When Swooner the cat moved in with us in early November, he was rail thin. From above, he looked like a cobra with ears. Honestly, supermodels are fatter.
Target and Guido share a packet of cat food in the morning, another for dinner, and they snack on biscuits during the day. Swooner was scarfing down a whole packet three times a day, and gorging on biscuits. He wasn’t being greedy; it was a result of his experience.
Those who have survived starvation typically fear a return of the problem, which makes them anxious about food. They can become hoarders and also tend to overeat. Cats don’t hoard but I was concerned that Swooner might overeat all of his life, and become obese.
Tom and I had a chat about it and decided that the most important issue was that Swooner needed to learn that he would never be hungry again. Also, although he was affectionate with us, he was nervy, jumping out of his skin if we sneezed or moved too quickly. Clearly, our new pet needed confidence-boosting, too.
As usual, we were quite happy with our plan, foolishly forgetting all the other times when our best efforts were frustrated by our furry friends.
Anyway, blissfully ignorant of what was to come, we let Swooner overeat for a few days. We’d fill his bowl, let him gorge and watch him lie down with a round tummy and be happy. We could do so because he’s a kitten – and little kitties are super active.
After digesting his meal for an hour, he’d be up and about, climbing the curtains, running up and down the stairs, jumping over the sofa, ripping up my favourite cushion, and causing complete and total mayhem. In other words: Perfect kitten joy.
Slowly, we began controlling his portions. Instead of filling his bowl, we’d give him half, and when he was nosing about for more, we’d distract him with play.
That part of it has worked very well. Swooner has been with us for over 10 weeks now and he’s down to three small meals a day. A bit more than the other cats but then again, he’s growing and very active.
We also did very well on giving him confidence. Constant love and affection have really worked their magic. We can sneeze and Swooner is unperturbed. When we walk into a room, he’s rushing over, rolling at our feet and tripping us up. He does it on the stairs too, so I’ve taken to carrying him in order to prevent me from breaking my neck.
Although his appetite is becoming manageable, he is obsessed with food. Also, there was a third issue we didn’t know about.
There was Vincenzo Peruggia who stole the Mona Lisa and the Hatton Garden raiders in London who got away with £14mil but they are nothing compared to Swooner. Our kitten is a brazen, cunning and shameless thief.
From the very first, he was snoopervising our meals, sitting on his back legs, peering at our plates and meowing, “Ooooh, food! I like food!”
We’d push him away gently and blow on his whiskers (that’s what mama cats do to impose discipline). It worked for less than a week, I think. By that time, Swooner figured out that we’d never hurt him so he got brave and those methods stopped working.
So when his furry face popped up at the table we upped our game by clapping our hands, hissing at him, and pushing him away but it was like the whack-a-mole game. Swooner was unstoppable. And fast! One Sunday lunch, I took my eye off my plate for a second – just a second – and then my chop was walking out of the door.
That’s the other thing about Swooner: he’s still thin but he’s as strong as the common field ant that can carry 5,000 times its own weight.
With his speed, cunning and strength, our kitten can swipe your lunch and execute a fast getaway that has him out of the door before shocked victims can shout, “Stop, thief!”
Worse, Swooner likes everything. When I have coffee, he puts his face in my mug purring, “Yum! Milk!” He’s also a fan of cheese, seaweed, custard and ice cream.
I’ve told him he’s an obligate carnivore but it’s made no difference. Even our veggies aren’t safe. I left a bowl of boiled carrots on the table, only to find him hunched over it, saying, “This butter glaze is pawsome!”
As you can imagine, Caturday – the Saturdays when my other half cooks up a feast of chicken liver for the cats – is a red-letter day for Swooner.
As Tom was chopping, Target and Guido were sitting nearby, waiting patiently. But Swooner popped up, shoving himself practically into the plates, salivating shamelessly.
Watching him, I said, “We really need to figure out a way to impose some discipline.”
“Well, he’s much better,” my other half said positively. “He’s stealing much less.”
The thing is, as he was speaking, he was handing over a chunk of liver to a smugly purring kitten. When Swooner gulped it down and meowed, he instantly got another chunk.
Target gave me a look that spoke volumes and I must say I agree with his silent criticism. Instead of Swooner learning not to steal, he’s been working his cat mojo so that he gets table service.
I have this strange feeling that teaching Swooner company manners may take some time.