There’s no alarm clock more effective than a hungry cat wanting breakfast. If I was ever unsure about who’s boss in our relationship, these past few mornings have left me in absolutely no doubt : 6am sharp and Chairman Meow jumps straight on the bed. One moment I’m sound asleep, the next – a loud purring in the ear, a strategic paw placed firmly on the bladder, a gentle but persistent tapping on the chin. Resistance is futile.
You see, the Chairman is on a diet. Like a few other members of our household, the festive season has left him looking decidedly podgy. Even allowing for the fact he’s a big cat, it came as quite a shock when we last measured his weight. Clearly the Chairman couldn’t believe it either, because he kept getting back on and off the scales to check the reading!
The biggest challenge we’ve always faced with the Chairman is that he’s so darn lazy. If I thought it was hard getting myself up and out for a run, it’s not a patch on this tubby tabby. It all stems from when we were still living in the Village – back then every time he ventured out, the girl-cat-next-door would suddenly appear and start beating him up (Chairman Meow may be a heavyweight on the scales, but he’s a complete lightweight in all other respects). Things initially improved when we first moved back to London, but then the weather turned nasty and he decided a warm, comfy sofa was infinitely superior to the great outdoors. Frankly, I have some sympathy.
So in an attempt to become Ms. Moggy Motivator 2014, I’ve been trying everything. The first thought was ‘there must be an app for this’. And sure enough, there is – “Game For Cats”. A laser point of light whizzes randomly around the ipad screen and every time your cat catches it, it scores 100 points. It certainly caught the Chairman’s attention but all he would then do is lie flat and occasionally stick out a paw – hardly a high-impact workout.
We had slightly more success with an actual laser pointer. At first, it had the Chairman running madly round the house whenever it appeared; But eye candy can never compete with something genuinely tasty. Once Chairman Meow realised he was never actually going to catch anything, he threw his proverbial toys out of the pram and stopped playing (As for the real toys, they ended up abandoned under the sideboard).
Eventually, I did what all sensible people nowadays do when they’re stuck for answers : I asked Twitter. The verdict was unequivocal. I needed “Da Bird”. Not that I was convinced – A handful of feathers on a piece of string? You’ve got to be kidding. As is so often the case, however, the best solution really was the simplest. Ever since the Chairman first laid eyes on Da Bird, it’s as if he’s bewitched (ok, the string is attached to a wand but even so!). He follows it round the house, grabbing at it claws-flexed, until it swings out of reach. Suddenly, he’s jumping and pouncing and somersaulting round the room, determined to defeat this feathery foe. Even when he’s left with no choice but to lie down and catch his breath, he’ll still be swatting away at it with this paw, then that. Nowadays, for the health and safety of all concerned (not to mention the more fragile household ornaments), play sessions are strictly rationed – 20 minutes a day, five days a week.
So does this mean it’ll be ‘New Year, New You’ for Chairman Meow? There’s no doubt since we’ve been using Da Bird, he seems much more active. A number of his toy mice have made a reappearance and he’s even started going out once more, despite all the rain. We were feeling quietly confident, sure that come summer he’d be back to a lean, mean, fighting machine. Then the other evening, we caught him jumping in the window, licking his jowls and smelling of catfood: Maybe his Fat Cat days aren’t quite behind him yet.
Happy New Year x