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Once a year a team come to the village and we are asked to take our animals to the community centre, where they will be vaccinated against rabies free of charge. Our vet has told us that the free vaccine is too heavy for Bella and Baloo, so they get vaccinated at the vets and will do until they are older. The cats and Benjy all have to be done though. Taking six unhappy cats and one nutty dog to be vaccinated, is a task and a half.

The first thing is find the cats. They are always hanging around the house, that is until you want them, then they simply disappear. I’m sure the village animals know when its vaccine day, you can hear people all over the village calling their cats and dogs. .

Our cats are:

Millie; who hates all the other cats and regularly prowls round the house, looking for one of the others to beat up.  When she came to us as a tiny stray kitten, she had a slice missing off the top of one ear. We think she’s psychotic, if she was to wear an outfit, it would be black thigh length boots, mini and a leather jacket. She would have an earring, strategically placed to emphasise her slashed ear and wear heavy black eye liner (well that’s what the kids and I have come up with).

Millie  had kittens, two of which she carried out and deposited in front of Benjy who promptly killed them.

We had all the cats spayed and since then Millie has become hormonally challenged, she now behaves like a tom and sprays all over the house. Yes she’s a lovely cat.

Greasy Maria; who despite her name really is the prettiest of things and usually the victim of Millie’s unprovoked attacks. My son adores her and she tolerates all sorts of rough love from him, even seeking him out for a bit of a squeeze.

Mushka; who is the fluffiest, most elusive and very loving, he tried to look after Millie’s kittens before they were murdered.

Bushusha; who is a terrible thief, any fish, meat or bread that isn’t under strict observation will be gone in a flash. She’s the most vocal, voicing her displeasure at the dogs or just yowling at me for a bit of attention. For some unknown reason, she’s my favourite. Bushusha was one of Millie’s victims,  but has decided enough is enough. Those two now often prowl around after each other, having violent but fortunately brief spats.

Linx and Tigger are brothers, sons of Millie, who somehow managed to survive her complete lack of mothering. They now try hard to keep out of the way of the masses of other male cats who live around here.

Much to my surprise I managed to find all our cats quite quickly on the day of the vaccine. Now we just had to get them in the hold all’s which I use if and when we need to move the cats..

Millie was put into a hold all by herself, protesting loudly. I’d managed to get Tigger, Mushka and Greasy Maria into the bedroom. With the door shut there was no escape but getting three cats into one bag, well not easy even with two of us. One cat in, two cats in, third one almost in, first one out and so on. After a lot of fur flying, we succeeded.

The last two were relatively easy. Linx is so laid back,  only protesting when the bag was shut.  Bushusha always comes when I call, but once in the bag she sang out her protest in a long loud wail, setting all the other cats off. She almost managed to escape but my daughter caught her and got a long deep scratch on her arm for her trouble.

Benjy was put on the lead and muzzled so he can’t bite anyone. Bella and Baloo were persuaded back in the house, looking very fed up as they obviously thought I was taking Benjy for a walk and thought it would be great fun to go out with all the cats as well.

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My daughter took Benjy and the bag with Millie in, I took the other bags, one on my back, the other over my shoulder, all yowling and spitting and trying very hard to find a way out.

Already exhausted, we set out.

The community centre is roughly 350 metres from the house. Not far, but over soft sand, in blistering heat with sack loads of angry cats all yowling their protest and rolling around in the bags,  it was hard work. Benjy doesn’t often have to walk on the lead, when he does, he zig zags back and forth in front of you, then round the back, between your legs etc. From a distance we must appear to be dancing, trying to unwrap ourselves from the lead as we go. Benjy has to mark his territory every five steps and twice managed to pee up my daughter’s leg, much to her disgust.

There were peals of laughter as we passed some of our neighbours, I’m sure they think we are somewhat mad to have so many cats. Actually I think  some of the cats we have, were cast in our direction as tiny wee unwanted kittens by some of our neighbours, them thinking (rightly) that I being a mad foreigner, would take pity on them.

We arrived at the centre, just as the vaccine team were getting ready to leave, I can’t say they looked best pleased to see us. I asked if it was too late. A man in a hat asked if it was just the dog, I said no, the dog and six cats.

Seeing three bags he said, “Ok dog and three cats.” I said “Dog and six cats, three in there, two in there, one in there.” Another member of the team said they would need more needles. The second man asked the man in the hat, how many needles he should get, the man in the hat said “Well we have one dog and five cats.” ” SIX CATS!” sang out the chorus of people who had come over for a laugh. The man in the hat looked a little offended, he looked at me and then at the group of observers and said “Six cats?” at which there was a group nod.

One by one the cats were done. Each time a bag was opened the cats, sensing a chance of freedom made a bid to escape, only to be foiled by the strong arms of the vaccine men. The men are obviously well used to dealing with angry cats and the vaccines were given in a jiffy, Benjy being the most difficult, I practically had to sit on him.

Now we had to get home. Sweating buckets we set out, the return trip was a little easier as the cats were quieter now, with only momentary protests. Benjy clearly knew he was heading home and practically dragged me there, it’s sometimes quite handy to have a dog that pulls.

Back at the house, I opened up each bag, the cats were slightly wary of getting out, looking about to have a quick check no one was going to do anything nasty to them again. Then off like rockets, often giving me a yowl of protest as they went, a bit like my son when I wont let him have something he wants “Don’t like you.”

Thank god we only have to do that once a year.

©Claire Pattison Valente 2009

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