Cats and Humans Agree: Roast Chicken is the Best!

“Harry is a big boy with a big heart!” read the caption on his Petfinder profile. I shouldn’t even have been looking at the site, routinely breaking my heart with pictures of saucer-eyed fuzzballs, since we were still settling into the house we’d moved into four months ago. But there he was with his triangle face and pink nose, lounging like a sultan and chubby as Jabba the Hutt, and my hand reached for the phone.

Harry was three years old and a shade over 19 pounds when we brought him home, dwarfing his four-month-old adopted brother Lenny like Andre the Giant to Wallace Shawn. With that kind of girth, I knew he was a hearty eater, but I was completely unprepared for a cat who nibbled on my fingers—and licked my cheek—as a morning breakfast reminder, who sang operatically when he wanted to drink from the faucet, and who recognized the sound of a freezer door opening. The food writer found her food cat counterpart. Like mother, like son.

Though the boys are banned from eating human food and the kitchen counter is strictly off-limits to pink pawpads, Harry’s bucked the system more than once. Somehow that whalecat manages to catapult his hefty behind to the forbidden zone to chomp on bagels, bread, leftover Thanksgiving pie, cupcakes, and cheesy poofs, and once gnawed through both a paper bag and plastic wrapper to abscond with a piece of coffee cake. Our house motto is “nothing is safe,” and yet I continue to leave food unattended. It’s really my own damn fault. Harry’s nowhere as devious as Eat Beast—he hasn’t yet tried to eat egg salad or hot peppers, or drink alcohol—but he’s getting there.

(Lenny, on the other hand, could give a fig about most human food save Cheerios, and prefers to get his kicks by pilfering every knitted or crocheted item he can find and trotting around with the glove/sock/legwarmer/camera case clutched between his tiny fangs like a hunting trophy. But that’s another tale for Good. Craft. Stories.)

Though he’s yet to meet a carb he doesn’t like, Harry’s heart and stomach truly belongs to poultry. That cat can detect a bird at 50 paces—he’s even got a nose for the raw stuff, as evidenced by his cameo appearance in my “how to truss a chicken” video. He circles around my legs like a furry shark the minute the chicken hits the counter, places himself strategically behind my feet in hopes I’ll trip and drop an entire roasted bird onto the floor, and yowls for his cut of meat until the last bite is sealed away in Tupperware and he can’t smell it anymore. And it’s not just chicken that provokes this reaction. Duck confit piques his interest mightily, and I caught him trying to snag a turkey carcass from the trash one Thanksgiving (apologies for the blurry photo, but I was hyperventilating with laughter).

Harry turns eight years old today and is down to a svelte 14-and-a-half pounds. For his birthday, he’ll get his customary small plate of plain shredded roast chicken, which he’ll hoover down without even chewing (seriously, Harry—how do you even taste your food when you do that?) and then beg in vain for more. He’s not picky about how the chicken’s cooked as long as he gets to eat it.

Roast chicken is one of those cook-once, eat-thrice meals at our house (chicken pot pie and chicken broth being meals two and three on that list). I typically either salt mine overnight, Zuni Cafe-style, or just rub it with olive oil, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, and stuff whatever herbs and citrus are within reach into the cavity before throwing it into a 400˚ oven for about an hour. But there are a flock of ways to roast chicken, and in honor of my beloved black-and-white whalecat, below are just a few options. Harry gives a stately nod of approval and a big “mrreeeoowwwr!” to any of them.

And this holiday season, please consider slipping a little something into the stockings of cats and dogs in need. Even if you can’t adopt a shelter pet (or two! Pairs of cats are healthier and more well-adjusted than solo pets), even the smallest donations are gratefully accepted at no-kill shelters and foster groups in your area, or national organizations like the ASPCA and the Petfinder Foundation.

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  1. says

    I’m pretty sure cat Harry weighed more at age 3 than boy Harry did 😉

    Love that picture of the garbage can hunt. Our cat has more unpredictable tastes–I never imagined he’d be interested in cooling rainbow cookie layers. Sigh.

  2. Joan says

    Wonderful! Both the thoughts of the roast chicken and the great photos of my grand-cats! Happy Birthday, Harry!!

  3. Julie D says

    Love the tales of Harry, we use to have a siamese that loved the turkey at Thankgiving, could not turn our back on Frankie he would be up on the counter in a heartbeat digging into the leftovers. Not to mention how purrrfect his hearing was when you opened a can of tuna. Happy Birthday Harry!

    p.s. Thanks for the link to Leite’s!

  4. says

    Haha, what a little cutie. Our kitty is the same way as yours about shrimp; he can smell it a mile away and knows that I’ll always give him a piece (in his bowl, of course) if he cries and looks at me with those sad kitty eyes. 😉

  5. says

    Oh Harry, Happy Birthday, ya big lug!

    Milo is to butter as Harry is to roast chicken, while Connor, who admittedly is the chowhound of the pair, only wants wet cat food. I guess I should be grateful, huh?

    Connor was a PetFinder find too. Oh man, how I love our little rescue. Hah. I said little.

    Big hugs to you and your boys today :)

  6. says

    Best post ever! The picture of Harry at the garbage can is the best. Rocco is working on his top ten food list right now which includes cat food. And Mudi is a pork fiend. He can detect an open package of bacon from underneath 4 blankets, 2 rooms away.

  7. says

    Your Harry and my dog Oliver (who I think might be part cat the way he acts!) would get along well. Chicken is his fav too. Although there must be something unique about Cheerios because like Lenny, my dog will do all sorts of tricks for one.

  8. Jane Boursaw says

    Happy Birthday, Harry! And many blessings on your kitty-dom for sparking this roast chicken post.

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Yeah, both of us grew up with chubby kitties, so we have a soft spot for them in this house. It’s always so easy to adopt a wee tiny kitten, but adult fatties need love too!

  9. moom says

    To know them is to love them! Sometimes Harry steals the show … but Lenny’s not far behind!

    Dumpster diving Harry was the best!

  10. says

    Resolution #1 for 2012: to get my two 14+ pound cats down to healthier weight! No doubt you had veterinarian advice to accomplish the change?

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Ruth, we did work with our vet to make sure the cats were still getting enough calories while we put them on a strict feeding schedule. An automatic feeder to manage the amount of dry food was a huge help too! I don’t know if we can get Harry down to 12 pounds (his goal weight), but he’s still pretty impressed with his new agility.

  11. Sheryl says

    I am still laughing as I write this comment. Can’t help but love a fat cat! Harry really seems to have wormed his way into your heart.