Published Sunday, August 26, 2012

Table manners

In addition to being loyal, kind, cool and loving, pets are also a great source of free entertainment. At least mine were.

My last two live-in animals were a pair of cats, the surly siblings George and Tammy. They played together, fought together, and when one needed a quick pick-me-up or extra bit of grooming, the other was glad to help.

They had some swell tricks, too. Their repertoire included batting aspirins around the floor, chasing (and being chased by) birds in the house, and performing acrobatic stunts worthy of an Olympic gymnast.

The few hours each day they were awake, those cats never failed to keep me entertained.

The only thing my kitties took seriously was food, which may explain why George eventually tipped the scales at 24 pounds and his (relatively) petite sister even climbed to Wynona Judd proportions.

They loved their chow and were never shy about letting me know when the first hint of hunger arrived.

Several years ago, I moved to a new place that wasn’t exactly the Ritz. The roaches were almost as big as the rats and only slightly more plentiful.

It was a trying time for all three of us. We adjusted in our own ways. George decided to eat through the pain.

Since the “living room” was the nicest (and most bug and rodent-free part of the residence), we spent most of our time there. Including mealtime. I ate off a TV tray and the fuzzies ate from cute cat bowls my daughter had purchased for them.

At our previous residence, the routine was easy. I put food in the bowls, they promptly ignored me and munched away. At the new place, things were different. Tammy ate with her usual grace and charm, but George was antsy and anxious. It showed at dinner time, when went through his food like wildfire through dry hay. You’ve never seen an animal put away food so fast.

But George never seemed satisfied. After emptying his bowl, he camped out just a paw’s reach from Tammy’s bowl. Time and again he snuck an orange arm into Tammy’s bowl, flipped out a bit of kibble and devoured it.

After a few appetizers, he went all the way. I almost fell out laughing as I watched him look nonchalantly away then sneak his paw into Tammy’s bowl, snag it with his claws and drag her entire bowl slowly, inch by inch, toward him until it rested right under his gaping jaws.

Stealth cat snatches snack. It was as good a show as you’ve ever seen.

Maybe it wasn’t good table manners, but it was great fun. At least to me. But now, a team of European veterinarians who sound like die-hard catnip smokers have published a paper claiming that cats exhibiting the same behavior as George suffer from an actual disease. They actually said such behavior indicated an animal driven to the “brink of insanity.” Whoa.

The researchers studied several cats’ feeding routines. They decided the behavior was not physical, but psychological. They also said it wasn’t that big a deal.

Paolo Mongillo, from the University of Padua in Italy, who led the study, said, “Unless the cat is really obnoxious, most owners probably won’t complain.”

They called this condition “psychogenic abnormal feeding behavior.”

I call the study bull manure.

Even if they are right, who cares? If George was “suffering” from an eating disorder I’m glad I didn’t get it cured. I would have missed way too many good times.

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