Ten years ago, I was twenty. It feels like a huge chunk of my life ago, which I suppose it was. Over the next few months I’ll be adapting John Scalzi’s 20/20 blog series to talk about how life has changed over the last ten years, and maybe also how it’s stayed the same.
This is Fifi. She is a very pretty, very fussy cat who dislikes most brands of food and throws up if you give her things she disapproves of. She lives with me and usually eats better than I do – notably, I recently sat on my sofa finishing off some crackers that were just about to go mouldy, whilst Fifi had a nice plate of chicken breast with wild rice.
She usually eats Purina, and as far as I know has done so for most of her life. She is nine years old and came to me recently.
Harringtons emailed me a while ago and asked whether my fussy cat would like to try some of their food. I essentially read this as “We’ll send you free cat food”, and the company seemed like it was producing a Purina-type food rather than a Go-Cat-type food (god, when did I become such a cat food snob?!), so I thought I’d give it a go. My friend who lives up the road has three cats, none of whom are at all fussy, so I figured that if Fifi didn’t like it, I’d give it to her instead.
They sent me a big bag of dry food: about a month’s worth. I was ecstatic. That’s roughly £15 off my food bill! Tentatively, I poured some into Fifi’s bowl and retreated into the living room to see if she’d eat it.
She did! Miracle!
She didn’t seem hugely enthusiastic about it – normally she’d finish her food more quickly and just seem generally happier about feeding time – but I figured that since it was a New Thing, and New Things are not exactly Fifi’s forte, she’d probably just get used to it and then be fine.
After about a week she seemed to settle into her new food regime, and that was fine. I basically forgot that I was feeding her any differently from normal: she seemed perfectly happy, and I had no real complaints about the food, except that it’s quite smelly – it made my kitchen smell quite bad, and also made her breath pong. But, you know, whatever. Worse evils in the world than a smelly cat.
Roughly a week after this, I noticed that she was scratching a lot. She’s an indoor cat, and she hadn’t been to the cat hotel recently, so I couldn’t work out where she could have picked up fleas. I decided the only place was from one of my friends’ cats, but none of them seemed to be scratching so much. I got her some Frontline and treated her, but the scratching continued. There was no flea dust, though, just sort of dandruff in her fur. She also had more matts than normal.
I called the vet and chatted to him, who decided she must be stressed. I’d moved a chair in the living room, and she’s not normally horrendously crazy about things like that, but she is a sensitive soul, so maybe she was just upset about that.
I waited another week. Towards the end of the week, I noticed that she’d actually been scratching and biting herself so much that she’d chewed a patch on her back, just below her tail, almost raw. It started to go a bit scabby. This is utterly ridiculous, I thought. She was also looking a bit listless, didn’t want to sit next to me purring like she normally does, and was just generally not looking happy.
I called the vet again. She’d only been for a check-up recently, and there were no other bad signs, so he said to leave it for a week or so and see if it settled down. Perhaps it was the change in temperature, he said, or the strong winds.
Remarkably, I made no connection between the food and the state of the cat, despite considering myself a relatively intelligent human being. I think this was mainly because she’d seemed absolutely fine for the first week, so I assumed she was alright with it.
By the end of week four it struck me that the food might have had something to do with it. This coincided with the end of the bag, so I filled her bowl with Purina. She dived into it, purring like a little purr machine. There was an immediate improvement: she just seemed happier. She finished off her bowl within a couple of hours – she doesn’t normally have a huge appetite – and I gave her another one.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, back on Purina, she turned back into her old self. Her fur grew back. She became more purry. She is once again the fussy, pretty cat who loves her food, rather than the smelly, scabby cat who seems to not really like life.
I don’t know if Harringtons is just bad cat food. I suspect it’s actually fine, and that Fifi just had such an adverse reaction because she’s been used to Purina for so long and is a bit sensitive. But I still think it’s quite an advert for Purina.
Congrats, Purina dudes. Your cat food makes my cat happy and healthy. Thank you.