What I Learned from Eating a Three-Course Cat Food Dinner
Don't act like you haven't wondered what it tastes like.
Photo by Amanda Hjernø
This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES Denmark.
I have a cat named Kashmir. She’s soft and cuddly and she loves tuna as much as Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes. Every time I give her something with fish in it, she goes bananas—she especially loves the little gold cans from the store.
I can’t count how many times I’ve wondered, "Man, I wonder if this stuff actually tastes good even if you're not a ball of fur that licks its own ass on a daily basis?" You've totally thought the same thing too. Don't lie.
While I’m curious, I also believe that my cat should have cat food and I should have human food. I would never dream of forcing my cat to follow the same tendentious dietary regimens we sometimes impose on ourselves, whether it be raw food or veganism.
But it’s not because I can’t eat my cat’s food, right? I’ve just never done it. Every time I’ve been on the verge of giving it a try, there’s been a good reason not to: I wasn’t hungry, I had a roast in the oven, or maybe I just arrived at the conclusion that it was cat food and I didn’t want it.
But the noblest of all endeavors is to enlighten the public, so today I’ll be answering a question that cat owners have been asking themselves since the dawn of time: Can humans eat cat food?
Before I delve into my experiment, I trawl the web for information and quickly find out that eating cat food is at least not outright harmful, something that hardly can be claimed about a number of other things I put in my body, so we’re off to a good start. This can’t go that badly. Cat food does actually contain all the things a body needs (a cat body, mind you, but we’re both mammals), because it’s not simply part of a balanced diet—it is a balanced diet for our feline friends.
I’ve gone to the fancy grocery store and bought only the best. We’ll be having three courses (tuna, salmon, and veal) and a pack of fancy dry treats—the kind you give your cat when they deserve a little extra.
We start with salmon since that’s Kashmir’s favorite. She always scarfs her food down greedily when I place it on the floor for her, and today is no exception. As soon as I start opening the package, she starts meowing, demanding I work faster. The smell is pleasant and not particularly fishy. To get the authentic experience, I sit down next to her on the floor, each with our own can to avoid territorial conflict.
She dives into her food right away as I delicately take a teaspoonful of mine. The consistency is a bit like pâté, and it smells like liverwurst. As it enters my mouth, that’s the first taste to emerge, too. It doesn’t take long, however, before the main ingredient takes over and it starts to taste a bit foul. Fish and liver paste is just not a good idea. That’s the impression I’m left with.
The next one we try is veal. The consistency is a little runnier, with bits of meat floating around in something resembling grandma’s gravy. I expect a completely different taste experience, but to my surprise it tastes pretty much the same as the salmon does. It’s a bit unsettling. Though the taste isn’t completely repulsive, I can’t help but feel a creeping queasiness at the thought that veal and salmon can taste so alike. What the hell do they actually put in this stuff?
The truth is probably that a lot of cat food (and dog food, for that matter) is made largely of the same ingredients so that our pets get balanced diets. In fact, it’s not simply repeated ingredients, but actually scraps from food made for human tables that make their way into cans of pet food. “All pet foods are made from the byproducts of human food production,” explains Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor, in a New York Times article on the subject.
The last type of cat food we try is tuna, and it instantly looks more appetizing than the other ones. Apart from a gel-like substance it fully resembles tuna for humans, and to my delight, it tastes that way too. Actually, the gelée almost gives this an edge over name-brand tuna. I rub my imaginary whiskers and attempt to purr. Being a cat is great.
“There’s nothing cats would rather eat,” they say in the Whiskas commercial, but apparently that doesn’t apply to my cat. As a concluding gesture, I take out one of the crunchy little Whiskas Temptations, which is one of the fanciest things the brand makes, and toss it in Kashmir’s direction. She chases it enthusiastically, thinking it’s time to play, but after stopping to sniff the thing, she looks up at me, as if thinking: “You can’t be serious.”
She sniffs it again and scampers off, leaving the unwanted Whiskas treat there on the floor. I know it’s not just because she’s full, since I only gave her a bit of each kind so as not to spoil her appetite. Her sense of smell is 14 times better than mine, so maybe she can smell something that’s beyond my perception.
What you don’t know can’t hurt you, so I take another crispy cat treat out of the package. I need to find out if they’re really that bad. I’m actually pleasantly surprised; they remind me of some cheese crisps I once had—just with a stale, meaty aftertaste. They’re not exactly what one would call tasty, but you could probably manage to scarf some down if you were in a pinch. Maybe I should set them out next time the boys come over. Stoners will eat anything.
After dinner, Kashmir plops down on top of one of my vinyl records, because fuck it all, and begins to doze off. She looks happy and content.
“Everybody wants to be a cat,” I’ve sung hundreds of times, because their lives seem pretty wonderful. They do whatever the hell they please, get their bellies scratched (if they want), sleep 16 hours a day, and are more elegant than I’ll ever be. But I’ll pass on the food. Aside from the tuna, it all tasted all strangely indistinguishable. I had expected French pâté and got some nondescript “meat” instead—whether it was called salmon or veal.
Time to treat myself to a saucer of milk, take a shit in the litter box, then it’s straight to bed.