There was no shortage of jokes about looking after Parisian cats prior to this sit: “Won’t they be horribly arrogant?” But Charmaine’s household was nothing like that at all, in fact they made me feel very welcome. I arrived at their flat at 9.30 in the evening and it looked as if a bomb had just exploded! Charmaine explained she still had to tidy up as well as pack her bags for her upcoming trip. Meanwhile, she welcomed and entertained me. This was the moment I had dreaded beforehand: being knackered and having to speak French after not having done so for quite a while… Much to my relief, she was quite a chatterbox, which suited me just fine after a long day of hard work followed by a train journey. She made it easy for me to get accustomed to the French language again.
“Luigi is special,” she said about her youngest cat. Personally, I find all cats exquisite, so I’m not automatically impressed if somebody makes such a statement. Especially if this person is the owner! But to start with, Luigi was a very sociable cat. His flat mate Polochon was more the solitary type, so she was of no use to him. Perhaps that’s why he was aiming his attention towards the humans present. Quite often, he’d come and ask for some fuss, or evenings he’d often be sitting on my lap or right beside me.
Luigi was quite good at communicating his needs. Now I know more cats can do that, and often it’s not rocket science to understand what the cat wants: a healthy appetite quickly leads to a meow. But this boy was still a kid, he hadn’t been ‘helped’ yet and he definitely needed his time outdoors. That lead to him hanging around the front door until I had gotten the message and helped him to go outside. Meant to keep burglars outside, this was a track that was probably if not certainly impossible for a cat to cover all by himself. Step 1: opening the door of the flat towards the communal hall. Step 2: opening the door towards the stairwell, leading towards the ground floor. Step 3: opening the door to the central hall of the building. Step 4: opening the door towards the inner garden (the complex consisted of two buildings. All the while, he walked by my side, waiting patiently each time another door was opened for him! Once downstairs, he meowed as if saying goodbye, and then disappeared into the garden.
It was a cold period in the month of February and I was a little bit worried if Luigi would be home in time for dark! “Don’t worry,” Charmaine said, “he’ll always find a place to shelter from the cold”. She was more worried about him being able to defend himself against the other outdoor cats! And almost every time I passed the inner garden, he would be there!
Until that time that he wasn’t. He wouldn’t respond to my calling him, and even rambling his bowl with biscuits wouldn’t help. Time and time again I walked towards the window to see if I could spot him downstairs, or if could catch his attention by calling his name. Finally, he showed up, right before dark. Happily, he followed me up the stairs, thankfully starting his evening meal.
At one of my last days there was a strange smell around the house. I feared the worse, but couldn’t detect the cause. Nevertheless, I cleaned thoroughly but to no avail: the bad smell was lingering. While sitting on the couch in the evening, I found out the cause. The cushion that Luigi had been lying on so comfortably time and time again was soaked! Apparently, he had peed on the sofa… The cushion left the house indefinitely and I was quite grateful there was a plasticized cover around the matrass on the sofa bed. Charmaine was all apologetic: “He urgently needs his operation, I’ve been postponing it…”.
On my last day, Luigi was still outside in the garden when I had to leave the flat in order to catch my train back home. His owner wouldn’t be home until the next day. This time, Luigi would have to spend the night outside!