I Call My Cat Tulip the Tank — Because She Plows into Food


Doesn’t the name Tulip evoke images of a sweet, demure, female kitten? With snow white paws and a little pink nose? Who prances daintily around the house rubbing her soft calico fur gently against legs and furniture? Well, all of the above is true — until food enters the picture. Then this sweet little flower morphs into the opposite of all that her name implies, into … Tulip the Tank!

Interestingly, I myself come from a family where food was of utmost importance. My brother and I would get into a physical altercation over the last E.L. Fudge cookie, and my parents just might stop speaking if one of them polished off the box of Cheez-Its first. Granted, Tulip wasn’t around to see any of this, as I adopted her when I was an adult, far removed from the influences of my family. However, she somehow seemed to pick up on it … maybe through some sort of sixth cat-sense?

In any case, Tulip the Tank is sneaky, greedy, and cutthroat. Tulip the Tank is her name, and kitty chow is her game. Her appetite is bottomless, and she doesn’t care whose paws she’s stepping on to get the food she wants.

For example, one of the first animals Tulip met under my care was a friendly dog, a Boxer named Patches. Patches was a finicky eater and would pick at his food, often leaving remnants in his bowl. Thankfully, Patches’ kibbles were a bit too big even for Tulip the Tank to attack, but she so appreciated when he would slop a few into his water bowl, softening them just enough that she could slurp them up along with his water, her little red tongue darting quickly in and out of his dish. Before he’d come back to the room, Tulip had flawlessly transitioned into her “kitty sit,” licking her paws, her bright green eyes staring innocently ahead.

Shortly after beginning her friendship with Patches, Tulip met my family’s Beagle, Gadget. Most people are aware that Beagles are known for their insatiable appetites, and Gadget is no different. I thought for sure Tulip the Tank would not emerge on this visit because no one has an appetite to match his. However, Tulip was over at his water dish, slurping away and hunting for scraps, the second his back was turned.

Then came her most recent acquaintance: a svelte, sleek, and majestic black cat named Jack, which my roommate brought home. I wondered how her behavior might be different with a cat rather than a dog. “His food is so similar, maybe she won’t care,” I thought to myself. “He’s a lot bigger than her, maybe she’ll be submissive,” I mused hopefully.

On Jack’s first night in our apartment, Tulip was on him from the get-go. She followed him EVERYWHERE, in a seemingly manic state. My normally calm, loving snuggle bug started to prove her name with an overwhelming sense of urgency. If Jack scratched her scratch pad, she used his litter box. If Jack smelled her water, she drank his. If Jack was pet by my roommate or me, she shot us a death stare. But she still hadn’t touched his food …

The next day, my roommate noticed that every time she put out food for Jack, who is a grazer like most cats, his bowl was licked clean. She thought this was a little strange.

That night, when she fed Tulip, she took one bite of the food and then heaved a little, as if the mere sight of it disgusted her. Or perhaps it was more like if a person had just eaten Thanksgiving dinner and then someone offered him a large pepperoni pizza? That’s when we got suspicious and started spying. Sure enough, any time we were out of the room and so was Jack, she would sneak a nibble or two of his food. Tulip the Tank was back!

Tulip’s love of food is not limited to just cat and dog food, either. Have you heard of cats who will lick a popcorn bowl, slurp spaghetti sauce, or jump in the sink to devour crumbs of a cookie tray? We have to be vigilant about cleaning our drain stoppers, or Tulip the Tank will do it for us.

Yesterday, Tulip was taking a break from scavenging and watching a squirrel from the windowsill. The squirrel, frozen in fear on the tree, looked as though he was quite fattened up and ready for winter. I’m not sure if Tulip stared intently for so long because he looked like a nice snack or simply because she envied his plump body, which in spite of all her efforts, her seven-pound frame just can’t seem to achieve.

Whether Tulip is acting like a soft, delicate flower or a ravenous, thirsty tank, I love her just the same.

Kate is an elementary school teacher living in Fairfield County, CT, with her lovable calico, Tulip. She has a passion for (in no particular order) fitness, reading, wine, and the summertime.

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