Coming in July

photo of bergamot flower with bee

Bergamot with Bee

July brings the anniversary of many things feline-related—losses, rescues, births, new artwork, and I’m looking forward to sharing the stories and related articles and information.

I begin below with two losses, but read on, they turn into beautiful things.


photo of Namir

Namir, photo © B.E.Kazmarski

Today as I compiled and packaged my entries for the Cat Writer’s Association Communications Contest I had bittersweet memories of June 30 last year, the last day Namir spent with me. Though we knew his time was very limited due the advanced nature of his hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and more frequent and severe bouts of congestive heart failure (CHF), his last day was just like any other day and for all that he and I shared I am glad we didn’t share a long and painful decline and debility.

I wrote a tribute to Namir about two weeks after he passed, and I’ll run this July 1, in memory of the first anniversary of his passing. It’s not sad because Namir was full of energy and creativity, a truly remarkable cat beloved by visitors to my house—in fact, he was always greeted before I was. I’m looking forward to sharing his antics and laughing over the goofy things he did.

And in his memory I’ll be providing links to information about HCM, which is all too common in cats but with newer treatments and medications is no longer a death sentence.


photo of black cat in bed covers

Lucy Helps to Make the Bed, photo © B.E. Kazmarski

Between February 2006 and January 2007, I lost my four oldest cats. In the middle of those losses I fostered and found homes for a litter of kittens born to my Mimi, before she was my Mimi; I kept one of those kittens though I hadn’t wanted to with all the needs of my older cats. I hadn’t had a kitten for years, and my next youngest cat was then 11. Sleek, petite Lucy, solid black with yellow eyes became the new future of my household.

But when she was a year old she was diagnosed with effusive feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), and I lost her at 15 months. The entire experience was a story in itself, but to honor Lucy I’ve been working on some artwork using her image, bright and colorful and playful as the kitten she was. I’ll be glad to introduce the artwork and the story of her kittenhood in paintings.

Mimi and the Fantastic Four

kittens nursing

Kittens nursing, ear colors

As much as I would rather have shared a long life with Lucy, she gave me a wonderful gift from beyond the rainbow. A few days after she had passed I was watching her mother in my garden, quite pregnant with another litter, and I know Lucy put the idea in my mind that hot July morning to take her in.

So July brings a rescue day and a birthday. The Big Four will be three years old on July 26, and Mimi joined my household on July 29. Now that’s a reason to celebrate!

And in honor of Lucy, the whole extended family, even the kitties who don’t live with me and those from other of Mimi’s litters, will be getting swabbed and entered into the FIP study at the University of California at Davis. I’ll be providing links to information about FIP and writing a few articles about treating FIP.

Declawing Alternatives

black cat paw

Mimi's paw with claws retracted.

Many years ago a good friend of mine compiled a huge, comprehensive page of information about cats. This friend happens to be the mom of Angus and Donal, Lucy’s brothers, and she is also the person who taught me my first few lines of HTML coding back in 1997, sending my career off in an extra direction of design.

Amby’s Cat Information Page at still exists, and though she hasn’t had the time to update links and information I’ve decided there is too much there to just let it sit unnoticed. I’ll be extracting information, updating links and posting articles on The Creative Cat, beginning with an article Amby wrote detailing the process for trimming claws. In addition to the illustrations, we discussed videotaping the process and adding that to the article as well, so we’ll be working on that project for July as well.


Now that I’ve got my studio in shape, I’ll be able to begin working on portraits again, and I really can’t wait. I’ll be posting updates as I work so you’ll be able to see them take shape.

cats on desk

Dinner, now.

But for now, Peaches, who is doing well now that we seem to have her right inner ear under control, wants dinner. Everyone who’s been sending good vibes to Peaches, thanks! Keep it up every so often because it really seems to work for her!

Left Behind in an Apartment?! and Ferals…

tabby kitten

Tabby Kitten

Who could do that to a kitty as pretty as this? She looks to be about four months old, a sweet long-haired tabby who’s very skittish, a little confused, but very affectionate underneath it all.

tabby kitten with don

She's wary but affectionate.

She’d just been there about an hour when I arrived, and I’m sure it will take her a few days to calm down after that experience. It had only been a day or two, but that’s long enough to make a kitty wonder a little bit about humans. She’s ready to be spayed, and no one knows her health history but if someone would abandon her it may also be that they wouldn’t have bothered with veterinary care, so likely she’ll need all her shots.

If you are interested, please let me know!

kittens front

Four kittens, two from each litter.

And then there’s the stray mama with five babies! Apparently someone had been trying to trap this mama from the time she showed up, but not until someone gave the advice to just put the trap out with food in it but tie it open so she’d get used to it did the wary momcat finally lose her distrust of the trap. It was apparently easy after that to capture her kittens since some were in the cage with mom and the rest were right around.

As a bonus, there are also two orange kittens from another litter, also born to a stray mother, not yet caught.

black kittens

The third black kitten is behind the litterbox.

I stopped at my local Agway farm store yesterday afternoon to pick up my cat food. I shop there frequently for cat food and litter, bird seed, suet and other outdoor things, gardening implements, plants and so on. They also carry my greeting cards and note cards and even some gift items around the holidays, and are my best seller—many of their customers are cat owners, and almost everyone who visits there owns a pet of some sort.

A few years ago after they lost their older kitty Pussy Willow one of their customers brought a handful of kittens from their barn. This was fine until she brought more later, then others who saw kittens for adoption began bringing kittens too. Like many good-hearted establishments they had a “kitten” problem for a year or two until they convinced everyone they weren’t taking kittens to be adopted, but they’ll still take in a cat or litter of kittens in an emergency, especially feral kittens, taming them and getting them veterinary care at their own expense and finding a good home among customers.

orange kitten

I'm a little shy.

They haven’t had any kittens at all this spring until now, and I was glad to see that. They pay for the kitties’ care out of their own pockets. Farm supply stores don’t make a very good living in this area any more since most farms are gone, and it’s impossible to compete with the megastores that can offer more goods. Several years ago when they were in the midst of the overflow of kittens I had told them about the spay/neuter clinic as well as all the other options for low-cost spay/neuter in the city which has made things a little more affordable for them.

mama kitty

Mama kitty.

But here we are with that nice tuxedo mama and her five babies: three black kittens, a black and white and a gray and white. The two orange kittens, as mentioned, are from a second litter. The kittens are seven or eight weeks old, taming down from living outdoors. Mom needs to be spayed, all need veterinary care, all are up for adoption, or if you can’t adopt, a donation for their care would be very welcome.

kittens back

Four kittens from the back of the cage.

The person who brought these cats in was another customer who’d been trying to catch the mother, then the mother and kittens, since April. Another mother kitty with more kittens is still out there, but they are even more wary than this group. They’d been living in a wooded area on the edge of a neighborhood, either escaped from someone or tossed out. The orange kittens are quite friendly, so they may have been born in a home and dumped somewhere when they started running around, as is common. The other litter was likely born outside since the kittens and their mom are closely bonded and the kittens have needed some taming.

black kitten don

Don handles the kitten.

Don, who you see in some of these photos, is the owner of the place and store manager, and is very successful in taming wild little kittens, spending as much time as possible handling them in between work around the store. Sloane, the other woman who works there, dotes on them, and is the one who tosses all the toys in the cages. All the beds and food and toys and litter for the kittens come from store stock, which Don and Sloane pay for out of their pockets along with spay/neuter and veterinary care. This can get expensive after a while! They are a small operation and pay a higher wholesale cost for materials than larger stores.

tabby cage

Tabby rests in her cage.

If you’re local, please shop there—it’s a neat store anyway, especially if you like to just hang out once in a while and spend an hour talking about the weather and the birds in your yard and how your tomatoes are doing this year. If you still like to help, just “buy” a bed or a bag of food.

If you might be interested in these kitties, please contact me!

Unless another opportunity opens up at a shelter, they’ll stay at the Agway until they are adopted.

Hearts and Paws Pet Adoption and Care Fair

hearts and paws pet adoption

My view of things.

The weather was beautiful, and I personally saw five kitties be adopted to good homes! Plus I sold a respectable amount of merchandise for a five-hour event.

When we’ve had storms nearly every afternoon for weeks, I consider my options when attending an outdoor festival, which is most of my participation in the summer months. One suprise microburst can ruin months of work and hundreds of dollars of merchandise.

And in an event such as this, every other tent was a rescue of some sort and all had animals for adoption in cages and on leashes, not to mention the animals who were visiting.

But there were no storms and no other surprises. The event hosted nearly 50 vendors and was very well-attended by the public, and it certainly seemed to me that everyone came away happy.

adult cats in cages

The adult cats for adoption.

I was a vendor, so unlike being a visitor and being able to mill around I was confined to the area where my tent was, all the way at one end of two rows of vendors. As I tossed my tent and bins onto the grass in my spot, one of the women from Animal Care and Welfare asked me if it was okay if I was near cats because they were going to have cages with cats and kittens on the table next to me. “Wait until you see my stuff!” I said.

orange kitten adopted

Orange and white kitten is adopted!

People started visiting immediately, and the kittens in the cages were a hit. A young couple visited, then visited again, and a little orange kitten with white paws was the first one to be adopted!

As others visited the cages I greeted visitors in my tent, my merchandise constantly rearranged by the wonderful breeze blowing through. I saw several friends, many of whom I trade e-mails with for homeless kitties—it’s nice to see these people “in person”!

two kittens

Two kittens going home together!

Next a woman came back to look at two of the other kittens. She had never had a pet but had been considering adopting for a while, and advised by a friend of hers who was on the staff of the event decided she’d take a chance on the kittens. We all told her about the benefit and joy of watching two kittens grow up and assured her she’d be telling us all cat stories next year. She adopted a playful black and white kitten and a classic black kitten who has a lot of Oriental in him with a dignified bearing, radar-dish ears and a long nose with a regal bump. I loved the black and white kitten, but I have the feeling that black kitten is going to be a very special adult.

orange and white adult

Nova is adopted.

black and white adult cat

Pongo is adopted too!

And before she was even complete, another two women came back for another visit to decide exactly which two adult cats they were going to adopt to be friends with their current adult cat. The two women were mother and daughter and had met and discussed all the adults and the one older kitten and decided on the laid-back long-haired tan and white kitty, Nova, and the eight-month-old black and white kitten, Pongo, who had been big-brothering the little ones in the kitten cage.

tortie cat


There is still one little gray kitten who needs a home, two orange adults, Teresa and Rusty, and one semi-long-haired tortie cat with a perfect little orange diamond on her head named Tammy.

Animal Care and Welfare is operated by the owners and staff of Paws Here a While Pet Resort.

I hope all the other rescue and adoption organizations did as well!

two dogs

Two dogs for adoption.

Several rescued dogs were being walked around, including these two mixes—a little pug, a little Pom, a little Chihuahua? Nobody knows because they were found over the winter and no one claimed them.

I was excited to debut my crocheted pawprints, printed gift bags and tote bags at this event! Even though they’ve been available for a while, it never feels as if they’ve “arrived” until they’ve been seen by the public at a show or festival. I had great feedback and several sales.

I wish I could have gotten more of the stories and visited more people, but I barely had the chance. I’ll have to find an assistant one of these days.

Thanks to Hearts & Paws Pet Ministry from Christ United Methodist Church for planning and hosting this event. This is the seventh year, and it’s only gotten bigger each year! I’m looking forward to next year already.

Bastet and Freya, Do Us a Favor

peaches with facebook messages

"Thanks everyone!"

Peaches says thanks for all the good wishes this afternoon! She’s looking pretty relaxed after she spent some time reading them.

Her mom decided to take action and write a letter about Peaches, but deciding which omnipotent being would receive it was a quandary. Appealing directly to one who either was a cat or who likely lived with cats would probably be more successful than appealing to one of the other beings who had more general interests.

So we’ll see what happens.

Dear Bastet and Freya,

As the main cat goddesses, I’m appealing to you on behalf of Peaches. I’d like to know if we could have a little more time together. I have many reasons for wishing this—the anniversaries of several losses happen around this time, things are changing in my business, other things are happening, and I’m just not ready yet—but most of all, Peaches and I just haven’t had enough time together. I know she’s 20, but she’s only been with me for five of those years, and Peaches and I don’t feel we’ve done all we can together yet.

Peaches has seen me though quite a bit in the five years she’s been with me, including the losses of six other feline family members, and that including her sister. She’s also been instrumental in contributing to my work as a painter, a photographer, a writer and a merchant. I’m just beginning some new ventures, and since Peaches is responsible in no small part for getting me to this point, I want Peaches with me on the rest of this journey, still inspiring me every day with her sweet, gentle demeanor and petite beauty.

Please see if you can do something about this. Peaches and I have an agenda, and I think you’ll be pleased with what we do with the extra time you’ll give us.

Bernadette and Peaches

If only it was that easy. We never know when the time will come, and it may not be immediate for Peaches, but I feel it will be soon.

We’re not sure what’s wrong, but she’s just felt tired and had little appetite since last Friday morning. Usually, especially if it’s her renal failure, I can turn her around from this in a day or two with some aggressive fluid therapy, special foods, and a variety of naturopathic and homeopathic treatments. But this has been nearly a week and I’ve needed to resort to some steroid use to make a change.

We’ve always suspected she had something deep in her right ear, a polyp or infection, that affects her balance and breathing and swallowing. She’s often shown irritation in that ear, scratching it and shaking her head, but the stuff that builds up down in her ear canal never tested positive for anything, and short of an MRI no one can see anything. A polyp or infection can flare up and in that tiny sensitive area wreak havoc on balance and swallowing especially, but disappear just as quickly. However, now that she’s a little weaker she just may not be able to compensate, and the condition itself may also be growing more aggressive.

She was on the bed with me this morning, then left and came back, thinking I’d follow her the first time, very normal. She’s been eating but swallowing is a little difficult and sometimes distressing. She’s walking around but with stiffness in her hips and hind legs, and she’s not jumping onto things as she was even yesterday; she’s capable, but I don’t think she can see well and doesn’t want to take the chance. Confusing and distressing to me, she’s kind of wandering, walking from one room to another, considering the basement, circling the table in the kitchen, as if she keeps forgetting what she’s doing.

peaches at the gate

Peaches checks the gate.

Peaches at the fence

Peaches at the fence.

And strangest of all, she wanted to go outside through the basement door. She’s never even acknowledged that there is an outdoors unless I’m in it and she wants me to come inside from it. She walked around the yard but the grass wasn’t comfortable, but she kept heading for the gate, then along the fence, to my side yard, even walking into an overgrown area at the end of my lettuce bed. I turned her around or I’d have had a difficult time getting her, and she walked back to the gate and eventually back to the basement door and we went back in the house. Perhaps she was actually looking for the way back into the house, and perhaps she was looking for something else; my intuition tells me it was the latter. It may be the “outdoor remedy” that has helped to heal and comfort many other of my cats—simply being outside livens their senses and brings back their emotional immune system.

If Peaches is anything, she is definite in her decisions. There is no equivocation that she does or doesn’t like something, or does or doesn’t do something. She lost her person, she came here, and she accepted the new home as her own and me as her person. I don’t even remember a questioning sniff or expression.

peaches behind monitor

Peaches gets up behind my monitor--a good sign!

Her health condition has been the same. She goes day to day then suddenly she’s in kidney failure, or she had no need for fluids and suddenly she’s dehydrated, or she’s been “going” fine then she’s constipated. I’m pretty perceptive, having been trained by the lives and losses of many other cats, but Peaches gives no warning, compensating as cats do until they can’t.

And even without renal failure and other conditions, I can’t avoid the fact of her age and that sometime soon we would have to part. As I’ve learned before, I’m not afraid of losing her, only of not listening, seeing, hearing what I need to in these last days, weeks or months, and of not honoring her needs and doing my part for her in her transition.

peaches and giuseppe

Giuseppe comforts Peaches.

Right now she’s actually sleeping comfortably on my desk and I can be happy with that. Giuseppe, her protector, carefully curled himself behind her.

robin fledgling

Robin fledgling.

And I need to move the injured fledgling robin to a safer place. It was nestled in the grass while Peaches and I were walking and held completely still as we approached, but I could tell it needed assistance. Sometimes an injured animal is part of the process or a sign. I’ll see if I can do this right.

And finally, the e-newsletter!

black tote bag with five cats

"The Whole Family Gets Together"

It took a little longer than I had thought, but we finally got it done.

My quarterly e-newsletter encompasses not only what happens in my art studio and Portraits of Animals store, but also in my work as a graphic designer and web designer, a photographer and writer and other disciplines that utilize design, writing and promotion. It’s handy for people to know all the different things I do, and while I blog about it on a regular basis, there is really no better way to get the word out than to package everything together.

So please enjoy reading about not only the new animal-inspired merchandise, but also the environmental projects I’ve worked with, the performers I’ve had the pleasure of photographing and the newsletters I’ve designed.

And it’s good for me to stop once in a while and take a look at where I’ve been!

Now will you quit playing with that computer and play with us?!

I guess I’ve been a little bit preoccupied…

Read it here:

Upcoming E-Newsletter and New Merchandise

Gift Bag Display

Block-printed Gift Bag Display

I finishing up my latest e-newsletter, just as I’ve worked up the design and production of several new products. I recently featured cotton tote bags here, and I’ve expanded on that idea, and I’ve also designed a series of crocheted washcloths in addition to the pawprints.

Read more about the gift bags pictured above and other products at Portraits of Animals Marketplace.

E-news About Animals

Peaches and Cookie are exhausted with all the new information.

Peaches and Cookie are exhausted with all the new information.

Even though I’ve rescued and fostered cats for about 25 years and can provide a high level of care for just about any condition that comes along, I never presume I have nothing more to learn. My veterinarian provides the first line of information and my library of reference books complements what she teaches me. The internet has also been able to provide a source for research and a wealth of information, but in using information from the net I use the same principles I do with information found in person and in print—corroborate and substantiate, finding the same information from another source, looking for studies or other ways to back it up before I’ll use a new medication, treatment or other method of care.

I also still have my stacks of magazines and newsletters for reference, years of Cat Fancy, Cats USA, Catnip (Tufts University newsletter), Catwatch (Cornell University newsletter) and other assorted publications I’ve subscribed to or collected individually for particular articles.

Now my inbox delivers yet more information about cats and pet care in general. Just in the past week I’ve received four quality e-newsletters written by veterinarians or animal professionals. While much of what we find on the internet is “canned content”, originally written by a real human but borrowed and passed along as “news”, these are written by the authors themselves with guest article commissioned by the authors. Because these are electronic, they are so easy to share, so I’m happy to provide either links to the electronic versions or excerpts with links for where to sign up. I only wish I could share my reference library as easily!

pets weekly logoPets Weekly publishes an e-newsletter, well, not quite weekly, but frequently. It’s full of articles about dogs, cats and pets in general, wildlife, and product reviews. You can click this link to see their latest e-newsletter or visit their website to sign up for the next one and to link up with them on Facebook and Twitter.

ingrid king and amber

Ingrid and Amber

Ingrid King of The Conscious Cat publishes News for You and Your Pet twice each month. Her newsletter includes timely seasonal information for caring for your pets, information on her upcoming teleseminars with authors or animal practitioners and, as a reiki master practitioner, she also includes practical information on alternative therapies and treatments for our pets as well as a link for phone consultations. Ingrid is the author of Buckley’s Story: Lessons From a Feline Master Teacher and her newsletter includes a link to upcoming book signings.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman composes a weekly e-newsletter completely from his experience as a practicing veterinarian and veterinary surgeon. He’s covered everything from common illnesses to emergency treatments, and wrote a three-part series on pet health insurance from the owner’s, veterinarian’s and insurance company’s point of view. Dr. Zeltzman doesn’t archive his e-newsletters, but he gave me permission to publish an excerpt so you can read the information he provides:

Be A.W.A.R.E. of online pet pharmacy scams

The FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, released some interesting information about online pharmacies and their dangers. So many thanks to the FDA — our taxes at work.

Let’s start with a disclaimer: some Internet pharmacies that sell pet drugs are reputable. However, many others are fronts for businesses breaking Federal, State, and sometimes International laws.

I recently heard of someone who had found a cheap source of medication for a serious (human) medical condition. The person was surprised to received unlabeled capsules taped to a piece of cardboard. An investigation revealed that the capsules contained counterfeit Tylenol…

Illegal online pharmacies may sell medications that are counterfeit, outdated, mislabeled, incorrectly formulated, or improperly made or stored.

These medications may not contain the actual drug, or the correct amount of drug, may contain contaminants, may not work as well due to age or being stored in conditions that were too hot, cold, or humid, and may not have the proper directions for use.

If you are unhappy with ordered products, illegal online pharmacies may fraudulently leave you with no way to get your money back. In the end, you may find buying prescription pet medications online costly to your pet’s health… and your wallet.

If you find a cheaper medication online, ask your family vet to consider matching the price. Many vets are willing to competitively charge based on the online price you’ve found (and can show proof of). You should also know that neither the drug maker nor your family vet will stand behind a product’s guarantee if you purchase the product online.

If you still want to purchase your pet’s prescription medications online, remember there is no fool-proof way to tell if an online pharmacy is legal. However, you can protect yourself by doing your homework and being online pharmacy A.W.A.R.E.

Visit Dr. Zeltzman’s website to sign up to receive his e-newsletter.

And the fourth I recently received is Pet Connection, “A letter from Dr. Marty Becker, ‘America’s Veterinarian’ “. This is also not archived on the internet and I don’t have permission to reprint any of the content, but you are probably familiar with Dr. Becker anyway from his TV appearances and magazine articles. The latest issue includes articles promoting basic health care for cats plus spay and neuter information, Dr. Becker’s latest appearances, product reviews, therapy dogs, breaking up dog fights and more. You can read a little about the newsletter and sign up to receive it here, and you can also enjoy blog postings and a huge archive of articles about animals.

In addition, you can also electronically subscribe to Catwatch and Catnip, and you can also read selected articles from Cat Fancy on

So spend some of these hot days inside learning yet more about our animal companions! I thank these people for taking the time to sit down and write, compile, design and send these out.

Let’s Find a Home for Matador

Matador, ready for adoption

Matador, ready to sit on your lap and purr.

Hello! My name is Matador and I originally came from a local shelter, but now  I am trying to find a home of my own.  You see, I was a stray in McKees Rocks and very, very sick but my foster mom rescued me. I am on a special diet for the rest of my life as a result, but don’t let that worry you.

I don’t run around and cause trouble like kittens do, I am quiet and pretty laid-back. I am not beautiful or thin, but boy am I a loving cat.  I’m a sweet, affectionate 4-year-old (or so) shorthaired tuxedo male cat who loves to be brushed.

I am happy just to lay around and be petted.  I am no trouble at all. I get along with other cats and even dogs because I mostly just mind my own business.

Won’t you give me a chance at a new life?

If you’re the one for me, please call FosterCat at 412-481-9144 or just go to the adoption page on the website and fill out a form with my name on it! I’ll be waiting to hear from you.

Who wouldn’t love Matador?! But if a quiet black and white kitty isn’t what you are looking for FosterCat has all flavors of kitties in foster homes right now! Please visit the Adopt Me! page and browse the kitties who are looking for homes right now.

If you can’t adopt, consider being a foster home

If you live in the Pittsburgh area, FosterCat is also looking for foster homes in the south hills. FosterCat, Inc. is seeking responsible, cat loving caregivers to provide temporary love and care for homeless cats until permanent homes are found.

Our foster parents provide daily care for cats or kittens in their homes until they are ready to be placed for permanent adoption. FosterCat will provide food, litter, medications, as needed, and will absorb all veterinary expenses associated with our kitties.

FosterCat, Inc. is a local 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. Contact FosterCat, Inc. at 412-481-9144 or click here to learn more about becoming a FosterCat foster parent and to submit a foster application.

Ginger and Gilligan Were Adopted!

gilligan at animal protectors

Here's Gilligan...

ginger at animal protectors

...and here's Ginger!

I’m so happy to report that this brother and sister pair were adopted last week! Some lucky person took advantage of the discount when adopting two black cats.

You may have to be of a certain age to recognize their names…Gilligan and his sister, Ginger were returned from placement. They were both adopted as young kittens, then returned to the shelter.

bevis at animal protectors

Bevis looks really bored with shelter life.

Bevis is still available, though!

Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley is a small no-kill shelter in New Kensington, north of Pittsburgh.

But small doesn’t mean they aren’t full of cats during kitten season. While they’ve got creative special deals on feline adoptions and fosters all the time, they’ve got two special offers for Adopt a Cat Month.

At left, meet Bevis, domestic short hair, black male, neutered adult, “Bevis came to the shelter with a nasty infection (let’s just say it was under his tail). All healed now and looking good, this black cat is about as sweet and loving as you could want. Come in and meet Bevis.”

The Beauty of the Black Cat

Adopt one black cat or kitten and receive a $10 adoption discount.
Adopt a pair of black cats or kittens and receive a $25 adoption discount.

It’s Kitten Season!

Adopt one kitten and receive a $10 adoption discount.
Adopt a pair of kittens and receive a $25 adoption discount.

General Adoption Fees:
Cats under one year: $75
Cats over one year: $45

Please consider adopting a cat or kitten (or two!) during the month of June. See more cats for adoption at the website, and if you’re on Facebook, visit their FB page.

Adoption Hours:
Tuesday and Thursday: 6 8 p.m.
Wednesday: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Remember to encourage spaying and neutering! This simple act saves lives! For more information on low cost spaying and neutering, please call the shelter at 724-339-7388.

Mr. Mistoffelees, The Forever Kitten

Mr Mistoffelees

Mr. Mistoffelees with his pink mouse.

He belongs to the world now, always a spunky tuxedo kitten with bright green eyes, big ears and black toes on his white boots. He should have had the good life we all want our cats to have, grown to a big cat, loved and cherished, and not dumped on a back road by careless, heartless owners to meet his end.

But I will do my best to see that he is not forgotten, and that his brief life makes a positive difference in the lives of other cats.

The Favorite Dumping Spot

Fifteen years ago this month I was driving home on a stretch of two-lane back road adjacent to a residential neighborhood near me. Suddenly in the shadows I saw what appeared to be leaves blowing around on the road and I slowed in automatic response.

The leaves slowed and regrouped and turned into a group of various-sized kittens before running to one side of the road and up a slight hill among the underbrush, one or two peeking back out at me.

Oh, no, how am I going to catch them all? I thought.

At least there wasn’t much traffic right then, though this road had been groomed as an access to a highway on-ramp and did get busy during rush hour. I was on a downhill slope with nowhere to pull over, so I simply pulled to one side and shut off my car.

I saw a box on the side of the road a little ahead, and knew immediately that someone had dumped kittens here. As I walked to the box I saw a bag of dry kitten food next to it—a Good Samaritan, or the person who had dumped them thinking they were giving them a nutritious head start? Looking into the box I saw one orange kitten who was not moving.

Looking back at the kittens who were running across the road again I saw two distinct sizes, two very orange ones about ten weeks and some tiny fuzzballs maybe six weeks old. All were very apparently terrified and had no idea what they were doing. Had one been hit and someone stopped to put it in the box? Or had it simply not made the move to the great outdoors? If I couldn’t catch them, how could I at least get these kittens away from the road?

As I watched I could see it was apparently two different litters, too close in age to have come from the same mother, of whom there was no trace. Was someone just doing some housecleaning and decided to get rid of the extra kittens in the garage?

I attempted to ingratiate myself, which I knew would be nearly impossible under the circumstances. Their fear would remain a barrier until I could simply be near them for a while and accustom them to my scent and sound and presence. I had, and have, chased many kittens, a totally useless endeavor because they are running for their lives, but sometimes it’s all you’ve got with no opportunity to sit quietly in the woods until they find they trust you. Hoping no cars came by, I walked toward them until they had scampered into the brush on the side of the road without the steep slope and began talking to them softly.

In time I may have won them over somewhat, but it was early evening and night would soon fall. I knew from experience that if I caught one I would never catch another. It was probably their first night away from their mother and in totally unfamiliar circumstances, and after a night in the woods they would likely be too wild to even find. Unfortunately they would probably keep coming out to the road because it was clear and the brush was so dense. I decided to run home and get a few more carriers and enlist my neighbor and her children, having them help me corral them.

In the end, before nightfall we only caught two orange boys, one older and one younger. In the process of dropping him into the carrier the older boy, although I had him scruffed, bit my left-hand knuckle so hard that a tooth became wedged between some parts in my knuckle and I had to unscruff him to pull it loose before I dropped him in the box, but I wasn’t going to let him go for anything.

I knew that the whole experience of chasing them, trying to corral them into fabric barriers and the kitten shrieking as he bit me had completely destroyed any trust the rest may have ever had in me, and I didn’t have a cage trap at the time. The other surviving older orange kitten was probably thinking I had killed his brother and put him in the plastic box and the two little ones were clearly following him. I had to go with what I had accomplished.

Arriving home, I settled the two into the recently vacated spare cat room and cleaned the puncture wound on my hand before I went to bed, but ended up spending the next evening in the emergency room getting IV antibiotics because I waited so long to get it treated.

Timmy the kitten

Timmy on the rocker.

Smudge and Timmy eventually learned to trust me, and big boy Smudge turned into quite the love bug with people he knew, remaining so in his new home, but little Timmy, quiet and polite, remained wary of people.

I still remember the tiny tuxedo and tortoiseshell kittens, whose round faces should have been full of curiosity and mock kitten aggression but were instead frozen masks of fear, as they disappeared into the darkness behind the orange boy. I never saw another trace of them; there was a storm that night, and without cover tiny kittens would likely have easily succumbed to exposure or an upper respiratory infection. I have seen cats or kittens there again through the years, but never successfully caught any, even with traps.

Still in Use

So last Friday as I drove down the same road I slowed and gave the area a good look as I always do when entering an area where I’ve seen or trapped cats or kittens. I saw a small shape on the road ahead of me, and even though my natural defenses tried to convince me it was not what I thought, I know that no other animal in our area is as solid black as a cat, or is the size and shape of a kitten lying on its side. Once you live with cats long enough, especially studying them to create artwork as I do, you recognize a cat even if you see only the tip of its tail disappear into the woods.

I slowed to stop, and indeed saw white paws, no mistaking this. No cars were coming but I didn’t care, I just didn’t want the kitten on the road, so I hopped out with a paper bag and ran up to him hoping he might only be injured and could be saved, but even though he was not badly damaged he had clearly crossed over. As I gently slid him into the bag I saw the black toes on his sweet white mittens and boots, the white belly and chin, a classic tuxedo cat, just about eight weeks old. I laid him in his bag on my back seat and tried not to think of him those last few moments of fear and pain he most likely suffered.

It must have just happened within the hour, and even though I knew this was a classic kitten dumping spot, and I’d hate to deliver bad news to a family, I looked around to see the closest house, but not that house nor any others showed anyone home. I would come back later. For now I needed to get home and hug all my cats. Sometimes when I’ve seen a companion animal hit along the road I’ll simply move it to the side so that if the owner is out looking they’ll find it, sad as that may be, but I had the feeling no one was looking for this kitten, and the brush came right to the side of the road anyway, so he was coming home with me.

No lost pet networks reported a lost tuxedo kitten, and only the next morning did I find someone who was home. She felt as badly as I did to hear the news and told me she’d recently seen what looked like a mama kitty and her baby on that section of the road, and though she didn’t remember what they looked like she wondered where they’d come from. She had two indoor cats and one small dog plus two children so other cats rarely came near her yard, but she often saw cats around.

In the heat of June I had limited time to continue searching, and decided just to take the kitten home. I had considered having him cremated at Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation and had called Deb the day before just to talk over the situation with a sympathetic ear.

I decided instead to bury him in my back yard in a safe place that wouldn’t be disturbed. Perhaps this was my unconscious inclination to “bury” the situation, and in a way it was to help rid my memory of the images and thoughts and while I engaged in a respectful burial to work out the new idea forming in my head. I got my tools and Cookie and we went out to the end of the yard; Cookie does not commit manual labor but was happy to supervise from the picnic table and provide moral support.

While I had looked around for a door to knock on the previous evening, I had been visualizing what the kitten had looked like, sketching a portrait in my mind. Images are always building in my visual consciousness, and even in those circumstances visualizing a sketch isn’t unusual, in part it was to keep myself from visualizing him being hit by the car. But from that process developed the idea of using this portrait, this image given to me at that moment when I accepted his condition, and giving him a name as I would have if I’d rescued him, and using this identity to help other kittens and cats avoid the same fate in some way.

Mr Mistoffelees

Mr. Mistoffelees with his pink mouse.

Mr. Mistoffelees, named for the clever character in T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, will always be a playful kitten, forever loved and cherished, ready to grab your ankle from behind the chair or tuck a toy into your pocket for you to find later in the day. And perhaps as the Original Conjuring Cat he can conjure homes for homeless kittens!

He represents all those homeless, unwanted kittens born to unspayed mother cats and who appear in the millions in shelters every summer during “kitten season”. Shelters are overburdened with homeless animals to begin with, then the influx of all these kittens forces them to drastic measures to handle only what they are permitted to manage.

All it takes is a spay or neuter, and if your cat does have kittens surrendering them to a shelter and spaying the mother instead of dumping them off somewhere to become someone else’s problem, and to likely die an untimely death. Mr. Mistoffelees reminds you to be responsible!

This is my first draft of the sketch, and no doubt I’ll be refining as time goes on. The sketch began in pencil, as are most of the simple sketches I have around my house of my current cats. But once I decided what Mr. Mistoffelees’ image might be used for I changed the style to make it simpler to reproduce. I used the simple line style in this version so that I can either cut a linoleum block print and fill the color areas with watercolor or I can create a three-color screen print.

Thanks for listening to the story. It will be a while before the sadness of it wears off for me, but I hope by giving Mr. Mistoffelees a new life I can see my way through to a somewhat happy ending.

Here is a page of links for low cost spaying and neutering in the Pittsburgh area and around the country.