There is nothing quite like being woken by a soft meow and the tickle of whiskers. Unless it’s a Sunday morning and an hour before dawn to boot. I’d been planning to sleep in, so I hid my head under the covers and pretended to be unconscious.

The meow was Target. He was lying on our pillow, pushing his paws into my hair and being determinedly sweet.

Then Swooner got into the act, yelling a loud and piercing meow. By the heavy paws treading on my side, Guido was busy too.

The cats aren’t usually like this. And as I lay there, I knew it was my own fault. You see, this was a protest meeting.

It started a few days before. It was one of those nights when the rain comes blasting in. Cool and delicious but with the constant stream of water, also rather suggestive.

I went to the loo in the middle of the night, fumbling around in the dark, determined to stay at least partially asleep, when I heard a rustling noise.

I switched on a light, and almost died. Two mini roaches were sitting in the cat biscuit bowl.

After a hectic few minutes, I got rid of the roaches and dumped the kitty crunchies too.

I was getting my breath back when I spotted a movement on the windowsill. The critter disappeared in an instant, but I had a sudden case of the creeps.

We have a huge tree outside. I love it because it’s the home of birds, shrews and occasionally bats. But now I was realising that it was probably also full of roaches, beetles and bugs.

I looked at the biscuit bowl and knew it had to go.

Back in bed, I just couldn’t help but wonder why we had food in the bathroom. It’s not as if we’re in Europe where you can leave food in the pantry without worrying. We live in the tropics where even a crumb is an irresistible lure to what seems like an army of ants.

Thinking it over, I realised it was a legacy issue.

Guido enjoying an early breakfast. Photo: Ellen Whyte

Back in Sarawak, when our old cat Scoop moved in, we always left a door open. Scoop would go out in the early hours to do a quiet bit of rat-hunting and come back around five.

He’d inevitably dump a corpse on our mat and then he’d be dying for a bit of breakfast. So we put out a bowl of water and another of biscuits for him. We put it in the bathroom as it was upstairs, and it meant our neighbour’s cats would be discouraged from raiding.

Twenty years later, we live in the city, our kitties are in all night, and yet somehow the bowl of crunchies remained a staple feature of our bathroom.

So the next morning, I removed the biscuit bowl, and pointed out some facts to Target, Guido and Swooner.

“You sleep all night,” I told them. “You don’t need food in the middle of the night.” At that, they put their ears back. They didn’t like what they were hearing.

“You’re all too fat, as well,” I said, eyeing Target’s rounded stripes, Swooner’s massive belly, and Guido’s pear-shaped bottom.

I got three narrow-eyed looks of menace and three sets of flattened ears.

“I’m bigger than you,” I reminded them. “I’m standing firm on this.”

The other biped in the house took one look at the cats, one at me, and declined to become embroiled.

He nodded when I told him about the roaches, and he was equally sympathetic to the cats who were staging a sit-in in the bathroom.

For two days and nights, the cats tried to convince me to return the bowl to the bathroom. Every time I went upstairs, they rush with me, meowing pitifully. And when that didn’t help, they lay all over the floor, pretending to faint.

“You can eat crunchies in the kitchen all day long,” I told them. “You don’t need to stuff your whiskers all night long as well.”

And that’s why I was lying in bed at five on a Sunday morning, stuffing my head under the pillow and pretending I wasn’t hearing the meows.

I’m as stubborn as curry stains so I held firm. For about one minute. When the meowing and the pawing got to me, I stomped downstairs and filled up the biscuit bowl. Then, for good measure I put out two extras.

“See, it’s better!” I told the furries. “You’ve always complained about having to share. No more queuing!”

Target is sulking as supper is not available.

Target is sulking as supper is not available. Photo: Ellen Whyte

There was a moment’s silence as they conferred in private Cat, and then Swooner was munching away but Guido was upping the stakes.

By dint of meowing and pacing, he made his demands crystal clear. If he was to be deprived of nocturnal biscuits, I had to paw over early breakfast. Target was right there with him, big green eyes wide open and loud in his support.

It’s typical, isn’t it? Preventing us from being inundated with pests has somehow led to my serving super-early breakfast as penance. That’s cats for you!

Feeding your cat 101

Feeding pets in our climate is a challenge because everything spoils quickly and there are creepy crawlies that fly and crawl.

We use the classic method where you put down a plate of water and set the bowl in the middle. It seems to work for ants, but it doesn’t pose a barrier to flies, and bigger bugs soon learn to swim across.

Self-feeding bowls, the chutes that you fill up and suspend over a bowl, are popular in climates that are cool and dry. However, as it means air circulates around the food, and ants and bugs can enter through the bottom, we don’t use them. You may rethink this if you have air-conditioning and a humidifier, though.

Most of the time, we put out wet food and the cats eat it immediately. We try not to have left-overs hanging around; however, with Target liking to eat part of his dinner and then go back to it later, we do have the odd bowl hanging around.

We have rules of thumb, which you might consider adopting but do know they’re not based on any scientific research. In our house, cats eat their wet food within an hour.

Dry food is trickier because it spoils without the obvious signs of discoloration and bad smell you get from wet food that’s spoiling. As it absorbs moisture from the air, and attracts flies and bugs, we put out a little bit and don’t leave it out for more than half a day.