Pet birthdays are my favorite kinds of birthdays. Pets don’t have weird complexes about aging, they don’t return the gifts that I buy for them, and they don’t wince when I “hit” the high notes while singing “Happy Birthday.” So whenever my cat Katze’s birthday rolls around, I make a big effort for us to spend a nice day together. We eat fish. We nap in little patches of sunlight. I get her a couple stuffed mice to drop behind the couch and immediately forget about. It’s a magical time.
But this year, I screwed up. This year, I brought a dog I was babysitting over to our house because I’m a monster. (Also just because I had to feed the dog.)
Bringing a strange animal into the house when we should have been celebrating Katze’s turn into a big six-year-old girl is not what good parents do — and I probably should have anticipated her forthcoming cold shoulder. Still, my heart broke a little when she gave me and my borrowed dog the death glare before sadly jumping up into our loft bed and away from my terrible-mother arms.
To make it up to her, I made a batch of birthday snacks. Here are five things I now know about making homemade cat treats.
There are simple recipes, painfully elaborate recipes, and all sorts of recipes in between. Fortunately, I have a few restrictions: no rice (because it irritates Katze’s stomach) and no chicken (because I find poultry gross in every way and refuse to handle it).
These two factors alone cut down the number of options significantly. A lot of recipes are variations on the same idea, so I tried my own take on it for a few reasons: Most of the ingredients I already had, and there were only five ingredients. I figured (read: hoped) that I wouldn’t screw this up too badly.
And you can! The recipe I loosely followed calls for oats (yum), an egg (delicious), olive oil (scrumptious), a can of tuna (tasty), and catnip (meh, it won’t hurt you). Aside from the catnip, these are staples in my pantry. And I can say with complete sincerity that I would eat an inflatable pool toy if it were topped with olive oil and an egg. By the time I set up a cooking station, I was already drooling.
(Though for me, this phase was short lived. The combination of raw eggs and canned tuna is a little pungent, and it’s right around this time that I adopted the ever-sophisticated pull-your-shirt-over-your-nose-as-you-go method.)
It’s not a huge deal, but something about loading my roommate’s brand new, expensive food processor full of catnip made me feel like I was crossing some sort of line of etiquette. Which is why I waited until she left for work before getting started, and why I’m crossing my fingers that she doesn’t care enough about my cool cat blogging gig to ever read this article.
Some fancy, successful people own cookie cutters, I’m sure. But I’m just not “there” in life. Thus, poor Katze’s cookies were clumsily formed by hand by a mother who hasn’t baked anything in more than a decade. Surprisingly, I got pretty into it. And once I hit my stride, I even tossed in a few Mickey Mouse shapes like some culinary genius.
But do learn from my mistakes. Consider throwing on a pair of gloves before forming the cookies. As I type this, I can smell my hands moving, and I periodically have to pause to pick awful chunks of fish dough out from under my fingernails. Ahem. Moving on!
Even though I chose the most benign ingredients possible, a few minutes into the baking process, the cute little kitty cookies turned on me and created a dark cloud of stink in my kitchen. It’s as though I loaded the oven with old gym socks and dirty seawater. A friend swung by and told me that I’m dramatic; the treats smell just like her mother’s tuna casserole. I start to question her childhood.
You can spend all morning making treats, but if your cat likes tape, she’ll mostly ignore her food and just hang out sniffing tape. If you’re feeling particularly festive (or guilty) and set up decorations, there’s a good chance that your cat will find these more entertaining than whatever concoction you’ve whipped up.
Sure, Katze ate some of her cookies. But I can tell by her reaction that next year she would prefer I just give her a roll of tape to smell.
Happy belated birthday, Katze! Next year I promise to be better.
About the author: Laura Jaye Cramer is a freelance writer and ballet dancer based out of San Francisco. When she isn’t busy tending to her sweet little cat baby, she can be found drooling over artifacts in a museum, building a shrine to Dolly Parton, or eating a trough of guacamole. Stalk her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.