A Strange Intersection of Cat and Tea Culture

Vinnie_and_Tea_StoveA couple of weeks ago I ordered a charcoal-burning tea stove set from Tea Habitat. I will write more about this later, since I haven’t even had the opportunity to use it yet, but I have to share the complete absurdity of what happened after it arrived at my house. I unwrapped everything and had the pieces sitting on the coffee table in the living room and Vinnie, one of my two black cats, took some sort of strange attraction to the stove part. I caught him licking it enthusiastically at least three times over the course of a week or so. The accompanying not-too-sharp, captured-by-phone photo, in which the other cat is visible in the upper left, having nothing to do with this silliness, was a quick attempt to capture proof. Other times he stopped licking and jumped down as soon as I picked up my camera. Fortunately, a few days ago I was able to capture film documentation of this ridiculousness.

I really can’t imagine what it is about the stove that he found so tasty. The clay it is made of is pretty dusty/chalky and the surface is rough enough to produce quite a lot of noise against a cat tongue. There is a cute fishy creature on the top of the stove cover, but it doesn’t smell like fish to me. Most likely, there’s something in the mineral-rich clay that the cat finds appealing, but it’s also possible that he invents weird activities like this just so I’ll wonder if he’s gone off the deep end of the cat sanity spectrum. Vinnie was the only one in the house who found the tea stove delicious; the other cat, Natasha, displayed no interest in it whatsoever.

Fortunately, this clay-licking nonsense isn’t a practice that the cat has extended to include teapots. I would have been pretty upset with him if he had decided to lick the Chou Zhou kettle (Shao Diao) that goes with the stove because I’m sure he would have knocked it off of the table and broken it. And while he does love to get in the way when I’m at the tea table, he usually doesn’t pay any attention to any other type of teaware, which I think is quite a good thing.

The Chou Zhou stove is now safely stored inside of the tea table, so Vinnie is unable to get to it. I don’t think that the stove is going to emit a cat breath scent when it’s being burned to heat water for tea, but that remains to be seen.

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21 Comments

  1. Have you tried licking it yourself to see if it might have a particular flavor? I could imagine animals being attracted to something that has a salty taste to it, for example. 🙂

    — Dave

  2. THis is why I don’t own a cat, I refuse to have a pet which lies in my bed all day while I’m at work dreaming up new ways to slowly drive me insane, no matter how cute the critter may happen to be.

  3. wow. cool video and really bizarre behavior. maybe he likes the way the texture feels on his tongue, or maybe it has some minerals that he is craving? thanks for sharing.

    btw I’m very intrigued by these tea stoves. can’t wait to read a little about your experiences with it.

  4. very weird behavior for a cat to do that never seen that before but as to what black dragon said im looking forward to seeing more vids of this thing in use and also i think it would be a good idea if you made a gongfu ceremony video.

  5. Lead salts are known to have a sweet taste, cats are attracted to sweet tasting things if antifreeze is any example.

    • Hopefully the tea stove is less toxic to him than anti-freeze would be. Either way, it’s probably a good thing that I moved it out of his reach.

  6. I have two older cats who could care less about teapots, but one likes raisins and the other apple juice. I have 2 four month old kittens who love to drink tea! You cannot figure out cats! Don’t even try. They fool you every time.

  7. Great post – a good laugh to start my day.

  8. Mineral deficiency most likely. Cats and dogs will also eat grass and clay soils ( geophagy) to alleviate magnesium deficiency, but it usually occurs in the spring when new green growth is highest in micro-minerals. Talk to your vet about it and see if he/she suggests cat vitamins with minerals.

    Slightly gross thinking about volatilized cat spit. You do know that it’s the primary antigenic substance associated with cats that causes common allergies to cats in humans, correct??

    • Yes, I knew about the allergenic qualities of cat spit, plus it’s just kind of icky. It is possible that he’s craving some minerals he doesn’t get enough of, although he should get adequate nutrition from the high quality food he gets fed. I’ll look into it.

  9. I would bet on… olive pit ! either you use it yourself, or the stove was tested with olive pit (by the maker or the reseller), so in both cases some aroma is very likely to remain. Lots of cats are crazy about anything related to olive (fruit, oil, wood…).

    as for mineral deficiency, no, definitely, not the relevant source for minerals: material of the stove was taken to high temperatures in the making, no assimilable minerals left, your cat knows better (cats are clever creatures:DD).

    nice video, it must have been a challenge to make it !

    • Olive pit is certainly a good possibility. I haven’t burned any in it yet myself because olive pit charcoal has become very, very hard to get in the US, but it is the preferred fuel for these stoves, so it’s possible that they use it in the manufacture and testing.

      And I agree that it doesn’t have anything to do with a mineral deficiency. This is a very healthy, well-nourished cat. He’s just weird. He goes completely nuts over the smell of cloves too, and there’s no reasonable explanation for that.

      Thank you – it was tricky to catch him in the act!

  10. Very interesting!
    I have shared this article with my family members. We were laughing which reading this article. Thank you so much for sharing such a nice article.