Deadly Nightshade, the perfect flavor

23 Mar

I won’t bore you with the details of how it came to be, but my little baby has gone crazy, nutso, out of her gourd, cracked… whatever.  My baby is a 10 year old Russian Blue cat.  Thora is her name.  She was a perfectly normal kitten if not a little extra needy.  She has always loved food, and has a history of food aggression with the food scoop.  She used to bully our other two cats away from their food and steal it.  She was playful and cute, and one day she got really weird.  All that aside, I have come across yet another sign that she is totally losing it in her old age.

Fun Fact #1: Peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant are all members of the nightshade family.  Yes, that’s right.  Some of the most iconic signs of summer share a chromosome with those little berries you’ve all been warned about.  Don’t panic!  The fruit of these plants is perfectly fine.  Most of the toxins stay in the plant itself.  So don’t go off the conservation deep end and eat every part of your tomato plant this summer.  You likely won’t die, but you will probably be very sick, and your stomach will never be the same.

Fun Fact #2: Cats love to eat houseplants.  If your cat doesn’t, then lucky you!  We have one who does and one who doesn’t.  Come to think of it, Eli likes to gnaw on the jade plant occasionally, so even he isn’t exempt.

Since I started growing my own tomatoes indoors three years ago, I have had problems with little nibblers among my tender seedlings.  You would assume cats would have the common sense to steer clear of something that could prove potentially fatal to them, but as I stated previously, mine is a little wonky, and seems to have trouble seeing the correlation between bouts of unpleasant nausea and helping herself to my plants.  That first year, our apartment had many quirks.  A pink closet in the bedroom with green shag carpeting, the ugliest carpet I’ve ever seen in the living room, sparkly linoleum in our giant kitchen.  But my favorite would have to be the foyer attached to the bathroom.  There was an actual small room with its own door leading into the bathroom.  This turned out to be the perfect place to start my adventure in growing tomatoes.  I didn’t have any good window sills anyway, and we never got any kind of natural light, so the fluorescent bulbs were enough, and we were able to just shut Thora out entirely.  The following year, we had Eli, so were worried about him knocking the plants down more than Thora eating them.  Our washer and dryer were adjacent to the bathroom and closed off from the main section of the apartment by an odd vinyl sliding door.  This didn’t keep Eli out, but Thora was too shy to try and get in.  This was also the year we established the bathroom as Eli’s domain.  It may sound weird, but that is where he goes when he’s been bad, or just needs to be removed so he doesn’t get overstimulated.  He’s more like a toddler than a cat, I swear.  The following spring, we not only had a back deck to keep the older plants on, but we had a great plant nursery.  There was plenty of sun for most of the day and lots of extra space for seedlings and young plants. This year brought us into a larger house, but our problems with cat battles for dominance and sleeping spots followed us.  It seemed like we had a perfect solution.  Our utility room made a wonderful, isolated space just for Thora.  Here she takes her meals in peace, has her own Eli-scent-free litter box, her favorite lounging chair, and best of all, Eli is never allowed in.  But as spring started to peek around the winter clouds, I found myself in yet another conundrum.  The utility room was the best place in the house to start this years tomato forest, and Thora would share their quarters, biding her time until the mood so struck her to have a toxic mouthful.  By this time, however, Thora was too well entrenched in her routine to not be fed in the utility room, so I decided to take my chances.

And here are the casualties of that decision.  She went right for the tender pepper seedlings after they were re-potted and down on her level.  While the rest of the plants are thriving and several inches tall in their seventh week, I must start over with two pepper varieties and one sad tomato.  (rear center)  I can’t figure out for the life of me why she likes to eat these plants.  So far I haven’t noticed any adverse signs of ingesting a toxic plant, and she hasn’t started acting any more erratic than normal.  So far so good, and I guess that old adage is correct after all:  What doesn’t kill you must make you stronger.

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One Response to “Deadly Nightshade, the perfect flavor”

  1. Eric March 23, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    Maybe she thinks the tomato/pepper toxins give her special powers?

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