I Follow My Cats Around With a Sketchpad…

Peaches' Nap Spot, pencil and watercolor

Peaches' Nap Spot, pencil and watercolor

Peaches does it again.

Peaches has entered into several new careers since she came to me four years ago—at about age 15. Mostly, she’s a model for me to sketch, paint and photograph (see the post below entitled “Senior Pet Adoption Program”), and soon she’ll be the subject of a few cartoons. This is a new piece that’s a combination of pencil and watercolor done en plein air, if you can call it that when you’re in the house. Visit “My Cats” and scroll to the bottom to find this new piece and see an enlarged view of it. I’ll be framing the original soon, and making prints as well as notecards.

In one of Peaches’ other careers, she learned to use my digital camera…read about it here.

A Part of the Family

Bingo in the Center

Bingo in the Center

We always knew it, but perhaps seeing it in print gives the idea a little more credibility.

From recent advances in rescue efforts that allow, even mandate, that people take their pets with them to shelters when they evacuate in the face of a disaster, to formal memorial and burial services for pets, our companion animals have achieved a new status in our society.

MSNBC ran a poll of pet owners and how they viewed their pets. Read about it at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31505216/ns/health-pet_health/

One Sweet Cat, That Sweetie

Sweetie on her camouflage rug.

Sweetie on her camouflage rug.

A friend called me on Sunday, worried about his cat, Sweetie. After describing her condition to me, I told her I thought she needed to go to the emergency clinic, the sooner the better. He hesitated, and I offered to go with him; he immediately accepted. I knew he was frightened, and though I held to the most positive thoughts for Sweetie, I knew the situation may not have the best ending.

This friend supported me through the loss of my four oldest cats, Moses, Cream, Sophie and Stanley, and then of Lucy at 15 months. Right after I lost Lucy, my cardiac patient, Namir, went into congestive heart failure, and I had no hesitation asking this friend to drive me to the same emergency clinic because another potential loss was just too much for me. Namir made it through, and so did I, glad for the conversation of a good friend while I waited for the news. This is what friends do for each other, and our animal companions are another member of our group.

As it turns out, Sweetie was completely blind, and the veterinarians could find no immediately apparent reason for her blindness. According to my friend, Sweetie had jumped off the bed and raced down the stairs to the kitchen the previous morning and seemed completely normal until later in the day when she seemed a little confused. The next day, she didn’t eat, and stumbled over a door step, her pupils completely dilated, then laid down and seemed unresponsive.

Sweetie was indeed a sweet cat. I used to check in on her when my friend was away, and I would have walked off with her in a minute if I thought I could get away with it. A pleasantly plump tortoiseshell with round eyes and a mischievous attitude, she always played a game with me when I stopped there, either hiding somewhere and not even moving until I found her—and I’m pretty good at looking for cats—or thundering from room to room and up and down the steps as if she was being chased. She was 13, and in the years she had been with her person he had spent a few years out of town five days a week for business, but she did fine in the house alone on those days and never developed any bad habits as a result of being left alone. Later, after retirement, he went away for weeks at a time to help family members, and this was when I checked in on her, always pleasant and happy, ready for play or hide and seek. But she was devoted to her person, and when he was around, she was on his lap or under his feet or inspecting what he was doing.

She was one sweet cat.

Although she was in excellent health otherwise, the condition that caused her blindness was apparently acute. Animals can often adapt to these changes, much easier than we do, but the testing to find out what was wrong would probably have shown a stroke or brain tumor, likely to only get worse. My friend decided not to put her through the rigors of discovery, and she even seem resigned to her fate, so he decided to let her go and have her put to sleep.

He still goes away for several weeks at a time, and what are the chances another Sweetie will come along, ready to go along with the plan? Not much. Each of them is an individual, just the same as we humans are, and I’ll remember Sweetie for a good long time. The photo at the top is one I took of her rolling around on her rug, intending to do a little painting someday. Perhaps it’s time.

Senior Pet Adoption Donation Program

Peaches and Peonies, pastel, 2008

Peaches and Peonies, pastel, 2008

I pledge to support the senior adoption programs at shelters by making a donation of $25.00 from the sale of every full-size print to the shelter of the purchaser’s choice.

Peaches came to my home at age 15, and despite my efforts to place her in a new home, she ended up staying with me. Most prospective adopters were concerned that Peaches was older and might not live long, but my point was that Peaches needed a home no matter what age she was. At the time this painting was done, she’d been with me three years, her petite prettiness, pleasant personality and simple friendliness providing much joy for me, and she’s a big favorite of most visitors to my home. And then, she’s also the subject of not only this painting, but several other paintings and sketches as well as photographs, so in three years she’s provided a good bit of inspiration, not to mention wake-up duties and not-so-gentle reminders about it being dinnertime.

Peaches came to be homeless because her owner died; she was nearly euthanized because no one could figure out what to do with her, not wanting to take her to a shelter. Often, older pets come from situations like this, or where the owner has to enter the hospital or a care home, and no one can take the animal left behind. They are euthanized by the family or end up in shelters and are most often passed by, even though a “seasoned” pet usually makes the best companion.

Three years or three decades or three weeks, every adoptable animal like Peaches deserves a good and loving home.

The 16″ x 23″ giclée prints are printed on heavyweight acid-free archival paper, each signed by me, the artist. You pay me $125.00, and you’ll make a check out to the senior pet adoption program of your choice for $25.00, that way you can track it as a donation (and I don’t pay sales tax on $25.00). Standard framing is available for an extra $300.00, custom framing is available for an estimate.

Especially now, during Adopt-a-Cat month, consider helping those who are most vulnerable.

Shop in June and Make a Donation

logo_emailJune is Adopt-a-Cat month, and in honor of this distinction, MyThreeCats.com will offer a donation with every purchase you make on their website in June. Here’s how it works:

“All over the U.S., shelters are overcrowded with homeless kittens and cats, especially because many stray cats and pet cats aren’t spayed or neutered. If you own a cat who isn’t yet spayed or neutered, please take steps now to have this done by your veterinarian. If you have recently lost a cherished pet, or are simply thinking about adoption, we strongly encourage you to visit your local shelter. There, you will find many wonderful cats and you will be saving a life.

MyThreeCats.com is committed to helping this critically important cause. During the entire month of June, MyThreeCats.com will donate 10% of all sales proceeds to the Doris Day Animal Foundation , including all June orders you place with us. Please send all of your friends and family a link to MyThreeCats.com and ask them to place their June orders now. Happy Shopping!”

MyThreeCats.com is one of my customers for design work and I occasionally add to their blog BogeysBlogSphere, and the owners are friends of mine. I know they’ve always been generous with local shelters on behalf of their business, so click and shop at My Three Cats and know that your purchase is helping other cats.

Why is June Adopt-a-Cat Month?

Cats don't belong in a cage.

Cats don't belong in a cage.

June is “Adopt-a-Cat month”. Not that people likely to adopt need a reason or a season, but because, in June, shelters are overrun with kittens from unspayed female cats, and often the mother cats themselves. It is at this time that “no-kill shelters” have to close their doors and turn cats away, and when, horribly, “open-door shelters” have to start reducing their population of cats to make room for the new arrivals.

It’s easy to point the finger at the shelter and say they shouldn’t do that, but that’s not where the fault lies and everyone knows it. The shelters have a limit by law and they can’t exceed that, plus staff are already overextended. People bring in new animals and some of the ones who’ve been around the longest have to move aside. I’ll stop dancing around it—some cats will be euthanized to make room for the new arrivals. Cats lose their lives because too many others aren’t responsible enough and decide to toss the burden onto the shelter.

The shelter needs to serve all the animals that come through its door, and must make a decision to put its limited efforts into cats that are most adoptable, usually the younger, healthier, cuter kittens. You can visit the website of any shelter to see the figures and find out how they decide which cats will go. Usually, they are older, they may have chr0nic health problems or chronic attitude problems or both, something that keeps them from going to a forever home with a loving family. Before you condemn the shelter for making that decision, imagine the people at the shelter who have to actually carry out the task. No one works at a shelter just because it’s a job. Most people work there because they love animals. And they are the ones who have to choose the cats and euthanize them.

Imagine if that was you. I had to stop volunteering years ago because I cried every time I showed up. I foster at home, where I’m not overwhelmed by the scope of it.

There is no reason for an unspayed cat unless she is a show cat, and these are few and far between. Responsible breeders take names of interested persons, and each kitten has a home before it’s born.

How can you help to stop this? Just spay every female cat you can. None of this “kids need to witness the miracle of birth” or “it’s good for a cat to have one litter” or “I just can’t catch her in between” or “she likes to have kittens”. The deaths of 2,000 cats in the Pittsburgh area every year directly related to overpopulated shelters makes any of those excuses a very poor choice.

And, in fact, recent studies show it’s very bad for a cat to have a litter, or even reach her first heat because of the risk of breast cancer. In a study done in Philadelphia, 91% of the cats who developed breast cancer had been spayed after age 1, 80% after age 6 months, 2% prior to their first heat.

Spaying is not cheap, but specialty clinics and programs are available in every major city. Around the Pittsburgh area, you can get a cat spayed for under $50. A visit to the website of any shelter will give you a list of low cost spay and neuter programs in your area, one that is up to date for hours and rates. It may not be convenient, but you only have to do it once. And you don’t have to take the risk of waiting until the cat is six months old as we used to, when some cats have already gone into heat once or even twice, possibly even conceived if they’ve been around an unneutered male.

Shelters around Pittsburgh never have puppies because local laws have required people to keep their dogs contained. We can do that for cats, too. Let’s help those who choose to work in shelters spend their time taking care of animals and helping them be adopted, not choosing which ones live and die.