Tea Time With Jesse

Six of One, Half Dozen the Other

Some Pet Observations

Posted by middlerage on July 23, 2012

All of us middle aged folks have been confronted with email ‘funnies’ or Facebook posts decrying how wussy modern kids are. “Why, in my day we had no bi-ceee-kil helmets, or car seats. In summers, mamma threw us out the door after breakfast an’ locked it. We played all day, livin on nothin but sunshine and fresh air!” I don’t disavow the mirthful truth in those sentiments, but I ain’t sorry to see my kids toodlin around the street with their helmets on. What I haven’t seen, yet, on any Share this if you agree is the sorry state of our love affair with pets.

When I was a kid we had a great cat. Definitely part of the family. She slept in the garage every night, even the 0° F nights (though she was a long hair, and the short hairs we had later slept in the laundry room). Neither our cat nor our dog was ever close to fat, and the dog slept outside every night too. Our cat did her toilet in the cardboard bottom of a soda case, filled with dirt from the backyard. The cardboard tray cost 0¢; the shovelful of dirt cost 0¢. Our house never smelled; mamma kept a clean house, and besides the cat shat in the garage.

Fast forward to today, and my modern family has a cat. She’s a sweet little tiger who loves to be rubbed all over. She’s the first cat I’ve had who exposes her tummy, worry free, to petting. She shits in a $50, covered litter box ‘hidden’ under the side table. The litter box is filled with an expensive mix, I make myself, consisting of 50% Arm&Hammer “Multi-cat” odor fighting, scoopable litter, and 50% Blue crystal “odor eating” hi-tech stuff. Doesn’t matter, our house stinks. There’s litter tracked out all over our carpet.


I once had a colleague from India. He tells hilarious stories about his immigration, and making the trek, as a young man, from the tropical sauna of Hyderabad to the North Dakota School of Mines. In January. Having never seen snow in his life. His retelling of how cold he was will have you rolling on the floor in tears; but one of his other – very telling – experiences in culture shock was how the U.S. was the first time he was presented with the concept of pet food. You’re kidding me! What a country! They actually make food just for pets?!? In India, we love our pets, but we just feed them from the table – there’s no such thing as pet food!


Our pets are enjoying an obesity epidemic along with the rest of us. I’ve watched, astonished, as a relative has plopped an entire can of food into a dog dish, and then covered it with a slice of American cheese. I then cringed as the morbidly obese pure-bred waddles over to chow down. Are we looking at the same scene?? I wondered.


All right. Enough preaching – let me end on a positive note. You know what I love about pets? They are so zen in their priorities and love. If I’m working on this blog post and my wife interrupts me, I’ll probably get snappish. Fuck! I’m doing important philosophizing here!

My cat can be crouched in front of a gopher hole for an hour, posed in a tense, ninja crouch, ears focused, patiently waiting for that unwitting victim. I can oafishly stumble up to  her, just as the gopher is peeking out, and say, “How’s my little girl? Wanna an ear rub?” And she’ll happily give up the hunt to greet me. Family is more important than any ole project.

17 Responses to “Some Pet Observations”

  1. Dahveed said

    When we first got Edison, we didn’t really know how much to feed him. So by the time he was 1 or so, he was obese. But we’d gotten used to it and in our warped view, looked fine. The vet was kind enough to relieve us of our ignorance and as I recall he wasn’t very nice about it either. It set us straight. We got Edison down to a good weight and he’s been healthy and active his entire life. Technically he’s geriatric now, but you’d never know it by looking at him. I’m thankful that our vet was kind of a bag of d!cks.

  2. Jerry said

    As I turned over the Round Mound of Hound to the sister of her new owner, I said, “yeah, we’re the kind of owners pet stores love.” There was her bed, her collar, her walking harness, her car harness, her squeaky toys, her bowls for water and food, and so on. Also included: diet food. In the short time we had the pup she lost several pounds.

    So I’d like to think that although we pampered the ol’ gal ridiculously, at least it wasn’t to her own detriment.

    • Mark Leisher said

      Round Mound of Hound! That is too good not to use elsewhere. Assuming you give leave to do so, I won’t forget to give you attribution, Jerry.

  3. fatman said

    I have pet insurance on my Malogato, about 275.00 a year, get about half back on Cat Wellness programs. Coworkers give me grief. I feed Zen the feral cat, When I refill the dish, Zen rubs against my leg before eating. An hour a go during a monsoon, Zen ran out and we exchanged a few meows, but stayed away, She ran too a dark corner, and saw her finishing off a bird that got too close sheeking shelter.
    I suppose I should should be offended I was not offered any

  4. Mark Leisher said

    Our family has one svelte veterinarian, two (of three) overweight cats, and one (of two) overweight Chihuahua. None of them obese, thankfully. The cats can’t go outside much (larger, tougher feral cats roam our neighborhood) and hate each other, so they are stressed pretty much all the time and eat to compensate. The dog was food-obsessed when we rescued her.

    The dog will eat anything remotely resembling food except green beans and lima beans. She has been known to clean out the cats’ litter boxes for between-meal snacks, when we forget to block them with a fence. She even ate several dryer sheets once in the depths of extreme hunger – it had been 6 hours since her last meal.

  5. I don’t do it often, but every time I look at the “suggested serving size” on a package of pet food I’m stunned. I just looked at the packaging of the dry and wet foods we feed our cats. The dry food suggests we begin by feeding our 11-pound cat one and three-eighths cups per day, and “adjust as needed.” The can of wet food suggests that an eight-pound cat should eat one to one-and-a-half cans per day.

    Our 11-pound cat gets a third cup of dry food in the morning and a “big quarter” of a six-ounce can of wet food at dinner time. The seven-pound cat gets a quarter-cup of dry food in the morning and a “small quarter” of a six-ounce can of wet food at dinner time. Our vet never fails to commend us on keeping our cats at healthy weights, and we’re feeding them roughly a quarter of the amount the food manufacturers suggest.

    The bag of dry dog kibble recommends that we feed the 30-pound dog one-and-three-quarters-to-two cups per day and the 50-pound dog two-and-a-quarter-to-two-and-three-quarters cups per day.

    In practice, the 30-pound dog gets one-and-a-quarter cups per day and the 50-pound dog got (before cancer) one-and-three-quarters cups per day. Not as dramatic as the cats, but still only about 70% of the manufacturer-suggested amount. And our dogs are high-energy herders who worked sheep and did agility in their prime and still herd cats and defend a three-story house in their old age.

    No wonder U.S. pets get fat.

    Beyond that, I guess my pets are wusses. The cats are kept indoors, and though the litter box is in a corner of the upstairs loft I’m sure it’s usually obvious there’s a litter box in the house. The thing is, I grew up with a long line of indoor/outdoor cats that “disappeared,” generally in the 5-to-10 year age range. Out of approximately 10 cats, two lived to see 10 years, with one of my parents’ Siamese, Oscar, making it to 19. And now we live in the redwood forest, sharing it with native bird species that didn’t evolve with the house cat and that nest on the ground or in low branches.

    And though we live in the country, our dogs never run free. Decades ago (and, admittedly, in a different part of the country) my father had an endless succession of “farm dogs” that were allowed to roam the countryside. More were shot by neighboring ranchers than were hit by pickup trucks. There were one or two wily specimens that survived for more than five years. I suppose the advantage to that approach is that he never had to pay for dental cleanings or chemo.

    • middlerage said

      You remind me of another thing. Our vet regularly wanted us to have super expensive teeth cleanings. The expense mainly coming from the anesthesia – because cats are too wiggly to put up with the trauma. On the one hand I thought it was over the top of the vet (kind of like going in for a brake job and them trying to upsell you to a transmission flush), but on the other hand, as a small business owner I’ve come to appreciate the need to enhance revenue stream in any way possible.
      Our neighbor is a very loving owner of three rescued cats. One of them is in some final stage of renal failure due to diabetes (all of her cats are fat). The vet keeps wanting her to submit to a blood test every six months, so they can assess the kidneys. My neighbor is like, “What, pay for a $300 procedure to tell me what I already know? Every six months??” She’ll just keep an eye on the cat and when it becomes too miserable, she’ll euthanize it.

      • Dahveed said

        That’s a really good point about the recommended amounts on the food packaging. I think that’s where our overfeeding originated. We simply didn’t know any better when we got our dog. You could have told us that we had to adjust his catalytic converter every year and we’d have believed you.

        A lot of vets are notorious for running up the bill, taking advantage of people’s willingness to do whatever it takes to provide for their pet (with the notable exception of putting them on a diet apparently). We’ll get the teeth cleaned every once in awhile, or when they have to be anesthetized for some other procedure, but nowhere near the schedule the vet wants.

      • switbo said

        Dahveed is absolutely right about Edison’s overfeeding. We weren’t intentionally (or even carelessly) overfeeding him – we were FOLLOWING the directions on the dog food and next thing you know. he was 20 pounds overweight.

        It’s also true that some vets will run up the bill. When my cat Alex got sick (at 19 yrs), she had renal failure due to hyperthyroidism. Our regular vet was great. We knew she was dying (and at nearly 20 yrs old, she’d had a great run), and she just made sure that Alex wasn’t in pain. One time though, when Alex stopped eating and I had to take her in on the regular vet’s day off, we saw someone else in the SAME office, who tried to get me to perform all these useless, expensive tests. She was dying, nothing was going to change that, but she tried to get me to perform thousands of dollars of tests to determine exactly how much time she had left. It was outrageous. And made me appreciate our regular vet that much more.

      • Mark Leisher said

        It is unfortunate to run into vets who are revenue enhancement enthusiasts. Seems like every clinic has at least one. But they almost always practice good medicine, which is why they are still employed. As a client, if you feel any pressure, you have to insist on the minimum level of treatment necessary for a decent outcome or quality of life, even if you can afford the “luxury package.” Don’t let them make you feel like you are shorting your pet on care, because your pet will get the care it actually needs even if they leave out the $5000 weekend spa treatment for your beloved moggie.

        If you don’t have enough money for minimum necessary treatment, you will probably be presented with several options such as giving the pet up to them, partial treatment you can afford then wait and see if the pet gets better, instant credit through some place like CareCredit, or euthanasia.

      • Mark Leisher said

        Our cats eat dry food and get one tablespoon each of wet food once a week. Our dogs are on a special brown rice, boiled chicken, and raw vegetables diet because the fat one has intestinal problems; one cup in the morning, one in the evening.

        We clean teeth manually with gauze squares and pet toothpaste. Yes, it is a pain with the cats, but a simple swipe with a gauze square a couple times a month goes a long way to keeping them in shape. We wrap the cats in a towel to do this. The dogs aren’t usually a problem. We only do teeth cleaning at the clinic if the pet has to be under anesthesia for some other reason.

  6. middlerage said

    It bears mentioning, that from the outside looking in, a vet pushing expensive lab tests and teeth cleanings, looks like they are trying to upsize their motorboat purchase. However, from the inside looking out, the vet may just be worrying about making payroll, or rent. There’s a lot of stress running your own practice, and I doubt the vet school (or med school) taught practical clinical business finance amongst all those anatomy courses.
    I also want to say that the best doctor, hands down, I ever ran into was a vet in Suffolk county VA. She would take the time to just gab with us, and I fervently wished she was my own (human) doc. She really had a passion welded to practicality that made her dynamite. When our cat had bad hairball problem, she advises us to ignore expensive ‘salmon’ flavored medicines and just give the cat a finger lick of regular ol’ petroleum jelly.
    As consumers, we just need to have a well polished “no thanks” handy when the expensive stuff gets promoted.

    • Annie said

      Problem is always finding someone that wonderful. If they get a commission for the expensive meds sold, but none for telling you to buy a tube of Vaseline, of course many of them will tell you about the expensive one. The other issue is placebo effect. If owners think they are giving their pet a top of the line treatment, they may believe it is working better than something as simple as Vaseline. Especially since there is funding to *prove* the effectiveness of the drugs, but not for research into the effectiveness of the home remedies.

      Now if only I could find some way to teach a cat how to clean herself, especially after rolling in chicken shit. Giving her a shampoo, shower, and blow dry may have been the most entertaining thing I did last weekend, but for her sake I’d prefer not to make a habit out of it. Especially since the effects only lasted about 2 days.

  7. Full Guide

    Some Pet Observations

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