Cooking for Your Cat: Pet Cookies

Dec 19, 2008 at 3:18 pm

RFT staff writer Aimee Levitt and her cat, Bess, continue their culinary adventure.

Sometimes I try to imagine Bess' cat heritage. The first four months of her life are a mystery to me. I know she had a mother and litter-mates. Someone fed her and taught her how to use the litter box and somewhere along the line, she picked up her impeccable grooming technique. (The last, I am sure, she learned from another cat.)

But there's still so much I don't know! And Bess gets touchy whenever I bring it up. Either she doesn't remember, or those early months are just too painful to think about. So I don't know much about cat customs or if they have their own special rituals for this time of year. I mean, if birds fly south and bears hibernate, there must be some sort of biological imperative in the onset of winter, right?

Bess prefers to keep these mysteries to herself, though, so I've learned to be respectful. Instead, I've tried to include her in our paltry human rituals.

When Bess was still just a little kitten, we celebrated our first Hanukkah together. I lit a menorah and stuck it on the windowsill of our apartment. Attracted by the light, Bess hopped over to investigate and promptly singed off half her whiskers. The next night, showing the sort of intelligence that has never failed to impress me, she singed off the other half in order to maintain her balance. (I think this is adorable, but she gets cranky whenever I bring it up.)

Every year, our human family makes Hanukkah cookies from the Costco sugar cookie mix. The results aren't especially tasty, but we do what we can with the decorating. One memorable year, my father created an anatomically-correct Judah Maccabee. (He moved Judah's sword slightly to the right so it ended up between his legs.) The next year, my brother-in-law countered with Judy Maccabee, Judah's anatomically-correct sister, who had enormous Hershey Kiss breasts, and my aunt got into the spirit with Cindy Lou Jew, who had a cowlick and a pointy head.

Why should Bess miss out on the fun just because she doesn't like sugar? (Besides, none of us really like those sugar cookies, either, and we were all too terrified to eat Judah.) This year, I resolved, Bess would have her own special cookies.

The recipe was special all right: wheat germ and chicken-flavored baby food, held together by water. I had trouble finding the wheat germ at Schnucks. I asked an employee and we searched the aisles together.

"'What do you use that stuff for anyway?" he asked.

"I think it helps with constipation," I answered.

He looked at me strangely, but then holiday cheer prevailed and we laughed merrily together.

Wheat germ, I discovered, smells like vomit. Chicken baby food is not much better. It is also cold and clammy. (I can't believe I used to eat that shit.) Mixed together, they congealed into a grainy dough. I tried to remind myself that, to Bess, sugar is probably just as disgusting. And that, for humans, the holidays are all about love.

These thoughts comforted me as I rolled the dough between my palms to form little balls, as recommended by the recipe. I asked Bess if there were any mid-winter cat symbols she wanted represented in her cookies, but she ignored me.

Despite their disgusting (to most humans) ingredients, freshly-baked pet cookies smell like, well, cookies. Their aroma doesn't have the lovely overtones of vanilla and browned butter, but they still made my apartment smell nice and homey.

The scent must have appealed to Bess, too. As soon as I plopped the plate of cookies on the ground, she leaped off the kitchen chair where she had been resting and hurried over. Her tags jingled against the plate as she nibbled industriously away. Within fifteen minutes (with a short break, so I could break the cookies into smaller pieces; Bess is too much of a lady to rip at her food with her paws), she had licked the plate clean.

And thus this holiday season, Bess and I learned the beautiful lesson that cookies indeed have the power to transcend cultures, both human and feline. This is, after all, the time of year when humans like me are programmed to learn beautiful lessons everywhere.

Home Cooking: 4 (possibly 5), Purina: 6, Starbucks: 0

- Aimee Levitt