Peaches Says, “Thanks for all the good wishes, they worked!”

photo of cat on table

Your 42 minutes is up.

Well, I think I lost a few days in there, but at my age I don’t really care about time, except for when it’s time to eat, which is still every 42 minutes.

But I felt pretty bad for a while there. My mom kept waking me up and looking at me and smelling my breath, and then she’d follow me around and watch me in the litterbox—please! some privacy for a dignified older kitty! Then we would go into the kitchen, and I would get up on my counter to eat but I just felt crappy and even though I was hungry nothing tasted good. Then I’d go back to sleep some more, but I wouldn’t get any peace because mom would wake me up again.

Even before this I’ve had some bad days now and then. My tummy would gurgle and I’d throw up everything I ate, and it would be really hard to do, you know, number 2. I always thought that was the way it was supposed to be because I was 15 when I came here and it had been that way for years, even with my other mom when my sister was still around.

But this mom would have none of it and let me out of the room here but left my sister in so she could watch just me. I thought I had gotten used to my sister pushing me around and stealing food, but no one did that here and finally I could eat a whole meal and use the litterbox without anyone chasing me in the middle of…you know. Wow, I really started to enjoy mealtime and not worry so much.

cat peaking over blanket

If you don't get up I will dig you out.

Then my sister was gone and my mom started feeding me all sorts of different food “to see what works for you,” she said. That was nice. I really liked everything, but anything with salmon was the best. I felt very special, and I could eat whenever I wanted, well, almost.

Still, I would have days when nothing agreed with me and mom would hover. I just wanted to tell her to leave me alone and I would be okay.

And that’s the way this started out. I was comfortable curled on mom’s lap and she seemed relaxed about it. I had contacted Eva about the job opening for an office assistant and it seemed like that was going well, and I was trying to keep it a secret. Mom was at her computer all day, Cookie was mad because I was on mom’s lap all the time so she walked on me, and I figured I would be okay again in a day or two.

cat on blanket

Will you please get up?

But it went on longer than usual. I knew I felt bad when Giuseppe tried to curl up with me on mom’s lap and I just didn’t feel like moving to make room, and he licked my face but I didn’t even have the energy to look up at him. About that time I started losing track of things and I knew I was really sick.

All I wanted to do was sleep, especially after mom and that lady that smells funny and the guy that comes with her were talking about “kidney failure” and all teamed up on me in the kitchen and tried to make me into a kitty sacrifice or something, sticking needles into me and filling me up like a water balloon. When I woke up later, I was really hungry and ate for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long, and I felt a lot better too. Mom was so happy when I woke her up the next morning. I was hungry!

cat at top of stairs

The kitchen is this way.

But it didn’t last all day. Mom tried to do the same voodoo thing to me and I said there was no way I was going to put up with that again so she didn’t get too far with it. Later my mom pulled some stranger in off the street about whom she said something like “vet tech school graduate” and “glad to find her and she lives just around the corner” to help her but I stopped that before they were done too. I may only be 5.4 pounds, but I know how to fling all four paws at once and throw everyone off. Mom said that was probably enough and they talked about how kitties “had to get used to this”—as if we’d ever get used to torture like that! Enough torture, just bring on the salmon pate! I’ll eat already!

I started out okay the next day and got right back to work pushing papers around on the desk and walking on the keyboard, but by later on I felt crappy again. It was really dark and everyone else was sleeping and I heard mom on the phone telling someone that she really didn’t want to wait until the next night when she’d “have someone to help her”, and suddenly I was in a plastic carrier with a warm blanket and we were moving!

cat on landing waiting

I am losing patience.

I never did figure it out, but we ended up in a strange place with lots of lights that smelled like more things than I could figure out and we were doing the needle thing again. Many hands were petting me and telling me how cute I was and what a strong kitty I was to have lived this long and they were sure I’d be fine. I wanted to tell them they had no idea what I did all day, that I am one hard-working kitty! And at my age yet!

I think we had a little snack when we got home, then the next morning I sat on mom until she got up and this time I was good all day. In the evening the same stranger came around who had tried to torture me with the needle a few days before, but she and mom just talked and petted me, and then they petted everyone else and I knew I was off the hook.

cat on crochet project

Peaches keeps my crochet project from getting away.

So I got to eat some pretty good stuff, that pureed chicken in the little jar that mom feeds me off a spoon, and all sorts of salmon pate, even little bits of cooked real salmon and, most exciting, real raw meat, little slivers of salmon and venison that mom warms up in her fingers. Mom gives me this now and then already, and I can’t eat too much of it but I don’t need to. I feel supercharged after I eat it.

And I got back to work and worked all week, helping around the house and I don’t know if mom would ever stop dawdling upstairs in the morning if I didn’t coax her down. Mom kept an eye on me, and that was a problem because I could barely get back to Eva to tell her I was well again and we should get back to our interview thing.

Near the end of the week, though, I started to slow down again and mom kept pulling at the skin around my shoulders and frowning and saying, “Hmmm.”

peaches and Kelly on the butterfly rug

Peaches and Kelly

Then Kelly, who usually eats with me and curls up on the butterfly rug with me, wasn’t feeling well and I discovered she was upstairs in the bathroom. Mom called that stranger, who I guess isn’t a stranger anymore but this time she didn’t just visit, they did the voodoo needle thing again, both me and Kelly.

Maybe I really am getting used to it, and I also remember that after I had a nap and slept it off I felt really good, so I just put up a little fuss so they wouldn’t think I liked it or anything but I didn’t make them stop. Mom had me in a death grip against her chest, anyway, so I couldn’t even wave a paw, and she kept talking and talking which was really nice because she was warm and it felt like she was purring.

cats on desk

Dinner, now.

So now I’m waiting for dinner, and not only do I have to wait longer than usual but one of those annoying young cats is taking up her entire lap. The only good thing about them is that they are warm and soft and don’t mind when I touch them, not like Cookie or Kelly who can sometimes be prickly, but when I try to walk on him he squirms around and I land on the keyboard and mom picks me up and puts me back on her desk.

But it looks like mom is getting up now and dinnertime looks imminent.

And I got get well wishes from Daniela and Eva and Ingrid and Amber and Marg’s Pets who sent us “lots and lots of purrs, 2 woofies, 2 Heehaws and 1 Baa” and Allia and Bogey from My Three Cats who always sends us cool toys and everyone else who wished me well and so many others, and it made me feel so good that everything seemed normal again. Read the comments in “Get Well Wishes for Peaches”. What’s a kitty to do without the internet these days?

I’ll be in touch Eva!

Read about what started it all in “Get Well Wishes for Peaches”.

P.S. Peaches’ mom thanks everyone too! Your support was just as important to me as it was to Peaches!

Cat TV, Big Screen Version

photo of cat with fish ornament

Cookie with our WeatherFish

As Cookie and I cruise the yard, cleaning up branches and pulling aside flattened leaves to find green sprouts—okay, I’m doing the work and cleaning while Cookie supervises—I can also look into each door and window of my house and see everyone else watching us.

I know how much they’d like to be out here with us, especially now that it’s spring and the air is just intoxicating, but unlike Cookie they’d be off to other adventures faster than I could spin around and see them go. And then so much for my Backyard Wildlife Habitat if I introduce a non-native species that would surely wreak havoc on the natural balance—so I see from the neighbor cats who visit. And cats don’t obey property lines and can climb most average backyard fences, and where would I be without them?

photo of cat and flowered dress

Cookie and I have lunch al fresco.

I don’t let my cats outside to roam, but I have always had two or more garden sprites who hang out in the garden while I work outside. Usually this has been the oldest ones in the house who didn’t move too fast and were happy just to be in the outdoors. Cookie, however, has been outdoors with me most of the time she’s been with me because she feels she is somehow responsible for me, or so I gather, because she is never far from me, quietly vigilant, checking in with a head butt or a body rub every few minutes, purring happily and squinting her green eyes.

photo of black cat at door

Mr. Sunshine at the door.

But while I enjoy having one or more of my kitties outside with me, I’d also just like to give them the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors without me chasing them and without a leash to be tangled in. I have always wanted to build an enclosure that they could access on their own which was strong enough to withstand both the rigors of clever cats and of the weather and wildlife that happen in my yard.

Chris Davis, author, artist and owner of Lighthearted Press, came to the same conclusion when she bought her property in Oregon and set up habitat encouraging native birds, then her dog found a litter of kittens and everything changed. The cats came inside for her dog Jake to raise, and she and her husband planned, designed and built an attractive and durable outdoor “room” using hardware cloth for the walls and roof, bringing in downed trees from the woods and building shelves for kitties walk, climb and snooze on. I haven’t let my kitties know about this or there’d be you-know-what to pay!

photo of cat enclosure

Colorful outdoor room.

When I first saw photos of it I thought it was a greenhouse room or deck with the colorful shelves, benches, tables and plants. Rather than leaving it as a plain and functional space with a grass floor and bare trees and a few shelves, they decorated the space to be a usable area for themselves as well. The room incorporates some of my favorite colors—purple, violet and turquoise—and people can fit in the room as well as cats so Chris can enjoy the outdoors with her cats.

Chris remarks that the enclosure is 366 sq. ft. on the ground. The large section of ground is 23′ x 13′, and the back portion is 10′ x 8′ (yikes, my house is 15′ x 22′, but at least it’s two stories). Plus there is another 66 sq. ft. of back deck.

“So yes, it’s a good size,” she says. “However, this could be any size—even a small enclosure would be loved and appreciated by any cat.”

They first built the structure 10 years ago, and it took about three weeks. Having designed the entire thing themselves they had no advice or other experience to help decide about materials or structure, but only a few changes needed to be made to their original idea.

“We upgraded all the decks and stairs a few years later when it became clear the pile of logs wouldn’t last in our wet weather,” Chris comments on the more rustic beginnings.

photo of cat enclosure

Original enclosure with grass

I wondered if she had left grass as the “floor” in the room, this being the most logical thing to do for kitties who like to be outside, but also thinking of the difficulty of keeping it trimmed in an enclosed space, probably by hand. Initially, most of the “floor” was grass, but ultimately that had to be changed.

“Unfortunately, the grass just could not thrive in the soggy ground. I tried over and over to bring in sod or seed it, but this is Oregon and there’s a LOT of rain. The slope behind the enclosure has natural springs, so a lot of rain wound up in the lowest part of the yard, which was the enclosure,” she explains. “I finally gave up and put in stepping stones with gravel for drainage, and have planted ground cover in the gravel which is growing better. In the summer the kitties love to sprawl on the stepping stones because they’re cool.”

She also decided to cut back on the plants she kept in the room.

photo of cat enclosure

Cat enclosure with Star.

“I do put out cat grass and a few safe cat plants in pots, but over the years I’ve pulled back on those because the kitties just LOVE to eat them…and throw them up. I can hang flowering baskets because they can’t reach those,” she said.

And do her kitties appreciate all her efforts? I can see a feline eye roll and perhaps a tail flick if they’ve found something that hasn’t met their specifications.

“I have 4 sibling cats—they’ll be 12 next month. When I had doggies they loved the enclosure, too,” Chris says of the lucky animals who share their special outdoor space.

And they don’t have the run of it all day and night, only under supervision, in part because of “visitors”.

“I used to keep the dog door open all the time, so they could come and go in any weather. Now I’ve closed that off and give them selected play time during the day, when I’m home and can supervise,” Chris says. “Although I’ve done my best to plug all the holes, I can’t keep the moles from digging under the enclosure and coming up. The cats brought three inside a few summers ago—they just drop them in the kitchen. Thankfully I rescued all the moles, but that’s when it became clear I had to supervise their time much more clearly.”

And do they have a litterbox al fresco?

“There are no litter boxes out there. It’s a hoot to see a cat come running inside, use the litterbox, and then go back out- just like a child!” Chris says.

As far as structural changes, “The only thing I would have done differently was build a weatherproof top. Right now it’s all the 1/4 inch hardware cloth (screen) which is hardy and has withstood our wet weather, but it doesn’t make it pet friendly in the winter,” Chris says. “That has never kept the cats from going out in the rain or snow, but I think it would have been more fun if it had an actual ceiling.”

Chris explains more about her cat enclosure on her website where you can read more about it, see more photos as well as click to a narrated video on YouTube.

cover for every cat an angel

Cover image

Chris Davis is the author and illustrator of four beautiful books, For Every Dog An Angel, For Every Cat An Angel, Old Dog and the Christmas Wish and Shelter Dog…books that celebrate our magical companion animals. When you visit her site to see the enclosure, make sure you read about her books and enjoy the samples pages she has from each one. I really love her whimsical style and the rich, bright blending of colors.

The Creative Cat is “One of Ten Best Blogs” on LimePaw

Limepaw logoOn LinkedIn, a newly-established website listing services and products for animals requested blog owners to submit their animal-oriented blogs to a contest.They would announce the winners when the new website was uploaded and active.

I sent along a description of The Creative Cat, along with dozens of others who submitted over the course of about a month. LimePaw sent out a notice on Friday including the “ten best”, and I saw The Creative Cat among them!

The name can throw you off a bit, but this Blog is much more that pictures of animals. They have articles for every pet owner and animal lover.

That’s just what I’ve been striving to provide to my readers on The Creative Cat!

LinkedIn news and discussions in groups is set up on the model of a blog where an item is posted, then other group members make comments, so I could see all the other blogs that were being posted. Not for competitive reasons, the biggest part of the fun has been to read the descriptions provided by all the other blog owners and visit all these blogs.

I also listed my services as an animal portrait artist. If you provide a service to animals or people who love animals, or if you are looking for a service, browse over to take a look!

Get Well Wishes for Peaches

photo of cat on desk

Peaches is ready for dinner.

Peaches is pretty much back to being her sweet, demanding little self, but for a few days recently she was sleeping more and eating less, growing a little unsteady, a few other symptoms. We saw the veterinarian on Thursday and confirmed what I’d been suspecting for a while, that she’s been slipping into renal failure. A dose of fluids that day and each day since, and she’s feeling much better.

This is not a surprise, and not unanticipated. Peaches is “anecdotally” 19 years old, and kidneys get tired as the years go on, even in humans. Even with a good, balanced diet and continued good health, it’s wise to look for the symptoms of chronic kidney failure as a cat grows older. But I’ve nursed other elders through this, and I’m glad for the lessons learned.

So Eva, I think Peaches is out of the running as your assistant kitty for the moment, though having read your other candidates’ interviews she’s seriously considering at least being a virtual assistant!

About Peaches

photo of two cats looking out a window

Their former person's favorite photo.

I do know that Peaches is in her late teens, though not her exact age, because she’s been with me for only five years. A friend told me about a good friend of hers who had died unexpectedly, leaving two cats who belonged with no instructions for what do to with the girls.

After a cursory look for prospective homes, the woman’s out-of-town son had decided to take them to a veterinarian and likely have them euthanized rather than take them to a shelter where it was unlikely they’d be adopted, but apparently the vet convinced him to give them a little more time.

Back home in the empty house, my friend gave them food and water and visited while she helped get the woman’s belongings in order and the house ready for sale. I told her with seven cats and several seniors already, I didn’t want to take them in, but if they were in “dire straits” she should call, and so she did when the house was sold and the girls had to go somewhere.

I knew this meant that I stood a good chance of not only fostering but also owning two senior cats, but I’ve fostered and found good homes for plenty of cats, including older adults. Something told me to take the chance on these two.

Their records were lost in the shuffle so I had no idea of true age, health or inoculations. Peaches’ name was then Rosebud, and her calico sister was Angel, and while I usually keep the names adult fosters come in with if I know them, these names didn’t work for me. I used my everyday skills in marketing and promotion and renamed them Peaches and Cream, hoping the familiar phrase would help encourage someone to adopt the two.

pencil and watercolor sketch of a cat sleeping

Peaches Nap Spot, pencil and watercolor © B.E. Kazmarski

Perhaps because of their age or the fact that they had been primarily alone for three months, they came in with some hydration issues; Cream, in fact, seemed to be suffering from chronic renal failure then, and Peaches had some serious elimination issues. A few weeks of fluids and a regular diet, confined in the spare cat room, and they were good as new. I was already treating Stanley for chronic renal failure and always had a bag of fluids hanging in the kitchen, and with the four senior cats on hand—Stanley had come to me as an adult and been with me 20 years already, Moses was 18, Sophie was 15, Cookie was 13—I had done my best to learn what to anticipate as they grew older.

Of course, though many people met the two friendly and social seniors, complimented their good looks and laughed at their names, no one wanted to risk adopting cats that old, and the most frequent comment was along the lines of “they’ll die soon, and I can’t handle that”. I could understand not wanting to walk into a potentially hurtful situation, but these two ladies had been the darlings of a widowed senior woman and needed a home where they got more attention than mine.

But the two adapted to my house better than I’d seen many other cats adapt to a dramatic change. Creamy thought I belonged to her and chased the other cats away when she was on my lap, not a good idea, so I had to keep her confined for certain periods of time during the day to avoid the other seniors getting upset. Still, she was so sweet and pretty that I regularly took her for visits to the personal care home where my mother lived so she could happily sit on the laps of ladies who had had to give up their kitties.

One day Peaches walked out of the Spare Kitty Room leaving Cream and never went back in. I had the feeling that Cream, much bigger and bolder, had always dominated tiny submissive Peaches, but it seemed Peaches felt she had a new life here.

I did lose Cream 10 months after she came to live with me; she was one of the four seniors I lost in a 12-month period, finally losing the battle with chronic renal failure. I felt she was desperately waiting to see her person again and had a hard time letting go, and I thought of the individuals who wouldn’t adopt her because of the age and loss issue, but I had known what I was headed for, and I also knew that my pain at her loss was far outweighed by the final happy months she had.

Peaches goes on

Photo of cat with plant

Peaches With a Green Hat

Peaches immediately became a part of my household, her health continued to improve and she turned out to be very friendly, even greeting people (after Namir was done with them), and everyone remarked on what a pretty little kitty she was, and apparently very different from what she had been in her former home.

She came in with some variation on Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), my veterinarian telling me she had horribly ropy and lumpy intestines, and this was likely the cause of Peaches’ elimination problems. As a senior, she gets high-quality canned food with supplements to help her digest and metabolize her food, plus raw meat or a raw meal now and then as she will eat it, especially once we learned about the condition of her intestines. While she occasionally became constipated, she gained weight—from 5.5 lbs to 6.1 lbs at the most—and vitality.

And she’s more than held her own with the arrival of the Big Four. I was concerned what four lively growing kittens could do to a frail tiny cat like Peaches, but she ignores their silly games and they love her, cuddling with her and treating her gently.

Her new career

animal sympathy card

They find a comfortable place in your heart to live in forever and ever.

animal sympathy card

Remember the beautiful moments from all those years together.

Despite her attempt to become a feline photographer, Peaches was meant to be an artist’s model. I can’t imagine what my portfolio of writing, feline paintings, sketches and photographs would be like without her. Her little self-possessed habits, her delicate, petite appearance and her clear peach and gray and creamy white markings make her a constant inspiration to me as a feline artist, and a favorite subject for those who view my artwork.

Among other things, she appears on two of my animal sympathy cards—two of the most popular so far.

pastel painting of cat on table with peonies

Peaches and Peonies

And she is the subject of one of my favorite works, “Peaches and Peonies”, which shows the moment I understood how important Peaches had become in my life. It was then that I realized how often I looked at her, how much I loved both her sweet self-centeredness and her natural curiosity and affection for me, how I studied her features, and how much this scene was what I felt was the essence of Peaches. I have dedicated a portion of the sales of prints of this piece to support adoption programs for senior pets through my “Senior Pet Adoption Program“.

Getting older, and the risk of renal failure

I’ve given her a few doses of fluids here and there in the years she’s been with me, partly to help with her bowel condition, and kept an eye on her appetite, elimination, physical appearance and her breath. In addition to elimination problems, she was also the one who vomited at least once a day, for no apparent reason. When she vomited more than once, I was concerned and took a closer look, and usually, with a little special food, maybe some fluids, a little something to settle her stomach, she was fine.

Beginning Monday, I saw the same symptoms. She seemed to be clearing up, but by Wednesday night just wasn’t eating right, still vomiting and was very sleepy with that characteristically strong uremic breath. Thursday morning I called our veterinarian, who has a house call business and was coincidentally just a few streets away from me.

This woman has been my primary veterinarian for 15 or more years, and I think at this point she can read something in my voice. She trusts my interpretation and descriptions, and while she’ll often just return my call with advice, when it’s been most important she’s decided to make the time in her schedule and stop by. Thursday was such a day.

While she weighed and examined Peaches and we gave her fluids, I described Peaches’ recent activities, including quite an animated discussion of how “good” the condition of her stool had been for the past few months since I found a new supplement. Cat owners will understand these intense conversations about cat poop, and the various descriptions of size, shape and consistency, and my vet and I had a good laugh at it.

pencil sketch of gray cat on table

Nikka on the Table, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

My veterinarian also remembers my shock when I lost my Nikka to acute renal failure in 2003. Nikka was 15 and had also had some elimination issues, and I had only thought she was constipated and perhaps vomiting at breakfast was caused by that. But with no stool the next morning we did a quick appointment; Nikka’s body temperature was dropping, she was apparently suffering some neurological effects in her hind quarters, and the next morning I had to have her put to sleep at an emergency clinic in the middle of a snowstorm because her kidneys had simply quit. I saw no symptoms of anything, so I don’t know if Nikka dealt with it as cats do, or if it really was classic acute renal failure where even getting her to the clinic earlier would have helped.

My veterinarian gave me the details of how feline kidneys function and how they fail, and what to look for with renal failure. I have never forgotten the lessons, all of them, from the loss to the learning. A year later, Stanley had been showing some early symptoms and suddenly dropped of the scale, completely lethargic and losing body temperature one morning, but fluid therapy brought him around and eventually he recovered to the point where he only needed fluids now and then for his last three years.

Moving forward

The day we’d dosed Peaches with fluids, I had to leave in the late afternoon. She was sleeping on my chair when I left, but when I came back she had her paws curled under like a little dilute calico meatloaf on the papers on my desk, awake and waiting for me to return. Some sights are so welcome they bring tears to your eyes even though they are hardly noteworthy without knowing the details.

photo of peaches on the counter

Peaches on the counter.

Today, two days after her diagnosis, Peaches is almost back to her usual activity level and appetite, still a little sleepy and unsteady, but she’s responded well to the fluids alone and that’s a good sign. She’s gone from baby food to her favorite canned food with some raw interspersed, and a few tablespoons of skim milk for extra fluid and because she likes it. I can usually find someone to help me give Peaches her fluids—for all her seeming frailty, Peaches puts up a heck of a fight, and in part it’s her tiny body that’s the problem because she’s impossible to find when I wrap her in a towel.

I’ve got a bag of fluids hanging in my kitchen, the joke between me and my veterinarian is that I always do because it wards off the evil spirits. In the three-year period when I had senior and critically ill cats and lost a total of six cats, I always had a fluid bag in the kitchen. Whenever it seemed I didn’t need it anymore and took it down, suddenly someone developed a condition and needed the fluids again, so I’ve left a bag hanging there even though it’s usually been outdated and unusable. Doesn’t everyone have a bag of fluids hanging in their kitchen?

Peaches eats on a counter/island I have in the middle of my kitchen, and even at her age she jumps up onto the backless stool I use and from there to the countertop, usually racing me into the kitchen and trying to convince me it’s time to eat—every 42 minutes. Partly because I need to sit in a chair instead of on a backless stool and Peaches didn’t always make it up onto the stool, I added a table with regular chairs.

Peaches was a little confused at the change, but she is very independent and I knew that any attempt by me to show her how to get up on the new table would be summarily rejected. I let her circle the table and her natural curiosity led her to investigate each of the chairs, choose one and jump up and easily walk to the counter as if nothing was different.

I know two things: we are not out of the woods yet, and we probably never will be again. The reality is that Peaches is a very old cat and her days are fewer than I’d like to think about, but I need to think about it. I’ve lost 12 cats from my household, dozens of others I’ve fostered or come to know through friends and customers whose portraits I’ve painted. My days of losing cats are far from over. I’d be a fool to deny that losing Peaches isn’t part of the reality of loving Peaches, in fact, it’s an integral part of loving Peaches, and being honest and aware is especially important right now, both for Peaches’ care and my own emotional health.

We’re not ready to walk down that last stretch together, but we’re considering the journey. Losing a loved one is never easy and nothing can make it hurt less, but I’m guided by what I’ve learned from each of my losses and I have them to thank for the awareness that comforts me.

pastel painting of black cat on floor

Are You Looking at Me?, Kublai in pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Thanks to Bootsie for my awakening, and to Kublai for looking into my eyes and teaching me what to listen for when an animal wants to communicate. To Sally for the knowledge that passing over really is a joyful event, to Stanley and Moses for teaching me to understand and trust their physical and emotional strength. And to Namir for teaching me to trust him to know when this time was the last time, and he was ready for the journey.

So Peaches and I are going to eat now, then she’ll get today’s fluids, then I’m heading outside to restore my soul. Keep Peaches in your thoughts.

This thou perceivs’t, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ‘ere long.

Perhaps the Storm is Finally Over

Pet Loss in the First Person, a series of six articles

A Green Party for Your Pets?

photo of a cat in plants

Loo-See of the Jungle © B.E. Kazmarski

What happened to that nice spider plant I used to have? Oops—while enjoying the scene out the window, Cookie forgot it wasn’t just a clump of grass and chewed it down to little nubbins. Then, because it really wasn’t grass and really wasn’t digestible by her little system, she deposited it back on your carpet in a most inelegant manner.

And that wandering jew? Lucy used it for a bed? I’ll bet she looked sweet.

Oh, and that special dozen roses you got at Valentine’s Day with all the greens and baby’s breath? Did Kelly think it was for her?

This article covers information and resources for both cats and dogs, and since I live with cats all the references and photos are of my own cats. Cats and dogs have different reactions to many plants and other substances, but many toxic dangers exist for both of them.

You can’t really punish them for following both a natural impulse and a physical need. Cats chew on grasses specifically to help cleanse their mouth and digestive system, and to add fiber to their primarily protein diet to aid in elimination. And, of course, an indoor kitty will take what she can get to simulate the natural outdoor environment she craves, digging in the soil of a potted plant or making a bed of a lush, healthy pot of foliage.

pastel painting of a cat with flowers

The Perfect Camouflage, Sophie with zinnias, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Cats aren’t necessarily particular in what they’ll nibble on; generally they’ll try anything green, and some cats will completely chew down a plant that can’t have tasted very good and wasn’t very easy to chew.

While it may be amusing if you’re not too attached to your plants, it can be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS to your cat. Several common houseplants, or plants we bring in for some holidays or for winter, are deadly, and another longer list can cause a range of symptoms from temporary discomfort to permanent health problems.

And while many people know about the dangers of houseplants, plants are just as toxic in a pretty arrangement from the florist as well as when they are growing in the yard. My cats find anything green to be a tasty snack!

photo of easter lily

An Easter lily is toxic to cats, but sometimes they can't resist © B.E. Kazmarski

For instance, consider the lilies we bring into our home around Easter, or other species in the lily family (including those we may have as cut flowers). According to Jill A. Richardson, DVM, Veterinary Poison Information Specialist, ASPCA/National Animal Poison Control Center, “Several types of lilies can be deadly to cats. Easter lily, tiger lily, rubrum, Japanese show lily, some species of day lily, and certain other members of the Liliaceae family can cause kidney failure in cats. Within only a few hours of ingestion of the plant material, the cat may vomit, become lethargic, or develop a lack of appetite. These signs continue and worsen as kidney damage progresses. Without prompt and proper treatment by a veterinarian, the cat will develop kidney failure in approximately 36-72 hours. All parts of these lilies are considered toxic to cats and consuming even small amounts can cause severe poisoning.”(1)

photo of daffodils

Daffodils and other bulbs are commonly forced for indoor bloom © B.E. Kazmarski

While most plants are not that immediately toxic, other plants, such as azalea, lily of the valley, yew and bulbs we might force to bloom, including tulip, daffodil and crocus, can be deadly to cats in impaired health or kittens, since they’re small enough to get a big dose with an enthusiastic bite. Though not deadly for adult cats in good health, they’ll often cause extreme abdominal pain, nausea, salivation and vomiting. Repeated exposure can be cumulative with some plants.

That was not intended to scare you, but to illustrate the seriousness of the cat and plant issue. The problem is that, while you may get some cats to stay away from your plants, most cats will return again and again, even if they suffer discomfort from their snack. The best way to keep your cats safe from plants is to put the plants completely out of reach-bearing in mind that cats can jump six times their height and can be ingenious about launching from strategic furniture to get into a hanging basket. Sometimes it is necessary to completely remove the plant from the house, no matter how much you like it. This has been my solution, much as I need to have my greenery in the house.

Signs of plant poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling or pain inside the cat’s mouth. If you know or suspect which plant you cat has eaten, identify the plant by name when you call your veterinarian. Bring samples of the plant’s leaves or flowers when you take your cat to the veterinarian for treatment.

photo of black cat with plant

Mewsette considers the Christmas Cactus © B.E. Kazmarski

As for the non-toxic plants, even though Mewsette won’t suffer if she chews on them (unless you get your hands on her), you still don’t want her shredding your greenery. Several commercial sprays will give the plant a bad smell and/or taste without damaging the plant with recommended use, and a nibble by Mewsette will not harm her. One product is “Bitter Apple for Plants”, a stronger version of which is available for dogs learning not to chew on everything. Other products are named “Off for Cats” and such like, and simply smell bad.

You can also try your own home brew by dabbing hot sauce on the tips of some of the leaves, or rubbing a citrus peel on the leaf. For the sake of your plants, however, just try it on one or two leaves to make sure you won’t fry the whole plant in an effort to keep Mimi from eating it.

You could also place “Sticky Paws” on the countertop around the plant so that when she stepped close to the plant she would step on the product and back off; please read the instructions on the Sticky Paws package for what surfaces are appropriate for its use.

cat with grass in planter

Peaches enjoys her snack in the sun © B.E. Kazmarski

One other thing to help the situation—and it’s a nice thing to do for your cat even if you don’t have a plant problem—is to plant her own pot of greens and make it available to her at all times. Don’t use regular plant seeds such as grass seed because some seeds are treated and they don’t all grow well inside; instead, purchase “cat greens”, usually a mixture of wheat, oats and barley grains, all three of which are not only a pleasure for your cat, but full of nutrition. Some other commercial “cat greens” mixtures contain catnip, a sure winner, sage, parsley, chickweed, colt’s foot grass, and other herbs and wild plants that your cat would eat if left outdoors. Alternately, get grass seed you’re sure hasn’t been treated.

Most of these plants can be grown in a small container on a windowsill, and if you keep two containers growing, one available to the cat and one just sprouting, you can have a constant treat for her. These plants need a good bit of sunlight to thrive, so try to find a sunny spot that your cat can get to. It will serve two purposes: because she tends to chew when she’s gazing at the outdoors, you’ve provided exactly what she needs for her little interlude.

kitty enjoys her greens

Peaches enjoys her grass © B.E. Kazmarski

Many local shelters  and websites have information on growing grass and other plants indoors for your cats to enjoy, and many pet supply stores actually sell pre-planted organic seeds that you only have to water and place in a sunny location. If you plant the seeds yourself, it’s important to make sure you use potting soil that has no commercial fertilizers in it since, if your animals are like my cats, they’ll eat it right down to the roots and even eat some soil! Also, the soil may be spilled if the plant is knocked over. To be completely safe, you can always use just plain old peat moss, which doesn’t contain enough nutrition to sustain a large plant, but will grow grass and small herb plants just fine.

And am amazing resource in finding indoor and outdoor plants that are toxic to dogs, cats and horses is on the ASPCA website at under both “17 Common Poisonous Plants” and a hugely comprehensive list of over 400 plant species in “Toxic and Non-toxic Plants”, which even has photos.

Also, in my series on creating your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, I address the issue of choosing pet-safe plants for your backyard in Bringing it All Together, Enhancing and Developing Your Habitat.

Shelters and animal welfare organizations also have comprehensive lists  of plants toxic to cats and potentially toxic foods, visit the Humane Society of the United States for Keep Your Pets Safe and Happy During the Holiday Season and the ASPCA’s Holiday Safety Tips. Both have tips and links to information on toxic plants and “pet-safe floral arrangements”, and various potentially toxic foods. Also keep a link the the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center for reference at before your purchase a house plant or bring an arrangement into the house.

This article was authored by me and first published in  Cat Chat on the My Three Cats website. Visit to read other articles I’ve written for them over the years!

(1) Information obtained from

Visit FalconCam to See the Next Generation Hatch and Grow

photo of falcon

peregrine, courtesy National Aviary website

The peregrine falcon families nesting on the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh and on the Gulf Tower in downtown Pittsburgh have begun laying eggs!

The camera is unobtrusive and doesn’t interfere with their daily life, and we’ve learned so much about them we’d never have known without this method of observation.

Peregrines are one of a number of medium-sized raptors. Reaching speeds of nearly 200 mph in its stoop, or dive after prey, it’s one of the fastest creatures on earth, and a subspecies can be found on nearly every continent and in nearly every climate. It is also the iconic bird used in human falconry; working with a falcon is a commitment of years and requires a complete knowledge and bond with the bird, not so much training as partnership and understanding.

Use of pesticides, especially DDT, after WWII affected the peregrine’s ability to produce an eggshell thick enough to be incubated by an adult bird, and as a result the species declined to the point that by 1965 it actually became extinct in the eastern US and other areas in the world.

A concerted effort by individuals, conservationists and environmental organizations at the local and state level resulted in restricting the use of DDT, protecting the species in other areas and encouraging peregrines to return to the area helped to bring the species back from the brink of extinction. In Pittsburgh this includes the owners and managers of the buildings where the Falcons nest.

This is one of the reasons for FalconCam today—to learn about peregrines in general and monitor this population and its adaptation to living among buildings instead of mountains. The nests are man-made but carefully designed and placed to attract falcons, and so they have since 1991 at the Gulf Tower and 2002 at the Cathedral of Learning. Fledglings are banded and tracked to see the dissemination of individuals and to track populations, as well as cross-breeding with captive bred falcons.

A falcon’s diet consists mostly of birds, namely rock doves, those big strutting pigeons we see all around the city, and other small to medium-sized birds. A peregrine family decidedly keeps the pigeon population in check, and certainly no building that has a peregrine family inhabiting it will have a problem with pigeons messing up the roof or the sidewalk below, a common complaint in cities all over, and a natural way to control nuisance birds.

Over the years, people looking out of windows have seen some spectacular catches by the falcons as well as a fight nearly to the death between two male falcons.

Collaborative efforts like this not only exist in Pittsburgh but in other cities around Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the United States. I like to think it’s fitting that the Rachel Carson State Office Building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s state capitol, also has a falcon nest and FalconCam.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Drink Straight From the Tap

photo of four blakc cats drinking from a faucet

A Drink With Family on St. Patrick's Day

Especially if you’re the Parched Puddies having your daily drink in the mint green sink! They’re not Irish and neither am I, but when you’re getting together with family and drinking from the tap in the presence of something green on St. Patrick’s Day…well, we non-Irish have to improvise.

This photo, for once, is actually from “today”; usually they are from the previous day’s download. All four do this every day, in fact doing their best to lead me back upstairs after breakfast to turn the faucet on to a drip so they can drink. Just this morning the light was perfect* and all four were drinking at one time, plus you can actually see the faucet (a little) and tell it’s a sink.

*Photographing black cats in natural light is a trick, and many of the other photos I have of them drinking in the sink—or doing anything as a group, for that matter—often turns out as a black blob with eyes and ears if I’m not careful. It was often difficult to tell what was in the sink, let alone the number of cats.

But the sun is bright today and reflects off the white walls in the bathroom and I’ve finally captured one of my favorite moments with these four.

I’m Going to Blogpaws 2010!

I'm going to BlogPaws 2010 badgeThe guy at the top of this blog started all this blogging business for me. As I discovered, I had quite a bit to write about, but it was his imminent loss that compelled me to get in touch with the animal-loving community in this unique way.

I started this blog in January 2009, and only posted once or twice a month until I lost Namir in July 2009. I wrote two posts about him, and about loss, in that month, then began posting weekly, then more and more frequently as I found a community of others just as passionate about my animal companions and animals in general.

It’s been a wonderful way to spend a little over a year, and it’s shown me a means of communication I was apparently waiting for because now I have four blogs including The Creative Cat—Today, my daily photo blog was second, Portraits of Animals Marketplace is a great place for me to feature new works in a way I never could before, and What’s New in Bernadette’s Studio makes a feature including all my commercial and fine art, writing, photography and all else that I used to do manually. That’s not enough, because I’ll soon be setting up another one or two. Since I guess I’ll be doing this full time, it’s a good idea to get together with other bloggers and learn as much as I can, plus make connections with other people who are blogging about pets and animals.

I’ll also have the opportunity to include three pieces of artwork in the silent auction. Half of the sale price will go to benefit animal welfare.

I also hope to come back with lots of wonderful ideas to share with my customers too, as I set them up on blogs.

Read more about Blogpaws 2010 on their blog!

Peaches Has Her Interview!

photo of peaches looking at me

"Go do something else."

Oh, my! I’ve been waiting ALL DAY for my mom to leave the computer. Eva posted a comment on my blog post last night, and I even sat on my mom in bed this morning trying to get-her-up!

We finally got to the computer and I heard her say, “It’s a good day to concentrate and get things done,” something to do with the weather which is out there and I don’t pay any attention to it, but she barely left her seat for long enough for me to grab a snack and get back before her.

photo of peaches on my lap

Guarding mom's lap.

I sat on her lap to make sure I’d know when the computer was free—usually I love days like this—but finally I’ve got a few minutes to answer Eva’s questions.

Hmmm, let’s see…

1) So, what are some of the jobs you’ve had before and what is your favorite?

Peaches with camera

Here I am ready to take a photo.

Well, let’s see. I’m a late bloomer, which is why I hope you don’t mind my age. For all my life before I came to my current mom, I lived with another nice lady and my sister who kind of bullied me and I hid a lot. I’m not sure how it all happened, but the first lady disappeared and here I am, and I didn’t have my first real job until I got here and began to use my mom’s little digital camera. My mom even wrote about it on her old website.

I’ve also become an artist’s model—in fact, I can hardly get any rest that my mom isn’t poking a camera in my face or making me stand still while she’s working so she can get her painting right. Of course, sometimes I’m sleeping and I don’t know.

2) Can you type?

photo of calico cat with keyboard

See, I'm typing.

I can walk on the keyboard, see—lkppppppppppppppppk. Does that count? Of course, I’m typing this.

3) Do you have your own laptop?

You mean that nice warm bed my mom tries to use on the kitchen table? It’s hers, but it’s just my size because it’s what she calls a “notebook”. It’s not mine, though.

4) What are your favorite snacks?  Do you like Encheesladas?

I absolutely LOVE cheese, so if I didn’t like the rest of it I could lick the cheese off. I love any kind of fish at all.

5) What are your favorite places to sleep?

1) Mom’s lap, 2) in front of the heater vent in her office, 3) on her desk under the kitty keep-warm lamps.

6) What would you do if a silly doggie came along and ate your snacks and ruined all of your work?

I would probably go and take a nap until the silly doggie was gone. I got snacks once, I’ll get them again, and I can do the work another time. I’m very small and cute, I can’t scare anyone and no one ever believes it when I try to get mad.

7) What are your pet peeves at home and at work?

photo of calico cat

Do I look hungry enough?

Home and work are the same place here. You mean they’re different places if you’re somewhere else?

Well, as I mentioned first, not getting fed as often as I feel I need, not getting enough lap time unless I guard mom’s lap, and having to deal with the Maddening Mob of two-year-olds who for some reason really like me and they don’t leave me alone.

8) It sounds like you have a really nice home right now, even though snack and lap- time are problems.  Would it be difficult to make such a big change?  Amber’s mom suggested that maybe you could be a virtual assistant.  I don’t know what that is, but I’ll look it up and let you know what I find out.

photo of black cat and calico cat sleeping

Giuseppe is very warm and comforting.

It is a nice home, and I’ve been really happy here for the four years I’ve been here. I just remember how nice it was at my last place where there were only two of us, and even though my sister bullied me I still got a lot of attention and anything at all I wanted to eat. I’d like that again. But I’ve been able to do so many new things since I’ve been here, and I’ve really come to enjoy being with people, and I have to admit I feel better and I’m a lot healthier here than I ever was with my other mom. And the kids aren’t so bad—in fact, Giuseppe curls up with me in the winter and he’s so big and warm I could sleep all day.

I like being a model, too. I don’t suppose there’s any opportunity for that at your house, is there?

photo of black cat and calico

Mimi and I convey the idea of dinner by preventing further work.

Well, I can hear it’s almost supper time, even though I ate less than an hour ago, and then I need to take a nap while you read this. Since everything is electronic, I could be a virtual assistant. We could try that for a while.

And if not, it would be nice to have a friend on the computer.

We have to figure out some way to fool your mom, though!

I look forward to your reply!

Peaches Applies for a Job

“Seeking office assistant for very busy kitty who needs help with things.  You should be able to type and to understand business stuff.  Must be professional and good with other cats.  Lots of nap breaks and some snacks.  Multi tasking would be good-like maybe watching out the window for visitors while also getting food from the kitchen counter.”

I can do that. There was more, you can read the rest here, and there might be a d-o-g, but if I can put up with these four ingrates, a dog will be no problem. It was from a kitty named Eva, and her situation sounded way better than mine. So I applied.

photo of peaches looking at giuseppe and mewsette

Those two oversized idiots hog mom's lap.

Don’t let my mom know…I’m considering a change in venue because my mom is totally inadequate when it comes to feeding me every 42 minutes, plus there’s this group of hyperactive two-year-olds here, so I am considering a change of venue. I can push papers around on a desk with the best of them and I walk on the keyboard regularly only to find myself unceremoniously placed on the floor. I suit all your other requirements, and I hope age isn’t a factor because I think I’m 19 and I probably am, but I’m a very agile and young-looking 19. How is lap time at your place?~Peaches

And you know what? Bad economy or not, I got an interview! Eva posted a message on her blog and on Facebook saying she was waiting.

You see, we older kitties are very computer savvy because those young yahoos just have no attention span.

So I’m going to tell Eva that I have an idea that could work to both of our advantages. We look very much alike, and with Eva’s agility and my absolute cuteness, I could be a decoy and we could work together to fool her mom into thinking there’s only one cat while Eva gets the treats! Then we could have a great time on the internet ordering even more!

photo of calico cat

Peaches Wakes Me Up

Here’s my application photo, so you can see how much we look alike. And by the way, this is what I have to do to get my mom out of bed in the morning…