Look a Little Closer: A Friend’s Artwork

If you are of a certain age you will remember…well, first, you may remember the rock group “Santana”, then you may remember the cover of their eponymous album, “Santana”. This cover featured an ink line drawing of a roaring lion which, on closer inspection, was actually composed of sketches of many other subjects worked together to create the features of the lion’s face and mane. You’ll just have to look it up, because any further description ruins the surprise.

And I’m sure he gets tired of being compared to it, but the sketches of Chaz Letzkus take this technique way beyond what you can see in the Santana album cover, though a roaring lion wouldn’t be out of place in his gallery. Of course, he draws cats!

"Cat's Tale", ink drawing by Chaz Letzkus

"Cat's Tale", ink drawing by Chaz Letzkus

Above, so it’s big enough to see, is “Cat’s Tale”, one of several drawings featuring cats he’s got in his repertoire. I’ve made it as large as possible so you can see some of the details, and below are detail images of each of the cats’ faces. Look closely!

Detail of the mother cat's face in "Cat's Tale".

Detail of the mother cat's face in "Cat's Tale".

Detail of the kitten's face in "Cat's Tale".

Detail of the kitten's face in "Cat's Tale".

At festivals, Chaz’ table is usually surrounded by people who take a quick look, then look again, then stop and look closely at all of his drawings to see what’s there. That’s the fun of them! I’ve also seen them in several veterinarian’s offices around Pittsburgh, and what better to take your mind of being at the vet than an ink drawing where cats keep materializing.

Chaz’ gallery includes not only cats but all sorts of animals domestic and wild as he used his years working at Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh, hanging around all those models and displays in the Museum of Natural History and taking advantage of all of Pittsburgh’s other creative assets in the Museum of Art and the Warhol Museums.

If you are around Pittsburgh you may have seen him at any number of festivals and shows in and around the tri-state area. In fact, I’m looking forward to seeing him as we both attend a few festivals around Pittsburgh as vendors this coming summer and fall. This is about the only way many of us vendor artists with day jobs get to see each other, but it’s kind of like homecoming showing off our new stuff, catching up and talking business, promising to get together more often.

He sells his art as matted or framed prints in various standard sizes, and as sets of notecards. He publishes a calendar every year featuring 12 sketches, a few new ones and a few old ones, and even has a few of his works available as puzzles. And any of the prints can be customized—Chaz can hide a name in the drawing to make it a special gift.

Visit his website at www.chazmania.com for more information, to see more drawings and to purchase as well!


Nutro Pet Food Limited Recall

From the US FDA, Nutro Products Announces Voluntary Recall of Limited Range of Dry Cat Food Products: “..Today, Nutro Products announced a voluntary recall of select varieties of NUTRO® NATURAL CHOICE® COMPLETE CARE® Dry Cat Foods and NUTRO® MAX® Cat Dry Foods with “Best If Used By Dates” between May 12, 2010 and August 22, 2010….”

Read more at: http://www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/nutro05_09.html


Information on Feline Health and Wellness

I get some workday assistance from my feline household.

I get some workday assistance from my feline household.

You may be researching a specific topic or you may simply be curious and reading general feline topics. In either case finding complete and accurate information can seem to be elusive. If you are searching on the internet you’ll find plenty of sites with anecdotal information from cat owners who have experienced and dealt with certain conditions and give very helpful advice, especially if you find yourself in a similar predicament, and you’ll find sites that offer a variety of topics, but the information under the topic just doesn’t go deep enough. I’m always careful to research my information further and find it supported in a variety of sources, both on the internet and off.

Whether I’m writing about cats or I’m researching something on behalf of my own cats’ health, I have a list of sites I use for research that have always provided a good starting point, a few which cover all animals and a few which specialize in feline issues. I usually head to the library after that so that I can look in publications that aren’t entirely available on the internet.

Here are a few of my favorite all-animal sites because of the depth of their information.

“Good News for Pets”, found at www.goodnewsforpets.com , is a great all-around link to health, welfare and entertainment news for dogs and cats that is constantly updated. Read Steve Dale’s column and visit his “Pet World” site, and from Mordecai Segal—if you’ve purchased health or training books featuring dogs or cats, you’ve probably got one by him.

You may also recognize another author included in several “Chicken Soup” books and also if you own various popular books on natural pet health care, Amy Shojai, whose site can be found at www.shojai.com. Read through her wealth of articles and sign up to receive her “Pet Peeves” e-newsletter.

Both the ASPCA, www.aspca.org and the HSUS, www.hsus.org have huge sites packed with practical information about dogs, cats, birds, rabbits and more for diet, training, and general health as well as newsworthy updates on what each organization is doing to make both companion animals’ and wild animals’ lives better.

For cat-specific information, you’ll find a link on the “Good News for Pets” site to “Cat Wellness News” at www.catwellness.org where you can read current releases and click to even more information on research and health at (AAFP) American Association of Feline Practitioners, (CWA) Cat Writers’ Association, Inc., The Cat Fanciers Association, Cornell Feline Health Center, KNOW Heartworms, and Winn Feline Foundation.

Speaking of the Winn Feline Foundation at www.winnfelinehealth.org , you can nominate your favorite veterinarian to the “Veterinary Honor Roll” and sign up for frequent brief releases of research results for all the research they are funding and tracking.

You’ll find the answers to lots of questions at FelineExpress.com, www.felinexpress.com from people who have been caring for cats for years.

So curl up with a kitty on your lap and maybe a few on your desk and read all about what’s new with felines!


Namir at the Window

"Namir at the Window" in progress

"Namir at the Window" in progress

I’m working on a painting in between portraits, and I have to admit it’s not exactly “new”. I began this painting in January 2008, I think, then put it aside piled things in front of it, thought about it here and there, and finally decided I’d just get back to it.

I’m just learning acrylic painting with the gift from two different people of someone’s old stores of tubes of paint, brushes, canvases and other materials, and I decided that was about as clear a sign as I could get that I should start painting. And, just as I did years ago when I began drawing, my subject is inevitably one of my cats, the subject with which I’m most familiar and comfortable and I can therefore focus on the medium. This is pretty large, 18″ x 24″, and I keep forgetting that acrylic paint dries pretty quickly and I have to be orderly about how I work this so I don’t end up with paint caked on it in areas that I didn’t get back to before they dried.

It’s Namir looking out the dining room window where my window boxes hold flowers for most of the year, beginning with bulbs in pots in March and ending with chrysanthemums that sometimes have snow on them. I decorate with greens trimmed from my spruces through the winter to shelter the pots of bulbs that will sprout again in spring.

In summer, when the years-old pink geraniums I’ve saved year after year are again blooming with whatever else I’ve added to them, the color is astonishing, and because the flowers attract bees and hummingbirds and butterflies, there is usually at least one cat at the window wishing the glass or the screen wasn’t there.

I’ve got the basis down, but I need to get the reflection in the window so it doesn’t look like a big black hole in the middle of the painting, and I think I need a little more detail on the shutter on the right so it doesn’t just look like I painted the right side of the canvas brown just because. Because the screen is in the window, the lace curtain, which is actually antique white, looks creamy or tan, and I’ll probably change that. After I get the curtain decided, I can finish up Namir so he looks less like a grey coyote, though he does have big ears and a prominent nose.

I’ll post the next proof in a few days.


Senior Mentoring…Youth Warming Program?

Guiseppe uses little Peaches as a pillow while she enjoys his big warmth.

Guiseppe uses little Peaches as a pillow while she enjoys his big warmth.

My oldest, Peaches at 19, and smallest at 5 pounds, and one of my youngest, Giuseppe at 21 months, and largest at 14 pounds and using Peaches as a pillow, curl together under the warm work light on my desk, otherwise known as a kitty keep-warm light on chilly days. Peaches is older and naturally gravitates toward warmer places, but I often find Giuseppe in the same places, and I also  see him shepherding Peaches into a ball, then curling around her and purring while she nestles into his youthful warmth.

Four boisterous kittens don’t always mix well with older cats, especially somewhat frail and slightly confused seniors such as Peaches. One youngster is a handful, but with each youngster added their destructive potential is increased exponentially.

Now that these kittens are adults they aren’t as active, but each of them is a pretty big cat. Especially Giuseppe, the biggest of the litter. He’s about 14 pounds and could probably stand to lose about one, but I can still see the outlines of his ribs and he has no little pouch hanging below his belly, so a good bit of it is dense muscle.

I was concerned about Peaches when I began to let the kittens roam the house, partly because she is small but also because she is confused and doesn’t always “get” what’s happening around her. But when the kittens tried to get her to play, running around her and getting in her way, bumping up against her, she just ignored them completely as if they weren’t there at all, much like Peaches does with anything that doesn’t interest her. They couldn’t get a rise out of her, so they left her alone.

She’s not entirely oblivious to their presence, though. I’ve awakened to see her curled in a tiny peach and gray ball right in the center of the four of them on my bed in the morning.


Who Really Runs the Store Here?

Guess who really runs the store?

Guess who really runs the store?

Just as at home, if there’s a cat at a business, she’s the boss.

Miko (mee-ko), a very outgoing tan and white three-year-old, apparently makes the rules about cash register use at the H.J. Paul and Sons Agway on Glass Road in Robinson Township. It may be that humans can’t be trusted with money, but most likely she wanted to be the center of attention, and indeed she was. And she loves to be photographed.

Miko says, "Welcome to the Agway!"

Miko says, "Welcome to the Agway!"

Miko is also a professional greeter, and when no one is in the store she can be found outside the open garage door waiting for a customer to pull up so she can stand up and stretch, then stroll along the concrete deck as the customer walks to the front door, strategically arriving at the same time to be sure to get some pets and perhaps allow the customer to let her in the door.

She is a member of one of the world’s oldest professions—no, not that one, she’s a pest control agent, one of the first and most important things cats and humans worked together on…I was about to say it was one of the first things cats did for humans, but since we know the kitties were really doing it for themselves, we’ll call it a partnership—the cats ensured the food supply and the humans worshipped them as gods, which sounds fair.

See, if dogs had been as confident with just a touch of arrogance, if they had sniffed at the human’s offerings then walked away a bit and pondered the sunset, returning to accept the offering of the third or fourth morsel and giving just a bit of a nose rub instead of gobbling up every morsel they were offered and giving effusive, enthusiastic thanks, they could have become gods, too.

I'm a working girl.

I'm a working girl.

Miko takes the place of Pussy Willow, the plump and pleasant gray tabby who passed three years ago. Pussy Willow kind of reminded you of someone’s grandma, always a little smile and a greeting. When I first met Pussy Willow I worried about her welfare in the building and near the roads. Traffic is only busy during rush hour, and the road is a back road that leads to an office park, but it’s still to be concerned about. They are confined into the building overnight, but the doors are open all day. But she rarely crossed the road, and she probably kept the rodent population to a minimum, though it was difficult to think of her matronly figure running after a mouse among the stacks of deer feed and grass seed bags. More likely she’d make them sit on one stack of bags while she sat on another and read them a story (oh, no, I feel an illustrated story coming on).

The Agway still serves the small number of farms and livestock owners in the area, and a larger number of people like me who visit for bird seed, canning supplies, plants and seeds and talk about gardening and cats and the weather. When Pussy Willow died, one of the horse owners offered to bring a few of the kittens from her barn, of whom Miko is one.

The job can take its toll, and of the three original kittens, one disappeared. The original person brought more kittens. And they all needed to be fixed, but all too soon there were more kittens, then other people heard the Agway was taking kittens and there were kittens in cages and everyone needed to be fixed and most of them needed new homes.

Let's see how it would be if we put the bedding in this bucket and curled up...

Let's see how it would be if we put the bedding in this bucket and curled up...

The Agway doesn’t make much money, and the amount needed to get all these cats spayed and neutered was phenomenal, even just catching the little ones. When they took the older females in they were already expecting, and the extra cost of spaying  while pregnant was more than they could pull together. And as much as they wanted to make sure all the unwanted kittens out there got good homes, they eventually had to tell people they should get their cats fixed, the Agway wasn’t taking any more kittens.

Many good-hearted souls in animal rescue, especially cat rescue, have experienced this, the early stages of Cat Hoarding. But, as with the Agway, when treated early, it’s completely curable. They found homes for all but three of the many kittens, keeping Miko and two others. Their own cats are spayed, neutered and microchipped through different programs, mostly Animal Birth Control (ABC), run through Animal Friends, and a local low-cost spay and neuter clinic. Many of the other kittens were spayed and neutered before adoption as well, especially since some of them stayed quite a while.

Humans wear coats and gloves in the cold, but the kitties have their own heater and very comfy beds.

Humans wear coats and gloves in the cold, but the kitties have their own heater and very comfy beds.

When cats—or dogs for that matter—are adopted from a shelter, they are already spayed and neutered and have all their initial veterinary care completed, even tiny kittens. It used to be that the shelter offered a certificate to come back for spay or neuter when the animal was six months old, but often enough people forgot or just didn’t follow through, or the animal was expecting already since cats can go into heat at four months if conditions are right. Now shelters spay and neuter when a cat has reached four pounds, long before six months, so no kitten leaves the shelter unfinished.

This has helped to reduce the population of unwanted kittens, but many litters are born to cats who’ve been passed down the line—someone’s cat has kittens and they give them away to whatever home they can find, then those cats don’t have the advantage of the shelter services for spaying and neutering and often the surgery isn’t done, or the cat “gets out” when she first goes into heat and people don’t realize how wily and determined a female in heat can be (there’s a reason they’ve become a metaphor), and suddenly there are 1,000 kittens among all the shelters in Pittsburgh by the middle of the summer. This crowds out older animals, and a shelter either closes its doors and people have to go elsewhere with their box of kittens, and often the mother who they no longer want, or the shelter takes in the little family, but at the cost of an older cat’s life who isn’t as “adoptable” as a kitten or two. Shelters don’t euthanize because they want to, but because they only have so much room and they are obligated to take that box of kittens.

Can I help you find something?

Can I help you find something?

I find it much easier to visit the Agway now that I don’t worry about spaying and neutering and homes for all those kittens. I was glad to give them the information on ABC and the spay and neuter clinic, and now they hand it out to their customers, many of whom have taken advantage of it, never having known anything like it was available, or that, even after a cat has conceived, she can still be spayed. Almost every one of families who adopted kittens came back with a report or photos or the cat itself, and every one who came to visit had gotten the cat spayed or neutered.

The experience helped teach all of us that we could be on the news one night with our 42 cats, even if we tried our best not to end up like that. And that there are people who just won’t get their cat fixed for whatever stupid reason they spit out, and you may lose a customer after a heated discussion about it. But there are also many others who appreciate the information you may give them, and they’ll pass it along in turn.

In Pittsburgh, dog licensing and leash laws have forced most owners to keep their dogs contained, and now the shelters rarely have puppies and many fewer dogs are euthanized to allow space for more dogs. That should be our goal for cats as well.