The Walking Stomach

January 2013 292This week, I introduce our third cat, Gideon. He is extremely intelligent and creative when he wants to be. He can get almost anywhere he wants too, including on top of my kitchen cabinets. But the reason for all of his prowling and jumping is usually food. I call him “The Walking Stomach.”
We had no idea what we were in for. We walked to our local video rental store one day in late August as the sun was beginning to descend. When we got there, we saw a cat in the parking lot that fit the description of the cat I had mentioned wanting next after the passing of my darling Cedric earlier in the year. I had imagined a dark, smoky gray male, and there he was sniffing around the lot. Allen inquired about him inside, and the staff person told him this cat was a frequent visitor and was being fed by the staff. I was hesitant, not sure I was really ready for another cat, but we decided our Gigi needed a companion and he looked exactly like the cat I had imagined. We went home and got our pet taxi, the minivan, and some food for good measure before driving the few blocks to the store. Allen got out of the van, put some food in the back of the taxi, and waited. Surprisingly, the wait wasn’t very long. The cat sniffed briefly and walked right in. Allen secured the door and the cat munched happily the few blocks home.
We released him into the basement where he hid for a couple of days. I would fill the food dish, and it was always empty when I went to check on him. I thought he was hungry after being homeless, but I quickly learned this cat would do absolutely anything for food or treats. We’ve had to get creative over the years. He prowls in desperation every time feeding time gets close. He will climb any mountain if it means being united with his food dish. A while back, we got automatic feeders so he could stay on schedule even if we weren’t home. He learned that by sticking his paw up the food chute he could coax extra kibbles out, so we can’t keep the feeder on the floor all the time because he will dig all day for that extra food. I could have given him a name like Gobbler or Hungry Cat, but I have always preferred using obscure human names for my cats and this one was given the name Gideon.
We later learned that he can’t say no to food, even when he is full. This is when I started saying, “You can take the cat out of the alley, but you can’t take the alley out of the cat.” My parents came up for a visit one weekend in March when we still lived in Iowa. My well-meaning father always insisted on giving the cats treats to get them to like him. I made the mistake of giving him a full bag of fresh treats that weekend. Per the usual, both cats flocked to him every time they heard the crinkle of the treat bag. Gideon would even sit in his lap and eat out of his hand, which Dad loved. By the time Sunday rolled around, we could tell even Gideon was full. Gigi had stopped responding to the treats by the end of Saturday, but not Gideon. Dad shook the bag and Gideon got up, swaggered towards Dad’s outstretched hand, and stared at the treat as if getting the courage to eat it before he gulped it down without even chewing. If a cat could break a sweat, I believe he would have been moist all over. I could see each time that the decision to eat that treat was getting more difficult, but Gideon was determined. He always ate as if he would never see food again. We tried to get Dad to stop, but he insisted that Gideon was starving and needed treats.
Mom and Dad left after lunch and I put the treat bag back into its drawer. I had no intention of giving either cat treats for the rest of the day. Even Gideon didn’t look disappointed. Then, about 25 minutes after they left, Gideon started coughing. Before we could move him, he threw up all over the bed and there wasn’t a hairball in it. It was all the treats he had eaten. I called Mom and Dad on their cell phone. They were looking at Amish furniture in the next town south of us. I told them they needed to turn around so Dad could clean up his mess. They didn’t, of course, but they probably laughed all the way home. To this day, Dad is rationed when he comes over. He gets a small baggie of treats for all 3 cats. He always says they are still hungry after the treats are gone, but I never budge. He will even go as far as to tell me they are too skinny when I know full well they aren’t. I learned my lesson. Not only will “The Walking Stomach” do anything for food, he will also eat until he bursts.
Have you ever taken in a stray, starving animal? Did they ever become secure about meals and realize they would get food daily? Gideon never has! Tell me a story about your stray experience in the comments below. Write on!

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