Le bras roux

The fur around Louis Catorze’s slowly-regrowing tattoo sleeve has turned a reddish-brown.

The first time I saw it, my heart almost stopped because I thought it was sunburn, and I felt like the worst person in the world for not thinking to protect my poor boy’s bald arm from the sun. (He would have looked ridiculous with bright white ears AND a bright white arm, but I don’t suppose it would have done him any harm. And that wasn’t meant to rhyme.)

However, as you can see from the picture, it’s not even the tattoo sleeve area itself that’s turned brown, but the fur around it. And it’s only this leg. He doesn’t have brown fur anywhere else on his body.

HOW has this happened?

All possible explanations welcome, although nobody has ever really been able to explain the enigma that is Le Roi so I don’t suppose it’s time to start now.

Terracotta arm-y.

Poil par poil, toute la barbe viendra

When quarantine began, I saw an internet meme (I hate that stupid word and am actually glad that my autocorrect changes it to the much more civilised “même”) that read, “We are three weeks away from knowing everyone’s true hair colour.”

It’s now MONTHS since we went anywhere near a hair salon, and somehow I have come off worse than Cat Daddy: my hair looks like a haystack, with highlights have faded to an ugly, brassy yellow, whereas he is rocking the Keir Starmer sweepover and is looking mighty fine.

My hair salon have been posting lots of videos and tips on social media, with their advice being, “Try to focus not on the colour, but on keeping your hair in good condition.” Erm, yeah, I think that ship has well and truly sunk, too.

Louie Catorze, on the other hand, looks better now than he did when lockdown started (which, frankly, isn’t difficult as he looked terrible before). His facial fur has now fully grown back, and he looks just like a normal black cat, except smaller and toothier.

His arm fur – which was shaved to inject the sedative for his biopsy – is taking a little longer to regrow, but we rather like the look of it. We refer to it as his tattoo sleeve and Cat Daddy pretends that it makes his boy look tough and thuggish, even though we both know that this couldn’t be further from the truth and that he’s actually a sweet little daddy’s boy who loves cuddles.

This picture of him was taken last month, and I love everything about it: the blue sky, his glossy fur and the glimpse of tattoo sleeve that hints at the obstacles that he has overcome (and, due to him having the attention span of a gnat, completely forgotten).

Très pleased with himself.

La brosse royale (Partie 2)

Louis Catorze’s fancy new facial brush arrived during the week. And, although everyone is laughing at me for buying it, it’s been a big hit with Sa Maj.

My first choice was a sustainable brush with olive wood handle and pony hair bristles, but the reviewers said they “couldn’t get past the smell of horse” (shudder) so I went for the Aveda Tulasāra one with the recycled resin handle*. Because it’s designed for human use, the bristles are super-soft and should hopefully relieve the itching without hurting the little sod.

*I have no idea what Tulasāra means but, being a linguist, I really enjoyed typing an ā for the first time ever. I also don’t exactly know how one would recycle resin, but I expect the good folk at Aveda know what they’re doing.

Anyway, despite the fact that Cat Daddy almost had a seizure when I told him how much the brush cost – and I only told him the sale price, not what it cost before the reduction – he was, and continues to be, surprisingly happy to administer the treatment to his boy.

Here they are enjoying a special moment (pre-biopsy) at Boys’ Club Wellness Spa:

Le royal facial treatment

Catorze’s brush is from, erm, lookfantastic.com. And, yes, I do get the irony.

La brosse royale (Partie 1)

Since Louis Catorze’s skin problem returned, Cat Daddy and I have been very strict about brushing him every day. The brush is quite firm so we don’t actually brush his face with it as such, but we hold it up and let him decide how hard – if at all – he wishes to rub his face against it.

On a couple of occasions, he has pressed/hurled himself against the brush with such ferocity that it has alarmed us. I even videoed it once (mainly because I didn’t think anyone would believe me) and it’s quite gut-wrenching viewing, with scraping sounds akin to fingernails down a chalk board. Yet we trusted him to instinctively know what was best for him and to manage it accordingly. This was a massive mistake because, earlier in the week, the yelp happened.

Yes: the little sod actually brushed himself to the point of pain. This is not good.

So now the brush is strictly for body use only, and the moral of this story is that, however bad your judgement may be, it will always be better than that of a not-very-bright cat. And I really should have known better, because this is the same silly sod who picks fights with dogs and foxes, who heads for hotter-than-the-sun greenhouses during heatwaves and who rolls in the middle of the road for fun.

On a more positive note, I have ordered a brand new brush just for his face, and I can’t wait for it to arrive.

I know. Had Teenage Me known that Forties Me would be excited about the arrival of my cat’s new facial brush, I would have had a serious word with myself.

#cantbetrusted

FURminateur 3: Le Soulèvement du Roi

Louis Catorze has utterly acquiesced during brushing and FURmination. Obviously my eardrums and my nerves will be thanking him/my lucky stars/the Goddess for this. But I am cross beyond belief that he chose to be good at the worst moment possible: when I was trying to demonstrate to a friend what a horror he was.

Me: “Watch this.” [I pick up his FURminator and assume the vice-like Stranglehold of Death. Catorze is totally fine with this. This has never happened before, EVER.]

My friend: “He doesn’t seem to mind too much.”

Me: “Yeah, but watch this!” [I start FURminating. Catorze sits in complete silence, statue-still except for a few nuzzles of the FURminator, and lets me get on with it.]

My friend: “He still seems fine.”

Me: “Yeah, but watch THIS!” [I FURminate more vigorously although, obviously, not so much so that the little sod is in discomfort. Catorze flops onto his back, rolls, stretches and purrs.]

My friend: “Erm …”

Me: “For crying out loud. Look! LOOK!” [Silence, apart from the sounds of the FURminator on Catorze’s happy rump, and him purring and loving every moment.]

My friend: “Maybe he wasn’t really that bad before. Maybe you’ve just misremembered it.”

Me, ceasing FURmination: “Oh, forget it.”

So the little sod has gone from absolutely hating being brushed/FURminated to loving it, which is good. But, no doubt, my friends will all think I am stupid or a liar.

“Or a stupid liar,” Cat Daddy pipes, helpfully.

FURminateur 2: Le Dernier Jugement

Good grief. Louis Catorze looks disgusting. It seems that the FURmination a few days ago has stimulated his skin to release some sort of crud, and now he is all speckled and dandruffy. He looks just like he did when I accidentally poured xylitol all over him, and it’s so foul that Cat Daddy is threatening to bathe him. 

He doesn’t appear to me remotely bothered by the speckles but, for obvious reasons, it bothers us. We would all far rather have a non-dandruffy cat than a dandruffy one, wouldn’t we? 

FURminator users: please tell me that this won’t happen EVERY time I FURminate, and that it’s just a little first-time-user glitch?

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Hasta la vista, les poils

MERCI to everyone who sent good wishes to Louis Catorze on his birthday. It was difficult to know what to buy for a cat who already has everything, so we decided to treat him to some jambon de Bayonne (of which he ate two scraps, then looked at the third as if it were poison and walked away) and a FURminator. 

Cat Daddy: “Sorry, what? FURminator? FURRR-minator?”

Cat Daddy again: “And can you not write that WE gave him jambon de Bayonne and a FURminator? [He says the word “FURminator” in his Alan-Rickman-as-the-Sheriff-of-Nottingham voice.] YOU did this. I honestly couldn’t care less.”

If you have ever had a sheddy pet, it’s highly likely that you will know what a FURminator is: a special grooming implement designed to remove pet hair more effectively than a standard brush. It may seem a bizarre choice of gift for a cat who can’t stand being brushed, but the device is supposed to remove so much loose hair upon each brushing that, overall, progressively fewer sessions are required. So, really, it’s a gift to myself as well as to Catorze. 

The FURminator comes in different sizes – we purchased “Smallest Creature Possible”, of course – and in both long- and short-haired variants. I must say I was cynical about how much fur it would remove – a brush is a brush, after all, and I imagined all brushes to be created equal – but the FURminator is in a class of its own. Below is the amount of fur that I would ordinarily have extracted from a whole-body brushing session with the little sod’s old brush, but the FURminator removed this from just an eighth of his body. That said, I can see the device being quite sharp if not used properly, so I would advise you to test it out on your own skin (seriously) to ascertain how much pressure is more like a massage than a scratch, and adjust pressure on kitty accordingly.

As we are fairly certain that there is a link between regular grooming sessions and Sa Maj’s skin condition, it will be interesting to see how his health progresses with regular FURmination. We’ll be back.

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Cent coups de brosse avant d’aller dormir

Today is National Hairball Awareness Day. (I’m deadly serious. Google it if you don’t believe me.) And, ironically, I am writing this after another joyless session of brushing Louis Catorze. Ugh. Bizarrely, he now only fights half-heartedly rather than with the strength of ten angry grizzly bears, yet he still screams like a banshee during our torturous sessions. And, just like the otherworldly Irish harbinger of death, I fear that there may well be some truth in his prophecy because the sound of his screams makes me want to kill either him or myself.

If he hates being brushed, why has he eased up on the struggling? Or, if has grown to tolerate it, why scream? Seeing a cat lying on his back, his body language showing that he is grudgingly accepting the brush but his voice screaming itself stupid, is quite the most absurd sight imaginable. That said, nothing about this strange cat has ever truly made sense, so I don’t suppose it’s about to start now.

Sadly there is no video available because I need three hands to be able to restrain, brush and film at the same time, and Cat Daddy refuses point-blank to help in any way. (“I’m not being part of this nonsense” is a more polite version of what he said.) So, instead, here is a picture of Sa Maj looking uncharacteristically … well … majestic. It’s hard to believe that a beast who can appear so serene in pictures can also suddenly morph in an instant into a screaming psychopath.

La coiffure du Roi

Louis Catorze is in full-on moult mode which, of course, means we have to brush him at least once a day, more if possible. And you know how vile he is when being brushed. 

The screaming is pretty awful but I am now used to it. What’s more daunting is the sheer never-endingness of the task, with handfuls of fur coming out with each session. If I were to carry on forever, at some stage I would have no cat left, just a pair of fangs and a handful of bald, quivering flesh. And yet the fur keeps coming. It defies every law of science that a cat can keep losing fur indefinitely and not run out. 

I have started brushing him the wrong way first (i.e. tail to head) to loosen any crud, before then doing it the right way. This is quite effective but he really doesn’t like it at all, and it makes him look as if he has been tumble-dried. On one recent occasion he kicked free of the Stranglehold of Death and escaped outside, before I had managed the rectifying right-way brush, and he didn’t look anything like a cat nor, indeed, like any creature identifiable by zoology. 

Cat Daddy: “What. Have. You. DONE?”

Sa Maj will be turning 9 at the end of the month. Something tells me that the Birthday Fairy may be delivering him some much-needed fancy new grooming-related apparatus, as I think that trying to tackle the problem with his existing brush is like trying to stem a tsunami with a sheet of blotting paper*. 

*Younger followers: ask your parents. 

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La brosse infernale

We are usually only obsessively meticulous about brushing Louis Catorze during the warmer months, when he moults and scratches a lot. But, because his skin and fur are generally much healthier when he is brushed regularly, we decided to step up his grooming régime a few weeks ago, at around the same time that we started the hot water steam thing.

The good news is that handfuls of fur come off his body when he is brushed, which surely HAS to make a positive difference to his skin health, yes? The bad news is that he still loathes being brushed, which means I have to grit my teeth and adopt the Stranglehold of Death before I can get the brush anywhere near him. Needless to say, these now-daily sessions of torture leave me drained, pained and bleeding from the eardrums, and I wish we didn’t have to do them.

My mum told a long time ago that, when you brush your cat, you should leave the brushed-out clumps of hair in the garden because birds use them to line their nests. This didn’t seem very likely – after all, my mum also tells me that you can get cancer from plastic water bottles that have been left overnight in the car – but a couple of reliable fellow cat freaks have confirmed that it is, indeed, a thing. So, much to Cat Daddy’s disgust, I have been doing my civic duty by emptying the contents of Catorze’s brush outside, and the very thin silver lining to the dire grooming sessions was that at least the birds would benefit from it all.

Below is a picture of a clump of Catorze’s brushed-out hair from at least two weeks ago. Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs: IT IS STILL IN THE GARDEN. I really thought that there would be a few takers for some warm kitty fur, given that we remain in the depths of winter. But it seems not.

Cat Daddy: “Ha! The birds of TW8 would rather freeze than go near his shitty fur. Not even the rats want it.”

Oh dear. It’s a good thing Sa Maj is utterly unaware of his fur not meeting the exacting standards of the local wildlife. And, even if he were aware, I don’t suppose he would be remotely bothered.

Le maquillage du Roi

Following a few more instances of Louis Catorze thundering through Le Château chasing his tail (and knocking Houseguest Matt’s stuff off his bedside table at 3am – ha), I’ve spent most of the weekend Googling coloured dye for pets. I wish I were joking.

Most of the results of my fact-finding odyssey have been warnings not to dye your pet, and I can’t say I’m surprised; until now I’d have thought it a thoroughly idiotic thing to do. And, had anyone tried to convince me that they needed to do it for medical reasons, I would have kidnapped their pet for its own safety and reported them to animal welfare.

Yet, here I am, declaring to the world that I need to do this to stop my cat from eating himself. Oh dear.

And, should you choose to ignore the warnings and dye your pet regardless, there are a million stipulations to which Louis Catorze would never agree. (Example: “For best results, start with a freshly washed animal.” Non, merci.)

After receiving the vet’s confirmation this morning that a non-toxic dye might be worth a go, and after a good friend and ardent Roi supporter came up with the genius idea of using plant-based, hypo-allergenic mascara, I thought we might have hit upon a cure. Something toxin-free and designed to be splodged around your eyes couldn’t possibly do him any harm, right? Even Cat Daddy is up for this. And, better yet, I already have an organic mascara.

Or, I thought I had. Naturellement, I have no idea where it is, and I fear it might have been lost in the move to Le Château. (I don’t wear mascara often, clearly.) We don’t want to waste time hunting fruitlessly, nor wait for delivery of a new one, nor do we have time during a horrible working week to go out shopping for one.

Merci à Dieu, then, for Houseguest Matt. There aren’t many people who would unflinchingly accept a request of, “Would you mind popping out today and buying an organic black mascara to paint the cat’s tail?”

I’m tempted to ask him to do the painting, too. Is that going too far?

(Le Roi is pictured below on Houseguest Matt’s legs.)

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Le dimanche sanglant

Whilst last Sunday was officially Olympic Sensational Sunday to most British people, to Cat Daddy and me it will always be known as Le Jour du Rat.

This morning we were talking about the psychology behind cats’ offerings and why they bring them even if they’re well-fed. Some of the theories are as follows:

1. It’s part of an involuntary natural instinct
2. They are gifts borne out of love
3. Cats think we are rubbish hunters, so are attempting to show us how it ought to be done
4. Cats are little shits

What’s puzzling us about RatGate – apart from the rat’s curly hair, which appears to be bothering many Roi followers at the moment – is that the rat looked as if it had been dead for a little while. So … had Louis Catorze killed it ages ago, stored it in some unknown place and then artfully plated it up for his papa, like a Masterchef finalist presenting a piece of 21-day hung steak?

Or – and this is more likely – had the fox killed it and saved it for later, and was Catorze passing off the fox’s efforts as his own?

Either way, I remain traumatised by the whole event, replaying it in my mind over and over again. However, something tells me that Cat Daddy may have moved on:

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Aucune photo cette fois-ci

Louis Catorze looks terrible at the moment, so much so that I’m having to resort either to using oldish photos on this blog, or ensuring that the angle/focus/distance are such that the worst bits of his face aren’t visible. (Obviously if you are reading this then you’re an animal lover so you will sympathise, but I understand that not everyone wants to see something that looks, to the untrained eye, very like a severe case of animal neglect.)

It’s been hard to monitor his condition given that I barely see him in daylight hours, but I’ve just had a look at his face during some very rare garden rolling-around time and he looks horrendous. He’s lost pretty much all the fur on one side of his jawline, and a lot of the fur on the other side of his jaw and under his chin (only visible from the side and underneath – from the front he still looks normal-ish). He also has bloodied cuts on his face, presumably from over-vigorous scratching, and just now, when I witnessed one of his scratching sessions, he put his paw so far into his ear that I thought it would never come out. So could it be that something in his ears is causing this bother? Yet another question for the vet tomorrow, along with the zillions that I already have.

My debit card is donning its battle gear in preparation for the battering it’s going to get tomorrow. I haven’t dared even ask what the cost is going to be for vaccinations plus the skin scraping test plus possibly an antibiotic injection (I’m sure he has an eye infection) plus possibly an ear mite treatment (not confirmed but wouldn’t surprise me). I’m fully expecting tomorrow to empty out what’s left of Louis Catorze’s sick fund, although I’d spend a million pounds to get results for him. What pains me at the moment is that I’m spending money, but he’s not getting better. In fact, he’s getting worse.

It’s now more apparent than ever that his grumpy moods are directly proportional to his flare-ups: when he’s well, he’s alert, energetic, playful and sociable. Now he hides all day, runs when he sees me and only feels safe to come near me when I’m asleep. I’m desperate beyond belief for this skin scraping test to tell us something. Please send the little sod all the good wishes you can for his vet visit tomorrow, and please pray for the poor staff who are going to have to deal with him.