Cat viewers tune in for their very own Mews At Tin

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MILLIONS OF cats stayed in to watch television instead of going out on the tiles last night. They were put in front of the TV to see the first advertisement designed to "talk" to them in their own language.

Whiskas has departed from its usual "eight out of ten" style of advertising cat food for what it hopes will be a more feline-friendly approach.

The commercial, screened last night during ITV's Coronation Street, is said to be based on serious research into cat behaviour. The soundtrack is mews, birdsong and mouse squeaks, and the images include balls of string, birds and mice. The whole performance lasts about 40 seconds.

The idea behind the campaign appears to be that owners will want to see how their mog reacts. According to the agency that made the advertisement, M & C Saatchi, 60 per cent of the hundreds of cats required to view the advertisement showed some form of response. Most of these looked up or twitched their ears into a listening posture. A few made "an active response", such as investigating the television or even tapping the screen.

However none of the owners interviewed after last night's premiere reported particularly energetic activity from their cats. Certainly no cat was enthusiastic enough to rouse itself from a warm lap and approach the screen to investigate.

Sylvia Plummer, promotions officer for the Derby branch of the Cats Protection League, said the advertisement immediately caught the attention of 12- year-old tabby Florence, who "even carried on watching Coronation Street for a while, just in case in came on again".

Mrs Plummer's other cat, four-year-old grey Smokey Joe, was less impressed. "He did look up when the purring noises were played, but then he just stalked off," she said. "I used to think he was a lot less intelligent than Florence, but maybe he knows what he's doing."

Oliver James, clinical psychologist, was impressed with the response of his cat, Zigzag. 'The cacophony of puddy-cat noise held him like a teenage boy at a Nicole Kidman theatrical. His ears twitched up as he sought to make sense of what was happening," he said.

"I would have expected nothing else. Naturally, as the cat of a psychologist, Zigzag is completely normal."

Joy Haigh, who works for the Wood Green Animal Shelter charity, said she and her moggy, 11-year-old tortoiseshell Prudence, enjoyed the advert at their home near Cambridge.

"I thought it was great, and Prudence sat on my lap watching it all, purring away," she said. "She's a very fussy eater, so I don't know if it's likely to make her want to try Whiskas."

But the consumer who will keep Saatchi executives awake at night was a two-year-old black-and-white cat called Faith, who steadfastly ignored the groundbreaking promotion.

"She just didn't care," said her owner, sales executive Rhonda Moriarty from north London. "I even picked her up and held her in front of the television, but it did nothing."