Chauve derrière et, devant, chevelu

Louis Catorze went to see the vet yesterday, both for a steroid shot and because his mysterious bald patch has suddenly returned.

It’s been six weeks since his last steroid shot, which is very pleasing indeed given that, usually, around autumn, he starts to need them more and more frequently. But the bald patch is utterly puzzling. It hasn’t quite developed the narrowed pupil as yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before it’s staring creepily at me.

No soreness, no scabbing, no broken skin, just a hole with his ghostly, paper-white skin peeking through.

The vet was as flummoxed as we are and, once again, told us that we shouldn’t be concerned unless the skin started to look sore (it doesn’t) or we noticed Catorze excessively grooming the area (he doesn’t). Obviously this is good. But what makes it appear? And what makes it go away again? It’s yet another Roi mystery to which we will never find answers.

We have been instructed to keep an eye on the bald spot and contact the vet again if it deteriorates. But I already know that it won’t. It’ll just disappear to the otherworldly realm whence it came, only to reappear at some inopportune moment, looking more evil than ever before.

The little sod was able to relieve some of his stress by screaming at a couple of massive Red Setter dogs* in the vet’s waiting room, and is now fully recovered from the misery of his épreuve. As far as he’s concerned it’s business as usual, and he’s now screaming at me to go into the front room. However, with the festive season approaching, I daren’t relax too much, and I have booked him a late December appointment, just in case.

*One dog had curly hair. YES, CURLY HAIR. I wouldn’t have even thought she were a Red Setter had her more traditional twin sister not been with her.

L’œil maudit (Partie 2)

Autumn is here, which means it’s time to swap Louis Catorze’s spring-summer bed for his autumn-winter one. Daughter Next Door very kindly took on this task when she and her family visited the other day – she takes her Catorzian duties very seriously indeed – and, after first sniffing the bed as if it were some alien spacecraft, Louis Catorze is now in:

Elvis is in the building.

Regretfully, this means that I see less of him at night because he likes to spend time in here. But I’m less likely to be woken by purring, screaming and/or stupid gadding about. And it means that his evil eye is hidden from view, which is just as well because – Saint Jésus et tous ses anges – it’s mutating.

I knew this would happen.

There are now the beginnings of a pupil and, even worse, it’s looking at me right now:

Ugh.
Gahhhhh!

Obviously this is wonderful news for our October visitors, of whom there are MANY this year; people are going to be visiting us Catorze every weekend bar one, plus during the half term break. If you’re the sort of person who arranges to visit a black vampire cat in October, having him inexplicably grow an evil eye is a bonus.

However, if you’re the one who has to share a house with him all year round, it’s frightening. And having such a distinguishing mark means that we won’t be able to trot out the “It must have been some other black cat” excuse, the next time he causes trouble in the neighbourhood.

If the eye continues to evolve, crucifixes and holy water won’t be enough; I think we’ll need an exorcist. The only problem is, they all know of Catorze and none of them are prepared to come here, especially during the time of year when his evil powers are in ascendancy …

Cat without a face … although he has an eye on his body so it doesn’t really matter.

L’œil maudit

Nooooooo. Oh. Mon. Dieu.

Wouldn’t you just know it: after the fur initially grew back to the point of almost being normal again, Louis Catorze’s evil eye bald patch is now returning. Just in time for the spooky season.

Black (white?) hole.

At the moment it just looks like a hole. But, no doubt, it will mutate and evolve during the next few weeks, drawing strength from the unseen dark forces of the season. And, by the time Hallowe’en arrives it will be a fully formed eye, following me creepily around the room even when Catorze is asleep.

I am not rushing him to the vet just yet because, at the moment, it doesn’t seem to be bothering the little sod. I hope it won’t get worse, though. The next month is such a busy one for me, and I really could do without having to daub medication onto a cat who doesn’t want to be daubed.

Please send thoughts and prayers. Please also send crucifixes and holy water, if you have them.

Boire! Garçons!

A couple of years ago, I posted about the many voices of Louis Catorze.

I can now report that the little sod has a new sound, a kind of irritated “Prrr-owww!” chirp that he emits only during grooming, either when I try to flip him or when I brush his fur in the wrong direction. I always do the latter to loosen any stray hairs and crud before brushing him normally, and he gives me the “Prrr-owww!” every time.

I took that to mean he doesn’t like the feeling of this on his fur, which is fair enough as it must be like us brushing our hair from tip to root instead of vice versa. However, one fine day, this happened:

What. The. Absolute. HELL?

I know. We have never seen anything like it, either. And, astoundingly, the silly sod did this to himself. Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs: he happily washed his own fur in a thousand wrong directions, making himself look like Father Jack from Father Ted* after being put through a spin cycle and then dropped from a great height, but heaven forbid should I do one or two rogue strokes with the brush. I always thought the idea of cats washing was to smooth themselves and make their fur look and feel better. Who the flip does this?

*Younger followers: ask your parents AND look for Father Ted on YouTube. You will not be disappointed.

If I deserve the “Prrr-owww!” for my minor brush transgression, what kind of sound does justice to this self-administered apparence débraillée? A growl? An air-raid siren? Although I’m pretty sure that, if I asked Cat Daddy for his least favourite sound in the world, he would tell me it were Catorze’s normal voice.

Les poils emmêlés

Not long after the Louis Catorze’s vet appointment, during which we didn’t mention the mats on account of them having long gone, I discovered these:

His evil eye is on the other side.

These quite literally sprang up overnight and, during the few days leading up to me spotting these, he showed no indication of struggling to groom or any such thing. Clearly it was time to deploy the Dematting Rake again … and, naturellement, that was when Catorze decided that he was going to lie on that side of his body (his right) forever more.

Usually he favours lying on his right side around 70% of the time, so getting to these mats was always going to be a challenge. However, when I really, really needed him to lie on his left side, he firmly decided that he wasn’t going to do it, ever again.

Cat Daddy refuses to believe that one cannot flip a cat who doesn’t want to be flipped, and thinks it’s just me being pathetic. Not long ago, when he was brushing Catorze on his lap, he tapped the royal rump with the brush, gently said, “Come on, Louis, let’s flip you” and the bastard cat happily obliged, purring away. When I try it, the little sod turns himself into a dead weight and gives me a new type of scowly meow which I’ve never heard before and which has been invented just for this purpose (more about that another time).

After several days of sitting pointlessly with the Rake at my side, at long last I had a result when the little sod suddenly acquiesced and lay on his left side, matted side up.

The mats were gone. Nothing, niente, nichts and nada.

No doubt evil Catorze wants me to be left wondering if I had dreamed the whole episode, so merci à Dieu for photographic evidence. That said, somehow it still feels as if he has won this battle.

Bastard cat.

Les pellicules infernales

We have had quite the weekend at Le Château, with the following events taking place:

1. End-of-the-football-season festivities (although Louis Catorze doesn’t regard this as a celebratory moment as it means fewer men will be visiting us for the next eleven weeks).

2. The Black Cats won the League One play-off finals and will be promoted to the Championship tier next season.

Naturellement Catorze thought this would be an excellent time to churn out as much dandruff as possible, specifically when friends were due to visit on the day of the Black Cats’ match. After the oatmeal incident I wasn’t going to go down THAT route again so, instead, I just spent the entire morning brushing him to try to remove the worst of the dandruff. It didn’t work. All I managed to do was stir up more.

There was absolutely no hope of my visitors failing to notice the dandruff; they have two black cats of their own so they know what normal ones are meant to look like. And, yes, we all know that Catorze is far from normal, but I didn’t think making him pretend for just one afternoon was such a big ask.

Anyway, Sa Maj was a very convivial host, as ever, screaming for his guests’ attention during lunch and always positioning himself in the brightest sunlight for maximum visibility of his dandruff. Our friends hid their revulsion well, although Cat Daddy and I were inwardly wincing every time they stroked the little sod. Dandruff on cats isn’t nice. And dandruff on black cats looks especially awful.

The next morning, the dandruff had vanished as suddenly and as inexplicably as it had appeared.

I suppose I ought to mention this at the vet appointment later this week although, knowing Catorze, his bald patch will also disappear at the time of the appointment, only to magically reappear as soon as we get home, along with the dandruff and the mats.

Bastard cat.

A mixture of dandruff, plant matter, insect matter and other stuff that we daren’t even think about.

Un trou dans le noir

Just as I was starting to think Louis Catorze didn’t have QUITE enough things wrong with him, the little sod decided to develop this inexplicable bald patch:

What on earth …?

For a while I ignored it, thinking perhaps I just hadn’t beaten the oatmeal out of him properly. But he is fastidiously clean, and there is no way he would have intentionally left crud on his person. Many cats have bald patches as a result of stress over-grooming but, despite the little sod’s numerous problems, he has never really done this kind of thing. Apart from, erm, that time in 2016-2017 when he had feline hyperesthesia and he chewed his tail to pieces.

My theories are as follows:

1. He caught himself on a sticking-out twig.

2. He was a little over-zealous in grooming off whatever crud he’d rolled in (plant sap, snail juice, fox poo, take your pick).

3. A parakeet finally had enough of his nonsense, flew down and pecked him. (Not content with fighting the pigeons and the squirrels, Cat Daddy has now also declared a fatwa on the parakeets and Catorze is valiantly and loyally fighting his papa’s corner.)

I had planned to ask the vet about the bald patch when we went for Catorze’s steroid shot but, because the little sod had been doing so well health-wise, we haven’t been yet. But now I guess we don’t have any choice.

So the agenda for our appointment is as follows:

1. Steroid shot.

2. Collect Broadline.

3. Mats.

4. Bald patch.

No doubt there will be more items by the time the appointment takes place. And I have started building myself a fort to hide from the deluge of Unrepeatable Expletives. (From Cat Daddy, I mean, not from the vet.)

Awaiting the next set of instructions from The Mothership.

Le salon de coiffure

What the flamin’ flip is all this?

Ugh.
Ugh.
Ugh.

More mats, that’s what. They are materialising from nowhere, like crop circles. It’s almost as if simply being touched by a matty hair is enough to mattify a previously-normal hair, a bit like turning into a zombie when another zombie bites you.

The largest of the three mats quite literally appeared overnight. As in, there was no trace of it in the evening and then, suddenly, the next morning, it was there. I am puzzled and concerned, yet also strangely satisfied that I am getting such good value out of the Dematting Rake.

Apparently there are many reasons for an older cat not grooming efficiently, including arthritis, bladder issues and simply not being as bendy as they were when they were younger. Dental problems are also listed as a reason, although l’m pretty certain that Louis Catorze no longer has them. And it’s just as well, because this was the advice given by one website:

“If they have a painful mouth, they obviously won’t want to use their mouth to groom their fur, causing them to become more matted. Like people, cats need dental cleaning and regular mouth care. If you can, start brushing your cat’s teeth.”

BRUSHING YOUR CAT’S TEETH. Nope, nope and thrice nope.

Anyway, since removing these mats (with some difficulty, I might add), more have appeared, as has Catorze’s unsightly dandruff, and all I can do is continue brushing and raking. To be on the safe side, I’m going to tell the vet about them when we go for his next steroid shot.

Hopefully this is all part of a general spring-summer purge and not a sign of anything more ominous.

This kind of crazy caper probably doesn’t help.

La vengeance des nœuds

Merde. We have just experienced MatGate 2.0. And, once again, the TWO mats in question were at the undesirable end of la personne royale:

“ … There’s a mat on mi kitty, what ammm I gonna do? …

I don’t know whether these were new mats, or leftovers from the previous ones which I thought I’d removed but hadn’t. Either way, I have had to deploy the Dematting Rake again. This time the mats were stubborn beyond belief and our mutual friend was not happy with my efforts to remove them. And I don’t think I will ever recover from the fact that the larger mat was coated in some sort of transparent, dried crud which TOUCHED MY HAND. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he had sat on a snail, the only animal too slow to move out of the way of his arse.

This one was HARD WORK.

I know that mats are not unusual for cats, but these two recent incidents are Catorze’s ONLY incidents. What could possibly make a once-unmatty cat suddenly develop them after twelve years? Does it mean that, in his old age, he is becoming less and less able to groom his arse end, despite being lithe and kittenish in every other way? That said, if it’s taken twelve years for us to see any signs of his advancing years, the little sod has had a pretty good run.

Cat Daddy: “It’s just his runtiness. It’s all part of being the runt of the litter.”

Me: “Awww. You think he was the runt of the litter?”

Cat Daddy: “Oh my God. You DON’T think he was the runt of the litter?”

[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets]

Anyway, I don’t suppose it matters as long as Catorze has his entourage at hand to fix the problem (which we have, in time for his birthday so, hopefully, he will be presentable for his party). And that is exactly as it should be for a Sun King.

Matty cat.

UPDATE: since writing this post I have found yet another mat, again at the arse end. And this one was STICKY. Ugh.

Des souvenirs dorment dans cette chevelure

Louis Catorze had his steroid shot yesterday. There was the usual Benny Hill-style chase when putting him into his transportation pod and, as I was leaving, Cat Daddy – who was in the middle of a massive DIY session – asked me to pop into the hardware shop on the way back and buy a lightbulb and two little transponder-type things.

Catorze screamed all the way through his examination, but the vet confirmed that all was well and that he was “looking good”. He fell deathly silent as we went into the hardware shop then, as the shopkeeper spoke, the screaming resumed.

The shopkeeper was startled and looked outside, thinking there was some altercation taking place.

Me: “Oh, that’s just my cat.”

Shopkeeper: “Sorry?”

Me: “My cat is in this bag.”

Him: “There’s a cat?”

Me: “Yes.”

Him: “IN THE BAG?”

Me: “Erm, yes.”

Him: “…”

I should have explained that I’d come straight from the vet, instead of just saying “My cat is in this bag”, but I didn’t think of it at the time. So now the shopkeeper thinks I am the kind of weirdo who goes shopping with her screaming cat. And I can never go back to that shop again.

Although Catorze is in good health, his body is still spewing out fur. Clumps of it are drifting around Le Château like tumbleweed rolling through the American west.

A few days before the vet appointment, we had a Code Gris emergency on our hands. And by “on our hands”, I actually mean “on Catorze’s arse”. This (see below) started out as a few tiny strands of grey undercoat sticking out from his fur and I left it, imagining that, at some point, it would just come off by itself.

It didn’t. In fact, over the course of just a couple of days, it grew.

What in the world …?

My sister: “It’s a mat. You can get special mat combs that get them out.”

Me: “Could I not just use scissors?”

Her: “Do you trust him to hold still and not injure you or himself?”

[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets]

Narrator: “And so she bought the special mat comb.”

Anyway, the comb arrived the next day, and it seems that someone in the marketing department felt that its appearance wasn’t quite scary enough, so they named it the Dematting Rake. RAKE.

Ouch.

Catorze sat on my lap and, astoundingly, was happy to let me hack away at his arse end with this device, only emitting the occasional squeak when I accidentally pulled too hard. Perhaps he felt uncomfortable and knew that whatever I was doing had to be better than living with the mats? It was quite the feat but, eventually, I managed to loosen and remove the TWO horrible knots:

The mats, alongside my customary £1 coin for scale.

So Le Roi is now a mat-free zone. And I have something fun and unique to tell my students when they ask me what I did during my holidays.

What a time to be alive.

The Catorzian arse, sans mats.

Les poils de la bête

Merci à Dieu: the Easter holidays are here. And it looks as if I will be spending them brushing, because Louis Catorze is shedding fur. A lot of fur. His tiny body is producing more fur than I can handle, a bit like that old fable about the machine that churns out salt forever because the person forgets the magic word to make it stop.

Yesterday I managed to extract a huge handful of fur from one side of him.

Cat Daddy: “Why only one side?”

Me: “I couldn’t brush the other side.”

Him: “Why not?”

Me: “He was lying on it.”

Him: “So just flip him!”

Me: “I couldn’t. He refused to be flipped.”

Him: “He’s 3kg!”

Me: “HE REFUSED TO BE FLIPPED.”

Cat Daddy has probably only had to force Catorze to do things against his will about four times, versus my countless times. So, really, he should be taking my word for it regarding Catorze’s flippability, or lack thereof.

Anyway, I’m brushing him 862 times a day (that’s sessions, not individual brush strokes) and it’s not enough. No number in the world would be enough; every time I do it, it’s as if I have never done it before. And I am pretty sure that, if I kept brushing indefinitely and didn’t stop, the fur would just keep coming until, eventually, I would be left with a bald, screaming skeleton.

Here he is, sitting in the tarragon (again), looking wonderfully soft. And so he should, after all my efforts:

“Brush moi.”
“Then brush moi again. And again.”

UPDATE: since the above photos were taken, Cat Daddy has devised a plan and put it into action. Will these lethal shanks solve the problem, or just move it elsewhere?

Sit on THIS, Sa Maj!

La peau de chagrin (Partie 2)

Louis Catorze’s skin problem is returning.

The fur around his eyes is thinning, and this is the familiar, telltale sign that all could turn to merde if we aren’t careful. In fact, it could very well turn to merde even if we ARE careful. Since we don’t know what causes it, we are still at a loss as to what we’re supposed to do.

We had a feeling that this would happen since he only had a short-acting steroid shot the last time, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. He wasn’t allowed to have a steroid shot within two weeks of his surgery, nor too close to his Loxicom, so we have been waiting until the earliest opportunity, which was yesterday (as advised by the vet). I was stuck at work so Cat Daddy took Catorze, and the vet, who hadn’t seen the little sod before, called him a “noisy boy”. TRUST US, WE KNOW.

At least now he’s done … just in time for the full moon next week, which isn’t ideal as we could do without double the level of psycho, but Cat Daddy and I are just going to have to stock up on vodka and ride this one out.

If you have ever had a black cat in your life, you will know that the their eyebrow area can look perfectly normal from certain angles, and almost bald from other angles, and Catorze is no exception. The two pictures below were taken by his chat-sitteur last weekend, and they look very different indeed, so it’s hard to know from taking photos whether or not he is improving. However, if he’s eating (check), drinking (check), screaming (check) and being a complete and utter pest (HELL, check), I think we can be reassured that he is fine.

Looking a bit scruffy and threadbare here.
Not looking too bad here.

Le Roi Blanc

Cat Daddy: “Oh my God. What’s happened to Louis’s fur?”

Me, imagining the horror of a Code Brun situation: “Erm, why? What’s wrong with it?”

Him: “It’s gone all weird.”

Me: “???”

Him: “Like tiger bread.”

Me: “???”

Him: “Come and look.”

It turned out that the cause of Cat Daddy’s alarm was Louis Catorze’s fur cracks. Now, they’re nothing new, and we are frequently marvelling at the weirdness of the tail ones, in particular. However, what struck me about this particular set was how pale Catorze’s skin is; underneath all that black fur, the little sod is white. Not nature-white which, in fact, is not white at all but more like an off-white. Sa Maj is bright paper-white.

Bright white skin peeking out from under that fur.

This makes him the, erm, polar opposite of polar bears, who have black skin under their white fur. (Thank you, Lizzi, for telling me about this and sending me down a Google Image rabbit hole from which I can never climb out.)

I expect that the white skin is something I knew anyway, on some level, but now I can’t stop thinking about and am unhealthily obsessed with exactly what we’d be left with if Catorze had no fur. I imagine it would be something like this, but whiter and with much larger fangs:

Picture taken from Pinterest.

And, when the little sod sleeps on my lap, I can’t resist parting his fur to peek at the paper-whiteness. (He is not a fan of this, as it’s also what I do just before giving him his flea treatment.)

We are shocked, but not surprised, to STILL be discovering weird things about him, all these years after he first came to torment live with us. Life with Catorze truly is beset with labyrinthine twists and turns.

La poudre à cheveux

I have bought some dry shampoo powder for Louis Catorze, since his bath in our neighbours’ building dust had such a lovely effect on his fur. So, just like the proper French aristocracy back in the day, the little sod will be strutting around his Château with powdered hair.

Because Catorze is so sensitive, I decided against a ready-made product with a long list of ingredients and, instead, I’ve chosen a pure colloidal oatmeal powder. I have no idea what “colloidal” means but it sounds medicinal enough without being TOO medicinal, if you get what I mean. (Cat Daddy: “Not really.”)

The only thing is: how do I apply it? When he went to our neighbours’ house and came back caked in dust, I imagine he rolled it in of his own accord rather than having the builders rub it into him – although the latter would have been funnier – so I am more inclined to scatter it on the floor and wait. Yet all internet advice about dry-shampooing cats suggests putting poor kitty in the bath (!) and assaulting him with handfuls of powder, which would be absolutely hellish for all concerned.

So the pack of colloidal oatmeal is just sitting in the cupboard until I decide how to use it. Any suggestions would be gratefully welcomed.

“Bathe moi if you dare.”