A long time friend of mine had a cat named "La Bete" which he said was French for "the Beast."
Many years ago, he and I found a sick bird. We put it in a shoebox and attempted to nurse it back to health. At least until the cat found it.
"Why did it kill the bird?! I mean it has all the food it wants, but nonetheless it killed the poor thing!"
In retrospect, I could have rephrased the question: "What else would you expect the cat to do?"
As I'm fond of telling people, cats are obligate predators: their teeth and digestive tracts are not set up for plants. The cells of a cat are able to directly use protein for energy in more ways that those of an omnivore. When fed largely carbohydrates (i.e., dry cat food), they have a tendency to develop diabetes.
With an animal like that, hunting is not a matter of choice - it is "hard wired."
To coin a phrase, a cat is a beast.
Realizing this and planning around it gives me a measure of control. I can rage about how the cat should not kill a bird I found…or I can ask the next door neighbor to take care of it. I can lecture the cat about how it should moderate how much food it eats…but it would probably work better if I feed it wet cat food.
Understanding and planning around the nature of a cat is what I mean by "respecting the beast." What I find remarkable is that I can be rational about a cat, but I still find myself trying to change what I cannot in other situations.
"Why don't I exercise more?!!" Well, I've tried to change all my life by "reasoning" with myself with no success. On the other hand, putting on a good movie or DVD only when I exercise actually seems to work.
"I really should not buy junk food when I go to the supermarket!!" I tell myself that a lot, but making sure that I don't go shopping when I'm hungry has actually resulted in lost weight.
Looking around, I see a lot of other situations where this logic applies…