Louis Catorze is pitter-pattering around Le Château looking unspeakably ridiculous, with two baldish arms and a bald spot on his body.
His tattoo sleeves still look like this:
And, Mesdames et Messieurs, the solar eclipse has evolved into this:
We have utterly exhausted every option in terms of figuring out a cause; he’s not been bitten, he’s not catching himself on something as he crawls through the hole in the fence leading to the Zone Libre, and it’s not an area where stray Broadline has eroded away the fur (I am a poor shot when it comes to applying spot-on treatment, but I’m not THAT bad). And nobody knows what to do about it. Not even the vet knows what to do.
The little sod’s birthday is in a couple of months. Let’s hope he is looking a bit more normal by then, otherwise I will be relying very heavily on the black pen of the iPhone’s Markup tool to make him look presentable. It simply won’t do to have holey fur in one’s Official Birthday Portrait.
Serum: magical hair product of the gods, but woe betide you should you spill any.
Spilling a small amount is bad enough because this stuff, despite being transparent, is like a thick, oily tar that repels water, detergent and cleaning apparatuses (apparati?). It perma-coats every surface that it touches, and no amount of scrubbing will ever get rid of it. However, knocking over a 150ml* bottle without realising that the lid is loose, and giving the insidious drip of doom a head start of several hours before noticing it, is just about as bad as it can be.
*Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs, the standard size of these products is around 50ml but, of course, I had to seek out the monster, maximum-damage bottle.
When I discovered this catastrophe all over the bathroom cabinet and on the floor, naturellement my first instinct was to reach for the toilet paper to wipe it up. However, it simply glanced the surface of the mess and, if anything, spread it around and made it worse. I then called to Cat Daddy to bring me some sturdier kitchen towel and some severe spray cleaner – I was unable to fetch it myself since my hands were greasy – and, although this made some difference, it was a long time before I had even made a slight dent in the viscous, oily puddle that had formed on the bathroom floor.
That evening, as we watched the football on television, we remarked on Louis Catorze’s absence and assumed him to be out in the Zone Libre bothering the local wildlife. However, when bedtime came and there was still no sign of him, we started to wonder what had happened. We even checked out at The Front, but he wasn’t there.
Just before going to bed, Cat Daddy found the little sod in the attic. And, since we’d had the football on at full volume, we hadn’t heard him screaming.
Because it had taken me so much longer than expected to half-clean the hair serum oil slick, Cat Daddy wasn’t able to use the bathroom so he’d had to use the attic en suite instead. Catorze had dutifully followed his papa, using his Cloak of Invisibility, and Cat Daddy, not realising he was there, had shut him in as he’d left.
Catorze recovered from his trauma and, after cuddling me in bed for a short while, was straight out in the Zone Libre. And the moral of this tale of woe is, surely, to trust neither hair serum nor cats.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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 …
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.)
Louis Catorze’s dandruff has been deteriorating, and I noticed that it looked especially bad just before a friend was due to visit. We couldn’t have him looking scaly and gross in front of visitors so I tried to brush it out, but each brush stroke seemed to just dredge up more crud. I then decided to deploy the colloidal oatmeal powder.
This was probably the right idea. However, I should have executed it a lot better.
Rather than tipping out the powder and letting him roll around in it or his own accord, for whatever stupid reason I decided, instead, to tip it straight from the pack onto his body whilst he lay on my lap. Instead of the light dusting for which I had hoped, huge lumps of oatmeal fell out, each one breaking into a zillion pieces when it hit la personne royale. Each one of those zillion pieces then hit me, breaking into a further zillion pieces as they did so.
The next twenty minutes or so were spent chasing a white cat around the living room and attempting to brush/beat the oatmeal out of him. It only half-worked. When my friend arrived, rather than being dandruff-free, Catorze was still grey in some areas and peppered with both dandruff AND oatmeal, and I was worried that his attempts to groom it off would leave him with stomach cramps or constipation. Luckily this turned out not to be the case, and, because our friend knows the little sod very well, she didn’t bat an eyelid when we said there had been “an oatmeal incident”.
We can’t think of any reason why Catorze’s skin would suddenly deteriorate and, as with the mats, we will check with the vet just in case. Happily, Le Roi is utterly unfazed by it and is continuing to live his best life.
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.
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:
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.
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.
UPDATE: since writing this post I have found yet another mat, again at the arse end. And this one was STICKY. Ugh.
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.”
Me: “My cat is in this bag.”
Him: “There’s a cat?”
Him: “IN THE BAG?”
Me: “Erm, yes.”
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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?
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.