Saturday, January 29, 2011

Past Deadline: Scavenging Cats

Our cats, who I love dearly most of the time (ahem), have entered a new behavioural phase in their senior years.

It is annoying as all heck.

Regular readers will know I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with our cats. They are reasonably lovely creatures, and each of them has endearing features, but there are certain quirks I could do without.

The kitties were our babies before we had human ones, so I carry great gobs of guilt over the fact my tolerance for their behaviour decreased once we had kids. I think the trouble started when I found myself cleaning up the daily hairball, cat hair tumbleweed and other surprises in the midst of changing diapers and doing baby-related tasks. For alleged “independent” creatures, there seemed to be a lot of labour.

And that was before the serious health issues came along.

The big tabby, MacGregor, has had long-term issues with his innards. I could go so far as to say this has been pretty much under control for quite a while thanks to special expensive food, daily doses of Metamucil and an occasional hit of an anti-anxiety drug, but that kind of boastfulness would be absolutely, ridiculously foolish. (Now that I have provided these details here, you can be sure my next column will be about a trip to the vet.)

Then there’s Buster, the fluffy loud cat whose diabetes seems to be under control. Cool thing about cats? Diabetes can be reversed. So his version of special expensive food seems to have worked and I no longer have to give him two needles of insulin a day. (See above. It’s very stupid to even breathe a word of these things out loud. I am clearly asking for trouble.)

Obviously diet is a very important part of our cats’ lives. This is why the new behavioural phase I mentioned is so annoying.

We never let our cats have table scraps. We’ve always had to be careful about how much to feed them, too, because they gorge. Most cats I have known are nibblers – you can fill up their food dishes at a certain point in the day and they will come over and nibble a bit, wander off, do cat things, wander back, nibble a little, etc. One dish could last the whole day.

Our cats? Ha! They know exactly when it’s feeding time and they howl (especially Buster) to be fed. Not only that, but it doesn’t matter whether it’s wet food or dry food and whether it’s a lot or a little, the minute you set down a dish they gobble it within a couple of minutes. It’s crazy. You’d think they were starving to death, but we haven’t reduced their diet in years.

And that’s not even the issue. After years of reasonably good behaviour, things are changing. We never used to have a problem when it came to leaving, for example, our plates on the table for a few minutes after we finished eating dinner. Now, any hint of leftover food on any surface is fair game.

They’re like scavengers when we leave the room. They never used to jump up on counters or tables, but now we catch them there all the time. Nothing is safe – they will lick plates and pots and pans. They eat any kind of scrap – whether it’s meat or crackers or even chocolate cake.

Yes, chocolate cake. Very bad for cats – especially diabetic ones.

Then, recently, they decided it would be great fun to start raiding the garbage. In our town we have green bin program for compost, so there are no scraps in our garbage bag under the sink, but we figure they smell stuff on, for example, non-recyclable wrappers we throw away. We often enter the kitchen to find the cupboard door under the sink flung open, and occasionally there is garbage on the floor. Not good.

So guess what? We’ve had to re-install a childproof latch on the cupboard door, even though our kids are nine and five and our cats are senior citizens.

That will mesh nicely with the various cat deterrents we will have to install along the counter and kitchen table. I’m thinking barbed wire? I hear it’s all the rage.
Published in The Perth Courier, Jan. 13/11

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