It was only last Tuesday evening. But life has changed dramatically round here since then.
Our grandson was spending a week with us over the summer holidays, and according to the unwritten summer holiday rules (for things that HAVE TO BE DONE on holiday), we were playing Uno on the terrace late into the evening when suddenly, a plaintive mew was heard. Now, we get a lot of wildlife noises round here at night but not that many from pusscats as we are 2 kilometres from the village.
The miaowing became more insistent so grandson and I grabbed a torch and went to investigate. Eventually we managed to identify the source- a small emaciated kitten which was trying to push through our thick boundary hedge along the roadside. We freed him up and he joyfully joined us on the terrace. He was obviously starving (making a beeline for the dish of peanuts on the table) so reluctantly I defrosted the only thing I had available (some monkfish I was saving for the barbecue) and he wolfed it down, purring incessantly. This little scrap was evidently badly injured and starving but very happy to see humans who might help.
With ‘minou’ purring ecstatically and curled up on my grandson’s lap, there was no way he wasn’t spending the night with us, so a cardboard box was found, lined with a piece of old towel and kitty was safely ensconced in the utility room for the night.
Now the Coles’ household has been distinctly pet-free since the demise of my son’s childhood companions (left with us when he went off to uni and still around after 23+ years) and we had long vowed that we would never be tied by any more pets. Colin would become a real Victor Meldrew and ‘bah, humbug’ anyone who suggested that an animal around would make the home complete, reeling off a litany of smells, cost, fleas, can’t just decide to go away etc etc. So I was quite surprised that he hadn’t put his foot down about keeping the kitten overnight. Maybe it was our grandson’s imploring look! But we had to be sensible. Keeping this bundle of fluff was NOT A GOOD IDEA. So the following morning, grandson and I put together some posters and took them to the mairie (town hall), village supermarket and baker’s. No one had heard of anyone losing a kitten but agreed to put the posters in a prominent position, just in case.
We then did a door-to-door enquiry of our nearest neighbours (eight, to be precise, along two miles of lane in either direction). This took a little longer than anticipated as we met some lovely elderly neighbours for the first time and spent a long time listening to life histories and anecdotes about pets they had had. One old lady told us that she regularly had boxes of unwanted kittens dumped outside her house (and even a box of baby rabbits!) by second home owners who, at the end of their summer holidays, just ‘disposed’ of their holiday pets as they returned to the cities. She suggested that as we lived next to the bridge over the river someone may have just thrown the kitten out of the car at the end of their holiday , intending it to drown in the river .
We arrived back home to find the kitten still curled up in the box but looking very poorly. He had a fever and could hardly lift his head. But still he purred when he saw us! Nothing for it. Once the vets’ clinic in town was open again after the obligatory 2-hour lunch break, we bundled him into the car and took him to be checked over. The vet was thorough and very much on the side of the kitten. She obviously suspected that we were the cause of the poor little mite’s injuries but as I explained the situation she calmed down and showed me that he had fallen onto something that had caused a massive wound that had become infected.
He had all sorts of parasites and infections and had obviously been living rough most of his very short life. With our consent she kept him in to operate on the wound and we arranged to come back in two days.
On the Friday when my grandson and I returned to the vet’s to collect him, the vet explained that the wound must have been caused by him falling (or being thrown) onto a metal spike. It was very deep and had narrowly missed internal organs. As the wound was so badly infected she hadn’t been able to close it- just cleaned it up as best she could, and so she took me through a whole series of treatments that would need to be carried out twice a day until the infection was under control.
With a bag heavy with antibiotics, drips, anti-parasite treatments and other paraphernalia (and a wallet lighter by quite a few euros) we took him home.
One week on, grandson has returned to the UK and Colin and I are here with apparently a new addition to the family. Minuit, Midnight (as we called him due to his blackness and the late hour he presented himself) is recovering in leaps and bounds (literally!!) He has eaten us out of house and home and from one day to the next has grown in strength and delighted us with his madcap antics and affectionate ways.
One big problem arose immediately. We were due to go back to the UK in 2 weeks. Minuit needed constant care and the vet said she couldn’t vaccinate him yet as his immune system was working at full whack to deal with the infected wound. She didn’t think he’d survive an additional onslaught caused by the vaccine. So there was no way we could take him with us or even put him in a cattery. At a loss for what to do, I posted on a Facebook group I belong to for suggestions and immediately got a reply from an amazing lady who only lives 15 minutes away and who offered to look after him while we were away. Having taken in several strays herself she had been in a similar situation and someone in the group had helped out. She said it was her chance to ‘forward the kindness’.
Two weeks on and Colin has abandoned all pretence of being unaffected by the charms of Minuit. Who’d have thought it – two sensible 60 somethings smitten by a kitten?