My black and white cat, Piccolo, is obsessed with balls. He joined our family about three and a half years ago, when he was five months old.

He was small for his age, so we named him Piccolo, which means little in Italian. As fate (or diet) would have it, my Piccolo is now a big boy. He must weigh at least eight kilos (about 18 lbs).

From the very beginning, he wanted us to throw balls, which he would retrieve and bring back to us to be thrown again. And again and again. As a kitten, he never seemed to tire of this game (we did!).

Our bedroom faces the staircase. At night, Piccolo will still bring me a ball and eagerly wait for me to throw it down the stairs. He then shoots off the bed and down the stairs like a furry rocket, but within a few seconds he is back, spitting the wet-with-cat-drool ball into my lap, as proud and happy as though he had brought me a hot cappuccino and brioche (my secret dream…).

At least twice a day he brings me a ball when I am in my study. If I ignore him, he will reach up and tap me on the arm. If I continue to ignore him, he will become a bit more insistent, digging his sharp little claws into my arm or leg. Then, when he starts getting tired of the ball game, he will begin dropping the retrieved ball farther and farther away from my desk chair, so I have to get up in order to toss it down the stairs.

Like most Italian kids, he loves to play soccer. He frequently waits on the stairs (see photo) with a ball placed in front of him. He will call your attention to the ball, which you are supposed to kick towards him so he can try to stop it from flying down the stairs. Sometimes he jumps up high and catches the ball in both paws, like an acrobatic goalkeeper. Indeed, we should have named him Gigi Buffon, in honour of the Italian soccer team’s world-class goalkeeper.

Piccolo frequently walks around the house carrying a ball in his mouth. When he encounters one of us, he will drop the ball, always ready to play. He is a clean boy, and will often drop his balls into the cats’ water bowl to give them a wash. Of course, he then forgets to take them out of the bowl.

He has also been known to leave a few balls in the kitty litter boxes…

Piccolo is a wonderful but rather heavy lap cat. When I am in bed, he will lie on me for hours, purring or sleeping or looking at me in adoration. As soon as I finish dinner, he will jump into my lap. Whenever I sit down, he seems to be in my lap.

He is a big talker, too. He chirps and makes weird un-catlike noises, telling me how he feels about things. I don’t really understand, but will helpfully chirp back. He likes to bump foreheads with us before mealtimes from his perch above the kitchen counter. Bump bump bump. When he wants to get my attention, he will sometimes give me a gentle slap in the face, no claws. Piccolo also enjoys leaping after flies and jumping on top of the furniture.

But, most of all, he loves playing ball.

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