Happy cats in Paris

Posted in Cats, La France, Travel at 19:07

Susu and Kanoko sharing a chair on the balcony

At home on my lunch break, I took what is quite possibly my favorite photo of the cats to date. They had never shared the chair on our Courbevoie balcony before, but today they did, and my camera caught Kanoko in another of his quintessentially feline “I am happy” expressions.

I’ve now taken the TGV often enough to earn Grand Voyageur status. My new card came in the mail today; Susu seemed quite interested in it.

Grand Voyageur card and curious Susu

There are two higher levels: Grand Voyageur Plus and Grand Voyageur Le Club. It’s nostalgic for me, because I’m just old enough to remember when airline mile clubs were all the rage, and business travel with one added up to a lot of perqs. Now that those have all but disappeared, I’ve nonetheless gained a… train card that comes with perqs! I’ll hit Plus status in a month, and likely Le Club not too long afterwards. You can exchange points for train tickets and/or gifts, get hotel reductions, use the special travel salons in stations, exchange train tickets much more easily, and for the highest Club level, if you miss your train for whatever reason, you can even get on the next one without exchanging your ticket. For free. All you have to do is notify the train controller.

No matter which card you have, the Voyageur programme is pretty nice. It’s free, and means you don’t have to print out your ticket, since it’s linked to your card’s QR code – those square barcodes you see everywhere nowadays. Controllers have QR code readers and simply flash your card. Bienvenue au futur !

Fenced-In Foe of Flapping Pigeons

Posted in Cats at 20:32

Cats dozing
Two Sundays ago, Kanoko had climbed my patio fence to stalk a pigeon roosting in a tree on the opposite side. The pigeon, none too comfortable with the situation, flapped its wings, which surprised Kanoko, who took a bad fall and hurt his left hind leg. He limped inside, grumbling cantankerously, and sat at my feet, where he continued to groan and sigh. He wasn’t bleeding, and a careful evaluation of his leg seemed to show no broken bones. He remained alert, with no signs of shock, so I wrote my office a quick email to let them know I wouldn’t be coming to work the next day, since I needed to take my cat to the vet.

In the vet’s office the next morning, she had Kanoko walk a bit to show how he treated his leg. He put no weight on it, but was still relatively alert, although clearly fatigued and grumbly. The vet suggested putting him under general anesthesia so she could move his leg for x-rays without causing him unnecessary pain. That way we could be absolutely sure there were no broken bones. I agreed.

A few hours later, the x-rays were finished: no broken bones! Kanoko seemed to have a very bad sprained knee; the vet thought it most likely that he’d torn the knee tendons, considering how much abnormal movement was in the knee and how little weight he put on it. The exact details didn’t much matter in his case though, since cats have the peculiar ability to recover from sprained and even torn tendons on their own, without surgery or splints. She prescribed bed rest: absolutely no pigeon-chasing, and as little jumping as possible. I was to return in a week’s time to confirm that Kanoko was doing well enough that surgery wasn’t required – it can be used for torn tendons in cats, in rare cases where recovery doesn’t happen on its own.

Kanoko, being the intelligent feline he is (apart from chasing pigeons he can’t catch, anyhow), was very good about being careful with his leg over the week, and improved noticeably.

Yesterday we went for his return visit. Again the vet wanted to see him walk: I sat him on the floor and moved a few paces in front of him, kneeled and encouraged him to walk towards me. Kanoko crouched. He slowly, almost imperceptibly, slit his eyes and put his ears part way back. He did not move. “Allez mon grand, viens, marche un peu !” I asked him. The vet gently kneeled and reached out to him. As if in slow motion, Kanoko stood just enough to creep away… showing that he was indeed putting more weight on his leg. He crept, as surreptitiously as possible in a well-lit veterinarian’s office, to a corner with a radiator, where he stuck his head and pulled in his body until he imagined he was invisible, an immense brown tabby Coon “blending in” with the white radiator to his side and the two white walls of the corner.

The vet and I laughed. Kanoko flicked an ear back, then forward again, otherwise motionless. Since all was well, I carefully picked him up, and a few minutes later, we were on our way home.

Susu has been making sure that Kanoko’s been warm and well-licked.

Cats waking

From kitten to cat

Posted in Cats, Journal at 14:20

Today is Miss Susuwatari’s – soot sprite’s – first birthday! She’s gone from being a bright-eyed kitten to an equally bright-eyed young cat. Following is a retrospective over the past nine months that she has been with Kanoko and I.

Susu - first day    Susu’s first day with us, two months old (I had been told she was older; usually it’s best to wait until a kitten is three months old before separating it from its mother) – 29 October 2011

Miss Susu Long-Legs    Two months later – 1 January 2012

Susu    Eight months old – 29 April 2012

Susu one year old    One year old today!

And now for those adorable eyes.

Susu's eyes of mischief    Two and a half months old – 5 November 2011

Susu's eyes    One year old today

Just over four years ago, Mister Puff-Ball, Kanoko, had been found by a neighbor, abandoned in an apartment building entry. No one ever claimed him. Here’s how much he’s grown and changed in that time – his fur really was dull at the start; he probably hadn’t been fed very well.

Kanoko    26 July 2008

Irresistible Kanoko    Today, 25 August 2012. Amazing how he’s blossomed, isn’t it?

They’re both utterly adorable lovebugs, such wonderful companions.

Cats and snow

Posted in Cats, Nice at 16:08

Here you have my Mister Furry-Britches, aka Kanoko, accompanied by Miss Soot Sprite, aka Susu. Filmed in 720p HD for your viewing pleasure. I’d just gotten the handheld camcorder, so hadn’t yet changed the settings to 1080p, but well, it’s cats. I hope to catch Susu doing her “throw my own toys” trick soon, and some of the funny shenanigans she and Kanoko get up to. As you can see even in this short video, they get along pretty well.

I also hope to film things in my part of the world – this is just a little camera, but I’m already impressed with how well it films. Plus, as it’s so small, it will be easy to put in my purse and take everywhere.

We’re in the middle of a cold snap in France, the Riviera included. A couple of days ago we had snow, though mainly in the back country. I walked up a nearby hill to photograph what I could from Nice.

Vue de l'observatoire, Nice

Vue de Cimiez et des collines

Happy holidays

Posted in Cats at 16:21

"I would like a bird for Christmas."

After watching me eat stuffed quail, Kanoko hinted that he too would like a bird for Christmas. Then Susu joined him. She turned 4 months old on Christmas day, and has been growing visibly.

Birdwatching kitties

May your holidays be filled with warmth and cuddles!


Sunny autumn

Posted in Cats, Cycling at 20:21

2004 GT i-drive XC 2.0

We’re having gorgeous weather here in southeastern France this autumn, with noon temperatures so balmy that I need neither a coat nor a long-sleeved top! It’s been beautiful for mountain biking. I still have the GT I bought almost 6 years ago. Here you see it in my entry, set against the bedroom door, also showing off those floors I worked so hard to restore! Recently I bought new shoes, a pair of Mavic ‘Chasm’, which were recommended by the same shop where I found my bike. The two guys there have always been great. They don’t know I have a website, so this plug for their shop is entirely my own decision: drop by Vélo Concept if you’re ever in Nice and need anything road- or mountain-bike-related, even if it’s “just” for a city bike (they carry those too!). They’ve always listened to me, their recommendations have always been reliable, and they have great senses of humor, to boot.

I love my new shoes. It’s like having a new bike. The difference with my previous mid-range lace-up shoes truly surprised me. When I stand on my (clipless) pedals, it feels like I’m standing on solid ground. I already loved climbs before; now they’re even better, because there’s no loss of muscle power in any corrections due to unstable shoes – my feet stay where I put them, moving the pedals.

In other news, I haven’t updated recently because I started a new project at work a few weeks ago. It’s enjoyable as well – all in all, life is good. Kanoko and Susu are still like two peas in a pod (very bouncy peas in a constantly-moving pod), and Susu is as much of a sweetheart as Kanoko, so I’ve been feeling very spoiled by two adorable, well-behaved cats who gleefully share their time together and with me.

Susu, 3 months old

Sleep and play

Posted in Cats, La France at 15:23

Susu and Kanoko waking from their nap
A third cat post in a row (with opera!) – I’m still resting after the marathon of doing my Masters degree while working full time! Kanoko and Susu continue to build their friendship, and spend most of their days napping together, with the rest of the time spent play-fighting.

Last Sunday I went to the first Monte Carlo Opera performance of the year, Arrigo Boito’s “Mefistofele“. Erwin Schrott was excellent in the title role, and the orchestra played beautifully.

I have a subscription for the full season, but oddly enough, the MC Opera doesn’t have detailed seating diagrams, so I didn’t quite know what my seat would be like until attending “Mefistofele”. Happily, it’s as good as I was told over the phone: orchestra level, on the side but near the more expensive central seats, and just where the rear section begins, so I don’t even need to use binoculars! “Mefistofele” was performed in the more modern Grimaldi Forum, so I haven’t yet seen how my seat will translate to the original opera house, the Salle Garnier, but am looking forward to it. Will have to wait until January for the next opera, however! It will actually be two shorter, single-act pieces: “La Navarraise” by Massenet, and Ravel’s “L’Enfant et les sortilèges“.

New friends

Posted in Cats at 17:04

Kanoko and Susu, synchronized grooming
Susu (the new black kitten) has been shadowing Kanoko since her second day with us. On her first day and night, she cried constantly – it was clear that she missed her birth family. She continued crying on her second day, but noticed there was a big, fluffy, calm cat around. She has since made it her singular mission to win Kanoko’s heart, and as you can see, she’s made good progress towards her goal!

I feel very lucky, since it’s rare that cats get along so well so quickly, even when one is an adult and another is a kitten. Susu was clearly socialized well, because even as a mischievous kitten (all kittens are full of mischief!), she behaves wonderfully and still hasn’t gotten into any trouble, not even at night nor when I’m out of the house. Kanoko has been around other cats all his life, and is also well-behaved. Their personalities go well together, and it’s a delight to see them both happy to play with one another.

Susu was a bit wary of cameras at first, but lately has let me take more pictures of her. Especially after I photographed Kanoko sitting on the ADSL modem.

Kanoko graces the ADSL modem

She then jumped up next to him, and once finished grooming, finally let me take more shots of her.

Susu pretending to ignore the USB and keyboard cables    Demure Susu

Another new feline family member

Posted in Cats at 18:31

Susu - first day

About a month ago, a colleague told me that another of our co-workers had kittens he was looking to give away. The mother cat had been scheduled for spaying, but she fell pregnant just before! The timing was great, since the neighbors just above me got a kitten a few months ago, and Kanoko was simply delighted to play-chase with her across the fencing (she climbs down into the courtyard, and can’t get on my patio). Seeing that, I knew Kanoko would probably be just as happy to have a kitten friend at home, and would welcome one as easily as he did the neighbor kitten. I agreed to take one of the four kittens.

Three were grey tabbies, and the fourth was all black. Grey was a grey tabby, so I opted for the black kitten. It turned out that s/he was so shy and rambunctious, that the man caring for the mother and kittens could never get close enough to tell whether s/he were a “she” or a “he”! I didn’t mind since Kanoko is easy-going; female or male, either would have been fine. But what to name her/him?

Studio Ghibli films are some of my favorites, so I went through possible names: “kurosuke” was too straightforward (“kuro” means “black” in Japanese); “Jiji”, the name of the black cat in “Kiki’s Delivery Service” sounded too much like a rather vulgar word in French; so I thought perhaps “Mei” would be good for a female – it’s the name of the little girl in “My Neighbor Totoro”. Then a friend and fellow Ghibli fan mentioned that the soot sprites are also called “susuwatari”, and that “Susu” could be a good name, as well as “Tari”! That was perfect.

Today the little sprite finally let her/himself be caught, so the guy ran with his good luck and kindly drove her/him to my place in Nice. S/he cried and hid a bit at first, but after only an hour, had figured out how to push open a door far enough to get through and sneak past me without noticing. I thought I’d lost her until she finally mewed her presence behind the washing machine!

I was able to pick her up and put her back in her area, and noticed that she is indeed a female. So, here you have miss Susu the soot sprite! She and Kanoko are getting along swimmingly. As I’d hoped, Kanoko is peachy keen on having a new friend, and has been his usual sweet self. Susu cries a bit for her siblings and mother still, but seems comforted by Kanoko’s presence, since she keeps approaching him for sniffs, with ears forward and tail perked. I’m delighted it’s going so well, I never thought they’d be comfortable together so quickly.