Here’s Squeak the kitten in a photo I took a few weeks ago. The wrapper he’s playing with is another story that I’ll talk about closer to Christmas. Today, it’s all about pet care in France.
Soon after I took this photo, Squeak lost his name tag and a day later, he disappeared. This would be less of a worry had he been microchipped. However, in France, the usual age to neuter and microchip a kitten is eight months. At almost six months of age, the vet thinks he’s too young. This seems to be normal in France (compared with four months in other countries I’ve lived in).
Notices went up around town, and the search began. I checked little paw prints in the snow and found some that led to an open drain. Had he been washed away? I found myself calling for him outside and doing tours of the nearby underground garages in case he had been locked in accidentally. I left food out at night. I asked neighbours and friends if they had seen Squeak. Everyone said the same thing: “Don’t worry, it’s his age: he’ll be back in a week once he’s found a girl cat.”
By the fifth day, I kept thinking I could hear meows. I must have checked the door ten times in a few hours! Thankfully, he turned up a few hours later, meowing loudly and looking battered and swollen. He couldn’t eat, so he stayed overnight with the vet. The next day, he was given the all-clear to come home. The vet thinks he was hit by a car or fell heavily due to a broken incisor and his swollen face. He didn’t think it had any relation to Squeak’s age and non-neutered status. After some pursuasion, the vet agreed to do the operation when Squeak turns seven months in January. He already has a new collar and identification just in case he runs off before then, but I suspect he’s learnt his lesson.
I can’t help but feel that eight months is a bit late. With so many stray kittens that end up dying over winter every year here, it seems that earlier neutering would prevent a large chunk of these kittens ever being born, and earlier microchipping might reunite some truly lost kittens. For all I know, little innocent Squeak has just initiated the whole new-kitten process. Should he have the chance to sow his wild oats? Is it unfair to ‘give him the chop’ before eight months? Is my Australian cultural background clashing with French values? Who knows, but as soon as that seven-month mark arrives, he’s off to the vet!