The great Louis Armstrong used to refer to all of us as “cats.” And if he admired anything at all about you personally he said you were a “cool cat.” After all these decades, the expression still has the same meaning. What greater compliment is there than to be a cool cat according to the Satchmo lexicon? Of course, summertime casts a different shade of meaning to this when striving to keep a cool cat despite the heat, humidity and boredom factor.
During those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer most of the attention goes to the Puccini Pooches (the howlers) and the 5 & 10 scent sniffers who just love girls in their summer dresses. Frantic owners can relieve howling dogs and sniffing mischief makers with a tossed ball, a Frisbee in the park, or God-forbid some brush-up training sessions. Air conditioning plus snacks also does the job.
But when it comes to sedentary felines who never let you see them sweat, the warm weather stops them from being Satchmo-cool. There is a misconception that our puss remains in his boots from winter to fall to winter again while slipping into a bear-like hibernation for the summer only to come out when hearing the whir of the can opener. Oh, that is so wrong. A bored cat, one that is limping along with summertime ennui becomes more prone to destructive mischief, roaming the neighborhood (if he has an escape claws in his contract), parasites and poor health in general. Trust me on this, a sick cat is an expensive cat, unless you are heartless enough to ignore medical problems. The solution to keeping your cat cool is the same as for dogs: air conditioning and playful attention.
I am about to make a suggestion to keep your cat free from the year-in and year-out monotony of jumping for birds he can’t capture and waiting for critters that won’t come out and play his deadly game. I suggest you try cooking with your cat. Don’t laugh, I mean it. Well, mostly mean it. Hey, I asked you not to laugh. Naturally, I do not expect your cat to pick up a whisk and whip egg whites in a cold, copper bowl until they become chiffon-like. But with the right ingredients, proper inducements, and a Giada DeLaurentis attitude you may not only pull it off, you may create golden moments in the kitchen for you and your culinary chat.
Imagine, if cats could cook what gastronomical luxuries would they prepare for themselves? Once in the kitchen wearing a prestigious chef’s hat he would no longer be a mere kitty on the counter. He would be a standing-tall CAT, a friendly yet dominant presence, with a whisk in one paw and whisker in the other showing you how to prepare such feline delights as Oeufs Broulles aux Jambon ala Chat Noir (ham and eggs, black cat style). Or, Poached Salmon Over Mousse de Mouse. Another imaginary bewhiskered recipe could be Feathered Wings and Bird Feet Suspended in a Shimmering Catnip Aspic.
Of course this is just a human vision of the cat, inside out by way of an absurd extreme, but these original recipes will please a feline palate, even if he only paced on the counter top as you do all the work. Of course all this is tongue-in-cheek (so to speak), but it’s only half a joke. Working together with your cat, sort of, with the end result being a well-prepared dish that he loves can only perk him up on a sultry day with nothing to do but sleep.
Although cooking with cats can produce culinary delights that meant to please your fur buddy, you can put together recipes that you might enjoy along with the dear puss-puss. You can put together recipes that both cat and person can dine on because most of them are consistent with human cookery. Of course, you should add a random ingredient at the very end that are obviously meant for the feline palate such as feathered bird wings, rodentia fragments, petite poissans with or without the heads, tails, or fins and insects in various stages of aliveness. These ingredients are for cats only, unless of course you are curious.
Here then is a sample of feline cookery just to give you the idea:
Sauté 3 torn leaves from your cat’s favorite house plant (washed clean) with the contents of one small tin of anchovies in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Whisk into a paste. Add 1 medium onion cut into thick slices. Combine with thin slices from ½ of a small cucumber. Sprinkle into the mixture 3 cloves of finely minced garlic. Lay on top 3 slices of smoked eel, allowing them to cook as they absorb the flavors of the mixture. ½ teaspoon of soy sauce, optional. Complete with chilled melons balls on the side, scooped from ¼ of a cantaloupe. Serve when cool to the paw.
Bear in mind that the point to this silly business is to engage the cat’s interest during those dog (ah, cat) days of summer. Invite him up onto the kitchen counter as you begin; give him a tiny food treat as you assemble the ingredients. If he snags a bit of the recipe, it’s okay. Once the dish is prepared, serve it to him with a great, cheerful fanfare. If you do this once or twice, he will be on the counter top once you begin cooking for him with those ingredients that attract him the most such as fishy things and whatever you know that he likes.
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped chicken liver
White fish salad
Muscle meat (beef, pork, lamb)
Oysters on the half shell
Clams on the half shell
Caveat: Current medical wisdom is to avoid feeding garlic and onions to cats as they can lead to serious illness. Where onions are called for please use zucchini. Eliminate garlic entirely.
MORDECAI SIEGAL is not only a gourmand but the co-author and editor of “The Cornell Book of Cats,” a highly respected reference book on feline medicine for pet owners, with the late Dr. James R. Richards and members of the faculty and staff of the School of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University (Villard Books). His most recent cat book is “I Just Got a Kitten. What Do I Do?” (Simon & Schuster). It is the companion book to “I Just Got a Puppy. What Do I Do?” (Simon & Schuster).
He is also the co-author and editor of “The UC Davis Book of Dogs” (Harper-Collins) with the faculty of the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California at Davis as well as “The UC Davis Book of Horses.” He is a member of the Advisory Council of the Cornell Feline Health Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University.
He is the author of 34 published books about cats, dogs, and horses and has written hundreds of articles and columns that have appeared in such magazines as House Beautiful (monthly pet columnist), Good Housekeeping, First For Women, Woman’s World, Readers Digest, Harper’s Bazaar, Redbook, Seventeen as well as in the AKC Gazette, official magazine of the American Kennel Club and the CFA Almanac of the Cat Fanciers Association. Siegal’s longest running book was a Best Seller, “Good Dog, Bad Dog” (Henry Holt) which has remained in print since 1973.
He is President Emeritus of the Dog Writers Association of America, a national organization of authors and journalists and a former Board Member of the Cat Writers Association and was recently inducted into the Dog Writers Hall of Fame.
For four years, he was a cast member and resident pet expert for TV’s highly successful “Hour Magazine” starring Gary Collins. He has had his own telephone call-in radio talk show in New York and has frequently appeared as a guest on radio and television shows. Mr. Siegal has written public service booklets for various manufacturers of pet products. He has been a keynote and after-dinner speaker. His web site address is www.mordecai.com.
Mordecai Siegal’s most current book is “Dog Spelled Backwards. Soulful Writing by Literary Dog Lovers” (St. Martin’s Press). He is also the author of “I Just Got a Kitten. What Do I Do?”(Simon & Schuster/Fireside); “The Cat Fanciers’ Association COMPLETE CAT BOOK. The Official Publication of the CFA” (HarperCollins), comparable to the AKC’s Complete Dog Book; “The Good Life: Your Dog’s First Year” (Simon and Schuster). His most durable books are “Good Dog, Bad Dog” (Henry Holt); “When Good Dogs Do Bad Things” (Little, Brown); the 10th Anniversary Revised Edition of “I Just Got A Puppy. What Do I Do?” (Simon & Schuster/Fireside); “The Cornell Book of Cats” (Villard); “The Davis Book of Dogs” (HarperCollins); and “The Davis Book of Horses” (HarperCollins).