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She appeared at the kitchen door of our Provence home and even though the last thing I wanted or needed was a cat, she adopted us.
Perhaps the plate of milk and a little bit of tuna persuaded her she’d found some suckers. But, there was no way we could have a feline friend dependent upon us.
We traveled too much, plus we commuted between Paris and Provence. Stability was not our middle name. There wasn’t even a reason to name this cat since there was no way she was going to become a family member. As a result, she was called Kitty—even though a friend named her Voilà. I was having none of it since she wasn’t a keeper. Or so I thought.
After a ten-month-long absence, we returned to Provence to be greeted by a striped cat with a crook in her tail waiting in the parking lot. My husband was delighted. I was not. On top of that, she was feral and would drag snakes to the door as a present. Plus the carcasses of birds she snared. For someone who’s a city person, this was too much.
Fast forward—Kitty wormed her way into our lives and into our home. Before I knew it, she hiccupped and produced four offspring. Thank goodness Sarah Fox, Executive Editor of Bonjour Paris and her three-year-old daughter were visiting and took over supervising the miracle of birth. I knew it was natural. But it was too natural for me, especially at 5:00 a.m.
When I took her to the vet to be spayed, have her shots, and so on and on, I knew I was trapped. By this time, Kitty was adapting to being an indoor cat and liked sleeping under an electric blanket when the mistral was blowing.
Perhaps Kitty liked Provence, but I didn’t love it during the winter when it was cold and the wind was roaring down the Rhone Valley. Could Kitty adjust to being an apartment cat? After buying a carrier, she hopped in it and we both started commuting by TGV between Avignon and Paris. Her ticket cost five Euros. She was a trooper and never made a peep throughout the entire trip. When she was in the apartment, she’d look outside but never attempted to escape. Kitty knew when and where every ray of sunshine was going to appear and you could find her in the precise spot—sleeping.
She was such a seductress that she even persuaded Joseph Lestrange to take her to a café. I was against it but had zero say. Kitty liked Paris and quickly understood why I so loved the City of Light where there was action and so many more people to make a fuss over her.
When I started needing to spend more time in the U.S., I found out what it was really like to spend money. In order for her to have an E.U. passport, she needed to have a series of shots including rabies. After six months, she needed a blood test to show the shot had been effective. The regulations are constantly changing but those were the days when animals couldn’t be admitted to the U.K. unless they were quarantined for six months.
Then there was the obligatory identification chip that had to be inserted in her neck (90 Euros, merci) and the vets on both sides of the Atlantic knew they had an annuity since Kitty needed an international health certificate (how many stamps can you put on multiple copies of the same health form?) within ten days of traveling. When I heard my neighbor on the plane hack and sneeze, I wished the same criteria applied to humans as to our pampered pets.
Kitty crossed the Atlantic a minimum of 25 times. When United Airlines raised its fee to $250 EACH way, I would stay on the phone and tell the agent Kitty deserved frequent flyer miles not to mention a meal. All I asked for was some ice in case she was thirsty.
The adage that pets become like their owners and vice versa is true. Kitty would board a plane and immediately fall asleep and stay that way until we landed. Many people are allergic to cats, but no one ever complained about my furry companion since no one knew she was there. I’d put a blanket loosely over her carrier and she wouldn’t even snore.
Kitty was accumulating a packet full of papers, instructions in French and in English, two vets and numerous caretakers to cover when I was traveling to Asia or places where she wasn’t welcome or would have been a prime catch for someone’s dinner.
Thank you Stacy, Riza, Jenny, Jonann (who’d send me a daily update about the princess complete with a photo) and Budd who became a second parent for this femme fatale feline. Budd and Kitty were so bonded that she’d go for walks with him in the hall of his apartment building.
Kitty died prematurely because she had feline AIDS and couldn’t fight off an infection. When I held her as she was going to sleep, she mumbled a meow. I’m certain it was with a slightly French accent.
To Kitty—thank you for being my friend and companion and I’ll miss you forever. And to be sure, when we have our “conversations,” we’ll continue to discuss how you were able to get an E.U. passport and I wasn’t.
With love, July 27, 2009
© Paris New Media, LLC
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