Sunday, November 4, 2012

Blended, Not Stirred

We have really no idea how old Sasha is. He was an adult when he came to us, frozen and more than half starved, four years ago this winter. However old he was then, he's older now, and is getting a little creaky. I no more have favorites among the cats than I have favorites among the offspring,  but Sasha is the one who spoons with me in bed at night, his head on my pillow. We're close.

A couple of months back, I decided to eliminate dry kibbles from the diet of the Fab Four (the house cats, pampered potentates that they are). As much as everyone was enjoying the nightly canned food treats, I thought this switch would be met by riotous rejoicing in kitty-dom.

For the most part, it was. The benefits to the Fab Four were obvious and immediate as well: more energy, better coat condition.

I had, though, failed to consider that dry kibbles are a little like crack, or at least like potato chips. The point is, they're addictive. Apparently,  according to exhaustive internet research, dry kibbles contain "animal digests" as an additive. This is to make the kibbles tastier to the discerning kitty palate.

Addictive. Like sugar is to us. Or salt. Or...crack.

Well, two of the Fab Four left the Dark Side right away, embracing clean living and canned cat food with a right good will. Not so Rikki the toothless and Sasha the one time starving cat.

You'd think a near starvation experience would make you willing to eat almost anything. Not so, it seems, not so. Rikki and Sasha went on hunger strike. I was going to post video of them, marching around the house, carrying signs with catchy slogans, paws linked singing "We Shall Overcome" in solemn and serious meowing. I knew you would have enjoyed it.  Alas, I have no such footage to share. You'll have to take my word for it.

Rikki the Toothless was won over through rehab. It seems the same animal digests used as additives in kitty kibble can be bought on the open market. The product is called FortiFlora. I got mine through Amazon. A bit of this stuff sprinkled on her canned food, and she was won over. Totally. When the box ran out, I didn't replace it, and she's gnomming her canned food in all apparent happiness. (FortiFlora. Who knew? )

Sasha has turned out to be a more challenging case. He was in no wise appeased by a few shakes of FortiFlora on top of pureed cow, fish,  or chicken parts. You know the look.  The "I thought you loved me why are you trying to kill me" look.  He would refuse to eat, and after two or three misses meals, I would cave and give him a bowl of kibbles. Because he was Starving.

The next thing I tried was cooking a chicken for him.

I'm a vegan. I cook four or five meals a week, and all meals cooked in this house are vegan. This isn't a post about veganism or vegan living, but I will say it doesn't make sense to me to love and cherish  some animals while killing others. I wasn't always vegan and it took me a while to get here, but that's a post for another day. Nevertheless,  a major milestone in that path was the day I encountered the film "Earthlings." I've not cooked meat since.

The Spousal Unit took that abrupt change to our lifestyle pretty much in good natured stride. I know he eats meat out at times. He also eats a lot more fruit and veggies these days. And he has never complained about the meatless meals I serve him. Until he came in and smelled Sasha's chicken.

I am standing at the kitchen counter.  To my left, a large bowl full of roasted chicken parts, cooked slowly over many hours until even the bones crush to mush if pressed between your finger tips. To my right, the blender.

The Fab Four circle my feet, licking their lips in anticipation. 

The Spousal Unit always displays a keen interest in my kitchen experiments, probably from a well honed instinct for self preservation.

"What are you doing," he says.  I give him the isn't it obvious look.

"Pureeing a chicken," I say, dropping a thigh bone into the blender. "For the cats."

He hangs up his coat and comes to see,  peering over my shoulder. I put the lid on the blender and hit the button. VROOM! Goes the blender.

"Why are you cooking a chicken for the cats?"

I explain.

"I just want to be clear," he says. "You won't cook meat for me, but you've cooked and are pureeing a chicken for the cats."

I sense a sulk coming on.

"They're obligate carnivores," I say. "They have no choice. They have to eat meat."

He watches me dish the pureed chicken into kitty dishes while the Fab Four turn in circles,  dancing with anticipatory delight.

"I'm a carnivore," he says.

I put the dishes down at the feeding stations and, for the first time in weeks, watch Sasha go to town like he's really enjoying his meal.

I think, Hallelujah! Perhaps this is it. Perhaps we've turned the corner. Perhaps this is the trick.

I start cleaning up the mess made on the counter. (Ever pureed a chicken?)

"You're not a carnivore," I say. "You are, biologically speaking, an omnivore. You can eat just about anything. You're a carnist because you choose to eat meat."

We've had this conversation before.

As I wipe down the counter, I hear the very heavy, very expressive sigh that is often made by those who suffer for love.

"What are we having for dinner?" he says, eyeing the Fab Four who are each face first in a dinner dish.

"Smoothies," I say. "They're in the fridge."

And, Lord love the man, he sat down and drank his smoothie.

The next day I take out leftover pureed chicken, heat it in the skillet, and offer it up to the Fab Four. I'm met with mournful wide eyes and sniffs of disdain. One by one they walk away from untouched food bowls to lie on the couch resigned to famine.

Seriously? Apparently leftover pureed chicken is about as appealing as warmed over kitty vomit. Why didn't I know that?

So, back to canned food. Except for Sasha, who lies on the living room floor, on his side, looking at the ceiling with an air of one awaiting certain death. Because his human caregiver is just too stupid to figure out his very simple and quite obvious needs.

Next on the agenda for Sasha cat was baby food. Surprisingly, after a few days, he took to this. Exhausted from the previous weeks' battle of wills, I feed him baby food for a few weeks and let it be.

There are a couple of problems with baby food being the final solution to the What Shall We Feed Sasha dilemma. One, it's expensive. (a buck a jar, and he has to have two a day to get enough calories.) Two, baby food is pureed meat only. There are a host of nutrients not contained in human baby food yet needed by kitties. And oh yeah, it's expensive.

Over the last two weeks, I've been weaning Sasha off the baby food, adding canned cat food, then reducing the baby food until he was being offered canned cat food twice a day like the other cats. This has gone only moderately well. He's been eating, but not much. The more baby food in the mix, the more likely to eat.

Late last week I noticed that what he's doing is eating the really sloppy bits, and leaving the grainy bits. Could it be, I thought, that what we're dealing with here is a texture issue?

This morning, I put Sasha's portion of canned cat food into the blender. Vroom! went the blender while the cats gave each other the "Oh, God, what's she going to try out on us now" look.

I dished out the unblended cat food into three bowls. The pureed mess, looking for all the world like human baby food, went into Sasha's bowl.

I put the bowls at the feeding stations. Three of the Fab Four got busy getting down to it. Sasha circled his bowl. He sniffed the air, a tiger hunting prey. His ears perked forward. His tail went up. He came closer. He looked.

Then he stuck his little furry face into the dish and ate it all. Every single bit. The bowl was licked squeaky clean.

If pureeing the cat food is what it takes, I'm all over that. (Who knew?) We'll see at dinner time if blender processed canned food is still an acceptable offering. Fingers crossed!


stlcatlady is a poet, blogger, and freelance writer of short stories, news articles, and other such oddments, many of which center around her favorite subjects: felines , philosophy, and folklore. You may contact her by sending email to stlcatlady1 at gmail dot com. Thanks for reading!


  1. Sometimes it takes expirementation to figure out what they want. We're going thru that with food right now. Mario is tired of the same old stuff, but doesn't like anything new either. Sigh!

  2. Awww, poor Mario, I'll keep fingers crossed for him. I guess everybody in the world knew this, but I found out recently that cats' sense of smell gets less as they get older, and so their interest in food wanes. Who knew, right? Which is maybe why they like tuna so much, 'cause it's so stinky? For us right now, pureeing the canned cat food is working (so relieved!) Hugs to you and Mario! You know you guys are my big on my hero list.

  3. Blended canned cat food? Oh for god's sakes! Cats bring out the Crazy in us all.

  4. I know, right? Maybe I'll try him on cheeseburgers next!