The Pilgrim's Cats - Les Chats du Pèlerins: A Movement in Favor of Animals


by Lynn McBride, an ex-pat volunteer at “La Passerelle”


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One doesn’t expect to find a sophisticated cat shelter, complete with playrooms, multiple “bedrooms”, and screened outdoor play areas, in the middle of the rural Burgundy countryside, surrounded by bucolic valleys and fields of white cows. But when Swiss-born Laurence happened upon a charming hamlet here called Le Pèlerin (“the pilgrim”), she herself came as a pilgrim to create a sacred place for cats who were experiencing difficulties of some sort.

With decades of experience with animal rescue organizations and a network of colleagues in Switzerland, Laurence decided to create a cat shelter in nearby France, so she could more economically serve both sides of the border. She fell in love with an old stone house with a large garden in this gorgeous corner of Burgundy. On the property was a dependency which she transformed into a thoroughly modern shelter. Her own nine cats happily roam the walled garden.

Laurence has a special gift. She is what we Americans would call an “animal whisperer”: she has the ability to communicate with animals and sense their emotions. She even offers popular workshops at her home, to teach others to understand and connect with their animal companions.

As a result of her gift, Laurence only accepts animals with special needs: behavior problems, illness, injuries, handicaps, and problems with aging, for example. These she helps with a team of loyal and hard-working volunteers. She does not accept unwanted litters of kittens. These, she rightly believes, are the responsibility of those who neglect to sterilize their cats (though some kittens manage to make their way into the shelter, if they meet other criteria, or when one of the new resident cats delivers a belated surprise package).

The shelter is called “La Passerelle”, which means “a gateway”.  The shelter is not a permanent home for cats, but a welcoming stopover where they can recuperate or modify their behavior, and rest until a forever home is found for them.

Like traditional cat rescue organizations, we also capture stray cats, then sterilize them and feed them or if sociable, we try to find a home.

Is there really such a thing as a “cat whisperer”?  When I first started working at La Passerelle with Laurence I was skeptical, but I’m beginning to believe. Take, for example, a 13-year-old cat named Serena, a cat who had lived outside without a proper home. Though she had a beautiful face and large, intelligent green eyes, her long hair was ratty and in such bad shape that most of it had to be shaved. She was ill and listless. She curled up in a basket in one of the shelter rooms, and basically did not move.  

“Laurence, I don’t think this cat is going to make it,” I told her one day, after trying to get Serena to eat yet again. “She’s old, she hardly moves, she looks pitiful. This is a cat that is surely in the process of dying. Wouldn’t it be kinder to let her go?”

Laurence  shook her head adamantly. “This cat has let me know, she is not through with living,” she said. “She wants to go on, to have a second life. She will get well, you’ll see.” You should see Serena now, a couple of months later. Her coat has filled in and she grooms it proudly. She spends her days outside in the sunshine. She is a beautiful cat, affectionate and eager for a new home. 

And speaking of forever homes: as challenging and rewarding as it is to work with these cats, the real challenge is finding happy homes for them. The cats, which are sterilized and chipped, are available to loving owners, but sadly there are not enough to go around.

Fellow cat-lovers, are you wondering how you can help? There are several ways. First of all, please consider adopting one of our lovely cats! And if you can’t, please pass the word to others who might. We will be happy to put you on our email list for available adoptions, and if you can forward those emails to every animal lover you know, it would be a wonderful help.

Second, please join our organization, and donate to our cause! As you might imagine, the veterinary  and food bills are high. We are a non-profit organization, dependent on the kindness of our supporters.  It’s only 20 euros to join, and we welcome your donations as well.


And last of all, if you happen to live in the area or visit often, we hope you’ll become part of our team of volunteers who do everything from socializing with the cats to administering medications, to maintaining/improving the building—we have a job that’s right for you!



 If you are interested for an animal adoption

Adopting an animal companion should be an act of carefully considered reflection.

When we look for a family for an animal we want the very best for them. And it sometimes happens that we refuse certain adoptions if we sense that it will not be a good match for both.

If the cat has never lived anywhere but outside, for example, we will not place the cat in an apartment with no outdoor access. If the cat is timid we will not place them in a big, busy family!

When you commit to a particular cat, it should be for the life of that cat, and cats can have a lifespan of up to 20 years.

For our current adoptions, please see our article : "Ils cherchent une famille" and do not hesitate to contact us for further informations.


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