Mishmish went into the basket happily enough, probably anticipating a drive to her weekend retreat.
She wasn’t purring when half a mile later we parked outside the vet’s.
The waiting-room was full of red setter. Yep, just one of him, but he was bouncing around as if he’d eaten springs for breakfast.
We installed ourselves in the corner next to a pooch with a rhinestone collar. An elderly dachshund waddled in, rolling from side to side like a cross-channel ferry. His owner had turned-out feet and a similar gait. She heaved herself onto the bench.
I know. I look like my cat too. For a start, I’m covered in orange fur. Unlike Mishmish, however, I had a streaming cold. People recoiled visibly from me and my tissues, or would have done had there been any room.
Last time we were here, it had been for a check-up with the vet nurse, an enormously fat woman who pronounced my cat to be overweight. She calculated her BMI and promptly recommended dietary modification. I wanted to lock the nurse into a room and give her nothing but a lettuce leaf alternate days. Preferably an expensive lettuce leaf.
Today it was for annual jabs. The vet had a Littmann stethoscope. This is the king of stethoscopes, but it didn’t impress Mishmish. We had the obligatory chat about female ginger cats being unusual, seeing as they need two x chromosomes with the relevant gene to be ginger. It’s just like haemophilia, only more desirable.
The vet looked Mishmish over and said she was a big girl.
I blew my nose and pointed out that she was big-boned.
“Are you OK?” asked the vet, his syringe poised. I didn’t tell him about my raging sore throat for fear of getting penicillin, gentamicin and a £200 bill.
Mishmish duly immunised, I paid at the desk, but the visit wasn’t over yet. I still had to pick up the prescription cat food I’d ordered.
We waited by the reception desk behind a huge slab of a man, stubbled and tattooed, with an award-winning builder’s cleavage. He’d come to collect his dog after surgery, so I heard.
“What’s the animal’s name?” asked the receptionist.
Twinkle, it turned out, was a bichon frisé with a bandaged paw. If you’re not familiar with the breed, it makes toy poodles look impossibly butch.
Twinkle and Macho Man left, the receptionist took a few calls, and there we still were. “I’m waiting for my prescription cat food,” I told her again, not quite as patiently as the first time. My baby could starve!
She went to look but it hadn’t been delivered, apparently. “What kind is it?”
“It’s the metabolic diet,” I said.
The waiting room nodded collectively. Pet owners know what metabolic diet means. It screams “SLAG! YOU LET YOUR PET GET FAT.”
The woman with the dachshund fixed me with a rheumy eye.
I felt like blaming my husband. He gives her high calorie treats, I wanted to say. But then I’d have been castigated for not controlling him as well. There’s really no excuse now that there are special diets for flabby felines and activity centre toys to exercise lazy cats, not to mention various harnesses and contraptions to stop spouses dishing out treats.
They still couldn’t find the metabolic diet. Only ordinary cat food. We’d been here about 45 minutes by then. In her basket Mishmish was getting stressed, and I had distributed viruses evenly across the waiting room.
“We’re going away for a few days and I need the food. I did order it in plenty of time, you know.” But it was no good. The other owners had already judged me. I was the kind of idiot who feeds her kid burgers through the school fence.
Didn’t they know that junk food is much cheaper than the healthy stuff? I felt a twinge of sympathy for parents of tubby children.
The receptionist gave up and a vet nurse was summoned. She couldn’t find our order either.
Eventually the fat nurse from last time was called in and she quickly found what we needed, our 4kg bag of Advanced Weight Solution.
I’m far better disposed towards her now. She can even have a lettuce leaf every day.
If you have space for a cat or dog in your life, please consider getting one from a charity like the Mayhew Animal Home in NW London.