Our black cat Kestrel, as I’ve said before, has a lot of his own little rituals. Food magick, as it were. He has gotten even fussier with age.
About a month ago, he stopped eating the Healthy Indoor Cat Kibble we had been feeding him the last few years. We switched over to Even Healthier Indoor Cat Kibble with Salmon and Green Peas. That was acceptable for about a week. We tried kibble with soft centers, semisoft cat treats and little plastic containers of soft food with flakes of simulated fish on top. Except for the soft stuff, he was having none of it.
We took him to the vet, fearing tooth/gum problems or some Horrid Lingering Disease. Despite the Black Prince dropping three-and-a-half of his original twelve pounds, there was no sign of problems. He was simply Fussying Himself to Death.
We have a new feeding ritual now. Every twelve hours, we scrub out his chrome steel feeding bowl and give him half a container of the Soft Cat Food with Simulated Fish Flakes on Top and a third of the soft form of the Even Healthier Indoor Cat Kibble with Salmon and Green Peas. If these are left over portions, they must be microwaved for exactly fifteen seconds, no more, no less, to dispel the chill of the refrigerator. We must break up the two kinds of food with a fork and intermix them or he will only eat the stuff that isn’t all that good for him.
Then, I must watch.
It has to be me. Last week, I went out to catch a movie and didn’t get back until eleven. His six o’clock feeding went untouched until I came into the living room and stood over his bowl. Even now, I can see him going after his six am feast as I type this.
When I die, I want to come back as a cat.
For the last several years, my alarm clock and my cat both go off at six a.m. This is usually followed by several minutes of yowling and ankle-twining as I do my morning biologicals. Then the fourteen pound black cat sits at the top of the stairs, waiting to be nudged. If he is not nudged, he will not descend the stairs.
So, I nudge and he galumphs down the hardwood steps. You can tell he is a tad over scale for a housecat because his descent is audible, like a Shetland pony in thick wool socks. Once we are on the ground floor, he rushes to his food bowl and eats. There has been dry food available the entire night. I have not been there to watch him eat it, and that is the most important part of the Cat Breakfast Ritual. I shamble past the cat to the kitchen to acquire my first cup of coffee.
Then, the second part of the Ritual begins. The food needs to be fresh, you see, or the balance of the universe is undone. I give him a double-handful of dry food and sit down at the lap-top. I remain within line of sight to appease.
Now, there are needs beside hunger that cats have, but we have to be discrete about them. The large, black lump of fur sits at my feet just within reach of my out-stretched fingertips, but he keeps his back to me to avoid embarrassing eye contact. Once we have done the pre-requisite petting, he returns to eating and perhaps licking himself for dessert.
Of course on my days off, the cat is still set to go off. If I do not roust myself out of bed at the first feline beckoning call, he executes the Breakfast Dance. It starts with him standing on my chest and politely saying “mrao” at evenly spaced intervals. As he is ignored, the pitch and frequency increase. A dance step is added in, the kneading of my chest with claws extended. At that time, I either get up and initiate my part of the ritual or infringe upon Robin Williams copyright by using the Cat-a-pult.