• Rachel

The cat genuinely eats better than I do

TL;DR: Scroll to the bottom for pictures of my cat.

It's often said in jest that our much-loved canine companions and feline friends feast on schmancier, refined cuisines than their bipedal counterparts. As I look at the descriptions of the gourmet selection boxes my Mum has recently started buying for the cat in his “senior years”, I can see why. I don't remember the last time I ate something in a 'cascading gravy' or with a 'melting heart'. But, despite the fact that Doodles’ dinner actually contains whole shrimp, and might actually contain more nutrients than Maccy D’s chicken nuggets…I gather that the most of us don’t actually fancy tucking in to those fishy chunks (vegetarian pet foods are also available...though IMO they really shouldn't be) instead of our plate of Spaghetti Bolognese.

It‘s embarrassing to admit that, at times gone by, the woman upstairs has had such a grip on me that I’ve felt so hungry and desperate, that the smell of the cat’s kibble has actually made my mouth water. Dark times. But that isn’t why I’m here today claiming that the cat still eats better than I do. I'm not saying that this is a perfect or necessarily fair comparison. But, I have recently observed some interesting things about my cat’s relationship with food and exercise that, I believe, puts him in a far more optimal position than I myself can claim to be.

  1. He has no idea what a calorie is, let alone how many there are in each of his Iams crunchies. So there is no way any thoughts of numbers are plaguing his mind as he consumes.

  2. He knows what‘s good for him, and what he likes. Even if he is a little fussy and spoiled. He doesn’t force himself to eat a plate of vegetables to fill himself up, when what he really needs is a rich protein. He is a carnivore, after all.

  3. He gets excited about food. He is never so much my best friend as when I’m opening a pouch of Sheba. Food is meant to be enjoyed.

  4. But he doesn’t lose control, or avoid eating for fear of losing control. I’ve watched him leave some of his favourite kibble in the bowl and come back to it later. Because, even though it tastes good, he can trust his body and himself to know when he’s had sufficient. If he's unwell, he is naturally put off even the best food. Yes, he probably would normally choose to eat quite a few more Dreamies than we do give him, and yes, food can be used as a reward in animal behaviour. But he is also content with what he's given, and will happily wander off after he's been given his portion. He is not a dog, but he also does love being rewarded with attention, particularly in the form of a firm pat on his rump, or a good groom and brush (when he's in the mood, of course). It's not all about food.

  5. He doesn't overthink. He just eats when he needs to, and he knows when this is. He doesn't wait for his body to be physically weak before allowing himself something, or calculate how much he's allowed based on what he's had earlier that day. Everything is so much simpler.

  6. The only 'bad' food for him is stuff he doesn't like the taste of. He's not been conditioned by diet culture.

  7. He doesn't feel guilt around food. Probably more due to the fact that he doesn't have the emotional processing frameworks required to feel any kind of guilt in the first place. But still, he certainly doesn't experience false guilt. Oh, to be unbroken by diet culture.

  8. He is active, fit and doesn't force himself to clock a certain step count in order to earn Dreamies. He shoots off down the garden at full speed and back into the house again, not to punish himself for what he's eaten, but because he has a funny five minutes every so often and lets the energy out in excitement. He eats well to sustain his activity of...well, mainly patrolling his territory, asking for attention, and sleeping.

  9. Speaking of sleeping, he allows himself to rest. He certainly isn't reluctant to take a nap, and I'm pretty sure he isn't lying across my duvet feeling bad for not being more productive, or planning on eating a smaller meal later on because he's not done enough to earn a bigger one.

  10. He is healthy*. So he must be doing something right.

I often envy the simplicity of it. When, how, why did what I put in my mouth become so complicated, confusing, so all-encompassing, so emotional. Doodles (probably) dreams at night (and day) of chasing birds to hunt and eat...I wake up in panic and cold sweats having dreamed I ate a cheese sandwich.

Yet, as much as I do envy the simplicity of the carnal relationship with food...I also know that there are so many more dimensions to our human experience of eating that he knows nothing about. How the smell of rice freshly cooked out of a proper rice cooker takes me back to many joyful meals eaten with loved ones in the Philippines. How decorating and cookies with the children at Sunday school helps establish relationships of trust between you and them. How much fun and laughter sharing a Colin the Caterpillar cake is at a birthday party, however old we are. How relaxing it is to go to Europe and sit in the sunshine enjoying fresh patisserie, and how cooking up a big spread of courses and dishes for a table full of guests used to be such a blessing to both them and me. These are things that are far too complex for the feline brain to comprehend.

Food may be so much more complicated for me than it should be right now. But there is a level of complicated that makes our human experience of food so enriching, so pastoral, so uniting that I wouldn't change. Despite the tyranny of diet culture that pervades all of our lives to some extent, to get rid of the complex would also get rid of the joy. One day again, I hope that food will not be so complicated for me. But it will remain complicated enough for me to experience the joy of staff Christmas parties and summer BBQs once again.


* Oh, the word healthy is a complicated one. It's used incorrectly and/or arbitrarily on so many occasion that I don't think we really know what we even mean by the term anymore. Gosh, I could talk about this topic for hours. The World Health Organisation describes it as 'a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity'. I'm not sure whether that helps us or makes the concept all the more complicated. But, for the purpose of this post, let's equate this with meaning my cat is thriving as an embodied friendly feline with a bit of an alpha male complex and a slightly highly-strung attitude (which I blame my mother for). He is not significantly being limited by any physical, psychological or social ails inside or out of his control. I guess he's just #livinghisbestlife. Maybe. Idk. This is a topic for another time.


The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed. It is just these intense conflicts and their conflagration which are needed to produce valuable and lasting results.

- Carl Jung


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