I adore cats – I have one, he lives with my parents and shares their large garden with three dogs. I found him in the street a good fifteen years ago now. He sleeps almost all day and goes out practically all night, if it’s not raining! That’s Minou! When I found him, he was desperate, he had been following me closely for quite some time, so I adopted him, and since that day, he has lived the life of a country cat! Magnificent, the life of a cat.
When I was twenty, I lived with my girlfriend in a little apartment under the eaves in the Pink City (Toulouse). One day, a pregnant cat came and meowed at our door: she was looking for a place to give birth. We took her in and she had five kittens. It was astonishing – the downstairs neighbours must have wondered what could be making all that racket! Every day, I took a roll of wallpaper and put a big piece of it under a table so that all the little ones could do their business. The mother really had a head for hygiene: one by one, she took each kitten in her mouth and carried it to the edge of the wallpaper to get it accustomed to being house-trained, and it was a job well done, because the little ones kept clean, and as soon as they learned to walk, they knew on their own where to go to the toilet. I threw out rolls and rolls of wallpaper, but it was worth it.
We had five kittens that were in great shape, and they let us know it: starting at seven o’clock every morning, it was party time. We opened the glass door of our bedroom, and suddenly everything that moved – especially our toes – was bitten by these tiny devils who had needles in the place of teeth. It became a game and a ritual because if we were late, they took turns leaping at the glass door until we opened it! Seven o’clock sharp!
This is not on the theme of odour, but I enjoy talking about it, as it’s an excellent memory. There was quite a bit of work in exchange for this little moment of happiness, but it could have become a cesspit like in the photo.
Animals are clean by nature if we give them the means; it’s humans who are not always clean! When they are ill, unmotivated or idle, humans can be dirty, but they sometimes find themselves in a cesspit against their will: three inmates in nine square metres, with a sink and a toilet to share, that can lead to regular clashes.
In the remand centre, I sometimes fought for cleanliness in the cell, and frankly, I was right, but even so, it’s a thorny situation to have to tell someone you barely know to clean up after himself. If he doesn’t do it and leaves his mess when you want to have a wash after him, it starts to irritate you.
But it is still necessary to point out the dilapidation of prisons and their insalubrious nature.
However, today I can no longer complain about that – the place where I am now is new and it has all the necessary infrastructure: clean and individual cells, the facility is like new. Basically, it’s an appropriate place for long sentences. The odours here are often neutral, and they are very few. As an assistant in the rehabilitation unit, I sometimes come across cells that the inmates left because of an emergency (psychiatric hospital or isolation), which are in unimaginable conditions. It’s sometimes intentional, but often it is the mentally ill inmates who leave behind real rubbish tips that are comparable in odour to the photo of the cats.
Otherwise, it must be said that prison is an enclosed space and odours do not enter here: there are no scents of flowers like in the spring, nor those of cut grass. It’s very lacking on the olfactory level. Sometimes, there’s the smell of perfume or eau de toilette, but that’s all.