Tuesday 4 August 2009

Chacun Cherche Son Chat

In one corner of Paris, two missing cats. The sheer numbers of posters and messages pasted up on walls and drainpipes in the area show that these are well-loved friends, and seeing the names and photos, and reading the desperation in the words of the owners always pulls a heart string or two. It’s my automatic reaction to start looking for the animals myself, so I wander around the surrounding streets to see what I can find.

"Time spent with cats is never wasted” wrote Sigmund Freud, so perhaps this explains why so many people keep them as pets in cities. If the world could be divided into dog people and cat people, I would definitely put myself with the feline crowd, but I have never thought it fair to own a cat in Paris. They are perfectly adaptable creatures and can make themselves at home in almost any environment, far more so than dogs, but my belief is that house should have a cat and a cat should have a house with a catflap. Apartments above the ground floor are just not the right place for a cat, and this perhaps is the answer to what has happened in these two situations.

Flavio fell out of a third-floor apartment, whilst Monsieur, who knows his name and responds to it, apparently wandered off one day and didn't return. Both lived within a street of each other and must have crossed each others paths on several occasions. Cats are solitary animals, so it is unlikely that they were friends, but it is curious that they have been reported missing at the same time. If the police were involved, this link would be the first line of their enquiries.

Further along the Rue des Cascades I find a cat. He doesn't fit either description unfortunately, and what's more he is made of paper. He is a very handsome cat though, and seems to have found a very comfortable perch from where he can view the comings and goings in the street. I'm sure he must have seen something and could be a valuable witness, but I'm not sure whether cats can be trusted in a court of law or not.

Like most cities, Paris has its fair share of cats, even if they are less well-known internationally than the Parisian Poodle. Unlike Rome or Athens, there are very few stray cats, with just a handfull of moggies to be found in the city cemeteries. It is unlikely therefore that Flavio and Monsieur have had their heads turned and I don't expect to find them wandering around with a latter day O'Malley. Indeed, I'm sure that they are more like Toulouse and Berlioz.

Around the corner I find a cat comfortably installed in a gallery window. He almost matches the description of Monsieur so I call his name and he looks up. I'm pretty sure he's more interested in my camera though, and the owner seems to be working in the gallery behind. He is clearly a proud cat, another in a long line of felines owned by an artist. Jean Cocteau painted them and Chateaubriand, Zola and Baudelaire welcomed many into their homes.

J'aime les chats parce qu'il n'existe pas de chats policiers” (I like cats because there are no policecats) said Cocteau, and perhaps this is a worthy conclusion. The beauty of a cat is its indepedance and free will. I hope that no harm has come to these cats and I pity the owners who find their home now to be uncomfortably larger and colder than before, but if the cats have decided to simply try a new life elsewhere then who are we to stop them?

Quiz question (and spoiler!): The title of this post is from a Cédric Klapisch film. That film had a happy ending, but where did they eventually find the missing cat?

Don't forget also to download the Invisible Paris Street Art walking tour.


Starman said...

I've never seen that movie. When I was a kid, we had several cats, but it has been more than thirty years since the last one.

Ken Mac said...

i think new yorkers are more dog lovers...could be wrong

margaret said...

Adaptability--thy name is Cat! I once had a magnificent male tabby who was quite faithful to me. That is to say he always came home for dinner. Just the same, I knew for a fact that he made himself quite comfortable all around my neighborhood. I recall coming home from work one day and seeing him through my neighbor's window, fast asleep on the kitchen counter--definitely a forbidden zone in *my* house!! Oh, the shame! ;-)

CarolineLD said...

I agree that cats and flats don't really mix - I haven't come up with a good design for a first-floor catflap yet, so am catless! However, Margaret's cat has many imitators round here judging by the rather generously-built felines strutting the local streets.

Cergie said...

Le chat ?
Dans la cuisine (sous l'évier s'il m'en souvient bien) de Madame Renée !
Ce film est un film sur les malentendus. On se croise, on croit se voir, on ne se voit pas.

houston Kenna said...

What a great post, I actually found it very thought provoking, thanks camara chat

Anonymous said...

I saw it when it came out. I think the cat was under the stove.

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