Top 3 Fun Facts about L’École du Chat in Montmartre
When I first heard of L’École du Chat (The Cat School in English), I’ll admit to being really confused. A cat school in Montmartre?! Well, I discovered not to let the name fool me, as L’École du Chat isn’t really a school.
It’s an association that was founded in Montmartre in Paris in 1978 to save and protect cats that had been abandoned in the capital, particularly in the Montmartre Cemetery. The school has a really interesting back story, and I’m so glad that I recently discovered it so that I can share it with you all!
Keep reading for my top 3 fun facts about L’École du Chat in Montmartre!
Practical Information for visiting the Montmartre Cemetery:
Entry fee: Free
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 8:30am-6pm, Sunday 9am-6pm
Address: 20 Avenue Rachel, 75018 Paris
Metro station: Place de Clichy / Blanche
1. L’École du Chat was created to save abandoned cats in Montmartre
For some reason, abandoned cats have always flocked to the Montmartre Cemetery. A photographer named Michel Cambazard was visiting the cemetery to take photos, and he began to notice this small community of cats that were being fed by an older woman named Madame Delassens.
One day, when Cambazard was taking photos in the cemetery, he noticed that Madame Delassens was being denied entry by the security guards. The guards wanted to prevent her, and other women that had been coming, from feeding the stray cats. The Montmartre Cemetery was being taken over by these abandoned kitties, and the city of Paris wanted to do something about it!
They soon began a project to remove the cats from the cemetery. Unfortunately, that included trapping them and either sending them to the pound, or putting them down. When Cambazard got word of this, he was devastated. He gathered with about 70 other cat lovers in the cemetery to protest.
Eventually, the cemetery agreed that if Cambazard took responsibility of the cats, then they could roam the cemetery freely. What did this mean for Mr. Cambazard? Once all of the cats were neutered and tattooed in order to identify them, he could bring them back to the cemetery to live in peace. And so began L’École du Chat!
2. L’École du Chat helped to create a new status for abandoned cats in France
When L’École du Chat was just beginning, the association was made up of Cambazard, and a few other brave volunteers that wanted to save these poor abandoned cats. Everything that they were doing: catching the cats, paying for them to be neutered, and then releasing them back into the cemetery was illegal, and went against the sanitary regulations at the time.
Something needed to be done to protect the association and the cats they were saving! So, Cambazard decided to take things into his own hands and petition for a new law that would protect these abandoned cats, or “free” cats as they affectionately started calling them. These cats weren’t just abandoned by their owners, they were free! They were free to live and do as they wanted. At least, that’s what the volunteers behind L’École du Chat thought.
On June 19, 1978 a cat named Nicolas was captured, neutered, tattooed and registered in the official Fichier National Félin under file number -AAA 0831. He was then released back to the Montmartre Cemetery, making him the first ever free cat in France!
The older cats that L’École du Chat has neutered and identified are usually taken back to the cemetery after a few days of rest and relaxation in the homes of volunteers. If younger cats or kittens are found, they are usually put up for adoption! Click here to visit the official website if you are interested in adopting a cat yourself.
3. L’École du Chat is possible thanks to volunteers
Like many associations, L’École du Chat is run completely by volunteers that have a passion for saving animals. This includes the veterinarians that assist in neutering and identifying the cats, the volunteers that visit the cemetery daily in order to feed the cats, and host families for cats that need to recover after receiving medical care.
One veterinarian in particular, Dr. Serge Belais, has been helping L’École du Chat since it’s beginnings in the late 1970s! Talk about a commitment to helping animals!
The other volunteers that visit the cemetery every day to feed the cats and give them a little bit of attention are essential to the success of the association as well. These volunteers have also installed small boxes filled with hay throughout the cemetery so that the cats have a warm and dry place to sleep at night. They have also built small covered areas to put their food inside, meaning it won’t get eaten by birds or other animals.
There are many ways to get involved with L’École du Chat if you’re interested! You can sign up to be a host family to prepare cats for adoption by helping them become more social and giving them a safe and warm place to recover from being neutered. You can also help to catch stray cats and try to coax them to come with you so that they can be helped by the association. Finally, you can volunteer to help L’École du Chat with various fundraisers that they put on in order to raise money for the cats that they help.
The biggest way you can help L’École du Chat, at least on a financial level? By becoming a member and paying a 30 euro per year fee. L’École du Chat wants to save as many cats as they can, and this of course costs money. Click here to become a member!
In addition to being a Paris-obsessed writer, I have a soft spot for animals. If I had any skills in math or science, I think I would have become a veterinarian! What’s the next best thing? Volunteering to help animals in need. I’m so happy that I learned about L’École du Chat so that I can start helping these “free” cats too! And, I’m so happy that I am able to tell you all about this incredible association so you can help as well.
Do you want to learn more about where the cats live the Montmartre Cemetery? Why not join one of our Montmartre walking tours? We have three options: our free Montmartre tour which will take you from the Moulin Rouge up to the Sacré Coeur, our Sunset Montmartre Champagne tour, where you can enjoy an amazing view with some delicious champagne, and our #1 Food Tour in Montmartre, where you’ll explore the neighborhood with a French foodie. Do you see one that you’d like to join? I hope so!