Le Manoir au Cat

Cat Daddy and I went to dinner at Le Manoir last week, after he drunk-bid for it in an online charity auction during the first lockdown. As far as drunken purchases go, I’ve seen worse.

Usually it would have been no problem leaving Louis Catorze alone for just one night. However, now that he insists on a boiling water chaser for his Orijen, and refuses to eat it if it’s been sitting around for more than 0.3 seconds, that makes things more complicated. So we asked our cleaning lady if she would mind feeding him when she stopped by that evening. (Yes, this same cleaning lady. Unbelievably, she is still here.)

Le Manoir was a delight, and Raymond Blanc even more so. However, due to dodgy O2 phone reception, I wasn’t able to read my notifications until the next morning, and I glimpsed one from our cleaning lady saying, “Don’t worry, he’s home now.”

Merde.

Apparently the Sureflap had been malfunctioning again, with the little sod able to go out but not come in. At the time of messaging the previous night, it had worked. But no doubt he would have gone back out at some point, and we had no idea if he’d made it in again. And it was bucketing down with rain. Not the best start to Le Roi’s Long Hallowe’en weekend, trapped outside, drenched and screaming.

Worse yet, our new neighbours had moved in a couple of days beforehand and we didn’t want him going over and bothering them. (We have met them once and they are lovely people. Regretfully they have also met Catorze, right after he’d had his steroid shot – as in, less than an hour afterwards – when he was manic, bug-eyed and screaming.)

We realised that there wasn’t much we could do if Catorze had, indeed, been outside all night. However, instead of a leisurely countryside route home, taking in the beautiful autumn colours, we thought it wise to go direct via the motorway, and the rain helped us to make our decision. We were about halfway home when I received another message from our cleaning lady, saying “Everything was ok. Sorry for bothering you. It was my mistake.”

We imagine that the little sod had been up to his old tricks, wailing piteously outside the patio doors, rearing up on his hind legs and pawing at the glass, when he knows perfectly well that the Sureflap is there but is too lazy to use it. He wasn’t trapped or distressed. He was just taking the piss.

When we arrived home, he was indoors and perfectly happy apart from the fact that his bowl was empty. And his Sureflap was, and is, functioning as it should.

At least we didn’t receive the notifications in real time, and have to decide whether to leave the company of one fancy French gentleman and dash home to rescue another. But we’re still cross with him.

“About time. Maintenant feed moi.”

La chance d’être un chat noir

Hallowe’en is over for another year. Louis Catorze had an absolute blast, and luckily we only had to manage one (1) escape out at The Front, just a minute or two after sunset.

The little sod was on top form for his big weekend. In fact, come to think of it, he has been on top form ever since autumn started. This is somewhat unusual for him; although we often refer to his rising psycho levels during La Saison du Chat Noir, his skin and fur are usually at their best in the summer. However, this June, July and August, the little sod appeared to get worse, not better, forcing us to continue his steroid treatment through the summer for the first time. And, despite the drugs, he still managed to look like something that had just crawled out from under a bridge, to the point where we had to be VERY careful of escapes out at The Front in case some well-meaning citizen scooped him up and took him to an animal rescue.

At this point we resigned ourselves to the fact that age was catching up with him, and that autumn would, most likely, see him deteriorate further still. However, in actual fact the reverse happened and he smartened up. His gross dandruff, which had started to return since we stopped the beauty oil, has disappeared, he’s started to gain weight (3.27kg now), and his fur is thick and glossy.

It could be the Orijen, or the daily blastings with the purifying beeswax candles (yes, I’m still doing that). Most likely it’s the drugs. But Sa Maj has never spent an autumn looking this good. Whatever the reason, we will take it.

Hallowe’en may have come to an end, but let’s hope it’s not the end of this black kitty’s run of good luck.

Off to seek more mischief and bullshittery.

Quelque chose de méchant arrive

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)

⁃ Disturbances in electricity: check (assuming we can count a non-functioning television among those things)

⁃ 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.

“From the sky will come a great king of terror” (Nostradamus).

Arroser le repas royal

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.

Nooo.
For goodness’ sake.
Pretending to pose but is actually creepy-staring for food.
“Joyeuse Halloween. Now feed moi.”
Artsy in a strange sort of way.
I have no words for this.

La naissance du chat noir

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 …”

Excusez-moi?

“In other words, on its anus …”

Noooooo.

“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.

No, no, no. This is just wrong.

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.

For some interesting historical facts about the domestication of cats, please check out this link: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/06/domesticated-cats-dna-genetics-pets-science/

And, for black cat information ranging from cool and mysterious to downright offensive, have a look at MonsterQuest season 1, episode 4: “Lions in the Backyard” on Prime Video.

Vous aimez les films d’horreur?

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):

  • Zombies: 0
  • Werewolves: 0
  • Poltergeists: 0
  • 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.

Oh. Mon. Dieu.

La fête des jeunes

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.

It’s still a NO.

Je vois une mauvaise lune se lever

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:

“Aww, you’re scared? Whatever, salope.”

Le plat principal

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.

Drenched from the rain … and wanting food.

Les bisous du vampire

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.

Invisible fangs.
Just a hint of fangs.
HOLY HELL.