Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An Experiment Gone Wrong

Last week while browsing the crunchy cat food section at Tractor Supply (or Tractor Town, as I like to call it), I found an interesting new type of cat food. It's based on a natural approach to feeding cats, as if they wanted the same diet as large cats ie: cougars, pumas, etc. My interest was piqued so I did my first pre-purchase criteria check, price. It was affordable. Second check, read the ingredients. Contains venison, smoked salmon, sweet potato (big cats want sweet potato?), greens, and the big clincher-NO GRAINS. It sounded so good that Jonathan and I might want to set a bowl of kibble out at a party for snacking, like a healthy version of Chex Mix. Anyone who has put effort into buying a "healthy" food for their pet knows that the pet food pro's all poo poo foods with grains. They deem it filler, no nutritional value, blah, blah, blah. I admit that I've been brainwashed by these food gurus, so like a zombie I am always scouting out a better food for the animals that won't force me to go into debt. This food seemed like the best of both worlds, so I dashed off to the cash register and gleefully purchased it.

Jonathan's reaction to my excited description of this food was a classic Jonathan speech. Let me try to convey it: "You're feeding the cat's deer meat? These are house cat's, Michele. They eat Fancy Feast and an occasional mouse. Marble's isn't watching the local deer herd go by, dreaming of sinking her fangs into their flesh. The cats aren't pumas, Michele. I could understand putting rabbit into a cat food, but venison? For real? What is so bad about feeding them grains? We feed the horse's grain, right? What is this company thinking? The whole pet food industry is a scam. I should make a new cat food. Lion's Pride. Get it? Lions PRIDE, double entendre there. It will have gazelle and antelope marrow. And it will cost $150 dollars a bag. We'll be rich! Do what you want, but this sounds crazy to me."

Upon hearing this speech, I did reflect that it might be a tad odd to feed house cat's deer meat fortified food, but I had bought it, so stubbornly I would feed it.

The first night I put a small portion in the three bowls, along with a teaspoon of Fancy Feast and sat back to watch my cat's health bloom before my eyes. They aren't known to be terribly picky eaters, but I did notice a slight hesitation before each bite of the new stuff. Probably, just trying to figure out the great new flavor, I told myself. The next morning's feeding went similarly. Marble's leapt away from her bowl, leaving almost half of the kibble. Mia picked at her portion half heartedly. Only Big Zekie kept chugging away until his bowl was empty (he isn't called Big Zekie for no reason). Maybe the food is so good for them that they don't need to eat much of it before they feel full, I reasoned as I washed their bowls out.
That evening (feeding #3 of new fantasy food), the two girl cats gave me a look of disgust as I set their bowls down before them. They did pick at the food, but they weren't happy, this was clear. They left more than half of the kibble before stalking off, tails slashing irritably through the air. Big Z visibly took a deep breath and like a fat kid at a hotdog eating contest he dug into the bowl of natural goodness like a trooper. Fifteen minutes after Z finished his dinner, Jonathan yelled to me, "Michele, get some paper towel. Big Zekie just threw up his deer meat in the living room!" I have had Zekie since he was born and I have never seen him throw up. I cleaned up the barf, consoled Big Z, who seemed no worse for the wear and thought no more of it. Well, the next morning was an instant replay of the previous night. The girl cats picked at their food, like anorexic super models. Big Zekie gallantly ate his portion and then fifteen minutes later, he waltzed into the living room and barfed it up. Now I was a little nervous. "Maybe he has stomach cancer?" I said to Jonathan.
"The cat pukes twice and he's suddenly dying? Maybe it's that crappy food. Cat's shouldn't eat deer meat, Michele. It's not right!"

That afternoon, I acquiesced and bought a bag of grain-filled, McDonald's version cat food. The cats purred in a collective chorus at dinnertime, it was a proverbial cats "Happy Meal", sans toys. The girl cats got rid of their murderous glares, finished their food and Big Zekie didn't throw up. Lesson learned. House cats shouldn't eat deer meat. I had to admit that I had been cleverly duped by the company's fancy packaging and claims. And Jonathan got to be right. It was a good night.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Winter is starting to lose it's icey grip on our little chunk of real estate in Dutchess County. There are some distinct signs of spring's impending arrival that are stereotypical and then there are some "locale specific" signs that only a shrewd resident, such as myself, notices. The most obvious sign is the arrival of mud. Our driveway is dirt, which turns to mud and mucky puddles once the temperatures start warming up the earth. Dog paw prints become the latest rage for kitchen flooring in our home. I try to pretend that its a new trend and only the cool people are bold enough to sport this pattern. With the addition of Becks in our house, the pawprints are scattered in a dizzying array, he's like a Pollock of paw printing. I tend to look at the mop and sigh a lot during mud season.
Another big sign of spring is the return of the songbirds. I have a new friend, who serenades me with melodious bird songs each morning if I happen to be sitting at my desk. He's a dashing red finch and if I didn't know better I would say that he's flirting with me. Our front yard is filled with ancient oak trees, and yet, this bird chooses to perch on a limb directly outside my office window so I can admire him while he gives his concert. You know how those male birds are, all flashy colors and big voices. Meanwhile, their drab, demure housewives are building nests and getting ready for the egg laying process. Makes me damn glad that I'm not a bird.
So, there are two preliminary spring signs of the natural variety. I'm here to report that I have just had the first official sighting of "The Idiots who Ride Loud Motorcycles at Reckless Speeds on Country Roads". There is a whole posse of jackasses around here who feel compelled to get on their brightly colored crotch rockets and blaze across our gentile back roads, careening around blind corners, and reaching speeds of mach 1 on the straightaways. So far, in the span of one hour I have counted 9 of these fools that most likely have been staring at their beloved bikes all winter, drooling over the prospect of rippin' it full throttle ala Evel Knieval through the hills of Millbrook. I imagine them stopping at a bar for a beer and high fiving each other with comments like, "Dude, I'm so glad you missed that jumbo farm tractor!" and "whatever man, that lady didn't look like she should be riding a horse anyway. I'm sure she got back on and was fine." To say I dislike them is putting it mildly. They are dangerous and annoying. Period.
Last but not least, a sure sign that spring is a'coming to Millbrook is the return of the slurry truck, making it's seemingly endless runs by our house. We live a few miles from a lovely dairy farm, stocked with beautiful Guernsey cows. The farmers own a substantial amount of acreage behind where we live and they plant it with tightly packed rows of cow corn and alfalfa. Unfortunately for us, they use their liquified cow poo to fertilize these fields in the spring and let me tell you, the aroma can be pretty rank. The slurry truck is old, smelly and I can hear her coming from a mile away. I saw her yesterday for the first time this year and that means soon I won't be able to open my back door without triggering my gag reflex. To be honest, after the horrors of cold, snow and ice that we had this year I say bring on the mud, bird gigolos, motorcycle races and shit storm of cow dung. I am relishing each sign of the changing seasons, no matter how noisy, messy, or malodorous. Bring it on.