One common feature of middle-of-nowhere France is stray cats. Each year we let out the house as a holiday gite. During last summer’s holiday season, with the wreck and ruin part of the house still under renovation, I was living in a caravan at the back of the barns, and of course the inevitable stray cat showed up. It was a small female, very wild (if you got too close it would claw you) and I used to give it scraps of food, as you do. You can probably see from the photo below that this was not a domesticated cat:
Sometime in late May/early June the stray cat had three kittens. They all lived in the barns. There were two small black ones and a larger kitten that was black and white. This larger kitten sort of adopted me and used to come in the caravan. Unlike its mother it was a very friendly cat:
At the end of last summer the mother cat got knocked down and killed by a tractor in the lane (it happens often to the strays around here). After that the three kittens disapeared. Then, in the autumn, one of the small, black kittens showed-up again, and it’s been here ever since. It’s now a much larger cat and will soon be one year old. I’ve christened it ‘Herrick’ (after the 17th century poet I’m writing a book about). Here’s Herrick exploring the kitchen in the main part of the house:
Over the last six months I’ve finished renovating the 1st floor of the wreck and ruin, and it’s now a very large open-plan space with a kitchen and bathroom, and a cat flap at the top of the stairs, because it’s been Herrick’s home since Christmas. The idea behind the renovated part of the wreck and ruin is that it acts as both an owner’s apartment and laundry while there are paying guests in the main part of the house during the holiday season; not that Herrick cares, because Herrick turns out to be Herricka: last Saturday, on a wild and stormy night, I went into the owner’s apartment to discover Herricka on the bed, where she had just given birth to two kittens. Herricka and the kittens have now been moved to a cat basket:
We kept meaning to have Herrick/Herricka ‘done’ but thought he/she was still too young to breed, not knowing much about cats! Doing some research, a cat’s gestation period is usually just over two months (depending on the breed of cat), so Herricka must have been rogered sometime during or after the freezing cold spell we had in February (I suppose it was a way of keeping warm). Kittens are born blind, in that they don’t open their eyes until about ten days after birth. I use the owner’s apartment as my office, so this means that sometime around the middle of next week, as well as Herricka driving me mad there’ll also be her two kittens out exploring (computer equipment and kittens are not a good combination).
An often asked question in middle-of-nowhere France is: do you want a kitten?