds silly, but there’s just something about shedding clothes that feels right. It’s nothing to do with how I look; it’s all about how I feel.

What are yours?

Hunting? Meditation? Playing sports?

I reject the negative connotations accumulated from millennia of repressive thought that surround the idea of our animal natures. In fact, I think we owe it to ourselves and our health to revel in them. Don’t hurt anyone, but don’t hurt yourself by stifling yourself. My crickets don’t put me at odds with the law, nor do they put anyone else in harm’s way. They might get some weird looks from other people, but that’s fine. This is not necessarily about formally opposing formal political authority. This isn’t picketing or protests. This is merely about recognizing the (passive and nonpassive) ways in which civilization conflicts with human nature, and opposing the instances that become pathological, or harmful to our health. It is going barefoot at the office, or constructing a standup workstation, or eating a pound of steak in the lunchroom slathered in butter?

Tell me, what are your crickets?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. That reminds me of one my favorite cat stories. When I was in high school we had a gorgeous black cat as a pet. I recall going to bed one summer night, sleeping with the windows open. Just when I started dozing off I started to hear intermittent squeaks from my backyard. After a few minutes of this I decided to look out the window. Since it was a beautiful moonlit night I was able to see what was going on. Our cat had caught a mouse and was “playing” with it. He’d catch it, let go and catch it again. This went on for some time until I guess the poor mouse was no more. The same cat also caught and killed squirrels on several occasions and brought them home to us as presents.

    KettlebellMan wrote on March 17th, 2011
  2. You make a good point. We have made ourselves a world at odds with our own natures. I recently left a corporate job that required me to sit still too long and be awake when I should be sleeping. Today, my life is simpler. I have time to walk, time to sleep and time to notice that the linden tree is budding and the neighborhood squirrels seem to have multiplied.

    What are my crickets? My small flock of backyard chickens graciously provide me with both eggs and endless hours of entertainment, and my garden feeds me and lets me revel in the magical way simple seeds, dirt and sunshine become food. Our lives are so complicated. My little urban farm reminds me it doesn’t have to be that way all the time.

    Thanks for a great suggestion on entertaining cats!

    Bonnie wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • “I recently left a corporate job that required me to sit still too long and be awake when I should be sleeping.”

      YES.

      wildshan wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • Did the same thing, quit corporate land 15 months ago. I love my simple life, my cats entertain me and are far better ‘cubicle’ mates then I previously had. If I get a stressed feeling or feel the need for fresh air, a 3 minute drive and I can go hiking at 10 am on a weekday with not a soul around. I have cut back expenses and would gladly give up even more ‘luxuries’ at this point as long as I could stay out of an office for good! Boy have my priorities shifted the last few years.

      Erin wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • Their is a fantastic chance I will be quitting my job tomorrow. Oh how awesome it will feel when I leave. Time to live life EXTREMELY simple!

      Primal Toad wrote on March 17th, 2011
      • Until there is phonetic spelling your simplicity will still need to include the distinction between “there” and “their”!
        You either have a “simple life” or “live life simply”!

        Nigel wrote on March 18th, 2011
        • You must be a peach at parties, Nigel.

          another halocene human wrote on March 19th, 2011
    • Same here. I left a hyper-prestigious, hyper-intense corporate job that required me to ignore my body’s and mind’s needs in the service of making money – my need for sleep, for healthy food, for wearing shoes that don’t hurt my feet, for staring at things other than a computer monitor, for spending time outside, for adequate rest and relaxation, for socializing with my friends. To me, the money wasn’t worth it, and I could feel my health declining because the natural needs of my body and my mind weren’t being met.

      No more. I started my own practice last month, and now I get to set my own schedule and decide what my working conditions are. And if I want to go for a walk in the middle of the day to admire all the beautiful flowers in my neighborhood, I can do that now.

      LM wrote on March 20th, 2011
  3. Hey Mark,

    I think this story is a good example how evolution inside a specie is much slower than the learning process a single individual can have in a lifetime.

    Some things are still in our genes and we can’t ignore them if we want to have healthy and happy lives.

    Cheers,

    Eduard - People Skills Decoded wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • The word “species” is used for both the singular and plural forms of the noun.

      Nigel wrote on March 18th, 2011
      • Stop with the pedantism, please.

        lojasmo wrote on March 19th, 2011
  4. about once a week, when its sunny outside, ill run to a forest area near by. Ill take off my clothes and paint my self to look like a tiger, run into the trees. Then when night sets, ill lie in wait for the foolish deer to cross my path, unknowing that man-tiger awaits him in the bush. When that imbecile deer is munching its precious last bit of grass, ill spring out and end its life with a bite to the throat, then thank the forest spirit for my food that night. i will then walk home with the deer in my mouth, and its blood covering my naked-tiger stripped body.

    Chris wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • You were stripped but the tiger was striped!
      More conventional to use “I’ll” rather than “ill”.

      Nigel wrote on March 18th, 2011
      • Thanks Nigel, people love it when you correct them.

        Rather than treat each comment like a “Where’s Waldo?” book for typing errors, why not try and contribute something meaningful? For instance, my “crickets” are long shirtless walks in the sun with my dog and nights spent lounging around with the fam. What’re yours?

        Calvin wrote on March 18th, 2011
        • Obviously Nigel’s crickets are correcting others grammar errors. I can appreciate that! Does Nigel have tattoos or piercings; probably not…sounds like a civilized gent.

          Marc wrote on May 21st, 2012
  5. This article reminded me of a quote from the movie, the African Queen:

    Humphrey Bogart (Mr Allnut): A man takes a drop too much once in a while, it’s only human nature.

    Katherine Hepburn: Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.

    How sad that so many people follow that belief. My personal crickets are hunting and fishing. Even then I strive to keep things as simple as possible. It was a long time ago that my traditional archery equipment replaced by Hi-tech compound bow and my Kayak replaced my motor boat which had been loaded with silly electronic fish finders.

    John

    John wrote on March 17th, 2011
  6. I do this too….
    “A bloody steak. I need at least two or three a week. I’m even guilty of not letting the steak rest for five minutes before digging in. I dunno – I sometimes like the juices to get everywhere. I also lick the plate.”

    Forest bathing – so that’s what it’s called. I didn’t go out as much this winter as past winters and I seriously missed my walks on the trails in the local park. I’ve been able to get out recently and I feel much better now.

    Going shirtless – at least here in the U.S. not an option for females. The closest I get is a camisole. Also there are some men who I would also rather not see shirtless…

    Lynna wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • “Going shirtless – at least here in the U.S. not an option for females. The closest I get is a camisole. Also there are some men who I would also rather not see shirtless…”

      There are MANY places where it is actually legal for women to be shirtless in the US. We are just culturally programed to ignore that fact. I sometimes think we need to just stage a ‘it’s legal lets do it’ day so no one is going it alone. And then do it often enough that it just becomes the way it is.

      Noctiluca wrote on March 17th, 2011
      • Where are those places?

        I can get away with it on my farm, but a couple of times I’ve gotten caught.

        shannon wrote on March 17th, 2011
        • NYC subways, for one.

          lojasmo wrote on March 19th, 2011
      • Noctiluna, given your use of ‘we’ I am going to assume you are female. Women have made great strides over the past century in being able to wear less restrictive clothing (among other things like, oh say, voting), but the ‘cultural programming’ of which you speak that keeps most women from taking advantage of laws that allow their public shirtlessness is called ‘rape culture.’ If a woman is sexually assaulted, in our culture, one of the first things we look at is what she was wearing. Have you heard about that 11-year-old girl who was gang-raped in Texas a few weeks ago? There is video of at least 18 boys and men raping this child. News articles about the attack almost always mentioned that this particular girl “dressed like a 21 year old,” with the implication that the 11 year old was obviously asking to be raped. I don’t know what 21 year old woman selects her clothes in the morning hoping to snag a gang rape, but that is beside my point.

        My point is that every day in this culture, we question women’s rights to control their own bodies. If a woman dresses a certain way, and a man behaves in a criminal, or even just unpleasant, way to her, we blame the woman for the encounter because she was the one who chose the outfit. There are lots of laws being proposed in this country that would take away a woman’s right to control her own body if she happens to be impregnated.

        I wish, I wish, I wish that I could enjoy the same privilege that most men have, to walk around shirtless and just feel the sun on my skin. But given that at least four times this *winter* I have been verbally harassed by strange men on the street while I was wearing a damn parka, I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon.

        Tina wrote on March 18th, 2011
        • Great point Tina.
          When we live in a Utopian society, where women are not treated like sexual objects, then I will feel comfortable going topless.
          That said, Noctulina’s idea is not totally out of the question. Large groups of women going topless would be safer and it would make topless females seem more common place.
          Still, the issue is more complicated than that. :(

          Robin wrote on March 26th, 2011
    • Topless is definitely an option in the US. Many (but not all) communities outlaw exposing one’s genitals or anus. Breasts, of course, are neither.

      I live in Austin, TX and going topless is completely legal here. There’s a city park with a spring fed swimming hole called Barton Springs. Women (and men) go topless there all the time.

      Quag wrote on March 20th, 2011
  7. like mark, i need my steak, sunshine, windsprints, and heavy lifting. i also need gut-busting laughs – specifically with my best friends, playing with kids, and wrestling around/play fighting. doing something creative (singing in the shower/car, dance, art, writing) has been powerfully de-stressing, too, tho it doesn’t strike me as particularly primal…

    …and i didn’t know that cats were so recently domesticated. this explains why they always think they own the place. i am more than happy to leave them outside to not try to run my life.

    Amy wrote on March 17th, 2011
  8. Sex, nature fun-time, finding things to eat outside, gardening (and the resulting acute awareness of the weather), competitive running and bicyle riding in the countryside. Naps, camping trips, no-shower weeks, dancing and nudity are up there too.

    I think the term “zoo humans” is particularly apt…

    Turbochaser wrote on March 17th, 2011
  9. I had one of my recurrent nightmares last night: it’s the “lost in the city” nightmare, where I’m in a dark, industrial city, and I’m lost, and I can’t find my way out. In the version of this dream last night, I was actually crawling under the floorboards of a house, through cobwebs, toward the light!

    I think this is about my life in Houston, where I work during the school year. Right now, though, I’m at my farm in TN, where I’m usually happy. My “crickets” are gardening, walking with dogs, “hunting” with a camera, no running water (heating hauled water up on the stove and pouring it on myself and my dishes), spinning and knitting and weaving and sewing, etc.

    But right before I have to go back to Houston, I have my “lost in the city” dream usually.

    shannon wrote on March 17th, 2011
  10. Loud music.

    I have a need to periodically crank up my favorite tunes and then just get lost in the beat and the feeling of the music.

    I’ve always believed that music is one of man’s most primal activities and I recently read an article about drum circles and a quick search shows that they’ve been discussed a bit here at MDA.

    Sounds right to me.

    Chris wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • Sounds like me – I have an Mp3player on my bike, usually blaring at full blast.

      Sigh, my family to have a cat like this. We had a system – I’d mimic his hunting chatter to alert him there was a moth or mosquito hawk in the house. If the bug was too high up, the little brat expected me to hold him up while he nailed the bug.

      Sadly, his life was shortened and nearly by those “greenies” treats that are supposed to be good for him. He was better off eating the bugs.

      Andrea wrote on March 17th, 2011
      • oops, I mean nearly ended

        Andrea wrote on March 17th, 2011
      • My “youngest son” (a Siamese) was the only one of my three who was a *rabid* moth eater… There was one month a year where these fat (juicy {shudder}) dusty moths would be all over the place, and at night, as I walked down the hall to the bedroom, Rico would stalk alongside me — watching as I used a fly swatter to whack (probably 15-20 of) these icky things off the ceiling, and he’d pounce and devour. By the bedroom door — his whole face was moth-dusted! But he LOVED those bedtime snacks! (I just wanted ‘em out of the house… If that meant through a cat’s stomach, okay-fine.)

        Elenor wrote on March 18th, 2012
  11. Very nice article and beautiful cat BTW,

    Thank you

    Anna wrote on March 17th, 2011
  12. I also love being outdoors-skiing, hiking, kayaking, whatever…I love stroking moss covered trees and rocks; it feels good! I love gardening, and even though my land is tiny (maybe a total of 50 sqft), I try to dig into the earth and see what worms are underneath, and weed and sow seeds and harvest delicious foods.
    I also love spinning yarn, touching fiber that was (usually) on an animal beforehand, smelling the ‘sheepy’ lanolin smell. I love going to (happy) farms or wool festivals and looking at all the different sheep! (And eating lamb!)

    Mmmm.... wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • Think about a square foot garden, google that. They’re cheap and space efficient

      James wrote on March 17th, 2011
  13. Mark has spoken before about the innate “primal” nature of children when they play. My two year old son is a perfect example. All he ever wants to do is run, jump, climb things, pick up large heavy (for him) objects and move them around…

    And all of these activities were vital to ancient human survival. And it occurred to me recently that as parents, we spend a lot of time telling our kids NOT to do exactly those things: “Don’t run in the house! Don’t climb on the bookcase! Don’t try to move the furniture! Stay off the stairs!”

    We do it to protect them from hurting themselves, and also to protect our stuff from getting damaged or broken.

    But I wonder if this constant stifling of their instincts might (at least partially) account for the “terrible twos”. This is the time in their lives where they’re *supposed* to be honing these skills, and we’re constantly trying to tame them.

    Might this explain the ensuing power struggles and tantrums over trivial matters?

    In the summer we can spend a lot more time outdoors and allow the kids can be more free to run and climb. Playgrounds are awesome for that. But most of us can’t be in that environment all day, every day.

    And it’s even worse in the winter. We had so much snow and bitter cold this winter that playing outside was rarely an option.

    Jon wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • ..or why kids have to be drugged in order to conform to sitting still, hours on end, in school.

      Lilian wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • Yes. I love this perspective. My son is always experimenting with dropping things in water or ‘testing out gravity’ by throwing different objects down on to the floor. Sometimes it gets old but I like to try to have the attitude that he is just seeing how things work, which is true most of the time.

      Cassie wrote on March 18th, 2011
  14. awesome blog idea Mark, I often try to make a similar point in conversations with my family and friends but I have never laid it out so comprehensively as you have. thanks for the material!

    Brendan wrote on March 17th, 2011
  15. I have two furballs and can very much relate to this on both the human and feline levels. I try to play with my cats as much as I can, not only for their good but for mine – the antics are enough to make me crack up laughing. The Himalayan loves to play in the (dry) tub, and the Angora needs her soft fuzzy ball to play with.

    My crickets are grass fed meat every day, walks outside, meditating at least an hour a day, my book collection and getting together with friends.

    The zoo humans is very apt – those of us that live in apartments/condos/townhomes – the cage imagery is spot on.

    Time to go for a walk outside in the finally here MN springtime!

    Kethry wrote on March 17th, 2011
  16. What a great article.
    Nice job.

    -Arthur

    Arthurb999 wrote on March 17th, 2011
  17. I go mountain biking. If I don’t go a couple times a week I get antsy, grouchy and downright hard to be around.
    I know, a high tech mountain bike isn’t exactly primal. But, I think it it sratches the primal itch. I get to be in the woods. I get some good old fashioned adrenalin going. It is a varied workout. It requires a lot of concentration, so I forget all my other worries for awhile.
    So, that’s my crickets…..

    Chris Harper wrote on March 17th, 2011
  18. Awesome post Mark!
    We had a cat growing up that was a house cat. He went from a barn cat to the house, pretty much went nuts and would throw up 2-3 times a day sometimes. Finally, I remembered my mom threw him out of the house one day, looked at him, and told him to “live or die, your choice”. That cat disappeared for 3 months, and I was sure he died out there. But one day this cat was sitting on our porch, 3 times as big as before and 10 times as happy.
    What’s funny is that I always felt something in common with that cat, like we both had a kind of instinctual animal nature. I could tell he needed to be outside just as I did. that’s probably why I’m drawn towards adventure racing and crossfit and a paleo lifestyle.
    My cricket is adventure. I need more in my life right now. I don’t even think it matters what it is, just need something to do out in nature that’s risky and makes me feel alive.

    James wrote on March 17th, 2011
  19. Hunting. Eating meat. Dancing in the desert with a mask on my head. Waking up at dawn and walking to the fire while the moon sets behind the hill. Creating art. Road trips. Riding horses. Walking in the woods nearby.

    Samantha Moore wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • I love that! Creating art IS primal! I never even thought of that but it’s definitely one of my crickets too! I do computer 3d modeling for work but sometimes I need some clay in my hands or to finger paint!

      Robin wrote on March 26th, 2011
  20. Dance of all sorts, but particularly partner dancing of some kind. Salsa is a must in my week!

    Sex. Even though I’ve chosen (for a number of complex reasons) to be celibate for the first half of this year, I definitely indulge in self-loving…and I look forward to July!

    Brazilian jiu jitsu. There’s just something about grappling that I LOVE. I’m working to find more time for it in my life!

    Connecting with my kids. This is vital. I love to get them outside, but I also love to get involved in complex games with them, art projects, deep bedtime conversation, silly games at the dinner table, you name it. And from the primal perspective, I would’ve gone completely nuts without breastfeeding and my much-used mei-tai (baby carrier)!

    Ginger Baker wrote on March 17th, 2011
  21. Kind of ironically, watching the cat (I think he’d be offended if I called him MY cat) hunt is one of mine. It’s kind of a reminder that you can take the animal out of the wild but it’s hard to take the wild out of the animal. It would be more fun if he would stop treating my toes as prey, but they’re about the only living things he gets a chance to actually hunt.

    Being in the water. Not so much swimming for the sake of getting from A to B or exercise, but splashing around and wading/floating. I’m lucky enough to live in an area with a hot climate but cool, spring-fed water available year-round.

    Sunlight on bare skin is definitely up there, to the point where I pay the ridiculously high entry fees for the local clothing-optional swimming hole a few times a summer, since my apartment balcony overlooking a busy area kind of restricts what can and can’t get sunlight. (Swimming without a suit is also a really nice feeling, too.)

    Climbing to the top of a high peak and seeing the view. I’ve been in spots where even just climbing the embankment at the side of the road was far more spectacular than the view from road level.

    DL wrote on March 17th, 2011
  22. Mark,

    I do get the point of your post as I own cats myself amongst reptiles, birds and tarantulas. It is a challenge and a responsibility to keep house pets stimulated for optimal health and harmony. However feeding any of your pets with crickets from a “Pet Megastore” is just like playing Russian roulette with the animals life.

    I used to exclusively feed my tarantulas off of crickets from my local Petsmart and as a result I’ve lost several healthy normal tarantulas to poisoning at the same time. I’ve also lost a few crickets that managed to make it to the floor and were consumed by the cat before I had a chance to stop it. Which at the time I wouldn’t have interfered because the cats enjoyed it and I didn’t see anything wrong. I live in a bug free house due to my cats insect hunting capabilities and I definitely encourage it. Well some of my T’s died and one of my cats became quite ill for a week or so afterwards.

    I did some research into the matter and went on to my tarantula web boards to contact several experts as to why my T’s had died and due to obvious signs such as white foam in the T’s mouth and specks around the bodies it was clear that the insects were carrying nasty parasites that killed the spiders.

    I did more research and found that it is common to receive tainted batches of crickets when buying from Pet Megastores. Due to many conditions such as ignorance, insanitary breeding conditions and the fact that crickets cannibalize the dead (healthy or not) it is common for store bred crickets to carry some really nasty parasites and trace amounts of arsenic and other poisons, not to mention diseases that can and will affect your pets health.

    The alternative is to buy crickets from healthier sources or only let your cat eat natural insect prey it finds roaming the house as chances are they are less likely to encounter tainted insects however if you live near industrialized farm land those free roaming insects are likely to contain trace amounts of pesticides and I would encourage that if you can stop your pets from eating them you probably should.

    I also want to point out that crickets are not an optimal source of nutrition either if you compare them with cockroaches which are far more superior nutritional and protein wise. Both are relatively easy insects to breed at home in a small tub but if you are going to breed either, roaches are far cleaner, live longer and don’t smell horrible like cricket colonies do.

    Before anyone gets upset or disgusted I am not referring to the small, speedy house roaches one might find living in squalor, I am talking about hissing roaches or B. Dubia’s which among many other roach breeds are slower moving, larger non-climbing species perfect as prey or breeding no matter what you feed, cat or spider. (For the record I don’t breed either but have met and seen people that do.)

    If you think about it this kinda falls into the whole corn fed vs grass fed debate. Now imagine if some of the corn fed cows had mad cow disease that there was no way to tell until you died from it. I would imagine you would choose grass fed beef almost every time unless you really trusted the source. Thats how I feel about feeding untrusted crickets to your animals.

    Just to clarify I am not slamming MegaStores and I’m not a bleeding heart PETA member nor am I trying to be a scaremonger or anything like that. I am merely pointing out something that I didn’t know about feeding crickets as prey that I had to find out the hard way.

    I do know for a fact that my T’s died from tainted crickets but I don’t have a correlation on whether my cat became ill directly as a result of a tainted cricket and it seems to be ok now but it only ate one or two bad ones. Who knows maybe if I had fed it 13 tainted crickets or so it might have been much more serious.

    Feel free to do some research on the matter and come up with your own opinion(s) on the matter it doesn’t matter to me. Just know that tainted crickets are common to get from Pet Stores and that they CAN (not necessarily will) have detrimental effects to your pets health.

    Tjohns wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • Fascinating information! One reason I love reading MDA is that so many thoughtful folks share so many thought-provoking posts.

      Julie wrote on March 18th, 2011
    • Interesting. You say to get crickets from “healthier sources” — what would you suggest?

      When I worked at a pet store we got our crickets shipped from the same cricket dealers I’ve heard some reptile breeders use (Fluker’s, etc.)

      We made sure they turned over pretty quickly and fed them to minimize cannibalism.

      Still, I wonder if there’s really much we can do about whether any given batch of crickets has a higher parasite load than another.

      Jenny wrote on March 19th, 2011
  23. This post reminds me of a book I read recently by Temple Grandin called Animals Make Us Human. Having the cat hunt for crickets fulfills its “seeking” desire. All animals have this “seeking” drive, and it needs to be met in order to be psychologically healthy. If you enjoyed this post, I highly recommend the book.

    John wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • I was gonna say “a problem to solve” but seeking seems to fit better. I enjoy mystery novels and movies. I look for things that cause me to look for more things (answers, new experiences, better ways of doing anything).

      Julian wrote on March 17th, 2011
  24. Playing sports and waking up naturally with no alarm clock. Normally whenever the sun rises.

    Gary Deagle wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • Oh how sweet it is. Waking up naturally without alarm clock but instead when the sun rises! I have soo much more energy when I do this! In about 2 weeks I will be able to do this daily for the rest of the spring/summer. I can’t wait.

      Primal Toad wrote on March 17th, 2011
  25. Great article, Mark! A great story and an even better message for all of us.

    I’ve always been a “cat person”…now I understand why!

    Brett wrote on March 17th, 2011
  26. Nice crickets — I’d take all those, plus add the need for some naps.

    Nicky Spur wrote on March 17th, 2011
  27. My cricket is watching my dog go after his “cricket”. He truly believes that if he follows every fox trail, he will eventually catch one. Every set of fox tracks in the snow MUST be investigated. I know the fox will never be in danger, especially in the deep snow as the dog is a corgi ^,,^

    Peggy wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • Peggy you just gave me a big smile picturing your corgi pushing his little legs through deep snow to complete his mission :)

      Kellie wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • I agree about watching the dog go after his “cricket.” My Jack Russell loves it when I let her run through the woods smelling and investigating. They say walks and smelling keeps dog’s minds active and stave off dementia…..with Shiloh reaching 15 years this month, she still acts like a puppy and many people mistake her for one.

      Dragonfly wrote on March 18th, 2011
  28. I really love my weekly basketball game when I get so focused on getting the ball that I go into what I call “doggy mode”, in which I don’t even notice how hard I’m working out. I just need to get that ball!

    Medicine ball slams are my second favorite, but it’s not the same level as playing against opponents.

    dragonmamma wrote on March 17th, 2011
  29. The first rule about Fight Club — don’t talk about Fight Club.

    rob wrote on March 17th, 2011
  30. my cricket is martial arts. it’s challenging and liberating. it enables me to push my body to its limits and discipline my mind.

    bee wrote on March 17th, 2011
  31. as for my silly cat (who gets raw homeground meat for food along with a tiny bit of kibble as treats), she doesn’t seem to know that mice are for eating. she hunts and kills them, but never makes an attempt to eat them.

    bee wrote on March 17th, 2011
  32. Wonderful blog,

    The timing is perfect, this is an issue I’ve been focusing a lot on recently. Personally, I find I have the most problems when I’m not doing the following things.

    1) Getting enough quality time with family and friends. We are pack animals, most cultures still keep multiple generations under the same roof, and I feel that is natural. Being I don’t live with my parents or have a family of my own, sometimes I have to look elsewhere to fill this void. This can be a partner, co workers, direct family or even a tight group such as the people I play pick up basketball with. If I have no one else, I find a good fiction book with good characters can fill the void well, as night is the time I feel I need companionship the most. I’ve found if I don’t have something to fill this void on a constant basis, I do poorly.

    2) Exercise, my body simply freaks out if I go too long with out it. That is a rarity though. And as Mark says, that intense exercise that gives you the ‘rush’ feels best.

    3) Sex and romance, obviously.

    4) Getting proper nutrition, which is the distinct focus of our whole primal/paleo way of life.

    5) Getting outside and getting some fresh air, awwwwwww.

    I think it is pretty clear why we need all these things, because for millions of years we evolved depending on these emotions for survival. The need for companionship keeps us together (power in numbers), the need for exercise keeps us fit and strong (to escape from predators and hunt prey), sex keeps the species going :P and proper nutrition and clean air to breath keeps us healthy and alive as long as possible. Our emotions tell us to do these things because millions of years of evolution tells us we will perish otherwise…talk about stressful.

    Jeff wrote on March 17th, 2011
  33. Has anyone noticed that the evil behaviors we refer to as our animal nature tend to be unique to humans? But the ones referred to as human nature, tend to be universal in the animal kingdom? The biggest exception is sexual desire (vs rape). It’s the biggest one we have the common sense to call animal nature. Like it’s a bad thing. Mankind has one huge ego.

    I’m with Mark, take off the accouterments of civilizations and we’re just mammals. (not ‘just’, this is an amazing thing). Repression serves no one, be free (within reason).

    Void_provocateur wrote on March 17th, 2011
  34. I lick my plate too!! best way to end a good steak.

    Abby wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • I feel as if I’m depriving my dog if I lick my own plate. She thinks that’s her job.

      shannon wrote on March 17th, 2011
  35. My crickets are sleeping as much as I want, (self employed) walking on the beach or in the woods with our wound up dog, and cooking wild game or fish for dinner that my very caveman husband has drug home. I guess that is another cricket for me, living and sleeping with a wild caveman that was that way long before it was popular. He hikes, hunts, fishes and “scouts game” all year long. Our freezer is full thanks to him.
    Here’s to the wild side in all of us.

    Dana Zia wrote on March 17th, 2011
  36. Walking outside, focusing hard (like hunting, I guess,) living without a lot of ‘stuff.’

    I come from the UK where we wouldn’t dream of keeping cats indoors so it was a bit of shock to find that cats in CA are expected to use a litter box their whole life. I considered it for a moment when it was time to rescue two cats but I couldn’t do it. How unnatural.

    We live in surburbia, there are some nocturnal predators but very few cars so they go outside during the day, indoors at night. I wouldn’t have a cat if it had to stay inside 24/7. I couldn’t bear it.

    Alison Golden wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • Cats are predators particularly when feral.

      Nigel wrote on March 18th, 2011
  37. Our cats stay indoors alot due to the fact that they enter the food chain if they go outside here. I have lost at least two cats that way. Lots of coyotes.

    Dana Zia wrote on March 17th, 2011
  38. I haven’t indulged many of my own crickets in a while and I’m paying for it. I have a mound of school work and I think I am comming to my limit of this s**t.

    I love bike riding,sleeping out doors, and going to the shooting range. Next year I am going to learn how to hunt.

    To keep myself somewhat happy I eat lots of raw meat and go hiking on the weekend after work when I can.

    primal tree top wrote on March 17th, 2011
  39. My crickets are open water swims and hiking. Also shaving my head and growing a beard too.

    Dom wrote on March 17th, 2011
  40. On a related note, the Vet I have worked with since I enterd into animal rescue 20 some years ago hung up her shingle in 1961. She told me (and she has never been wrong) that “back in the day”, before dry catfood was mass produced and marketed, she NEVER saw a single urinary tract blockage in cats (the males have the most trouble)… Now she gets two or three a week. According to her the cheapest wet catfood is better for your indoor male cat than the most expensive dry food…. My male cat has had no problems since wet catfood became the norm… NEVER surgery for this condition… All ya need to make things worse is scar tissue!

    Notch wrote on March 17th, 2011

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