Doing Things Differently, Part I

Everyone, meet Quinn. My mother would tell you that Quinn is my little brother, but let’s leave that discussion for another time. Regardless of familial status, Quinn is a pretty cool dude. But he’s also a bit overweight and pre-diabetic. This is why Quinn is on a diet.

A goal of this diet, just like with human diets, is to encourage healthy eating habits. It’s quite a bit easier with (most) cats because we don’t need to go through counting carbs, balancing good fat and bad fat, sodium intake, protein, sugar, etc. Our domestic feline friends can mostly stick to the core aspects of healthy eating: portion control and throttling the intake of food.

But this post isn’t about dieting or healthy eating (those who know me know that I’m not exactly the model of healthy eating); it’s about Quinn’s new food bowl. Yeah. That fancy white plate with the green shot glasses in the picture above is Quinn’s new food bowl! The concept is pretty cool: instead of putting his meal directly into a bowl (where Quinn can Hoover it in about 3.8 seconds), distribute it into those several small, green shot glasses of various size. The idea is, he can’t get his mouth into them and suck down all of the food, so he needs to find another way to get his food.

I told you that story to tell you this story… Quinn, in his privileged upbringing, had unfettered access to food in a wide bowl in which he could shove his entire face to consume as much kibble as he wanted. When he was forced to figure out how to get his food from somewhere he couldn’t fit his snout, he was perplexed. Mom and I spent a good 20 minutes teaching him how to get his food!

First was getting him to actually acknowledge that his meal was in those green containers. That initially resulted in more frustration and panic than we would have preferred, so the next lessons came quickly. First, I pulled a green glass out and brought it to Quinn. I showed him the food inside of it. Then I put my finger into it to pull out a kernel or two of kibble and gave it to him to eat. When he finished the tiny snack, I showed him the food in the green glass again and hoped he’d reach for it with his paw, as the bowl was designed to do.

He wouldn’t do it. I showed him with my finger how to get food from the container but he didn’t relate that to his own equipment. Then Mom had an idea to physically move his paw into the small, green glass to touch the kibble and bring it out of the container.

Eureka!! A couple quick coaching sessions and Quinn was able to recognize the obstacle intended to slow him down, and work with it from his newly acquired skill. He had only known one way to get his food. He never knew any different!

Many people approach me to point out how miraculous it is when I accomplish some mundane task like zipping up my coat (truth be told it wasn’t always a mundane task) or carrying a case of wine. “How can you do that <without thumbs, with a short reach, little upper body strength>?” To be completely honest, the answer is, “I don’t know.” How do you do it with thumbs? Let’s imagine if somehow I was granted with many peoples’ prayers and suddenly had “normal” arms and hands. I would have no idea how to zip that jacket, open a jar, or even write my name. I’d be all thumbs! HAH!

There is actually a connection here. Quinn was given a completely foreign way to do things. If he wanted to eat, he needed to turn his existence upside down to learn a new way of doing what had previously been a natural task. He was born into a world of easy-access wide food bowls and was then plunged into a crazy world of tiny green shot glasses. When people are amazed with my ability to accomplish certain tasks I am surprised in return. What I don’t always recognize is that they’re looking at me like Quinn initially looked at that crazy food bowl with little green shot glasses. He had no idea what to do!

Well, folks… I was born with the crazy food bowl with little green shot glasses. I don’t know how I learned how to get the kibble out of the tiny containers – I’ve never known any other way!

Chew on that a bit…

6 thoughts

  1. First – I need a link for that cat food dispenser with the shot glasses (my BFF has a cat with an insatiable appetite)!

    It is an interesting analogy — You’ve developed the knowledge on how to modify things to make them accessible for your particular requirements. Sort of like BA/PM skills — you were separating tasks/actions into discernible skills so that the pieces when linked together achieved the goal within the requisite time and with certain materials.

    What’s cool is the next stage you took to leverage that knowledge for the greater good including this blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a very interesting connection, Juliette! Separating tasks and actions is integral to the learning process for everyone, I’d think. The biggest difference with my unique situation is that I never knew any other way to accomplish the tasks that most others would do differently. I wonder if that contributed to my BA perspectives at all…?

      And here’s the link to the cat bowl: 😉


  2. Jim this is great. Love and appreciate the green shot glass bowl for chubby kitty (we might have to do the same!) – but your humor and the parallels you draw with your own life are so touching. A great way to start my day with empathy and inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I cannot say enough how much I love this! For some adversity is given at birth, for others it is thrown at them smashing a world they previously known into a new existence. Whether it’s all you’ve ever known or a new world you quickly have to figure out, perspective and mindset are the true keys to finding your way through. I love the patience you and your mother showed in helping the cat adjust to his new way of life! Maybe we all have such positive and supporting roles for those faced with unique differences around us.

    Liked by 1 person

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