This Way and That Way

four cats at window

Three black cats, one tortie, different interests.

Black cats look one way, tortie cat looks the other.

Block watch kitties. Mr. Sunshine, Mimi and Jelly Bean are watching something on the front sidewalk while Kelly watches something in the front yard.

Black cats leave their tails hanging down from the shelf, Kelly keeps hers in a neat corkscrew against her hip.

Oops, Mimi is tempted by a glance in the opposite direction. Boys look left, girls look right.

Such is my day.

four cats looking out window

Score is tied.

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Mail Call

painting of cat

Warm Winter Sun, oil pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Well, The Creative Cat has won a Certificate of Excellence in the Cat Writers Association (CWA) Communications Contest!Thank you, Namir, for inspiring me to do this!

And so has Great Rescues as a gift book, as well as the illustrations and the notebook paper, “22 Cats” in the back of the book!

two black cats looking out window

Mimi and Mr. Sunshine keep an eye on the birds.

In addition, and article, a photo and an illustration have won, “On Dying and Death, and Remembrance” in an edited version and “Birdwatching“, both published in Meow, the newsletter for the Cat Writers’ Association, and “Peaches“, the portrait I painted last year for Ingrid King and then published as one of my set of Feline Art Cards.

painting of dilute calico with amaryllis

Peaches

The award letter reads that “the standards for winning a Certificate of Excellence are very high and this award is a recognition of your outstanding work.” Also, winners of the coveted CWA Muse(TM) Medallion are chosen from among the Certificate of Excellence winners, all of which will be announced at the annual conference in November.

What a wonderful ending to a somewhat frustrating week! It’s like a reward, and all the thanks go to my family of cats, yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s.

Read more about the Cat Writers’ Association and their annual Communications Contest. If you are a writer, illustrator, videographer, artist or in any way create public communications about cats, please read up on the organization and consider becoming a member!

Congratulations to all the other winners as well, since we’ll probably all get our packages at about the same time!

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Improvised Cat Bed

black cat in basket

Who needs to buy cat beds?

Mr. Sunshine curls up in the basket of rags in the corner of my studio. Really, what could be a better bed? They are clean and dried outdoors so they smell fresh, soft from use and made from my old clothing and household stuff that’s very familiar, like the sock that’s hanging out of the side of the basket, and the basket was filled to the top before Mr. Sunshine curled up in it so it’s nice and fluffy. And the basket itself is just the right size for him when he curls in a circle.

And until I came in and turned the lights and radio on it was dim and quiet, but he didn’t even from my activities. I just happened to notice that something in the room wasn’t quite as it should be, and really, a black cat in a room of pretty much all light-colored things shouldn’t be all that hard to find!

I do have cat beds, quite a few, in comfortable places, but they always manage to find alternate sleeping arrangements. Mr. Sunshine is quite inventive and loves my studio. He also loves tools and found one lone dark-colored wood screw on the light wood floor and has been practicing his slap shots by constantly rolling it around on the floor and slapping it against the baseboards and cabinets, then running out onto the landing and announcing his accomplishment in his wonderful sing-song voice, “Mmmmmrrrrrow! Mmmrrrrrrrow row!” Sometimes he gets so excited that he runs all the way down the stairs and through the kitchen with a puffed tail and sings his song out the door to the back yard, then turns around and runs back up and starts it all over again.

This vehement play may have been the need for a convenient nap spot. And I enjoyed the zen of a deeply sleeping cat in my studio while I worked. Then the wood screw hockey began again.

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Cats in My Neighborhood

black cat sleeping on porch

320 Cat

I walked to and from my shop in Carnegie Antiques today, something I don’t often do since I’m usually carrying too much to walk with it. I also get into trouble with my camera, and simple errands that should take 15 minutes take two hours, and sometimes—though not today—I come home with an extra kitty. Today I just came home with photos of kitties. But a cold front came through today while I was at the shop, with heavy rains and wind, and all these kitties were outside, presumably while neighbors were at work. I could at least say “hello” and take their photo. The black kitty above is actually the last one I saw, but it’s my favorite photo of the bunch.

Tuxedo Kitty

Here is the tuxedo kitty I often see at the top of my hill—I nearly ran him over one night as he chased a mouse down the middle of the street, totally unafraid of my car. I believe he lives under a porch, not sure if he’s a stray or feral someone is caring for. I saw him ease on across a street and looked into the yard where he’d headed to see that he had caught some small creature, though I never saw what it was. He is wary enough that he stopped what he was doing to keep an eye on me, annoying human that I was.

tuxedo cat in grass

Tuxedo cat.

Boys on the Porch

I’ve seen these two frequently when I go to the top of the hill above my house to photograph the sunrise, the moon or other celestial events. The orange boy rolls around in the middle of the street as I set up my tripod, and the tabby runs over, rubs on my leg, and runs back to his porch. It seems to me they’d like their privacy back once I’m done with my foolishness.

two cats on porch

Tabby and Orange Boy

As I came farther down the sidewalk, I saw there were two dark tabbies. “This is our porch,” they say, yet give me blinky looks. This third kitty, on the left, must be new; I’ve never seen him on my walks and my house is only about five houses away on the opposite side. It’s interesting how outdoor cats seem to have their territories marked out and never leave their little space, though some cats range all over the place, even spayed females, adventurous, I guess, though they worry me.

two tabby cats

Two Tabbies

320 Cat

Then there’s 320 Cat, who I’ve never seen, and I honestly wonder if he belongs here. The porch is actually several sets of steps above the sidewalk, but I could see just the tips of his fur and knew a kitty was sleeping there, and no one appeared to be home.

black cat sleeping on porch

320 Cat

He awoke when he saw me and seemed startled and I thought he’d run, but instead he stretched and came straight toward me, talking. Then I could see his tail was missing most of its fur, he had patches missing here and there and when I petted him he felt scabby, likely a flea bit dermatitis, poor guy. His face and demeanor reminded me of Mr. Sunshine though his eyes were a lovely dark green. I petted him and we talked for a while.

scruffy black cat

Kind of scruffy.

I was just a few houses from home, but on the opposite side of the street, and I told him I needed to leave but he dutifully followed me and this is always the hard part. I can’t take him home, though I’ll keep an eye out for him in case he really is a stray who just adopted that house. I really don’t want him to follow me because I don’t want him to cross the street. I turned and told him, “No! Go back to your porch,” then turned my back on him and did my best not to look back, trying to sense where he was. At two houses away, just before I crossed the street, I turned to see him walking back up the steps to the porch at 320. I’m not convinced he belongs there or anywhere. At the rate rentals turn over in my neighborhood, I often see those left behind and often take them in and find new homes.

I’ll talk to the kids tomorrow, they know everybody’s pets. At least I know the others are cared for.

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Update on Georgie’s Portrait

detail of portrait

Detail of "Georgie"

detail of portrait

Portrait of Georgie, detail of her face.

I’ve been working on tightening up the details in Georgie’s portrait, especially around her face, which will be the most detailed area of the finished portrait. I’ve included the first update at right for reference for where I left off the last time.

We’re planning this portrait to focus on her face and then the rest of her, but for the toys and the background not to be as detailed as her. I will continue to work her face in greater detail, even from this point.

Several things were obvious the last time, most notably her eye color. I like to underlay areas of portraits with either complimentary colors or more vivid shades of the native color to give more depth and dimension to a portrait. However, I’m not accustomed to the intensity of these new pastels and while I loved the color I had layered too much in place and had a dickens of a time using it as an underlay. Each time I added the cooler softer greens to her eyes I’d be pleased with what I saw, walk away to refresh my perceptions, come back and find they were still too bright! It just took a little longer to get them to resemble Georgie’s soft sea-green color, though, and the little bits of actual Nile green you can see add to the dimensional quality of her eyes while what’s under the top layer of color helps to brighten it.

I also tightened up the details of her ears to finalize the shape and larger areas of color and shadow, though much of the ear detail with come at the end because she has such deluxe ear hair.

I’m building the fur on her face, the short fur around the eyes and nose with no underfur where the agouti is most apparent in layers of color areas, then working in the details of individual areas. She has a very distinctive “M” on her forehead which needed to be made more clear. From there it’s working in the transition between the short fur on her face and the areas where it begins to grow longer but still doesn’t have too much of an undercoat as there is on her torso, around her muzzle and chin, the sides of her face below her ears, and the top of her head. I picture running my fingers through that fur, remembering what it feels like, and it helps me to work the texture correctly.

update on portrait

The full portrait.

I’ve also worked in the rest of her torso, adding the stripes in her side and on her tail that are mixed in with her long fur. I plumed out her tail a little more, though I still don’t think it’s quite long enough. Seeing her in person it looks a little shorter, but that’s only because it’s a little thinner with her age. I have photos from younger years for the full effect of her big tail.

Her big ruff is still a little too colorful, but I want to work the rest of her torso before I finalize the color and mix of highlight and shadow in that area.

Those pink and red toys are working in okay and look balanced now that the rest of her is more detailed. Sometimes it just works out that way.

But in the process of all this I undid her paws—well, that’s for the next round.

See the first draft of the portrait and read about Georgie.

Meet Georgie

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.

 


September 28 is World Rabies Day

It’s not so long ago that rabid animals, especially roaming dogs because they were also pets and were part of everyday life with humans, presented a great health peril in this country from infection with rabies. Many people died from the disease before treatment was available—a bite would transmit the disease to another animal or human, and without treatment both would die from the effects of the disease in very short order.

But today in the United States we are fairly safe from this disease that is 100% preventable with a vaccine given to our pets, livestock, and even wild animals. In fact, in many states the rabies vaccine for your pet is the law. Because the rabies vaccine is so commonly given to our pets we may take for granted that rabies is hardly a threat except for the occasional bat or raccoon or unfortunate stray cat.

We still need to be aware and be cautious. My home state of Pennsylvania in 2010 had the distinction of having the most cases of domestic rabies of all 50 states, and between January 1 and May 30 of 2011, 114 raccoons, 18 skunks, 15 foxes and 12 cats tested positive for rabies in the state, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In June, A dog tangled with a rabid raccoon on the trail where I regularly ride my bike, walk, photograph and paint.

A current rabies vaccine for pets is the law in Pennsylvania, and in Allegheny County where I live, the Health Department sets out baited food with the rabies vaccine for raccoons in areas they are known to travel, or those numbers might be even higher.

Other countries around the world are not so lucky as we are. More than 55,000 people still die every day from infection with rabies because the vaccine isn’t available or isn’t widely used.

World Rabies Day since 2007 has worked all over the globe to both raise awareness of the dangers and prevention of rabies and helped to make the vaccine available for animals and treatment for infected humans, with the ultimate goal of controlling rabies in animals to prevent it in humans. Since they began inviting agencies to participate in the effort, “every major human and animal health partner at the international, national, state/provincial, and local levels as well as veterinary, medical and other specialized professional and student organizations, corporate and non-profit partners”.

Check your pets’ records and make sure their rabies shots are up to date, and if not, make an appointment. Visit the website for World Rabies Day to read more about what’s happening around the world today.


Sunny Autumn Mornings

two cats on the deck in the sun

Moses and Stanley, on the deck in the morning.

Moses, 19, and Stanley, 23, enjoy the gentle September morning sun on the deck in the summer of 2006.

Beautiful autumn mornings always bring memories of earlier days for me, and as Cookie and I have enjoyed our mornings outdoors I’ve been remembering when she had to stay inside so that Stanley and Moses could join me outdoors. My yard is not fenced, and Stanley had a habit of darting off unexpectedly, while Cookie, a youthful 14 at this time, would sometimes wander off in the opposite direction, but Moses, deaf by that time and fairly hobbled with arthritis, happily slept in the sun on the deck. The two geriatric cats had natural seniority and always had their time outdoors. If they came in while I was still in the garden or working on the deck, Cookie could join me, and she did have the opportunity fairly frequently.

Moses always had problems with her knee joints especially, which had never fully formed and always kept her at a slow walk, and pretty much on one level; I set up a series of footstool and chair next to my bed, and she could slowly walk up steps, preferring the second floor. No medications seemed to make a difference and I couldn’t find an alternative practitioner near enough to get her acupuncture, which I sensed would work for her. Instead, she only asked for her daily thermonuclear treatment, simply lying in the sun for at least 15 minutes, even in winter. Only the outdoors would do for this; she preferred the sun-warmed bricks outside the basement door, but the weathered wood of the deck worked for her as well, and her silver tabby fur seemed to hold the heat after she’d come back inside.

Stanley was with me for 21 years when he passed two years after this photo, and we estimated his age between 3 and 5 when he showed up my porch. After seeing many more cats in that age range over the years, I would guess Stanley was closer to the high end of that span in part because of details his eyes and body structure that I recognize now. Three years seems kind of juvenile for him at that time, though his swirly stripes and white paws and chest always made him seem youthful. He had slipped into chronic renal failure at age 21 and I dosed him with sub-cutaneous fluids anywhere from daily to twice monthly from then on, but he thrived even with that, enjoying every moment of ranging about the yard, downloading is “pee-mail” from the foliage and uploading responses.

And my deck hasn’t changed much in these years. I still have the pot of basil on one side and parsley on the other every summer, a cherry tomato plant that grows all over everything and flowers in pots wherever they get enough sun, although the wonderful red-apple hummingbird feeder finally cracked and couldn’t be repaired. I’ve had that since I moved in, and it’s in photos of my deck, yard and house for all those years, like a permanent accent, and whenever I see it in a photo I truly miss it.

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


A Little Baby Foster Kitten

Fromage with her ball and formula splashed across her nose.

In fact, the world does revolve around me.

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since a friend brought little Fromage to me, a tiny kitten screeching for food and comfort somehow lost and found in an abandoned lot during the struggles of the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh in 2009. I took the photo above about a week after she arrived, but the photos in the article below were from her first few days. So much happened in a short time: she arrived three months after I lost Namir, Dickie came to live with us for a year a few weeks after she arrived, and the Fantastic Four had their first taste of fostering a kitten—and taught me a lesson in nurturing, that it’s best done by one, or four, of your own kind! She’s all grown up now at 2, so she thinks, and I still get to visit her. The other articles are linked below; enjoy watching her grow up!

Fromage on Day One--in my house, at least!

Little, little kittens fascinate me. A miniature that can easily fit in my outstretched hand with a Hello Kitty head and stubby legs sits and licks the side of her paw then swipes it across her face, though she sways perilously from side to side with the effort.

As soon as their eyes have barely opened at ten days to two weeks of age every moment is spent building skills and coordination, gathering knowledge out of the air and fearlessly exploring their surroundings and conquering the errant toy or human foot that gets in their way. They never worry about falling down or making mistakes or looking stupid.

Fromage attempts to talk to Basement Cat.

Fromage attempts to talk to Basement Cat.

By six weeks they can climb a scratching post, run faster than you, chase and kill a small insect or even a tiny animal if necessary, give themselves a complete bath and get into more trouble than you can imagine because they have yet to develop any common sense.

I am fostering a very young kitten for the first time in many, many years. She came in at about two weeks of age, fitting herself from nose to rump easily on the length of my hand, her eyes open but that cloudy blue gray that still doesn’t focus. A friend’s daughter heard her at night, tangled in brambles in a city lot, squeaking with a volume hard to believe in something that weighed just a few ounces. Her little life depended on that volume, though, and her persistence and vocal skill paid off in her rescue and is typically indicative of a cat with a strong will to live, able to face down most ills that may befall her through the rest of her life.

That early audaciousness has translated into an easy adaptability and an outgoing, affectionate personality, even in less than a week. At about three weeks old she had doubled her entry weight, at least by my little postal scale, was a little longer than my outstretched hand, her legs had grown so she was at least off the floor, her eyes were clear and her pupils reacted to light, and she was ready for action.

Fromage gets lost in one of my skirts. I hope it doesn't damage her young eyes.

At this age she is considered “neo-natal”, not newborn but still recently-born and needing some critical nurturing. Her body was really too young to digest solid food at first, so I purchased kitten formula and a tiny bottle with miniature nipples to fit on the top. She was confused by the bottle, which did not feel like Mom, so I put a few drops of formula on the inside of my arm and got her little face in it. It had warmed to my skin temperature and she began lapping immediately and kneading my arm. I slipped the nipple of the bottle toward her tongue and squeezed a little more formula onto my arm, and eventually she got the connection and finally nursed from the bottle for a little but mostly from the crook of my arm and then from a shallow dish.

It took one session to recognize the cloth I put on my lap when I fed her. She danced and squeaked and climbed all over me as I sat down on the floor with her formula.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Gift of a Morning

tortoiseshell cat in greens

Cookie in my garden.

I thought Cookie
was being stubborn, contrary,
when she wandered away
into the overgrown garden
sauntering at her own pace beneath the stems
of fallen burdock and grasses
and through the forest
of tall goldenrod and burdock
where I couldn’t follow.

She sat calmly among grasses and blooming beggar’s ticks
and when I arrived at her side, irritated,
skirt prickly with stickseed and burdock pods.
I reached to pick her up, bad girl,
and turned to see what she studied,
and saw my garden awash with sun
majestic tufts of goldenrod backlit by beams of light
humming with hungry bees finding
the sweetest autumn nectar for their final meal,
white poofs of sow thistle holy in their radiance,
and the first calico asters, my favorite
dappled with passing drops of sun
against the backdrop of dark silhouetted trees;
so much to love in a sweet autumn morning
so much I would have missed.

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Can You Turn Down These Lights?

black cat with paw over face

Giuseppe trying to nap.

“I’m trying to take a nap here,” Giuseppe says.

“I’m trying to work here,” I respond.

“But it’s so nice and toasty warm here,” he replies.

“It won’t be if I turn down the lights,” I tell him.

“I need my beauty rest. Mlle Daisy may contact me at any moment and I need to look perfect,” he insists.

“Mlle Daisy loves you no matter what you do, she tells you that all the time,” I say.

“But I can never be too sure, I did hear there is at least one other black cat who visits her door, I need to be very careful,” Giuseppe says.

“If you like to eat, you might consider moving to a more comfortable spot to get your beauty rest than lazing all over my desk,” I remark.

“But I have to he right here if Mlle sends a message, and I have to be perfect!” he protests.

“Giuseppe, the two of you don’t have Skype or anything, she can’t see you when she sends you a message,” I tell him.

“She can’t?” he asks.

“No, baby, she can’t see you. Can you see her when you send a message?” I ask.

“No, but I just always thought she could see me,” Giuseppe says, confused.

“It’s just words right now, Big Guy, you don’t need to comb your ear hair and shine your whiskers,” I tell him.

“I’m so disappointed…” he trails off.

“Perhaps you could go and sleep on the bed with your brothers,” I suggest, trying not to be too obvious. “They will help you feel better.”

“Can we send Mlle a message right now?” he asks.

“Sure we can,” I reply. “What would you like me to type?”

“Mlle Daisy, mon cherie, I love you with all my heart and every piece of fur on my body!” he says. I type this.

“And, and…I have a gift for you! It will be a surprise,” he continues.

“That’s very sweet, Giuseppe. Anything else?” I ask.

“Love and kisses, nuzzles and purrs, your love, Giuseppe,” he finishes.

Read the continuing love affair between young Giuseppe and his Canadian love.

Somewhere Out There

And the Affaire Continues

Giuseppe Mewses About Mlle Marguerite

Giuseppe’s Secret Admirer

The Mystery Deepens: A Photo of Daisy Marguerite

The Envelope, Please?

A Package to Colborne

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.