Most cats suffer to some degree from what the French call “le finique”. This condition, referred to by ancient veterinarians as “non cogito, gratias” or “felix apathia”, was studied by the noted naturalist and animal-conversant J Dolittle under the title “no-way-uh-unh”, and commemorated in the Bard’s famous soliloquy, “Perhaps another time, sayeth the cat.” Retired British Army officers sometimes call it simply, “blasted cheek.”
While some may describe le finique as nothing more than the arbitrary contrariness of the average feline, it is more accurate to state that it is a particular behaviour, usually an aversion, to something which is otherwise constant, consistent and unaltering in a cat, until it changes its mind.
Take, for instance, Parker, my orange foster-cat. I am of course pleased that he is with me, for he is diabetic and, along with my perma-cat Tucker, also diabetic, may be monitored regularly. An aspect of his character for which I am grateful is that he will eat almost anything. This is not to write that I feed him almost anything. Rather, he will consume whatever the others will not. Careful to keep his carbohydrates to a minimum, I nonetheless am able to foist upon him the leftovers that my other beasts do not want at meal-times.
Parker is not particular about what he eats. Every flavour finds favour with his palate. I do not over-feed him, but when one of the others (who, together, constitute a most choosy group of diners) decides that he does not want all of a particular dish he is offered, it will then be saved for Parker’s next meal. And yet…
While perfectly willing to devour a spoonful of paté that Cammie or Renn disdained, Parker will refuse to countenance a self-contained piece of food that another cat has had in its mouth, or even licked. A small cube of chicken or ham, a treat from a Christmas dinner, will be welcomed by Parker as a tasty addition to his dish. But the same item that Tucker or Josie has first picked up and then dropped is considered no better than a morsel infected with botulism or ptomaine. If the situation were reversed, and the portion were something that was well-liked, it would not matter to one of the perma-cats if Parker, or anyone else, has tried to chew it first. A toothsome morsel is not to be wasted. But the mere trace of another cat’s saliva on a bit of meat is enough to induce a bout of le finique in the sturdy orange-boy. The same slobber may be an integral part of a blob of Fancy Feast, and Parker will trill appreciatively. Applied to the exterior of the food, it is anathema.
But we who care for cats know well the vicissitudes effected by le finique. We learn to live with them, as we do other afflictions, such as heavy snows in winter, dry skin or politicians. So when we see a little bit of food we had offered to our cats with such hopes of eventual consumption, now abandoned on the floor, no doubt stepped on while in stocking feet, we simply sigh and, with perhaps a Gallic shrug, say, “C’est le finique.”