Me and my creative cats will be moving our blogspace to our own website! Being in the WordPress community has been wonderful, but it will be so much easier when all my images and essays are right there, in the same folder. “Today“, my photo blog, will be moving as well and integrating with my main photo gallery, and eventually my “Marketplace” will be set up as a blog, too. I’m not sure what the addresses will be, but I’ll post that as soon as I have them set up. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to move all my messages to the new blog, so eventually everything will be there and I’ll close this one down, or just leave it with a message for everyone who has me bookmarked, or is signed up to receive the message automatically, or reads me in a reader, or however else everyone finds me! Thanks for visiting, and if you get a chance, please write a comment or send an e-mail.
A monochromatic photo of one of my cats enjoying the autumn sunshine. The wavy glass in this old casement window casts its own shadows and the stucco wall adds texture. And another view, below, as Giuseppe turned his head to ensure even coverage. I’ve got plenty of photos and paintings of my cats in the sun, but sometimes their shadows and silhouettes are just as telling. Visit my website to see artwork and more photos of my cats.
This is my “little baby foster kitty”, six weeks later. Quite the big girl compared to the little uncoordinated fuzzball who arrived (read “A Little Baby Foster Kitten” for the beginning of this story).
She went to her forever home over the weekend, and while I miss her vibrant personality and the daily progress and development of a kitten I am also glad to hand over a happy, healthy kitten to an excellent home, and the Festive Four are happy to have their bathroom back.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had one this young, but I’ve fostered a few dozen cats and kittens in the 20-plus years I’ve been fostering, and while I hope to give them a good beginning I never feel the need to keep every one of them unless a good home just isn’t available. I’d prefer to share the love of a wonderful kitty, and if I know a forever home is available I can love them all the more knowing I won’t need to worry about the expenses of another cat in the household, since I’m already pretty full for a house this size.
Six weeks passed so quickly in my life, but in terms of her development during those weeks she went from toddler to second-grader, perhaps third-grader, in physical ability, judgment, social skills—and consuming food!
I remember when Fromage first arrived and I initially tried to bottle feed her. She wanted no parts of the plastic nipple, but was very attracted to and comforted by the warmth of my forearm. Some of the formula dripped on my arm and she found it, licking it off right away and purring, then nibbling me looking for a nipple on my arm. I dripped a little more on my arm then filled in the little pool at the crook of my elbow where she lapped the formula, warmed by my skin, and kneaded, no doubt she could feel my pulse there, too.
The next day we began transitioning to a dish for her to lap from, and after a week added some canned food and quickly left the formula behind.
With neonatal rescues like Fromage, the danger of delayed physical or social development is common, so I studied her coordination, voice, apparent vision and hearing, eating habits, everything that was a clue to her progress. She was an early star with litterbox use, played with toys and with me, and was very affectionate with me. However, she didn’t play for very long when I wasn’t in the room, and she was very shy with other people, even a little hostile.
Social interaction with people is important, and if I had had the time to spend more hours with her I may have sufficed—plenty of others have done that with foster kittens. But she really needed the company of other cats to develop both physical agility and social skills. Kittens, puppies, and young of all species when they are born in litters, play all day long at her age, wrestling, chasing, stealing toys from each other and sharing toys with each other, eating together, bathing each other and sleeping in a pile together. Aside from eating, it’s the most important thing they do at that age.
Call in the Fostering Four. One night I was sorting laundry on my bed and had the four and several other of the adult cats in my bedroom. I put her on my bed among the piles of laundry and let her explore and, one by one, meet the other cats. There was a small amount of hissing, but no one left.
Jelly Bean had known what was expected of him right away, and was the only one never to utter a discouraging meow, but purred at the shrieking kitten the first night, sniffing at the door and asking to go into the bathroom from then on. Giuseppe and Mr. Sunshine were a little doubtful at first, sitting and staring when possible, growling and swatting when necessary, for about a half day, then they began chasing her in play and swiping a little bath at her now and then. Mewsette was the only holdout, and as soon as she realized the irritating little thing could play was dancing on the top of the baby gate so the kitten could try to grab her toes.
I blocked the top of the stairs with a baby gate, closed the door to the spare bedroom and let Fromage run around the upstairs for an hour or so once or twice a day. While she could still be kept corralled by the baby gate, the adults could visit when they wanted and escape whenever they got tired of her then go back for more.
She blossomed as she quickly developed greater coordination and learned to play with four adult cats in turn. And not only them, but in the meantime I took in another adult foster who is staying in the spare bedroom, and Fromage stopped to play paws under the door with him as well!
None of my other adult cats developed any interest in her, and Mimi’s reaction was almost funny—a hostile look and a big, long hissssss. I guess she’s had enough of kittens for one lifetime.
Kittens never cease to amaze me at this stage in their development: one day Fromage got into the tub and couldn’t get out, but two days later she was hopping in and out often without touching the sides, the change comes that fast. She climbed the baby gate but couldn’t get to the top, then suddenly she was over it on the other side—where she shouldn’t be. I heard her tumble down the steps once and for a week she ignored the steps, but eventually it was too tempting and I turned around to find her crouching near the bottom studying the new room and trying to decide where to start her exploration. The next day she was running up and down the steps with a concerned Jelly Bean accompanying her; I guess he remembered those days when he and his siblings were only allowed down the steps under my supervision.
At eight weeks she can run and run and run and keep up a pace I can’t even match—and except for the fact that she’s about one-tenth their size and therefore has shorter legs, she can outrun the adult cats. As small as she is, she can outmaneuver them under the bed and around corners and if all else fails she can just run under their bellies and they have to spin around to see where she’s gone.
And she developed into a little sweetheart. Aside from leaping up my leg whenever she saw me, I would hold my hand out in front of her and she would stand on her hind legs with her front paws up then fall on my hand so I could scoop her up, holding her close to my face and cuddling. When I sat on the floor she would walk all over me, purring vigorously.
She also loved company. The first time her forever person, the person who had rescued her, came to visit, Fromage was less than social, not interacting with her at all—but that was before her socialization by the Communal Quartet. I marched every visitor to the house up the stairs to see her (and I had to twist very few arms to get people to visit with her—most people asked). The next time her forever person came to visit, Fromage strolled out of the bathroom and executed a luxurious cat stretch and furled and curled her tail and walked over to her.
But it’s the arrogance of a kitten that age that I love so much. They think they own the world, exploring fearlessly, challenging other cats and animals in their environment, playing with toys, climbing anything they can grasp, developing a vocabulary, yet they are so tiny and delicate, easily hurt, susceptible to so many diseases.
The night I took her to her new home, much larger than mine and with only two other cats, she cautiously explored the living room at first, finding a safe place behind the couch, then moving through the dining room with a little less fear all the time. She was at first a little startled at the sounds of so many voices, especially loud men’s voices, but after being around our conversation just began to ignore it. She’ll have her own room for some time to come, but run of the all but the basement whenever possible. She runs off to explore, then comes back to her person arching her back and rubbing herself against a leg with a vigorous purr, then she’s off to explore some more.
I was glad for my role in this, knowing how to handle a neonatal kitten. But it was really the people who rescued her who played the biggest role in Fromage’s life, and without them her future would be very different, if she had one at all.
If her strident shrieks hadn’t been heard that night, or if they had chosen to ignore her, chances were slim she would have lived a day or two more without her mother. If she somehow had, she should have ended up as another stray cat on the streets dodging cars and people and fighting off illnesses that cats with owners are vaccinated against. If she had survived the coming winter, next year she’d start producing kittens at two to four litters per year, and since she would have grown up without human interaction they would be considered feral, adding to the overpopulation already on the streets. Her life would likely be short and unpleasant as are the lives of most cats who live entirely on the streets with an average life span of three years, and kitten survival at less than 50%.
How much better that she has her own house and her own person and two cats to boss around, enough to eat, spaying at the right time, and she can live a good, long life with people enjoying her gregarious, affectionate personality and admiring her intelligence and beauty! I can’t wait to hear the progress reports.
Read the first article about Fromage: A Little Baby Foster Kitten
This is the main article from Karen Litzinger’s November e-newsletter. She is the author of “Heal Your Heart”, the topic of the post immediately previous.
Do animals go to heaven? Do animals have souls?
With today being All Souls Day in the Christian tradition, I thought it would be timely to ponder these questions that animal lovers often struggle with upon the death of a beloved pet. And I would like to bring in a couple other religious perspectives too. This is just a brief glimpse into the topic since I am certainly no theologian. Upon doing some web searching and reading, I saw many perspectives on this topic.
While I read that “most theologians” would say that animals do not have souls, many theologians and writers have made compelling cases to the contrary. One of the first buyers of my Heal Your Heart CD, generously sent me the book, Will I See My Dog in Heaven by Jack Wintz. Among other things, this Franciscan Friar posits that the “very good” phrase in Genesis 1:31, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” is an argument for God’s desire to have both classes of creatures share in the original Garden of Paradise, and therefore, heaven. One of my earliest book reviewers, animal journalist, Michelle West, encouraged me to include the web site www.EternalAnimals.com in my CD booklet since it was helpful to her in addressing these questions. My personal copy of Pet Loss: A Spiritual Guide by Eleanor Lee Harris (note author complete name if searching) includes views on pet death by most of the worlds religions. Here are two brief statements from two religious traditions that loosely address this question from the book, In Praise of Animals, collected by Edward Searl.
Bhagavad Gita 9.7 – All creatures go forth from Me and all return unto Me
Buddist Prayer – May all sentient beings be happy, may all sentient beings be peaceful, may all sentient beings be free from suffering.
Personally I expect to have continued communication and contact with all creatures meaningful to me that have died, just as I already do.
Please visit Karen’s website at www.HealFromPetLoss.com and sign up for her monthly e-newsletter of information about animals and updates on her CD, “Heal Your Heart”.
After the loss of so many cats it’s healing now to be a part of a loving and sincere effort on the part of someone who is a licensed counselor and has prepared a recording and book of inspirational readings and information and affirmations for those who have also lost a pet. I had the opportunity to illustrate this wonderful recording, and to assist the author in publicizing and promoting it.
Ironically enough, I began the project just as I knew I would soon lose my Namir after four years of working with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and congestive heart failure (CHF). I can attest to the CD’s effectiveness. His loss followed the loss of five others a few years before.
That loss, and illustrating this CD, also led me to embark on a new offering in animal-inspired art and products: animal sympathy cards. I used the background art for the back of the CD as the background for one of my cards, and also used a number of my feline photographs.
Read about the CD and its author, Karen Litzinger, below. I’ll also be posting a e-mail newsletter she published this month, and I encourage people who love animals to visit her site and sign up for her newsletter.
Animal Lovers Comforted by New Pet Loss CD
Our animal companions have become more respected members of our society in recent years. From recognizing that people will not evacuate even a life-threatening situation if they can’t take their animals to realizing that a close bond with an animal can help people heal from both physical and emotional traumas, we’ve come to accept animals not simply as possessions but as friends or even members of our families.
Heal Your Heart: Coping with the Loss of a Pet by Karen Litzinger , MA, LPC, is a newly available CD and booklet combination which helps to guide the pet owner through the process of grieving their lost pet. The CD includes Litzinger, a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Bereavement Facilitator, reading comforting messages, pet-focused affirmations, and even a guided meditation along with comforting accompanying harp music. The booklet provides supportive suggestions, information explaining the stages of grief and resources such as books and hotlines to assist the grieving person.
Litzinger’s product is unique in pet loss support offerings. Many books have been written on the subject of pet loss, but few are published in audio form. And while other recorded products offer support in the form of affirmations to carry away or a guided meditation for grieving, Heal Your Heart is focused on the loss of a pet, which is unique in materials offering assistance with grief.
“Heal Your Heart is one of only a handful of audiobooks in the pet loss publishing market,” states Lorri A. Green, psychologist and author of Saying Good-bye to the Pet You Love. “The unique contribution of the CD is that it goes beyond giving educational information or a personal story. It contains powerful affirmation statements rooted in cognitive psychology.”
Grieving over the death of your pet used to have people rolling their eyes or seriously suggesting a mental health evaluation because “it” was “just a dog” or “only a cat”, a horribly disrespectful and painful comment to a person already in pain over a loss.
Not so today. Our companion animals are recognized not only for what they can do for us, but also for their own individual needs, personality and style, and so their loss is also recognized as the loss of a distinct individual.
Litzinger wrote all the text for the booklet and the readings and designed the entire concept as part of her grief response from her own loss.
“The CD is dedicated to my beloved dog children, Pepper and Zep,” Litzinger says without hesitation.
“My inspiration for the Healing Hearts CD came while driving home from the veterinarian with the cremains of my 15 year old dog, Pepper, who I had had since a puppy from a local rescue league,” Litzinger explains. “I was further motivated on my journey to create this CD when my 13 year old dog, Zep, died just four months after Pepper.”
She had originally wanted to create something for veterinarians to give grieving clients right after the euthanasia procedure to supplement the personal support and follow-up sympathy card.
“I created a pet loss booklet for veterinarians, but the CD is what I hope will serve grieving pet owners in a more profound way,” she continues. “Just as I found comfort in listening to a special music CD as I grieved for Pepper, I hope that some part of this CD will help in the healing process for you or the person to whom you give the CD.”
Her loss has not only become the gain of others who will find comfort from her CD and booklet, but also her own gain in finding this new professional outlet.
Litzinger is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Pennsylvania, and although her specialty is career counseling, after her loss and through of the idea of being able to help others she chose to attend a weeklong training through the American Academy of Bereavement to become a Certified Bereavement Facilitator. As part of renewing the certification, she did an internship under the direction of a psychologist through the Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement, an organization that hosts on-line chat rooms about the euthanasia decision and pet loss.
“I have a special interest in ritual as part of the healing process and conducted numerous non-denominational animal blessings and memorial services on a personal and professional basis,” Litzinger adds. “In addition to career counseling, I also offer pet bereavement counseling in the Pittsburgh area.”
The CD and book were positively reviewed by Nancy Peterson of the Humane Society of the United States, noted pet loss authors Lorri A. Green, Moira Allen, and Sherry B. True and animal journalists and writers Darlene Arden and Michelle West. In addition, during the two years Litzinger worked on creating the set, she asked friends and associates to review the product to ensure that the content universally appealed to the greatest number of people.
More information on the CD including reviews and excerpts as well as further resources for healing from pet loss can be found at www.healfrompetloss.com.