Spoil kitty, but not with deli meat
Q. My 5-year-old spayed female cat is just like Morris, the finicky spoiled star of the cat food commercials on TV years ago. She never eats as she should unless I add deli chicken to her food. I have tried every cat food that is out there, and she just takes a few licks and then walks away. If I mix in the deli chicken, then she will eat, but I have to mix it really well. Is there anything wrong with my doing this? My sister says to just leave her alone with the cat food and she will eat eventually, but I do not want to hurt her. I am a senior in a small apartment and this cat is my companion. I want to do what is best for her. --Michelle Clark, Holtsville
A. It seems that you are overthinking this situation. An adult cat living in a small apartment does not need to eat as much food as you may think. Most adult cats sleep 18 hours a day and spend the rest of the time just looking out the window. So the few mouthfuls of cat food she does eat are just what she needs to fuel her metabolism. However, it is clear she has learned that if she licks the food a few times and then walks away from it, you will make a fuss and add in the deli chicken. This is a routine she has come to enjoy.
In a perfect world, you would just harden your heart as your sister says and leave her unaltered food out, and she would eat it the next day. As they say, hunger is the best sauce. In my world, though, one of the pleasures in life is feeding animals and watching them eat. You obviously feel the same way. So I see nothing wrong with adding in a little meat, as long as the cat is not too heavy.
However, processed deli chicken is really not that good for a cat -- too much salt and preservatives. Use plain chicken or turkey breast instead. Cut it up and mix in the cat food as you are doing now -- just do not let it surpass more than a third of the total volume of the meal. The canned food has needed vitamins and minerals not found in the chicken or turkey breast.
Q. My children found a large praying mantis in one of the shrubs in front of our house the other day. They wanted to keep it, so we put it in a glass tank with a few potted house plants and tree branches. We give it water every day from an eyedropper, and it is eating crickets we buy from a pet store. How long can we expect it to live, and is there anything else we need to do for it? --Melvin Copeland, Roosevelt
A. Any mantis that you may find outside in mid October doesn't have too much time left to live, so bringing it indoors to observe is not harming the environment at all. They are quite amazing creatures. In nature, they die off at the first frost.
I have kept some of them alive up until the end of December, so it is possible you will have it for a few more weeks yet. The care you are providing is just fine. Be sure to feed it crickets that have been fed a vitamin and mineral powder, as these vitamins will also benefit the mantis.
Most likely it is a female. The females are larger than the males and are the ones we usually notice. She may yet lay an egg case on one of the branches in the vivarium.
If she does, just leave the case inside for a few days until it hardens, then take the branch outside and tie it onto a shrub in a protected area of your yard so the babies will hatch from it next spring.
If you leave it indoors, the babies will hatch in the middle of the winter, and they are so small and delicate that you will not be able to feed them properly and they will all starve to death.