Pissed puss post
November 5, 2007 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Book research: Will cats drink red wine?

I am writing a book. A pivotal point in the plot involves a well-meaning houseminder accidentally killing a cat. However, editing the scene I am suddenly assailed by doubts about whether this could happen.

My question is: If red wine is spilled on a clean kitchen floor and left there for a while, would a cat drink some of it? Would a cat drink more than a taste?

Googling around has revealed no clear answer as to whether cats will drink red wine, but I have discovered that cats do in some circumstances like alcohol, that a cat can become an alcoholic, that alcohol is very bad for cats, and that cats' preferred tipple is beer. But it must be red wine; no clear answer there. Hence, I turn to the hivemind.

I do not own a cat. I am not going to feed a cat red wine.
posted by WPW to Pets & Animals (43 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well....apparently they will drink antifreeze so I cant see red wine as being too distasteful to them.
posted by ian1977 at 12:49 PM on November 5, 2007

They like the sweetness of antifreeze, so maybe a sweet red wine?
posted by arcticwoman at 12:54 PM on November 5, 2007

My cat likes nacho cheese. Maybe the wine could fall into some nacho cheese?
posted by milarepa at 12:55 PM on November 5, 2007 [4 favorites]

Taste varies widely by cat. I have one cat that eats any people food he can get his kitty mitts on - my favorite is grapes. My other cat starts retching if I try to feed her a different brand of cat food. But I can't imagine that wine would kill a cat, just make it drunk.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:58 PM on November 5, 2007

I doubt it, cats are for the most part exceptionally choosy and red wine doesn't sound like something they would entertain for a second.

However, if the cat was exceptionally dehydrated (either sick, just back from the vets, recovering from an operation etc - they don't dehydrate easy) it would drink anything.
posted by fire&wings at 1:00 PM on November 5, 2007

Here's a guide to safe vs. toxic table food for cats. Apparently grapes are bad for them, oops.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:00 PM on November 5, 2007

I don't know about wine but I've had at least two who would go after Bailey's. Some cats I've had have seemed to know better and were less likely to try to steal your tasty treat. My experience with horses and cats is that if it tastes good (and antifreeze apparently does for some reason) then they will eat it - I had a horse go into kidney failure from eating a poisonous item in amongst some sweet tasty clover.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:01 PM on November 5, 2007

My hairless cat, Smeagol, drank about an ounce of red wine just last week.

She is now crazy, stupid, ugly, and lazy. But she was like that before she ever drank the wine.
posted by InnocentBystander at 1:06 PM on November 5, 2007 [4 favorites]

I don't think there's any other answer to this except: It Depends.

One cat will, one cat won't, so I don't think you have any worries.

My cat won't eat anything other than cat food. No treats, no human food, just cat food. She'll act interested and she'll sniff it / check it out, but she won't eat it. Doesn't matter what cat food it is, but it has to be cat food and it has to be in her bowl, or she's just not interested.

Other cats I've owned however, loved human food as well as well... anything.
posted by MrHappyGoLucky at 1:13 PM on November 5, 2007

I am 100% sure, with certainty, that it depends on the cat. :)

I'm more concerned about the killing part, though -- to me it would be a stretch to imagine a cat drinking enough red wine to kill itself. (Unless it has cat-toxic qualities I am unaware of. I know that dogs/cats should avoid grapes, but that's not a eat-it-and-die-today thing.) You may have left important data out, though.
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:20 PM on November 5, 2007

Unlikely. Cats go for either very sweet or milky. Red wine isn't either. Even sweet red wines are going to smell sour, particularly in the less-than-ideal vessel of "puddle."

If I read a book in which it was claimed that the cat drank itself to death on spilled red wine, I'd think, "wha?"
posted by desuetude at 1:25 PM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Maybe port wine?
posted by ian1977 at 1:29 PM on November 5, 2007

It's possible there are statistical-outlier cats who might be interested in red wine, but every cat I've known has been repulsed by alcohol in general, and as iguanapolitico said it's really unlikely a cat would continue to consume enough alcohol to kill itself. I'd say unlikely enough that it would strike readers as very problematic if a plot point depended on it, even if it were theoretically possible.

Sorry; there are other things that might more plausibly accidentally kill cats, however. Someone elsewhere mentioned antifreeze (ethylene glycol), the infamous liquid destroyer of stray animals' kidneys, though I would think of that as something that might more frequenly accidentally kill a dog -- or a child -- rather than a cat. Note that those decorative xmas snow globes also contain antifreeze and have been known to poison pets when globes are dropped and not cleaned up. Maybe that's an alternative plot possibility for you?
posted by aught at 1:31 PM on November 5, 2007

My experience (3 cats) and gut both say no. Remember, wine is technically spoiled food, and animals have an instinctual aversion to spoiled things.
posted by mkultra at 1:34 PM on November 5, 2007

I think the solution is just to characterize the cat as a lush early on by having someone swat it away from their cocktail or something. It'll seem much less outlandish if you set it up a bit for that specific cat, regardless of whether it's really a likely scenario for cats in general.
posted by moift at 1:36 PM on November 5, 2007 [2 favorites]

Had a cat once that was fascinated by red wine - she particularly liked the sound of it splashing all over the carpet. Don't recall her drinking any of it, though.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:38 PM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have two cats, I like red wine, and the two never ever meet. And these two cats do sniff and sample anything that sits untended on a coffee table for more than a moment.

Which makes me wonder if this fictional cat couldn't die from eating onions? Onions are apparently dangerous to cats, and ours will gleefully eat them (until the dish is yanked away) if they've been cooked with enough cheese (and sometimes, egg). Could your fictional houseminder like onion quiche a lot?
posted by kmennie at 1:40 PM on November 5, 2007

Thanks for all these answer so far. I didn't expect so many so quickly! It's good to have one anecdotal instance of a cat quaffing the red stuff - thanks, InnocentBystander!

Some more detail:

Drinking the wine does not actually kill the cat, it just makes it woozy and causes it to vomit. (It's actually killed by the lid of a grand piano falling on it, an indirect consequence of its bender. Whether it is still drunk when the lid falls is unknown and moot.)

It must be red wine or something that stains in a similar manner, so port is a good idea. The book is set in eastern Europe, so there are also sweet wines and horrible cherry brandies that I might use. Maybe even a local cassis - that would be revolting.
posted by WPW at 1:42 PM on November 5, 2007

Our cat would never touch red wine when I was growing up--Mom was a port wine drinker and there is nothing sweeter than port wine when it comes to reds. However, you couldn't keep the cat off the table when the folks were breaking open crab legs to make crab cakes. The normally well-trained animal would go crazy trying to get to those crabs.

So, if you were having, say, crab cakes with red wine, maybe the cat would accidentally imbibe because the scent confused it?

Otherwise, I have to vote a big round "No" on the cat drinking wine story.
posted by misha at 1:45 PM on November 5, 2007

Btw, cats don't have the taste buds to be very sensitive to sweet.
posted by found missing at 1:50 PM on November 5, 2007

One of my cats loves beer in cans, but I don't know that she's really into drinking beer. She definitely likes knocking over the cans and then playing with them and the resulting mess, and she's definitely tasted beer as a result.

In general she's fascinated with liquid, she'll dip her paw into cups and then lick whatever she just dunked her paw into off, sometimes repeatedly. I also know that she at least goes toward red wine, particularly in stemless glasses, but we always stop her before she can get to it.

No other cat I've had exhibited behavior like this, including several that she's lived with over the years (the most recent companion looks at her like she's nuts). She is impossible to train away from her weirdo habits and given the opportunity would definitely at least try the wine.
posted by togdon at 1:52 PM on November 5, 2007

Brandy is even stronger-smelling than wine, but a cordial (check on regional uses for fruit) would fit the bill for being sweet enough that an animal would drink it and would also cause a gawd-awful red stain.
posted by desuetude at 1:58 PM on November 5, 2007

On second thoughts, I'll explain this part of the plot in some detail just to make it more clear. (I suppose I should have said all this in the question, but I didn't want to make it too long.)

Earlier in the story, the houseminder discovers that the cat loves to play with a wine cork after one gets dropped on the floor. He plays with the cat and the cork for a while, kicking it about at first, and then tying it to a piece of string and pulling it about like a small animal. (This part is based on something I did for hours to entertain cats and myself while looking after a friend's flat, the episode that inspired the book.) In the book, this leads to the cat going after the cork that is lightly pushed into a two-thirds-full bottle of wine, and in the process spilling the bottle. (This all happens "offscreen", by the way, the aftermath is discovered by the houseminder/narrator.)

That's how the wine gets spilled, and it gives the cats some cause to be interested in wine. How the cat's tipsiness indirectly leads to its demise in the piano is far too involved to go into here and not really necessary in terms of this question.
posted by WPW at 2:03 PM on November 5, 2007

some cat, somewhere, will drink wine. go for it.
posted by thinkingwoman at 2:21 PM on November 5, 2007

I think you can get away with it if you establish earlier in the story that the cat is a strange one who has strange tastes. A couple of throwaway scenes with the cat getting into and eating things that cats mostly don't usually eat would do it, I think.

In "Chuck Amuck", there's a chapter where Chuck Jones reminisces about a summer his family spent at a beach house, and about a stray cat there which adopted his family. The cat in question loved grapefruit, which is not the sort of thing you usually think of as cat food.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:31 PM on November 5, 2007

I've had a bunch of cats over the course of my life, and I'd say absolutely not.

Every cat I've known is extremely put off by any kind of chemical vapor, such as the alcohol would give off in red wine. They were strongly put off by carbonated drinks, too. By put off, I mean a visible visceral reaction... squinting of eyes and jerking their heads away. Even the ethylene gas from ripe bananas repulses them.

The other thing is cats don't drink much of ANYTHING at one time. I can't imagine a cat imbibing more than a tablespoon of water at a time, and with other liquids (had a cat once that liked cold black coffee) they'll just have a few licks for a taste. I think it would take quite a bit of red wine to actually make a cat drunk.

Theoretically possible for your story, but so improbable I'd call it preposterous.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:36 PM on November 5, 2007

I have to vote a big round "No" on the cat drinking wine story.

I've had a bunch of cats over the course of my life, and I'd say absolutely not.

Do you guys just not bother reading other people's comments, or are you calling everyone who says they've had cats who did this liars? Your own personal experience does not define the world.

I'd say it's clear from this thread that your scenario is plausible; good luck with it!
posted by languagehat at 2:52 PM on November 5, 2007

The book is set in eastern Europe, so there are also sweet wines and horrible cherry brandies that I might use. Maybe even a local cassis - that would be revolting.

As others have said, the sweet wines seem plausible to me, and I'd stick with things with low(ish) alcohol content rather than brandies. My cat also does the scrunched up "What the hell are you poisoning yourself with?" face around strong liquors when she smells them.
posted by occhiblu at 3:00 PM on November 5, 2007

My wife and I used to have a black cat that was inordinately fond of unlit cigars, freshly ground coffee, and sliced carrots. Any one of these would make her behave as if she were rolling in catnip. I never offered it to her, but I wouldn't have been too surprised if she enjoyed a nice tawny port as well.

But cats can be very discriminating...I can't imagine a truly sophisticated feline would drink anything short of (say) a '66 Taylor.
posted by malocchio at 3:05 PM on November 5, 2007

A college boyfriend of mine had a cat that drank beer - keg beer from cups left sitting around at parties. She did it of her own accord many times over the years. We thought it was funny and did nothing to stop her just to see what she would do. Usually it was go take a nap after.
posted by FuzzyVerde at 3:09 PM on November 5, 2007

I make a practice of offering all my food and beverage to occhiblu's cat - the cat's expression when I do this amuses me endlessly - and so I can state for the record that there exists at least 1 calico cat which will emphatically not sample champagne, white wine, red wine, beer, bourbon, brandy, rum, Scotch, gin, vodka, or tequila, no matter how often it is proffered.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:40 PM on November 5, 2007

Do you guys just not bother reading other people's comments, or are you calling everyone who says they've had cats who did this liars? Your own personal experience does not define the world.

Research, to me= statistical sampling, so I went with my own experience. I figure the op will decide whether there is enough evidence pro/con to go for this in the book.

Have a piece of pie, languagehat. And hey, a glass of wine if you're up for it.
posted by misha at 3:46 PM on November 5, 2007

I have cats. I have wine. I have curiosity. So I just gave my cats a little dish with a tablespoon or so of wine.

Cat A sniffed at it, looked at me, and then demanded that her butt be scratched. Cat B jealously swatted Cat A away from the dish of wine, then proceeded to trip over it and spill it on his way to the food bowl.

Conclusion: Cats (sample size = 2) do not drink red wine, but red wine does stain linoleum.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:05 PM on November 5, 2007 [5 favorites]

My fuzzball would drink just about anything, including wine or coffee left unattended on the table. Mind you, this is a cat who thought olives were the greatest thing ever, so he may not be typical.

Damn, I miss that cat.
posted by JaredSeth at 4:55 PM on November 5, 2007

The other thing is cats don't drink much of ANYTHING at one time. I can't imagine a cat imbibing more than a tablespoon of water at a time, and with other liquids (had a cat once that liked cold black coffee) they'll just have a few licks for a taste. I think it would take quite a bit of red wine to actually make a cat drunk.

My parents had a cat that LOVED beer and would get staggeringly drunk when they had parties.
posted by belladonna at 5:02 PM on November 5, 2007

I have a cat that would totally do this -- she licks beer bottles (kinda ew, when someone is still trying to drink the beer), sticks her head into wine glasses & once followed me clear across the apartment when I was holding a bottle of bushmills -- and then jumped up on the counter & nuzzled the bushmills bottle when I set it down. We stopped keeping unopened beer on top of our fridge because she figured out if she pushed one off, the bottle would break & hoorah! beer on the floor! She's a little freak. But she's a cat.
posted by susanbeeswax at 6:20 PM on November 5, 2007

I grew up with a gin drinking cat. She also ate olives, and would attempt to drink her way down to them in the martini glass.

So, yeah, it just depends on the cat.
posted by Mamapotomus at 7:23 PM on November 5, 2007

My cat has been known to lap up spilled red wine, after he knocked it off the coffee table. I booted him out of the way pretty fast so he didn't drink much, but he was definitely lapping. He sure takes after his owner. I should try him on beer next.
posted by indienial at 9:52 PM on November 5, 2007

Cats are random cats are quick. Sometimes they'll see something and give a lick.

Cats are nimble, cats are quick, sometimes they do all sorts of things and wind up sick.

Cats are curious and like things that go 'tweet', but do your research and you'll find they can't taste sweet.

Oh noes, now in prose. Cat's will randomly drink and eat things, but google 'cats cant taste sweet' and you'll get a bunch of links to research indicating this. So, for your book they might drink some wine, but not because they like the sweetness, but just because they are, well, cats.
posted by sien at 12:19 AM on November 6, 2007

My friend's cat used to enjoy the occasional nip of red wine, especially when it was drunk out of a particular metal goblet. He wouldn't drink much, but would hop up on the table and have a few laps out of the glass whenever he had the opportunity.

He was actually rather civilised about it.

I miss that little guy. We buried that goblet with him when he passed.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 4:55 AM on November 6, 2007

Thanks everyone. From 30+ responses, there are three or four anecdotal instances of cats drinking red wine; that's enough to restore my confidence that the scene is comfortably within the realms of possibility. It's also reassuring to hear that Susanbeeswax's cat knocked over bottles.

AskMe will get an acknowledgement when the book comes out, if there's an acknowledgements page.
posted by WPW at 5:50 AM on November 6, 2007

I know I'm late with this but I have a cat who will drink: beer, red wine, white wine, flat root beer and scotch.
posted by deborah at 6:09 AM on November 6, 2007

Yes, some cats will drink red wine. I live with 5 cats, two of which (one 3 year old male and one 5 year old female, unrelated to each other) most emphatically love wine and beer. And it's not just a "sniff and quick taste" either. If they were permitted, they would drink until they were full. When my husband or I have a glass on an end table we have to constantly monitor it and shoo the kitties away. In fact, the above-mentioned female of this booze-swilling duo is inordinately fond of good scotch (for a cat). I bought my husband a bottle of 16-year MacAllen for his birthday last year, and he offered her a sniff. She proceeded to imbibe lustily and would've probably finished the entire shot glass if he hadn't taken it away from her.

Our other 3 cats are ambivalent regarding the tipple and will sniff and sometimes taste, but not dive right in like our two lushes.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 8:12 AM on November 6, 2007

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