The cats advance en masse the moment I come through the door. I try to explain while unlacing my sneakers. “I can’t, you know I can’t,” I say, keeping my voice reasonable and calm. “You know you’re on a once-a-day diet.”
Twelve feet pad unerringly into the bathroom after me. “I’ve fed you in the morning, and now it’s night, but it’s a once-a-day diet, so obviously I can’t feed you now. You do see, don’t you?”
Three warm bums are now meaningly planted around my feet. One agitated tail twitches on the pants around my ankles. I shift my foot to try to dislodge the bit of clothing trapped under half a bum cheek and earn swift warning glance. Don’t even think about it.
Afterwards, when I move into the kitchen to pour myself a drink, I am closely followed. “Closely followed” might not be the most accurate descriptor – wading through a pool of ankle-circling kitties is probably a better one.
Blackie advocates for the other two. He rears up on hind legs and scrabbles mightily at the food drawer. Here it is, he scrabbles. Right here, here it is. I watch in dismay as his claws add to the forest of existing scratch marks. “I can’t,” I repeat. “Here, look at this Nestle Purina cat body fat chart. You’re a 7, you see? ‘Waist poorly discernible, obvious rounding of abdomen’ – that’s you, you do understand, don’t you?”
Poppy mewls pitifully and crouches down, maintaining steady and baleful eye contact. His flabby tummy settles around his feet like a long heavy skirt. Yesterday, when I decided on the once-a-day diet after research, I classified him as a high 7. But now I see him for what he really is – a solid 8.
The least amount of protest comes from Curly, who is quite legitimately 5 or 6. I consider if I should feed him separately. He is quiet, stoic and dignified in his food deprivation. As usual, he sits a bit apart, isolated from the two noisy, protesting brothers who are thick as thieves in both their relationship and waistlines.