Marcel was truly a unique cat with a unique story: The one of a traveling cat.
Before I adopted him, I had Lucy, whom I lost after nine months of feline AIDS. I had been very saddened by losing her without not really getting to know her enough. So in January 2001, I went to the same shelter I had adopted her, and that’s when I met Marcel.
That ISPCA (Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) shelter in Rathfarnham, Dublin, Ireland, was very dirty and ran down: a high kill shelter. They had told me that if the cats were not adopted, they were eventually being put down.
I had my eyes on a different cat, a beautiful tuxedo with a red collar. But I also liked Marcel, who had a different name. He would gently lay his head on my hand through the wire cage. Although Marcel had been put for adoption at the Rathfarnham ISPCA, I truly believed and joked about the fact that he came from Tallaght.
I chose the tuxedo cat. While the vet technician was preparing the adoption papers, I stepped out to take a look at the dogs. After about five minutes, the vet technician called me to say the owners of the tuxedo cat had called and were on their way to pick him up. I therefore had to pick another cat, and that’s how I chose Marcel.
His name was given to him for three reasons, one, I am French and Marcel was adopted on Saint Marcel’s Day, as according to the French calendar, which falls on January 16th. That day is also my nephew’s birthday. Finally, and mostly, his name was given to him because of Marcel Marceau, the famous mime.
Marcel was very shy, a white cat with a black tail and beautiful black markings on his head, like eyebrows. He also had a small black circle on the back of his head.
The following morning of his adoption, he was hiding under the couch. All I could see was his big green eyes staring at me.
Although he was an indoor cat for the first three months of his life with me, he eventually got trained to go outside. But on Easter weekend 2001, he got lost and was nowhere to be seen. After about three days, I decided to knock on every door of my neighborhood until an old lady opened her door. I asked her if she had seen my cat. She asked me to wait behind her front door. She came back after a couple of minutes with a picture and said “is this him?”
Nodlaig had put pictures around stores for a missing cat that she had found. However, our corner shop had refused to let her put up her sign and therefore I had not been aware of her actions.
When I entered her house, I saw my Marcel on her bed sleeping. He had found her house and backyard suitable to his taste and thought he would adopt her house for himself. Of course, the fact that she had two cats did help a lot on his new lifestyle.
She actually had a tuxedo cat and a full white cat—both brothers from the same litter—the black one called Yu and the white one called Tu.
So what were the odds that a French U2 fan like me, who had left everything to live in Ireland out of dedication to her favorite band, would end up adopting a cat that would befriend a couple of others called Yu and Tu?
Nodlaig was a highly literate woman, a retiree from the Irish National Library, who would only listen to classical music. Her nephews had told her of a rock band, Irish in all, called U2. On her landline phone, her answer machine would go something like this: “Me, Yu and Tu are not in at the moment and cannot take your call.” That was hilarious.
Marcel was particularly good friends with Tu, as Yu was more independent. They would sleep and play together. Think about this, he had a couple of buddies called Yu and Tu, a nice quiet home with a backyard, and a lady who would feed him every day and let him use her bed to sleep on. Life could not get better than that.
Every day, after work, I would come home exhausted, but would have to pick him up at her house in order to spend some time with him and remind myself that I did own a cat. Once I would have him home, he would refuse to eat his food because he had been fed previously at her house. Every day, I would envy him for spending his days at 12 Washington Street and having the life of a prince.
When I would go home to France during my annual vacation, it was handy to have her because I knew she would take good care of him. One time though, she did go on vacation and I would have to pick up my cat as well as feed her cats. This happened once when she went on a trip to the United States to visit her sister.
After a few years in Ireland, I moved to the Netherlands for work reasons and Marcel followed me. Nodlaig was devastated and Marcel started missing his friends, especially Tu. But eventually, he adapted well to his new home. Having him move to Holland was not an easy task. Being born on an island, he had to have a passport in order to move to the continental Europe, and also to make sure that all his vaccinations were up to date. He also could not fly direct from Dublin to Amsterdam and had to fly separately to Heathrow airport in London, England. His passport had to have his full picture, with his date of birth, which was an approximation since he had been adopted from a shelter.
When I eventually got him back in Amsterdam Schiphol, the poor cat was exhausted from the long day traveling, but he was happy to be reunited with me. Imagine that in a single day, he had traveled by car, air, and train!
He adapted well in Holland. He was able to wander at night and explore the back streets. One day, he came back with some egg shell stuck to his whiskers. I wasn’t too happy, of course not, because I love birds, but I have to admit that it was funny. He also brought back a moth one night. Boy, was he happy with his moth!
After a year in my first Dutch home, I moved into an apartment. After one year, suddenly, Marcel was confined to live indoors permanently. He also hated being alone during the day. I can still picture his sad face looking at me, begging not to leave for work. But when I would return, he would follow me everywhere, meowing to be fed.
His favorite snack of choice was his turkey slice. I would buy turkey slices just for him and he would wait by the door of the fridge to miraculously open for his snack time. Otherwise he wasn’t too fussy for food, I would just avoid anything gravy because he would lick it and then not eat the rest of the food. One other thing that he absolutely loved was shrimps, he could just smell them fresh out of the bag but could never figure out what would take me so long peeling off the skin.
I would dedicate about one hour every evening to play with him. He had his favorite toys, a fish on a string in particular, but otherwise totally discarded noisy toys.
During my years in Holland, I did travel to France a couple of times and Marcel came with me. Yes, that’s right, my Marcel did travel from the Gare du Nord to the Gare Montparnasse; a true little Parisian he was! He travelled to France by train many times, and loved chasing geckos in my parents’ backyard.
I also lived briefly in Spain. I had a balcony and Marcel really loved smelling the sea air and lazing in the sun. He also enjoyed the shrimp snacks full time because over there, they were big and delicious.
I moved back to Ireland in 2009 and Marcel had to adapt again living in his homeland territory. This time though, I was living in the country. There, Marcel was more exposed to the wild life. He hated the neighbor’s dogs but befriended a Norwegian type cat whom I would call Dracula.
Dracula had been abandoned and had health issues. First I never quite figured out if Dracula was a male or a female, so I assumed he was a male. He had to survive for his life and possibly a few times, he had to eat bones or whatever junk he could find. As a result, his jaws had been damaged and seemed dislocated, hence his name.
In the morning, Dracula would wait outside the window with his teeth sticking out, waiting for food. I tried to let him in the house a couple of times, but he really didn’t like to be inside. He would let me pet him, but not too much in the lower back. Marcel tolerated him and didn’t mind sharing his food with him.
There was also a very sweet female cat roaming around, but she would get pregnant about twice a year. One time, I adopted her three babies, all girls, who would soon get pregnant. So I think I got about nine cats to take care of at some point and Marcel felt like he wasn’t the alpha one anymore. All cats were eventually adopted, except for Dracula.
My father passed away and about a year after his passing, I moved back to France to stay with my mother. Marcel was happier there because he could be an only cat again. He was also nine years old and was enjoying more a quiet life.
When I moved to the United States, which is where I live now, I had to leave my Marcel behind, which was a painful decision to make. My mother took care of him until I was able to bring Marcel back with me in 2014.
It took me months to prepare the paper work as I wanted to be sure that I was doing everything right. My mother had a friend who was a vet, which helped tremendously in the process.
I flew back to America with Marcel in his little bag under the seat in front of me. He was 14 and it was very important for me that he could travel with me in the cabin of the plane. There was no question whatsoever for him to fly cargo. He never made a single sound during the entire trip back. I was able to pet him and feed him some of the meat from my flight meal.
Since I would personally travel a lot with my husband for his business trips, Marcel would accompany us. I would organize everything for the hotel: his food, his drink, and a foil barbecue tray for his bathroom. I would have his cat litter separately in a Ziploc bag. I would make sure he would not make a mess in the hotel room. He would never meow in the room and I would never leave him alone.
At home, he was not fussy to demand going outside, he was happy sleeping on the bed all day. He loved to be brushed in the evenings while I would be watching TV.
In 2015, Marcel started to get sick. I was back on business trips with my husband and Marcel was profusely drooling while eating. He started to have difficulties swallowing and eventually would refuse eating. We took him to the vet where he was diagnosed with a tumor under his tongue. I turned 40 that year and this is how I remember my birthday, with the heartbreaking news that I would have to say goodbye to my beloved Marcel. He was on morphine before he died, and I knew it was not a life for him. It was bad enough for him not to be able to swallow his food, but it was worse for me to force a pill down his throat. The last few days of his life, he spent his time hiding under the bed. He would drool so much that he would use his paws to wipe himself off. I would do that as often as possible, but I couldn’t do it all the time. The only thing that he did try to eat up until his last day was his turkey slice, he just loved his turkey so much.
I took him to the vet for his final visit on September 2nd. He was waiting at the door that morning, as if to say "I am ready." I started to pick some of his toys because I had figured it would have been too painful to put them away once I would be back home to an empty house. But as I was doing that, he sat on them, like he was saying goodbye. He gave me the impression that he knew what was going on.
He died peacefully in my arms. I cried during days after that. I put weight on because losing and missing him affected me more than I thought it would. I also “saw” him a few times in the house.
As I type this, four years after his death, I still have the bag with his papers kept along the years, his passport for instance. His ashes rest in the living room with his picture and his little Saint Patrick’s Day hat. I also have his paw prints.
Nodlaig passed away in 2017, and so did Yu and Tu. I never got to find out what happened to Dracula.
I have never got another cat after Marcel’s passing, although I do say that I would like another one. I kiss him good night, every night. I know he is around and I hope that forever he gets to run free.