I think I missed my window to become a serial killer. One of the early stages involves killing animals, before working up to human beings, and by the time I started college I was already strangling my grandmother's cat.
Jinx was a very old cat by this time, at least as old as I was, but of course the years hang more heavily on pets. She'd gotten to the point where she didn't know if she was in or out of the litter box when she used it... tagging it with her front paws seemed sufficient. The inside of her mouth smelled like it was rotting. She seemed about as aware as she ever was, or at least I thought so at the time; looking back, I can remember her being much more active when I was little.
Jinx was part Siamese, and had this harsh wail of a voice, which she used readily. Up until that point, I'd thought her voice was cool, but by the time I graduated high school, I guess something had gone wrong in my head. I'd experienced a lot of change in the past year or so, and in the process, this previously suppressed rage was shaken loose. So when the cats and I were alone in the house, and Jinx started to make her noise, something in me took offense at it.
I remember coming up to her as she sat on the stool of my grandmother's bar, and closing my hands around her neck and squeezing her throat. I knew her air was cut off when she started to react and struggle, attempting to back out of my hold. She had been declawed years ago, so she couldn't have struck at me effectively, even if she'd thought to do so. Her eyes went very wide, and I think I actually made a point of looking into them, in an effort to divine whatever thoughts were in her head as she suffocated.
I was aware that she could die, I remember that, and I released her before I felt she'd gone too long without air. Afterward I had no particular thoughts about what I'd done, and it seemed as though my mind endeavored to forget it as quickly as possible. At no point did the fundamental irrationality of the act strike me; there was no logic behind it to consider. I left the room; a few minutes later I came back to pet her. Jinx didn't shy away from me; she seemed not to connect the suffocation with me at all, and was as pleased as ever by my touch.
I strangled Jinx at least once more, but not more than three times total. There was no reason for it; she was something available for me to hurt without consequence. I may have felt remorse after each episode, but I may not have. We had another cat, Sasha, and I don't recall choking her. Sasha was younger; she was also quieter and didn't smell, so it may have been she drew less attention to herself.
When I'd been in college a few months, I got the news that Jinx's back legs had given out, and that she was dragging them behind her as she moved around the house. I saw it for myself the next time I was home from school. I don't know how much my abuse of her contributed to this, but I'm certain now it had to have taken time off her life, as old and frail as she was. At the time, I didn't connect it with what I'd done to her. She was put to sleep a month later.
I've avoided having pets, because I don't feel I have sufficient time or interest to devote myself to a pet, but I wonder if subconsciously I also fear having a defenseless animal at my mercy, a feeling creature I can impose my will upon. It's certainly a worry now that I've recalled this memory. It's hard to imagine I would hurt a living thing which depends upon me, but at the same time it's very easy to imagine, because I've done it before, and it came upon me then without warning or explanation.