Cats and Humans Agree: Roast Chicken is the Best!

Casey Barber

by Casey Barber on December 15, 2011

“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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