“Predator or Prey?” (October 2006)

**Note: This essay focuses mainly on my cat therianthropy in regards to this topic with only a brief mention of my horse therianthropy. However, this subject in relation to my horse side can be found in “Midnight Sand” under ‘Herds Amongst the Grasslands’ and ‘Emotions and Instincts’. Other future writings may contain content on my avian and mongoose therianthropy for this topic.**

This is a subject that gets thrown around from time to time in the therianthropy community, yet most discussions simply avoid the breadth of the subject that could be talked about. The concept is treated as though animals have to be predator OR prey, and I can’t find enough logic in that. They are not entirely, mutually exclusive concepts; yet when it comes to a person’s theriotype, that person is expected to mention it in terms of predator OR prey—black OR white. Animals aren’t so simplistic all of the time that they can always be placed in such perfect little boxes of “this or that” with nothing in between. Yes, I have a ‘prey’ animal (horse) as a theriotype, as well as ‘predatory’ theriotypes, but it’s not such a clean-cut concept.

Cat does not fit into that perfect little labeled box of “predator only”, because she is prey also, and knows it well (or at least believes she is potential prey; whether such occurs often for the species or not). I experience the prey-mind of Cat more often than the predatory mind. And yet, I also find that understandable giving that I don’t see the “predatory-mindset” as being something that an animal stays in so often—it seems more like a mindset that may make up a small percentage (or at the least, not the entirety if even majority) of the animal’s conscious, waking hours. Prey animals do not know when they will fall victim to some threat or predator, so they must remain vigilant in a, or more so, “prey mindset”. For a prey animal, deciding to be vigilant of any possible threats or potential attacks such a small percentage of the time, like it is something to do only a few times a day, probably on a whim, and only for a few minutes or so—is not a good idea; at least in the wild. It’s not safe to sit there and think that the predator is going to be kind enough to only attack you when you feel like (or it’s just “that time of the day”) for you to be in your ‘prey mind’—“come back later, I’m in neutral mode right now, so I don’t want you to attack me when I don’t want to be vigilant and cautious currently”.

The predator mind, in my eyes, is something likely experienced much less often, and I don’t see it as (the actual mindset) always having to be there constantly, at all times (for all predatory animals, that is) just because that animal does predate sometimes, or each day. They don’t all have to be in “must hunt now” mode at all hours awake, but depending on the particular animal or species, some need to do it more than others. Some predatory animals will spend hours a day searching out prey animals, catching, and then eating them, while some may do it for a short time once or multiple times a day, and even some don’t have to hunt every single day. When it comes to predator-or-prey, the specific variances among animals can offer up some interesting diversity.

I suppose, to an extent, the prey or predator mindsets for me, therianthropically, can be defined as “perspectives”, but maybe I’m just so accustomed to them being part of how I am that I don’t tend to think of them as “different” points-of-view. But I do understand that they can be or are differing perspectives to some level, just as I may have a different perspective on things depending on my mood at the time—if I’m in a very joyous, happy mood, I may likely view things somewhat different to if I was in a depressed, or angry mood. I’ve said before that I know the prey mind, as also the predator mind—in vague senses of the terms—but I think it’s the level and the specific type (species related) that I know, in regards to what’s worth noting for it. Humans can and do feel predatory or as prey at times, although in developed society we may, depending on the person and situation, experience those in noticeable levels less often and tend to gravitate more toward a neutral mode. And I think for me, I stay most often in a neutral-mind, regarding this concept, especially at home or other rather familiar places where I am more comfortable with my surroundings and accustomed to the typical stimuli that most often occur in them. Although, that complacency has its own level of danger to it, because it’s a time and place in which I’m probably more vulnerable, on the account that I’m not being vigilant enough of my surroundings or any potential danger that could happen. So, if something potentially dangerous or threatening does occur, I need to snap into a fight-or-flight mode quickly, but depending on the situation, I wonder if that would be fast enough.

In contrast, though, when I am in an unfamiliar place, or in a public area, I tend to lean more toward a prey mind, most particularly of Cat. I think having the feline prey mind in those cases is more manageable than the very edgy, easily spooked, and “need to run” equine mind. I become more interested in keeping myself safe from falling victim to being ‘prey’ by doing things that drag less attention to myself (whether they actually do or not, I think of them as doing so). Whether it’s hiding behind some object or staying very still when a car passes when I’m in my yard, or not letting people see me eat when I’m at college as I choose to eat when no one’s in the room/area to see me, or just keeping fairly quiet in classroom discussions, among other specific variances of my cat-mind tactics of “don’t let them think of you as prey”.

Something I’ve noticed for a long time, but only recently thought about, is that I tend to feel “small” around people sometimes. I feel like I’m physically smaller than I actually am, and that the ‘smallness’ makes me [feel] more vulnerable to those people. I used to think it was just because I was young (even though it would occur when I talked to people of my own age), such as when I was a child or teenager, but now that I’m 20, an adult, and I ‘feel’ like an adult, I still get that feeling of being small sometimes. Maybe it has some influence from my therianthropy, from Cat, as part of that prey mind; I’m still thinking about that, though. I had determined quite awhile ago that Cat is a small species of cat (maybe as big as a caracal, or as small as or smaller than a wildcat/domestic cat), and that especially the size creates some bearing on the extent of the prey mind for how I experience it. It’s an area that I’m still sorting through and trying to figure it out, but I continue to make progress. As also, something to note about my feline prey-mind is that it may not really be about being killed for food-purposes (of being eaten by the hunter), but instead for competitive purposes, such as being a rival for food in the area to larger predators—though it doesn’t make much difference in the prey-mind, because the point is to not fall as prey to a hunter, regardless of the purpose behind the hunter’s intentions.

Pertaining to my predatory mindset, it’s something that doesn’t occur much, but I have experienced it numerous times before. There’s just not much need for it, considering that I have no need to actually hunt my food. Yet, there have been times when I have thought of pouncing on or attacking something, whether to eat it, or more likely, to have succeeded at catching it, like for ‘practice’ of my ‘hunting skills’; I never act on such desires though (I’d probably fail anyway at “the hunt”). I do, however, have desires more often (compared to the hunting ones) to take the offense and attack things, for non-food-related purposes, which is something that I very rarely act on; I’m just a rather passive, docile person when it comes to offense or defense, and I luckily haven’t been landed in a position where physical fighting needed to take place (other than the typical play fighting with my siblings when I was a kid; I stayed on defense then, though). But I’ll have my times of growling, hissing, or snarling in my mind, or out loud if I’m in private, when I’m angry or view something as a “threat” (in some idea of the word). And in my mind I end up thinking sometimes that growling or snarling, and looking bigger or more dominant should be enough to get rid of supposed ‘danger’—that I want it to be enough that the negative thing goes away just by me standing up for myself without having to actually attack; it ends up being an instinctual thought with little logic behind it.

Overall, carnivore doesn’t equal “always, entirely predatory”, or herbivore equal “always, entirely prey-mindset”, in that a carnivore can have a prey mindset along with a predatory one, or even some typically herbivorous animals (that of which have to go out of their food-range and be omnivorous) can be predatory, such as a particular population of deer that must kill and eat small animals in order to survive; but also that omnivores, herbivores, carnivores, scavengers, can experience neutral mindsets with little to no leaning toward “predator or prey” for a period of time. I think the subject is far from the black-or-white concept, and can be interesting to explore, whether regarding therianthropy, being human, or just animals themselves.