Quand le chat n’est pas là, les souris dansent

Cat Daddy is away on holiday with his cycling buddies, so it’s only me and Louis Catorze at Le Château.

This was Cat Daddy’s view the other day:

Taking in the stunning scenery.

And this was mine:

Watching a French supernatural drama whilst trapped under a French vampire cat.

As if it’s not bad enough being home alone with a black vampire cat whose body is adorned with an evil eye, the little sod is doing everything to make this as unsettling an experience as possible: stomping up and down on the floorboards in the dead of night, doing parkour around the house, knocking things over, making paper-rustling sounds in rooms that I didn’t even think had paper in them, and so on. Whereas he used to lie quietly at the foot of the bed, he now bounces across my belly repeatedly before eventually settling, wide-eyed and purring, next to me, slapping my arm with his tail.

No doubt he will morph back into an affectionate little kitten the minute Cat Daddy returns and, when I report the mayhem and mischief that took place during his absence, I won’t be believed.

Soaking up the moonlight during one of many escapes out at The Front.

The last thing Cat Daddy said to me before setting off was, “I bet you’ll waste the entire time watching horror films and drinking tea with HIM on your lap.”

Erm, ok, so that is, indeed, how I have spent much of my week – at least, the part of it that’s NOT spent being scared witless. But in no way do I consider it wasted time. Wasted time is when you the return for your efforts doesn’t justify the time spent. Time spent drinking good tea and watching good (or bad) horror with a cat on your lap is time very well spent indeed. And I’d do it every single day for the rest of my life, if I could.

All I need to make this perfect is for cats to be able to go to the kitchen and put the kettle on. I bet they could if they wanted to. They just don’t want to.

The little sod found this part especially engaging.

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.”

Dormir, c’est du temps perdu

From 8th March onwards, I will be back at school.

This means that I will be able to teach lessons and attend meetings in peace, without Louis Catorze barging in and interrupting. The bad news is that his creepy kitty sixth sense appears to have informed him of the diminishing opportunities to ruin my life, and so he thought he’d put all his efforts into one final hurrah.

Yesterday I took part in a podcast chaired by my Ultimate Boss, the head of all the schools within our education group. I knew full well that our mutual friend would cause problems so I shut him out of the room. However, this failed to stem the flow of this tiny tsunami of feline psycho, and I should have taken additional measures such as having Cat Daddy supervise him, locking him in a lead-lined underground vault, that kind of thing. This was a huge oversight on my part.

I thought he might scream once or twice, but I didn’t think the little sod would have the energy/inclination to sit outside the door and keep screaming throughout the entire recording. I know. Believe me, I am wincing with shame at my own stupidity.

This will give some insight into how it went:

Ultimate Boss: “What made you all become languages teachers?”

“Mwaaaaah!”

Ultimate Boss: “How have you adapted your methods since we shifted to online learning?”

“Mwaaaaah!”

Ultimate Boss: “What impact does language learning have on cognition?”

“Mwaaaaah!”

And so on.

Anyway, my poor colleague who is responsible for our media communications will now have a job trying to edit the screaming from the final piece.

And the worst thing is that, throughout the recording, nobody acknowledged the interruption. With hindsight, it would have been less awkward had someone said “What’s that noise?” I would have replied, “Oh, just ignore it. It’s only my silly cat!” and we would have laughed and carried on. But, conversely, in the same way that fear makes demons and poltergeists grow more powerful, saying nothing made it worse; clearly everyone, including Ultimate Boss, thought, “I don’t want to be the one to blink first.”

After SIXTY MINUTES of this excruciating torment I finally opened the door, imagining a feeble Catorze weak and withered from thirst, but the little sod ignored his water and came straight to my lap. He could have sought cuddles at any point during my lunch break, my free period or even, at worst, a normal lesson with students (yes, even that same Year 11 class, AGAIN, would have been preferable). But, naturellement, he didn’t want them then.

Here is Catorze, pictured immediately after the harrowing event. And, if you feel like listening to my podcast about the importance of languages in a post-Brexit world, don’t bother. Just record the next cat fight that you hear and play it on a loop for 60 minutes, for the same overall effect.

“Je ne regrette rien.”

L’imparfait

So … cats ruining video calls. Always hilarious when it happens to someone else and you’re just observing. Distinctly less funny when it’s your cat, and you’re the one responsible for maintaining any vague semblance of order.

It’s not normal to have 863 examples of such behaviour, unless you have 863 cats. One cat is not meant to cause this much bother. However, this is Louis Catorze we’re talking about, so I don’t imagine anyone is surprised.

Anyway … Year 11 can be a troublesome bunch, and the graveyard shift with them (last lesson of the day, 15:00 to 16:00) is always a tough gig. It’s been particularly bad since they were told that their exams have been cancelled, yet minimal guidance has been given about exactly what will happen instead. They have taken this to mean it’s party time. Unfortunately I don’t share this view.

During one especially trying lesson last week (the imperfect tense: everyone’s favourite thing), Catorze decided to come and sit on my stomach and chest. Now, we all know that he wants me dead, and that he only has another 8 days to do the deed and have it register as a Covid death, so there is no reason for him to sit on me other than to spite me, or perhaps in the hope that I will suffocate and die. However, due to the unfortunate camera angle and the shadow falling across my body, he wasn’t fully visible to the students on my video lesson. So all they could see was his sticking-up tail sailing past the camera.

This was how the tragic sequence of events unfolded that day:

1. Poker-straight vertical tail sails past, left to right. Students say nothing.

2. Tail sails past, right to left. Students’ eyes are suddenly fixed to the screen, concentrating yet also confused.

3. Tail sails past again, left to right. Now everyone is paying attention.

4. Kid 1: “Miss …?”

5. Kid 2: “Yeah, Miss. What the …?”

6. Catorze settles on my lap/chest and now everyone can see his head. He has only ever sat in this position twice in his whole life, once last year and once in 2014. (The fact that I can remember when is indicative of its rarity.)

7. Me: “Erm, ok, so it seems we’ve got company. Alors, continuons…”

8. Kids start giggling.

9. Cat Daddy looks in (with the kids safely out of sight, bien sûr), sees Catorze on me and guesses from my French conversation that I am mid-lesson. He mouths the words “PUSH HIM OFF!” making appropriate gestures at the same time to be extra helpful.

10. It then dawns on me that he thinks I placed Catorze there on purpose. Oh. Mon. Dieu.

11. Kids giggle some more as I attempt to bluster on. No work whatsoever is done.

12. The end.

The bad news is that we have another five weeks of this until half term, and the kids have learned absolutely sod all French so far. The good news is … well … I’ll get back to you as soon as we have any.

Je me reposais, tu te reposais, il/elle se reposait …

Le silence du Roi

Louis Catorze has a swish, new transportation pod. One of the pictures below is of that very pod. The other shows a pod that is far more appropriate for him given his chequered history when it comes to being transported, but Pets at Home don’t appear to stock it. And I suspect that the armed guards would have cost extra.

Cat Daddy: “He doesn’t need a new transportation pod. The old pod is fine.”
Me: “But I find it hard to carry the old pod, the way he fights and flips.”
Cat Daddy: “He doesn’t fight and flip when I take him. He behaves perfectly well for me.”

Well, that’s delightful news. Thanks.

Anyway, the new pod is super-stylish and considerably more fitting for a Sun King than his old one. It’s not often that we encounter his comrades or adversaries in the vet’s waiting room but, when we do, we want to look the part, n’est-ce pas?

On Friday we decided that it would be a good idea to give Le Roi a preventative steroid shot before going on holiday, as he was starting to get a bit scratchy and we didn’t want his gouvernante française to have problems. The triangular – rather than square/rectangular – profile of the new pod makes it very easy to carry by my side, even with my neck and shoulder problems, so, for the first time ever, I was able to walk to the appointment.

Sadly, the ergonomic shape and Chanel-inspired quilting did nothing to alleviate the screaming. Catorze hollered his lungs out all the way there, and, because we were walking, the screams echoed through the neighbourhood as opposed to being confined to the car. Even the workmen, who were digging up the road, stopped what they were doing to look at us. And, upon arrival, le fichu salaud was so noisy in the waiting room that the two ladies who came in after us, with their nice, quiet cats, decided that they would rather sit in the Dog Area than in the Cat Area with us, completely messing up the vet’s new apartheid system.

We feel a bit bad for our French cat-sitter as the steroid shots usually turn our boy rather manic and psycho, but better that than to have him scratch himself to bleeding point and require a trip to the vet in our absence.

There won’t be any blog posts for a short while, unless we see any cute cats on holiday, or unless we hear that Louis Catorze has done something especially impressive or horrific. Please keep well until our return, and continue to obey your furry overlords at all times.

 

 

Protéger et servir

Cat Daddy and I are going on holiday in a few days’ time, and we have a friend coming all the way from Paris to look after Louis Catorze in our absence. Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs: Le Roi is going to have an ACTUAL French person as his full-time, live-in majordome/esclave.

“Do you speak French to him all the time?” she asked us. “Because I intend to. So, by the time you come back, he won’t take any notice of anything you say.”

Louis Catorze, not following instructions? Whatever next?

Anyway, Cat Daddy and I are currently putting together a set of manuals for her reference. The Château manual was complete some time ago, and contains the following sections:

1. The Sonos multimedia system
2. The kitchen appliances
3. Local places of interest

The Roi manual, which is proving to be rather more of a lengthy task, contains the following sections so far:

1. Food
2. Drink
3. Play
4. Catnip (for medicinal purposes)
5. Nocturnal gadding about
6. Brushing
7. The vet
8. Dog warfare
9. Prey, dead
10. Prey, living
11. Prey, partially-living
12. Lockdown at The Front, and how to manage escapees
13. Health and safety drill for Ocado delivery drivers

“It’ll be fine,” said Cat Daddy. “What’s the worst that could happen …?”

[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets.]

He continued: ” … Apart from us returning home to find the place knee-deep in dead vermin like some post-apocalyptic horror film, and our poor friend crying in the corner?”

Right. Où est ma valise?

You will notice that there is no “Medication” section in the Roi manual, and that wasn’t an oversight: notre cher ami has officially been given the all-clear from his favourite vet, who is back from her travels for a short while. No more Gabapentin! He has had no relapses at all during his tapering-off detox programme and, whilst we will miss the little sod for the next couple of weeks, we know that he will be fine and that our friend will look after him wonderfully.

We just hope that he will be equally considerate in return.

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Vive les vacances

Cat Daddy and I have just returned from a few days away and, as you can see from this plaque on the cottage next door, we didn’t need to go looking for French cats: they found us. And we weren’t even holidaying in France!

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People often ask us how we manage holidays with all the attention that Louis Catorze needs. The short answer used to be: by not going away, ever. It simply wasn’t practical to do so during his tail-munching days, not only because we would have been worried about him but also because we couldn’t unleash a manic, yowling, self-harming kitty onto any of our friends or neighbours, nor any cattery.

It has, very occasionally, crossed our minds to take him away with us. But then we consult The Checklist – of which you really need a full house of affirmative answers before you can consider taking your cat on holiday – and we are reminded of what a stupid idea it would be:

– Is your cat good with long journeys?
– Is your cat good with new places?
– Can your cat be trusted to behave, stick close by and not pitter-patter off into oncoming traffic, dark forests or raging seas?
– If you’re going rural, is your cat large enough not to be picked off by a marauding bird of prey? (Cue hysterical laughter from Cat Daddy at the thought of a floppy Catorze dangling undignifiedly from the talons of a huge buzzard, his indignant meows ringing out through the skies.)

Anyway, c’est un grand NON DE PARTOUT for The Checklist. So no mini-breaks for Le Roi.

Because we have now found a fairly foolproof way of getting the Gabapentin into Louis Catorze, we can ask pretty much anyone to come in and feed him in our absence, knowing that no Greco-Romaning is required. And we are lucky enough to have heaps of kind and obliging neighbours, including Cocoa the babysit cat’s folks, Oscar the dog’s folks and, if we can ever muster up the courage to face her again, maybe even the lady who found Louis Catorze screaming in the street the other day.

We are also very lucky that Louis Catorze is happy to see us when we return, whether we’ve been away for a few hours or a few days. I frequently hear horror stories of cats expressing their displeasure at being left, with tactics ranging from passive-aggressive sulking to plain offensive peeing/pooing/puking on things, but we have never experienced anything of the sort from the Sun King. When we arrive home he happily greets us, all shouty and up-tailed and, within minutes, he is flat out on Cat Daddy’s lap. What an easy-going, accepting little boy he is.

Cat Daddy: “He’s not easy-going or accepting: he’s thick. He doesn’t even remember we’ve been away because his brain can only store 3 facts at a time. If you wanted him to remember we’d been away AND plan an act of revenge, you’d have to remove 2 facts first.”

L’état d’urgence

We have a Code Noir at Le Château: Louis Catorze has started refusing his ham-wrapped Trojan Horse pills. Either he has cottoned onto our trick or he is bored of cured ham and, either way, we are well and truly dans la merde because it means that every single dose is now a Greco-Roman one.

Whilst our Greco-Roman technique is improving greatly with all the practice we’re having, it’s still not very nice to have to do it. And, upsettingly, we can see the effect that the increased Greco-Romans are having on Catorze’s demeanour: he is skittish and nervous around us, and yesterday he didn’t even come and greet us when we came home from work, which he usually does without fail. He has also taken to hiding when we get up in the morning and missing that first dose of the day. This means that we sometimes have to give him TWO doses after work – one when we get home and one before bed – and that makes us all even more anxious and stressed.

Well-meaning fellow cat freaks often ask us, “Have you tried hiding the pills in tuna / anchovies / chicken / prawns / cheese / Dreamies / Pill Pockets / [insert name of other irresistible, pill-disguising treat]?” YES, to all of the above. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a cat who doesn’t like food and therefore cannot be incentivised by it; if we never fed him again, EVER, he wouldn’t really care.

I really, really hope he gets past this, otherwise we will have to deploy the big guns: the £21-per-100g Brindisa jamón ibérico de bellota. Qu’est-ce qu’on va devenir? Or, should I say: ¿Qué va y ser de nos?

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Le patient français

It has been 2 days since the X-ray and Louis Catorze is continuing to obsess with his tail, presumably because the claw puncture wound from the other night has irritated him even further.

Watching him interact with it is the most bizarre thing imaginable; he can be unaware of it one moment and, the next, the red mist descends and he just HAS to try and kill it. If we are with him, a cuddle and a gentle warning are usually enough to distract him. But we can almost hear the cogs whirring away as he thinks, “You can’t keep watch over moi forever.”

And, of course, the real problem is when we’re not in the same room with him, or when we’re asleep. That’s when he really goes for it, with a full-on fight punctuated by those awful raspy screams that we have grown to know and hate.

We have decided to try the Zylkene calming supplement, which is a white powder that you sprinkle onto food, to see if it has any effect on Louis Catorze’s tail obsession. Bearing in mind that white powder dusted over dark brown food looks ridiculously obvious, I was fully expecting to be met with the “Go home: you’re embarrassing yourself” look, but, astoundingly, Le Roi did eat a little.

We have also studded the house with Feliway diffusers in the same way that Transylvanians would use crucifixes. They’re everywhere, silently churning out odourless, invisible clouds of happy gas that will make our boy better (we hope).

The vet told us that these new measures would take a few days to kick in, and that any changes would be subtle. But, if the alternative is tail amputation (unfortunately, yes, this has been mentioned), we’re willing to give anything a try.

We will keep you updated and, in the meantime, we wish you a wonderful and peaceful Christmas weekend. Your love and support of the little sod mean the world to us.

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Vive l’indifférence

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It’s been just over a week since my surgery, and what a week it’s been. We’ve had some British Wimbledon wins, a French football failure, and Louis Catorze is still fiercely waging his campaign of apathy towards me.

He’s not unhappy, nor is he descending into his allergic state (quite the opposite, in fact: it’s been over 2 months since his last steroid shot and he’s still riding high on it). He and I have the odd moment at bedtime when he naps at my feet but, during the day, he steers clear of me. Then, when Cat Daddy comes home, he races to the door to greet him, as if to say, “Merci à Dieu!”

A friend mentioned the fact that he might object to my hospitally smell, in the same way that some cats reject their kittens/buddies when they return from the vet and smell vetty. But, surely, even with my mess of Medusa-like tendrils of hospital hair, he can see that it’s me and not some impostor?

Another friend suggested that Louis Catorze might be so intelligent that he’d figured out that I can’t pick him up or bend to stroke him, so he was thoughtfully saving me the strain of trying by avoiding me. Believe me, it’s not that.

Cat Daddy’s response, when I complained about Catorze’s treachery: “But he’s always liked me better. He isn’t doing anything different now and therefore, technically, hasn’t betrayed you.”

Silence, tumbleweed, crickets. I get the feeling that will be the theme of the next few weeks.

J’adore l’extérieur

 Is it possible for someone to be placed under house arrest even if they were never allowed out to begin with? If so, Louis Catorze is that someone. Last night we were about to go out for Cat Daddy’s birthday but couldn’t lock our front door because the builders had decided it would be a good idea to fill the lock with plaster; in the end Cat Daddy had to get a chisel to hack away at it, at which point Louis Catorze took the opportunity to scoot outside and dive into the hedge.

Had this taken place at The Back we wouldn’t have been too upset, as it’s so enclosed that there’s nowhere to go. But The Front, with The Park and The Road, is a firm NON. Calling him was no use whatsoever as he just ignored us and meowed, and grabbing him was impossible as he was buried deep in the shrubbery so, in the end, whilst I called the restaurant to say we’d be 30 minutes late, Cat Daddy and our French guest had to resort to scaring Louis Catorze from the other side of the hedge to make him bolt back indoors.  So he’s stuck indoors whether he likes it or not, and security has been ramped up the way it would be in a maximum security penitentiary following a hostage crisis. Luckily his interest in getting outside is only mild-to-moderate, as opposed to utter desperation, so another week isn’t going to be too horrendous. What’s a little more concerning, however, is that his eye area fur looks as if it’s thinning again, and he has a tiny scab on his chin. I don’t suppose it helps that we have an inordinate amount of dust in the house, which the workmen create faster than we can clean. Louis Catorze’s ex-rescue centre told me that he had a tendency to flare up with a change of environment, so let’s hope it’s just that and not a dust-triggered long-term descent to where he was 18 months ago.

J’adore faire la moue

In the almost-11 months that Louis Catorze has lived with us, I have experienced the Post-Meds Sulk. I have also been on the receiving end of the Post-Meds Mega-Sulk. I once even thought I was being shown a Post-Meds Mega-Sulk With Hunger Strike but, in actual fact, Louis Catorze is both stupid and unmotivated by food, so it’s likely he just forgot to eat. However, yesterday he introduced me to a whole new phenomenon: the Selective Sulk.

The SS is so insidious that you barely know it’s happening; or rather, the Sulk is very much present but the Selective element sneaks up on you somewhat. After medicating him and subsequently being ignored during what I believed to be a PMS, Cat Daddy came home from work and I vented my dissatisfaction about Louis Catorze’s miserableness. Seconds later, the little sod slinked out of La Cage and was on his daddy’s lap for their nightly Club Des Garçons cuddle session.

Not long after that, my friend came round and we sat outside with some drinks. Again, not long after I complained about my grumpy sod of a cat and told her not to expect to see him that evening, he meowed for her attention and trotted up to her with his tail up, purring and nuzzling. Sigh.

This must be what it’s like to have a kid who is sweet-as-candy to everyone else but is a total arse when you’re home alone. As well as this not being very nice, it makes you come across as a fantasist or a liar when you bleat about his objectionable behaviour. “What do you mean, he misbehaves/sulks/treats you like dirt? Look at him! He’s so cuddly and sweet!” Yeah, because I really have the time and the inclination to make this shit up.

At worst, rather than simply disbelieving you, they actually blame you. “Maybe it’s because you smother him,” Cat Daddy helpfully said recently. Ok, so when our only Louis-compatible duvet needed cleaning and we were forced to use an allergy-triggering feather one, who paid for an expensive same-day clean because they thought Louis Catorze “looked sad” shut out on the landing? Not moi.

I could buy the most amazing shoes with the money I’m spending on an allergy test for this ungrateful boy of mine. In fact, I’ve already seen some that I want …