Posted tagged ‘cats in France’

A Cat May Look At A King

September 15, 2009

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Newly restored to us after many catless months, Beppo and Zazou have blended seamlessly into their new environment and spend endless hours gazing out the window.  The fact that this is a second story window doesn’t seem to bother them a bit, although since it’s the very window out of which we look as we sit at our computers, it tends to panic us a little. They look but a mouse click away from falling to their doom, but of course, they don’t fall, because they’re cats.

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Zazou is particularly fearless, and skips lightly up to the roof outside the second story, where she’s perfectly color coordinated with the roof tiles.  From that roof she can see the buildings across the garden from us

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unless she decides, futile though it may be, to try to look out our bedroom window.

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This is what we see in the early morning, but the view is forbidden to cats, because it’s the only window in the house that has no sill at all, and it’s on the third floor.  Those are chalk cliffs in the background, not that cats give a rat sandwich about that, but they have an austere beauty that doesn’t lose its charm with the passing of the days.

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If we could see just a little further, about 6 kilometers down the road to Penne, we’d see the remains of this chateau, thought to have been constructed in the year 545.  It’s an instant antidote for feeling old, just thinking about something that’s been around since 545.  This breaks my previous record for being in the presence of oldness, which was at this part of the monastery at Flavigny that was built about 200 years later.

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Penne is also home to this beautiful house with which I fell immediately in love.  Although it’s not for sale I covet it anyway, and it has a wonderful garden for cats.  Perhaps some day we’ll live there, one never knows.

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But for now Beppo and Zazou are content with their own garden

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and with jumping in and out their own little cat door in the kitchen window a hundred times a day.  And of course, when they tire of studying antiquities from high and low

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there’s always the time-honored pursuit, a favorite of all cats worldwide.  To nap, perchance to dream, and although a cat may dream of a king, I rather imagine they’re dreaming of being free cats again, after spending many months at kitty camp.  Free, at home with the ones they love, well fed and groomed, it’s a royal life for a cat.


Why There Are So Many Cats In France

January 25, 2009


Cats are absolutely everywhere in France.  A few, like Beppo, may have come from abroad to snooze through la vie française, but judging by how many people are surprised and delighted to make the acquaintance of an actual American cat, I rather think he’s in the minority.  And, thank the cat goddess, he normally stays close to home, eschewing the ways of French cats in which they generally act like they own the outside world.


I mean, really.  We’d never seen this cat before in our lives, but doesn’t he look like he’s about to carjack us?  One cat I see often seems to live in a roundabout near the supermarket, and can frequently be found sunning himself and having a bath as the cars whiz all around him.  A restaurant in town has numerous cats in the dining room, and although the owner swears they are wild cats who just happened in, you don’t see her shooing them off the chairs.  In fact, there are often more cats than customers in there, and a cynic might say that the two things are related.  And lately I’ve even had to resort to closing the cat door when we go to bed, shutting Beppo and Zazou in the house, because of stray cats coming inside for a snack and a gander at little Zazou, now a teenager, both of which cause Beppo to let loose with his terrible ear-splitting protective yowls in the middle of the night.

And thus we come to the stark truth.  Those cats were coming into a strange house because Zazou smelled interesting, in a girlie way.  Even though she’s still a baby and a real tomboy and would rather be up a tree than locked in a furry embrace with another cat, unless that cat’s Beppo,


she’s six months old.  Old enough, incredible as it seems, to be a maman.  And in France, cats aren’t sterilized until they’re 6 months old.  When I told the veterinary tech that in the US we sterilize them at 8 weeks, she at first thought that my French wasn’t up to making the distinction between weeks and months.  When I finally convinced her that yes, we sterilize them before they’re old enough to even get any ideas, she was horrified.

This goes a long way toward explaining why there are always kids selling baskets of kittens, and clutches of feral kittens hanging around abandoned buildings.  By the time the vet is willing to snip the kitty, the kitty has other things in mind, and people who don’t want a houseful of kittens evidently just set them outside somewhere.  Not to mention that we had to pay 115 Euros to have Zazou spayed, which is almost three times what one pays in the US to adopt a kitten from the shelter who’s been spayed and has had shots into the bargain.  The French say this is all in the best interest of the cat, that sterilizing them too young damages them internally, and for all I know, psychologically as well.

But the truth is that when sterilized at 8 weeks a kitten barely knows what hit it, whereas Zazou still hasn’t entirely forgiven us for the pain and indignities she suffered in the process.  When we brought her home from the vet she dragged herself upstairs in a painful, wobbly way and hid under the covers of our bed, which was sweet and funny until she screamed and hissed at us when we tried to get in with her later that night.  As soon as she was able she set about ripping off her bandage, and when we took her back to have her stitches out we learned that Zazou the Tomboy Princess and Surgical Assistant Kitten had already taken them out herself, thank you very much.

This whole business has helped me to finally understand a French expression that I learned long ago: when you want to say a place is utterly deserted, there’s nobody there at all, you say there is pas un chat.  Not even a cat.  It’s a rare state of affairs here, where if only one creature is stirring, it’s very likely to be a cat.

A Friend In Need

January 27, 2008


When we came to France we left all of our friends behind, including Beppo’s furry friends Riley and Sushi, both of whom left the planet shortly before we too flew away from all we knew.  Until recently Beppo’s been keeping busy learning about the life of a French cat, just as we’ve been dipping into the human version of la vie française.  But now, things are changing.

While we’ve been making friends here at a relatively nice pace, Beppo has been getting left behind.  A stray cat or two has come into the yard, and at least one has actually come into the house, but this is not Beppo’s idea of fun.  He guards the house with blood-curdling yowls, although if he fights to defend us we’ve seen no signs. 

But when we have guests, Beppo monopolizes their attention.  When I cook, Beppo is right there watching, sniffing, and sampling as much as he can.  At meals, Beppo is likely to occupy a chair at the table with us.  When I brush my teeth, Beppo is in the bathroom drinking from his little water dish.  Sometimes at night he sleeps right on my hands, as if to say “occupy yourself with me above all else.”  I think Beppo’s telling me in every way he knows how that he needs a friend.


But still we resist.  We love Beppo as if he were an only child, afraid we’d never love another as much, afraid another cat would complicate our lives.  When he looks lonely we pretend we don’t speak cat.  And yet we allow ourselves new friends, as many as possible in fact, without hesitation.  We don’t worry that we won’t love our old friends as much, that having too many friends will make our future tumultuous and messy, that we’ll be forced to choose between them.


A cat just cannot be expected to do crossword puzzles all day.  He needs a kitten of his own.

Les Chats Français Mangent Bien

September 11, 2007


French cats eat very well. Better, in fact, than a lot of American people do.  Inevitably, the small ziplock bag of cat crunchies that we brought with us to make Beppo feel at home has been eaten, and he’s had to face the realities of being a French cat.  Evidently, French cats eat a lot of vegetables, a practice Beppo doesn’t fully support.  This bag of crunchies contains


rabbit, poultry, green vegetables, and carrots, while the canned food is a terrine of game and liver, with vegetables.  I wonder what kind of game?  Mice are game to Beppo, mice, voles, and birds.  We have also tried a food that sounds positively human: crunchies filled (filled!) with liver in the flavors of green vegetables, beef with chicken, and cheese.  Beppo took one sniff and walked away.  If they’re on his plate, no thank you, he’s skipping dinner.  Since I think he eats liver in other forms, it must be the vegetables that trouble him.

For canned food there’s also an organic (organic!) terrine of chicken and vegetables, a paté of beef and turkey, a paté of salmon and tuna, and a paté of duck and liver.  That last one he wouldn’t touch either.  Come to think of it, maybe it is the liver he’s rejecting, not the green vegetables.  But I ask you, would an American cat normally eat green vegetables?

Taking matters into his own paws, Beppo has completed his first successful hunt on French soil.  The bird he brought into the house didn’t end up getting eaten, so maybe it was lacking in the gourmet department, but at least Beppo demonstrated that if we don’t feed him well, mayhem will ensue, he’ll choose his own game, and the feathers will fly all over the house.