Kelly In Motion

tortoiseshell cat with green eyes

Kelly in Motion

“I don’t have time to stop for a photo,” she says, then jumps five feet up and to the left onto the refrigerator to get a good look at the street.

Kelly is about 17 years old, and is without a doubt the most talkative cat I have ever known. She has a word for jumping up on something, another for jumping down, and a whole sentence for when she runs into the room, stops and tells me a story, then runs off still talking. And she never walks. The only time she is still is when she curls on my lap, and even then she is constantly adjusting.

Of course, when she’s testing a new piece of crochet work, she has to run it through its paces.

For all that, she is a shy kitty and tends to stay in out of the way spots along with being always in motion. Petite and slender with long legs and tail, Kelly has barely changed at all since she came to me, though I’m sure she’s increased her vocabulary.

I Get Clean With a Little Help From My Friend

two black cats bathing

Let me get this behind your ear.

“Hold still, let me get this little spot behind your ear.”

All four of the siblings regularly bathe each other, as well as their mom giving them a little touch up now and then. It’s just a  sweet and spontaneous action, like saying hello.

Here Giuseppe holds Jelly Bean in place to help him keep up appearances. I’m sure JB is as clean as can be, but G just has to let him know how he feels.

Of course, as often as it’s appreciated and returned in kind, it’s also turned into a wrestling match.

Matryoshka Kitties

painted wooden matryoshka kitties

Matryoshka Kitties (and one little piggie)

At a Ukrainian dance and marketplace event I attended today I saw these matryoshka dolls painted up like kitties (and one little piggie in the back)!

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, these are the wooden dolls that open up and have other dolls inside, each one opening to reveal a smaller doll.

I didn’t have the chance to open one up and see how many kitties were inside—would it be seven by some coincidence?—and they were packing up after the performance when I got back to the table (I was also photographing the event). They are so nicely done, and are actually imported from a village in Ukraine by the business owner, a Ukrainian immigrant herself who also makes a few items. There were so many vendors there and I wanted everything I saw so I’m glad I didn’t manage to go shopping. When I get in touch with the woman again, I’m going to get the kitty in the back with the balalaika! Or, maybe the kitty in the front pulling petals off the daisy.

I did purchase a vinok, the flowered tiara-shaped headdress with colored satin ribbons hanging down the back. This new one matches a few of my flowered skirts that my other one doesn’t. The event was at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, so I put it on there and wore it home, and while my kitties were glad to see me, Mewsette, who greeted me at the window, looked at me when I came in, and looked at my vinok, then looked back at me. “I’m glad to see you, but can you take that thing off?” I wear hats all the time, I don’t see what the problem was, but I did eventually take it off.

Take That, Catnip Toy! And That!

tortoiseshell cat plays with catnip toy

Kelly teaches the catnip candy cane a lesson.

Kelly gives the catnip candy cane the beating of its life. Note her little nose peeking through the curve of the cane.

Kelly is somewhat shy, and while she is a very talkie tortie and very active in her safe little way, she is very, very gentle—until it comes to a catnip toy that needs to learn a lesson. Bite, kick, punch, toss, land, whatever it takes, that catnip toy will know who’s boss when she’s done.

It’s just good to see a shy kitty come out of her shell for a little bit.

The Boys Don’t Get Off the Hook

black cat on sidewalk

One of Mimi's suitors who followed her over here from her former residence.

“Boys don’t have kittens, so you don’t have to get them fixed.”

Interesting concept, and taken farther than issues with unspayed and unneutered cats, boys do have babies, they just don’t give birth to them. But that doesn’t leave them off the hook for issues of animal overpopulation, not to mention the nasty behaviors unneutered cats indulge in.

gray and white cat nursing two gray kittens outdoors

A Stray Cat with Her Kittens

Even before Mimi, the house where she lived before she came to me had many cats, few of them “fixed”. It wasn’t that the humans didn’t believe in it or were uninformed, they just never got around to it, though they kept adopting cats and keeping kittens from their litters. At least one other female cat who lived there was also producing a litter or two per year, in the neighbors’ yards no less, and several males were strutting their stuff around the neighborhood.

“But they’re mother and son—isn’t that incest?!”

I kept on their back about getting their cats fixed and helped them find homes for the kittens, usually easing them into shelters, knowing these kittens were likely destined not to be spayed or neutered wherever they ended up. Eventually, a cat or two disappeared, they found homes for several of the ones they had, and they had all but Mimi spayed or neutered. And, eventually, we know Mimi ended up over here.

tabby cat on sidewalk

Just one of the guys.

But a neighbor one street over had, I found it hard to believe, four unneutered male cats in one house. They all went outdoors, of course, and at least two of them regularly found their ways to Mimi. I can’t imagine living in a house with four unneutered male cats who had roaming privileges; I know that people who breed and show cats will have a stud or two and they are usually pretty well-behaved. The owner of these cats, however, though it was really cool that his cats were the studs of the neighborhood and beat the crap out of all the other cats and the occasional dog or raccoon. He had no intention to get them fixed because they didn’t have kittens so he didn’t have to worry about it. I pity the walls of his house.

“I just can’t bring myself to do that to another guy.”

Not to mention anything up to 18 inches off the ground anywhere in their territory, including my storm doors, eliciting responses from some of my cats and from other outdoor cats, and so the pis–ng contest went on for years.

black cat on sidewalk

He has one thing on his mind.

This black cat was one of Mimi’s suitors. I’ll agree with her that he’s a fine specimen of a cat, and I can see where her kittens inherited their size. He went looking for her and pretty quickly realized she’d moved and found her here. She was still nursing the kittens but was in heat again, spaying was risky but I was absolutely certain that the two of them would rip a hole in one of my screens to get at each other. They didn’t, though even after she was spayed he still came around, looking sullen out on the sidewalk and mooning about her over in the neighbor’s driveway where they used to meet.

Several years ago, a friend of mine adopted a male cat and decided that, since she lived way far out and there probably weren’t any cats near, she really didn’t need to get her cat neutered. I did tell her that was a mistake for various reasons, not only because her cat would wander pretty far to find what he wanted, often to his own detriment, but that she’d be in one way or another contributing to feline overpopulation, something she was actually concerned about.

Before she could act, to her surprise, she found a cat nursing a litter of kittens in her barn. So her guy didn’t have to go anywhere, but apparently had room service—an unspayed female finding him and moving in.

She spent the better part of the next two years trying to catch all the half-wild and feral kittens on her property and working with the Homeless Cat Management Team in Pittsburgh to spay and neuter them all.

Neuter and spay, it’s the kindest way.

And neutering surgery is much less complicated than a spay, so it costs less, sometimes as little as $25.00! There’s very little recovery and little chance for infection or other aftereffects.

Visit Shelters, Assistance, Spay/Neuter for information on low-cost spay and neuter in Pittsburgh and around the country and assistance with managing feral colonies.

At Your Service, Mom!

two black cats

You name the task!

Mr. Sunshine and Mewsette are ready for action. Whether or not they’ll do what I ask is another matter.

“Could you clean your litterbox?”

Off they go to play.

Like a Salad With Your Salmon and Turkey?

black cat enjoys lettuce

Mewsette enjoys a nibble of greens.

Mewsette enjoys a nibble on the Boston lettuce I’m about to turn into a salad. Looks like a complete meal to me.

“No dressing, please. Thanks for the fresh water.”

Mewsette likes her salad greens plain and natural. I’ve known cats who liked salad greens before, but usually just for a nibble on something fresh and green. Mewsette is a serious consumer, at least as far as my cats go.

The funny thing is she wasn’t eating on that cabinet and I didn’t offer it to her, I only set the lettuce down for a moment so I could pick up a few other things and go to the sink, but she must have smelled the lettuce and jumped up for a snack.

Her list of other approved foods is an interesting collection, chick peas, roasted edamame beans, cooked oatmeal, macadamia nuts (I know they’re not good for her, I just don’t get that trail mix any more), any pasta cooked or raw, cherry tomatoes. I really can’t find a pattern, but I keep an eye on her.

“Spay Day USA”, Mimi’s Favorite Holiday

close up photo of a black cat

Mimi tells her story

“She’s such a good mother.”

“Some cats were meant to have kittens.”

“I don’t think we’ll ever get her spayed, she just loves to have babies.”

When I was raising my babies, I was an excellent momcat and plenty of people would look in the box and see my perfect kittens and hear us all purring and think it was the most natural thing in the world.

Well, of course I was a good mom—under even the worst circumstances, animal moms will always do their best.

photo of garden with black cat

Garden With Maia

I used to love my assignations in the neighbor’s driveway; I was careful to signal the two black toms from the next street over, and they were only too willing to show up on command. What a joy to feel my kittens grow, then giving birth and nurturing them, it was all so easy. I produced six litters of four kittens each in two years, nearly all of them perfect black kittens.

But when I realized I wasn’t the only one giving birth to a dozen kittens each year, and what happened to many of these other kittens and their mothers…I’m embarrassed at my behavior and sad for cats who lost their lives because of me.

You have to understand, it was all I knew, and I was totally powerless against my hormones. I needed a human to get me spayed or I’d still be out there producing kittens.

photo of black cat by door

Little Mimi in the Sun

Now my life is completely different, so much more full and interesting, I can sleep all day, I can play with toys, no kittens to tend to, and safer too, with no hormone surges making you want to run outside in all kinds of weather. You ladies think hot flashes are bad? You should try being in heat for an entire summer, even while nursing kittens! And those boys could be a little rough now and then, if you know what I mean.

If you won’t listen to a human about spaying your cat, listen to a cat who’s been there. Give your cat a gift for Spay Day USA—get her spayed! If she’s already spayed, help another kitty to a new life.

Mimi’s 30 Reasons to Spay Your Cat

1. Eventually, she will outsmart you and get out the door.

2. Your kittens are no cuter than any other kittens in the world.

3. About 3,000 kittens are born every hour in the United States.

4. If you want your kids to see the miracle of life, have your own baby.

5. It’s not good for a cat to have a litter before she’s spayed, in fact, it’s bad.

[You may already know these things.]

6. Having your cat spayed after she is one year or after having kittens puts her at highest risk of developing breast cancer later in life.

7. Having a cat spayed before her first heat reduces her chances of developing breast cancer later in life to almost nothing.

8. Nearly every city has a low-cost spay/neuter clinic or program that works on a sliding fee scale.

9. An unspayed female cat is more likely to do two of the things humans don’t like cats to do—scratch furniture and spray.

10. A spayed female outlives an unspayed female for an average of two years without the health problems associated with reproductive cancers.

[Apparently, many people do not.]

11. An unspayed cat can have an average of three litters per year.

12. Cats have litters of four to six kittens.

13. Kittens can go into their first heat as young as 4 months.

14. No, it’s not incest when brother and sister cats or mother and son cats have sex.

15. One unspayed female and her progeny can produce between 98 and 5,000 cats in seven years.

[Find some of these people and give them this list.]

16. About 75% of all cats entering shelters in the United States are euthanized because there are no homes for them.

17. It costs U.S. taxpayers about $2 billion a year to round up, house, euthanize and dispose of homeless animals.

18. Every shelter in the United States is overrun with kittens every summer necessitating the euthanasia of otherwise healthy cats—and dogs—to care for and place the kittens.

19. At least six million animals are killed in shelters every year because there are no homes for them and no space in shelters.

20. Someone has to decide who dies, and someone has to kill them, letting your cat have a litter of kittens forces a person to make this decision.

[All of this information is available from your local shelter and on the internet.]

21. A cat is “polyestrous” and can go into heat—and conceive—the day after giving birth to a litter of kittens.

22. All kittens are cute, and the world already has enough of them.

23. Cats respond hormonally to day length and can go into heat as early as Valentine’s Day.

24. Cats can’t get along on their own outside, so don’t put mom and the kittens outside instead of taking them to a shelter.

25. Spaying your cat will not make her fat. Feeding her too much will make her fat.

[Let’s make 2010 the year we eliminate “kitten season”.]

26. Cats don’t have heat “cycles”, so once they go into heat, unless they find a male and mate, they can be in heat constantly, forever.

27. Spayed cats have absolutely no chance of developing uterine or ovarian cancer because those parts are removed.

28. Spayed cats can’t develop pyometra, a critical and common uterine infection, because they have no uterus.

29. You can safely spay a cat who is already pregnant up to a certain point rather than contribute to overpopulation.

30. The male cats coming to court your unspayed female will seriously mess up your storm door, and probably each other fighting for dominance.

black cat in sun

Mimi in Speckles

[I only stopped at 30 because…*yawn*…I need to take a nap.]

Also read “Help to Avoid Feline Breast Cancer by Spaying Early“, inspired by and featuring Mimi for more information on feline breast cancer and other reproductive illnesses plus links to spay/neuter clinics in Pittsburgh and around the country. Also look in the right-hand column on this blog under “Animal Assistance and Information” for links to local shelters and spay/neuter clinics plus a searchable database to find the clinic nearest you anywhere in the United States and parts of Canada. You can also do a search on “Spay Day USA” or any topic in this list and find plenty of information on the internet.


two tortoiseshell cats cuddling on plaid


The weather is unpredictable, and my tortie girls were glad I tossed the old flannel bathrobe back on the table for them to cuddle into as the sleet clicks against the windows.

My senior girls aren’t terribly close but they certainly don’t mind each others’ company when the weather turns bad!

On the Prowl

cat with toy in bathtub

Stalking the wild crackle ball.

Mewsette is just waiting for that sparkly crackle ball to make one false move and it’s curtains! You can tell by the curl in her tail that it’s a tense moment.

Nearly everyone took some time to play a little tub hockey with the crackle ball which suddenly showed up out of nowhere after being AWOL for a few months. They like just about any ball, especially in the tub, but the crackle ball makes a really satisfying noise whenever it moves and even when they pick it up.

It also fits perfectly in the tub drain with just enough protruding to pull it back out and start all over again. Mewsette’s game of tub hockey turned into miniature golf as she scored several holes in one, and holes in several.