18 September 2014

Cats, kittens, and neighbours

The Czech Republic seems to be a nation of dog lovers. Most of our neighbours have at least one. Many of our Czech friends have a dog or two. Dogs happily use public transport. Dogs go camping. Dogs sit next to their little old lady owners who are sunning themselves in the park.

Cats, on the other hand, have less of a privileged life.

I think that a Czech cat must have told this to the two cats that we brought with us from England. In England, they often proudly brought home old hair bands and broken zip ties; however, a few weeks after moving to the Czech Republic, we started to get more usual presents of half dead mice. My theory is that they, worried by reports that Czech cats must earn their keep, decided to prove their usefulness.

Having cleaned up my third 'usefulness' of the day, I really wish they would go back to hair bands.

A few weeks ago, our lovely Lily disappeared. We walked through the whole village, we called vets, we put up posters, we talked to neighbours, but sadly, it seems she is gone. I'd like to think she has found a nice home somewhere else. Probably some place without a toddler.

In my desperation, I talked to many of the people in the village. This included a group of older women, who were momentarily confused by my poor efforts to explain that I was looking for our missing cat.

Finally, realisation dawned. One turned to her companion and said, 'To je žena, která nemluví česky.' [This is the lady who doesn't speak Czech]

'Jo jo, pan Rákos mi o ni řekl,' [Oh yes, Mr. Rakos told me about her] the other said, smiling indulgently at me.

So, in other words, I'm famous.

Or at least my bad Czech is.

Once they readjusted their expectations, they seemed to understand me ok, and one even stopped by our house a few days later with news of a possible sighting of Lily.

With Lily gone, I felt the need to encourage good cat karma, and so when a pregnant stray started to hang about, I couldn't bring myself to chase her away.

'If you don't close up the shed, that cat will have her kittens here,' L said.

I didn't.

She did.

And so one night when I went to get something from the shed, I discovered that we did not, in fact, have a mouse infestation.

I was thrilled, L shook his head, and Smalls immediately announced that the mother was My Big Cat (bigger is better, apparently).

I've been trying to find homes for the five wee things, and so have been talking to the neighbours again.

One neighbour told us that another neighbour would quickly drowned any kittens she found if they were small enough, or, if they were too big, would walk around dropping them one by one into other people's gardens. Plop, plop, plop, like some kind of crazy, kitten-distributing Easter Bunny.

Apparently, my grandma, when she heard about the kittens, announced, 'What Expatová needs to do is get a big box and find a pond...', so I suppose I've stumbled upon a cultural similarity.

One morning, I went out to feed the kittens and they were gone. No sign of them anywhere. Not in the loft of the shed, not under the shed. Poof.

And so, I talked to any and all of the neighbours again.

And then, remembering the story of the crazed cat distributor, I made little pamphlets and Smalls and I stuffed them into our neighbours' mail boxes.

The next night, My Big Cat returned without the kittens. Fresh out of the bath and still in my bathrobe, I stalked the poor thing through our garden and down the street until she disappeared into the shadows.

A few mornings later, all of the kittens reappeared, hungry, happy and as though nothing had happened. Even L breathed a sigh of relief.

And so I am back to asking the neighbours if they know anyone who would like a very sweet kitten.

And that, my friends, is how you stop being known in the village as the lady who doesn't speak Czech.