Archie Is Getting Too Fat
Reprinted with express permission.
(Left to right) Archie, Bucket and columnist Jon Carroll.
Tracy looked at me in that way she has. "Archie is getting too fat," she said. "We have to do something about it." That usually means: You have to do something about it. I am, after all, the go-to guy in the reprocessed chicken leavings department; I should come up with a plan.
So first: Is Archie getting too fat? Archie is 7 years old, and I would describe him as "husky." He is not one of those roly-poly animals one sees around the neighbourhood. He can gracefully leap up onto a fence 4 feet above his head - although he will not do so unless goaded by the sound of a vacuum cleaner.
He does not waddle. No part of his belly drags on the ground. Who is to say he is fat? Answer: Tracy. This is the way the marriage works. I get the TV clicker; she gets everything else. (Allow me to sidestep domestic discord: That last sentence was a joke. Our marriage is based on a series of intricate treaties, and I get a lot more than the clicker. OK? This is a cat column.)
Is there some sort of cat obesity index? Do I divide his weight in kilograms by his height in meters squared? Where do I get a kilogram scale? And when we speak of a cat's height, are we referring to the foot-to-withers measurement (1.1 hands), or the head-to-tail measurement (14 inches), or the front-paw-extended-to-tail measurement... Archie has just disappeared under the house, preventing an accurate measurement of this dimension?
And there's an even more puzzling problem. Though Archie may or may not be fat, Bucket is definitely not fat. She is the certified runt of the litter, and is as sleek and tiny as she was six years ago. So how do we put Archie on a diet without putting Bucket on a diet? They eat from the same bowl now, and they find it a companionable exercise.
I suppose I could split the food into two bowls and put them in different rooms, but how do I tell Archie which bowl is his? A lovely little sign: "Archie's Bowl"? Ha ha ha. Put Bucket's bowl in a space so small Archie could not get into it? Look, when food is involved, there is no space so small that Archie could not get into it.
Also, Bucket might not like eating dinner in some POW pit. She might go off her feed, and she cannot afford to go off her feed. Bucket is a mature cat who has yet to break the 10-pound barrier. She needs food. She may need kitty Ensure.
And, may I say, Tracy does not make this problem any easier by slipping Archie some table scraps. Yes, I know, but human behaviour is complicated. The table scrap thing makes a person feel like a benevolent despot, a human queen of the cat realm. "Take this in remembrance of me" - oh, it's a powerful impulse.
You might think I'd mention the table scraps thing in the Archie-is-fat conversation. You probably have never been married. But, as I say, this is a cat column.
One might slip Bucket some table scraps, but Bucket is never around at dinnertime. Indeed, Bucket's schedule is entirely unpredictable. She is often in the house, but we have no idea where she is. Ah, in the sock drawer! Who would have thought? And no one wants to sprinkle kibble in the sock drawer.
Readers may have suggestions about this difficulty, and I welcome them. Two requests: please, no mention of lamb with rice. We've done lamb with rice. And definitely no loose chat about carbs. I'm sure Dr. Atkins was a wonderful man, but his acolytes have turned him into a combination of Dr. Phil and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. Enough.
You've heard about how the fat cats are running our nation? Well, not my fat cat. George Bush never consults my cat on energy policy and tax cuts. You'd think my cat would answer the call of his nation, but no.