63: Rabbit Food

63: Rabbit Food

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

Rabbit Food

Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want.

~Joseph Wood Krutch

Before adopting my two kittens, I did a lot of research. I wanted to make sure I gave them the best possible start in life. One of the things I read was that, while dogs are omnivores, cats are true carnivores whose diet should simulate what they ate in the wild, where they hunted their own dinner.

After I brought my new kitties home, I quickly weaned them off the kibble they had been fed by their foster family and onto a raw diet of free-range beef, turkey, chicken, and the occasional fresh fish with vitamin and mineral supplementation. They both thrived on their new regimen.

Seeing how well my cats were doing “in the raw” prompted me to overhaul my own diet too. I had read a lot about the benefits of a raw diet for humans, so I tried to incorporate more fresh fruits, uncooked vegetables and raw nuts into my meal planning — but left the raw meat to my feline companions.

Every night I’d make a huge salad for dinner. When I took my salad ingredients out of the fridge, both cats would jump on the kitchen counter to see if it was for them. They were very interested in anything I did on the counter, since that’s where their meals were prepared. Misty, the more aggressive eater, would run toward me meowing, then stop and sniff the veggies, turn up her tiny pink nose, and strut away. But Stormy, who was usually shyer and less interested in food, was fascinated. She’d perch close by and look on with interest as I washed and chopped my vegetables. She gradually became bolder, moving closer and closer, and meowing at me when I tore bite-sized pieces of greens into my bowl.

“Do you want a piece?” I asked her one day, amused by this behavior. I figured if she realized it wasn’t cat food she’d lose interest. I held out a small leaf of spinach for her to sniff. She hesitated a second, and then to my surprise she yanked it out of my hand and ran away with it. I laughed at the little imp and went back to making my dinner. Out of the corner of my eye I saw her across the room munching it. I smiled to myself, sure that when she was done playing with her new toy she’d leave it for me to clean up. But when she was done, she came back for another. “Stormy, do you like spinach?” I asked, amazed, and gave her another leaf to test her interest. Again she ran off with it in her mouth and ate the whole thing. She kept returning; she was insatiable.

This became a ritual, with the sound of the salad spinner acting like a dinner bell that called her from wherever she was in the house. When I didn’t have spinach one day, I apologized: “Sorry honey, we’re out of spinach. This is romaine.” She didn’t seem to understand and looked at me expectantly, so I gave her a small piece to illustrate the difference. But darned if she didn’t eat that too! It turned out she liked just about any kind of green — all forms of lettuce, spinach, kale, etc. — but spinach was her favorite. I even gave her some other categories of vegetables, and while she tried them, most ended up masticated to death on the kitchen floor.

Over time, even Misty adopted vegetarian ways. I attribute this to her great love of food of any kind. (She appears to be a true omnivore — meat, vegetables, shoelaces, carpeting…) Now they both crowd me on the counter as I make my salad, and if I don’t immediately indulge them with some leaves, they will put a paw on my arm to get my attention. Their MO is usually to sit patiently nearby and wait for me to hand them each a piece, then grab it with their teeth and shake vigorously. I assume this is an inborn feline response — to shake their prey once they catch it to stun it. Then they trot off a short distance and hunker down on the counter to eat it before returning for more.

Where did this interest come from, I wondered. Could they have imprinted on me, as their human mom, and adopted my newfound enthusiasm for salads?

I’m afraid I’ve created a monster. Two, actually. Once, when I turned my back to get something from the refrigerator, Stormy stuck her head in the salad spinner and pulled out a piece almost as big as she, carrying it off into the family room to eat. Another time I caught Misty eating directly out of my salad bowl. “I don’t eat out of YOUR bowl,” I scolded her. But she just looked at me and cocked her head, probably wondering, “Why not?”

We eventually settled into a dinnertime routine. I would feed them their raw meat nuggets first, before preparing my own dinner. Then, in the European manner, they would have a salad after their main course. All was fine, but in the back of my mind I remembered my research about a cat’s optimal diet and was a little concerned because of the volume of greens Stormy would eat, given the chance. So at her next physical, I mentioned this unusual behavior to our holistic vet. He looked at me over the top of his glasses and said in a serious tone, “You know what this means, don’t you?”

My eyes got wide and I swallowed with difficulty. I shook my head no, worried that her behavior might indicate some underlying nutritional deficiency.

He said, “It means…” and then his face crinkled into a smile, “that she was probably a rabbit in her last life.”

I certainly hadn’t been expecting that response!

~Susan Yanguas

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