Snacks that cats and people alike can enjoy? It might not be as crazy as it sounds.
With so many people sharing their homes and lives with a pet cat, at least a few of them must think it’s shame that they can’t truly share a bite to eat with their feline companion. Human beings generally aren’t receptive to the idea of eating pet food (with certain rare exceptions), and a lot of human food can be downright harmful to pets.
However, Neco Republic, the Japanese chain of cat cafes/pet supply shops/cat rescue missions, is always thinking of new ways to bring cats and the people who love them closer together, which is why it sells Neco Meshi, a line of snack foods that can be enjoyed by cats and humans alike. All are made without added salt or artificial additives, making them safe and healthy for your pet to eat.
The concept might sound crazy at first, but there’s actually a lot of crossover potential between cat treats and traditional Japanese drinking munchies, given that both feature plenty of fish flavors. To see how the idea works in practice, Sachi, one of our Japanese-language reporters, picked up all four varieties of Neco Meshi and recruited her pet cat for a taste test.
● Smoked bonito
Bonito is one of the most commonly eaten fish by Japanese people, who enjoy it grilled, seared, or raw as sushi or sashimi. It’s equally popular with Japanese cats, so Sachi decided to start her Neco Meshi smorgasbord with the smoked bonito.
As soon as she opened the packet, the smell of fish came to her nose, and almost immediately her cat came to table.
She handed the cat a piece, which it accepted with gusto. But how would Neco Meshi fare on the human side of the evaluation?
Surprisingly well. Despite looking more like something you’d find in a cat’s food dish than a human’s diner plate, Sachi deemed the smoked bonito to be a palate-pleasing piece of seafood. The flavoring was pretty mild by human standards, though, so she added a bit of mayo and shichimi (Japanese mixed pepper) to her portion.
● Grilled bonito
Next up was the grilled bonito, which comes in the form of a long, slender cut of the fish. Again, visually it looks closer to a cat snack than a human one, but that of course wasn’t a strike against it in the cat’s eyes.
This time too, the Neko Meshi got full marks from the feline judge. Sachi was impressed as well, saying that it wasn’t any weirder than eating a slice of fish that you’d normally serve to human beings, and that it could even be used as the foundation of a more complex recipe if you don’t feel up to grilling some bonito yourself.
● Dried mackerel furikake
Furikake refers to any sort of dried flavorings that are sprinkled on white rice. In the case of Neco Meshi’s dried mackerel furikake, though, the understanding is that your kitty will lick at the furikake itself, which Sachi’s did happily.
Trying to keep the taste test as symmetrical as possible, Sachi didn’t bother making any rice to go with her furikake, instead just trying a pinch of it to see what it tastes like. One again, the flavor was something she could see herself eating, especially following the package’s for-humans suggestion of adding it to white rice along with a raw egg, tamagokakegohan-style.
● Dried herrings and sardines
Unfortunately, we hit a snag with the final leg of our two-critic review of Neco Meshi. While dried herrings and sardines sound like the sort of thing that should be right up any cat’s alley, Sachi’s has always had an aversion to sardines. Her pet hated them as a kitten, and hasn’t warmed up to them one bit after reaching adulthood. As a matter of fact, when Sachi held out a few for it to taste, the animal wouldn’t even look at her.
▼ “Nope, not gonna happen.”
But while this combination of two types of tiny dried fish seems like it wouldn’t have any appeal whatsoever to humans, many Japanese people will passionately insist that such munchies are the perfect accompaniment for a stiff alcoholic drink. Sachi wholeheartedly agrees, and if her kitty wasn’t going to try the sardine/herring mixture, well, that just meant more for our reporter. “These are some of the tastiest dried sardines I’ve had in a long time,” she gushed, while reaching for bite after bite of the one variety of Neko Meshi her cat had turned up its nose at.
If you’re interested in purchasing some Neco Meshi, all four varieties can be purchased here through Rakuten, with prices starting at 540 yen (US$4.50).