Christabelle the vegetarian cat can’t wait for summer gardens

Oh, pineapple, you look so good!

Oh, pineapple, you look so good!

Christabelle, my Manx cat, has always had a slight obsession with greenery. When she got big enough to jump up on countertops, she immediately made a beeline for the plant I had been tending for years. She tried chewing all of its leaves off, so I put it on top of the refrigerator; somehow she managed to climb up there after it.

My little vegetarian has made it impossible to keep live plants inside. She destroyed a plant I wanted for my apartment several years ago. I had to take it to my grandfather for intensive resuscitation, and when she would go to visit my mom when I would go out of town for extended periods, all plants had to be put away – far, far away – out of sight and out of smell because Christabelle can find the most ingenious ways to get to her little green “veggies” if she has the slightest inkling that there might be something edible in the room.

I am extremely happy that our house has a fireplace mantel and several tall pieces of furniture that she can’t climb, jump upon, or hop from one piece of furniture to higher ones until she reaches her plant. On more than one occasion, she tried to eat the roses that Chris sent me while we were dating, and I had to blockade my flowers with tall stacks of books. For some reason building fortress walls around a vase of roses takes some of the enjoyment out of getting flowers from a thoughtful man. At least here I can keep flowers from my husband safe and unnibbled on the mantel or on a high and out of reach shelf without having to build elaborate barricades of books to keep her away.

By all rights, Christabelle is one of the most prissy indoor cats ever, but ever since she discovered I attempt to grow flowers outdoors, she has decided that she needs to go outside whenever I go near the back door. She pretends that it’s not the plants she’s after by rolling around on the concrete for a few moments before marching over to the nearest green plant for a nibble, and when the urge strikes her, she lets us know when it’s time for her excursion by running to the door ahead of us and parading up and down the porch.

To appease her whims, I take her out on the back porch where it is quiet, and the herb garden grows right up against the porch edge. She always makes a beeline for the herbs. She seems to enjoy sniffing lemon basil, but to satisfy her green plant craving, she goes for shoots of grass that spring up along the porch edges.

Strangely enough, she doesn’t want to play in the grass or take walks in her favorite patches of green stuff. Christabelle is too prissy for that. She wouldn’t lower herself to eating anything she walks on, so she rarely leaves the porch or walkways unless she has to do so to reach a better patch of grass. Prissy thing that she is, she generally simply cranes her neck to see what she can nibble from the solidity of a clean concrete stoop.

Christabelle doesn’t stop herself at ornamental plants; she’s also a fan of vegetables. Fresh corn in the husk and spinach seem to be her favorites, but even pineapple is fair game, as long as it has its green top in place.

A few years ago, we received a box of garden fresh vegetables from a neighbor, and before we even had a chance to clean them and start up the grill, Christabelle set about picking her favorite snacks. Fortunately, it’s difficult to do much harm to an ear of corn still wrapped in its husk or an unpeeled pineapple, but the vegetarian cat needed to show us that she expected her own fair share.

She doesn’t seem to care much for broccoli. Once when I was trying to break her from eating my houseplants, I offered her several small pieces of broccoli, and she wouldn’t touch them. Like many kids, she actually hid them under the table.

Spinach, however, is one of her favorites. She will beg beside the table at dinnertime until I give her a piece of spinach from my salad. Being that she’s picky, a whole leaf won’t do; she wants it cut into bite-size pieces and placed in front of her like a proper princess. If I set a place for her at the dining room table with the rest of the humans, I think she would be perfectly content as long as I kept the greens coming.

Like most cats, she enjoys an occasional bite of chicken or tuna, but of all her options, she seems to prefer vegetables the most. I thought it might be an anomaly, and maybe all of my cats had a predilection for strange food, but none of the others are the least inclined toward leafy greens. My big, orange and white boy cat is much more like Garfield, and like his cartoon cousin, he has been known to wind up in a plate of lasagna – of course, he was a baby kitten with food issues, and he didn’t know better. (He is much better behaved now.) Spike is indifferent to most things unless they’re offered to her, and Snowbird turns her nose up at everything except canned tuna. Christabelle, therefore, is the only one who actually gets excited over fresh vegetables.

I like a good salad, and I certainly can’t wait for garden season to hit its peak, but I don’t think I’ll ever get quite as much joy out of the first harvest or a bouquet of roses as my very own vegetarian cat.

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