Your pet wants your food

Cats and dogs are incredibly food-driven - I've never met one that wasn't. And this means that the price of owning a cat or a dog is eternal vigilance. It means protecting your own food from their drive to steal it.

  Millie is laser-focused on that smoked salmon.
  The eggs are briefly considered, rejected.
  She bides her time.
  Millie calculates the consequences...
  It's not worth it. That person with the camera is sure to dob her in.

They don't see it as stealing, of course. For them, food unguarded is food in the wild, and therefore fair game for any creature that can reach it. In pursuit of an unguarded dinner plate, they'll show patience, persistence, experiment, daring, athleticism and flair. If we humans could all show such character in our lives, we'd all be super-achievers.

Cats are a menace for their skill and their sheer guiltless persistence. They can bring a roast chicken down from the table simply by claw-swiping the tablecloth.

Dogs - well, you can train them, but it takes a feat of canine self-control to pass up the opportunity of a mouthful of someone's meal. My dog Connor instantly obeys the command "Connor leave it" when he's heading for the cat's dish or any other source of grub that's not his bowl; when caught nosing around the top of the dining table, he dismounts pronto without needing to be told. So he seems to know that the food is not intended for him. But if no human is watching, he'll wander around and eat whatever is within reach. He knows it's wrong, but he'll do it anyway if he can get away with it. In a human this would be sociopathic, but in a dog it's just typical.

My other dog, Phoebe, can't spring on to the full-height table as Connor can, but she has another specialty: sideways tongue. If a plate or bowl has been left on the low coffee table, she'll hoist herself up and then, as though halfway through a high-jump, flops herself as far on to the table as possible, turning her head and sending her tongue out of the side of her mouth to lick the crockery clean.

I'm sure you have your own story of an especially daring or shocking case of food theft by a pet. But I wonder how many of us would admit to how many times we've continued to eat something even though our pet has taken a bite or touched it with a tongue? It's a subject I find it hard to discuss, here in this public forum and under my real name... But you, you can be anonymously frank.

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Thanks to Sandra for her pictures of Millie