The Messy Playroom

four black kittens in a box

The Sleepy Siblings pack into the box for a nap.

There they are, the littles sleeping in a heap in a box, just like they do today. The event happens to be the day they had their first set of shots, and after tearing around the bathroom with the general excitement of visitors and each of them disappearing and reappearing one by one…well, they managed to get the bathroom like that several times a day. I have several photos of this because this first is a little unclear—these are on film, and the prints aren’t the best, though I have no means of scanning from the negatives at the moment.

The pattern you see in front of them all is really a window screen. The bathroom has a bifold door but I didn’t want to cut the kittens off from the rest of the house by leaving the door closed. I used two tall narrow screens from my old casement windows hinged to the doorframe and opening like shutters so that during the day the kittens could see onto the landing and interact with the rest of the house, and also be cooler since it was August and September.  Mimi could easily jump the screens to get in and out so she had her breaks too.

Mr. Sunshine is hanging out of the box, here at the corner, and you can just see a light spot on his year which is his yellow paint. Giuseppe is behind him with a tiny bit of green paint visible, then Mewsette, then Jelly Bean. They are seven or eight weeks old here. In photos further down you’ll be able to see them better.

four kittens in box

Their faces are a little more clear.

They were sleeping off their shots, so I opened the screen to see them more clearly. Lessons about photographing a bunch of black cats were just beginning as they are almost indistinguishable in the box. The little cardboard toilet paper roll and tissue box are full of toothmarks—I had forgotten how kitten chewed on everything! They had about a dozen toilet paper and paper towel rolls in there, and they and the tissue box were reduced to shreds in the time there.

four kittens in box

The view from above, too sweet.

This print wasn’t very well-printed, and when I lightened it it began to fall apart, but you can see their little faces in the box, Sunshine, Giuseppe, Mewsette and Jelly Bean, and you can see a bit of the white spot on his chest, and the white hairs in his ears that looked like big brushes until he grew into them.

I had always thought about one of the top two as a painting, just a silly colorful kittens’ playroom!

Reference this little heap with yesterday’s cuddle puddle on my desk.


Unless I have linked the photo to something else, which is rare with daily photos, you can click the photo to see a larger version. I save them at 1000 pixels maximum dimension, and at that size the photos are nearly twice the dimension and you can see more detail in many of the photos I post. Please remember if you download or share, my name and the link back to the original photo should always appear with it.

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.

Her first kitten…

orange kitten

Orange Kitten

A 13-year-old girl who loves animals and wants to be a veterinarian is going to adopt her first companion animal, a kitten—or kittens, if she has her way. How many of us got our start with companion animals just like that, pre-teens or young teenagers who loved animals and wanted to be veterinarians, and our parents appeased us by adopting a shelter animal?

And are you one of the many who was given a kitten or a puppy as a gift in childhood? If you’re anything like me, that animal made all animals a permanent part of your life.

I rarely travel, and one of the things I look forward to is meeting new people and seeing new things all the way, on this trip from the time I left the house in the pre-dawn darkness to catch the train until the time I arrived back home late at night four days later to greet my startled cats who were apparently looking for me the entire time.

On my way back  I overheard a conversation between one of two young girls seated behind me and an older woman across the aisle from them. It was just part of the buzz around me as we all settled in until I heard the word “kitten” my ears pricked up and swiveled around as much as a human’s can do.

Lucy With Rug 1

Lucy with Rug 1

In a minute or two I confirmed that a kitten adoption was planned over the coming week. Much as I like to meet new people and converse among the seats, I also prefer to give people their privacy when they are in a conversation amongst themselves, but I couldn’t resist.

I slid toward the end of the seat next to me, leaned back a little and caught the eye of the woman who was apparently the mother who had planned this. She smiled at me so I felt it safe to enter the conversation.

“Is someone adopting a kitten?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Mom, “my daughter loves animals and wants to be a veterinarian, and I’m moving to a place where we can have a cat for her. She’s never had a pet, and she’s so excited!”

Lucy With Rug 2

Lucy With Rug 2

13-year-old girls are way too cool to show excitement. When I looked around my seat to the one behind me, she glanced up from her computer game, just moved her eyelids and nothing else, and nodded. I smiled.

“I probably wouldn’t interrupt your conversation, but…” I briefly described my credentials as a cat lady, making myself out to be a professional on the subject of cats instead of just the crazy cat lady who was crocheting a hat in the seat ahead of them, which was also true.

Mom was glad to have someone to ask questions. I was glad to share the enthusiasm I always had for discussing cats and the information I’d learned over the past 40 years of living with cats. Teenage daughter played her computer game but listened, I could tell.

I asked for the details of how they were adopting and when, how old the kitten was, if they had things ready and what their daily schedule was like to see what information I could offer them, and answering Mom’s questions.

Lucy With Rug 3

Lucy With Rug 3

As it turned out, the kitten was one of a litter taken in to a shelter in Harrisburg. They had visited the shelter weeks ago and met this kitten and others and decided on this one and possibly a sibling, but had to wait until they had most of their vaccinations and been spayed or neutered. The kitten would be eight to ten weeks at going home, just at the beginning of that growth spurt and ready to raise ruckus as young kittens are programmed to do.

I told them that kittens at that age had a lot of energy and no common sense, and so they had to plan for the kitten to be very playful, but also likely to get into trouble without intending by climbing into or onto places that might be dangerous, scratching things it shouldn’t, and even playing rough with the humans.

kittens wrestling on the floor

Two of the Fantastic Four wrestling.

And, since the kitten would be home alone all day and even overnight later I told them that two kittens would be a better idea since the kittens would keep each other company during the day, beating each other up instead of getting into trouble while alone.

“Kittens are often misinterpreted as being ‘bad’ and sent back to the shelter because people don’t understand that during those weeks of development from toddler to teenager in human terms, they have to play hard to build muscles and coordination, to explore to develop their senses,” I said, or some variation on that. Kittens develop very quickly, and by sixteen weeks can be completely independent and even sexually mature—all this learning has to happen before that, even if they’ll never use it to kill live prey, defend themselves or mate or give birth.

A good bit of discipline, then, depends on understanding what the kittens are doing, and if necessary redirecting the energy into something more appropriate. I could imagine two little kittens ripping through the house they were describing.

“Little, little kittens can climb into places where you might not even fit your hand,” I said, “and even bigger kittens can get themselves into a mess, so check for everything they can get in to, because they will. And don’t be afraid to confine them to one room for portions of the day for their own safety, while you are away or while you are eating or cooking,” I continued.

Mewsette on Scratcher

Sunshine on Scratcher

Thinking of the teenager who I knew was listening and might be one of the few to actually go on and graduate as a veterinarian, I explained that all cats scratch things because they leave their scent from scent glands in their paws, they groom their claws, removing old layers of cuticle, and they stretch full-length and exercise their muscles. Just figure they’re going to scratch things, give them things to scratch that they like, put them where they’ll use them and usually they’ll just gravitate to what you’ve provided because it’s so convenient and not bother with anything else.

“I’ve used a lot of the cardboard scratchers that just sit around on the floor because the cats and kittens can step right up onto them and they immediately start to scratch when they feel that rough texture beneath their paws,” I said, adding that having at least one in every room is probably what saved my furniture along with a regular carpeted scratching post and a cat tree I’d gathered over the years. “They like rough surfaces—think tree bark,” I added.

black kitten with catnip toy

Giuseppe meets catnip.

“Remember that they think you are big cats, too, and they are going to try to play with you as if you really are just another cat,” I continued. “Don’t fall for it. Touching them is for affection, not wrestling. Never play with them directly with your hand or they’ll think your hand is one of their toys. If they want to wrestle, grab a plush toy and let them tackle that. Teach the little boys (her two young sons) to drag the sturdy string toys around for the kittens to chase, it’ll be a lot more fun for the boys anyway.”

Make sure the litter box is convenient, on the same floor and only one or two rooms away at any given time. Once kittens are litter trained it’s usually permanent, but if they have to go and can’t find the box quickly, they’ll find the next best thing, usually a spot that’s inconvenient to you.

Make sure food and water are always available, too. Kittens need a high-protein diet because of their rate of growth, and unless they are somehow ill they will eat and drink as much as they need to as long as it’s available. But keep the litterbox and the food bowl in separate rooms, if possible, or at least far enough away that the two won’t mix.

I know I offered many more little points in the guise of anecdotes and stories from my own and others’ experience, but finally it seemed as if they had all the information they could hold for one session. I asked the daughter if she had any ideas for names. She said she had lots of ideas but didn’t divulge any, meaning she probably thought I wouldn’t know who or what she was talking about, which was highly likely.

Fromage in Motion

Fromage in Motion

She and her friend got up and went to the dining car, and I had the opportunity to say to her mom what I had just been thinking, remembering about my own first kitten: “Just think of all the years of her life this cat will see, through her teenage years and high school, she might go off to college and leave the cat with you, but the cat will be there for her when she comes home to visit, or she may take it with her when she gets her own place. She could be into her 30s before she loses it. All those important years of her life shared with this one cat you are about to bring home….”

“Wow,” said her mother, “that’s right, cats live a long time and she could be married with her own children by that time.”

Her daughter returned and she pointed this out to her, to little response, but again the glance and the nod. She had to be cool in front of her friend.

Mom had to take a call from her office, even though it was Sunday and we were on the train, and there the conversation ended until they left the train halfway to my destination, when we said goodbye and good luck.

a photo of Bootsie, the gray and white cat I had growing up

My first cat, Bootsie photo © B.E. Kazmarski

I was left thinking about all the years I’d spent with cats, from Bootsie, my first cat, to those who are with me now, I’ve measured eras in cat lives. I enjoyed the thought of a responsible adult and a caring young woman adopting a shelter kitten, and hoped it brought many happy endings for the people and for those cats, and for other animals each of those children would encounter or adopt later in life, and even for other people, as we know that children learn important interpersonal lessons from animals.

And what a joy for the opportunity to share the knowledge I’d both observed and intentionally learned over the years, gleaned from both the happy and the sad events and memories. Isn’t that what I do every day through my writing and art so I can do my part to make life better for cats and all animals and the people who love them, and give people images and a voice to describe how they feel about their animal companions?

But for now, I’ll still think of the household with one or two new kittens, whichever they decided, and picture the girl with her tabby and the little boys running around with strings for the kittens to chase. It’s a very happy thought.

I’ll soon be telling the story of the orange kitten at the top of this article—another magical rescue story. All the other photos are of Lucy, Fromage and the Fantastic Four and other kittens you may have seen in my articles, but I hadn’t realized such a trend in black kittens in my house in the past several years. I’ll have to dig out those prints on film from earlier litters!


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.

5 Black Cats + Friday 13 = 18…Somethings

black cat nursing black kittens

Mimi nursing the color-coded Fantastic Four.

Black cats and Friday the 13th don’t have anything to do with luck, good or bad, or I’d be in real trouble today! But it does give me another opportunity to share another photo of the Fantastic Four as little fuzzballs in order to maximize the black cat presence on the internet today. They are about three weeks old here since this was taken August 20, 2007, and they were born on July 26. I had just moved them into the room that would become their ancestral home, the bathroom, before it was made into the mint and white feline palace.

I keep referencing the colors of tempera paint I dabbed on their ears to tell them apart, and how that influenced their names and readers have asked if I can somehow show this to them. So here they are, the color-coded kittens!

You see only three colors, green, yellow and red. I had white for Jelly Bean for his white spots at neck and belly, but they were so obvious when he was that tiny, and the white hairs in his ears were like long brushes—you really can’t see in this photo, but they extend slightly beyond the edges of his ear—so I could tell who he was from front and back. He was also noticeably smaller than the others.

And I chose the colors and applied them totally arbitrarily, so I had no plan to match their names to them in any way, just grabbed a kitten and dabbed the paint. In order in this photo they are Jelly Bean, Giuseppe, Mr. Sunshine and Mewsette. It’s funny to see how striped they were at this age.

By this time they were quite active—amazing how much development happens in a week when you look at the last photo I posted when they were two weeks old. But this was why I had to move them to the bathroom; I couldn’t let them go in my “old studio” or I’d have never found them in there, and I couldn’t keep them in that cage, regardless of how big it was. They were ready to rock and roll!

I’m sure Mimi is glad when she looks at photos from this era that she no longer needs to “assume the position”, as I always joked with her when she flopped down to let them nurse, just like this, several times a day. It’s just too bad you can’t hear them all purring.

And of course, you can probably get your fill here on The Creative Cat with photos and paintings and sketches of black cats! Just click the links or choose a category from the list at right, and you can even choose their names from the category list as well if you have a personal favorite. I am organizing that list so things are easier to find, but for now they are alphabetical—not color coded, though.


Unless I have linked the photo to something else, which is rare with daily photos, you can click the photo to see a larger version. I save them at 1000 pixels maximum dimension, and at that size the photos are nearly twice the dimension and you can see more detail in many of the photos I post. Please remember if you download or share, my name and the link back to the original photo should always appear with it.

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.

Embarassing Baby Pictures

four black kittens

The Fantastic two weeks old.

Well, it’s not embarrassing, it’s really cute. They are about two weeks old here, August 10, 2007, and they were born on July 26. They’re so precious, the little fuzzballs.

I keep referencing the colors of tempera paint I dabbed on their ears to tell them apart, and how that influenced their names and readers have asked if I can somehow show this to them. I found the photo I wanted to use, then started looking at baby pictures, and…well, if you’ve ever watched a litter of kittens, or puppies or other animals or even a human grow up you know how it is when you start looking at pictures.

And then I had a difficult time deciding which one to use! So I have three, in a little series: Sleeping, Waking, and Awake. And I really can’t even tell you which is which a lot of the time unless I noted something in the file name.

four black kittens

Waking up, yawning and stretching!

Here they are yawning and stretching! You can clearly see stripes on all of them—the one in the middle has a shadow from the bar of the cage they are in because I turned on the ceiling light, but they were all fairly gray-black, lots of stripes, and lots of individual white hairs on their legs, faces and tails that disappeared in the next few weeks.

four black kittens

Awake and ready for action!

I noted a few things with this photo, but they didn’t have their permanent names yet. I do know that this kitten in front was the girl, so it is Mewsette, the first to do everything and I always remember that serious, determined expression on that tiny face! Directly behind her was Jelly Bean, and I recognize his profile, as well as some of the features of Mr. Sunshine’s face behind him. The lazy bum is Giuseppe, who always woke up last with great fanfare—unless one of the others landed on him and started wrestling!

As you can imagine, I have a zillion photos of them, but most of the good ones are on film from about a week later when I moved them into the bathroom and the light was better. But compare them to the Fantastic Four you know now.

There is a reason why this time with these kittens is very, very special. Briefly, this was an era when I was still grieving one very recent loss, and five losses in total; I had had their half-sister Lucy put to sleep for FIP on July 10, 2007, just a month earlier, and in 2006 had lost my four oldest cats, Moses, Cream, Sophie and Stanley. Before Mimi joined us with her babies, my household had suddenly gone from nine cats to four and as hard as Cookie, Kelly, Namir and Peaches worked I would say I was in shock as well as grief. But having this little pile of kittens at my disposal to hold and hug and kiss and photograph and love, as well as their mom, the gentle, understanding Mimi, helped to change that for me. I spoke about this on Pet Memorial Sunday last year, glad to share it with others deeply grieving their loss.

But this is where we all began, four demanding little black fuzzballs on the work table in my studio!


Unless I have linked the photo to something else, which is rare with daily photos, you can click the photo to see a larger version. I save them at 1000 pixels maximum dimension, and at that size the photos are nearly twice the dimension and you can see more detail in many of the photos I post. Please remember if you download or share, my name and the link back to the original photo should always appear with it.

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 Christmas Message from Jack’s Family

Orange cat under tree

Jack at Christmas.

Earlier this year an orange kitten showed up under the spruce in my front yard—and since that spruce had once been a Christmas tree for the family who lived here years ago this kitten was kind of “the kitten under the Christmas tree”! But not for me, even though I’d been thinking about an orange kitty, as we soon discovered I was just a stopping place on his way to his intended family.

I put signs up on the telephone poles, let the local police know, posted him on the shelter websites and on The Creative Cat, sending e-mails out to friends, visited a veterinarian to scan him for a chip (negative), and talked to the neighbor kids.

But all that effort was totally unnecessary as a friend of mine read the article on Facebook and decided he was meant to be with her family, but it was more than just seeing a cute orange kitten and wanting to adopt him. With teenage children, three cats, two dogs and a guinea pig already, who would intentionally ask for more? But she felt Jack was meant for her household, Jack seemed to know them immediately, then went on to integrate into her household as if he’d always been there. It was without a doubt the easiest cat rescue and adoption I’ve ever administered, and every update, every Facebook photo, every little e-mail extolling Jack’s loving and playful personality just fills my heart.

At the end of this article I have links to the series of articles I wrote from the time I found him to when he was adopted and fitted himself into his new household.

And here is the e-mail my friend sent to me on Christmas morning along with the photo above, one of the best gifts I received, and reading her words it’s not hard to understand why I was more than happy he would be living in her home!


Dear Bernadette,

Here is a current picture of Jack, taken just a few minutes ago. I swear I take more pictures of him and the other pets than anything else. I thought your readers may like to know how the little guy is doing.

Jack is almost a year old, he is in perfect health, and weighs 10#’s, and of course he has been neutered. Jack has the best personality and character, and his curiosity is unlimited! He has three older feline “sisters” and two canine “sisters” and a fellow brother “guinea pig”; we joke that Jack is an inter-species-transgender cat. He is friends with all of his housemates. Ohmygosh, the look on his face is so priceless each time he sees one of his housemates- the look on his face is that of pure and unedifying love and delight that says “there’s MY friend, I have to go play with MY friend NOW, I just love, love, LOVE my friend and I have to say it NOW!” It doesn’t matter if the others want to play or not. Jack has a special bond with our youngest dog, oldest cat, and the guinea pig specifically, however he is equal with all of us.

It still amazes us that Jack can instantly go from being the hyper aware, pouncing and playful cat, as he is a complete and total lover boy who loves to receive affection and returns it tenfold. He will be running around the house one minute and the next, flopping down to sleep wherever he is at at that moment. Both in the middle of whatever is going on as Jack HAS to be in the center of all family activity always.

Jack has added so much joy and love to our family. We always say after adopting our latest pet that that pet is the last one we’ll adopt. However, as each pet has kept reminding us, we are meant to be together as a family. Animals have so much to say and love to offer, we mere humans need to learn to stop and listen to them. Pets talk to us all the time. And nothing brings animals/pets more happiness than to be acknowledge, accepted, while being listened to and respond back. It is so simple.

Anyway, this little unmet kitten, who we fell in love with before meeting him. And upon meeting him, we instantly knew the fit just clicked between us humans and Jack. Although naming him was a challenge- to us humans, it took us over a week to finally figure out what his name was, because he ignored every name we tried to call/name him. When we said “Jack” he perked up and responded as if to say “you silly humans, you FINALLY figured my name out! DUH!!!! Now rub my tummy!!!” (Jack responded to the character name “Captain Jack Sparrow” and the name fits. He stole our hearts and love!)

I’d like to think we adopted him and that we did so much for him, however, the reverse is true, Jack has totally settled our family and we feel complete.

Jack simply radiates love and he is more than willing to share his. We are blessed. MJIS

Follow his progress through my household:

Little Orange Kitten


An Update on the Little Orange Guy

So it’s “Captain Jack Sparrow”

A Christmas Message from Jack’s Family


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 Unintended Gift: My first cat, and how cats became my muse

a photo of Bootsie, the gray and white cat I had growing up

My first cat, Bootsie

Yes, I really did get a kitten in a box under the Christmas tree when I was a child. The story is not glowingly happy and, in fact, includes a few losses, but led me to the cat who eventually became my “first” kitty, and the rest is history. It’s my pleasure to share it on Christmas, the day it all came together for me, my love of cats, learning to care for them and finding in their grace and beauty to muse that would lead me to painting, writing, photography and my life as an artist.

When I was nine years old, I remember telling my parents and my older sister what kind of animals I liked. I don’t know if this was in response to a question, but I do know I explained completely and with enthusiasm, telling every last detail of what I liked about birds and squirrels and cats and dogs and horses and rabbits, all the animals I had encountered in my early 1960s suburban development childhood.

I remember telling my sister that I liked cats best because they were easier to take care of than dogs, and if I had to choose I’d choose a cat. I don’t know how I knew this except that in those days people didn’t get their animals neutered and, except for hunting dogs in their cages, all animals were allowed to roam. Dogs were loud and seemed to get into more trouble with fights and biting people as some roaming dogs will do, and I had my share of small bites from trying to pet dogs who weren’t interested. And then there was the clean-up issue in everyone’s yards, even yards of people who didn’t have a dog.

Cats, on the other hand, were uniformly small and seemed to be very quiet and gentle and neat, and this appealed to me. I was shy, I was dreamy, I didn’t like loud noises, I was most comfortable in the company of animals, even wild animals, because they didn’t find me odd and weren’t bothered by my silences as humans were, and they didn’t mind when I stared at them without explanation; in fact, they encountered me in much the same way. As an “artist in training” I was a focused observer even at that age. I was outdoors quite a bit roaming the old pasture that was all that was left of the farm our houses had been built on and exploring the woods and waterways of every ravine and hillside, so a dog might have seemed a likely companion for me. But I pictured myself curling up with an animal to read, and that would be more likely one of the nice kitties I had met around the neighborhood.

Every time I learned there was a litter of kittens in the neighborhood, and there always seemed to be one or two litters, I was an annoyance to the owner wanting to see the kittens, and an annoyance to my family wanting to bring a kitten home. Once I helped a neighbor catch two small kittens that had been born and raised in their yard to a mother who had disappeared, and I took them home hoping to keep them, but they only stayed overnight and likely went to a shelter, though that might have been a foretelling of rescues to come.

So the dream came true that Christmas when I was nine and there was an orange kitten in a box under the tree, a tiny six-week-old fuzzball ready for play when let loose from the cardboard carrier. I know little Rusty got no respite from me crawling around on the floor after her, and I was thrilled when, exhausted with batting walnut shells and chasing ribbon, she curled up in my convenient lap, a warm, pliable, purring bundle.
Keep reading…

An Animal’s Love is the Gift

Fromage with her ball and formula splashed across her nose.

Fromage with her ball and formula splashed across her nose.

Christmas Eve is here! Time for the biggest gifts and the best surprises, eating and drinking merrily, countless visits to friends and family, and generally overdoing it.

This year, you’ve decided it’s time your child had a pet. Or perhaps you and your friend, spouse, partner or other family member have been discussing adopting a cat or a dog. The holiday morning seems like the most exciting time to present the new kitten, the best gift of all, a memory to last a lifetime.

But what about the kitty?

black kitten with toy

Giuseppe Meets Catnip

Considering that entire books have been written on the complexities of introducing a new kitten or cat into a household, you’d think most people would avoid, or be discouraged from, introducing a pet to the household at an overcrowded, overstressed time like a holiday. But determined gift-givers are not easily discouraged.

An animal is not a gift
An animal is not a gift. The kitten or cat or any other animal is a living being with physical and emotional needs as complex as yours. Her life does not begin when she enters your household but, like you, she is involved in her own cycle of existence, including past experiences and present needs which are as much a part of her as those stripes on her forehead that caused you to choose her over all the other cats at the shelter. The real gift is the lifetime of memories and love that grow through the years.

The holidays can be dangerous

black kitten in kleenex box

Tiny Mewsette in tissue box

We get so caught up in our excitement and honest goodwill that we forget about what can go wrong. The holidays actually hold potential dangers for our animal companions (see “Pet Proofing for the Holidays” and “Holiday Pet Safety“). For instance, mistletoe and holly are both toxic to cats but we may decide to go all natural with a centerpiece that contains both items, or swag garlands of them enticingly around the windows. Even tinsel and ribbon can cause serious harm to a cat who decides to eat it, getting tangled in the twists and turns of the digestive tract and sometimes requiring emergency surgery.

If the recipient household isn’t accustomed to the presence of an animal companion, then those dangers are multiplied. You may not adequately prepare your household for a curious or frightened feline, and an accident within the house or an escape is entirely possible. Even if the household already has a feline or two, all cats are not the same and the new kitty may have habits the resident kitties have never had. The last thing you want your gift to turn into is the tragedy of an injured or lost pet.

Veterinary care at the holiday

young black kitten

Young Mr. Sunshine

Whether the household is accustomed to cats or this is the first entry, finding emergency care during the holiday season is difficult. Most shelter kittens and cats today are healthy and have received all the veterinary care they need up to the time of their adoptions; indeed, many shelters won’t even let animals go until they are spayed and neutered, have all the recommended basic care and are healthy and socialized.

But a new kitty is more likely to develop an illness under the stress of changing living accommodations. It may be due to an underlying condition not evident at the shelter or it may be acquired after joining the household. An injury may occur if the cat is frightened by the changes, or the cat may totally embrace its new accommodations and end up climbing the tree, walking across the stove, eating holiday decorations, leaving you to find an emergency clinic open on Christmas Day.

What about the recipient?

black kitten in bed

Giuseppe in bed.

As fun as surprises are, it’s the recipient who will be living with the kitty from this day forward. Even if the giver is in the same household and has furtively questioned the recipient to discover details of the recipient’s preferences, here are at least three quick reasons why the recipient should choose the kitty.

First, all cats are not the same, and forming a bond with an animal is just as complex as it is with another human. Of the billions of other humans on earth, or the hundreds we come to know in our lives, we only become real friends with a handful. What makes us think we can bond with any animal who comes along, or that a future pet owner shouldn’t have the chance to look for that little spark of love themselves?

Second, the recipient may have some preference as to where the kitty comes from. Every city and region has a list of shelters and rescue organizations which are generally bursting with cats who need good homes, and as difficult as it may be, you can narrow down the list somewhat using your own homemade criteria—the shelter that has the most cats at the moment, for instance, or one that has a clinic for which you can buy a membership for low-cost care in the future.

Fromage makes it down the steps

Fromage makes it down the steps

Third, you need to be absolutely certain the recipient really wants an animal companion. Yes, you’re sure that if you just get the cat into the house it will all work out, but it’s wrong for both the animal and the human to try to force the bond when neither of them actually wants it. Many people talk on end about adopting, play with other peoples’ animal companions and even visit or volunteer at shelters, but only they can decide when and even if they are ready for the commitment.

One other issue to consider is the impact on shelters after the holidays from impulse adoptions of pets. After the surge of summer kittens and stray animals is over, animal shelters are again besieged after the holidays with pets adopted then returned, or purchased elsewhere and surrendered because it just didn’t work out. Pets can’t be returned or discarded. You’ll find plenty on this topic on the internet—just two possibilities are a feature entitled “Carefully Consider Kittens as Gifts” by Pam Johnson-Bennett, CABC, IAABC-Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and Amy Shojai CABC has an in-depth article on entitled “Pets as Gifts: How to Give Cats as Gifts”.

I can speak to a number of these warnings. Indeed, I received my first kitten in a box under the Christmas tree the year I was nine and I will never forget that morning, but the kitten had an illness, my parents were inexperienced, emergency care was hard to find and I lost him the day after Christmas. The experience obviously didn’t dim my love for cats, and I wrote about this and how cats became an important part of my life in “The Unintended Gift”.

So let’s go shopping—for pet stuff!

Giuseppe is patient with this.

Giuseppe is patient with this.

All is not lost!  “Most people are so busy during the holidays—parties, shopping, guests, travel—that we often recommend people think about purchasing a gift certificate from their shelter so they can bring the animal into the household at a less busy, less stressful time and allow that animal to relax into its new environment and bond with its new family,” says Gretchen Fieser, Director of PR and Business Relationships at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. You can see if your local shelter or rescue organization has a gift certificate policy where you can prepay for an adoption or alternatively, make a donation in the name of that person. If not, make up your own certificate and put the money aside. Give the certificate at the holiday.

Best wishes on your new arrival!
When the big day comes, we wish you a future full of love and good memories with your new kitty. Take your time and get to know her—you’ll be glad you did!

I’ve used photos of black kittens—the Fantastic Four as babies and my little neo-natal foster Fromage—since black cats and kittens apparently difficult to adopt, though I can’t figure out why!


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.

Georgie and Rosey Looking for a Home

tortie kitten

Rosey is actually a very dark tortoiseshell.

Who could dump two kittens obviously so sweet?

orange kitten

Georgie is a love.

Rosey and Georgie are brother and sister, about 14 weeks old. Both are current on shots, and are FIV and FeLV negative.

tortie kitten

Rosey shows off the white spot under her chin.

They have been wormed, and treated for fleas and are ready to be spayed and neutered.

orange kitten with young girl

Georgie loves his kisses.

They are both litter trained, and very friendly and playful. Rosey is a little reserved at first, until she gets to know you.

black tortie kitten

Rosey warms up to people very nicely.

They love to snuggle, and purr as soon as you touch them.

orange kitten with girl

I can tell Georgie is like a stuffed toy!

They were rescued by Marcy, who regularly rescues and fosters homeless cats and dogs. She paid for their veterinary care out of her own pock, so she is asking a re-homing fee of $60 so that she can keep rescuing. Click this link to find a list of low-cost spay and neuter clinics, which you can download and print out, in the Pittsburgh area, as well as links to search for a clinic close to you anywhere in the country.

If you would like to adopt either one or both of these kittens, please contact Marcy at 412-334-7187 or send her an e-mail.

National…International…Today is Cat Day!

cat sleeping

A Blissful Namir.

Cat day is every day, right?

October 29, 2011 really does mark the annual celebration of National and International Cat Day, brought to you by the Animal Miracle Network, which hosts nearly two dozen annual holidays celebrating companion animals of all sorts.

black cat on striped rug

Lucy Pink and Gray

We who live with companion animals know that every day is a celebration of their love and companionship in our lives, but marking an individual day on the calendar also helps to further goals for all animal companions, not just our own. For instance, one of the goals of this day is to see the adoption of 10,000 shelter cats—today—through special events promoting feline adoptions both at bricks and mortar shelters and internet adoption sites.

This holiday along with others also raises awareness of other feline-specific issues. More cats than dogs are owned as pets, yet cats receive “significantly less  veterinary care” than their canine counterparts according to a report from the Association of Feline practitioners and the AVMA.

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Basic Feline Wellness

pencil sketch of cat in bag

In the Bag, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

I remember someone telling me when I was a child that cats were the perfect pet because they didn’t require any care, you really didn’t even have to feed them.

Unfortunately for cats some people still feel this way, but those numbers are dwindling fast as standards for care are recommended and new methods of care and treatment become available. Our cats may not like seeing the doctor and may expertly hide their symptoms in an effort to seem well even though their living conditions no longer require this evolutionary response to illness, but this is one time when we humans should go against our cats’ will and provide both basic wellness and acute care.

October is National Pet Wellness Month sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Pfizer Animal Health, so it’s time to schedule our cats’ appointments and learn how to help them live as healthy and long a life as possible. I’ll be writing articles on care for cats, and my guest writer Karen Sable has prepared a thorough two-part article on helping your pet stay well and getting to know your pet  from nose to tail so that you can better tell if something is wrong, which will include a downloadable checklist for your nose-to-tail inspection.

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