South Taranaki Star

We are haunted by empty shelves

- Opinion Virginia Fallon

Right now cat food is in short supply, as is my patience. For a creature given to drinking out of putrid puddles, Ray is ridiculous­ly fussy. Sure, the soggy pieces of carrot in the sink are delicious, but he’s a stickler when it comes to actual food.

Unfortunat­ely, Ray’s beloved kai is one of the items now in short supply on our increasing­ly empty supermarke­t shelves. I should have stockpiled when we were still allowed, but I was too busy writing about toilet paper, and now it’s too late.

Ray can’t help being particular. A 2016 study found cats can display neophobia, making them unwilling to try new or different food, and compoundin­g this is that Ray’s completely senile so forgets he’s just eaten.

As soon as he discovers his bowl is empty, he screams. If ignored, he’ll follow you everywhere, screaming until you fill it. And you will fill it, because he screams so loudly that a child who used to live here was traumatise­d.

He screams so loudly the neighbours have asked if he’s OK. He is, I’m not.

In preparatio­n for a looming catastroph­e, I’ve been trying to coax him into eating things other than soggy carrots and his precious loaf. Scooping muck into his little red bowl, I watch him give it a tentative sniff before he shudders in revulsion, spraying out anything he inadverten­tly got on his judgmental little lips.

‘‘You’ll eat it if you’re hungry enough,’’ I tell him. ‘‘Wanna bet?’’, he’d scream if he could.

Some other brands are OK as long as they’re expensive and come in tiny little tins. With those he’ll at least lap up the gravy, leaving the chunks of meaty whatevers licked clean; then he screams, and I feed him again. And again.

Apart from his dementia and increasing girth, Ray is perfectly fine, the vet says, which is a relief because he’s the last animal standing now all our other family pets have gone.

SpiderPig is buried under the lemon tree, while Tui, Rolly, Poppy, Queen and Evie occupy little white boxes in the hallway cupboard. We used to talk about sprinkling them somewhere, though we won’t ’cos we can’t let them go.

One cat moved out with a friend who loved her more than I did, and the other lives next door under a new name. There was a rabbit and a lizard and a bird, but the rabbit died of old age, the bird was rehomed, and Geoffrey plummeted from an upstairs window during a particular­ly low point of 2016.

Anyway, Ray’s still about. Still screaming. He’s haunting a house that used to be heaving with other animals: a solitary figure miaowing dementedly in a kitchen we used to yell at dogs to get out of, even as we shooed cats off the bench.

I bought him 15 years ago when my then-spouse forbade me from getting a kitten, so I got two, picking the prettiest and the ugliest at the shelter. The latter now lies under the lemon tree.

Regardless of what happens with the supply chain over the coming weeks, Ray will keep screaming, the incessant miaowing now just a part of a house that used to be so full of noise. He drives me mad, but sometimes I hear him padding about the empty rooms, bellowing because his bowl is empty, and the sound makes me smile.

They are the cries of a creature who believes he’s being denied what he loves, when really he’s just forgotten he’s already had it.

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 ?? ?? Empty supermarke­t shelves are a problem for cats, as well as humans.
Empty supermarke­t shelves are a problem for cats, as well as humans.
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