Meal time is an exciting event in the lives of my cats. When they were kittens, they engaged in extended periods of play, exploration, and swinging on curtains followed by restorative naps, and eating for growth and strength. Now that they are cats, they engage in extended naps, brief periods of play if I play with them, and extended whining for food followed by my caving in and giving them something to eat.
I’ve got one grazer (Artemis) and two gobblers (Winston and Freud). In order to accommodate their conflicting styles of dining and to appease their whining, I dribble snacks out to them over the course of a day. It’s a kind of enforced grazing which led my friend Debi (aka Putzer, the attorney) to ask in incredulous tones, “How many times a day do you feed them?”
Let me elucidate the finer points of this. Then you can decide if I’m as nuts as this will sound:
Winston was given a name to aspire to; but he chooses instead to spend his time sleeping, eating, going to the neighbors to watch football and having a nightly cigarette on the front porch. He’s the whiner. When Joan, my friend with the theological chops comes over, she always asks me to make him talk.
“Winston,” I say
“Such a noise!” Joan always says the same thing. “He’s singing to you!”
“Yeah, no he’s not.”
Anyway, Winston’s whine is the reason he weighs 18 pounds. At mealtime, I scatter his kibble down the length of the kitchen floor so he has to work a little bit to eat. It slows him down so he isn’t able to bother Artemis who likes peace and quiet with her meal over behind the Lazy-Boy chair. Winston used to wolf down the food in his dish and then loom up over Artemis until she abdicated her meal to him. If you’re keeping up with the math, that meant Winston got two meals and Artemis didn’t get any.
Freud, on the other hand, will only eat out of a bowl, and his bowl at that. When he was a kitten and heard kitchen noises, he came running onto the scene and bumped anyone already eating, usurping her food. As a kitten he learned that he had a bowl and it was always in a certain place and this arrangement was inviolate. Now that he is a grown, gobbling cat, I would like to scatter food for him like I do for Winston, but he won’t eat anything unless it’s in his bowl. In addition, his bowl has to be on the same square foot of floor. Once I tried to move it a few feet out so I could see it while I was teaching, the better to keep Winston from getting into it later. Freud gave me such a look as could make the tin man grow a heart without the wizard.
“How could you betray me like this? I do nothing but purr on your lap, chase the laser pointer in delightful ways and burrow adorably under throw rugs and afghans purely for your pleasure, and then you refuse me food.”
I moved the bowl back onto his designated square foot of kitchen floor. He pounced on it like it was his last meal which considering my perfidy, it might have been.
Freud has a meal station and Winston has the kitchen floor, but Artemis’ nosebag is pretty much wherever I am. When I work at the computer, there’s a dish of kibble on a nearby book shelf. When I’m working on music, the dish is on the top of the piano, awaiting her royal highness’s pleasure. When I’m tucked up in bed, it’s in a drawer of the nightstand. When she comes up and nails me with her gimlet eye that could bore through cement walls, I reach for her food without turning from my work.
So that is the everyday routine around here. Holidays on the cat calendar come every other month and are observed by The Opening of New Bags of Cat Food. It’s a Saturnalia and a year of Jubilee compressed into five minutes. When I buy 17 pound bags of (expensive) cat food from the Vet, I decant it into restaurant size jars with tight lids so the stuff stays fresh. I spill rather a lot of it in the process and all three cats are on the spot to hoover up the pieces.
The celebration is usually in the back of the house where I store the jars. But we’ve been having a cold snap and I didn’t much care for the idea of hanging out back there, so the other day I brought the bag of food and the big jars into the kitchen. When the cats heard the Rustle of The Bag, they raced out to the laundry room.
I heard them milling around in the back.
“Where is she?”
“I think she went into the kitchen.”
“You said you heard The Bag.”
“Where is it?”
“I think she took it with her to the kitchen.”
“But this is where it happens.”
Presently, they all tumbled into the kitchen saying, “What the hell?”
“That’s not holiday language,” I said.
The three of them stood uncertainly as I made preparations for deploying the food into jars in the kitchen. I think Freud re-checked the laundry room to make sure food wasn’t being served back there in some alternate universe. I got ready to pour. I looked at Winston.
“Sing the Cat Food Carol,” I said. “Winston!”