Archive for July, 2008

Garden of discovery

Posted in Cats, Gardening, Journal at 21:04

Whee, strawberry plants

I’ve let Kanoko onto my patio every morning and evening, under supervision until he’s grown a bit bigger. The cat door is lockable, so he won’t get into mischief during the day while I’m at work. Kittens have a real flair for getting into situations you didn’t imagine until seeing them perform with your own eyes. I hereby submit the following evidence:
Kitten in an aerial position
Proof of height attained by kitten as related to previous submission

Kanoko is a wonderful kitten: intelligent, well-behaved and sweet. As shown by the photos, he figured out how to climb up, and also how to get back down — I didn’t help him. (I did that on purpose, so he’d become uninterested in climbing. It worked; he only climbed twice and then stopped, playing elsewhere for an hour.) And he knows what “no” means and listens! After just four days he’d learned that there was no point in trying to get on the table when I eat, for instance. He doesn’t scratch me or furniture, since he has plenty of opportunities for play, with toys I use (left over from Malo), a scratching post (gift from the neighbor who gave me Kanoko, since it’s one her adult cat dislikes), and feathers gathered from the patio. I plan on getting a harness soon and familiarizing him with it so that when he’s older, I can walk him to a big park that’s only two blocks away. Despite months of regular, gentle attempts while a kitten, Malo never got used to a harness, but apparently Maine Coons do well with them.

It’s official

Posted in Cats, La France at 18:23

A quick update since Kanoko and I were able to visit the vet this afternoon — I’d nearly forgotten that my vet is open on weekends, it’s so rare in France. Kanoko had no microchip, and so the vet happily told me he’s now mine, and Kanoko got his first round of vaccines. As a big fan of Maine Coon cats, the vet also confirmed that Kanoko definitely has Maine Coon in him! Without a pedigree it’s completely unofficial, of course, but it’s nice to know. The vet told me that Kanoko is two and a half months old, so he would have been born sometime in mid-May.

I can hardly describe how happy I am, mainly for my new kitty. It’s wonderful to be able to rescue pitchouns, and even better when it’s possible for them to suffer from it as little as possible. (Animals can be deeply affected by abandonment.) Kanoko is in very good health and has had his first vaccines right on time. I won’t be putting a microchip in him, mainly because the ID tattoos here give the immediate visual information that a cat belongs to someone, whereas a microchip is invisible. He’ll get his ID once he’s neutered in about a year.

A second sad-but-happy story walked in to the vet’s while I was waiting. A three-month-old black kitten with a white chest and white paws had been found yesterday by a family who had barely heard it meowing in a trash can… tied up in a plastic trash bag… in Monaco. Its whiskers had been cut off, like Kanoko’s. It’s such a horrific mix of disgust, sorrow, anger and helplessness that you feel with stories like that, because you know that for every kitten, cat, puppy, dog, etc. miraculously found, many others aren’t.


Posted in Cats, Journal, La France at 14:11


Here’s a photo of the little one this afternoon, as he laid down for a nap by the window, which was Malo’s favorite spot too. (A little blurry because I used a slow shutter speed to avoid the flash, and didn’t use a tripod.) This spot on the table is great for watching and listening to the goings-on outside. “Kanoko” means “fawn” in Japanese, and in fabric dyeing, is used to refer to kanoko shibori, of which this obi of mine is an example. I thought it was a great name for the kitten, since he looks so like a furry fawn.

Kanoko is probably a Maine Coon. I do have to say that I’ve contacted a local Maine Coon breeder to double-check whether Kanoko’s original owners can be found, though I doubt it. Kittens are only supposed to be sold/adopted once they’re three months old minimum, and Kanoko doesn’t seem to be more than two months old (he only weighs 1.2kg). It is a known habit (grrrr) for animals young and old to be abandoned this time of year, since it’s when the French go on their month-long vacations… and some would rather dump their animal than bother to pay for a pet sitter. Many of the people do it half-heartedly, if that descriptor can be used (grrrr again), leaving them leashed to a tree (I stopped counting the abandoned dogs I saw tied to trees alongside country roads years ago, it’s f@%king infuriating — they were dead, that’s how I’m sure they’d been abandoned) or inside an apartment building entrance, which is where Kanoko was found wandering. As I wrote yesterday, no one in that building or others nearby claimed him. He may also have a microchip, but again, at his young age that would really surprise me; we’ll check at the vet.

I still miss Malo terribly. I’ve had several pets in my life, and so am dealing with the paradoxical and sometimes conflicting emotions all right, since experience has taught me that indeed, a beloved animal always keeps a unique and special place in your heart. There’s no such thing as a replacement, and each newcomer is a true individual.

If Kanoko is indeed Maine Coon, I’m going to have a very big, playful, affectionate furball on my hands in two years!

Arrivée d’un pitchoun

Posted in Cats, Journal at 21:23


Yes, that is a kitten in my living room. On days like today, all I can do is sit and wonder at life’s twists and turns.

Last week, the day I learned of Malo’s death, I came home to my empty apartment, and all I could think to do was care for something, anything alive. I went onto my patio to water the plants. To make a long story short, by chance, a kind neighbor across from and above me, who has a cat and a dog, asked about my cat. I replied that he had died that day. She gave her condolences and encouraged me to rest, saying she knew what it was like to lose a beloved pet.

This evening, as soon as I got home, she dropped by my apartment and asked if I would like a kitten! It turns out that a nurse friend of hers had found a kitten wandering about last week. After asking in several different buildings, at the neighborhood pet supply shop and two veterinarians, as well as putting the word out and waiting several days, the kitten’s owners didn’t turn up. The nurse had to go on vacation and so gave the little kitten to her friend, my neighbor, to see if she could find a new home for the little one. My neighbor first asked friends of hers, but none could take it in — and so she thought of me.

Although I’d wanted to wait, I have indeed been looking into getting another cat; I couldn’t refuse. Adoption through a refuge (animal rescue) is costly in France — you pay several hundred euros up front, to cover the kitten’s first vaccines and neutering. While it’s a great deal, it all has to be paid at once… something I simply can’t afford, whereas I can afford to pay the vaccines as they arise, as well as neutering. I had in mind to wait a few months and, in any case, see what came up. There is, unfortunately, no shortage of abandoned strays here, as witnessed by this little dear. The poor thing has had most of his whiskers chopped off, either by another cat or by whomever kept him before (not the nurse or my neighbor)… sigh.

It’s a long-haired girl boy!, and he’s one of the sweetest, most personable kittens I’ve ever met. Lively as all get out — he is a kitten after all! — and an absolute love. He’s sleeping on my lap as we speak, has covered me in kitty kisses, let me pet his tummy with luxurious delight, and won’t let me out of his sight.

I’m still at a loss for his name. I thought he was a “she” since my neighbor had said so, and had “her” name picked, but after checking… he’s most certainly a “he”!
Name update: He’s been christened Kanoko, a term from fabric dyeing, kanoko shibori. It’s a feminine name in Japanese, but I think it fits the fawn-colored kitty well!

And so I give you my new furry companion! “Pitchoun” is Provençal for “little one”, and is one of my favorite terms of endearment. People regularly call children pitchoun (masculine) and pitchoune (feminine) here. (And yes, little kitten and I will be visiting the veterinary as soon as I can take a day off, though he seems to be in very good health, confirmed by the nurse and my neighbor.) There are two more photos from today: one showing his coloring while he walked around, and one taken at his water bowl, also showing his pretty colors. I love his mix of stripes and spots.


Posted in Cats, Journal at 14:41

Malo, June 2007

Malo is very sorely missed. I keep thinking he’ll hop through the window he dashed out of — the only window with street access, in my bathroom, that didn’t close properly and that he’d surreptitiously learned how to paw open — and I’ll hear his paws tip-tapping towards me with his inquisitive “purr-meow?”. I keep thinking he’ll walk up behind me unheard, and hop onto my lap, knead my legs while I grimace and say “ow” until he’s content with the seating arrangement, then sprawl out with paws askew and head on a knee. Always facing towards the window.

I chose my new apartment in large part because it was so safe for Malo. The terrace is fully enclosed; I never thought he’d get out the high, narrow bathroom window. When I saw him do it the first time two weeks ago, I made a mental note to get wire fencing to cover it. I hadn’t yet found the right kind. And two weeks was long enough…

I don’t know where he died; it must have been far from my place. He hadn’t returned on Wednesday evening. I panicked, calmed myself by thinking he’d probably just gone on a walkabout and hadn’t found his way back yet, so went out and scoured as big a circumference as I could in two hours. I looked everywhere, even under cars, knowing I might not find him alive. But I didn’t see him anywhere, and he never came to my calls. I never heard his familiar meow.

I realized I hadn’t yet changed his ID tattoo registration address, so filled in the card and put it in the mailbox. That was how la fourrière, the pound, found me the next afternoon, yesterday. (The French postal service can be very fast.)

I’m very thankful they actually found his body, and that they took care of it. The man who phoned was wonderful; he actually started sobbing when I burst into tears. I’ll never forget how sincere his uncontrolled reply of “oh no don’t, it’s horrible” was after I asked if I could come see Malo’s body. I choked on an “oh…”. He heaved a huge sigh, sobbed and apologized again, but I thanked him for his honesty. Goodness knows he has a rough job. He said they would dispose of Malo’s body carefully, as they do all animals — it was good to hear all animals are treated with respect.

I miss my kitty. I wish he’d just held on another week; the time for me to find the right wire and put it up. I always knew I’d lose him someday — I’ve lost Pete, a black and white cocker spaniel who saved my life by leading me to safety when I wandered off and got lost in nearby forests at age two; Josh, a black cocker spaniel; Rosie, a dearly sweet, always-cheery Golden Retriever who would drag around a two-kilo block of wood, spurning all other toys except tennis balls, and head-butt me in the thigh affectionately; and Morris, an adopted orange tabby furball who learned how to meow my name and lived to the ripe old age of 21. I knew I would lose Malo, but I’d always hoped he would be safe at the end, in my arms, knowing he was loved. The hardest for me is thinking that he died alone, with no one to comfort him. (But I am so very glad that the pound was sensitive and caring. It helps.)

I’ve found this Pet Loss Support Page to be helpful (if anyone knows others, do please share).

Sweet dreams

Posted in Cats, Journal at 16:03

Sweet dreams

I guess it’s fitting that this be the last photo I took of Malo… I’m glad I wrote about him so recently. La fourrière just phoned to say that Malo had been hit and killed by a car. I won’t be seeing him again, since I wouldn’t be able to bear it (the man who phoned spontaneously blurted out “oh no don’t… it’s horrible” when I suggested it). Don’t know what else to say…

Sleeping Kitty

Posted in Cats, Journal at 14:29

Sleeping Kitty

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of chickpeas, stockfish and daube, a white kitten with an orange tabby tail was born. He was not born to a king and queen, just a mother abandoned when her pregnancy was discovered. He had no pedigree and was the smallest of his siblings; there were no fairies at his bedside, good or evil. On a sunny day in July a man came, along with a tall woman who had a funny accent and said she would adopt him. Two months later, they brought him to the Villa Frédéric, which was not a palace, but a real home. The tall woman gave the white kitten a name that was not magic, but had the power to make people smile when they heard it.

Le chat Malo grew up learning how to leap and dance and pounce, how to sleep on laps for hours on end, how to swat at dogs from behind a fence and at the mailwoman’s hat from atop a wall. Three Julys and an April later, the tall woman decided she had to live on her own. She wanted to stay in her home, but learned it had never been hers. She also wanted Malo to remain with her, but the lively kitty was given to someone else.

Le chat Malo was no longer allowed to dash and pounce, nor could he sleep on laps since his fur was undesirable. He became afraid of human arms and hands, learning to hide from them in fear.

But a flower-and-arabesque-covered home had found the tall woman, and the person with le chat Malo was exasperated with his fur. The white kitty with the orange tabby tail was returned, to the joy of the tall woman.

It took many careful months, but slowly le chat Malo relearned that he could trust loving hands and jump onto a welcoming lap. Eight Julys after the first, in their third new home, the tall woman hung a mosquito net. On seeing how happy her sleeping chat Malo looked beneath the sheer canopy, she took a photograph to immortalize the moment. Le ChatMalo au bazar dormant (bazar because it’s still a bit of a mess, and certainly not a bois, forest).

Found chair

Posted in Journal, Nice at 19:39

Found chair

Fate conspired to bring this chair into my life this morning. Walking to the Nice-Sophia bus stop, I noticed its sleek lines sitting daintily between two dumpsters and behind a refrigerator cardboard box filled with trash. I stopped dead in my tracks, stared at it, then looked behind me, to either side, and at the entrance to the building behind it. “Where are your owners?” I asked the chair, looking it over for any obvious damage. Touching the seat, I squeaked with incredulous glee when seeing that it was indeed real leather. Still unable to believe my fortune — I only have a single dining-slash-office chair, which is a folding wood chair I’ve had for years, and wanted another chair much in the style of this one — I exclaimed, “someone threw you away?!” After another pause, finally I grabbed it and took it home. (Continuing the streak of good luck, my bus was late, so I didn’t miss it.)

There’s nothing wrong with it, apart from minor wear due to regular use and age. The back is in beautiful condition, and even the underside is fine. The frame is made entirely of solid wood. I have no idea why it was thrown away, but certainly am glad to give it a new home!

Update: For anyone in or around Nice, tomorrow at 4pm on Place Masséna is Nice’s “Gay Pride”, the Pink Parade promoting LGBT awareness. (This year’s logo of a rainbow-ribbons heart is neat.)

Another new addition

Posted in Gardening, Journal, La France at 12:44

Lemon flower

Yesterday I transformed into Bricol’Girl (DIY Girl), getting a hacksaw with blades for both wood and metal, a level, and another screwdriver for my ad hoc set. (I’ve bought nice screwdrivers on an as-need basis for the last four years, and have seven now. It’s a nice way to make sure they’re all good quality and that there are no extraneous types or sizes that just never get used.) Once home I sawed down the yucca trees that came with my terrace. They’d grown well above my terrace roof, are a plant that’s discouraged in this area since there are far too many (mimosa too are discouraged for this reason, which surprised me when I learned it at our required composting session), and… I don’t like yucca trees. Once I’d removed them, I was astonished at how much more light I had.

Today I got an aerier, less dense replacement for the yuccas, and one whose fruit I’ll be able to eat. I’d never seen its flowers before, or if I had I didn’t recognize them — this is a lemon tree’s flower! I’d hoped to be able to get a dwarf lemon tree, but settled for a regular citrus limon plant. To ensure it doesn’t grow too tall I’ll keep it in a pot (progressively bigger ones as necessary) and prune it regularly (all citrus trees need pruning anyway). I also got some cute little succulents, purely because they were cheap and I couldn’t resist.