Animals are normally quite sparse in my University life and, apart from the cats I befriended in my garden last year, they don’t really feature. This year though, I have had a constant supply of furry and feathered amusement to keep my inner country bumpkin alive.
My first week in Tours I discovered that I lived a short 5 minute walk from a free petting zoo in the botanical gardens. They had ducks, chickens, pigs, and of course flamingos, emus and wallabies, as you do. There were also goats, or cheeky sheep, call it how you see it. Tours itself even had a resident goat that I would sometimes see on nights out.
When I arrived in Salamanca, I was already expecting a return to the animal-free life of University. No longer having ducks to feed and chickens to chase was going to be a challenge. However, early on I found a tiny dog sitting outside a shops en route to my friend’s house and the void was partially filled. It had a peppy little ponytail and a jazzy tweed coat for rainy days. Salamanca dog owners certainly knew how to accessorise and neither of these things seem to be rare sights. Sadly, my little friend has been missing from the doorway for a few weeks now and so I’ve had to replace him with the two fabulous cats that live upstairs in my building.
These cats made a rather loud entrance into my life, in that they miaow in the stairwell for hours at a time. One day we opened the door and they invaded the flat, we definitely did not entice them inside… they clearly couldn’t wait to meet us. According to our neighbour these felines are famous in the building for their mischievous adventures, which may or may not involve peeing in the stairwell.
A few weeks into their visits we eventually met their owner, a Spanish man with an exquisite beard and not at all the crazy old cat lady stereotype.
It turns out they’ve been visiting us on their way back from the walks he takes them on (so maybe a little bit crazy). The white fluffy one is called Ulysses, he’s 17 years old and as chilled as they come. Ulysses trundled slowly around our flat as though it was his own from his very first visit and was soon settled peering out from under my flatmate’s bed. The ginger one on the other hand is just a few months old and more skittish than the petting zoo chickens. He is also responsible for most of the miaowing. He does have a name but even my Spanish flatmate didn’t catch it, all we know is that it begins with M and so this is what we’re sticking with (my inner James Bond fan is having a field day).
M and Ulysses may now be a regular fixture in my life as their owner has said that we can have them round to visit every now and then and so if I have any say in it we will be borrowing them a lot. They are of course more conveniently situated than the dog so I’m afraid even with its fabulous hairstyle, the cats are the first place attraction in my personal Salamanca petting zoo.
Lucy Hibbitt, Tours and Salamanca