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Life with Dogs and Cats

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Feeding Time at the Zoo

There are two main shows every day...and a shorter version at night. There’s singing and dancing. Obstacle courses. Leaping and jumping. Wrestling and hissing. Snuggling and licking.

Oh, and there’s dinner.

That’s what feeding time is like for the animals in my household.

A typical “dinner”--what we call the meals my menagerie gets fed--goes something like this:

First, someone has to tell me that it’s Dinner Time. Because it’s very obvious that without a lot of “Rowwwww, mroowwww, mep mep mep rowwww,” from Dawn, I wouldn’t know. You see, she’s starving. Hasn’t eaten in days, maybe weeks, perhaps...ever. Look, if she turns sideways she would disappear, she’s so thin. She’s gonna die, I tell ya. She’s so, so Hun.Gry. 

Of course, everyone else is hungry, too. Often, Athena will accompany Dawn’s solo, with a quiet, nearly inaudible chorus of her own. “Mew. Mew. Mew.” A cat of few words, Athena just wants me to know, that she is hungry, too. In case I forgot I had TWO cats. Who are hungry, by the way. 

Sometimes, Lilah will contribute to the song. A few sharp barks and “Arrrrrarrrarrroooow,” and Lilah has officially informed me that she is requiring sustenance as well, and is expecting it forthwith.

The thing is, I’m not a fan of this music. So I require it to stop in order for the meal to be served. The dogs have no problem with this. And even Athena usually can stay silent. Dawn, on the other paw, well, she’s hunggggrrry. And I might have forgotten since the last time she told me 23 nanoseconds ago. She just can’t be quiet.

In addition, cruel taskmaster that I am, I also ask that there be no felines underfoot. I have stepped on too many kitty toes in the kitchen while preparing a meal and I’d rather not experience a repeat performance.

So, to review, the Requirements for Dinner to be served are:
1) Quiet
2) Both cats on our buffet--not on the floor--in the area officially known as The Feedy Spot
Sometimes, it can take as long as 15 minutes for Ms. Dawn to shush and for both cats to be up off the floor and in The Feedy Spot. Problem is, Dawn and Athena tend to get into Discussions over the best position on the buffet. 
Often there’s some face slapping, ear posturing and eyeball arguments. Eventually, that quiets down.

I’m not that demanding; I only ask for the ability to count to 10 and not hear a cat noise. Then, I say the magic words:

“Kitteh noms!”

Instantly two cats (it sounds like a dozen) leap from The Feedy Spot and start running around the kitchen. The solo and chorus get much louder. There is much mewing and muttering and very loud Complaining about why the service isn’t faster in this joint. For some reason, both cats feel that it’s also time to be very friendly to Jasper and Lilah, and they’ll rub and snuggle them (meowificating the whole time) as if perhaps the two dogs have friends in high places and can therefore ensure that dinner will be served quickly.

It’s pretty funny to see the puzzled look on Jasper’s face as Dawn, in her instant friendliness, lets her tail curl around and under the poor boy’s muzzle. He looks at me: “What is she DOING? What does she WANT? What am I supposed to do?” As if any of us can answer that about cats--Dawn in particular.
I split a can of cat food and apportion it equally into two metal bowls. By now the volume is turned up to 11. And then Dawn goes a tad insane.
She leaps from The Feedy Spot to the floor to the chair by the table to the floor on the other side. Then she looks at me, stretches as high as she can reach on the counter, runs back to The Feedy Spot, jumps up. All the while, Dawn is singing, crying, caroling, yammering, yowling.
And then does it again. Leap. Floor. Chair. Floor. Stretch. Jump.
And again. As many times as it takes.

By now the bowls are in my hands, but I won’t walk toward the cats until they are both appropriately positioned off the floor and on the buffet.  Dawn tries to stay in The Feedy Spot, but she is compelled, nay, driven to do her circuit several more times. Leap. Floor. Chair. Floor. Stretch. Jump.

When she finally stops, I start walking toward them. The anticipation is palpable. Dawn spins in a tight circle. She leaps over Athena. And then jumps back, whacking her sister with her tail. Sometimes there’s a second spin. On special occasions a third or fourth. And then, I’m there, holding two bowls of heaven.
Still crying, Dawn goes into full Meerkat beg position. And then...silence. For she knows a silent beg is required. 
The bowl is set in place, and Dawn is blissfully eating. Athena will stand up, too, in a more reluctant pose, and then she is fed as well.
All is quiet.

Yet two other creatures, who have patiently witnessed the pregame show, now know the main event is at hand.
But first, Jasper and Lilah get a taste of cat food, as they are allowed to lick the fork and the inside of the cat food can. Ahhhh...the cats really have it good.
Compared to the kitties, the dog show is a bit anticlimactic. Jasper and Lilah are perfectly well behaved. They follow me to the closet where the dog food is kept and watch carefully as I measure out their kibble; they need to make sure I’m doing it correctly. And, if they’re very lucky, a stray kibble bit may escape from a bowl; somebody scores with happy wag.  I put a little warm water in each bowl to make a groovy gravy. Both dogs are still keeping tabs on me.

Then, Jasper and Lilah sit. Perfectly. Nicely. Without even being told. I put the food bowls on the floor. They wait, eyes on me. Still as hungry statues.
“Okay!” Dinner time.

Lilah eats delicately, munching her way through the meal, slow and steady. Jasper eats so vociferously that the silence of the kitchen (now that the cat show is over, and Dawn and Athena are still chowing down), is shattered by a cacophonous clanging and banging as Jasper, in his epicurean exuberance, knocks his metal bowl around in it’s holder.
And Jasper will eat every last molecule, every last quark, of food in that bowl.
Then, he’ll check Lilah’s bowl, too, for good measure. Because you never know; she might have left something.

Afterwards: happy cats, content dogs and a quiet house.  Dawn and Athena will begin their after-dinner toilette. Jasper will go back and lick his bowl a few more noisy times. Lilah will repair to a quiet spot in the living room or dining room for some After Dinner Contemplation.
The show is over. Nothing left to do but clean up. Until Dinner time comes again. And everyone is starving.


  1. So true! I have witnessed the feeding ritual and dramatic Dawn's begging pose is just The. Cutest. Thing. Ever. That is--next to Athena's PRECIOUS.

    And yes, Jasper will inhale every food particle available to him just so you don't have so much to clean up. He is very helpful in this regard and has told me privately to tell you that you really don't need that appliance near the sink where YOUR dirty dishes go and to think of all the water you will save. Jasper is all about water conservation, you see.

    And Lilah just makes your heart melt because you can see the gratitude and love in her eyes even if food isn't involved. Perhaps even more so if there is food, of course. But a doggie pool will do just as well if she gets to bask in as much water as she wants, baffling Jasper's water conservation campaign to no end.

    Note: Water show best viewed from the "Athena Theater" if you are a feline as water is only OK when consumed to quench kitty thirst. And even then, only dainty sips will do.

  2. @The art of being: Jasper as water conservationist! Now I know why a wet washcloth is such a terrible thing. How could I have missed it?