For someone who has such a deep interest in ghosts and spirits, I am surprisingly unintuitive. My mum and my late great-aunt have a long and colourful catalogue of paranormal encounters, but I haven’t seen much that couldn’t be explained in some boring terrestrial way.
However, this still doesn’t stop me from searching for signs that Le Château may be haunted. Even though it’s not. Coincidentally, almost all of these signs also indicate that a certain troublemaking black cat is at large:
⁃ Strange noises: check
⁃ Waking up at 3am: check
⁃ Furniture and objects out of place: check (as well as pulling my shirts off their hangers on Wednesday night whilst they were drying around the room, Louis Catorze is also a fan of opening guests’ cases whilst they sleep and silently flinging their stuff all over the floor)
⁃ Increased nightmares: check (both whilst asleep and whilst awake)
⁃ Temperature fluctuations: check (a 3kg cat can generate a surprising amount of heat when he’s sleeping on your chest)
⁃ Pets behaving oddly: HELL, check
⁃ Inexplicable voices: partial check, as there are, indeed, voices, but they are usually very explicable (Catorze screaming, Cat Daddy using Unrepeatable Expletives of the Worst Kind and That Neighbour knocking at the door to bring Catorze home after yet another escape out at The Front)
As Long Hallowe’en unfolds, no doubt there will be more of the above. Perhaps we will never know which ones are being caused by poltergeists and which by Le Roi, but I know that poltergeists would be less of a nuisance.
Here is Catorze, wishing everyone a Joyeuse Fête and reminding the world that there’s only room for one demonic entity in this house. Happy Long Hallowe’en to you all.
After a couple of weeks of happily eating dry Orijen, Louis Catorze has decided that he would like it dampened down again.
I was worried that he was in pain and/or having difficulty eating. However, when he saw the vet for his steroid shot and I asked them to check his teeth just in case, they confirmed that there was nothing wrong with him. So he doesn’t have a medical reason for requiring dampened-down Orijen. He’s just being a shit.
It gets worse: it seems that, this time around, he wants the water chaser to be boiling, and not 70 degrees. (Don’t worry: once the water hits his cold bowl it cools immediately, leaving the food comfortable enough to eat.) And he will only eat it if the boiling water was just poured a couple of seconds previously. Longer than a minute or two beforehand and it’s a firm NON.
No doubt by the time this goes live, he will have changed his mind again about what he wants. That said, he has surely been through every possible permutation of Orijen-in-water and there’s nothing further we can add/change, other than perhaps deciding that the boiling water chaser must be made from “aged ice” (a chunk chipped off a millennia-old Antarctic glacier, flown here in a refrigerated light aircraft, melted down and poured into our kettle).
In not-much-better news, the sittings for his 2021 Official Hallowe’en Portrait have been beyond a joke. Despite the genius idea of placing the pumpkin in Catorze’s prime creepy staring position, we have had mostly grim disasters plus a couple that were passable but nothing special. I think we are going to have to cheat with the final version by Noir-filtering the hell out of a photo that Cat Daddy took earlier this year.
Not long ago, Cat Daddy and I watched a nature documentary which featured underwater creatures who have evolved to be blind. And fair enough; there is no point in having eyes if you live several miles under the sea in pitch darkness. It is hard to understand how nature can be so clever in this way, yet also so stupid. For instance, how did we start out with the lion, the king of beasts, and end up with the domestic cat, an animal who would rather starve than eat from an unsatisfactory bowl, and who would go thirsty if not served fresh water in a glass?
I’m not joking. When Catorze first came to live with us, the rescue told us that he would only drink from a glass and not a bowl. We thought, “What utter nonsense. He’ll get thirsty enough eventually, and then he’ll HAVE to drink from a bowl.”
Nope. He didn’t.
He happily let himself turn into a brittle husk of a thing that crumbled to dust if touched, before we weak-willed humans cracked first and gave him a glass.
According to National Geographic, humans didn’t domesticate cats; cats decided to domesticate themselves. It seems that, after realising that mice and rats were attracted to our agricultural processes, the cats sensibly decided to move themselves to where the prey was, i.e. near us. No doubt at this point they realised just how pathetic we were, and collectively decided to exploit that forever more.
Black cats are not descended from panthers, as I had always imagined, and are, in fact, something of a freak of nature. When I watched MonsterQuest (see below), all about black panther sightings in the wild, the genomic diversity expert told us that black is not only recessive but a rare genetic mutation. His very words were, “Every hundred generations you’re going to get one [a wild black cat] by chance. What are the chances of me seeing it? One in a million.” Big black cats seen in the wild are, apparently, far more likely to have dark spots on a dark background (mistaken for solid colour), or to be large domestic cats or “escapees from private collections” (my mind is truly boggled as to exactly what this could mean).
Then things took a darkly disturbing turn.
In the same episode of MonsterQuest, the historian told us about when black cats started to appear in literature and art. I have transcribed him word for word, mainly to reassure myself that I did not imagine this:
“The black cat comes in … in a series of documents about certain kinds of heretics … At a certain point when the heretics have been praying for a while, a black cat comes down a rope into the middle of the room and is worshipped by these people. And one of their forms of worship turns out to be kissing the black cat under its tail …”
“In other words, on its anus …”
“And therefore this black cat is taken to be either a demon or the devil.”
So black cats originated from hell; no surprise there. But I had to watch the preceding bits over and over again, with subtitles, to be sure that I had heard correctly.
Perhaps this explains why Catorze struts around with his tail up all the time. Cat Daddy always believed it to be some strange birth defect, but maybe this is a throwback to the days of his 13th century ancestors. Anyway, if he’s angling for a kiss, he’s better take a seat because he’s in for a long wait.
Merci à Dieu: it’s half term. And the October break would not be complete without horror films.
Here at Le Château we enjoy them all year round, but they are especially pleasurable in the run-up to the best day of the year. Even Cat Daddy can be partial to the odd horror film in October, although he detests violence and gore (therefore not really getting what horror is meant to be about) and prefers to stick to the old classics or “the ones that have a good rating on Squashed Tomatoes” (which is what he thinks Rotten Tomatoes is called).
There are quite a few “Cats watching horror films” videos doing the rounds on social media and, whilst some of them are funny, it does seem a bit mean to deliberately scare cats for the amusement of strangers on the internet. What a good thing, then, that Louis Catorze is utterly unafraid of scary movies, which means I can watch what I like around him.
I have carried out extensive research with Sa Maj over the years to monitor his responses to various sub-genres within the main umbrella of horror, and my findings are listed below (on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 meaning no reaction whatsoever and 10 indicating that his “Urge To Kill” switch has been activated):
Serial killers (including screaming victims): 0
Demonic possession and/or exorcism: 0
Psycho barking dogs infected with alien pathogen: 0
Disfigured, cannibalistic mountain dwellers: 0
Creepy children and their even creepier “imaginary” friends: 0
Ancient Egyptian ghosts unleashed from their tombs by archaeologists who should have minded their own business: 0
Vampires: 2 (purring and slow-blinking, presumably recognising them as his distant ancestors)
Crickets chirping on a moonlit night: 10
Seagulls (during an episode of X Files set in a coastal town): 10
This is by no means an exhaustive list as, no doubt, there are other sub-genres that I have not yet explored. Somehow it doesn’t seem quite so cruel doing this to a cat who has no idea how to be frightened so, if you have any other suggestions that you would like me to try out on the little sod, please let me know.
There is a gang of marauding youths partying in the park over the road. And Louis Catorze is DESPERATE to go out at The Front and join in their festivities.
Obviously there’s not a chance in hell that this will happen. However, this hasn’t stopped the little sod from trying. He is battering and headbutting the shutters, whining like a dying dog, and, the louder the marauding youths and their music become, the more he wants to go out.
We didn’t have to worry about this kind of thing with Luther; although he was adventurous and wandered some distance, he wasn’t especially brave when it came to people and he would run from strangers. Catorze, as we know, doesn’t go far, but he will happily hang out with anyone, anytime. Even marauding youths, in the dead of night, in the run-up to Hallowe’en.
If Cat Daddy were home right now, he’d be talking to Catorze as if I weren’t there, saying, “Aww, poor Louis! She never lets you have any fun, does she?” But he’s not, so tant pis for the pair of them.
Anyway, I am trying to watch a film, and I am being constantly interrupted by whining, creepy staring, and by the little sod repeatedly leaving the room, then pushing the door wide open as he comes back to see if I’ve changed my mind about letting him out. (I haven’t.) The film is supposed to be a tense horror, but the interruptions are more atmosphere-killing than you can possibly imagine.
It’s going to be a long evening. And not because of the marauding youths.
My favourite quote is by, erm, some science fiction guy, and it appears at the start of The Houses October Built: “I’m not afraid of werewolves or vampires or haunted hotels. I’m afraid of what real human beings do to other real human beings.”
I couldn’t agree more. Fiction doesn’t scare me in the slightest, but real life evil/weird deeds do. With that in mind, I should have known not to watch The House of Secrets on Netflix late at night, and just one episode of that had me weeping, shuddering and dry-retching with fear. I was then stupid enough to watch a second episode immediately afterwards, and stupider still to be surprised when the same thing happened.
(If you are anything like me, do not watch this show late at night, even if accompanied. I am dying to know what happens in the end, but I have serious doubts about whether watching any more would be a good idea.)
I asked Cat Daddy to come to bed with me straight afterwards because I was too scared to go alone, and he grudgingly agreed even though he wasn’t tired and wanted to stay up. As I sat in bed waiting for him, I heard the pitter-patter of feline feet, then Louis Catorze appeared next to me. I don’t think I have ever been happier to hear his whiny little voice and to give him a cuddle.
However, after a minute or two, I could see the little sod preparing to leave. I tried to hold onto him but he wasn’t having it.
“Don’t go!” I bleated pathetically.
I know. Begging my cat not to leave me is a new low. And the worst part of it was that he went, leaving me alone with my thoughts and my terrifying visions of hanging bodies until Cat Daddy joined me, huffing that I had forced him to bed early and that, if I was scared, I only had myself to blame. (That last bit was true, but at that moment it really didn’t help to hear it.)
Here is Sa Maj, not giving a hoot about me and my nonsense and, instead, being far more interested in full moon madness and getting high on his catnip banana:
It’s been a good month-and-a-bit since Louis Catorze’s dental surgery, so we no longer have to dampen down his Orijen.
Nobody is happier about this than Cat Daddy, who has well and truly had enough of Catorze‘s highly exacting food standards. (For full details have a look here, but be warned that it’s not pretty reading. Whenever someone tells us that their pet is a fussy eater because they will only eat [insert name of food that is much less expensive than Orijen], Cat Daddy says, “Let me tell you a story about fussy eating …”)
Every so often I would hear unrepeatable expletives coming from the kitchen, followed by “I’ve just thrown away about £20 worth of Orijen because of HIM.”
A couple of days before resuming the completely dry food, we had the following exchange:
[Catorze sits forlornly by his bowl, which is 93% full.]
Me: “Would you mind giving him some more food, please?”
Cat Daddy: “He’s got food.”
Me: “Yes, but it’s old.”
Him: “When I was young, I was told I had to finish what was on my plate. I’m sure you were, too.”
[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets.]
Me: “Please just give him a couple of teaspoonfuls, so that he gets that fresh food smell.”
Him: “I’m not doing it. I’m just going to shake the food tin over his bowl and PRETEND I’m doing it.”
Me: “He isn’t going to fall for that. He’s stupid but not that stupid.”
[Cat Daddy picks up Catorze’s bowl, shakes the still-closed food tin over it and sets it down. Catorze sniffs it and walks away.]
Me: “I told you.”
Cat Daddy: “[Unrepeatable Expletives of the Worst Kind.]”
[Catorze stares creepily/hopefully at me.]
Cat Daddy: “He’s looking at you now. He obviously thinks you’re the weakest link.”
[I can’t stand the creepy staring, so I give in, throw away the uneaten food and serve a fresh helping. Catorze eats it.]
Cat Daddy: “Guess he was right.”
So now everyone is happy: Catorze no longer has inadequately-prepared food, Cat Daddy no longer has to throw away platefuls of Orijen, and I no longer feel bullied by the males in this household. Long may this blissful peace and harmony continue.
People who haven’t experienced the horror joy of meeting Louis Catorze often assume his photos to be fake, because his fangs don’t look as if they should belong on any actual cat (nor, indeed, on any animal known to zoological science).
I’m quite flattered at the assumption that I would be knowledgeable enough to doctor pictures so convincingly but, no, they aren’t altered; those teeth are the work of Mother Nature and her brief dalliance with Satan. The fangs stick out permanently whether his mouth is open or closed, but how much depends on a number of things: the camera angle, the direction in which Catorze is looking, and also his mood. Yes, his mood. If he’s in a psycho, playful mood, for reasons that we cannot fathom, his fangs are more prominent.
In a way this is a good thing, because gives us some warning that things are about to go awry. However, there is nothing we can do to stop it.
Here are some of the many faces of Le Roi, taken over the course of this year, showing how much the visibility of the fangs can vary. That last one may well be recycled as his Official Hallowe’en Portrait for this year, as I don’t imagine he will be remotely compliant when it comes to posing for that later this month.
We have had something of a Clouseau-style whodunnit mystery to solve at Le Château: a trail of pale feathers leading from our garden and through the gap in the fence, then coming to an end in a massive pile of feathers in the middle of the Zone Libre.
Now, I know what you’re all thinking, but this is not Louis Catorze’s MO. The absence of a body meant that it was highly unlikely to have been him – although my sister did suggest, horrifyingly, that perhaps he had hidden it and was saving it to whip out at some inopportune moment later. (We have had cats in the past who were partial to the Big Reveal; I recall my sisters relaxing in the living room one day, when one of our childhood cats jumped behind the television and dramatically unveiled a spatchcocked crow, as if to say “Ta-dahhh!”)
After our grim discovery, Cat Daddy and I spent the rest of the evening opening cupboards and lifting things very cautiously indeed, just in case the remains of a bird came spilling out. Then Blue the Smoke Bengal’s mamma messaged us to say that she had found a half-eaten pigeon under her bed.
Merci à Dieu. Rather her than us. Clearly the pigeon had been caught on our property, hauled through the hole in the fence and killed/devoured in the Zone Libre, whilst our useless cat was doing … what exactly?
Cat Daddy was quite happy about this, because he hates the pigeons as much as he hates the squirrels. Since he and I had been feeding Blue the previous week whilst his mamma was away, Cat Daddy was convinced that the ridding of one of our most prolific garden pests was a thank-you to us, and he asked Blue’s mamma if he would maybe consider doing a couple of squirrels next. (Despite looking like a chubby teddy bear, Blue is a terrifyingly adept hunter. He is well ahead in the neighbourhood squirrel-killing contest with a total of two, versus Cocoa the babysit cat’s one and Catorze’s, erm, zero.)
So we can now start opening cupboards normally again, safe in the knowledge that the bird carcass is Blue’s mamma’s problem and not ours. That said, Cat Daddy is mildly embarrassed that Catorze had to get someone else in to do his job. Is he lazy and inefficient beyond belief … or just being a typical member of the aristocracy and delegating the hard work to his subordinates?
I have ditched my stupid Lumie Bodyclock. As well as being painfully difficult to set and reset (and, to be fair, the reviewers warned me but I didn’t listen), it doesn’t keep very good time and loses five minutes every couple of months or so. For a clock, this is the most useless quality I can imagine. Nothing else could possibly make a clock more useless than this.
However, Louis Catorze is at hand to wake me up in the mornings. Regretfully he doesn’t do this at the hour that I want, nor the NUMBER of times that I want, but not doing what we want him to do is a recurring theme when it comes to life with him, and we are quite used to it by now. Cat Daddy talks about shutting him outdoors at night, but then he would just go on the rampage around the neighbourhood. And, in a “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer” kind of way, I would rather know where he is than have to wonder.
Incidentally, Catorze’s voice has now returned to “normal” after his surgery and he is back to sounding like a whiny child whose mummy has told him that he can’t have any ice cream. However, since October hit, his purr has become louder. Figure THAT one out. And, whereas he used to scream/whine outside the bedroom to wake Cat Daddy after I’d left for work, he now starts the racket BEFORE I HAVE EVEN LEFT, and also scratches at the door. Mon Dieu.
The little sod is absolutely feral at the moment, bouncing around, racing through corridors with his silly little feet skidding on the floorboards, screaming and with an all-consuming desire to escape out at The Front. It’s all too much. God only knows what he will be like on Hallowe’en.
The energy of the Saison du Chat Noir really has given Catorze a shot of adrenaline. He didn’t need one, but I guess that’s our problem, not his.
We all know that Louis Catorze opens portals to hell and communes with evil spirits on a daily basis, not just in October but all year round. This isn’t great but there’s not much we can do about it, and the last thing we want to do is have him/them feed on our fear, so we largely ignore it and hope it will go away.
So what better way to show one’s devotion to the Sun King than to, erm, send him a gift that encourages him to do it even more? Lucky Catorze received this fabulous cushion a few months ago, but somehow it seems fitting to feature it now. LOOK AT IT:
Me: “Don’t you think this is SO him?”
Cat Daddy, without looking up from his laptop: “That cat’s better-looking.”
Anyway, Catorze absolutely loves his gift although, being the Sun King, he does insist on us gradually moving it across the sofa as the sun moves. And it seems to have become like a docking station from the Underworld, with Catorze sitting there to power up for his next bit of mischief. Not really what we need at the moment but we are powerless to stop it, and I suspect that, if we burned the cushion and buried the ashes in a faraway churchyard, it would only reappear on our sofa the next day, as pristine as the day it was made and with Sa Maj perched atop it.
Here are some pictures (below) of Catorze going from regal to oh-good-grief in a matter of seconds.
Anyone who buys large packs of dried pet food will know that repeatedly opening the pack lets in air and makes the contents stale. And, because our mutual friend is extremely fussy and refuses food if it’s been sitting around for a while (plus a multitude of other reasons), this simply will not do.
Until now we have always decanted some of his Orijen from the large pack into a smaller one, after finding out that the original packaging is apparently the best thing for keeping food daisy-fresh. We would refill this small pack from the main one as required, sealing it with one of Cat Daddy’s Edinson Cavani hairbands.
However, the passage of time and all the multiple openings and closings per day took their toll on the small pack, and the metallic foil inner lining started to crack and flake.
We didn’t want to add foil poisoning to the long list of Roi problems, so I sought the advice of members of the Cat Internet to find a suitable decanting vessel. And not only were they prompt in their replies, but it was very interesting to hear about the various cat food accessories that they use. Tins, dispensers, jars, snazzy clip things, fancy brand names that I’d never heard of … it’s all going on with the good folk of the Cat Internet. Only one of their merry band uses the original pack sans accoutrements and doesn’t bother to even close it properly – YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE – but then she has a cat who would happily eat toxic waste and decaying roadkill, so stale food isn’t really an issue.
As a result of the helpful replies, I was inspired to buy this fancy dispenser (below), which is made of food-grade stainless steel. It took a little while to arrive because it came from China, but it’s finally here, and even comes with its own scoop so I will no longer have to use my hands. Although the scoop looks tiny, it serves exactly the right amount for one Catorzian “little and often” portion.
I know. Very fitting for a Sun King, non?
And look how happy Cat Daddy is to finally have his hairband back:
We have some very sad news: last week we said au revoir to the Dog Family, who have moved away. I might add that this was not because of Louis Catorze. Well, that’s what they told us, at least.
Living next door to them was the best thing in the world, and I feel quite bereft without them. We had so much fun together, especially during the first lockdown with our over-the-fence barbecues, and the riotous Full Moon Hallowe’en when they came to our outdoor party dressed as Catorze (yes, all three of them, dressed as Catorze, fangs and all). Luckily they are still local and close enough for us to walk to their new place, but not so close that Catorze could find out where they live and go over to annoy Disco the dog.
Sa Maj will truly miss Dog Sister, who was his best buddy and who would always take his side during altercations with Disco’s predecessor Oscar the dog, even when it was Catorze’s fault (which it always was). He knew her voice and would respond to it before he could even see her; in fact, if she was out in the garden, he would sometimes hop over the fence and have cuddles with her. So that she can keep getting her vampire kitty fix, we have given Dog Sister this – whatever “this” may be – to keep her company:
I know. You’re speechless, right? She was, too.
We wish the Dog Family every happiness in their new home, and hope that we will still continue to be regular visitors to each other. We also hope that their new neighbours have well-behaved pets who mind their own business.
Since I broke both Louis Catorze’s vintage French bowl and the replacement, we have had multiple operatives across multiple continents on the lookout for more, in true Mission Impossible style.
Thank you to Sammypuss, who already sent two bowls but has been kind enough to send a third. He also sent this, which reminds me of absolutely nobody in particular:
And thank you to Darth Vader, Amber, Luna, Lily, Phelps and Finnegan for using their creepy kitty mind control on their human and compelling her to purchase FOUR gifts for Sa Maj (two bowls and two toys). I should mention the lovely Quicksilver, too, who is no longer with them but is still very much part of the family.
There are also doggies present in the household – Cosmo, Xena, Sunny and Stella – but we don’t believe they had any part in it. In fact, they most likely objected but, as we all know, cats couldn’t give a hoot whether or not others object to their behaviour, and certainly not when it’s DOGS.
Incidentally, the black cat on the bowl above is a tribute to Aris, a Greek cat who gave his human lots of love:
Cat Daddy: “MORE bowls? Did you put out an international request for bowls, or something? We’re going to need a bigger house to contain all these. His bowl issues are contributing to global warming” (?).
Having already broken one Sammypuss bowl, it’s only a matter of time until I break both the back-up and the back-up to the back-up but, as soon as I do, I will be deploying these ones sent by the U.S. field agents. Meanwhile, I will be using them for us.
Merci à tous, but particularly to Darth as he is a black cat and therefore his powers of mind control would have been the strongest of the bunch.
If you’d like to check out Darth and the gang’s fabulous blog, have a look here.