Moving countries can be a lonely business. If you’re leaving family behind, you need to find a new support network in your new country, and sometimes that’s not easy. Even if family come with you, there might be language and culture barriers that prevent an easy transition, and family members aren’t always at home when you need support. That’s where pets come in.
Pets can provide a sympathetic ear when you feel physically isolated from loved ones or the community. They’re patient, loving (usually!) and dependent on you, giving you a purpose at a time when you might feel lost.
I travelled for years without a pet, then I had the good fortune to move into a household with a cat in Cambridge. Gingerpus (can you guess his colour?) provided a group of housemates with a proper family feeling that helped us bond with each other quickly and easily. When I moved to France, I adopted Bruno the cat, who passed away almost a year ago, and life has frankly been less fun without him. Although I now feel settled, pets still conjure memories of childhood pets and that feeling of security. It was time for cats or dogs, and cats just seem easier.
Let me introduce the two new arrivals. To the right is Squeak the kitten (because he squeaks all the time), and below is Pantoufle (French for slipper), a ten-year-old girl from the SPA animal shelter. They’re in separate photos because they’re still getting to know each other. Typically, they are happy to eat out of the same bowl (even though they eat different food), but they won’t sit next to each other yet.
One thing about pets in France is that each year gets a letter to help identify the age of animals. For example, some French authority recommends that animals born in 2008 are named beginning with the letter D. The letters continue with the alphabet up to Y, then restart at A. So animals born in years with U, X and Y no doubt end up with names that begin with other letters.
If we were to stick to the rules with the two new arrivals, Pantoufle’s name should start with a U and Squeek’s should start with an I. So, Ulysses and Icarus? Names with those two vowels are a bit difficult, so we flouted the recommendation and gave them their names without that restriction.
Of course, owning a pet is a big decision. Any plans I had to move countries are now on hold, and will only eventuate if I feel the two cats can cope with a move. It looks like Le Franco Phoney won’t become Cibo Vita any time soon.