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How did it ever get to this?

Patricia Walkow
Humor - Vanquished

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How did it ever get to this?

           My beloved fourteen-year-old cat, Moxie, is showing some signs of age. He takes (that means I force down his throat) gastrointestinal medication, and I have been experimenting with different foods to determine what he likes and what his system will tolerate. He suffers from chronic pancreatitis and needs to gain about two pounds. That is not much of a weight gain for a human, but quite a bit for a cat. The prescription diet proffered by his veterinarian was a failure. Neither he, my younger cat, Maggie, nor even the dog would touch it.

           If a dog won't eat something, you know for sure a cat won't.

           This means I find myself reading canned cat food labels ad infinitum in the pet food specialty stores. Notice, I said specialty stores. "Specialty" is a synonym for "expensive." These are retail establishments where a three-ounce can of wet cat food can set you back between $1.29 and $2.79 in 2015 dollars.     

           Many cats ago, my little felines ate twenty-cents-a-can tuna or chicken cat foods—no fuss, no demands, no sophisticated palates. Now, cats have become gourmets. Sometimes it seems they require their food to have organic spinach or heirloom sweet potatoes in some sort of haute mélange. Do they secretly subscribe to Gourmet Kitty or Epicurean Feline magazine? Have we cat lovers raised their expectations to unsustainable levels?

           Does my Moxie want tuna today? Does he want it shredded, in paté, in flakes or chunks or nuggets or slices or sauce? Heavy sauce or light sauce? Sodium free? Gluten free? Grain free? Organic? Hormone free?

           Not in the mood for tuna? How about salmon? Wild salmon?

Trout? Mackerel? Sole? Cod? A mixture? Boiled, grilled, stewed, pureed or braised? Poached?

           When he prefers meat, Moxie might eat chicken, or turkey, or duck, or elk, or beef, or bison, or rabbit. Do you want chicken today, my precious? Free range only, you say? Feeling vegetarian today, Mox?  I bought that, also.

           I have a database of what he eats, when he eats it and his reaction to each variety. If I could rely on my database, my life would be easier. I can't fully depend on it, other than it indicates he really likes seafood. One week he might devour the flaked organic wild Alaskan salmon; the following week he might sneer at it and prefer cod, instead. North Atlantic wild cod, of course.

           Since my two cats don't eat only wet food, I find myself in the same predicament with dry food.

           Moxie is not as choosy about his dry food as he is with the canned stuff, although if I give him a dry food variety that is healthy for him, he doesn't want it just by itself. He acts out, trying to cover it the same way he covers you-know-what in the litter box. I resort to mixing the super-expensive premium dry food with the equivalent of kitty junk food, made mostly of grain and meat by-products. Then he'll eat it. 

           There are dry cat foods for indoor cats, longhaired cats, kittens, mid-life cats, senior cats, arthritic cats, cats with sensitive stomachs, lactating cats, cats with kidney issues, cats with allergies, cats with dental problems. So far, I have not found one for cats with emotional issues.    

           Occasionally I splurge on prosciutto, a smoked ham from Parma, Italy, for myself. Pound for pound, it is cheaper than some premium cat foods.

           Then there are kitty treats. These are diminutive delicacies packaged in cute little plastic bottles or colorful foil-lined bags. They have endearing names like Temptations®, Whisker Lickings'®, Party Mix™, Kittles™, Savory Bites® and Party Mix™.

           Whether one refers to them as hors d'oeuvres, appetizers or tapas, most cats find them scrumptious.

           These treats can be soft or hard, round or square, solid, hollow or stuffed. Old boy Moxie does not care if I place them in his regular food dish, in a Baccarat crystal bowl, or on the floor. He would like me to replace his dry food with all treats, but I refuse.

           Young Maggie, however, is considerably more discerning. At two years old, she is a genuine feline treat aficionado. She can sniff one for an hour.

           She has a special oval plate just for her treats. Usually I place one morsel in it. She will look at me and then commence her elaborate olfactory examination. Convinced I have not pleased her, I will place a different kind of treat next to the first one. She will stare at me, then inhale the scents of the delicacies in her plate. Sometimes I offer her a third, different edible delight. She will peer intently at me, glance at the tidbits in her little plate, and then glare at me again, as though to say, "Do you expect me to eat these? You gave me the same cocktail snacks yesterday."

           Not satisfied, she will jump off the counter and swagger regally away, her tail held high then flicked in utter disgust. Although I know it is an act, I still feel I have failed her royal highness. Ten minutes later, when she thinks I won't notice, she will come back and devour everything in her porcelain treat dish.

           When I was younger, I did not tolerate this nonsense from my cats. I ran the show.

           However, over the years, all the cats I have loved and sheltered have trained me to do their bidding. That's the reason two cats have six beds scattered around the house, a gourmet pantry of food and broad, padded window seats with a view to outdoors and the bird feeders. The cats sleep on my bed, on my desk, on my computer's keyboard, on top of the piano, inside the piano, in the bathtub, on the exact paragraph of the newspaper article I am reading, on the top shelf of my closet and on my chest. My new washing machine has a clear glass top so they can amuse themselves with the laundry. It cost me an additional hundred dollars.

           I reached this point of acquiescence to my cats' desires due to the excellent instruction I received from my previous cats. Moxie and Maggie are the fortunate heirs to all my training and to the fact I no longer resist the demands and expectations of the feline inhabitants of the planet. As they would say in Star Trek, "Resistance is futile."

           The felines rule. I am vanquished.



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