Ellen Lampert-Greaux lives in Petite Saline, and when she's not organizing the local film festival, or supervising the local volleyball league, or writing for various magazines, she turns her sharp eye upon local happenings.
IT'S A CAT'S LIFE
Before I moved to St Barth I always thought that cats were like ovens: self-cleaning. Of course I had never had a cat (being partial to Springer Spaniels myself) and the few cats I had ever met where pretty much inside cats that had nothing more to clean than a few Manhattan dust balls off the bottoms of their pink paws.
But in addition to its other assorted populations, St Barth has an abundance of cats, and somehow or other three of them live in my house.
One of them simply appeared in August of '99, and luckily for her, my daughter Rachel and grand-daughter Melissa were here as well as a four year old friend and two of our nieces, aged four and eight at the time. "You've got to keep her, you've got to keep her," they all cajoled. "We have two cats already," I countered, but I could see that this argument held very little water in the face of a five-member feline fan club. Not to mention the fact that my daughter once had two cats and when a third one needed a home, I talked her into keeping it. "What's the difference," I said, never thinking she would have a chance to use the same line on me. "You've got two cats already, why not three." Well turnabout is fair play, so my husband and I got talked into keeping a small yellow female cat who looked strangely pregnant. So we called the St Barth Animal Action lady who promised to pay if we had the cat neutered. So off to the vet she went. Turned out not to be pregnant after all (just rather barrel shaped), so after she was "fixed" she came back to stay. The girls named her Chanel (perhaps since she has such a stylish coat). In the past year she has slimmed down considerably, mostly
from running away from the two male cats who also live here. They are
"literally" brothers and they didn't find us, we actually found them. In
April of '98 we were sitting around the living room at my mother-in-law's house in Flamands when a white streak ran through the house. Maman pointed out that this white cat had been hanging around for a while, so my brother-in-law followed here into a back room. And there behind a board leaning against the wallÉ meow, meow, meow, three little kittens who would hardly need mittens living on this island. They were tiny, maybe a week old.. One white, one orange, and one orange and white mixed. Of course we had to keep them, so we took the mixed one and called him Biscuit. My brother-in-law who lives next door to us took the orange one, who became Caramel (they were nicknamed Off The Sofa and You Too!). They are inseparable and often curl up in ball of orange and white fur, like the yin and yang of catdom. The mother cat, aka Christine, and the all-white brother still live in Flamands at Maman's and a sister-in-law's across the street.
But everybody on the island has a cat story. One bold mamma cat showed up at a friend's house right after hurricane Jose. Hungry and with kittens to feed, she stole an entire cooked chicken that had been left out to cool. Next she moved her kittens in, at which point my friend's husband said she'd have to choose between the cat and him. As far as I know, they are all still living together.
The first time I came here in 1989, I flew back to New York with a young woman and her mother. They had decided to decrease the island's feline population by one, and had a sweet little cat ready to fly home with them, rabies shots and all. They called her Bonne Chance (good luck) which is probably what they needed themselves. And is exactly what I need. My cats roll in the dirt and flop on the bed, leaving my sheets looking like a gravel pit. At least I don't need to worry about fresh water for them. They line up on the bottom step leading into the swimming pool to get a cool, chlorinated drink.
CATS may have closed in New York, but they still put on a pretty good show around here. Maybe we should all take preventative medicine, as these four-footed fur balls certainly know how to worm their way into our hearts.
More to come,