[Tweeters] Play with your food.

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sun Jun 30 09:18:24 PDT 2013

Coming up to the back door at home the other day, I caught Betty the cat torturing a rat. It was still alive and she came out of hiding to pounce on the hapless rat, who she had obviously partially nailed already.

Torture? That's a human conceit mostly, unfortunately developed through centuries of practice. No, Betty was just playing with her food! That wasn't much consolation to the rat, I guess.

Many animals like to play with their food. I suppose it's sort of a luxury, something animals do when they can afford to, in the survival game. Starving creatures aren't gonna goof around. When they are really hungry- a single gulp, or quick kill is the order of the moment.

I grew up in a family that had 3 square meals everyday - pretty luxurious conditions. I felt like I was expected to eat an inordinate amount of mashed potatoes, so my way of dealing with it was to play with my food. Under the nearby watch of dinner table authority, I quietly created little Crater Lakes full of butter, or Mt. Rainier's skirted by 'forest's' of indented pea's. "Oh no!", I would think as I poured on more gravy, " a hot lava flow!" , as the gravy covered the peas, or possibly broccoli trees. Later in life, in slimmer times, I didn't play with tater's too much. Just ate 'em.

While cats like to play with their food, how about them dogs? When living on an 80 acre farm up in Whatcom County, we used to watch Coyotes toss voles around for fun. They'd pounce with fore paws, grab the vole, and toss it up in the air (this was in tall grass) a few time's and catch it. Not really necessary, just foolin' around.

A few year's ago when working on boat in Elliott Bay marina in Seattle I was hanging over the shady side of the boat, when a baby Harbor Seal surfaced right under my nose. It was idly chasing a little school of candlefish (or something similar) around in a circle. Surely still feeding on milk, it was just playing " hey mom, look at me, I'm fishing!". I saw a super-sized version of this years before, as I watched a big adult ,below the cliff's of Washington Park in Anacortes, going after a large 'herring ball' down in the clear water - that was serious business.

While it seems like birds are playful in flight (l think of Crows and Ravens especially), and swallows catch feathers in the air, over and over again, I don't remember seeing birds 'play' with food too much. One time, working at Elliott Bay marina again, I watched an immature Rhinoceros Auklet, just below me. Sometimes one can be a quiet 'stump' in the woods and see great stuff. You can also be a 'boat buoy' hanging over a boat. At any rate, the auklet didn't see me, so I got great close looks at it (about 5 ft away), as it fooled with a small perch it had caught. Over and over again it released, then dove down in the clear water and recaptured the fish. At the time it seemed like it had it by the head just right, then it would release it again. Play? I don't know, the young Rhino spotted me and dove away - no longer available for an interview.

Have you seen a bird play with it's food?

Jeff Gibson
ready for breakfast in
Everett Wa

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