MARTHA SEZ: ‘Mere cat food is hardly what Jupiter has in mind’
At this moment, Jupiter, the black and white tuxedo cat, is marching around the kitchen complaining vociferously. It is still early; he has just been fed his breakfast. I, on the other hand, haven’t even had my coffee yet.
Yes, he has been fed, but not up to his own exacting standards. Mere cat food is hardly what Jupiter has in mind. He scorns the expensive kibble I offer.
Chicken first ingredient! Made in the U.S. and Canada! No artificial ingredients!” the label boasts. Jupiter couldn’t care less, even if he could read. And then it must be admitted that this cat food does contain chickpeas.
Would a lynx or a mountain lion pillage a farmer’s chickpea field? Ever hear a couple of farmers discussing their crops over a cup of coffee in a convenience store in, say, Burke, New York?
“Yeah, it’s a good year for chickpeas. I’d be doing great if I could just keep the barn cats out of the field.”
“Have you tried a scarecrow? Or those hawk things you can hang up to scare away the vermin?”
“I tried everything, but nothing seems to work. I keep those barn cats to kill rodents, but all they go after is my chickpeas.”
“Well, that’s a problem.”
“It sure is.”
No, I daresay you have never heard such a conversation in Burke or anywhere else. Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are the main ingredient in hummus. While hummus is all very well for humans, to a cat hummus is beneath contempt.
Jupiter’s yowl is loud and painful to hear, especially first thing in the morning. He comes by it honestly. His father, according to those who knew Jupiter as a kitten in California, was no ordinary tom but a feral Siamese. (How did an “unfixed” male Siamese cat go feral in a California suburb? This is one of those mysteries that may never be solved.) I do know, however, why Jupe is off his feed. This happened before, when I was in the habit of bringing home “Temptations” cat treats from Price Chopper in Lake Placid. He was crazy for them, especially the salmon flavored ones. After a while he wanted to eat nothing else. He would rush me whenever I came in the door, running around and vocalizing in that special way of his. Fancy Feast? Forget it. Chicken? No way. All he wanted was those cat treats. I had made an addict of him. I thought he would starve before I had weaned him off “Temptations.”
This time it’s not cat treats but venison. A friend gave me some deer meat for Christmas. I defrosted it recently and cooked some rare, sliced thin. Jupiter came into the kitchen, acting agitated, lured by the scent of native game, and started making demands in a rowly sort of voice. Foolishly, I gave him a taste.
He has not forgotten that little bit of venison. He knows that I have more, and that I’m holding out on him.
I think that this venison craze has something to do with the doe who used to visit the field behind the house last fall. I fed her apples sometimes, and Jupiter acted extremely offended by this.
He made it clear that he disliked the doe and resented her presence in his yard. She was too large for him to attack physically, but I think he knew she was a prey animal. For an apex predator and obligate carnivore like Jupe this must have been frustrating to say the least. He would stalk around her, switching his tail, his ears back, making threatening noises. She would just stand there, casually chomping her apple and watching the cat as if wondering “What’s with him?”
I throw peanuts out onto my deck in the winter to feed blue jays and squirrels. Jupiter used to be interested in the spectacle as the jays swooped down from the bordering cedar branches to grab the peanuts and the squirrels foolishly scampered off to bury their loot in a snowbank. Now he doesn’t care about them much. Maybe it’s because he is getting old.
Jupiter is no longer yowling. For a while his vocalizations subsided into a mooing, crooning complaint, and now he is curled up on the bed.
Dogs can get shot for running deer, but it’s OK for cats, he is thinking. “I could bring one down. It’s a free country,” says Jupe.
Have a good week.
(Martha Allen lives in Keene Valley.)