Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Spoiled to death

Because in the next week or so comes my mumblety-somethingth birthday*, I’m taking time off to enjoy the finer things in life: sitting and enjoying the company of my cats.

People assume that I spoil the cats who share my house with me. I don’t. I give them a lot of things they probably don’t need, but then, I don’t go overboard and pretend that they’re my natural-born offspring deserving of a college education or diamonds and mink stoles. I occasionally get a little crazy with the catnip from the garden and the little mousey toys from the discount store. I’ve acquired a pair of harnesses and leashes designed expressly for cats, so that I can walk them over with me when I come to use Mom’s computer. And I buy lots of those premium bite-sized treats my family members call kitty-crack.

Okay, I spoil them.

Still, I wasn’t prepared for the panic I felt when I heard that there was a massive recall of pet foods and treats. Cats are dying out here, and they keep adding new products to the recall list, which means there is still stuff out there on the market which could kill ma wee beasties (okay, a dog has died, too, but think of me as the crazy cat lady, please, will you?). My friends and I swapped what information we had, and cleaned out our cupboards, comforting each other that our best buddies would be just fine, once we rid our homes of the potential hazard to liver, kidneys, whatever. Not that I worried so terribly much. Most of the stuff on the list was the really expensive food and treats, far outside my budget.

Still, concern prompted me to do some homework. I found the very, very long list of recalled products, passing on the internet link to two of my friends while receiving the same from two others. Then I proceeded to seek out recipes, so that I might make my own special foods for the critters of the household. I shared one dog biscuit recipe with Mom, who promptly made up a batch. Lesson learned: one should not bake with peanut butter unless one is planning to share it with the entire household. Next time we bake dog biscuits, we’ll be baking people biscuits, too. The temptation is too great, otherwise.

Another lesson: dogs and cats have low tolerance for many of the things we take for granted in our own diets. I knew years ago that chocolate and caffeine could be deadly to pets, but I hadn’t known that grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure (the juice seems to be safe for pets, though). Macadamia nuts can bring about partial paralysis and death. Offering them iron-enriched vitamins designed for human use may damage the linings of the digestive tract, as well as causing failure of kidney, liver, and other organs. Too much liver can cause Vitamin A toxicity. Onion and garlic can cause hemolytic anemia and, ultimately, liver failure and death. Offering baby food to your pet is a reckless decision, too, since many of the best baby foods contain onion and/or garlic.

And that’s the short list. There are countless ways to make unnecessary mischief for the furball in your life. Letting him hang out in the garage, where he may lick up the tasty antifreeze could cost your friend his fuzzy life. Using cocoa bean hulls in landscaping, if you enjoy allowing whiskered companions to help you with the garden. Letting them nibble at the trash, exposing them to toxic molds and bacteria. Letting them play in my basement does the same.

So, here I am, all worried. I’m going to have to trust in one brand of pet food, and just hope for the best -- keeping an eye on the animals in the meantime, to see that they don’t show signs of illness. Maybe I’ll even take up eating Purina Cat Chow, myself. The cats seem to like it plenty, and there doesn’t seem to be anything in the list of ingredients that I’m allergic to -- unlike most prepackaged people foods on the market.

I could make my birthday cake out of it, as long as my piece had chocolate frosting. None of that for the rest of the household, though. There is such a thing as spoiling a cat to death.

*Those who really need to know my age already do, and the rest of you can assume I'm just bashful, or something.

Suggested Reading:
Foods Which are Toxic to Dogs.
Dammit Jim, I'm a cat-owner, not a dog-biscuit chef! (for the comments, the recipe, and especially for the links).

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