My cat is a food monster.
Dedicated readers will recall that our cat Izzy once became very, very large. She grew out of her kittenhood and just kept going, width-wise. Due to her excessive girth, she couldn’t clean the lower half of her body. From where her waist would have been all the way down to her lil cat butt-hole was a mess. It was sad.
We took pity on her. “Cat,” we promised, because although her name is Izzy no one ever calls her that, “we will help you. From now on, your food intake will be strictly monitored. You’re welcome.”
You can imagine how she felt about that.
I’m happy to say that although she wasn't at all pleased with us, her transformation was a success: in a couple of years, Izzy went from 21 pounds to 12. Her fur became pettable; her butt was and is squeaky clean. Literally. You can often hear the squeaking from the next room as she goes to town on that thing.
While it’s been gratifying to see her all sleek and healthy, it’s been less rewarding to watch her transform from a content, snacky fatso into a creature who is, if her behavior is any indication, always hungry—always always always.
In addition to being hungry always and forever, she is FURIOUS. So mad! She is starving and we won’t give her everything! I mean it could just be the way her face is shaped. Or has her fury shaped her face? Which came first, dear readers?
And she is treated so damn well. Her expensive food is parceled out at specific times because otherwise she’d snorfle it down and then yark it back up—somewhere distinctly hard to clean, like down the back of the sofa or on top of a charger. For a time she would work hard at getting your attention when food-time was approaching. Which is fair enough, because it was food time. Lately, however, she’s decided that food time is immediately after… food time. Not enough! her eyes scream. Food. Foooood.
If she was just walking around with a pair of scream-eyes I wouldn’t mind so much, honestly. She can rage inwardly all she likes. But no, once she’s decided that the gnawing hunger inside her has not been sufficiently appeased, she’ll get right underfoot, yowling piteously. As anyone with a cat knows, this is not atypical behavior.
But does she stop there? If she did, would I be writing this?
If the yowling whenever you approach the refrigerator doesn’t elicit the required food-giving, she will move on to Step 2: Operation Awful Popsicle. For this one, she licks whatever is nearby. It’s that simple. Just licks and licks.
I’ve got to give it to her: this is an ingenious move. The cat’s barbed tongue makes an insane racket as she lavishes her attentions on, say, a throw pillow, or my purse. The side of a bookcase. Or the wall. Or a plastic bag. You have no idea how much noise a cat’s tongue can make when it’s dragging against a plastic bag. How insane you can feel as that sound reverberates through your bones. And you leap up to get the bag away from her and yell who left a plastic bag just sitting here? Who?!
She’s especially fond of performing this trick at 3 am. On top of our dresser, licking at, say, a pair of socks, or a stack of bills. Slurk slurk slurk. Feed me, you terrible dickweeds. Also you should really pay these. Slurk.
When the licking (THE INFERNAL LICKING) results only in something being thrown at her, she moves to Stage 3: Operation Dog Get. (I know it’s not a great name, but whatever, she’s a cat.) If you don’t give me what I want, I will take what you love, goes her reasoning. (I assume.)
When Charlie was alive she had to be a little more proactive about this: he wasn’t about to mess with her in any way, so in order to get our attention she had to make a beeline for him and swat all over his poor little face, swatswatswat. She had to expend a lot of energy. And because he was a gentle angel who never hurt no one no how, he mostly cowered.
Hazel, though, falls right into Izzy's trap, every time. Whereas Izzy could stare at Charlie for hours and hours and get nothing more than a nervous side glance and some resolute licking of the chops, all she needs to do for Hazel is maintain eye contact for three, maybe four seconds. And then Hazel turns into an alarm set just for Izzy. She doesn’t even know she’s being used! Think it through, Hazel! She obviously hasn’t been watching House of Cards.
Have you ever seen a chihuahua lose her shit? Have you ever experienced it right up against your face at 3:15 am, shortly after you’ve thrown a (paperback) book at the cat but not before you fell back into a deep sleep? You know those Looney Tunes episodes with the Tasmanian Devil? It’s like that, only riiiight up against your face. And then your husband curses a lot and reminds you that the cat was your idea.
So recently I decided, screw it, Izzy wins. We’re just going to feed her more. I don’t see how a miserable cat who’s skinny is better than a fat and relatively placid cat. (Although we can't return to Awful Butt Level, we just can't.) To complement her usual wet-food regimen, I purchased some quality kibble and one of those toy/food dispensers that would parcel out food to the cat throughout the night, ensuring that at the very least, she’d be snacking at 3 am and not tormenting us. I’m not going to keep it filled all day because I am telling you she would never stop eating, but we need our sleep.
So I put this thing out and I filled it with a cup of said kibble and it turns out I am a damn genius. Wouldn’t you know it: she left us alone. We could hear her pawing at the thing and munching away, sure—and it was like a lullaby. In the morning, she was still working away at this puzzle, trying to get at every last crumb. During the next day and the one after that, she seemed less desperate for food.
Then two things happened, within a few weeks. One: she adjusted to the new food intake and it was no longer enough for her. Nothing will ever be enough. And two: she learned. Her brain clearly triumphed over this toy food-dispensing thing. This gizmo that was highly rated on Amazon. I did my goddamn research. She can now empty it in 15 minutes. And then she immediately comes to our room, and sits at the foot of the bed, waiting for us to be asleep so she can drag her awful tongue against a surface.
I kinda miss the days when she couldn’t clean her butt.
FYI: She’s been staring at me the entire time I wrote this. Actually at the dog. Who is asleep on my lap, thereby messing with her entire operation. Good dog.