It’s been an expensive couple of weeks. Our cat, Millie, has really been testing our affections, and has managed to run up some rather hefty vet’s bills.
We got Millie and her sister Lucette from a rescue centre in 2006. They were two years old but were absolutely tiny and looked just like kittens. They had suffered a hard life already, having been abused by their previous owners. They were in the rescue centre with their mum and their father/brother. No, “father/brother” doesn’t mean we didn’t know if this cat was their father or brother. We knew. He was their father. And their brother. Indeed.
So yes, having never had any animals before (other than suicidal goldfish), Alpine Papa and I found ourselves looking after (and falling in love with) two very scared, very furry, very inbred cats. When we got them home they immediately hid in the cupboard under the stairs, and it took some time (and a lot of tuna fish) to coax them out, of both the cupboard and themselves. But coax them out we did, at least to some extent, and these cute balls of fluff were soon keeping us warm through those long UK winters (and covering our clothes, house, and guests’ legs in long, white cat hair. Joy).
Millie got sick in about 2007. Luckily she was insured, because her treatment ran into thousands of pounds. This is when she first started to test how much we loved her: for months on end we had to force steroid tablets down her throat with every meal – not an easy feat – to combat the liver disease which was making her as yellow as a corn-fed chicken. Finally she overcame that, hurrah. Then we found out she had diabetes. Not hurrah. Treatment for diabetes in cats? Insulin injections. Every 12 hours. No joke. Ever tried to inject a cat? It’s not easy. We had just moved to London, I had just started my training contract, and I was being paid a proper salary for the first time ever. We should have been out on the town all the time, making the most of those bright city lights and gold pavements. Instead I had to be home by midnight – not in case my black cab turned into a pumpkin, but rather because Millie would get sick again if we didn’t inject her on time. This caused much mirth amongst my new friends – “no sorry, I’ve got to go home now, I need to inject the cat” was a common if somewhat bizarre comment from me on Friday nights.
But, luckily for our finances (the insurance had by then run out) and for our social life, the diabetes went away after a year, and all was good again. And Millie worked her way back into her hearts, as we slowly forgave her for ruining our social life…
Lucette sadly died at Christmas 2008, and Millie was a bit lost for a while. But she filled that big hole in her life by becoming more affectionate towards us, and she spent more and more time on our laps (covering us in yet more hair).
This increased affection did (slightly) compensate for the fact that, basically, Millie’s not a good cat to have around. She won’t go outside (except in the garden to sunbathe), and so we have to have a cat-litter tray which always seems to be in the way. But although she has a litter tray, on occasion she seems to think it would be more amusing not to use it. We therefore often come down in the morning to find a big cat crap on the floor. Thanks Millie. She moults. Everywhere. All the time. I am constantly chasing balls of fluff along the floor with the Dyson, but it’s an interminable battle. All black clothes – including our work suits – are generally covered in a layer of cat hair which never disappears, no matter how much we brush her or our clothes. My brother-in-law is allergic to this never-ending supply of cat hair, so we have to keep a never-ending supply of antihistamines in the medicine cabinet. She has ruined our sofa with her claws. She’s a fussy eater who will only eat Iams cat food and tuna. She sits on the stairs and on the kitchen floor, seemingly with the sole aim of tripping us up (something she achieves at least twice a day). And I have lost count of the number of cardigans and jeans she has clawed holes in.
All in all, then, she is not the easiest pet. Judging from Alpine Papa’s grumblings about her (and his shouts of anger each time we’re presented with yet another cat crap in an inappropriate place), he thinks so even more than I do. I was therefore surprised (and quietly pleased) that he took it as a given that we would take Millie with us when we moved to France.
We had to get her a Pet Passport of course (it is an actual passport. There is even a place to put her photo…Not kidding). This came to about £200. Alpine Girl’s French passport cost £13. There’s something weird about that….
Alpine Papa then drove all the way to the Alps with Millie in the car, hoping that the journey didn’t kill her. We had spent so much money on taking her with us, it would be rather unfortunate if she didn’t even get here…
But she made it, and seemed rather happy here, chasing crickets in the garden and lazing under the clear blue sky with not a care in the world.
But as the summer came to an end, a grey cloud appeared on the horizon – we were slowly running out of Iams, the only pet food Millie would eat. Guess what? You can’t buy Iams in France. Disaster. The little princess was loftily turning her nose up at any other delights we offered her, sneering and walking away in distaste as if we had just presented her with a fresh cowpat from the field next door. As the Iams ran out, she just stopped eating.
We were tough though, we knew we could win that game. So we continued to offer her French cat food. She couldn’t go on hunger-strike forever. She’d eat when she got hungry, right?
Um, apparently not. I don’t know if Millie is a ‘special case’ or whether all cats are like this, but she would rather DIE than eat something she didn’t want. Actually die.
After a few days it became clear that it wasn’t just a hunger strike; she was poorly. We caved in and ordered some Iams from England. But she refused that. She even refused the tuna we offered. That’s when we knew it was serious. We took her to the vets who confirmed that her liver troubles were back. We tried to treat her from home but soon she was so ill that she had to go in, and it was touch and go for a few days. Her week-long stay in the animal hospital cost more than we would spend on a week-long stay in a nice hotel, and when we finally brought her home she would only eat roast chicken. Spoilt cat.
But then, horror of horrors, we ran out of chicken. So Alpine Papa made the 15 minute drive to the supermarket with the sole purpose of buying some fresh, free-range chicken (spoilt cat). But it was Saturday evening. And, in true French style, the supermarket was closed. No 24-hour shopping here – frustratingly, shops close at 7.00pm on Saturday evening, and don’t open again until Monday morning. Or Tuesday, sometimes (taking Mondays off because they open on Saturdays). And everything (literally everything) closes for two hours at some point between midday and 3.00pm. Heaven forbid that they actually make it easy for customers to do any shopping.
So Millie had to make do with no roast chicken. So, again, the spoilt brat went on hunger strike and soon we had to take her back to the vets. They ‘cured’ her again and now she’s back, eating so far. I’m not convinced she’s not anorexic. Bloody cat.
So, basically, I appear to love this annoying, stupid, hairy cat so much that I have somehow turned into one of those crazy cat-ladies that I swore I’d never be. I have spent thousands of pounds on Millie’s wellbeing. I have spent longer preparing her roast chicken than I have on preparing meals for my family. I have imported cat food from the UK just because the French stuff doesn’t appeal. What has happened to me?!
Millie obviously appreciates the fact that we have forgone all foreign travel for the next three years to pay for her vet’s fees, though. When I came downstairs in the dark at 6.00 this morning, barefoot, I found that Millie had left me a present. A cat crap on the floor. Which I walked in. Thanks Millie.
Anyone want a cat?