Dickie Is Home With His Girls

tabby cat and woman

Dickie with his mom in their new apartment.

I’m back to eight cats as that big purring tabby boy is back on duty, taking care of his mom and stepsisters.

Who would think in a household of this number you’d miss all the habits and antics of only one? But kitties are just as individual as peoples, each with their own ways. And such is the consequence of fostering where the kitty in question may move on to a forever home or back to its original.

My niece decided to leave her husband early last fall, and initially found an apartment where she could keep Dickie. But in October she decided that to really get on her feet financially she needed to move back in with her mother, my sister, and there wouldn’t be room in my sister’s tiny house for him too. Plus, the landlady at her apartment didn’t want to show the apartment with a cat in it, so Dickie had to go somewhere in a hurry.

Just about a year ago she brought him over in tears because she couldn’t imagine life without him, and she’d given up so much already she couldn’t believe she had to give up her cat. But she knew I’d take care of him, and in the end it would be best for both of them.

Dickie’s transition from being king of his little household, as a really big only tabby cat tends to be, to being low in seniority as the ninth cat, were a little rocky at first. It was a good thing for my household that he doesn’t have a violent hair on his body, preferring to cower or run when challenged, and that none of the cats in my household, especially the four young fools, had any serious desire to prove their supremacy to him or anyone else.

In years of fostering I’ve had plenty of destructive fights and messy misbehavior and cats who never transitioned into the group, and I was enjoying for the first time in many years an active household who all got along. Of course, it helps that five of them are related and grew up together, but I’ve seen feline families turn pretty dysfunctional when kittens grew to adults. And this was the Fantastic Four’s first experience with a new kitty entering the milieu. I really didn’t know how they’d take it, though I hoped they’d learn from the old pros, Cookie and Peaches. Kelly was, and continues to be, timid around the Four because they all “arrived” at the same time though I carefully gave them a slow transition into the population.

Because I knew Dickie was up to date on shots and hadn’t been outdoors, he wouldn’t need the mandatory four weeks in solitary. I’d be able to start transitioning him into the family as soon as everyone’s hackles relaxed.

dickie in the bookshelf

Dickie in the bookshelf

“Solitary” is the spare bedroom, which is my studio. This has always been convenient for fostering cats in one respect, that I spend time in the room with them just being there in addition to interacting with them; this has been positive for any ferals as they have grown comfortable with me much more quickly as I worked, focused in my creative efforts and thereby less intimidating to them. It’s a little more difficult for me in that the room is very small and packed with stuff, and then there was a litter box and food bowls to step over and a cat who sometimes desperately wanted my attention the entire time I was in there, precluding the ability to get any real work done. It was always my goal to transition the cat as quickly as possible.

After all these years that room must smell like a million cats, and Dickie cowered in the bottom of a book case that first night. He came out to talk to me, but was looking over his shoulders as he did so.

After a week he seemed very relaxed and I opened the door, inviting, I knew, a rushing in of black cats. While they can be a bunch of arrogant jerks when they get together, showing off for each other and proving their strength and ability, they are friendly and I doubted they’d actually fight. Chase, however, is a game: “Wow, look, there’s a new cat to play with!” But Dickie didn’t see it that way, it was just too much. I was regularly rescuing him from a corner of the basement. I confined them, but he was constantly looking for them.

The transition was upsetting to Kelly too, so I put her in there with him. This is a tiny house too, with few options for feline confinement, though I’ve had them in my bedroom, my studio and the bathroom and I’m constantly going in and out of doors from my 2’ x 4’ landing. I hoped they’d get along in there, and they did. Kelly relaxed, Dickie was very affectionate with her, and it was okay.

But it is my studio, and I had work to be done in that room and no other.

three cats

One of these things is not like the other.

Jelly Bean saved the day. One morning as I went in to greet Dickie and Kelly, Jelly Bean was right outside the door. When I opened it he strolled in with his tail straight up in the air, eyes squinting and blinking and purring vigorously. Dickie was wary at first then understood Jelly Bean’s demeanor , squinted his own eyes and purred just as vigorously and they rubbed noses then began to bathe each other. Transition was pretty quick for Dickie after that, and Kelly was much relieved at the reduction in household stress. Jelly Bean had also been the one to greet Fromage, my little foster kitty, and I can tell he’s going to be a great nanny if I continue to foster.

So Dickie accepted his lack of seniority with grace, though he was bigger than anyone and probably a little older than the Big Four. He never tried to assert his ownership of me, but his big friendly personality and need for human contact kept him in my vicinity all day and it was great fun to watch him play. I’ve never had a cat as big as him and it was interesting to see how agile he was, especially when he launched himself onto my desk and vaulted my flat screen monitor as if he was in a steeplechase competition. He would often sleep on a shelf behind the monitor, occasionally getting up and leaning far over it until I leaned forward to rub noses with him.

cat bathing another cat

The Bath

And after a while he started giving everyone baths, serious all over baths if they’d let him. This often led to wrestle and chase with the boys and Mewsette, but the Tri-Color Trio would grudgingly accept it for a few minutes, then growl and scowl and either take a swat at him or glide out from underneath him. None of this ever stopped him. Human visitors adored him as he looked so approachable and purred so readily and LOVED any sort of affection.

cat sleeping upside down

Make it stop being so hot...

His most comical habit was his sleeping configurations. I would look up from what I was working on to see him in the middle of the floor on his back with all four legs completely spread. Or with his belly on the floor and twisted to have his shoulders on the floor with his front paws spread wide and his mouth open. After having understood his timidity, it was a joy to see his level of comfort.

My niece wasn’t sure how long he’d be with me, but she was determined to get back out on her own and get her cat back. She told me in August that her moving date would be October 1 and we got his vaccinations updated—he purred through his exam—and just let the time pass.

The day he was due to leave I didn’t do any big dramatics during the day because he’s very sensitive and I didn’t want to upset him. My niece was sure he’d have forgotten her since he didn’t really react when she came to visit, but I knew better. He’s a very loyal, loving cat, and he’d never forget his original mom or his little girls. When the time came to go, I put the carrier in the living room, and even though it’s been Peaches taking a ride in the carrier most of the past year he knew immediately it was for him. I had to catch him and shove him in and he meowed the entire mile and a half to her apartment, down the hall, up the elevator and into the apartment.

cat with table legs

Dickie with the table

We opened the carrier and out he came with his tail straight up and trying to inspect the whole thing at once. All the furniture was the same stuff she’d had before and of course there was her, and in just a few minutes he had slowed his investigation, hooked the end of his tail and began curling in and out around table legs, rubbing along book cases and—“Oh, listen, he’s purring, oh I missed his purr!” my niece said. He found his food—she had put it out earlier in the day kind of pretending he was already there—and crunched and scattered it on the floor. He rubbed her nose and walked on all the furniture, then looked out the windows though it was fairly dark by then.

cat and baby

Dickie and AnnaRosa

She has sent me several photos of him already, sleeping on the couch, curled with her sleeping daughter. I’m so glad for her sake he was right back in the groove when he heard her voice and smelled her smell. He’s a very special cat, and if she’s only going to be able to have one cat for some time to come I’m glad it’s Dickie.

My house seems a little empty without his big personality and big tabby body. Still, even though I’ve had nine cats for most of the past fifteen years, it’s not easy, and even one extra can make the situation seem overwhelming the extra expense and time stretching me to my limits especially when Peaches requires constant monitoring, though she’s generally well. I miss him, but it’s good to be back to eight, which seems eminently manageable now.

Many women find themselves in a situation like my niece as their family transitions to a new home. I’ve fostered cats for several other families in transition from six weeks to eighteen months, and while many people laughed and said I’d end up with the cat or cats I never did. Usually it is women who need to leave with children, and in rebuilding their lives pets, though cherished, are often an unnecessary complication while they find a new place and settle in. Each of the families for whom I fostered visited, gave me money for the cats’ care when they could, and took them back as soon as possible; I didn’t “get stuck” with a single one. Keep this in mind when you hear of a family in transition and know there are pets. You can change the life of the pets and the people with one simple offer.

I’ll be featuring a few extra photos of Dickie in the coming weeks—although he’s already been featured quite often in daily photos!


Dickie the Photography Cat

tabby cat in the books

Dickie the Photography Cat

Really, I couldn’t have posed this one better, either. Dickie settled down at the other end of the row of books, in the photography section of all places, right under The Cat in Photography. Is it Tabby Tuesday? Here’s a nice big tabby for you!

Dickie only has one more month with me until he moves back with his mom on October 1. She’s counting the days until she’s in her own place and has him back, but I’ll miss him, and I think Kelly will, too. You’ll probably see him a little more often in the next month for that reason, including a little article about him.

Also in that section of books are my collection of the photo essays by Hans Silvester, Cats in the Sun, Kittens in the Sun, The Mediterranean Cat and more, all of which were incredibly inspiring to me as I journeyed toward what I do today, and other books about feline photography or including a lot of felines that I use for visual reference. Sometimes, it’s just neat to look at pictures for a while.


A Little Baby Foster Kitten

Fromage with her ball and formula splashed across her nose.

In fact, the world does revolve around me.

black cat behind curtain

Fromage being elusive and mysterious.

I had a chance to visit with Fromage, the neonatal kitten I fostered in 2009, 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 3 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.

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.

Fromage attempts to talk to Basement Cat.

Fromage attempts to talk to Basement Cat.

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.

Good girl!

Her little digestive system also needs “stimulation” in order to be able to eliminate, as her mom would lick her in strategic areas to make sure what goes in comes out; this is accomplished by me with a warm, damp rag. Because I was already handling her already I simply put her in the litterbox when she was ready to go. On her second day here she got in the box herself, the little one I set up for her like a potty chair next to the big adult litterbox.

Scratching around in the big girl box.

In just a few days both the warm damp rag and the little girl litterbox were history because she decided she was a big girl and would use the big girl litterbox, and she didn’t need any help. The third time she got in the box she began scratching around in the litter first. How the heck did she learn that?! Scratching in the litter before elimination and burying afterward are instinctive, plus most kittens imitate their mother if she’s around, but the last litter of kittens had their mom, Mimi, an excellent momcat, and still I don’t remember them using the box that successfully or that young.

At the beginning the formula seemed to satisfy her. By the end of the week she was squeaking that it just wasn’t enough so I got food appropriate for her age and introduced her to it. She barely said hello to it before she was gobbling it down, then lapping formula out of a dish. In just a few days she had no interest in the formula at all but ate her canned food mixed with formula and then with plain water, purring and talking as she ate.

She also knows the direction in which I disappear and presses her little nose in the crack between the bifold doors to the bathroom to call for me. After a few days I saw her little paw on the edge of the door giving it a shove. Oh, no, not already! I have a hook and eye to hold it closed, but if she learns that fast she’s going to be a terror.

Who is that kitten! Fromage sees her reflection in the trash can.

Who is that kitten! Fromage sees her reflection in the trash can.

Now at about four weeks her little squeaks of “ee-ee-ee” have matured into a more recognizable “mew-mew-mew”, her eyes are shading to green and she’s begun to pin back her ears and flap her little tail and run around the bathroom with great speed and coordination, climb what she can and stalk and ambush me, crouching beside the mint green toilet on the white tile floor where I’ll never notice a fuzzy black kitten.

This is all happening too fast. In her four weeks she’s gone from zero to small cat with no signs of stopping. Just in the two weeks she’s been with me she’s transformed from helpless squeaking fuzzball to capable kitten, formula to real food, pee on the floor to proper litterbox use. She has a big personality and I can see the type of adult she’ll become, friendly and outgoing, audacious and playful, that same will that saved her life also making sure that she is the center of attention wherever she goes.

She moves too fast, waving herself around to get me to rub her belly!

She moves too fast, waving herself around to get me to rub her belly!

I sit on the floor and let her run all over me. She climbs my shirt and plays with my chin, then she runs onto my outstretched legs, flops herself down in some nook, rolls over on her back and waves her little paws in the air, waiting for me to rub her belly. She then gets up and walks the length of my legs to my feet and climbs up onto my toes where she precariously balances.

Doing the Kitten Dance.

Doing the Kitten Dance.

After this gymnastic effort she leaps off my legs and does a few laps around the bathroom, stops to pin back her ears and arch her back and tail and do the little sideways dance that always cracks me up when kittens do this, eventually coming back to my lap and starting over.

I worry that she doesn’t have a buddy to wrestle with. They need to develop those muscles and coordination and social skills, but all she’s got is me. It’s not a good idea to use your hand to wrestle with a kitten because they usually grow to learn that human hands are toys and anyone can conclude that’s not a good idea when kitty gets bigger. I have plush toys that I hold in my hand when she wants to wrestle with me, and when she’s a little bigger and I won’t worry so much about her falling I’ll add a slanted scratching pad to her toys so she can climb and a few little cardboard boxes she can jump into.

Fromage beats up her plush toy instead of my hand!

This is the first time I haven’t had any of the nurturing kitties who took over fostering little ones as they got older and needed to learn big cat things. I relied on especially Moses and Stanley to teach the kitten important lessons, even if that meant Stanley playing soccer with the kitten, using the kitten as the soccer ball. Right now, Fromage is sleeping in the special “kitten bed”, the one I purchased for a long-ago kitty who helped me to foster kittens and all the kitties who have used it since then. Added in the bed are the small pillow with the gray kitty face that was Moses’ bed, and underneath that is Stanley ’s infamous pink sweater. Mimi’s Children slept in this bed, cuddled in the memories of all the other rescues who’ve lived with me, and Fromage returns to this bed frequently, so I guess they are still doing their magic.

Fromage rolls back and forth and plays with two toys at once.

I’ve been lucky Fromage has been healthy and progressed normally; I’ve fostered others orphaned young who had so many health issues it was hard to treat them all, upper respiratory infections, parasites, injuries, infections, all of them life-threatening, hard to believe something that little could fight off that much. But wherever Fromage emerged from she didn’t encounter any of the usual orphaned kitten illnesses or they would have evidenced by now. The bigger illnesses—I guess we’ll see later. Fromage certainly seems to be in control of her destiny, and perhaps that will keep her protected through the rest of her life.

And where did she get that name? The night my friend took her in and called me to ask what to do when she didn’t eat canned food, I told her to offer the kitten anything she would eat just to get something in her. Fromage chose a quality brie as her meal, so she was named the French word for “cheese”.

Other stories about Fromage:

A Little Life Saved

An Update on Fromage, My Little Foster Kitty

Visiting Feline Nieces and Nephews

Fromage Being Cute

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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.


Mimi This Morning

black cat on table

Mimi This Morning

Last year on this day, I fell in love. Or I realized I had fallen in love long before. Surely, when kittens are tiny, momcat doesn’t mind if her babies get the spotlight, a friend was interested in adopting Mimi when the kittens were weaned, and I think Mimi was not of the mind to have her heart broken again by a human. When Mimi arrived with her babies on July 29, 2007 we had a history, and weren’t sure we had a future. But we looked at each other that morning and realized we had forever.

It’s not any special day, just a nice sunny morning on a day I get to stay home all day to work.

Mimi follows me all around the first floor of my house, up and down the steps a few times, then settles into the bathroom as I take my shower and get ready for the day, talking to me in her little “eep!” and “meee…” noises. Mimi is petite and beautiful, but her voice is kind of an afterthought.

Sometimes you just love a kitty at first sight, but sometimes it sneaks up on you later. That would be Mimi and me.

At every opportunity, I reach out to pet her, pull playfully on the end of her tail, answer her comments and invite her to come along with me in what I’m doing. She hardly needs the invitation as she stops to wrap herself around my legs, jumps up on a counter and reaches out to touch me, give me head butts me wherever she can and rubs her face on me, making full, extended, direct eye contact whenever possible. Later she settles on my keyboard shelf nestling her little bottom against my right wrist, stubbornly refusing to adjust her position for my typing comfort, meaning that half of what I type must be deleted and retyped.

Prior to her coming to my house she and I had actually had a few conflicts as she constantly hunted in my back yard to take live kill to her endless kittens, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Mimi came to me with her babies, and I admit I gave nearly all my attention to them—and who wouldn’t, seeing four perfect little black kittens…especially after having recently lost one of her other perfect black kittens?

But though I interacted with the kittens more often than Mimi, I didn’t insist that she stay with her babies and let her wander the house at will. She quietly and carefully explored, having no conflict with my other four cats, settling on the floor by the front door where it was cooler that August to rest her belly after nursing. Then she’d gracefully jump onto the end of my desk and tiptoe to the center where I was, carefully walking among Namir, Cookie, Peaches and Kelly, and finding a tiny spot for herself, rolling herself into a compact black ball, not to sleep, but to spend time with us as I worked.

What a nice kitty, I remember thinking, though she rarely interacted with me directly. Her former owner had told me she had been kind of distant, and this is what I saw of her. A friend was interested in adopting her when the kittens were weaned so I kept note of her personality to tell her future person, and not to be concerned if she wasn’t a lap cat.

As time has passed, I guess Mimi had the same realization as Cookie years ago, that she wasn’t going to be tossed back out, that she actually belonged here, and she began spending more time with me, and I continued to admire her petite figure and natural grace and encouraged her to join me. Then she began to seriously play and also assist me in daily tasks, following me, talking to me, and now and then sitting on my lap, though with three senior kitties those opportunities were few and far between. After raising six litters of kittens, Mimi is nothing if not patient.

When Peaches was still here, Mimi joined the senior girls to eat and hang out, though she’s hardly a senior with the need of extra meals, but to let me know she was “special”. She became one of my ladies in waiting along with Cookie and Kelly, and always sleeps next to me on the bed every night. She’s had time and space to develop her personality, learn to be a fun kitty, and trust a human, and though she’s still petite and quiet, she’s hardly the kitty who came in the box with her babies.

I have found homes for dozens of kittens and cats over the years. After a certain period of time, over a year perhaps, foster kitties stop being foster kitties for me and end up being permanent kitties unless I am keeping them for someone, as I did in keeping Dickie for my niece for a year. I love and care for them before that, but end up falling in love with all my kitties at some point, fosters or not.

So Mimi and I decided this is a serious thing, and that we really more than like each other. I know that kitty look that says, “thank you,” and the one that says, “I love you.” Does it balance out the losses suffered from living with so many cats? Perhaps, but it also adds another unique gem on the strand of the feline loves in my life.

Love at first sight is sweet, but sometimes realizing a perfect love has been there all along is much sweeter and long-lasting. This morning, Mimi sits on my keyboard shelf with her little fanny on my right wrist making it difficult to type well, but this is our thing. You know how it is when you’re in love.

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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.


Feline Inspection and Quality Control

three black cats with printed cards

Mewsette, Giuseppe and Jelly Bean inspect each card.

In case you have any doubt of the quality of anything I produce in my studio, meet the feline inspection team. They were part of my post yesterday about the cards they are inspecting, but because they do such a good job of critiquing and inspecting my work and products, I thought they deserved their own post. I will just say that they don’t hesitate to be honest about their opinions.

As you can see by their expressions in the photo below, something is apparently dreadfully wrong…

three black cats looking at cards

"These cats are all covered with funny markings," say the three perfect black cats.

…I determined later, their apparent disapproval had to do with the fact that the cats depicted were covered with odd lines and marks on their faces, not the perfect solid black of the trio. I reminded them of their buddy Dickie, a tabby cat who we fostered for a year, and all was once again in order.

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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.


A Nice Quiet New Year: From A Year Ago Today

seven cats in the kitchen

All seven in the kitchen.

This actually was from January 2, 2011, and you can see it took two black cats to get the crochet bag away from Cookie! But I love photos of all seven together; I as, at one point, sitting at the table.

It started out as me and Kelly and Cookie, and one or two at a time the family decided to join us after dinner, so we had a nice New Year night all together at the table.

Kelly is at the water bowl, and on the table from the left is Jelly Bean, whose butt is the only thing showing, Cookie, behind her is Mewsette in profile, next to her is Mr. Sunshine, and in the crochet bag sitting up looking at Sunshine is Mimi, lying down in the bag is Giuseppe.

Mimi hopped into the crochet bag when Cookie hopped out to get a drink of water, and Giuseppe, ever the mama’s boy, joined her in there. Mewsette came to hang with me and Cookie and Kelly who were fussing with my crochet project. Jelly Bean felt left out so he wandered around and finally settled on the crochet project as well when Kelly went to get a drink of water. I had been sitting in the chair just behind Cookie and JB.

I had actually finished this scarf and it’s going to a feline-loving friend who will probably not notice a few spare cat hairs!

Here they are from the other angle, which is what I saw before I decided to get up to take the photo.

seven cats in the kitchen

Seven cats from the other angle.

I love it when they all settle around me, but this has been a novelty in my years of living with cats. It’s mostly because five of them are related and often do things all together, while Cookie and Kelly are usually with me. When Dickie and Peaches were here they added to the fun, though I never managed to get a photo of all nine together.

If I need for them to move I actually get up and walk away and one or two will follow. Believe it or not, there are times when I need for them to move.

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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.


Look at That Menu!

black cat looking upward

Ooh! Aaah!

Someday soon I’ll have the time to reorganize The Creative Cat’s content into a newsletter-style layout with a clever navigable slideshow at the top and recent articles listed in sections with little thumbnail images so you can find my content more easily.

Until I finish that new layout, I’ve actually been able to make some improvements in my menu with the template I’m currently using—not only can I link to pages on this site, I can also list categories as menu items.

cat ears on computer monitor

Cat Ears for Better Reception

Understanding from reading the page and post statistics that blogs so conveniently give us, I know that daily photos are a popular reference. They are for me, and sometimes I’ll spend more time than I want to looking for a particular photo unable to find it—and it’s my site! So the first thing I did was to revise the former page “Silly Things My Cats Do Daily Cat Photo“, which had held early highlights from when I began posting daily photos, with a reference to “Daily Photo” on the menu so you can stop by and just look at the recent daily photos by choosing “All Photos“.

photo of cat in pasta bowl

Cookie in the Pasta Bowl

Then, further, I included drop down entries under that header for “Black Cats: Mimi and the Fantastic Four“, “Tortoiseshell Cats: Cookie and Kelly“, and couldn’t pass up a special section on “Cookie’s Kitchen Escapades“. I’ll be adding a few more later, such as “seniors” and even sub-categories for each of their names so you can look at photos of your favorite kitties, but I stopped at this for now.

I’ve also added a few categories under “Pet Loss” and “Backyard Wildlife Habitat”. I need to work with my CSS coding to revise the menu layout itself so that I can add links to my portrait updates and features such as “Living Green With Pets” and “Creating with Cats” as well as articles from my guest writer, Karen Sable.

tortoiseshell cat sleeping on books

Kelly Sleeping in the Cat Library

Part of the challenge with this is making sure that everything I want to categorize is in the category I want! Back in February 2009 when I initially set up The Creative Cat I had many ideas for what I’d like to do with it but thought I’d noodle around and let it become what it should be. This means that I have categories that don’t really make sense to me nearly three years later, and posts that should be in categories I subsequently added.

I actually enjoy organizing things; finding the time for it is another! I’ll keep tinkering with this until, behind the scenes, I develop the layout I really want and move over to that. For now, take a look through and see how it works.

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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.


Remembering Peaches: One Year Later

cat with grass in planter

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

One year ago today Peaches transitioned to the next stage of her existence. I don’t really need an anniversary to remember Peaches —I think about her all the time and remember all the sweet things I associate with her: those lovely dilute calico spots like a map of big continents, her petite size, her absolute self-possession and confidence, her bathing on my lap, how she loved me completely with every look and every move. There is something wonderful in the act of choosing an animal to share your life, there is something else when you suddenly discover that an animal in need who you’ve taken in has simply stolen your heart.

I wrote this article a week after Peaches passed as a summation of her battle with chronic renal failure, and those last days through her euthanasia. This might mean a “tissue alert” for those who don’t feel strong enough to read an article where a pet dies, completely understandable if the time is not right for you.

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Today is one week that I said goodbye to Peaches, at about 11:50 a.m., so I am posting this final article in the series chronicling her battle with renal failure and about caring for a chronically ill pet. This article is rather long because it was intended to be three separate articles spread out over time, but we never really know how much time we have. Peaches’ final time was very quick and I know this was partly her decision; I didn’t want to let her go until she was ready, but I also didn’t want to watch her suffer for any length of time.

After Peaches’ last temporary decline she didn’t recover as quickly as she had in the past; usually I could get her to where she felt better in a day, and back to eating regular cat food in two. The most recent recovery took nearly a week, and though she came all the way back in diet and activity she was weaker than before and I knew there wouldn’t be many more little recoveries. We had had a good year, but I seriously had to start preparing myself for what I knew would come.

Peaches let me know on a Saturday she’d arrived at the final stage and her passing was imminent and I had begun this article about that experience, about “knowing when” and giving support at the very end of an animal’s life while not giving in to your own fears. But things move quickly for a kitty the size and age of Peaches, and I truly believe they can direct a certain amount of the process of what happens with their body. Peaches had everything organized, so I had only to be there and follow along, however unwillingly. I had no time for an article, only for Peaches. This article includes that revelation, her transition and the aftermath but it is not full of sadness; Peaches would have none of sadness.

In retrospect, it’s hard to believe Peaches was only with me for five years, and came to me at age 15—it seems as if she’s always been with me. We packed a lifetime into those years, beginning on that day as a senior foster when she decided to start a new life as part of my household.

Read the rest of this entry »


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.

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On Pet Memorial Sunday

stone kitty marker

The Sleeping Kitty

I first published this article November 7, 2010, on the day I was to visit Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation to receive Peaches’ cremains. Today, as I attend and speak at the Pet Memorial Sunday ceremony, I remember Peaches, my most recent loss, along with the other 12 kitties who’ve continued their journey without me and the music I associate with each of them beginning with a very special moment in summer 2010.

I awoke in the very first light of dawn, that other twilight where the veil thins though not as completely as at evening, to hear the first few notes of “Cavatina”, one of my favorites and a most poignant piece of music.

I know it awakened me, literally, to a moment I needed to experience because in the dimness of my sleepy state and the early light I realized that all nine cats who lived with me this summer were tucked up against me or on the bed, sleeping deeply, quietly breathing, Sweet Peach curled next to my chest and Cookie curled tightly next to her, Kelly against my back and Dickie on the other pillow, all five black cats ranged around my legs in their usual spots.

It was a moment rare enough and one I knew would never come again, but more importantly it was a moment I needed to experience and remember because this wonderful group would soon break apart and I would only have memories of us all being together.

peaches and cookie sleeping

Peaches and Cookie sleeping next to me.

How do you make a moment last a lifetime? Experience it with your whole self, bring awareness to each of your senses and build a complete memory. As I listened to the Cavatina for its brief length I held still so not to wake my cats and watched the dim light grow ever so slightly brighter. I could distinguish each of the cats and familiar objects in my room, heard the rustling of the morning breeze in the tree outside and the first calls of the dawn chorus of birds, smelled the sweetness of a June morning as flowers opened and fresh air wafted in the room, tasted the tang of the damp morning on my tongue and felt the cool sheet and the warmth and weight of each of my nine cats.

I have experienced these early morning moments only a few times with other groups of cats, and even from the first recognized not only how special they were but also what they signified.

And with each of my cats, as we recognized they were in their last days, a piece of music presented itself in my mind and became our shared music, a song I sang to them, a piece of music I played while they were still with me and which I still sing or play and remember them. Usually the lyrics have something to do with how I feel about them, sometimes it’s instrumental, as it was with the Cavatina composed by Stanley Myers and used in the movie The Deer Hunter; I am not lost on the themes of loss and redemption in this movie, it’s a longtime favorite on many levels.

For Bootsie it was Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”. For Kublai it was “I’ll Never Find Another You” by The Seekers (There is always someone for each of us they say/and you’ll be my someone forever and a day/I could search the whole world over until my life is through/but I know I’ll never find another you). For Fawn it was “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?” a traditional Scottish song (Will ye go, lassie, go/and we’ll all go together/to pull wild mountain thyme/ from around the purple heather…). Sally’s melody was an instrumental entitled “Celtic Angels” by an artist named Kokila, played on an antique Steinway in an old church; I shared this entire recording with Deb Chebatoris to play in her living room for others to find comfort when they visit there. For Lucy, it was “The Hands of Time” by Alan and Marilyn Bergman from the movie Brian’s Song about an athlete dying young (All the happy days would never learn to fly/until the hands of time would choose to wave goodbye…). And of course there are more. Whenever I catch these played, which is rare, I think of my cats, and sometimes I play them just to remember them and that last special bond we shared. I have the recordings, I have them bookmarked on YouTube and elsewhere on the internet, I sing and hum them having no instruments at the moment; it’s all part of my process of grief and remembrance.

That last night Peaches and I spent while I was framing all night long, I was moved to play my recording of the Cavatina once or twice as I worked and petted Peaches.

stone kitty 2

The Stone Kitty, close up.

Today I will receive Peaches’ cremains from Deb Chebatoris in the special cloth bag with silk rose which Deb has prepared, and she and I will talk a while about Peaches and about our losses. I don’t mind this period of waiting; it seems like a natural part of the process of letting go. Little by little I have put away all the things I had at the ready for Peaches, cleaned up all the little messes, washed the rugs and no longer cautiously step over areas she used as her temporary litterbox. I’ve stood and looked at the places where I could always find her, picturing her there, remembering. I’ve accepted the changes to my household and anticipate more.

Now I am ready for what remains of her body to enter my home where her spirit resides in all her favorite places. These are not a substitute for her, but a respectful treatment of the vessel that had held her loving self.

And as I did with the others, I will move the sleeping cat figure in my garden, loosen the soil beneath and mix Peaches’ cremains with the soil, and with the others who’ve gone before. When I do this I feel the spirits of all the others flitting about me, welcoming the next member.

For Moses, the sun-warmed bricks were her treatment of choice for her arthritis.

Many of the kitties had enjoyed time in the backyard with me, and for them I’ll take a bit of their cremains and sprinkle them in the places they loved best, in the flower beds where Namir stalked voles, in the vegetable garden where Sally patrolled the tomato plants, between the bricks where Moses soaked up the healing sun. A bit of their essence is in the things that grow in those places, the forget-me-nots that emerge from between the bricks, the wildflowers that grow around the far edges of the yard, and in the food that nourishes me, from my vegetable garden. We are in but another turn of the cycle of our relationship, which changes but never ends.

Ultimately things come full circle before they move on, and I think of Joni Mitchell’s song “The Circle Game” (And the seasons, they go round and the painted ponies go up and down/we’re captive on the carousel of time/we can’t return we can only look behind from where we came/and go round and round and round in the circle game).

And especially at this time of year I remember the sonnet by William Shakespeare…yes, in our loved one we may see a time without them, but the knowledge that we will one day lose them makes our love in this moment all the more strong.

Sonnet 73
William Shakespeare

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.

This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

May we love well all the things we love, for as long as we can.

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I’ll Never Find Another You” lyrics © Tom Springfield, performed by The Seekers

Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?” traditional

The Hands of Time” lyrics © Alan and Marilyn Bergman, music by Michel LeGrand, from the movie Brian’s Song—find this movie and watch it, based on a true story of the friendship between Brian Piccolo and Gayle Sayers, it is not to be missed

The Circle Game” lyrics © Joni Mitchell

And the characters in The Deer Hunter could have been my cousin’s wedding, my older cousins and younger uncles racing down Second Avenue from J&L Steel in Pittsburgh, getting tanked and running off to the Allegheny National Forest to hunt…and shipping out to Viet Nam, most were never the same. We thought we were watching ourselves. “Cavatina” touches me on many levels.

None of Kokila’s recordings are available to link, but visit her website to read about the recording or her store at on Amazon.com to purchase the CD. This recording is entirely acoustic piano; others are a mix of acoustic and electronic.