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If they had opposable thumbs, we'd be doomed ...

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

We have two cats, A & E. After Ms. S.'s cat B went missing, August of 2011, we held off a bit, hoping he would return, mourning, and so on; but then Ms. S. really felt like the apartment needed a feline manager, and from the Humane Society we got A. Her previous caretakers had named her "Bella"; we could not let this stand. She was still a pretty small kitten, having been born at the beginning of June.

She bonded with us quickly, but by November her youthful energy was such that we realized she needed a playmate; human fingers and toes and skin was just not enough. When a work colleague had an adopted stray he had to place in a home due to a conflict with his Prussian Blue (the much larger, but declawed and thus defenseless party), I consulted Ms. S., she agreed, and we threw our name in the hate.

And that's how we got E, who was A's age, within a week or so. We treat them as twins. Many months later life with our feline masters chugs alone more or less apace and with few difficulties.

1. At the Mountain of Madness.

A is a typical tabby; we swear she's moonlighting as a cat model for food and toys whenever we peruse the pet aisle of our favorite store and notices feline faces just like hers. E is a cross between a Siamese and a Holstein cow: she as the voice, attitude, and size of the former and the markings of the latter.

As kittens they were fed on a three-times-a-day schedule; 5:30 or 6am, noon, and about 6pm. Treats are rare. The food is usually dry. A water bowl next to A's food bowl on the floor is always filled and refilled; E's bowl rests on a counter. When we got E, A, who had broken her left front foot before we'd gotten her, hadn't yet mastered jumping on the counters, whereas E already could.

E is a grazer; A gulper. Give A her food, and she'll down it all in a couple of minutes; she may even turn around and put her back to the wall to keep an eye on us and E while she munches. E nibbles, then walks away, and returns later for the rest.

Afterward, if I'm sitting at my desk, E will wander in, rub against my legs, and weave figure-eights between my calves. Shortly before meal time the girls will come to me, look toward my face, and cry; E offers a full-throated meow, a terrifying sight because she keeps her eyes open and on you while doing this. A chirps; she never mastered a regular meow, either. I haven't been able to teach E to tell time; I show her the digital clock on the microwave, state that it's only 11:55, not noon yet ... but she does not seem to care.

The state of math education in this country ...

2. One of These Things Is Not Like the Others.

A three-meal-a-day schedule is regular for kittens, but it's common to move to twice a day for adult cats, or even once a day if they are well-behaved grazers. Last winter I should have looked into these questions, but since the girls are generally healthy, well-fed, and active enough (for cats, who sleep 25 hours in a 24 hour day ...), I never really bothered. The questions? How often, how much, and why?

First, a few cat food and feeding links, more or less representative but hardly a thorough investigation of the literature:

- How Much Food Does an Adult Cat Need Per Day? www.ehow.com/facts_52190

- How Often Should You Feed Your Cat? www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/

- Feeding Your Adult Cat www.aspca.org/pet-care/c

- How Much Should I Feed My Cat? www.catster.com/cat-food

- How much/often should you feed a full grown cat? answers.yahoo.com/questi

A consensus? There isn't one, per se, but a number of behaviors are treated as normal enough, such as once or twice a day for adult cats up to age 7 or so. We never shifted from three times a day, and the girls are happy enough with the system as it is, but perhaps we should move to twice. When I was growing up (when we at one point had fifteen cats ... only three inside-only, a number of inside-out-side males (trusted not to scratch or spray), and some inside-only-with-supervision males (who would spray ... basically barn cats)) the cats got fed twice a day, usually by my dad, and there was no policing as to whether anyone was eating too much or too little. A bowl or two were just filled in the garage. And the outside cats also supplemented their meals with bugs, mice, lizards, snakes, and even the occasional large, migrating goose.

Yes. Really.

The next question is 'how much?' and it has more rigid, definite answers, but they have a number of variables: the size of the cat, its age and activity, and the type/quality of food (soft vs. hard, but also the quality of the hard food).

A number of pages recommend 20-30 calories per pound (of adult cat) per day; some edge toward that 30 number. So it's a matter of the calorie-content of the food and the weight of the cat.

3. Crunching Food and Numbers.

Ms. S. takes care of most of the cat supply shopping, and both food and litter she varies based upon the coupons available. She goes for dry, with moist an occasional treat. We then just dump a given bag into our empty plastic bin with its lid, which now lives in a closet and behind a closed door because E, and then A in imitation of her, learned how to get to the top shelf above the washing machine where the food was stored. And we don't trust them to find a way to dump the bin of the floor.

There are currently two bags unopened in the apartment.

One is a bag of Meow Mix, which recommends 1/2 to 1 cup a day for a 5-9lb. cat. While it advertises itself as "naturally rich in omega 3 & 6 fatty acids," made from "high quality ingredients," and "100% complete nutrition," none of those expressions actually *means anything.* There is no food labeling requirement here; I miss having a side panel telling me serving size, calories per serving. carb-fat-and-protein content, and so on.

The other bag is some Cat Chow ("Healthy Weight"), which also sings its own praises and promises to be "100% complete & balanced for adult cats." On the side of the bag this one provides a "guaranteed analysis," promising a minimum "crude protein" content of 36% and "crude fat" content of at least 9%. It has no more than 6.5% "crude fiber" and 10% moisture. For a 5-9lb. cat it recommends 1/2 to 3/4 cup per day (for weight maintenance); it's not recommended for smaller cats for weight loss.

Both are "name brands," but neither is a "premium" food, and I don't know how, at the moment, to compare it with what we fed the cats when I was growing up (usually Science Diet or similar).

What about A & E?

This afternoon I got on the scale and weighed myself a couple times (within a pound of Sunday's weekly weigh-in), and then took the girls one by one and weight myself with them. The results were:

A: 7.8lbs.
E: 6.6lbs.

E has always been thinner than A, and she has longer legs. She struts and occasionally prances. A is a bit stockier and is more prone to slinking on her shorter legs. Neither is particularly large (not like some of the 15-18lb. barn cats we used to have).

I was led to these and other questions because A has been eating E's food; first she consumes her own and then, once E has taken a break, she jumps on the counter and finishes E's bowl. Sometimes I catch her, other times I take E's bowl and put it away until E comes looking for it again. I wondered, is A getting fat? Is she not getting enough to eat? And is E getting enough, when/if A is stealing her food. Now I have something more like benchmarks.

They are demons. That's what cats are. ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=

Our cats have two caretakers, me and Ms. S. After Ms. S.'s last owner left her, A took pity on Ms. S., shed her slave-name ("Bella"), and a few months later opened the apartment door to another tenant, E.

They bonded with each other quickly, control us entirely, and recently reminded me to put out something gourmet ...
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thanks for the comments; they're appreciated. Now to shift gears back from thinking about kitty food to huma food.
    1991 days ago
    They are beautiful! Really enjoy your blogs!
    1991 days ago
    1991 days ago
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