Our new cat didn’t just come with attitude. She also came with a serious weight problem. Boss Cat was big for a female cat, with large feet, a long body, and a very long tail. But you couldn’t say she was merely “big boned.” Like Garfield, her belly bulged over her feet. She could only play with a string for about 2 minutes before she got winded, even though she was only 2 years old.
We promised the rescue group we would put her on a diet. We bought special “Fat Cat” food and doled it out by an eighth of a cup. At the time, I wondered why her foster dad had let Boss get so fat.
After 2 days, I no longer wondered. If Boss Cat was hungry, she was relentless. She would jump up in front of the TV. If no one would feed her, she would fling remotes and speakers out of the entertainment center. If you tried to pick her up, she’d bite you before dashing behind the monitor in order to have a more advantageous ambush position.
She would only jump down if she saw you walking toward her food bowl.
Writing while the Boss was dieting? LOL. The hungry cat whacked all items off of my desk. If I still didn’t feed her, she’d attack my fingers.
My biggest accomplishment is writing in spite of my cat? pic.twitter.com/iOBT1KmDpK
— Autumn Ashbough (@WestDatesEast) April 3, 2019
Then she’d bolt behind the monitor. Boss Cat knew I wouldn’t risk squirting her with the spray bottle if she was shielded by electronics. She knew I’d eventually cave and put a little more kibble in her bowl.
If we were trying to sleep? Everything on the bedside table must go!
If we closed our bedroom door? Everything on the kitchen counter must go! Preferably at 2 AM.
No food was safe from Boss Cat. Dinner prep was fraught. You couldn’t grate cheese without cat burglary. You dared not take your eyes off chicken or meat. In desperation we’d sometimes locked her in the bathroom.
When she broke out, she swatted two covered dishes off the counter and gobbled down butter amidst broken pottery.
We got a wooden bread box to protect our baked goods. She sat on it, broke it, and broke into it. We found only plastic packaging when we returned from a soccer game.
We got a stainless steel breadbox. We got an airtight, plastic butter dish.
As she lost weight, Boss Cat got meaner. And faster. She made off with egg yolks and ate holes in pies. She even chowed down on the brown rice and tofu I foolishly left on the counter. “What cat eats tofu?!” I railed at her as she smugly washed her face.
Boss Cat did. She ate broccoli, lettuce, and tortilla chips, too.
Until she found the most efficient way to extort food.
She ran outside.
Boss Cat was supposed to be an indoor cat. Between cars and coyotes, it’s not safe for cats outside in California. There are also raccoons and feral cats. Not to mention the fact that cats are an invasive species that has decimated the American songbird population. (Even the most inept housecat kills about 4 birds a year if allowed to roam.)
But it’s very, very hard to keep a bold cat inside, especially when you have dogs and a four-year-old boy. Baby D wasn’t always careful to check for the cat when he ran out the door to play.
Usually one of us could catch Boss Cat with a flying tackle. Until the night she got past us and straight up a tree.
We lured her down with chicken.
That may have been a mistake.
From that moment on, Boss Cat became a dedicated door dasher. Once she made it past the threshold, though, she would pause and pointedly look back at us: “Well, humans? Where is the chicken to which I have become accustomed?”
She was clever. Sometimes Boss Cat would hide on a dining room chair, hidden by a tablecloth, waiting for her chance to bolt through the front door.
Other days she’d stare out the window until she saw Andy coming home from work. Then she’d position herself behind a chest and zip through the door the second it opened. Andy learned to enter messenger bag first, holding it in front of him like a shield.
I learned to escape out the backdoor by blocking Boss Cat with my purse while she hissed protests.
Boss Cat retaliated with an Odysseus move, lurking under our ninety-pound dog Woofie’s belly when he wanted to go outside. We’d open the backdoor and Boss would be off like a shot. If you chased her, she’d head straight for a tree.
A housecat’s top speed is about 30 mph, in case you were wondering. Faster than Woofie, the Labrador mix. Far faster than non-Olympic calibre humans.
We gave into the inevitable and bought Costco’s six-pack of canned chicken. Then we bought her a little canned cat food, too.
After all, she’d lost about 3 pounds. Boss Cat deserved a little treat.
And her humans deserved a little peace.