La vie est, en quelque sorte, un pèlerinage

It’s been an action-packed few days here at Le Château, with visits galore from pilgrims coming to see Louis Catorze. One visitor was his favourite vet, who is back at the practice for a short while. We are so grateful to her and to her colleagues for all the care that he has received there, and it was lovely to see her under more pleasant circumstances – sitting outside, cuddling a happy, up-tailed Catorze and sipping tea – instead of the ungrateful little sod yelling at her and kicking her in the face.

Our dear friends from Switzerland have had their “furthest-travelled pilgrims” crowns toppled as Le Roi has now received guests from Las Vegas. Naturellement he decided, 20 minutes before their arrival, to roll about in all manner of foul garden waste, then greeted them lying on his back with one leg pointing east and the other west, and stringy plant matter hanging off his whiskers. Cat Daddy told our visitors, apologetically, “Yes. I’m afraid you travelled all the way from America for THIS.”

And, on Saturday, our intrepid American visitors will, themselves, be dethroned as we will be welcoming a guest from even further away (Mexico), whose visit has been booked into le calendrier royal for some months.

C’est vrai: our cat’s popularity eclipses our own by quite some margin.

I was once asked, “Do random strangers really contact you and ask if they can visit your cat?” Well, it’s not quite as simple as them inviting themselves and me replying with, “Here’s our address, and I will leave you a key outside.” But, if you are a member of an online pet forum, over time you familiarise yourself with people and all the intricacies of their pets’ lives. And, whilst most of us wouldn’t suggest a meet-up with someone online whom we had only just met, if you have been chatting over many months, or even years, then they’re no longer random strangers.

I have often had this conversation with family and flesh-and blood friends, too:

Them: “So … people off the internet come to your house?”
Me: “Yes.”
Them: “But … you don’t know what they’re going to do!”
Me: “What do you mean? What’s the worst they could do?”
Them [in absolute seriousness]: “They might steal Louis Catorze.”

[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets]

Me: [Hysterical, lung-splitting laughter]

I appreciate that people online can pretend to be someone else, but no more so that one’s neighbour, one’s work colleague or the man in the pub; the only “truth” one is guaranteed from a face-to-face meeting is the absence of the filtered selfie. And, let’s face it, we’re not arms dealers or drug barons: we’re cat freaks. The most dangerous exchanges taking place between us will be catnip and, for the hardcore among us, a few Dreamies. (And, yes, I realise now that “catnip” sounds like marijuana, and “Dreamies” sound like ecstasy.)

I have met some thoroughly lovely people through Louis Catorze and all the stupid things that he does, and I am looking forward to welcoming more pilgrims over the coming years.

Cat Daddy: “They’ll be sorry. You mark my words.”


*Thank you, Elizabeth, for the wonderful picture of le petit voyou!


L’homme fort cherche le danger

Louis Catorze and Cat Daddy have had to review their Boys’ Club rough play sessions.

To an outsider looking in, these sessions would look rather like animal cruelty: Cat Daddy flings Louis Catorze up in the air, throws him around and digs hard into his belly, with Catorze squirming and squeaking throughout. But, as soon as he lets him go, the little sod shakes himself down and goes back for more.

A couple of days ago, however, when Cat Daddy flipped him upside down and slammed him onto the sofa like a pro wrestler (sounds bad, I know), Catorze let out a sad whimper. And, this time, when he limbered up for Round 2, his poor little left knee gave way under him.

Cat Daddy was absolutely distraught that he’d hurt his boy. Fortunately the knee popped back into place again and Le Roi forgave him, coming back immediately for (gentler) cuddles. But Cat Daddy is now very nervous indeed, not so much about Boys’ Club shenanigans – which are easily controlled – but about the petit filou potentially hurting himself when we’re not around to help him. I reassured him that Catorze doesn’t wander far enough to get into proper trouble and that, in the unlikely event of him being stuck somewhere and unable to walk home, the whole darned neighbourhood would hear his screams for help.

So it looks as if our complicated boy is going to need some extra-special care from now on. Luckily we saw this coming, and we’re ready for it.


A genoux

We are so grateful to our eagle-eyed French friend who, during our absence, reported cramp-like symptoms in Louis Catorze’s back left foot, causing him to limp and whine a little.

Because this only happened a total of 3 times during our 2-week holiday, and never for more than a minute each time, we didn’t ask her to bundle Louis Catorze into his pod and take him to the vet. But, when I witnessed it twice the day after our return, I decided to take him myself. And, fortunately, I also took the precaution of filming the limping, because I knew that the little sod would refuse to demonstrate it to the vet when it really mattered.

I had been quite upset the night before the appointment, wondering whether he was on some sort of painful, nerve-related, post-Gabapentin comedown, so it was actually a relief to be told that he had dislocated his knee. Apparently there are 4 levels of severity when it comes to dislocated joints, and Catorze’s is the lowest level due to the fact that it pops easily back into place each time, enabling him to walk normally again immediately afterwards. But there’s nothing we can do about it other than give him Metacam for pain relief and monitor him to make sure that it doesn’t deteriorate.

The vet also told us not to allow Louis Catorze to become overweight, as excess chub would put stress on the knee joint. I assured him that, because Catorze doesn’t like food of any kind, this would be no problem whatsoever.

Cat Daddy, later: “Another defect to add to his list of defects. I guess it’s all part of being the runt of the litter.”

Actually, given that Cat Daddy himself has knee problems, and that my neck pain sometimes requires me to have steroid injections, it would appear that Louis Catorze is … turning into his parents.

Here he is, treating his dislocated knee with the sensible caution that it deserves:


La princesse irlandaise

We returned from our holiday a few days ago to a still-standing Château and – thanks to the love and care of our French friend and Oscar the dog’s folks – a shiny, shouty Louis Catorze. It seems that he was a very good boy during our absence. Apart from an intermittent cramp/limping scare, which will need further investigation, and an uninvited wander into Dog Daddy’s man-cave – clearly if Boys’ Club cannot come to Catorze, then Catorze will seek out Boys’ Club – the two weeks passed without major incident.

Cat ladies are never off duty, not even when they are on holiday, and no holiday would be complete without a (potential) cat intervention. Meet Bri:

Her name sounds like the cheese but, in fact, we named her after Brigid, Ireland’s patron goddess. This sweet, ageless girl, with a meow like a squeaky bicycle wheel, was our companion during our 3 days at the eco-glampsite in County Mayo. I say “ageless” because she was very kittenish in size and demeanour, yet something tells me that such fur colouring – an all-black head with a mottled body – comes from black fur that has changed over time, rather than being true tortoiseshell.

After ascertaining that Bri didn’t have a family – our nearest neighbours were all farming people who tend to see stray cats as vermin – I contacted a local rescue and sent them a picture of her. Sadly we weren’t able to find a suitable transportation pod, catch her and deliver her to the rescue’s designated vet, all within limited bank holiday opening times, but plans are now in place for the rescue to set a trap soon. I have given them the contact details of the site owner and recommended the best place for laying the trap, and I hope beyond hope that we have good news soon.

I wish we could have done more for Bri during our stay, but one thing that I am really, really glad we did was to give her a spot-on flea treatment. (I am not in the habit of carrying flea treatment in my handbag, as my crazy catness has not quite elevated to such a level as yet, but I was lucky enough to find some in the one shop that was open on a bank holiday Sunday.) Dear little Bri sat perfectly still for me and purred all the way through, as if knowing I meant well – and, yes, I am aware of the irony of a feral cat behaving impeccably for flea treatment when my own little sod first tries to kill me, then rolls the liquid off onto all our soft furnishings and clean laundry. Minutes later, a visible cloud of fleas rose from her body, which was satisfying and horrifying in equal measure. Hopefully they will stay away and give her some relief.

I have been asked a few times whether we would have brought Bri back home with us. Believe me, we wanted to – although Cat Daddy’s condition was that we took her instead of Catorze, not as well as – but it’s not quite as simple as, “See a stray cat, put it in your bag and go home.” Cat Daddy and I tend to regard cats in the same way that we regard fruit and vegetables: best sourced locally. I have mixed feelings about subjecting Bri to a long journey to London when there must be plenty of people in Ireland who would be thrilled to have her. Also, I am not convinced that she would have made a good urban cat: as well as having zero fear of cars – she happily rolled around under ours, even with the engine running – she seemed very content in a rural environment. I think she needs somewhere just like her current place but with a regular person feeding, flea-treating and worming her and not leaving her to the mercy of the elements during the low season.

Nothing would give me more joy than to post here in a few weeks’ time, announcing that Bri has a new home. In the meantime, if you would like to help other cats like her, please support Mayo Animal Welfare, who have quite a task on their hands in terms of changing attitudes to neutering, microchipping and suchlike. You can donate to them here: