The first time a slice of apple fell on the kitchen floor and Casey, my orange tabby, outraced my dogs, Kona, Cleo and Bujeau, to consume it with seemingly wonderful joy, I realized that the finicky moniker often placed on all felines is not deserved — nor accurate. In fact, in taking a simple poll of my Facebook pet friends, I received an immediate avalanche of examples of unexpected cuisine preferences by their healthy and happy cats.
Wait a minute. Cats are obligate carnivores. They’re supposed to be hardwired to seek meat, to consume a majority of protein in their diets to stay healthy. So, why the attraction to corn on the cob or a slice of watermelon? “There are many cats who are attracted to what we would conventionally consider ‘odd’ foods for cats,” says Michele Forbes, D.V.M., a veterinarian and co-owner of Compassionate Care Animal Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Yes, they are obligate carnivores, which means they need protein in their diets to survive. The sense of smell is really big for catsl, but we now know that cats are also attracted to shapes and textures.”
Veterinarians surmise that some cats are drawn to that buttered corn on the cob left unprotected on your plate because of the fun texture the kernels do on their teeth. And even though it’s highly theorized that cats lack sweet taste receptors, the lure to the watermelon slice may be for the fruit’s high water content, not for its sweetness. (Note: keep kitty away from the seeds as they aren’t so good for your cat.)
Some cats, however, are attracted to non-foods, like plastic bags and paper. Jessica Dwyer, who operates a cat-only Whiskers At Home professional pet sitting business in Bellevue, Washington, discloses that Leo, her orange tabby who lived for 17 years, maintained a lifetime attraction to paper and plastic.
“For 17 years, I didn’t have a single paper out anywhere in the house,” Dwyer says. “I had to give a list of do’s and don’ts to my family when they stayed with us, and I always gave them a special little box to lock their papers up. He still managed to get in their suitcases and eat their papers. I had to always hide plastic, but he managed to always find a way to open drawers and closets to get to the plastic to eat it.”
Dr. Forbes offers this explanation to cats like Leo: “Cats like the crinkle sound that plastic bags make and may be drawn to the animal protein used in the making of plastic bags. For some cats, chewing on or eating inedible items like paper (a condition called pica) … could be due to a neurological condition, an underlying medical condition or a possible lack of environmental enrichment. Because there is a possibility of intestinal obstruction due to a cat ingesting a non-food item, I definitely recommend you call your veterinarian and seek their advice.”
For cats with outdoor access or indoor cats “lucky” enough to encounter a bird, mouse, rat or lizard trespassing in the house, their hunting skills go into overdrive. These critters represent hunting prizes for your feline. But they also may be carriers of disease, such as avian flu, or have eaten poison left by pest control companies that your cat has now also ingested. Contact your veterinarian immediately (and bring in the killed prey to be tested) at the earliest signs of ill health in your cat.
Some indoor cats, like my cat, Casey, delight when a wayward moth, fly or lightning bug soars inside. The aerial hunt ensues with Casey flying on counters and leaping on the sofa in pursuit of stalking, capturing and (yuck) eating any winged trespasser.
The occasion “meal” of unlucky bugs by your cat is usually harmless. However, if your cat shows any signs of ill health after eating a bug, such as vomiting, drooling or staggering, call your veterinarian pronto.
“Don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian and say, ‘My cat just ate a lightning bug or killed and ate part of a mouse. Is that OK?’” Dr. Forbes says. “It’s important to have a good relationship with your veterinarian. A fly in the house is highly entertaining for your cat to hunt. But if a cat pursues a wasp in the house and gets stung in the mouth and his tongue starts to swell, this is a medical emergency that definitely warrants immediate veterinary attention.”
Here are some responses from feline friends all over North America:
Holly Cook, of Seattle, reveals that Chrissy Cat is a big fan of butter and potato chips.
Jeanne Kudich, of Jackson, Michigan, has two cats with strange eating habits. “Mozart likes green olives. Tommy likes anything dairy … yogurt, cheese, ice cream. Oh, and he has eaten part of a Peep (the sugary Easter treat in a shape of a chick) and seemed to like it.”
Melissa Boesch, of Dallas, Texas, definitely bonded with her late cat, Tex, at mealtime. “He loved asparagus. I could put one end of a spear in my mouth, and he would eat from the other end, á la Lady and The Tramp with spaghetti.”
Kat-Renee Kittel, of Wichita, Kansas, shares: “When one of my fosters was a kitten, he loved to eat peanut butter. My Katie Too, now 13 years old, used to lick strawberries as a kitten and played with celery.”
Nicole Sours Larson, of San Diego, California, writes: “Amy loves lettuce, especially romaine. Alexander loved tamales, but only if made at home with lard. He also loved smoked salmon and carne asada.”
Cindy Vet, of Decatur, Georgia, has a big list of weird food favorites for her cats, Tigger and Oso: “Pizza crust, tuna fish juice from the can, yogurt, pecans, bread, cheese and Doritos. Tigger would go head first into the bag of Doritos. Oso destroyed the bag to get it open and then used his paw to scoop out the chips.”
Tell us: What is the weirdest thing your cat has ever eaten? Did it result in a trip to the vet?
Thumbnail: Photography ©bazilfoto | Thinkstock.
Arden Moore is a pet behavior consultant, author and master pet first aid instructor who often teaches hands-on classes with her cool cat, Casey, and very tolerant dog, Kona. Each week, she hosts the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio. Learn more at ardenmoore.com and follow Arden on Facebook and on Twitter at @ArdenKnowsPets.
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