Monsieur Chat

Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2014

This morning, I woke up about an hour before my alarm and despite my best attempts couldn't get back to sleep. After a while, I decided to hop out of bed and go for a run - maybe I could use the extra time to fold the laundry that's been waiting for me all week, I thought. 

It was a sticky morning, not very warm but somehow very humid, but I was feeling great as I started running, and happy to feel less guilty about the enormous bowl of pasta I ate in front of the TV last night. I was hitting my stride along the Boulevard Haussman, beneath the covered arcades of the Galeries Lafayette department store, when I saw her. I almost ran past, but I found myself stopped in my tracks to see what was the matter.

A tiny cat was cowering in the corner of the closed department store window. Her eyes were round and scared, she had glossy fur and looked healthy, except for a ratty red leash tied around her middle. There are a fair number of people experiencing homelessness that set up camp near these department stores, and for whatever reason this population generally prefers cats to the dogs adopted by wanderers of other neighborhoods. This cat, though, was alone. She was meowing, crying loudly and frantically, and  I despite myself bent down to cautiously scratch behind her ears and sooth her as best I could. Looking up and down the arcade and around the corner, it became clear that she was abandoned.

A man on a scooter pulled up onto the sidewalk behind me, and he asked me if it was my cat. I explained that it appeared to have been abandoned, and could see that the man was pretty concerned about it. After muttering a choice expression or two under his breath about the people that left her there, he asked me if I could take it home. Anyone that knows me, I'm certain, knows that I love cats. We've got two grey cats at home, and I think I receive more photos of them from my family than I do of my family. I am, as they say "a cat person." When he asked me to take it, though, I knew I couldn't. I live with a roommate that I don't think would be a fan, I travel on the weekends, the cat could have diseases... Lots of reasons came to mind. I told him I couldn't, that my roommate was allergic, and hoped he'd take care of it from there.

Instead, he begged me to take her for an hour. Just one hour, he said, and he would come and get her. I felt skeptical. Maybe it's my newly-developed sense of street smarts, but something felt weird about taking a cat at the insistence of a stranger who swore he'd be back for her. As he picked her up, though, it became clear that the cat was very injured. Both of her back paws had mean gashes, one so bad that her little bone was visible through tabby fur. She kept crying, more pathetically then ever, and I agreed to take her. I exchanged numbers with the man, saving him in my phone as Monsieur Chat, and set off gingerly with the little cat.

I was about fifteen minutes walk from my apartment, and quickly realized that this wasn't going to be easy. Because her leg was broken, every time I shifted her position the cat cried desperately, the heartbreaking kind of cry that can't be ignored. I felt a bit overwhelmed, cursing myself for having stopped in the first place and wondering what the heck I was doing. Before I knew it, I was crying too, trying to comfort the little cat and also trying not to seem insane as I wandered home with tear-streaked cheeks, howling cat, and a tattered red leash streaming behind me (I wonder if I did a good job?).

Thankfully, today is recycling day in Paris and so there were boxes everywhere. If there's anything a cat loves, it's a box. I lay my little friend down in a box, and carried her home the rest of the way - no more tears from me and no more howling meows from her. When we got home, I brought her onto the balcony, not wanting her in the house and also not wanting to wake my sleeping roommate with the pitiful meows that were issuing from a fairly soggy cardboard box. I gave her some milk (the cat, not my roommate) and wrapped her in an old towel. I texted Monsieur Chat and let him know that we had arrived, and what time would he be back for the cat? To my surprise, he replied, and said he'd call me at 8:15.

With more than an hour to spare, I headed off on my run as previously planned before the unexpected cat interlude, arriving back with a brand new much better box for the cat and to a phonecall from Monsieur. He would come and get her at 9 o'clock.
I can't pinpoint why it all felt so suspicious to me. Why would this grown man (he was easily in his 40s, and seemingly very normal) care so much about a skinny and lame cat? Why would he cajole me into taking her? Was I the butt of an extremely strange and also unfair-to-animals practical joke on his part?  Swallowing my skepticism, I headed to the shop and bought the most expensive cat food I could see (Lily, my very fat American cat, would drool with envy if she knew...) to feed my little ward until she was collected. She hardly ate, which made me sad, but then fell asleep for a bit, which I was glad for.
Sure enough, I got a phonecall at 9 o'clock from Monsieur Chat, he was outside my building. Carefully closing the top of her box (there were airholes!) I brought the cat downstairs where MC was waiting with a standard cat carrier on the back of his scooter. Trying not to act surprised that this somewhat burly man had procured the perfect tool for the job, I helped him carefully put the cat inside, despite her yawling protests. He was taking her to the vet, and assured me he would let me know her prognosis. I made sure to make it clear that I couldn't (unfortunately!) take her, in case I really was the object of some weird scam where you end up with a cat whose leg has bone showing. We both looked in at the cat one last time, me and this Frenchman with a soft spot for felines. I went inside, threw out the mostly uneaten Tuna Feast and Pink Shrimp, and left for work.

Thirty minutes later, I received a picture message of my little friend at the vet office.

My experience with Monsieur Chat this morning was bizarre, but also gave pause for thought.
For me, it served as a reminder that even when it comes to very trivial matters and very small sad situations, like a lame abandoned cat on the corner of Boulevard Haussman, there are still good people out there, you guys. 

And, also, no matter how tough a big man looks, he might still be a big ol' softie for a cute cat. xx

1 Comment


Sinéad Cloughley said...

somewhere a big fat grey cat is very jealous! but what a sweet story. now we just have to get you your own petite pochette! xx