Thursday Mar 23

“One day you’ll own a pet and you’ll understand,” my step-mom, Hons, said to us kids when we were cornered on the staircase landing by her attack cat, Mr. Button. She swooped him up into her arms where he purred while loathingly staring us down. Technically, Mr. Button, the most stunningly beautiful Himalayan/Persian, was our family pet,but we all knew (and he did too!) that he only loved Hons. I should say, Hons and the taste of blood. I used to joke around with my friends that Mr. Button was a cat vampire and he only needed blood to survive. His untouched bowl of cat food was evidence of his obvious culinary preference.

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When my mom got her cat, Casey, my brother, sister and I were anxious about his food preferences. It turned out he had a healthy addiction to canned tuna. When my mom sings, “Tooooo-nnnnaaaa, Casey!” he hungrily prances to the kitchen with his furry white tail writhing in anticipation. Our scarred calves and forearms were grateful for Casey’s “normal” cat menu selections.
 
Years ago Mr. Button passed, and any other cat that we adopted almost seemed too tame. Only a few were as handsome or had such a vivid personality. One that stands out was Prince, a black cat who would stand up on his hind paws and beg like a dog for his cat treats. Sadly, we lost Prince too soon, and it took us a long time to heal from his sudden passing. But a few months later my parents had no other choice to take in the extremely personable and charming feral kitties, Tina and her brother Ike.
 
Ike has taught me that some cats, particularly ones saved from the treacheries of wilderness meals, like table food more than cat food, treats, blood, or tuna. On any given morning, one can find Ike scoping out the kitchen, making sure my dad and his spray bottle are nowhere in sight. Stealthily, he leaps onto the bar stool next to my brother, and then onto the kitchen counter. He checks again for my dad and the water bottle. Then Ike eats my brother’s breakfast of scrambled eggs-- from my brother’s plate. Luckily when my dad is around, my brother kindly offers Ike his leftover eggs by putting his plate on the floor.
 
My parents told me during a recent phone call that they’ve had to start hiding their loaves of Pepperidge Farm White Sandwich bread. Ike, again, quietly pounced onto the kitchen counter, and stole a loaf, tightly wrapped in its packaging. And, as if to brag, he raced around the house with the twist-tied end between his jaws. As you can imagine, Ike is quite familiar with my dad’s spray bottle. But he endures those searing spirtzes all in the name of food, which only fuels my respect for him.
 
The funny thing is, even with Ike, I never really thought about pets and their menu selections until my husband and I finally got a pet of our own, Bleu, a black Labrador Retriever. Oh, that dog has made me understand, just as Hons promised. As a puppy he developed several food allergies to the point that he only ate rice or pasta for over a month. To this day if I pour a box of elbow macaroni into boiling water, he sprints into the kitchen, obediently sits down next to my feet, and wags his tail in anticipation.
 
I have to admit I love every minute of Bleu’s begging, of his keen awareness that an open freezer means ice cube, and of his sense of smell that leads him to fresh green beans that need snapping. In middle school, plenty of boys called me a dog. But today I’m honored when some says, “You’re like a dog.” Most days I think Bleu and I are the only two who are so truly, honestly, insanely addicted to food that all worries or concerns or thoughts disappear when the smell of a perfectly seared juicy grass-fed steak fills the kitchen’s air. (And I’m known to steal food from someone’s plate, much like the pooch...)
 
Bleu, and the cats of my childhood, inspired this month’s From Plate to Palate. So give them a little crumb. Or a whole plate. Let them enjoy good food, such as Arlan Hess’ Dog Muffins or Kathryn Miles’ Ari’s Biscottis. Or excuse their poor table manners and rodent chasing as F. Daniel Rzicznek and Cal Freeman so humorously do. Even just a table scrape can make their day as you’ll see in Sarah Lenz’s “Garbage Disposals in my Backyard.” No matter the species or breed, let’s celebrate food with our pets this month!

Photo of Ike by Howard McGuire II
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Apart from obsessing about food and wine in Connotation Press and on her blog The Everyday Palate, Amanda McGuire also writes book reviews which have appeared in Fifth Wednesday Journal, Literary Magazine Review, and Mid-American Review. Her poems have appeared in Noon: Journal of the Short Poem, The Cream City Review, 27 rue de fleures, So To Speak, and other literary journals. She teaches at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.