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Secret Life of a Nerd Girl: Happiness is a Warm Cat


a blogumn by Gudrun Cram-Drach

One question I’ve been asked repeatedly when discussing my move to France is: “are you bringing your cats?” The answer is, I think… “yes”?

Sorry folks, I’ve resisted it for 13 Nerd Girls, but I have to break down and blog about the cats. I’ve had two girl cats since 2004. They are 5 years old and I adopted them from the Canyon Country cat rescue group. At the time, I was busy with grad school, so I got two. I didn’t want them to feel lonely when I was away, because I am, obviously, their world.

Now, these are impressively annoying cats, as cats go. One of them is incapable of addressing a human being without licking it. You think it’s really sweet until you realize that she’s licking your fingers then rubbing her head on them. She’s using you to bathe, how violating! The other one is a talker, to put it mildly. My ex and I used to joke that in her howling rants, she detailed the horrible things one of us had done to her while the other had been out of the apartment: “…and then, she spun me around her head by my tail, and then she pulled all my claws out and beat me with a frying pan!”

Ahh, you’ve been beating the cat again. Excellent, excellent.

ng14But I love them, of course, and I feel strange without a cat around. I was raised with four cats in the house at all times. Now that my mother has retired and found more time to volunteer with the local Portland cat rescue group, the feline population in the house has increased beyond four, to… many. When I moved in with my folks in December, I planned to assimilate my cats into the pride by Christmas. It was a no go. I tried to socialize them many times, but when they started attacking each other after visiting with the other cats, I gave up. It was too traumatizing, they didn’t want new friends. I believe they feel safe and comfortable in my attic bedroom, and we’re leaving soon anyway. Right?

Outlook is good. Up to 5 cats, dogs, or ferrets per family can be imported to France, no quarantine, as long as you’ve done the paperwork, which is tantamount to applying for a green card.

I have to find a veterinarian accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture to give them a rabies shot, a physical exam, then tattoo or implant them with a standard ISO 11784 or annex A ISO standard 11785 microchip. If I don’t implant one of these chips, I have to purchase the microchip reader that corresponds with the chip I use. The USDA has to sign off on and seal the report my USDA-approved vet has written.

Within 10 days of packing them in “approved for air transport” kennels (according to American Airlines, animals can only fly as cargo on transcontinental flights, which they swear is temperature- and pressure-controlled just like the cabin), they have to see the vet again and obtain yet another certificate of health. I can’t book their travel before 72 hours of the flight because the outside temperature has to be between 45° and 85° Fahrenheit, and once I get there, the border police guy at Charles deGaulle International Airport will most likely just wave me through without even a glance at the paperwork I worked so hard to procure.

After I’ve paid all the vet bills, I can get them on the plane for the low-low price of $1100 based on weight, taxes, surcharges, etc. I estimated their weight at 10 pounds a piece. If I were to tally up the weight of my self and all the luggage I’ll be dragging on that flight, it will probably close in on 200 pounds, and my ticket cost half that much, round-trip.

My mother introduces one of her cats (a rather scraggly looking orange thing) as “this is my $2,000 cat,” because a few years ago he fell off the sun deck and broke his leg. There comes a moment in many animal lovers’ lives when, faced with hospital bills or transportation costs, they have to decide what their pet is worth. Annoying as they are, I know my girls are worth it. Besides, they have un homme of their own: a caramel colored Scottish-Fold named Nutella du Bois Baillon (doesn’t he just sound so French?), awaits his harem. Nut is very relaxed and mellow. He’s used to small children, so he’s tolerant of annoyances. I think he can handle three more when les américaines invade.

So, girls, I know you were torn from sunny California, traumatized for five days of long-distance truck driving and hotel rooms, banished to the attic of a hostile house full of strange cats, but, pack your scratching posts! We’re getting ready to fly. I just hope you’ll forgive me when it’s all said and done.