By Jackie Deal
They have to be related! Amber and Felicette! Their markings are identical: symmetrically marked black and white tuxedo cats. Felicette just has to be Amber’s great-great-great grandmother. Grandma Felicette was a stray cat from the Paris streets who was trained to be an astronaut. She is the first and only cat known to have survived a trip into space.
It came about in the early ’60s, when France’s Centre d’Enseignement et de Recherches de Médecine Aéronautique (CERMA) (wow!) chose more than a dozen cats for space training.
The cats were subjected to compression chambers, small containers, and a centrifuge to find the one best fit for space. Félicette was chosen and in October 1963, she was strapped into a container inside a Véronique rocket and launched from a base in the Sahara desert. She flew about 100 miles above Earth and spent several minutes in zero gravity while scientists monitored the electrodes implanted in her brain.
Then the capsule detached from the rocket and she parachuted safely to the ground, where she was retrieved by scientists. The trip lasted 15 minutes total.
Amber is trying to follow in her Grandma’s paw prints. She is training to explore the “great unknown outdoors”. She really seems to want to go outside so I bought her a cute little pink and white polka dotted vest and pink leash. She wanted nothing to do with same. Wrong color?
When I pick her up to put the vest on she transforms from a cat of flesh and bones to a limp cooked noodle. Once stuffed into the vest, she flops on the floor flat out like a pancake. (Notice the food references? Must be I’m hungry.) Plopped at the door she finally stretches out forepaws and slithers her way onto the porch. She remains flat, less likely for enemies to spot her, don’t you see?
Five days into the training program, she has advanced to the driveway where she flops flat, ears back, tail twitching and surveys the zero gravity universe. We make it to 30 minutes; then her trainer’s patience gives out and I return the limp noodle inside. Once divested of the vest, she flies to the far corner and proceeds to lavish a tongue bath on the parts exposed to the alien atmosphere.
A generous serving of treats and all seems to be forgotten and forgiven. We will carry on with the training program, undaunted and determined. Outer space will once again be conquered.