My cat is obsessed with food. But it wasn’t always this way.
When Furball was a kitten, all he wanted to do was play. If I tried to pet him, he’d attack my hand. However, he was so cute that I couldn’t resist reaching out to pat his furry little head. As a result, I learned to pet him the only time he would hold still, which was when he was eating.
Every time he ate, he would not only enjoy his meal, but also receive some serious TLC. Maybe it was this combination of calories and love that spawned his lifelong romance with eating. Hey, it works that way for people. Why not cats?
As Furball transitioned from being a kitten to an adult, he developed a keen interest in his food dish. Being a novice cat owner, I naively assumed that I could fill the bowl and Furball would stop eating when he was full. I think I read that somewhere. What that got me was a fat cat who needed to go on a diet.
In the pre-diet days, Furball would start whining for food about half an hour before his meal. While on the diet, Furball began lobbying for food about two hours before it was time to eat. This was a nuisance at dinnertime and especially annoying at 6 a.m. It went on for years, and we achieved an uneasy balance. Furball whined incessantly for food, but he lost weight. I thought he was a good size until he had a recurrence of struvite crystals blocking his bladder. The vet stated quite frankly, "Your cat is overweight, and this will increase his chances of getting another blocked bladder."
Seriously? I had to reduce Furball’s food portions again.
This time around, Furball became more cunning and surreptitious in augmenting his diet. One night, I foolishly placed a plate of tuna on the table. In the kitchen, my husband and I talked about how good Furball was at leaving our food alone as the cat snuck out. Several minutes later, we realized Furball had vanished. We found him on the dining room table stuffing his face with tuna. He was like a champion competitive eater, gobbling as much as he could as fast as possible.
On another occasion, my in-laws came to visit, and Furball took advantage of their lack of vigilance. We found Furball on the kitchen table sampling aloo gobi, a spicy Indian curry dish. He didn’t care much for the cauliflower, but he ate the heck out of the curried potato.
Eventually, the commitment to dieting paid off and Furball slimmed down to a svelte 12 pounds. All was good as long as we ignored the three hours a day he spent meowing for food. Another uneasy stasis was achieved.
Unfortunately, everything became unbalanced when we added our newborn son to the equation. Picture two sleep-deprived parents waking up every two hours to attend to an infant. Every minute of sleep was precious, and when the baby slept, we didn’t want anything to wake him up. This was in direct contravention to a cat that would yowl full force for food in the morning. If Furball heard so much as a peep from the baby, he would start meowing, even if it was 6, 5, or 4 a.m.
Crazed from exhaustion and having precious winks of sleep stolen from me, I seriously thought about giving Furball away. I now understood all the cats I’ve seen at shelters that had been given up for adoption because "the baby was allergic.” The baby wasn’t allergic; it was the parents who were at the end of their rope.
I wondered who would want an older cat with bladder issues and a penchant for whining incessantly. I knew that if I gave Furball up for adoption, no one would adopt him and he’d be put down. This wasn’t acceptable to me. I had signed up to adopt him for better or worse. Somehow we would make things work.
The incorrigible situation prompted me to go into research mode. I saw a glimmer of hope when I heard about a friend’s brother who had a cat with a gluttonous disposition similar to Furball’s. He used a timed feeder to disassociate himself as the source of food, and it worked. It was worth a try.
Of course, Furball had previously cracked the code to opening a pet feeder. We searched high and low for a cat-proof feeder and ended up forking over enough cash to make a car payment for the Rolls Royce of pet feeders. It was either that or no sleep — or give the cat away — so we did what we had to do.
Once the feeder arrived, I skeptically set it up and wondered if it would really work. A miracle happened. Within days, Furball stopped waking us up in the morning. Everyone could sleep again.
And now, several years later, I am so glad that I honored the commitment I made when I first adopted my cat. Furball still whines for food, but we get to sleep in until 7 a.m. Now it’s the kid who’s waking us up!
Image Credits: All Furball pics courtesy Holly Tse; top black cat image by shutterstock.
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