31: Let’s Make a Deal

31: Let’s Make a Deal

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

Let’s Make a Deal

Dogs eat. Cats dine.

~Ann Taylor

Gracie, my mini Maine Coon, likes to dine graciously. She’s definitely the tablecloth, flowers and candlelight kind of cat. Unfortunately, her siblings Thomas, Iggy and Maggie, aka “The Vacuum,” devour everything in their dish in ten seconds or less, giving a new definition to fast food. The moment they’re finished, they’re on the hunt for more. Gracie’s dish is an easy target.

While Gracie is quite happy to carve her initials into my skin without the slightest provocation, she won’t so much as lift a paw to protect a single kibble in her dish. At first I felt sorry for her. I figured her bigger siblings were intimidating her into handing over her food, like the school bully stealing lunch money from smaller kids. Then I realized my little wheelerdealer, far from being a victim, had initiated a barter scheme. She traded kibble for favors.

I can see how it goes down. Gracie sidles up to Iggy and murmurs, “Give me your favorite cat toy for two hours, and I’ll let you have three of my kibble.” Iggy immediately turns over the catnip-filled scruffy carrot. She swishes over to Thomas with another offer. “Clean my ears and you get four kibble.” Thomas quickly sticks his long tongue into her ear before pushing her out of the way to scarf her food. Then she waltzes over to Maggie and whispers, “Let me sleep in the sunny spot on the dining room table this afternoon, and you can have six.” Maggie leaps off the table and rushes to Gracie’s dish before her brothers even get a whiff of the kibble.

Having belatedly caught onto the conspiracy, I decided to put an end to it. I tried standing guard while she ate, but Gracie likes to take her time eating, rolling the kibble around her dish and savoring each bite. On mornings when I was rushing out to work, I didn’t have time to cat-sit and Gracie barely ate three kibble before I had to remove the uneaten food.

Next I tried separating the cats at mealtime by putting Gracie in a room by herself, but she refused to eat at all. She got thin, I got frustrated and her siblings got mad.

So we were back to feeding and guarding, with her siblings prowling around us, glowering at me every time Gracie crunched a kibble. Iggy even started nibbling on my toes in protest.

Since Gracie likes to sleep with me, I decided to shift her last feeding to my bed at night. In my mind, I had it all worked out. We’d both get into bed and I’d toss a couple of kibble in a dish near my pillow. While she ate, I would get in a little bedtime reading. I figured just my presence in bed next to her dish would keep the other vultures away.

As usual when it comes to my cats, I figured wrong.

Maggie, who can hear the sound of a single kibble barely kissing a dish from four miles away, appeared on the bed within two seconds. Three seconds later, with my book barely open, a little brown paw snaked its way towards her sister’s dish.

“Oh no, you don’t,” I said, dropping my book and grabbing her paw. “That’s not for you. You’re already fattened up for market.”

She stared up at me with big round eyes. I swear she even sucked in her cheeks to make herself look thinner.

“Yeah, right. Like that’s going to work on me. Remember, I was there when the vet weighed you. Svelte was not one of the words she used to describe you.”

Maggie slowly pulled her paw under herself, settled down within an inch of her sister, and sighed. Keeping one hand firmly on Maggie’s head, I picked up my book again as Gracie delicately nibbled at her kibble. Twenty minutes later the kibble was gone, I had finished a chapter, and Maggie jumped off the bed, disgusted with the state of the world and me, not necessarily in that order.

By the next night, the word had gotten out. As I walked into my bedroom, I was met with a line-up of all four cats across the edge of the bed. Four pairs of eyes watched me change into my jammies. Four tongues licked their lips in anticipation. Four bodies refused to budge an inch to let me get into bed.

I walked around to the other side and climbed on top. As I reached for the container of kibble, they surged toward me en masse, their gazes ricocheting between the container and my face. Iggy sauntered over to my toes, licked his lips, and then stared at me while the others crowded in closer. I could almost hear their silent communication. “On the count of three, we take her down.”

I did what any other cat-owned person would have done. I gave in. “Okay guys,” I said, my voice wavering a little, “here’s the deal. I give you each a couple of extra kibble and we all live to see another day.” Four heads nodded and I removed the lid to the container.

As Gracie nibbled from her dish near my pillow, I tossed kibble into the far corners of the bedroom for the hungry hoard. I figured the energy they expended racing for the food balanced out the extra calories. But you can bet I’ve slept with my toes safely under covers from that night onward.

~Harriet Cooper

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