header image
Home arrow Animals
Article Index
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6
Page 7
Page 8
Page 9

Intrigued, we tracked the noise to its source. And found Guinny - aka Guinevere, Warrior Kitten - and normally such a quiet unassuming cat, performing one of her new training work-outs - charging up and down the stairs, leaping at imaginary foes and raking the wallpaper with her claws.

I think she'd been watching too many Sword and Sorcery films - evil cat burns down young kitten's village, young kitten spends many years learning martial arts, young kitten grows up to avenge attack on village and evil cat gets just desserts.

Unfortunately the Black Cat hadn't seen the film, or if he had he'd slept through the ending. The result being, a fortnight later, a trip to the vet for the Warrior Kitten and a renewed nightly vigilance.

When Gally followed a week later - his back legs having seized up after a particularly nasty bite - our vigilance bordered on obsession.

We slept with the windows open, ears programmed to react to the first meow of battle.

And anything remotely similar.

Sometimes it was a cow, sometimes a bird, sometimes a bandy-legged cicada with a strange stuttering chirrup. The variety of weird nocturnal noises in the French countryside is truly vast - especially when you're wide awake and really concentrating.

But sometimes it was the real thing. And we'd spend an anxious half an hour accounting for all our cats and often as not trying to talk one of them down from a tree.

Anyone who has ever had to rescue a cat from a tree knows that co-operation from the animal in question is non-existent. And anyone who has ever climbed a tree would also confirm that a dressing gown and slippers are not recommended climbing attire.

And a puppy is no help whatsoever.

I wasn't sure how much more I could take. A decent night's sleep became a distant memory, and the words, 'Cat Fight', a nightly scream. I lost count of the number of times I found myself dragged from sleep and deposited somewhere between the bed and the window, not really knowing why or what I was supposed to be doing other than running somewhere and defending something small and furry.

We tried keeping the cats in at night but that didn't work as no one thought of informing Shelagh's subconscious. She'd wake up screaming 'Cat Fight!' I'd hit the ceiling and various articles of furniture and then we'd have a slow descent into reality.

Made even slower by the all-encompassing darkness and the leg-encompassing jaws of our faithful puppy.

Our one consolation were the words of our vet. It would soon be over, he told us. In the spring, cats fight. It's the season for it.

I hoped someone would tell Shelagh's subconscious.

The cats were not the first of our animal population to visit the vet. That honour had fallen to Gypsy within the first week. We hadn't been able to have her vaccinated in England due to the export regulations - no vaccinations were allowed in the month prior to embarkation - so she was overdue.

The cats made the most of it, sitting on the patio making little needle signs with their paws as Gypsy passed by, her nose pressed against the inside of the car window. Cats can be cruel. Especially to impressionable puppies.

Once in Aurignac, we dragged Gypsy into the waiting room. I think she could smell the warning signs as soon as we approached the vet's - years of panicked animals having marked the surrounding area. But once inside, Gypsy settled down and apart from the odd verse of nervous singing she was fine.

Unlike Shelagh, who can't be left alone in a vet's waiting room - not when there are leaflets and posters about animal diseases to be worried over. She spent a good five minutes in front of a map of France showing the number of rabies cases by département. And mentally crossing off a large chunk of north-eastern France from our list of places to visit. Next came the leaflets - tastefully arranged on a long coffee table in order of skin-crawl, with everything you never wanted to know about fleas, tapeworms, ticks and roundworms.

The tick leaflet was Shelagh's favourite. I'm not sure how many times the picture on the front had been magnified but this tick looked like a minor asteroid with skin problems. And it carried an infection - pyroplasm - which was endemic in France, especially South-West France, and fatal for dogs.

This was something not mentioned in any literature we'd ever read on living in France. And we'd read a considerable amount. By the time it was our turn to see the vet, Shelagh was ready to pack up and return to England.

"Why didn’t you tell me about pyroplasm?" she hissed.

"I'd never heard about it!"