Daily Sketch: Three Cats Staring at Me

line drawing of three cats

Three Cats Staring at Me, ink marker © B.E. Kazmarski

Jelly Bean, Mewsette and Mr. Sunshine stare at me, waiting for me to do something, while I stare at them waiting for them to do something until I was sure they’d sit still for at least 30 seconds so I could draw my one long line, and they did, and here they are.

They were waiting to supervise today’s shift in the studio. This is a very important part of their day.

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Click here to see other daily sketches.

For a gallery of the ones available for sale, visit my Etsy shop in the “Daily Sketches” section.

Read about the reason for the daily sketches in The Artist’s Life: Daily Sketches.

And read about purchasing them and requesting them as a donation item for your shelter or rescue group in The Artist’s Life: Daily Sketches for Sale and Donation.

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used 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.


Mimi says, “There is No Shame.”

black cat with plastic collar

Mimi wears her collar and hides her spay sutures.

If looks could kill, I’d be splattered against the wall.

But she is glad to have been spayed, though I’m sure she hasn’t forgotten the experience yet.

I had Mimi and all of four her babies spayed and neutered in two successive weeks, on Tuesdays, the girls the first week, the boys the next, using the same low-cost voucher program. The Four were just about six months old and normally I’d get it done before that but with five at once, even with vouchers, I had to save up after all the kitten stuff—exams, shots, lots and lots of food.

Luckily no one had gone into heat yet, except Mimi whose biological clock rang loudly beginning about six weeks after the kittens were born and she started calling and prancing around and was out of heat for about 15 total minutes from then until I had her spayed. No wonder she’d had six litters of kittens. I’m not sure the lady wants you to know that about her past; this is certainly not the Mimi everyone knows today.

She was to be spayed much earlier. Because her kittens were there, even though I tried to keep them physically separate, she kept producing milk, and it’s okay to spay when they are in heat and producing milk, but if you can wait a while and hope one situation or the other will resolve you reduce possible risks. So she ended up being spayed with the rest of them.

black cat with collar

Mimi with the collar balancing on the sink.

And because one of Mimi’s kittens from a prior litter, Lucy, had died of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), which first surfaced when she was spayed, I wanted to be as careful as possible. Also because of that history of FIP my veterinarian, and the veterinarian who would do the spays and neuters, agreed to do a little extra exploratory when they spayed Mimi, looking for any possible lesions on internal organs typical of some cats with FIP and checking into some of the lumps in her mammary glands. Mimi was probably about four by then and her body had been through a lot in that time living largely outdoors and bearing six litters of kittens. Her incision would be larger and instead of stitches she would get staples.

Did you know that staples are easier than stitches for a cat to get her teeth around and pull out? I observed Mimi and Mewsette the evening I brought them home and neither showed any interest in their incisions and acted completely normal, good appetite, litterbox use, social, affectionate, but still I put a soft collar on each of them at one point in the evening.

The next morning they were both wearing their soft collars turned backward around their armpits like blue tutus—I think they had worked on each others’ collars and loosened them, but not managed to get them off.

A section of Mimi’s staples were missing, and her incision was open. I ran her back to the vet, who sedated her, cleaned the incision and replaced the staples. She also gave me the hard plastic collar.

black cat with plastic collar

Mimi shows me how dirty her collar has gotten.

I don’t care how the cat feels about the collar, I want the cat to heal. Mimi really didn’t complain either. She’s very tiny, though, and even though I placed her food bowl on an upended water bowl the collar still bumped into the floor when she tried to eat. And you can see by the speckles on the collar that an awful lot of stuff ended up inside.

Mimi is a good girl. When I took it off of her and gave her food, she ate breakfast. I put it back on her. Same for dinner. The next day I fed them breakfast, Mewsette’s incision looked great, Mimi’s was no longer inflamed after having replace the staples. The phone rang. I ran downstairs. I didn’t come back up for hours. I hadn’t replaced Mimi’s collar. Half her staples were gone again.

Back to the vet, apologizing for this, saying I really do know how to take care of a cat who’s been spayed! We had to start her on antibiotics and pain medication and the collar had to stay on even if I was sitting right there, but I could test her as time went on. Veterinarians know wily cats, and Mimi was, and is, nothing if not wise. The staples stayed in for ten days, though she didn’t have to wear her collar that whole time.  For the next five days I did take the collar off for a few minutes and washed it while she ate her meals and nothing could make me leave her. Then I tested her for longer periods of time and the combination of the healing itself, the pain medication and the antibiotic helped to reduce the irritation so she quit pulling on the staples.

The veterinarian found nothing unusual in there. Mimi has healed fine. And now she wonders what all the fuss was about before she was spayed, but at least she has these four lovely children to show for it.

Mimi still says, “Happy Spay Day!”

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To see more daily photos go to “Daily Images” in the menu and choose “All Photos” or any other category.

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used 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.


Pittsburgh implements free animal spay, neuter program

bedraggled long-haired orange cat outdoors

Orange cat who needs to be neutered.

What a great way to celebrate Spay Day!

“Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and City Council President Darlene Harris today kicked off a free spay and neuter program that’s intended to reach 3,000 dogs and cats this year.”

READ THE ARTICLE IN THE PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE:

Pittsburgh implements free animal spay, neuter program.

DOWNLOAD AN APPLICATION:

This includes a choice of places where you’d prefer to go for your spay or neuter. The Homeless Cat Management Team is participating in this but is not yet on the form. Simply write them in when you choose your “preference” of where to get surgery performed, on the application.

CityOfPghSpayNeuterApp


A Little Bit About Kelly, Part 2: The Rescue

tortoiseshell cat at window

Pensive Kelly.

I had feline sisters in this strange place, as it seemed most of us were girls of various ages. I was frightened at first and confused by their sudden outbursts at each other and sometimes at me though all I did was try to get enough to eat and drink and to stay warm as it grew colder, but eventually I learned the way they communicated and what my place was in the group.

bedraggled orange cat on porch

Neighborhood Stray Cat

By that time I had seen a certain pattern in the other girls, the sudden yowling and extreme physical activity which was often quite entertaining even if it was a little frightening. I heard what I learned were male cats who sometimes entered our little place and while I ran and hid and covered my face and my ears and nearly fainted from fear of all the scrambling and screeching and what sounded like killing, I came to understand what was happening. And there were the swelling bellies, the births, somehow it was all connected.

I had watched kittens nurse and grow, and noticed that, even though the mothers found a protected space away from the group at first the other mothers would sometimes help with them, both mothers nursing and cleaning all the kittens even of different ages, and as their kittens opened their eyes and began to walk and tumble about even those without kittens would help to keep them safe, if at all possible, as it sometimes was not.

Watching this, I remembered being with my own mother and the feel of her tongue combing through my fur as she had bathed me while I nursed and we all purred together, how comforting that had been and I unknowingly cuddled close to a big tabby cat as I swam in this sweet memory. She tolerated it for a bit, then swatted me.

cats on sidewalk

Cats from a local stray and feral colony.

But this odd physical affection grew in me and soon I was prancing around and while I talk all the time I was singing now. The sisterhood was comforting and nurturing if still a little rough when to my surprise I came into my time and suddenly became emboldened and wandered, had experiences with violent male cats which were at the same time horribly frightening and more exciting than I can explain; I still bear a few scars on my neck from this time. I had no idea it would lead to my next life experience…my own babies.

My body knew just what to do when I gave birth, and the experience was very natural for me. I kept my babies clean and happy and had the same help from my sisters, but while I was busy being a momcat other things were happening. The weather was turning warmer and suddenly we heard people around the outside of our building and while we couldn’t understand human we didn’t have to—we knew they meant us harm. Some cats ate some food they’d left even though it tasted funny, and later they grew sick and died right there among us. Then a human pulled out one of the windows and pointed something inside, making loud popping noises and I just rolled in a ball and trembled with my babies until it stopped, and some of our sisters were injured and crying afterward.

I never saw the human who had always brought the food that had first attracted me, but many of my sisters did and were actually friendly with her; while I watched from a safe distance, humans were just a bunch of noisy stomping feet with long frightening legs and I never looked any farther. But when this human brought the food for us and discovered what had happened I understood the sounds she made were sorrow. She actually picked up as many cats as she could get from the outside and took them away. She came back later and took as many more as she could catch.

tabby cat living at abandoned house

Tabby Cat Living at Abandoned House

Later that day and the next, more people came, many footsteps and lots of human sounds and shadows outside, then inside above us, then in our very space, humans were among us! They were a very quiet sort, not the stomping, yelling sort, but I trembled again. One of them saw me with my babies in our little nook and came toward us, I could tell they were cautious, I remembered nice humans, a warm hand stroking me, a soft voice, falling asleep on a comfy lap—but I was overcome with the memory of the loud pops and the stomping and the death and I ran, I ran from the human and tried to get my babies to run with me, they were old enough, but they weren’t fast enough and the human threw something over all of them.

Hiding in the shadows with a few other girls I almost ran back to fight, but I saw the human uncovering my babies and petting them the way I remembered being petted, nuzzling each of them before putting them into a box. I could hear their familiar little mews, now frightened and again I started forward, especially when the human came quietly walking toward us with my babies and making strange little sounds of her own. We understood this human was safe but none of us would move. Eventually the human backed away, I heard my babies’ little voices fading farther, and all the humans left. All was quiet, the cats who had died were gone, things had been moved, everything was different.

But somehow I felt my babies were safe, and I decided to stay.

The small group of us who were left continued on but the humans, the nice ones who gave us good food and spoke in soft and comforting voices, visited more often and tried to make friends with us. They did make friends with a few of the other cats and took them away. From the number of cats who had once lived there, just a few were left.

But soon enough I found myself with babies again as did a few other girls. We grew accustomed to the humans coming in and feeding us inside, leaving bowls of water and now and then walking off with one of us, but especially paying close attention to the kittens. They even petted my babies—they were very young and couldn’t run but I ran a safe distance away and they never touched me. I was certain they’d take my babies again and couldn’t figure out why they didn’t.

Then one day one of them, who had been visiting me and my babies nearly every day, did a very strange thing, and everything changed forever. She approached us as usual and I ran off to where I always waited while she petted my babies. Then she put a wire thing next to my babies and put them in it! And then she left! My babies were in that horrible wire thing and I could see them but I was so frightened of the wire thing I just crouched in my corner and looked at them, pacing now and then. But soon they began crying, crying for food and for me, and they had to be cold and I knew I had to be brave for them. The room had grown dark when I approached the wire thing, much less frightening without all the light shining all over it, walked around it and smelled at my babies, then around again. They could smell me and hear me and began crying to break my heart and I forgot all about how frightening the wire thing was, I had to get to my babies and ran around and on top of the thing, trying to figure out how to get to them. I found an opening on the opposite end from where they were and ran inside, hardly noticing when a loud “snap” sounded behind me. I squeezed over something to get to them walked around and purred and curled around them, lying down so they could nurse as I nuzzled them and licked them as my own mother had all that time ago. We were all exhausted and soon they slept, while I worried, vigilant, in that wire thing, frightened that something awful would happen.

Moon and Sputnik on my deck.

As soon as there was just a bit of daylight I heard the human quietly enter. One of my sisters, more frightened than me and quite wild, ran silently for her hiding spot. A light shone in my eyes and I heard the human making quiet noises, coming toward me. I got up and flattened myself against the wire when I realized I had no room to run, leaving my babies just awakening and moving around. She made what felt like comforting noises and the light went out, then the cage began to move and I realized she was taking us in the cage. I looked up at her hand and trembled where I was as we moved through that dark space that had become so familiar, up and into the early daylight on a sweet spring morning, all was still quiet except birds singing their morning songs.

I was frightened, I would not look at the human and I didn’t make a single sound, but though I had no idea what would happen next I knew this was better than staying in that place, for me and for my babies.

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This portion of Kelly’s story is pieced together from notes in her file that had been related to the woman who eventually adopted her; I filled out the details from my own experiences with rescues of stray and feral colonies who were in danger from human activity and had to be evacuated.

We knew that Kelly had given birth to at least two litters of kittens though she may have had others as well, that the first litter was taken to a shelter though they could not catch Kelly. The woman who had regularly fed the cats had found them after the rat poison and BB guns then watched the colony closely and continued to rescue as many cats as she could. Eventually it was down to Kelly and a few other cats. She caught Kelly only by “using her babies to lure her”; I described what I had once done to catch a stray momcat.

The building had been condemned and was demolished, and I have no idea if the other cats were ever trapped and removed, but I am glad that Kelly managed to find a moment of trust and allow herself to be caught. I am also grateful to the woman who cared for them and saved so many, not just for Kelly’s sake but for the sake of all stray and feral cats who do their best to live in a world that is largely hostile to them. This would have taken place in late 1995 and early 1996 when TNR was still fairly new in many areas and colonies were often rounded up and simply euthanized.

tortoiseshell cat curled sleeping

Kelly Really Sleeping

But Kelly is still a few experiences away from the happily purring Kelly on my lap right now as we have two more chapters to go in her rescue story. Kelly has been the sweet, quiet presence you don’t see as often as her more outgoing housemates. I’ve long tried to condense her story, but decided that didn’t do justice to a kitty who’s been through a lot. Because her story is long and involves details of the story of a stray and feral colony along with Kelly’s own long path toward learning to trust humans, I’ll be telling it in several parts over the next few weeks for my Tuesday rescue feature. She has traveled a great emotional and spiritual distance to be the kitty you see today, and who is right now curled in a happy purring ball on my lap, head turned upside down and hugging all her legs together.

A magical kitty like Kelly in touch with a deep contemplative side, and I treasure the poem of that nature she inspired, “Pawprints and Raindrops”, which I featured yesterday.

Read all the chapters of Kelly’s story:

A Little Bit About Kelly

Part 2: The Rescue

Part 3: Saved At the Last Minute

Part 4: A Friend

Part 5: Home

And you can find Kelly in photos and sketches and stories all over The Creative Cat.

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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.


The Boys Don’t Get Off the Hook on Spay Day

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. But she didn’t believe me.

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.

Find a low-cost clinic near you, have your cat spayed, encourage someone else to, spay and neuter a few stray or feral cats, or support a local clinic

Also look in the menu on this blog under “Assistance” 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.

LOW COST SPAY/NEUTER INFORMATION FOR THE PITTSBURGH AREA AND BEYOND.

Referenced in various articles that encourage spay and neuter for pets, includes the lowest-cost spay and neuter in the city, a link to stray/feral cat clinics and searchable databases of spay/neuter clinics all over the country.

You can also do a search on “Spay Day USA” or any topic in this list and find plenty of information on the internet.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used 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.