Jinx has suffered a lot of indignities in her life. She’s a largely black cat that suffers from huge flakes of dandruff. She’s a short hair, but her coat is thick, especially on her hindquarters where poop likes to stick. She once broke her tail jumping off our bed, or something… we’re still not quite sure what the hell happened there. But one of the biggest indignities is when you try to pet her. Now, “you” is specific here. Katherine and I pet her, give her skritchy-scratches, brush her, generally handle her in anyway, and she rather enjoys it, unless medicine or the cat carrier is involved. But when you come in to our house, I will say to you, “Jinx will hiss at you if you try to pet her.” And you will try to pet her. And she will hiss at you.
Here’s what is confusing to you. She doesn’t run away when you come in the house. She’ll be sitting there on her perch, an ottoman that we’ve long ago sacrificed as an altar for her Highness, and look at you with calm eyes. She seems so relaxed and is a fluffy loaf, so she’s hard to resist. I understand this, and I will warn you, but this will be like a challenge to you, especially if you’re a cat person and know how to introduce yourself to a cat, so you will put your hand out for her to sniff. She appreciates the introduction and sniffs your hand with no fear or aggression. “Oh,” you will think, “clearly Jonathan doesn’t know how good I am with cats—I am the exception. Jinx clearly wants a pat on the head from me, and me alone.” Then you will attempt to pat her head or pet her, and she will rear back, scrunch her face and open her fanged mouth in the way that has scared humans for thousands of years, and give you a proper hiss. At this point, you will probably curse in fear and withdraw your hand. Jinx, in almost all cases, does not swat (sorry, Melissa), but the hiss alone will scare the shit out of you.
You may feel put off by this interaction, but what I can absolutely guarantee is that Jinx is much more offended by you than you are of her. After all, when introducing yourself for the first time, it’s rather impolite to just start molesting someone with your big, dumb hands, you dumb, stupid human.
Indy has a small, narrow head which helps him drink water from a variety of containers. Katherine hates when he tries to drink her water, having gone to such lengths as putting a plate over her glass when it’s on her nightstand. Indy eventually learned how to defeat this security system by knocking the plate off, spilling the glass and water all over Katherine’s nightstand. This did not embarrass Indy, as it might a more sensible cat. Rather, he lapped away at the water pooling on the nightstand that hadn’t made it to the floor. Katherine has upped her defenses by bring up her nightly water in a container with a screw-top. Indy knows there is water in there, but hasn’t figured out how to get the cap off. Yet.
He’ll work so hard to get my wife’s water despite the full cup on my nightstand that I will freely share. He knows it’s there, and if he comes up to my face, by standing on my chest, I’ll reach over and lift my cup to let him drink. I’m a pushover. Still, Katherine’s water is so very tempting.
I usually don’t find it squicky when he drinks from my cup. I’ll drink from it after he does. This may be unsanitary, but my laziness will win out over any health concerns. There are some limits. He once sneezed into my cup—then kept drinking. I replaced that container. And if I notice him cleaning himself after a litter box visit, I’m not that lazy to ignore how gross that is. Usually, I just don’t think about it, and I’ve been fine except for my almost daily gastrointestinal issues.
We have a small water fountain in our kitchen that continually cycles the water through a filter, and Indy really enjoys that water. He’ll complain if it gets too low or if the water gets stale. I don’t know how, but we usually understand his different caterwauling between water bowl issue, a dirty litter box, and him demanding to know “where the hell are you guys?”
His insatiable love for water afforded me the opportunity to notice that when he drinks, one—or both—of his legs spasm. He doesn’t lose his balance, and if both legs do it, they’ll do it one at a time, one then the other. Which leg, or if both, seems entirely random. If he’s on my chest, or on the floor, or sneaking on the table to drink out of a glass, he does this weird, little kick as soon as he starts lapping at the water, as if he was going to start marching. It doesn’t seem to phase him at all. He’s a bit touched in the head, like all cats, so it’s probably due to bad wiring, but he’s fine with it, and it’s part of his cat-ness that endears him to me.
Writing about my cats is easy. As cats, they have no expectation of privacy, so I can tell everyone their dark, dark secrets. They’re soft and cuddly, and have a built-in audience, slightly smaller than the audience for dogs, slightly more than the audience for other people’s children. And, since I spend an inordinately unhealthy amount of time with them, I know my cats’ personalities better than I understand my own. My cats can’t surprise me, but I often surprise myself.
That being said, a picture is worth a thousand words:
Jinx is the larger, black cat. It’s no optical illusion. She’s big. She got up to about 19 pounds, but with a very relaxed diet regimen, we got her to about 16. She’s got huge paws and a huge head, and I believe if we exercised her everyday, we’d probably get her to about 14 pounds, but no smaller. She’s just a big cat.
She jumps, scared, at everything, and walks around the apartment as if she suspects that something will pop out and attack her. The casual observer might think that this has to do with the much more energetic grey cat, Indy. And Indy does actually pop out and jump over Jinx every now and then. But Jinx is a year-and-a-half older than Indy, and she did her creeping and reflexive jumping long before Indy. She’s just a very nervous cat.
Odd, to me, is that she’s friendlier. She hangs out with people and tolerates touching. Indy takes a little bit of time to warm up to strangers in the house. He runs under the bed for a few minutes to make sure that no one else is coming in, then cautiously circumnavigates the room where the strangers are. Eventually, he’ll come up and sniff them. His major sticking point is that he thinks that hands at his level are play-toys, and he’ll eventually start to swat at at anyone who reaches down to him enough. He’s not aggressive though, and his initial swats are without claws. Of course, being a little boy, I will tend to continue to taunt him and evade his swats, so he’ll get riled up and eventually go into that grab with front paws, bite, and rabbit-kick with claws-out back paws thing that cats like to do. My hands and arms are a testament to his perseverance. Because I play with him this way, he does assume that all humans play this way. You’ve been warned.
Jinx plays less often, but she’s always interested in swinging strings and thrown small objects. Both our cats fetch. They will bring back the toy mice or plastic rings that we throw, more or less to our feet, but with random longevity. If Indy is somehow preoccupied, Jinx will fetch for several minutes, but if your throw lands short and is too close to Jinx, she considers the game over; she likes long-distance throws. Once Indy gets involved in anyway, again, the game is over. If Indy is fetching, he usually gets bored faster but has a much faster turn-around time. He can fetch 3 or 4 times in a minute, whereas Jinx usually takes a full minute to chase, then stalk, then pick up, then make sure no one is going to pop out and scare the bejeezus out of her, then jog back, then look around again to make sure that no one is going to pop out and scare the bejeezus out of her, then drop the object and meow that it’s our turn again.
Throw the object into something, and you can really see the difference in their personalities (felinalities?). Indy will jump in or at the object with gusto, absolutely no fear, but if the object isn’t readily available, Indy gives up after a few seconds, and returns, looking expectantly at the thrower. You can deny that you have the object, but Indy doesn’t believe you. Jinx, however, will run up to the place where the object landed and begin to do some detective work. She crouch before the box or chair or where ever the object is hidden, and, with ears back, peer over the edge to see if she can see the object. She’ll pace around the area, checking things from multiple angles. She’ll sniff the air to attempt to catch a whiff of it. It’s highly amusing. If she can’t find it, she will give up several minutes, and usually sit in the box or chair or where ever, and begin to do a sing-song meow that reminds me of throat singing, because it resonates and sounds like she’s trilling.
The photo above shows the two cats in a rare moment of proximity where they are not licking each other or wrestling. They don’t fight that often; although, my wife insists that any time they do is too much. But a couple of times a day, Indy will go up to Jinx and start licking her. Jinx licks back. They do this in an increasingly aggressive way, giving each other dirty looks. I find it extremely amusing to see aggressive licking. It reminds me of two people giving each other increasingly nasty backhanded compliments. If one of the two doesn’t back off, they’ll begin to wrestle. This will end relatively quickly, and the worst that happens is that Indy gets a clump of Jinx’s hair stuck into his mouth. Jinx sheds like mad, and I assume that she uses her shedding ability as an analog to the quills on a porcupine.
As noted, Indy usually goes up to Jinx to start the licking fight, but I’ve seen Jinx go over to Indy and just smack him in the face. She also has this one move where she rears back, hunched on her hind legs and one front paw lifted, and thump rapidly on Indy’s side, one-two-three thumps. I find that one hilarious. These will usually regress into quick wrestling matches and then guttural grows and a pathetic high-pitched meow from Indy. He’s clearly dominant in these situations, but it reminds me of Michael Jackson in the “Bad,” video yelling, “You ain’t bad; you ain’t nothin’!” Jinx finds it convincing, and will roll on her side in a submissive position. Indy, clearly unschooled in the etiquette of catfights, will jump on her. They’ll roll around with Jinx making an awful screech which actually scares both cats (and any humans in the area), and they’ll jump off each other with that embarrassed, “I don’t know what you’re looking at” position house cats are so good at assuming.
I do spend too much time with these furballs, but they amuse me endlessly.
Look, I completely understand the desire to eat well-rounded meals. It’s great that we’re ever concerned with eating more fruits and vegetables, reducing white starches, increasing our sources of protein. But I’m here to tell you: Your pets don’t need it.
A few weeks ago, I was struck by the increasingly needless crap manufacturers are putting in cat food. I was looking for a high protein food for my two cats, because, even though we limit the amount of dry food we feed them, I have one 17lbs flabby fuzz-ball, and the smaller 10lbs cat is beginning to gaining weight. The second ingredient in almost every dry cat food is cornmeal, so I figured that the cats were gaining weight because almost a third of what they eat is carbohydrates–and cats need no carbs, ever. Instead of finding higher protein dry foods in premium brands, I found ingredients like brown rice, carrots, and even fruit.
The only time a cat would ever naturally eat a piece of fruit is if it were in the digestive system of a small animal that became kitty’s din-din.
Don’t buy these premium “natural” or “holistic” cat foods. I think it’s great for humans to eat natural foods. I’m not even opposed to the word “holistic” if it’s applied correctly and not attached to chiropractic nonsense. But a cat’s body doesn’t do anything useful with fruits or grains. Cats need milligrams of fiber, normally supplied by the undigestible bits of their prey, so a pot of cat grass is more than enough if their food doesn’t supply it. But cats and humans share one digestion issue–unused carbs are stored as fat. Since cats’ digestive systems don’t readily break down sugar for energy, however, almost all carbs are stored as fat.
At any rate, after looking at the protein levels in dry foods, I checked the moist food labels, assuming that having recognizable chunks of meat would mean more protein, but I was surprised by what I saw. Moist food usually has around 10–15% protein, and 4–6% of fat. (Not a big concern for cats. Cats cannot get high cholesterol or suffer heart problems from diets rich in fat. Fats do have more calories, so there is potential for a cat to gain weight on a high fat diet, but it’s not an issue in and of itself.) Cat foods often have ash and other questionable undigestible bits, but dry food lists around 30% protein. Even with cornmeal or brown rice the bulk filler in most dry cat food, the dry seems to have over double the amount of protein.
Recommended human intake is 20–25% of total calories, and cats should have well over double this amount. Their whole metabolism is based around high protein diets. This would make dry food look like the ideal choice, except that ounce per ounce, the wet food actually far higher in protein. The dry food labels are stating what each kibble contains, but the wet food labels are showing the percentage of the entire can, which contains far more water. The hyperbole on the dry food packaging explains how well-rounded the cat food is because it has wholesome grains. But the grains are just filler; the cats don’t want it, although it does fill them up faster. And parsley or sweet potatoes or blueberries? Useless. Beyond useless. Wastes of money and food. Again, any carbs that are not passed as fiber are broken down into fat, rather than energy, cats gain weight quicker on dry food, and are susceptible to kidney disease and diabetes.
Cats can’t even taste sugar. How can they get diabetes? We’re basically poisoning cats by thinking that they need or desire a “well-rounded” diet. Cats aren’t gourmets; they are carnivores, and unlike humans or canines, they can’t live on plant proteins or even an exclusively seafood diet.
Hot off the press: Invitations for the 2005 Halloween party!!! Posing for the invitations is our very own Jinx. The image was drawn from a photo Kathy captured of Jinx giving us the “scary cat” treatment. This image will appear on a couple of door-prizes at this year’s festivities.
If, by some reason, you suspect that you’re not on my mailing list, but you want an invite to the party, send me an email.
This edition of Friday Cat Blogging is dedicated to the memory of Annie. Sadly, she was struck by a car on Wednesday. She was 16 years old, if I’m not mistaken, but looked like a 7 month-old, since she was so tiny. If I can get a photo from Michele this weekend, I’ll post Annie next week. She was a sweet, little cat and will be missed.
UPDATE: Here’s the original photo of Jinx:
Melba Honeybee accused me of getting a new camera, which is why I’ve posted “a thousandphotos of Jinx” on my site. Well, Miss Melba, the camera is 3 years old and the cat is a little over a year, so my recent joining of the pack on Cat Blogging Fridays is only because I wanted to share Jinx’s beauty with the three or four people who read my blog. (Hey Kathy! Andrew! Rich! and, of course, Miss Melba!)
Some may be confusing Jinx with the cat that graces the Ephemeral Exclamation page, but that particular feline is not Jinx, but Sleepycat, another black and white kitty. I wrote a poem for her some time ago.
I like photographing Jinx in natural light, because the flash tends to make her squint, making it difficult to see her amazing green eyes that constantly glow. It’s tough to catch her in the proper lighting though, because she doesn’t like sunlight, and her face is pitch black. Sometimes I have to blow out the levels in Photoshop just to make out any depth in her face. This photo wasn’t too bad, though.