(Remember this concept?)
"Mordecai!" I snapped. "Stop that at once!"
The boy looked back over his shoulder at me: not startled, not guilty, just curious. Inwardly I groaned. Curious was his most dangerous mood.
"Why?" A spray of blood had spattered across his face, creating a contrasting constellation to his freckles.
"Because it's wrong." This was not an answer that ever went over well: I always started with it, anyway. Mordecai cocked his head.
"Why is it wrong? You dissect birds all the time."
"I don't dissect them. I dismember them. And I do it after they are dead," I said, sitting back on my haunches and wrapping my tail around my feet. "It makes them easier to eat."
Mordecai looked down at the still feebly-moving bird. If it had been any other boy, I'd have been impressed that he'd caught it in the first place: magpies are highly intelligent and not easily trapped. But my ward's cunning put even crafty old toms to shame. "If I eat him when I'm done," he said, "Will it be not wrong?"
I kept my face carefully blank, knowing this could set a dangerous precedent.
"No. It is always wrong for you to dissect- or dismember- a still-living creature."
He considered this for a moment. "What if I killed it before I cut into it?"
On what, indeed. For all of his five years I'd been watching over this child, attempting to unravel what made things right or wrong- a task complicated by the fact that cat morality differed starkly from human morality, and I was attempting to raise him with human morals. I wasn't always successful, since more often than not I was having to argue something I didn't necessarily agree with.
"On whether or not you need to eat. If you need to kill," I immediately saw the potential loophole and quickly corrected course, "If you need to kill an animal for food, it is acceptable to do so. But you are a little boy who is fed regularly by your parents, so you have no need to be killing. And if you are not killing something to eat it, you must not carve it up, because, as I have said, it would be a waste of life."
"But I'm learning," he said, annoyed. "And learning isn't a waste."
Damn human morality, anyway.