Kevin, Susan, and Beth at A Year in Bread (one of my favorite sites) have called for favorite bread stories. A contest, actually, but I would have written this even if there were no prizes at stake. I don’t know if it’s really my favorite story, or even a good story, but it’s one that means something to me right now.
We have a cat named Stripes. (This is what happens when you let 4-year-olds name pets.) We adopted her about 12 years ago, when she started hanging around our back porch. We thought she was a stray, but we learned that she had belonged to a neighbor, and when the neighbor got a dog, the cat refused to step foot in the house ever again. (For whatever reason, this did not happen when we got a dog, a few years later.)
Stripes was never an overly friendly cat (is there such a thing?), and I have to admit I was not particularly fond of her. She would come around for the occasional head-petting, but, lest you get too comfortable with all the affection, she would, as often as not, turn around and give you a little nip or clawing for it. She wasn’t much trouble to take care of, though, and the kids liked her (or at least the idea of her), so she stayed. I can’t say it broke my heart that she spent most of her time outdoors.
When we first started feeding Stripes, before she was officially ours, we gave her things we had around, like the archetypal saucer of milk, or some canned tuna. She pretty much turned up her nose at these things, and when I started buying cat food, she ate it, but she never ate very much. She was not what you would call an enthusiastic or adventurous eater, notwithstanding the occasional unlucky rodent.
Then one day about a year ago, I was in the kitchen and I heard, coming from just behind me, what sounded like kitty nibbles. Funny, because we don’t keep her food in the kitchen. I turned around to find Stripes on the island, chowing down on some sourdough I had sliced for dinner. She was not merely sniffing, investigating, even tentatively licking, this bread. She was devouring it.
Thus I discovered that this grouchy, finicky kitty is a sucker for home-baked bread! I didn’t let her have it often, thinking that it really isn’t the sort of nutrition a cat needs, but every time I offered a few morsels, she gobbled them up. I couldn’t leave sliced bread unattended when Stripes was around. It was a small pain in the neck, but on some level, it was gratifying to know that I made something that satisfied this curmudgeonly creature, and I respected her for her good taste.
A few months ago, we noticed Stripes being considerably more affable. She started coming around regularly for cuddling, (usually) no longer rewarding you with a nice chomp for your trouble. She even began nuzzling our little dog, to whom she never used to give the time of day. She also slowed down considerably, no longer able to easily scale the island where I first discovered her indulging her penchant for sourdough.
We attributed these changes to her advancing age (she is now 15 years old), but a couple of weeks ago, thanks to our dedicated and alert pet-sitter, we learned that Stripes has chronic kidney failure. It turns out she is a pretty sick little animal and it’s unclear how much longer she will live.
Now my heart aches for my poor little pet, my fellow bread lover. Thankfully, she doesn’t seem to be in pain, and she appears to enjoy our company. Still, she doesn’t have much joy in her life: she can’t do much outdoors any more, and has to endure twice-daily needle sticks so we can give her fluids. She’s on a special kidney-gentle cat food that she’s only nominally interested in, but the vet says we must try to get her to gain back some of the weight she has lost.
So, because she needs to eat, and because she deserves a little enjoyment, tonight I gave Stripes some bread. Just a little, cut up into tiny sick-cat-sized pieces. To my great delight and relief, she ate it up.
kathryn king says
Susan, that’s such a tender story, you’ve got me with tears in my eyes. (My dogs are always enthusiastic about my baking. I’ll have to poll the three cats for their opinions. Or maybe not…) I hope you get the most comfort you can from each other with whatever time remains.
Awwww! If we helped Stripes get bites of homemade bread, then the contest is a success.
(no, stripes did NOT pay me to post that)
Kathryn, thank you so much for your warm wishes.
KitchenMage, Stripes thanks you too!
What a wonderful story!
Susan, thank you for sharing your story about Stripes. I’m not at all surprised that Stripes has become more loving with you…I believe they know more than we give them credit for. She knows her time is passing quickly and I’m sure she wants to thank you for all the love you have given her.
Continue to share the little bread nibbles with her. The sharing of food is such an act of love. Bless you both.
Karen in VA
Susan that is a wonderfully special story and cat. I’m so sorry that stripes is sick.
Amazing what food and bread can be about!
Thanks for sharing this one.
To all of you who have left kind words or sent healing thoughts our way: THANK YOU so much.
I am happy to report that Stripes is improving — she’s eating more, has a little spring in her step, and can actually mount a bit of a fight when I give her her medicine.
Elizabeth, thanks for reading. I’m glad you liked the story.
Karen and MyKitchenInHalfCups, you’re right: food is sometimes so much more than food, isn’t it? Thank you both for your warm wishes.
Oh, how wonderful to hear of the progress!! =) The power of healing words and loving bread. I’m so happy for all of you.
I’m so glad to read that Stripes is feeling a bit better and getting to have some of her very favorite bread! 🙂
We have 2 cats, Bunny & Trixie and I just loved your story…..I submitted a bread story also but not half as tender hearted as yours.
All the Best, Laura
We had a kitty when I was a teenager who would eat the tops off of cornbread muffins. Her name was Muffin but that’s not how she got it. She also ate green beans out of the can and fresh tomatoes.
Our dear Chester departed us yesterday due to a similar illness. He looked a lot like your Stripes. Give her lots of cuddles.
Molly, I’m so sorry about Chester. We too had a cat named Chester, many years ago.
It’s funny how cats have tastes for different foods. I remember a story by Richard Brautigan about a cat who ate cantaloupe.
Karen & Laura, thank you so much for your warm thoughts.
Susan, thank you for posting this heartwarming story. I am so very sorry to hear that Stripes is suffering from Kidney failure. My beloved Maggie (My first dog as an adult) passed from this condition in June. Fortunately or unfortunately (I’m not sure), while we knew it was coming, and were treating with meds, she quickly bypassed the stage that Stripes is at where sub-cutaneous fluids could be given. She is in my heart forever, as I’m sure your curmudgeonly, bread-loving kitty is for you.
Susan, I haven’t thought of R Brautigan in years, but I’m sure on some level ‘Trout Fishing in America’ will always be with me. And my dear departed kitty Fletcher LOVED cantaloupe, to this day I get teary when I cut one up, remembering him who’s been gone seven years. He also liked tomatoes, which we discovered because of all the little tooth marks covering the tomatoes left on the counter one day.
Jill, I somehow missed your comment earlier, or would have replied sooner. I’m sorry for your loss of Maggie; I know how difficult it is to lose a beloved pet.
Browndog, that’s hilarious about the tomatoes! Fletcher obviously knew the good stuff.