I’m aware that Ronnie James isn’t the only cat to ever do such a thing – this is no doubt a typical feline stunt.

I hate to be one of those people always obnoxiously gushing about her cat’s intelligence, but sometimes I feel the need to indulge, especially when there’s photographic evidence.

On Monday afternoon, I separated the dirty laundry into two piles, one of light colors and one of darks. I left the room for a minute, and when I came back, I found that Ronnie James had a). figured out which pile matched his fur, and b). inserted himself into the pile.



Ronnie James in the darks


I don’t think he had any motive beyond demonstrating his ability to sort himself into the appropriate laundry pile… I mean, I don’t think he was trying to get out or to gain free admission to a thrilling ride in the washing machine or anything like that. He loves it here in the apartment, and he’s very good at bathing himself. He needs neither to escape nor to submit himself to the rigors of an industrial cleansing. No, it’s clear from the expression on his face that he’s just satisfied with his own analytical abilities. Bet you can’t find me, Mommy!



Stealth-mode kitty


He must get his camouflage talents from me. If there was a kitty Army, he’d join!

Presenting the Mythical Nounours – Another Cat Post, but the OTHER Cat!

If you read this space regularly, you know Ronnie James by now. He’s featured in most of the NOT UNLIKE banners of Callaghan’s creation. You couldn’t be blamed if you’re unaware that we have another cat, Nounours, since photos of him rarely appear here. For one thing, he often stashes himself away under the bed during the day (the French reflexive verb “se cacher” for “to hide oneself” is so perfect… it’s one of my favorite French verbs), making himself unavailable for the camera. It’s even harder to photograph him being comparable to something else (as in the NOT UNLIKES), because he’s the kind of cat who tends to look the same in every picture.

Nounours! The Cat Formerly Known as “Bruce Willis,” who, in concept, actually started out as one of The Three Stooges.

It was about this same time last year that we arrived at the decision to get cats. After my feline daughter Detta’s disappearance, we were missing kitty paw-steps in the house, plus we had an issue with rodents in our little wilderness abode.

Our initial idea was to adopt three adult males and call them “Larry,” “Curly” and “Moe” after the guys in The Three Stooges, but we reconsidered, deciding that just two cats would be better.

We brought the big guys home and named them Ronnie James (after rocker Ronnie James Dio) and Bruce Willis (after the actor).

Ronnie James learned his name right away, immediately, on Day One… but Bruce Willis never responded to his. The name just did not work for him. Calling “Bruce Willis!” would get us nothing but completely ignored. It was like he hadn’t heard us at all.


Nounours (formerly known as Bruce Willis) on the left, Bruce Willis on the right. UNLIKE.

Nounours (formerly known as Bruce Willis) on the left, Bruce Willis on the right. UNLIKE.


He did learn his nickname, though: “Nounours” (“teddy bear” in French). Eventually, we gave up on “Bruce Willis” and officially changed his name.


The French medical passport of the French Nounours, pictured wearing his French beret. But he was born on the 4th of July!

The French medical passport of the French Nounours, pictured wearing his French beret. But he was born on the 4th of July!


But! As it turns out, Nounours, when he decides to show expression, DOES resemble one of The Three Stooges – Curly. He’s like Curly in other ways, too. He’s round, warm and friendly. He’s rather slapstick in his behavior, and he’s not, um, the sharpest blade in the drawer. He pokes his brother and tumbles around. He’s a total goofball.

Yesterday, he happened to be out and about, and he was being unusually expressive, so I capitalized on the situation and spent some time stalking him with the camera. Hence, I can present the first NOT UNLIKE featuring Nounours!


Nounours on the left, Curly from The Three Stooges on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

Nounours on the left, Curly from The Three Stooges on the right. NOT UNLIKE.


Have a great weekend, Everyone!

Close Encounters of the Kitty-Snatching Kind

We’re all happily ensconced in our place now, but the getting here was not without its perils. The Ronnie James kitty almost got abducted by a UFO the second we stepped over the threshold into our new apartment.

To begin with, it had been a long journey for the little guy. First, the morning we left France, he fell terribly ill as a result of the vet-prescribed sedative – NEVER AGAIN, by the way – we gave him and his brother, Nounours, in preparation for travel. (Thankfully, Nounours did not have this adverse reaction.) Next, there was the cramped, cold and damp taxi ride to the airport in Lyon two hours away, where we boarded a flight to Frankfurt, Germany.

At the Frankfurt airport, kitties sat patiently in their pet carriers while Mommy and Daddy sucked down beers, waiting to board our next plane. (What. It was Germany! Having lived there for two years, I’m incapable of stepping foot in that formidable country without imbibing their ambrosiatique – there, I just invented a word – brews.) Then there was the long flight to Houston, Texas… trans-Atlantic, halfway across America, non-stop. It was a 10-hour flight, but we were actually on the plane for 12 hours, since bad weather in Frankfurt caused a two-hour departure delay. Two hours sitting on the plane on the ground, 10 hours in the air. Our boys were beautifully behaved the entire time. No one even knew they were there. We were so proud!

We're American kitties now!  Rah Rah Rah! Now let us out!  **NEWSFLASH**: the inside of these carriers look the same here as they did in Europe.

We’re American kitties now! Rah Rah Rah! Now let us out! **NEWSFLASH**: the inside of these carriers look the same here as they did in Europe.

We spent the night in a motel in Houston. Ronnie James and Nounours knew exactly what to do… I opened the kitty suitcase to bust out their litter box, and they used it immediately after I set it up. They drank water and gobbled down their crunchies and the canned food we set out for them. They raced around the room, took flying leaps through the air onto the sofa, bounced around on pillows and cushions, got more cuddles and kisses and praise than they knew what to do with, and slept. The next morning, we packed them back up in their carriers, buckled them into the back seat of the rental car (being the responsible parents that we are – “BABIES ON BOARD!”) and hit the road for the three-hour drive to Austin.

A friendly sign along the way.

A friendly sign along the way.

In Austin, our final stop was supposed to be our new home, but there was an unforeseen problem with the apartment. We found ourselves pulling a fast Plan B out of our ass and checking into another motel room, where we stayed for four days; thankfully, that was as long as it took to find and move into our ideal new place.

By the time we’d secured that new place, though, Ronnie James and Nounours had already decided that they were home. In the motel room.  They had a double bed all to themselves, courtesy of the large, gruff-looking man behind the counter who’d kindly insisted that we take a free upgrade since kitties “might be more comfortable in a larger room.” They might enjoy a bed to themselves, he reasoned. (It turned out that the motel staff loved cats. We were told the story of how the night shift guy’s cat followed him to work every night, lording over the front counter with Daddy.)

How right he was! Kitties did, indeed, adore having their own bed.



They also enjoyed the maid service. We straightened up the room every morning and always made sure to leave the “Do Not Disturb” hanger on the doorknob before going out (me being paranoid that kitties would slip out and get lost if someone went in), but at the end of each day, the room would be immaculate, and there kitties would be, lounging like little princes on their bed, looking suspiciously as if someone had brought in silver platters of caviar and sea-brine champagne while we were gone. They probably got smothered with complimentary kisses and attention while we were gone, too. They were as content and purring as kitties could be. Ronnie James looked particularly blissful.

Maid came to change mah sheets!

Maid came to change mah sheets!

So when the time came to check out, Ronnie James balked. Because, you see, not only were kitties being treated like royalty by the motel staff, but there was an armchair in the room. As far as Ronnie James is concerned, home is where the armchair is… especially if said armchair gets daily catnip treatments, as that one apparently did. Throwing everything back in the suitcases and approaching Ronnie James with his empty kitty carrier earned me this expression:

What is that you have there OH HELL NO I am NOT getting back into that carrier. There is nothing wrong with this armchair, see.

What is that you have there OH HELL NO I am NOT getting back into that carrier. There is nothing wrong with this armchair, see.

For the first time in the whole five-day ordeal, he resisted us. He cried all the way to the new apartment. And when we brought him inside and released him, his world blew apart in a mist of terror when he stepped out, looked up, and spotted the Unidentified Flying Object from hell:

Spinning black blades. Lights and flickering shadows. Wind. WE COME FOR YOU NOW.

Spinning black blades. Lights and flickering shadows. Wind. WE COME FOR YOU NOW.

It was unlike anything he’d ever seen before. Adding to the problem was the fact that, being in his carrier, he’d seen nothing between his cozy motel room and this.

He did not get to see our harmless-looking apartment from the outside.

Not scary. Top floor, corner unit. It's peaceful. Summer quiet (students gone) or all the time quiet, I don't know, but it's lovely!

Not scary. Top floor, corner unit. It’s peaceful. Summer quiet (students gone) or all the time quiet, I don’t know, but it’s lovely!

He did not get to see our completely innocuous front door.

Not scary.

Not scary.

And he did not get to see the benign view from our breezeway.

Not scary.

Not scary.

He only saw this:

The menacing, spinning bladed aerial beast lies quietly in wait.

The menacing, spinning bladed aerial beast lies quietly in wait.

His level of alarm took me by surprise. It hadn’t occurred to me that the sights and sounds specific to a warm-weather place would concern the kitties, but of course… duh! In France, kitties never knew the low-grade hum of an air conditioner, and they certainly did not know ceiling fans.

It took almost a week for Ronnie James to adapt. The first two days, he huddled alternately under the bathroom sink (having quickly learned how to open the cabinets) and in the corner of the kitchen counter, where we brought him food and water. (Meanwhile, Nounours was fine. As Callaghan put it, you could drop a piano in front of him, and he wouldn’t blink an eye. He is, however, terrified of garbage bags.) On Day Three, Ronnie James ventured out to use the litter box. I picked him up and held him close in his favorite cuddly position. His eyes widened to the size of CDs and he shook violently with fear in my arms as he watched the flickering of shadow caused by the ceiling fan in the next room. My heart broke.

Finally, he realized that the rest of us were still alive after four days of normal life activity under the ceiling fans, and he started to gradually lower his guard. This process was helped by his discovery of the beat-up old armchair we’d found just for him on Craigslist:

Mine! Mine mine mine.

Mine! Mine mine mine.

He’s all fine now, our little Wrah Wrah James, wandering around and making his little “wrah wrah” happy noises.

UFO? What UFO? I'm chilling under my ceiling fan!

UFO? What UFO? I’m chilling under my ceiling fan!

Belly rubs pleeze and thanks sez the Ronnie James

Belly rubs pleeze and thanks sez the Ronnie James

Too much excitement around here. I'm out.

Too much excitement around here. I’m out.

And Nounours (AKA “Mr. Sheds-a-Lot” – no need for the year-round winter coat here!) has been enjoying the company of his brother again, whom he’d missed during his week of hiding.

Ah... now we're really home!

Ah… now we’re really home!

More Than You Wanted to Know About Our Cat

Our biggest armful of cat goes by the name “Nounours.” (In case you were wondering, this is the one who was originally called “Bruce Willis.” That name never worked. Nounours is French for “teddy bear,” and he responds to it.)

The upper half of Nounours was slung over Callaghan’s shoulder, the lower half was cradled in the crook of his elbow, and his back paws were tucked into the palm of his hand… 17 pounds of cat you could barely see under the smothering that was taking place. Yes, the kitty pampering in this house is shameless and pathological.

Anyway, so there’s Nounours, snuggled neatly in Callaghan’s arms, and there’s Callaghan, caught up and carried away in the bubble of kitty love.

“He’s so happy and proud, this Nounours!” he gushed, covering Nounours with kisses.

“With his big blue eyes!” I said, rubbing Nounours’s fur.

“Look at him, gros Nounours!” said Callaghan, bursting with kitty-daddy pride.

“With his pink ears and butterscotch and cream fur!” I said, kissing his velvety nose. “And his little pink nose with freckles!”

“He’s got a pink ass with freckles, too,” Callaghan added.


CAKE! (Now That I Have Your Attention)…

Happy February! Let us eat cake.

“It’s funny how much bigger Bruce Willis is than Ronnie James,” said Callaghan as he watched our cats play together. “They remind me of the Galette des Rois.”

Galette des Rois. Cats. I’m always intrigued by Callaghan’s mental leaps.

“Galette des Rois” translates to English literally as “Kings’ Cake.” In the States, we usually just call them “King Cakes.” They hit Louisiana bakery shelves on 6 January (the beginning of Epiphany) and roar on up to the Mardi Gras carnival celebration in the middle of February (the culmination of Epiphany, the last three days of which are known as the big Mardi Gras street bash after which hardly any of the carnival-goers remembers what happened because of the epic scale of the debauchery that took place). King Cakes are as heavily associated with the New Orleans Mardi Gras as beer, boobs and beads. They are not, as far as I know, associated with cats. Nor do they resemble cats, even remotely.

For one thing, cats are not ring-shaped twists of yeasty dough, and they are not sweetened with icing and dyed purple, green and yellow.

I guess some of the French patisseries in New Orleans also offer the solid round puff-pastry French version of the King Cake, but the traditional New Orleans garish rings are what come to mind when I think of King Cakes… so much so that when Callaghan first pointed out the Galette des Rois to me here in France, I didn’t even realize I was looking at the same thing.

“Like the ones we saw at Lili Croustille the other day?” Callaghan continued as he spoke of the cats. “I was looking at the Galette des Rois, you know, at the 8- and 6-part ones. Bruce Willis is the 8-part one.” I figured that by “part” he meant “serving.”

We’d actually bought one those cakes, an event I won’t likely forget because I’m human, and humans have a tendency to remember embarrassing moments for all eternity. Because when we got home from Lili Croustille and I went to cut that cake, I couldn’t do it.

I inserted a sharp knife blade into the buttery, flaky crust and hit resistance right away. I pressed harder, but the knife didn’t progress. I started sawing the knife back and forth, quickly checking over my shoulder first to make sure Callaghan didn’t see me struggling to slice the delicate dessert. No luck. Finally, feeling completely ridiculous, I added downward pressure to my sawing action. And then I gave up.

I’m sure Callaghan thought I was hopeless, but he gamely came over and looked down at the cake where it rested all innocent-like on its little round cardboard thing. The cake looked smug. It was grinning up at me. Yes, it was.

“What’s wrong?” Callaghan asked as he studied the cake.

“It doesn’t cut,” I said, accusingly.

I took hold of the knife again and made another attempt with Callaghan standing there, watching. Once again, the knife stopped half-way through. I kept the blade where it was and moved it slightly to the side and saw a small, hard figurine. A figurine! I made the connection. I guess King Cakes all over the world have a figurine or something equally menacing inside, poised to choke a person or foil her slicing attempts.

Callaghan never did elaborate on his thought process.

King Cake, French style (Galette des Rois)

King Cake, French style (Galette des Rois)

King Cake, New Orleans (Mardi Gras) style

King Cake, New Orleans (Mardi Gras) style

Bruce Willis (right) and Ronnie James (left)

Bruce Willis (right) and Ronnie James (left)

See a resemblance?