The Last Meow

By Harold Reynolds

NOTE: This is an article that I wrote for the now-defunct Cats Magazine. It was based on my experiences with the two cats that I had at the time, Stormy and Sylvester, pictures of whom can be seen in my photo album.

The cliche "finicky as a cat" is not one that I would have coined, based on my experiences with my two furry gluttons. I insist to them, especially during the daily 5:30 a.m. breakfast wakeup calls, that the universe does not revolve around their stomachs, but they would have me believe otherwise. Especially when they are being "banished" outside onto our balcony for the noise infractions.

In order to keep the box of low-ash "Lite" dry kibble from the four-footed stomachs, who would devour as much of its contents as they could if given the chance (and they have unfortunately had a couple of chances), we have to store it in the linen closet which is next to the bathroom. Opening this door, even for the retrieval of a non-food item, always generates the patter of little feet and, if it's within 2 hours of dinner time, noisy attempts to convince us of imminent death from starvation. When I actually am going to feed them, Stormy will jump up and try to reach the doorknob, then jump onto the second shelf, while Sylvester dances around in a circle and both are meowing in great anticipation. Silence, blessed silence, broken only by gobbling and crunching, descends as the masters set to cleaning their bowls. And they do clean them, licking them thoroughly to ensure that not a single grain goes to waste.

When the Magic Food Box comes up short, it's time to transfer food into it from the Magic Food Bag that I keep in the broom closet guarded by the Vacuum Monster. A certain amount of spillage is inevitable when transferring from an 8-kilogram bag to a regular sized box, and the cats make every effort to increase this amount by trying to knock the box over or get in the way of the flow of kibbles. Just to keep them busy, I'll often have to deliberately let some fall on the floor and see if I can finish pouring before they finish their high-speed grazing.

All this happens in the "official" feeding times. Any time a human wants to eat is an unofficial feeding time, known by cats as "sharing". Just like people, cats have food preferences and Stormy and Sylvester are no exceptions. Whenever I choose to have oatmeal (with raisins to make it edible) Stormy will jump on the counter and try to make off with a few raisins, no matter how severely she is squirted. If I try to give them a raisin each, Stormy will gobble hers and then try to muscle Sylvester out of his, even though she's a couple of pounds smaller than he is. Meanwhile Sylvester will stick close by me, often cuddling in my lap, while I eat it to make sure that I remember to let him clean the bowl when I'm done. Stormy always looks on in disgust as Sylvester gets his morning oatmeal fix. On the other hand, I cannot leave raw broccoli unsupervised in the kitchen because Stormy will jump onto the counter and try to snitch chunks of broccoli stem. The brazen little creature has even had the chutzpah (or chutzpaw in her case) to hop onto my lap during dinner and grab a pork chop bone, or during lunch and make off with the top slice of bread! If something particularly tantalizing is being served, they will both circle the table like sharks looking for dinner.

Bugs are a great, but fortunately occasional, source of snacks for our cats. Any flying insect which gets into our apartment and which passes within leaping distance from the floor is a goner. There is nothing quite like the acrobatics of two cats trying to catch a confused fly. More than once I have regretted not having a video camera to capture these antics.

I am not alone in dealing with the food obsession of my masters. If my family's (now departed) cat Ollie was in the house when someone was getting a cracker from the box, he'd be in the kitchen wanting his share. As the creator of the Bad Kitty List, I have had people tell me that their cats will eat bananas, cappucino, chocolate (not good for kitty!), hot Szechuan chicken (not fun for kitty!), tea, vegetarian casseroles, cantaloupe, beer, vegetable peelings, dog food, and other human foods. Other non-food items which people's cats have consumed or enjoyed chewing or licking include Q-tips, carpet, plants, phone cords, various bugs, socks, paper, photographs, envelope glue, listick, human's bathwater, candles, dust bunnies, and more.

The choice of a good, well-balanced food is important for the maintenance of your cat's health, especially as he/she ages. For the most part, the occasional human food treat will do no harm and will greatly increase your popularity rating, but be wary about giving too much which might throw his/her system out of balance, or foods such as milk products, which can result in unpleasant surprises if your cat's system is intolerant of them. As aggravating as the antics of your food-obsessed cat may be sometimes, it's good to know that there is a way we can obtain their complete and undivided attention for at least a little while.

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