She tried to make me eat the raw food. I said, No, no, no.

Chester went on a hunger strike. Total, complete, hard core hunger strike.

Y’all know I got a cat back in February, right?

My heart went out to him. He was cared for and largely accommodated, but his previous owners were over it. They said he was an asshole. They are my friends and I love them, so no judgments about the reasons why. But during my weekend visit, I became convinced that the cat would have a better go of it if he lived with me. So I brought him home to Birmingham.

#hubris

This is Chester pre-hunger strike. You can see the determination in his eyes.
This is Chester pre-hunger strike. You can see the determination in his eyes.

Because of the massive success of my raw food experiences with the Pugs, I tried to force a transition to raw for Chester from the start. But he would have none of it.

He flatly refused all things fresh, whether raw or cooked.

I tried EVERYTHING. Chicken, turkey, fish, beef, quail, chicken livers, chicken broth, fish stock, goat milk, eggs, raw fish, canned organic fresh water sardines. Even smoked salmon.

He turned his back, flipped his tail with terrific disdain and looked down his nose at my high-quality, organic, free-range whatever. He said that I and my Bourgeois approach to cat food could kiss his ass. He was raised on junk food and is wedded to it for better or for worse. Till death do us part.

So, I backed off for a few months. I wanted to give him some time to transition to his new environment in a new house with new dogs and a new person.

I took him to acupuncture. I fed him high quality canned and dry food. I bought fancy, overpriced litter. I mixed powdered herbs in coconut oil and put it on his paws to help his tummy. I bought him a flea collar and let him hang out in my enclosed backyard to watch the birds and squirrels.

He adjusted successfully. He was solid. He gained a little weight. He was shedding much less. The hairballs were fewer and farther between. He purred often and loudly. He lovingly licked my eyelids while I slept (which woke me up and pissed me off at first, but I eventually learned to accept his love language).

Couldn’t leave well enough alone, though, could I?

I had spoken with my neighbor who successfully switched his 18-year-old cat to raw when she began having health problems after a lifetime on Meow Mix. He said after a day or two of no other option, she ate it, and arrested her health issues while regaining some vitality. He was a convert and encouraged me to practice a little tough love.

That was all I needed to hear. I came down with a raging case of the by-Gods. I would switch this cat to raw or die trying!

#Word

I bought two raw food options. One frozen (Stella & Chewy’s) and one freeze dried (Sojos).

I tried the Stella & Chewy’s first. I thawed it under a heat lamp. I poured fresh goat milk over it. And for two days straight, he sniffed it and walked away.

Curses!

So then I thought Sojos might be more appealing. I mixed it with warm, homemade broth instead of water. I coo-ed to him and scratched his chin while I lovingly placed it before him in a beautiful cut-glass bowl. I mean, it was a frickin’ Friskies commercial if there ever was one. I could hear music in the background and the announcer’s voice in my head telling the world how I feed my cat with love.

He sniffed it and walked away.

(Beginning to see why his former owners said he was an asshole). Sweet kitty.

I left it out for him in case he changed his mind. After all, we were at the end of Day 3 and he hadn’t had a morsel. He dropped weight. His sides were concave.  His hair began to fall out. The litter box was clean, unused. He was miserable.

He caterwauled throughout the house during the night. I’m hungry!

He crawled all over me and smacked me in the face with his paw. Feed me, dammit!

Every time I entered the kitchen, he was pacing the counters, wailing to the tune of his hunger pangs. Don’t you love me anymore? It truly was gut wrenching for the both of us.

Still, he refused to eat.

Because the food was fresh and raw, the ants came marching two-by-two, hurrah.

#FML

At the end of Day 4, he finally condescended to nibble the Sojos.

I WON! I WON!!, I rejoiced. I did a happy dance. I texted the video of it to my friends. I DID IT! I AM AWESOME!

But the joy was short lived.

After only the slightest dent in the bowl, he walked away…

When he once again refused to eat on the morning of Day 5, I caved. He really was looking quite haggard, and I was about to go out of town for several days. Also, I was beginning to feel like Liningen. So I went back to the canned and dry.

Sometimes tough love is not the answer. Sometimes, you just have to play the hand you’re dealt.

Chester has put his weight back on. We’re all sleeping more soundly, and he is content with his options. Organix canned food, and Pure Vita dry. Both grain-free. That’ll simply have to do.

#OverIt.

I’ve Acquired a Cat

Before I was a Pug person, I was a cat person. But I’ve not owned a cat since I was living at home with my parents, when I had a lovely gray tabby that I’d found in the Pizza Hut parking lot. Her name was Lucy Frances. Double name befitting a sophisticated southern lady. Great cat.

Granted, I acted impulsively when I agreed to take this thin, balding, pitiful creature into my care. I took him from some dear friends who’d grown weary of tolerating his catness.

Don’t judge. They took fine care of him. He just wasn’t a dog.

And if I’m being honest here, I must admit I took him more out of interest in a new project than love in my heart for a cat. At least to begin with…

That may be why it took me over a month to decide on a proper name for this feline.

His previous owners called him Buster.

Really, guys? So pedestrian.

He is a silky black long-haired cat with bright green eyes.

Meet Chester. Truman's cool with it. Pearl, not so much.
Meet Chester. Truman’s cool with it. Pearl, not so much.

‘Buster’ didn’t seem to fit him. It lacked the degree of refinement necessary to comfortably cohabit with a Pearl and a Truman. Nevertheless, due to my lingering indecision, he came dangerously close to being called ‘Cat’ for the rest of his life (which is also a bit pedestrian- no offense, Mr. Capote). 

It’s been an arduous task choosing an appropriate moniker for the newest member of our family.

What I learned in this process is that I should avoid the opinions of other adults who approached it more from a ‘Do this; Don’t do that” perspective. (Adults can be assholes delightfully unyielding). I should instead turn to children when matters of this level of importance are at stake.

My nieces and nephew participated in a brainstorming session over the weekend. Although ‘Coconut’ and ‘Domino’ were respectable considerations, we ultimately decided that ‘Chester’ was sufficiently distinguished, different from Buster, but similar enough to it to perhaps be familiar sounding to the cat.

Chester it is. And he seems to like it.

Deciding on a name–the right name–immediately changed the tenor of our relationship, as naming something often does.

Now, he’s MY cat. Not just a cat I took from my friends as a health-improvement project. Not merely the source of tremendous consternation for Pearl. (She’s like, First Truman. Now this?! The hell, mama? What’d I ever do to you?!). He’s no longer here on a trial basis. I’ve named him. We’ve shuffled past No Return.

I want to feed him a raw diet, but he is FIN-IC-KY!

Cats are obligate carnivores, so providing balanced nutrition for him will require a different approach than the diet I provide my dogs. And anyway, it took about 3 weeks to find anything–ANYTHING– premium, specialty expensive as hell, dry or canned food that he would dane to eat.

He’s quite boney, and has several bald spots. He pukes up hairballs in inconvenient places, sheds worse than the Pugs (which is saying something), and I’m having to adjust to life with a litter box. Ick. Picking up dog poo in a baggie has no effect on me, but scooping litter-coated nuggets and “clumped” puddles requires an intestinal fortitude I’m having to muster.

For now, my focus has been to just get him settled, get him to eat quality food, let the dogs have time to adjust, and then we’ll launch into Phase 2 of Cat Restoration Project. All while practicing law, taking a course in companion animal health care, and launching a private canine nutritional consulting business.

I’ve got scads of time these days…

Wish us luck!

pugs & kisses,