I Can't Get Smart Outta That

When we got our cats, the woman who'd been their foster mom told us that we should feed our cats cat food only, that cats were lactose-intolerant and milk wouldn't be a good idea, and their tummies weren't designed for people food. This is all well and good, but we were the wrong people to be telling. She needed to be telling this to our cats.

Now, thankfully, neither one of our cats is very enamored of people food. They pretty much ignore us when we're eating, except they'll sniff our food if we're sitting on the floor with it. They don't beg, and unlike some cats I've seen, they also don't just take. I saw a cat once yank an entire piece of pizza off his owner's place and fling it across the room, chase after it and start wolfing it down. I just sat there in silent awe of the coordination and cojones that took. This is not something our cats would do. For the most part, they're perfectly happy with the dry food that's available to them anytime they want it and the treats they get from time to time.

When Zora gets a treat, she gets canned food. Zora loooooves canned food. She gets all excited when she thinks you're opening a can for her (thankfully they're pull-off tops, or we'd be dealing with this every time we wanted some soup...although, well, see below). She runs back and forth in the kitchen, around you, around the food, near the fridge, and back, running in little Zora circles of nervous excitement, mewing in her high-pitched voice all the while - until you put the food down, which is when the first thing she does is run under the table and hide. You can see timidity and desire for goodies fighting it out in her body. Desire for goodies always wins.

Zora and her excited circles.

Of course, half the time, once she gets to the food, she'll turn her nose up at it. Even if it's food she liked fine when we had another can of it last week. This from a cat who loves nothing better than to chew on paper. Or she'll dig ravenously into something she scorned the day before. The cat we had when I was a kid was exactly the same way. I'd say it was something about tortoiseshells, but I think a lot of cats are picky that way.

Except Tista. Tista doesn't really care about canned food one way or the other. He's reliable that way. But wave a bag of tartar control treats in front of him, and he will go nuts. Doesn't matter what kind, either. This boy is not picky. Left to his own devices, he will tear open even the most sturdy bag to get at his treats. So we've instituted Treat Time, so he knows he's getting them at least once a day.

He gets his treats every day from The One And Only when TOAO gets home from work. What this means is that Tista can tell time. He knows when it's almost time for his dad to get home - and so do I, because half an hour before TOAO gets here, Tista's on the washer and meowing at the cabinet, just in case his daddy, at work, might hear him and decide to come home early.

Tista, blissfully happy in expectation of treats.

If you want an immediate reaction from Tista, you just say "Treats?" He yelps, jumps up, and runs toward the kitchen, all the while keeping his eye on you to make sure you're following, that you weren't just teasing.

Zora, meanwhile, couldn't care less about the tartar control treats. A pity, really, and I hope it doesn't end up meaning that I'll have to brush her teeth one day. Liver-flavored animal toothpaste is all well and good, but I can guarantee you she won't enjoy it one bit, and more importantly, neither will I.

Of course, none of this, so far, is weird. Sure, our cats eat potato chips, and Tista is a big enough fan of cheese nips that he'll stick his paw in the bag to fish one out, but this is not particularly unusual. Zora also enjoys a pecan or two from time to time. I'm pretty sure that's not usual. I have no idea why, but the cat likes pecans. And we're talking unsalted, unroasted nuts, so it's not about the salt or oil. It's just all about the pecans. Hey, who am I to argue with the ways of cats? I just shrug and pass the nuts.

Zora, looking a lot bigger than her nine pounds. She's big, but she's not dense.
And that's my bright orange earplug she has under her paw.

Tista likes anything with yeast in it, and he also loves how soft most processed breads are. These two preferences resulted in a number of unfortunate-looking bread loaves in our house. In one corner, the bag would be chewed off, and there would be little teeth marks on the bread. The middle of the bread, meanwhile, would have a deep, cat-butt-size indentation. Because, of course, he likes to sit on the bread. Because, well, it's so soft. Because, really, it's a good place to sit when you're eating bread. We only caught him doing it once, and we laughed so hard we didn't have enough breath left to yell at him to get off the bread.

Lucky for us, he's no longer interested in loaves. But he still thinks hamburger buns make for a tasty place to sit.

In my family, it's tradition that certain foods get shared with the cats. My mom is the only one in the family who likes canned tuna, and she never felt like finishing a whole can - so she'd eat half, and leave the other half to the cats.

Zora and I share breakfast. On the mornings when I eat cereal, I leave some milk in the bowl and pass it to Zora. She looks at the bowl carefully, as if to make sure I'm not going to ask for it back, then looks around to make sure no wombats or tigers are going to jump out at her from behind the couch, and then she finishes my milk. (She's a little on the tense side, that one.) Luckily, and unlike many cats, she doesn't appear to be lactose-intolerant.

Zora cautiously approaches the milk.

Tista isn't so much a milk fan, so for a while I didn't know what to share with him. Then I discovered....tomato soup.

Yes, that's right. Tomato soup. My cat will eat tomato soup. My cat, in fact, will eat tomato soup with gusto. He loves tomato soup. And not, mind you, any old tomato soup. Only Amy's Organic Cream of Tomato Soup will do. Campbell's? Nope. Health Valley? Pshaw. Amy's it is, and Amy's it has to be - which is convenient for me, because it's by far my favorite tomato soup as well.

This makes my cat drool. I do not pretend to understand.

You might ask how I know that my cat likes tomato soup. After all, who in their right mind gives their cat tomato soup? Well, I was sitting on the floor, he sniffed my food, and I let him do it, because of course he wouldn't like it, and he'd go away.

Except that he started to chow down. I was so shocked that I called The One And Only, who was watching football at a friend's house. The friend will still occasionally tease me about the fact that I called for the sole purpose of informing them that Tista like tomato soup. But jeez, people, that's weird - he's a cat, and he eats tomato soup, for cryin' out loud!

Tista, doing his daily stretches on the washer.

So now, every time I open a can of Amy's tomato soup, Tista gets about six spoonfuls on a plate of his own. Zora comes running because there's action in the kitchen, but she sniffs the plate and then looks at both Tista and me like we're crazy. Tista cleans the plate so well you couldn't tell what was on it. Milk? No thanks. But tomato soup? Meow.

There's a German saying that goes, "Aus dem werde ich nicht schlau." It means you can't figure that guy out, but literally translated, it means, "I just can't get smart out of him." That's how I feel about the cats. Pecans? Tomato soup? I just can't get smart out of that.

Nor, of course, am I meant to. You aren't supposed to get smart out of cats. You're supposed to love them, not understand them. So I'll let Zora nuzzle her pecans and Tista eat his soup and never know what motivates their odd little taste buds.


6. May 2003


Tista's Schedule
Given how much they sleep, cats must lead a busy life. Right?

7 a.m. Ooh, Dad's up. I should run around his legs and keep him company in the bathroom.

7:07 am. Bathroom door is closed. Dad is inside. Might be trouble. I must try to beat down the door.

7:08 am. Phew. Inside the bathroom now. Everything seems to be fine. Might as well use the litterbox. I prefer having company.

7:15 am Better check to make sure the food's still in the kitchen.

7:30 am. Well, that was exciting. Guess I'll sleep now.

10 am. Did I hear Mom in the kitchen? Better go check it out.

10:05 am. Nope. Maybe if Mom were in the kitchen, she'd give me treats. I think I'll go say hi.

10:10 am. That was exciting. I think I'll curl up with Mom now.

11:30 am. My favorite toy is up on that shelf. I am down here. This is unjust. I must complain.

11:40 am. It worked. Time to play!

12:10 pm. Jeez, guess I tired Mom out. She's putting the toy away. I'd better complain.

12:30 pm. Maybe complaining won't work. I'll try it for another five minutes just in case.

12:35 pm. Hey! There's my sister! I could chase her!

12:50 pm. Wow, that was exciting. I guess I should sleep.

2 pm. Hey, I think I'll go check out the food in the kitchen.

2:15 pm. I wonder what's up on that table? I wonder if anything's changed since yesterday? Better go check.

2:30 pm. What about those cabinets? I wonder if can get inside them today.

2:35 pm. Better go check out the litterbox.

2:45 pm. Ooh, Mom's on the computer. I bet if I sit on her keyboard she'll pet me!

3 pm. Mom's such a sucker.

3:15 pm. I hear birds outside, and the empty windowsill requires my attention.

3:25 pm. Hey! That's Mom! Outside! Hey! Mom! Mom! Hm. She doesn't seem to hear me. Maybe I need to meow louder?

3:35 pm. Maybe if I crawl into the windowshades I can get out the window to where Mom is?

3:40 pm. Nope. Guess I'll just have to keep meowing.

4 pm. My stomach is telling me it's almost time for treats. Maybe I'll check in the kitchen to see if Dad's home.

4:05 pm. Nope. Maybe if I meow a little?

4:10 pm. Nope. Better head to the litterbox, and then check the window again.

4:42 pm. Late for my shift! Gotta get to the washer!

4:45 pm. Dad's still not home, so I'll complain about the injustice of it all.

5:15 pm. Is that Dad in the carport? Is it? Is it!? Oh boy! Oh boy!

5:17 pm. Treats! Come on! Treats!

5:20 pm. There's never as many treats as there should be.

5:25 pm. Better check out Dad's shoes and see where he's been.

5:30 pm. Wow, that was exciting. I'd better sleep. Maybe I can rest on Dad's feet.

6 pm. Dad moved! Where are you going? Bathroom? Can I come? You know I love company when I'm in the litterbox.

6:15 pm. Hey! There's a glass of water here by the couch. I bet it's for me.

6:20 pm. That was exciting. I'd better sleep.

7:30 pm. My favorite toy is up on that shelf. I am down here. This is unjust. I must complain.

7:40 pm. Not working. I should try harder.

7:50 pm Cool. Dad's got the toy.

8:05 pm. Hey! There's my sister! She wants to play too! I could chase her!

8:25 pm. Ooh! Windowshades! I gotta jump on those!

8:30 pm. Hey! There's my sister! She's chasing me!

9 pm. Wow, that was exciting. I should sleep.

10:30 pm. Hey? Where'd Dad go? Is he in bed? I should go check this matter out.

11 pm. Enough snuggling. I have things to do. The outdoors must be watched.

12 midnight. Ooh! Windowshades! I gotta jump on those!

12:15 am. My favorite toy is up on that shelf. I am down here. This is unjust. I must complain.

12:25 am. Maybe I should go find my sister. I bet she'll chase me.

12:30 am. Bop Zora on the head.

12:35 am Hey! There's my sister! She's chasing me!

1 am Wow, that was exciting. Mom's reading a book. I think I'll sleep on her book.

1:10 pm Why isn't Mom a sucker all the time? Guess I'll sleep on the couch.

2:30 am Hey? Where'd Mom go? Is she in bed? I should go check this matter out.

2:35 am. Hm. They're in bed. But my toy is up on that shelf. I am down here. This is unjust. I must complain.

2:45 am. I guess that won't work. Hey! There's my sister! She's chasing me!

3:10 am. Wow. That was exciting. I'm tired. I should go sleep on the bed now.

3:15 am. My purring woke Mom so now she's petting me. Neat. Her head is warm. I think I'll sleep on it.

7 a.m. Ooh, Dad's up. Time to run around his legs and keep him company in the bathroom...


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