Cats Know Margarine Is Not Food. Do You?

What is margarine? It shows up in the food aisle at your local grocery store, but does that make it food? My cats don't think so. And neither do I.

What is Margarine? A Message from the Barn Cats

I don't buy margarine. I used to many, many moons ago (back when I was scared of butter). But now that I know saturated fat is good for you, nary a stick or tub of margarine has entered my kitchen for some years now. That is, until a house guest left a package in the fridge a few weeks ago.

I didn't even realize it until the guest had left. And there it is. A yellow and blue box full of oddly colored yellow sticks of margarine. It doesn't look like the creamy, gold butter of summertime. It's a fake yellow, food-dye yellow. Ick.

I call my husband over to the fridge. "What do we do with it?" I ask.

"Well, we can't eat it," he says. "That's gross."

I am so glad he agrees with me.

"Should we throw it away?" I hesitate. "I hate wasting food."

We stare, deep in thought, at the yellow and blue box.

"We could feed it to the cats?" I finally suggest. But I'm not sure. Would that be right?

We have several barn cats who live outside and protect our chickens from various pests and predators that roam our woods. They love snacking on the occasional scrap food, especially when I am kind enough to pass a little liver, a fresh egg, or shrimp tails their way. Perhaps this explains why they follow me around the yard, making figure eights around my feet as I walk. They want to know if I have any tasty tidbits for them to sample.

But this was different. Margarine could hardly be equated with real food like liver or eggs.

My husband finally answers slowly, "I guess so." He also sounds hesitant. We are not sure if this could be considered animal abuse.

With doubt weighing heavily on my mind, I pull each yellowy stick of margarine from its plastic wrapping and put in into a bowl. Now I love butter, but this clearly isn't butter as it turns my stomach even looking at a whole bowlful of the stuff.

I take the bowl out to my cats, who immediately begin the figure eight ritual in anticipation of their treat. I set the bowl down in front of them, and all of them pounce at the easy prey.

But then they stop. They sniff the margarine gingerly and then look up at me as if to say, "Where's the real food?"

Not even the greediest of my barn cats will take a nibble. I am perplexed, because I have seen these cats eat some strange and rather disturbing things over the years. I decide to leave the bowl and see if they don't develop a hankering for it.

I return two hours later to fetch my empty bowl. Only it isn't empty. In fact, the margarine hasn't been touched at all. I am floored and I bring the bowl back into the house to show my husband.

Neither of us can believe it, but our cats flat-out refused to eat even a nibble of margarine. If only the general population were so wise. We marvel at the instinctual knowledge of wild beasts while I scrape the margarine into the trash can. I vow to never try and feed this fake-food-stuff to my animals ever again.

Sorry barn cats. My bad.

Moral of the story: I now realize you aren't actually wasting food when you throw margarine away. Because what is margarine? The answer is clear: it is not food!

And for all future house guests: if you leave margarine at my house, I will throw it straight into the garbage can and perhaps dare to lecture you on how even my cats won't touch it. I am sure my cats endowed me with this experience for a good reason. I must spread the word about real butter.

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