Feeding Nina and assorted spring tails
by Joyce Johnson
Nina is an affectionate, dainty little 16-year old black and orange tabby. One side of her face is dark and the other side is light. She steps around as if she’s wearing high heels and she talks a lot, but what I hear sometimes is not meow, but “ow” which touches my heart as she has been grieving the recent loss of the other cat her owner said. It sounds like “wow” to me at other times which made me smile because I say wow a lot too. Nina’s owner (though I wonder who owns who…) cares well for her and offers a variety of high quality food because Nina is a fussy eater. She has 5 or 6 dainty little ceramic bowls on the floor next to a chair in the corner of the kitchen for the person attending to sit on and promote the various dishes. For example one needs to reach down and hand-feed Nina fish flakes from between thumb and forefinger because Nina prefers it this way. She gets fancy tuna in gravy but only likes to lick up the gravy. She is also daily served a quality kibble, half and half, and occasional anti-hairball treats. She goes outside for brief walkabouts and has great napping and hideout places inside on soft and silky blankets but she is also a bed companion and lap-cat. While cat-sitting her for a couple weeks this winter, I also fed the local wild birds suet every few days which my friend said helped them survive the winter; I enjoyed watching the jays arrive one by one, until there was a crowd flapping around and feeding hungrily. They always knew when I put it out there for them. Telepathy I thought, or they took turns buzzing the yard daily to see if the suet cage was full yet.
Shih Zhu dinner looks good enough to eat at my place. I prepare their food myself. It’s basically species appropriate. I started out feeding raw turkey, some beef, and chicken—I read that raw fed dogs, and cats, have a stronger immune system—but sometimes I lightly cook the meat for my senior dogs. I buy liver at T&C and cook the ugh stuff for them and toss in a few small pieces with their dinner. Maybe it should be raw too but you know, wow, yuck! Still, there is important nutrition in organ meat. I also ground flax seeds, and save organic eggshells to process and grind up for calcium. They get a little yogurt and cottage cheese, a few wild blueberries. Diced raw veggies are about 1/4 of the meal or more. I don’t feed it all every day, I alternate everything and add small amounts of algae, turmeric paste, rice, or millet and quinoa blend. I know, grain free is best, but Shih Zhus were bred and did thrive in the orient for….how many 1000s of years?...so tell me they weren’t fed some rice?
Our African Gray parrot “Coo,” says clearly, “want some” when a bowl of ice cream is carried past her which always makes us chuckle. We feed her parrot food and some of just about everything else. She says “oooh good,” when watching us eat, and usually says the right word for the occasion. If the phone
rings she’ll say “hello.” We did not train her to speak, or reward her for it, she talks when she wants to. Coo gives you the raspberries [Bronx cheer] and impersonates bombs dropping when in a mood, also does wild birdsong, and various beeping appliances. She cusses when she has to go back to her cage. Newer studies show that African Greys can not only add and subtract, and name items and colors, but are psychic. Our parrot knows when Ron’s car is approaching though unseen by me. She says, “Ronnie home.” Then the dogs, who also know what that means, fly out the doggy door barking their heads off in welcome only to find that the bird was kidding, to make fools out of them, while telling them, “no bad barking!” I can almost swear she is chuckling. I counted 8 trips one night before the real Ronnie arrived.
Coo has what a friend calls “a can opener for a mouth,” and that is not far off, but if you ask for a kiss she will lean forward and touch your lip gently with that big black beak, and impersonate the kiss sound at the same time. All you have to do is ask, “sing a pretty song Coo?” and her impersonation of an opera soprano with a perfect vibrato is well, wow! African Gray parrots have hugely special needs and so please do not go out and buy one unless you can commit to them 100%, for your lifetime and theirs. They are as feathered children with personalities and feelings and live many decades and suffer badly if neglected. We give ours constant love, attention and companionship. She lives outside her cage most of the time, is not left alone for longer than a few hours (she has parakeet roommates and a radio). She goes outside when the season warms up and is one of the family and happy.
Apples and popcorn and carrots oh my! Coo asks for apples and popcorn. The latter she likes to tear up and throw around. It seems all animals love apples but would a goldfish eat a little piece of apple too? Yes! and so do turtles and crabs and horses of course, but alas, I doubt Nina would. Some of us put scraps out for the local deer, although we know they eat specific foliage at different times of the year and interfering with nature is discouraged by rangers…But they have been so hungry this long winter and were nosing down into the snow and eating what?...dry old frozen weeds? Yuck, so a few of us feed the deer anyway. They like the carrot pulp from my juicer; also bulk oatmeal and my neighbor says potato peelings disappear. Lotta folks are saying how glad they are to see and hear the birds again, chattering, singing and flying by with nest building twigs in their beaks. Which reminds me: Please put a bell on your cat’s collar if he goes out, and very soon. It can warn the parents and help save the lives of new little fledgling birds. Check out helpful info online. Here’s wishing all us sentient creatures a cheery, safe, regenerating, rebirth of spring.