One of our main concerns about relocating cats from Malaysia to Britain was the food. How, we wondered, would our finicky kucing kampung react when we replaced their gourmet fish in jelly with foreign fare?
Tic Tac is up for trying anything but Inkie is a conservative eater. As for Target, he has a history of turning down five-star imported products with a shrug of the shoulder that is positively icey.
As searches revealed Britain stocks their favourite biscuits but lacks the Malaysian, Thai and Japanese wet food our trio love, we were pro-active.
When the time came, my luggage consisted of three T-shirts, some undies and nine kilos of cat food and treats. A security bloke at KLIA peered at the screen, looked into my bag, blinked in disbelief, and sent me on my way, laughing. Definitely a fellow cat slave!
Prioritising their supplies was the right thing to do. The cats were stressed, and the first few days in Thornaby, they needed their comfort food.
In fact, they refused to eat out of their new ergonomically tilted posh bowls, a gift from friends. They were in a strange new place and they longed for the old and familiar. As I had thought this might happen, I had also packed their old tatty plastic bowls.
So we ate our favourite shredded tuna flakes followed by creamy treats just like always.
Our first trip to the supermarket was a joy for the humans, me especially because there was food I haven’t seen since I was a kid. After drooling over Cornish pasties, Bakewell tarts and vintage cheddar, we bought a pack of fancy-looking pate in the pet section.
Opening it, I didn’t like the look of the texture but it smelled OK. When the cats gathered, Tic Tac licked a bit of it, but Inkie stared at it with his ears pinned back in horror. As for Target, he shuddered delicately and turned his back.
There are no strays in Thornaby, so the pate went in the bin.
The second brand, marketed as cod fish in gravy, smelled awful. The cats gave it a firm four paws down after just one sniff and I agreed with them.
Now thoroughly worried, I bought the two most popular mainstream brands of cat food. As our cats had never liked the Malaysian versions, I opened a pack with a sinking heart.
First off, it is processed but it smelled OK. I told myself that if cats live 20 years on a popular commercial food, it must have something going for it. Then, the acid test: I put it in front of the cats.
Inkie sniffed it and looked at Tic Tac. She licked a bit, smacked her lips, and took a bite. Target pinned his ears back. He is not fond of change.
Just when I thought it was another disaster, Tic Tac took a second bite. Inkie instantly decided he was missing out. He dived in, picked up a bit and put it on the floor. After contemplating it, he picked it up again and chewed.
I held my breath, and wished I’d picked up some Egyptian so that I could petition the cat goddess for good fortune in her own language. Luckily, Bastet was with me because Inkie purred. Then Tic Tac purred too. The two of them ripped into their dinner.
Now curious, Target decided he would try too. He ate, licked his lips, and labelled it pawsome.
There was no looking back. All three cats love the two mainstream makes, both the gravy and jelly versions.
At first, I bought only tuna, mackerel, cod and whitebait because they are used to fish. Last week I bought chicken, beef, turkey and lamb selections. Again, they sniffed a bit but, after tasting it, decided they were worthy additions.
The crunchies were hit and miss. When we opened the first box, they liked the flavour but the biscuits were larger than what they are used to. Inkie is a big boy but Tic Tac and Target struggled. As our neighbour across the street has a large-boned kitty, we gifted her with the pack and tried again. This time the crunchies were nice and small; the furries feasted.
Treats turned out to be easy because the supermarket stocks their own brand that is identical to Tic Tac’s favourite Japanese creamy ones. They also have treat sticks made from tuna, salmon and chicken. I bought a pack, thinking Tic Tac might be interested.
The second I got them home, I knew it was a hit. Tic Tac pounced on them right away, squealing with glee. She gobbled one up, and when Inkie was slow, taking a sniff before committing himself, our princess whipped it away and scoffed it. Target held on to his only because he bopped her on the nose with a firm paw.
But Tic Tac has a devious mind. An hour later, she conned Tom into handing over extras by telling him she had not had any at all. She lied with a straight face, slanting blue eyes full of innocence, and he fell for it.
In fact, he fell for it again the next day, not 10 minutes after she had had treat time with me. Thanks to our conniving girl, we went through a five-day supply in two. Tic Tac could charm a mouse into delivering cheese to her doorstep.
Although we had found acceptable food, I was concerned about Target. He is an old boy, and the relocation took a toll. I wanted to feed him up a little. I finally found a specialist pet shop so I popped in to see what they had.
Although dedicated mostly to dogs, they stocked organically sourced, 85% fish, no grain, no additional flavouring or colouring, super-duper cat food that looked the business.
The price was eye-watering even though it had a discount sticker. But thinking of my fuzzy, I sucked it up and splashed out.
Of course, you know what happened next.
I presented it, somewhat like a maitre d' bringing in caviar, and Target instantly wrinkled his nose in distaste. Tic Tac tried it, and Inkie had a go, but they weren’t keen.
I tried to con them by mixing the sexy superfood with the regular stuff. They weren’t fooled. The lecture about gratitude didn’t register either. Three sets of slanting eyes signalled I was wasting my breath.
This morning when I packed up the superfood for the kitty across the street, my three furries shot into the kitchen, demanding extra breakfast.
They piled into their turkey with jelly, gorged on supermarket biscuits and then played race-and-chase on the stairs, with Target bouncing about a little arthritically but full of the joys of life.
So, it’s all ended happily. The cat across the street is having a blast, and our three furries unanimously agree that British supermarket pet food is the cat's meow. Happy New Year!
Peaches is 11 months old, healthy, vaccinated and spayed. This little lady is calm, warm and friendly. She is a very good companion cat. In fact, given she was born late February in 2023, she is a typical happy little Rabbit Pisces!
Interested adopters please contact SPCA Penang, Jalan Jeti Jelutong, Jelutong, 11600 Jelutong, Penang. T: 04-281 6559. Website: spca-penang.net.