Pipette + Homeless cats and feral felines in France

Lily (c) Kristin Espinasse
Meet the newest member of our family: Lily (lee-lee). She's a one month old "tortiecat" or tortoiseshell cat (just a fancy name and I learned it from my brother-in-law, Jacques)... though the neighbors might call her "un chat de gouttière" or alley cat. Read on in today's story).

pipette (pee-pet) noun, feminine
   : dropper (measuring instrument)

French definition from Le Petit Larousse: un petit tube pour prélever un liquide. (A small tube for drawing liquid.)

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and its French definition: Download pipette.wav .Download pipette.mp3

Sure, you know the English meaning of pipette, but do you know the French expression: "ne pas valoir pipette"? (ne pas valoir pipette = "to not be worth a thing")


The last fifty hours may as well have been a lifetime. As I type this dispatch, not far from the dreary Drôme,* a little, furry, life draws one more breath, reassuring the worried giant that sits beside her. Perched over the sleeping chaton,* I wonder whether our little "tiger", Lily, will pull through.

"She will be okay. She is just faible,"* Jean-Marc reassures me. She was faible when I found her, on Friday night. After a family van sped by, nearly crushing her, she continued on her uncertain path, staggering all the way.

She might've been a rat, because of her size (five weeks old?) and to her dark, wet fur, which was carrying more than a dozen blood-sucking opponents. She must be one in a litter... I thought.  With all of the rainfall that we have had, she has surely lost her mother's scent and wandered off.

I steered the car toward the little creature and threw open the door before dropping my arm to the pavement, as one drops a safety ladder. And that is how Mademoiselle Lily (lee-lee) crawled up... and into our life. No more than a bag of bones held together by a mean shell of stickers (and how they were knotted into her fur!), she crawled and crawled until she reached my heart whereupon she settled unquestioningly.

With the unexpected passenger curled into my hand (this, over my heart) and a new destination on my itinerary (the town of Suze-la-Rousse, where the nearest veterinarian could be found), the kids and I continued on our way.

The veterinary assistant quickly went to work, plucking off ticks (that had been feeding off an already-famished feline) and pulling out the stickers. Based on the kitten's dark, calico coloring--what the French call "écaille de tortue"*--the assistant said we had a female. She gave Lily one last pulverization of tick repellant, fluffed up her fur, and wished her "bonne rehabilitation"* ... adding that Lily's chances for recovery were "pas certain".*

The kids and I left the clinic with a free tin of fortifying cat paté, and a hopeful outlook all-the-same. Over the weekend, with the help of a pipette, we fed Lily paté shake and cleaned up her messes which followed the feedings. We guessed she was the most beautiful kitten we'd ever laid eyes on, never mind her scrapes, scratches, and bent whiskers, and we wondered about her story (just how did she manage to get her right set of whiskers seared, as if by fire?).

At night Lily slept just above my heart, until I turned out the lights, at which point I set her safely beside my pillow within a walled island of her own. This morning, however, she took another turn on that uncertain path of hers. Lethargic and unresponsive, she seems a thousand miles from here. And while she breathes steadily, it is I whose heart is staggering, just as Lily's traveling paws once did.

It is challenging to speak of a "lifetime" in under a dozen paragraphs and, like that, I will close this story, not having told you much about the sweet, spotted pattern on Lily's fleshy "toes", or the madder-than-mirth miaulement* that one little minou* directed my way, each time I removed her from my person (she is
happiest when held close to the heart). Though, because there is still room to, I'll mention how her sharp claws, cushioned by those fleshy paws, lightly patted my face awake that second morning together, making me wonder how a one-month-old soul could comprehend tenderness.

I hope to have the chance to tell you more about this kitten and those toes and that voice that she can "throw" -- the little tortiecat* that, though on a path of her own when I met her, was, I believe, heaven sent.

                                                                  *     *     *
Update: Lily came out of her "coma" (I failed to mention that detail, not wanting to paint a totally bleak story) just as soon as the kids returned from school. While she still has trouble walking (she regularly falls over) and holding her head up, she did eat and even "complain" a bit. I was never so happy to hear a "family member" nag.

(A sad follow up to this story was posted, here.)

Read about CHATS SOLIDARITE --  a small association in Provence, France.  
"We are dedicated to the care and feeding of the homeless cats 
occupying the ancient Roman ruins in Vaison la Romaine 
& surrounding areas. Our goal is to provide for the welfare of these cats
throughout their lifetimes. We monitor them daily 
to provide food and veterinary services, including spaying and neutering when possible."
Click here to support Chats Solidarité.
= a department in the Rhône-Alps region of France; le chaton (m) = kitten; faible = weak; une écaille (f) de tortue = tortoiseshell (see ); bonne rehabilitation = get well soon; pas certain = not certain; le miaulement (m) = meowing; le minou
(m) = cat; tortiecat = tortoiseshell cat

In books:
Picasso and Minou (children's book with wonderful illustration of Paris and
Montmartre):  From Booklist: "Minou, a robust Siamese cat, lives with young Pablo Picasso in a tiny Montmartre studio. He's not fond of Picasso's latest work--the bleak, sorrowful paintings from the Blue Period that won't sell. When the money runs out, Picasso sends Minou into the streets to find his own food, and the resourceful cat trots home with sausages donated by a boisterous crowd of circus performers."

The Cat Who Walked Across France
"An unforgettable tour of FranceThe cat and the old woman have lived happily together for many years in the stone house by the sea. But when the old woman dies, the cat is packed up with her belongings and sent north to the village where she was born. Soon he is forgotten. He walks the streets aimlessly until, spurred by memories and a longing to return to the place he knows and loves, the cat embarks on a journey to find the home he was taken away from.In lyrical prose and breathtaking images, Kate Banks and Georg Hallensleben take the reader on a journey across the Norman countryside, past ancient ruins, through bustling cities, to the sparkling ports of the Mediterranean Sea and a place the cat can call home."

In Music: French Playground, a musical rendez-vous of fun French and French Creole songs that will delight children of all ages.

Printed in French, Cuisine Et Vins De France features dozens of recipes in each issue along with articles on wine, cheese, appetizers, table decorations, and more.

Normandy Salted Butter Caramels

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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