Wednesday, November 22, 2017

COLUMN: Cat Food

My column is dangerouly veering towards self-parody this week. It's okay, though -- I'm well aware of it and we'll get through it together.

For years, I've said that our paper is staffed by qualified and exemplary journalists -- and one guy who writes about his cats WAY too much. Caution: I'm about to do it again. But when the heat index tops 100 and I spend an entire week holed up with the cats in air conditioning, no other topics really come to mind. Heat makes me want to do nothing, and if there's anybody in my life adept at doing nothing, it's my cats. But recently I've had to enter a new reality where "nothing" suddenly requires a high degree of maintenance.

My cat Bez is in kidney failure, so keeping her healthy has required a number of dramatic changes. As I'm typing this, she's under the bed hiding. Why? Because over the past two months, I've gone from being her best friend to my new role as the meanie who takes her to the vet every few days for the sub-cutaneous fluids she needs to survive.

But that's only part of the fun. To ease the workload on her kidneys, it's been recommended that I switch her from dry food to canned.

Even though I've owned cats for years, I've never actually felt like a cat person -- until the day I had to stand at the store trying to select moist cat food. In the time-honored battle of cat vs. dog, I'm giving this one to dogs. Dogs will pretty much eat ANYTHING you offer them: dog food, people food, toilet paper, styrofoam... they're not a discriminating sort. 

Cats, on the other hand, require their owners to menu plan. "SAVORY TURKEY MEDLEY WITH VEGETABLES," "CHICKEN & CHEDDAR CHEESE FEAST IN GRAVY." Really? Do cats really care about the savoriness of their dinner? If we're being realistic and going for what cats really want, shouldn't we see cans that say "SAVORY MOUSE ENTRAILS" or "DEAD BIRD WITH FEATHERS"?

I have never once owned a cat that's given chicken one bit of interest, and I'm pretty sure cats don't consider vegetables to be food. Cats don't give a mouse entrail about the presentation of their food, so long as its palatable. And at least judging by MY cats, their palates are pretty wack.

In fact, in all of Bez's life, I've only seen her get SUPER EXCITED to eat one thing, and it's too gross to even mention. So of course I'm going to.

The other day I was headed out the door with a friend when Isobel, my OTHER cat of the very sensitive stomach, made The Bad Noise -- it was hairball hacking time. As gross as it is, there's really nothing you can do but let nature take it's course and try to keep her on the tile floor where it's easier to clean. Ew.

As she was going about the awful business of throwing her gastrointestinal tract into reverse gear, I was using the restroom for a quick second before departing. That was when I heard my friend yell.

"Omigod," he said in a panic. I knew exactly what was happening.
"Ignore it, man," I said from the bathroom.
"But... your OTHER cat... so gross..."
"I know, dude. Just look away. Tell yourself it's not happening."

Let's just leave it at that and say that any cat excited to eat THAT is not going to be especially concerned about the savoriness of the vegetables in her turkey medley.

But after trying a few different varieties of moist cat food, I've begun to understand what owning a finicky cat is like. I've tried a couple flavors where Bez will run up, take one sniff, and look at me like, "Nope. I'd rather die of starvation, thanks." The other day, I opened a can of "SAVORY BEEF FEAST IN GRAVY," and I won't lie to you, it looked delicious and smelled like stew. If I was less concerned about what cow parts actually comprised this savory feast, I could see myself grabbing a spoon. Bez, on the other paw, seems to prefer just one thing: Chicken Pate'.

Pate' is a fancy word that sounds more appetizing than what it REALLY is, which is chicken mush. In my days, I've borne witness to most forms of chicken: raw, baked, Kentucky Fried, and even contentedly clucking about on a farm. In NONE of those forms was the chicken gelatinous and/or greyish-brown. I know chicken, and you, pate', are no chicken. You certainly don't smell like chicken. But so far, it's the only canned food my cat will eat. She'll nosedive into the stuff with hearty abandon, usually just before cuddling up next to me with pate' breath.

Moral of the story? Cats are weird, but not as weird as owners who stand around in stores planning their cat's menu. If gross chicken goo can keep my cat alive longer, I'm all in. If nothing else, it makes the hot dog I'm about to eat seem especially gourmet.

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