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What I Learned from My Cat’s Crack Addiction

Don’t do drugs. Everyone knows that, right? But it’s easier said than done. Ask my cat Lucy.

Lucy is a good cat. Oh sure, she has a slight tendency to bite things – people, paper, wooden railings.

You should have seen it before I re-painted it.

Lucy’s oral fixation extends to her eating habits. When she moved in with me nine years ago, she weighed eight pounds. Slowly but surely, she has done everything in her power to change that statistic. Last I checked, she was over thirteen pounds.

When I was a kid, our cats monitored their own food consumption. I thought all cats were like that. I didn’t realize – until Lucy – that some cats can’t handle the responsibility. Lucy is one of those cats.

A few months ago, Lucy stopped eating. For a cat of her proclivities, this was unheard of. We immediately took her to the vet, who pronounced that he had no idea what was wrong with her. The best bet was a trauma of some sort, but he wasn’t sure.

We were given an IV bag to make sure that she got enough fluids and electrolytes. It took both Melissa and me to pin her down and inject her with a needle to make sure she was hydrated and didn’t die. This went on for over a week. No one was happy – not us, not the vet (who still couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her), and certainly not Lucy.

In an effort to get Lucy to eat on her own, the vet suggested we start feeding her wet food. I had always heard that dry food is better for cats, so I had never gone the wet food route. But she still wasn’t eating. I had to try something.

Lucy’s first can of wet food was a prescription brand from the vet’s office. She wasn’t having it. I’m sure it was impossibly bland and tasted like vitamin-flavored cardboard. It was clear we needed to do something a lot more enticing to get her to eat.

We needed to pull out the big guns.  

Desperate for my cat to get better, I went to the store and bought a can of Fancy Feast. Oh yes, my friends. Fancy. Feast. If I’d known what was about to happen, I would have stashed the can back on the counter and run the other way. But I had to learn the hard way.

Needless to say, Lucy loved it. She gobbled it up like she’d forgotten all about the not-eating issue. In fact, she forgot about everything but the Fancy Feast.

Her life turned into an endless and constant quest for more crack Fancy Feast. Every time I went into the kitchen, Lucy followed me and loudly requested that I feed her. She tailed my heels like an expert cattle-roper, attempting to get me to reach into the cabinet and pull out a can of the good stuff. Never mind that I wouldn’t do it. Her vocal-proding and ankle-tailing continued unabated.

I wasn’t sure what to do. She was eating again, but only Fancy Feast. She wouldn’t touch her dry food or water, the old staple of her nutritional existence. If I cut off the crack, would she revert to her anorexic ways?

I had no choice but to find out. Our beloved Lucy had turned into a drug-fiend, driving us crazy with her incessant yowling and hyperactive ankle-tailing. After talking it over with Melissa, I realized that cold turkey was the only way to go. And by cold turkey, I do not mean a cold can of turkey-flavored Fancy Feast.

I mean no wet food. None. Nada.

So I did it. Woke up the next morning and put dry food in her bowl. And she tailed me, and she yowled, but I persisted. After an incredibly short period of time – like, a day – she started eating dry food again. And drinking water. Just like the old Lucy I knew and loved.

It was amazing.

And it reminded me something about addiction. Along with the high comes the anxiety of how to score more. I’m going to say that again. Along with the high comes the anxiety of how to score more. It’s an anxiety that pulls you out of the present, out of the world, out of everything truly good and solid in your life.

That’s why addiction is never fun, no matter how many times you try to convince yourself that it is. I’ve learned this with sugar, my drug of choice. And Lucy, bless her little kitty heart, had to learn by a battle with Fancy Feast.

I’m just glad she’s back.

Addendum: Since this post was published, I have heard lots of information about the value of wet food for cats. Some of this information is in the comments below. Fancy Feast, however, is still in the Not-Awesome-For-Cats category. Sorry, Fancy Feast, you didn’t make the cut!

What are your addictions?  What are the Fancy Feasts in your life?

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32 Responses to What I Learned from My Cat’s Crack Addiction

  1. Francesca September 6, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    How appropriate this comes up after Melli and I had a wonderful conversation yesterday about food, healthy eating and our “Fancy Feasts” we fancy the mostest. I am a big SUGAR ADDICT and it is so hard to just leave it and let it go. Sugar is the root of so many food allergies, addictions, depression and overall the most non nutritional food item. Thank you for posting this. I appreciate it and you!

  2. Z Egloff September 6, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    Thank you, Francesca. When I stopped eating sugar (the first time), I realized that all the years I’d been abusing sugar, I’d been totally depressed. I couldn’t see the depression until I got OUT of it. I agree with you – sugar is a non nutritional food. A drug, really. It helped me immensely when I realized this. XOXOZ

  3. Dawn September 6, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    Just like Francesca, I am a HUGE sugar addict. A year and a half ago I was on an a very extreme cleansing / healing diet in response to being diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and gluten intolerance. I maintained for this diet a period of 6 months, (no sugar, caffeine, red meat, processed food etc., etc) and boy did I find out what a food addict / sugar I really am! As soon as I introduced it back into my diet I was off an running in matter of days, thinking about and planning when I could have my next “fix”. the whole experience has turned into quite a Blessing as I now have a much more mindful and balanced relationship with food. I still enjoy sugar from time to time, but as a conscious and mindful choice. I have also learned about some amazing alternatives to sugar that satisfy yet don’t stimulate the addictive response …. I’m actually writing a cookbook and a blog about my experiences! The Blessings continue!

    • Z Egloff September 6, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

      Hi Dawn, Great to hear from you! I love to hear about people who have come to a place of healing and balance with food. It can be quite a journey sometimes. It’s also wonderful that you’re able to take what you’ve learned and share it with others. Blessings to you! XOZ

  4. Melissa September 8, 2011 at 8:19 am #

    I sort of wish I could be like Dawn and eat sugar now and then – but alas – too much of an addict…

    Yesterday, while going through a closet of papers, I found a three-page document a friend had me write JUST after coming off a sugar-binging phase, to read at other times when I wanted sugar – to help assuage the voices that start telling me “it’s not THAT big of a deal! I could just have a little!”

    OH MY! I had actually sort of forgotten, again, the level of fall-out that takes place! So – again – I am grateful that I can not eat sugar. Mostly. :-)

    Cuz if I could, I most certainly would… and it is a poison to not only my system, but my entire life!

    Thanks for another reminder, awesome one…if I forget, I’ll just look to Lucy! ;-0

    • Z Egloff September 8, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

      Hi Melissa! Yes, Lucy is a great teacher, isn’t she?! I’m still amazed at how sneaky the urge to eat sugar can be. “What’s the big deal?! It’s just one bite?!” But then everything else in my life is affected by it, and not in a good way. I think it’s great that we can continually remind each other that peace of mind is always WAY more important than indulging in our addictions. One day at a time. XOZ

  5. Claire September 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    Oh my gosh I had no idea that was what the problem is with my cat. A friend gave me some wet food her old cat wasn’t eating and that is when the demanding threats began to happen to me from my up until then docile and lovely cat Crystal aka Crissie. Now she won’t take no for an answer and berates me in the morning and again in the afternoon until she hears the “Crack” of the can opening….I am a hopeless codependent. One of these days I will have to do tough love. Or join a group – hello, my name is claire and I am a cat-co….

    • Z Egloff September 13, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

      Hi Claire, I feel your pain! Lucy turned into a total fiend. I like your idea of a group. How about Cat Crack Codependents Anonymous? CCCA. I’m in! XOZ

  6. notyrmma June 25, 2012 at 2:21 am #

    Ha ha! Oh man, just came across this after googling “fancy feast kitty crack.”
    My cat just had heart failure and was doing poorly. Stopped eating a few days ago. Was about to take him for his last vet visit, when vet suggested appetite stimulants. He started eating a little, then I decided to try the fancy feast after my neighbors suggested it. They think it’s the “good” food. (“It’s made in America!!”). So I got some. Holy crap. My cat, who threw up the healthy food yesterday after eating on his own for first time in a couple days, INHALED the fancy feast. He has eaten 4+ cans in 24 hours. I know it’s not good, but he’s extremely underweight right now, and probably hyperthyroid, so for the time being, I want him to eat as much he wants. I’ve tried a few healthier foods in the day he’s been on the stimulants- forget it. Not interested. BUT if i mix with the FF, he’ll eat it. So long as there’s ALOT of FF mixed in, of course. I can’t imagine what they put in this stuff to make it so enticing to cats. it’s got to be bad!
    As for sugar addiction, well, I’m known for that. But right now, I’d rather think about my cat and his kitty crack.

    • Z Egloff June 25, 2012 at 9:13 am #

      Yup, it was the same for us. The crack/Fancy Feast got Lucy out of a place of not eating at all, so it was totally worth it. Then there was the aftermath, where she wanted to score some new FF crack every minute, but at least she’s healthy again. I wish you and your cat the best!! I’m glad he’s eating again, even if it’s crack! :)

  7. Miss Kimberley February 10, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    Vewwy intewwesting! But, as poignant all of the confessionals above may be, I am very curious to know-hence my participating in this blog in the first place-what the heck is really in Fancy Feast cat food!
    We took in a stray cat who was decidedly underweight. Although I never feed my own cat commercial wet food, I started giving each of them half a tin of FF every morning along with their specialty dry food. And, as a ‘mom’ of a rather gourmand kitty, I KNOW that his reaction to this new addition to the menu was not just because Mikey ‘really liked it”! The little one has plumped up considerable now, too, so I am not at all remiss in cutting them off at this point.
    I wager that the ‘natural and artificial’ flavors contain a heeping dose of MSG or some such nasty additive.
    If anyone knows for a fact what exactly is in this Fancy Fix stuff, please do post it for other unsuspecting cat owners, won’t you?
    Ta ta for now.

    • Z Egloff February 10, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

      Howdy Miss Kimberley,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      I suspect that you’re correct: the “natural and articificial” flavors is a mask for some Special Secret Ingrediant that drives cats wild. I’ll be interested to see if anyone knows the Inside Story. :)

      XOZ

  8. MW February 9, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    She wanted the wet food for a reason – it’s FAR better for domestic cats than dry. But not Fancy Feast – you DO have to whip out the “good stuff”.

    Dry food may be convenient for you but it’s not the best for your addicted cat.

  9. D August 6, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    Thank you Z.

    This article changed my life.

    For the past 5 years my cat George has screamed and yowled at me as soon as I got home from work. When I say scream, imagine neighbors assuming that I have a newborn baby with a strong set of lungs. The only reason that I am still allowed to keep him in the building is because he is an excellent mouser and patrols the hallways of my appartment building.

    Really though – he is the world’s nicest cat. He doesn’t have any cat-jerk behavior other than screaming. He doesn’t spray, carry grudges, push things off the counter, beat me up or scream at night. Actually, he is more like a dog trapped in a cat’s body. We go for walks (yes on a leash) and play fetch together.

    His one daily demand? Fancy Feast Chicken in Gravy – nothing else – even though he has healthy dry food available all day. He refuses organic and screams at me in disgust when I give it to him.

    He then screams and yowls while he is eating to the point that I have heard him choke multiple times. Only after eating, will he calm down for the rest of the evening. On the weekends he begins his demands at about 10am.

    I have tried everything: Feliway; mint; extra cat toys; massage; cat calming collars and watched every last episode of My Cat from Hell. I admit to googling about vocal chord removal and no bark collars out of desperation.

    It’s almost impossible for me to get a cat sitter if I need to go out of town because no one else will put up with him.

    I read this article last week and very nervously staged an intervention. We went out for a two hour walk in place of a meal. He came back confused and a little bit angry (by angry I mean yowly). The next 2 days were hell but since then, George has calmed significantly.

    I had no idea that I had become George’s codepend and was regularly enforcing his kitty crack addiction. You have just saved me thousands of dollars.

    Thank you SO much,

    George and D

    • Z Egloff August 8, 2014 at 11:25 am #

      Hi George and D,

      YAY! Another kitty crack addict in remission. That’s awesome. I’m so glad to hear that it worked so well. George’s process sounds a lot like Lucy’s – I was amazed at how quickly she calmed down once the crack was out of the picture. Even though cats have a reputation for being so self-possessed and really knowing themselves, I guess that’s not always true. I guess we humans really are good for something after all. Except the makers of Fancy Feast. 😉

      Thanks for stopping by!

      XOZ

  10. Rebecca November 19, 2014 at 1:26 am #

    http://catinfo.org. Excellent website for cat owners!

    • Z Egloff November 24, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

      Thanks for the info!

  11. Nancy Baer September 12, 2015 at 8:15 am #

    Cats should NOT be hard food at all. I just lost one of my two sister cats due to a lifetime of hard food. She had crf, hyperthyroidism and heart disease. PLEASE PLEASE don’t feed ANY hard food to your cats..they are meat eaters(unlike dogs) and the carbs are like DEATH to them! I have been feeding my surviving sister cat Fancy Feast but now have to take her off that too as the two vets I use say it is TERRIBLE for them..just like chips are bad for me :-( Brandi has heart failure going on right now and refuses to eat anything other than Fancy feast..the cardiologist wants her on a LOW SALT diet so I went back to the Wellness CORE(chicken, turkey & chicken livers) and she won’t eat! She hasn’t been drinking water and hasn’t gone pee or poop either. I’m crying ALOT..I am alone and this is all just way too much :-(( :-(( :-((

    • Z Egloff September 12, 2015 at 11:48 am #

      Hi Nancy, SO sorry to hear about your kitties. There is definitely a lot of good info about NOT feeding hard food to kitties – definitely good info to have. I am so sorry to hear about your current kitty – I know that with Lucy, when all she would eat was Fancy Feast, that’s what we gave her just so she would eat something. We just put in a call to a friend of ours who makes her kitties wet food – maybe she’ll have some ideas. I’ll let you know if you does. Meanwhile, we are sending you love and prayers. XOZ and Meli

    • Z Egloff September 12, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

      Our friend called back, and she said that it’s very hard to get cats off of Fancy Feast because it’s so addictive. The healthiest product she knows of out there is called Feed This. (This may or may not be hard to find, depending on where you live.) The other thing she said is that during the transition time off of Fancy Feast, one trick that can help is to put liver powder on the food to get them to eat it. Hope this helps!

      • indigo May 9, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

        When my cat is meowing for FF, I can give him Nori Seaweed paper (that your roll sushi in) that will at least give him a snack. He also has temptations treats. I just sprinkled some in with his dry food. I am going to have to go back to raw food that petco sells. It is made out of turkey and a little veggies.
        Thanks for the tips on Feed This. I am going to try to make some of these recipes.
        On a whim I googled FF cat food addiction and found you. Thanks for the post.
        I guess these can foods are only good in emergency health issues but then after the kitty is out of the woods, its time to stop.

        • Z Egloff May 12, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

          Hi Indigo, Thank you for the good info about the Nori paper! As fate would have it, Melissa and I just got a new kitty. (Lucy is now in Kitty Heaven.) So we’re looking into lots of good wet/raw food option. Have fun with your kitty! :) XOZ

  12. Nancy Baer September 12, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

    Hello there Z Egloff and Meli :-)

    Thank you so much for your kind reply, I agree that if it comes down to eating or not eating Fancy Feast is going to be what she has if that is all I can get her to eat. Thank you for asking your friend..I have never heard of Feed This(I am in Vermont, USA)but I’ll check it out. And I will try the liver powder on her food if I can get/find it. It sounds like your Lucy went through illness too~I am so sorry :-(
    I know how hard it is to lose our “fur-babies”.Brandi and I and her Angel-sister Brigit are sending you all our love and prayers too O:-)

    • Z Egloff September 15, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

      Thank you, Nancy! :)

  13. Wendy November 20, 2015 at 7:29 am #

    I found your blog because I am trying to figure out how to get my cat of Fancy Feast. He always ate dry food. I fed him twice a day with the dog and it wasn’t a big deal. However, I always noticed he did not have much urine. Finally, he got a very bad UTI. The vet said to put him on wet food. He would have nothing to do with the prescription diets (they have vegetables in them??) so I bought Fancy Feast. Like your cat, he now follows us around and gets really rude about wanting his food. He has even attacked me twice when I was getting ready for bed. I assume he thought I wasn’t going to feed him. He used to be so sweet. I am really not sure what to give him because he has to stay on wet for to avoid another UTI.

    • Z Egloff November 25, 2015 at 8:26 pm #

      Hi Wendy,

      All I can say is that it IS possible to break a cat from the Fancy Feast addiction. At least, we were able to. In our case, we went cold turkey. And it worked. She yowled for about a day, but then she gave up.

      I also know that lots of people have said (you can see in some of the comments) that wet food is indeed better for cats. The trick is to find a good one. That might take a little more work. Hope that helps!! :)

      XOZ

      • lesliebear April 3, 2016 at 7:54 am #

        hi, yes dry food is basically like junk food for cats. i don’t know where you heard that dry food is the best for cats, but that’s the total opposite. just imagine yourseld eating highly processed kibble food only, common sense would tell you it’s not very healthy. first, cats are omnivores, they need protein (animal protein) and the protein found in dry food is plant based. second, it’s loaded with carbs which cats dont need and could even be harmful to them. third, dry food has very low water content compared to canned or homemade food, and cats get their water mostly from the food they eat, they do not have as much drive as we humans do to drink fluids, thats why cats who are on regular dry food diet alone are at risk to develop kidney problems and uti. those are just some of the problems you can have with a dry food diet. if you google it you’ll find tons of articles about it and veterinarians saying the same thing.

        • Z Egloff April 6, 2016 at 11:54 am #

          Thanks for the info. Yes, I have now heard lots of good evidence about the value of wet food for cats. Your comment reminds me to add an addendum to this post, which was originally posted in 2013. Thank you! :)

  14. Christine May 8, 2016 at 7:03 pm #

    80% of cats that eat dry food get renal failure. My vet told me to stop feeding my cat dry food and move to wet. Poor kitty! Give her her crack.

    • Z Egloff May 12, 2016 at 12:29 pm #

      Hi Christine, Thanks for the info. Yes, I have now heard lots of good evidence about the value of wet food for cats. There is now an addendum to this post, which was originally posted in 2013. :)

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