Ieper has something with cats. There is the three-yearly Cat Parade that ends in on the market square where cats are thrown from the bell tower. Today, toy cats are hurled down to the thousands of visitors who gather for this event, but in days gone by live cats underwent this fate. The origin of the ceremony is steeped in history. One theory says the cats were needed to keep the mice population under control in the Cloth Hall and that as the cats too bred like rabbits their numbers had to be limited.
Poor Guus has never set foot near the bell tower because his owner has kept him indoors for twenty years. But now reaching his retirement Guus planned the Great Escape! Sunday Guus managed to get outdoors, but so unaccustomed was he to the traffic that fright took hold of him and, scared out of his wits, he fled into the wheel arch of neighbour Bart’s car.
Bart: “I’d put the car outside with a view to vacuum cleaning it. As I stepped out, the cat fled into the wheel arch. My wife and I spent the best part of an hour and a half trying to entice the creature to leave the arch, but in vain. The cat even gave my wife a nasty bite and she is now on antibiotics!”
Bart saw no alternative but to call the fire brigade.
“They had their work cut out for them. They had to lift my car on air cushions to allow them to free the cat that had got its head stuck.”
Bart didn’t realise this was his neighbour’s cat and took it to the animal shelter. Meanwhile owner Quirin was pretty worried: “I checked the entire house and regularly took a peek out of the window. I did see the fire brigade at work, but never thought this had anything to do with my poor cat.”
Quirin then launched an appeal on Facebook and that met with success! He was soon able to collect his pet from the animal shelter: “They told me he is in good shape for his age. As soon as he saw me, he started to miaow. I’ve had many cats in my day, but never has any got as old as Guus. He’s still a bit on tenterhooks after his adventure, but he’s uninjured and we’re grateful for everybody’s help and to have him back!”