Overheard in a Thrift Shop

discount store

Tuesday is Rescue Story Day, but it’s been a while since I’ve posted this poem about rescues and about life, literally written from a conversation I overheard in a thrift shop.  

Overheard in a Thrift Shop

© 2010 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Oh, look at this yellow lab painting, it’s so nice. I’ve always liked yellow labs. I have one now.

I don’t have a dog, but I wish I could.

Well, I always said I wouldn’t get a dog unless it was a rescue,
so I probably wouldn’t get a yellow lab,
but this dog came from a neighbor’s daughter
her brother had been feeding the dog—
she had twelve puppies.

Twelve puppies?!

Yes, and they all lived.
The owner put them all outside
and he probably never fed her right.
The boys found her and started taking her food.
Their sister found out
and went and told the guy she was taking the dog and the puppies.
He didn’t care.

Well, how did you get the dog?

Well, this girl, she was only 17,
but she knew right from wrong,
and she found homes for a few puppies and took the rest to the shelter.
She got the mother spayed and things were fine,
then she was killed in a car accident.

Oh, my!

Her father took care of the dog, but then he went to jail.

Oh, no. So did you take the dog?

I offered to keep the dog until he got out;
it’s a short sentence—
he’ll be out later this year.

Bless your heart!
Are you sure he wants the dog?

He already asked about her.
Think it has to do with losing his daughter.
I mean, she was only 17, and killed in an accident.

Shame.

I’m sure the cat will miss the dog too. They’re friends.

You have a cat too?
You sure got a full house.

Yeah, the cat belonged to my daughter-in-law,
she got him for the boys,
but after a year or so, the cat started to pee on the boys’ things,
they were going into puberty, you know,
I think it was that hormonal thing.
She tried everything, but the cat wouldn’t stop.
She gave him to a neighbor, an older man
who lived by himself,
and the man kept the cat in the basement with a litterbox and food and water.
Then the man told me the cat was getting some litter on the floor.
That’s okay, I told him, just sweep it up, it’s probably clean.
Then the cat started coming upstairs,
and he told me it was pushing his golf balls around.
That’s okay, I said, that’s playful.
Then he said the cat woke him up in the morning, he touched his nose to the man’s,
and I said, just give the cat to me.

Bless your heart! You are a soft touch.

Yeah, I don’t know how it will be when the dog goes,
but he lives close, I’ll be able to see her,
and I’ll be ready to take her back at any time.
At least I’ll have my cat.

This was a conversation between two people which I overheard, secretly taking notes, as I was browsing the overcrowded racks of a local thrift shop after dropping off some dishes for donation. The rhythm of a conversation between two people who know each other well and working in tandem, in this case the cashier and a volunteer who were unpacking and tagging things, has a rhythm of its own built on the familiarity of the two people, and can often sound like poetry, so instead of my initial idea for a short story based on their conversation, I wrote it up as verse.

Honest, open, unguarded conversation between two people is so precious.

I showed the cashier my writing later and asked if she minded if I published her story in this way. She was fine with the idea and told her friend, the volunteer. The cashier and I have since become friends.

cat rug

The cat rug (folded).

I was determined not to purchase anything when I dropped off my donations, but right inside the door was this feline-themed rug…and I was hooked. These are nice to have around the house, and often I use them in my displays at shows or festivals, indoors or out, especially if I’m on concrete. They also come in handy as donation items to benefit shelters and animal organizations. Since this one looks completely new, that may be its fate, my way of thanking the universe for giving me this poem.

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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.


Apartment Maintenance Personnel Inhumanely Trap and Dump Feral Cats

Please take the time to make a phone call on behalf of homeless cats to help stop a continuing situation near Pittsburgh.

Michelle Miller, Executive Adminstrator at the Homeless Cat Management Team in Pittsburgh, alerted the Pittsburgh Feral Cat Movement group on Facebook that a maintenance person or caretaker at a North Hills apartment building had been bragging about trapping raccoons and cats and dumping them “across the river”. A visit from a humane agent brought excuses from the manager that this was a “bad joke” and no such thing was happening.

Michelle continued pressing the issue with the building manager and the owners and along with Vicki Stringfellow Cook of Pittsburgh Animal Rescue Examiner corresponded with the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society where the cats were purported to be taken. No cats had arrived there at the hands of these people, yet cats were trapped and removed.

Homeless Cat offered the management and the building owner to set up a TNR program for them at no cost to or effort by the management, they briefly considered but decided instead to continue trapping cats and taking them to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. The WPHS will not euthanize any cat that is ear-tipped and does not have a policy of euthanizing feral cats upon arrival, but kittens are already beginning to arrive at the shelter and decisions must be made for all the cats.

Not in any conversation did anyone from the apartment management or real estate agency indicate the cats were a problem in any way or give any reason for them to be removed.

Michelle writes, “Cascades Apartments are located in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, PA, at 100 East West Drive, 412.301.3346. Maintenance personnel have irresponsibly and inhumanely trapped 9 cats and ‘dumped’ them in various locations around in Allegheny County.

“PRG Real Estate owns and operates The Cascades. Sadly, after a humane investigation, it was determined we had not enough hard proof for a case. PRG has now in retaliation instructed the Cascades personnel to trap the remaining cats on the property and surrender them to the Western PA Humane Society. The cats are not ‘adoptable’ and will be certainly euthanized. We need YOU to be the voice for the voiceless!

“There are approximately 6-8 cats left they are trying to trap and kill. We want to save their lives. HCMT has offered to do a T/N/R project for FREE. Instead, PRG wants them removed and killed! TNR is an effective and humane solution to the problem at the Cascades created by a former resident. Why should the Cascades dump their problem on the local animal shelter and cost TAXpayers money!

“BE RESPONSIBLE PRG!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Please call PRG Real Estate and tell them how cruel and unncessary this is, and that you are United for a Humane Cascades Complex! Thank you!

“PRG Philly Office 215-744-1200

“PRG Columbus Office 614-885-5482 (Amy Cain is the Regional Property Mgr who gave the “official” statement that they have authorized the removal of the cats from their HOME)

“PLEASE CALL….AND SHARE THIS CAUSE…HELP SAVE INNOCENT LIVES! “

Unfortunately this type of “removal” quietly happens in cases like this all the time, where individuals decide to trap cats who have made a home where a human thinks they don’t belong. We know there are better solutions than inhumanely trapping and removing them, but we can’t force anyone into that decision.

But we can call them on it, literally, and point out to others what they are doing so that in the light of public opinion they are exposed.

For more information, also read this article on the Pittsburgh Animal Rescue Examiner.

Please call, and let them know this is wrong!


Pet Parents Day Painting Party Supports WPHS!

western pennsylvania humane society logo

WPHS logo

First of all, HAPPY PET PARENTS DAY this Sunday to all those lucky enough to share their lives with loving animal companions.

Second, celebrate Pet Parents Day AND help the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society with ceramics for the Pittsburgh Pet Parents Day Painting Party! Celebrate your best friend while helping other pets find their forever homes.

As a fundraiser for the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, Heal from Pet Loss and Color Me Mine are hosting a painting party on Sunday, April 29 from noon to 6 PM.

color me mine logo

Color Me Mine logo.

Paint a cool food bowl, treat jar, picture frame or memorial plaque for your special animal companion. $15 covers painting and firing time, refreshments, treat bag and a donation to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. There will be a wide range of pieces to choose from to accommodate various price ranges.

Color Me Mine is located at 5887 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, 15217, Squirrel Hill. Call 412-421-2909 today to reserve your two hour block of time. We may be able to accommodate walk-ins on a space available basis, but pre-register to guarantee your spot!

You are welcome to bring your well-behaved pet and enjoy an outing together.

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

As part of the fundraiser, Karen Litzinger will be doing a CD signing of the award-winning Heal Your Heart: Coping with the Loss of a Pet with profits going to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. Consider having one on hand to give as a sympathy gift to a dear animal lover friend or family member.

Karen Litzinger, author of Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet is a sponsor and organizer of this event. I’ve written about her and her wonderful CD several times on The Creative Cat in Heal Your Heart and in A Remarkable CD and Guidebook. Karen’s website is Heal From Pet Loss.

Pet Parents Day was founded by VPI Pet Insurance and this year is offering free e-cards to send to Pet Parents.

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society is an open-door shelter on Pittsburgh’s North Side serving over 14,000 animals every year. In addition to providing shelter for every animal presented regardless of how it arrived, they provide low-cost spay and neuter and veterinary clinic services, dog training and owner education for any animal parent, humane investigations of animal abuse and cruelty cases, pet loss counseling groups and fun events of all sorts for animals and the people who love them. I donate to them and write about them regularly; read about them here on The Creative Cat.

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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.


Update: Sylvester Is In a New Home

cat on blanket

The new Sylvester, trimmed and brushed!

Melanie tells us that she has taken Sylvester the lovebug, the last of Dorothy’s Pets, to his new home.

Sylvester was taken to his new potentially permanent home yesterday. This is not an ideal adoption, but we’re going to monitor closely and provide assistance whenever necessary. His new person is 75 years old and lost her husband last year. She was looking for mainly provide foster care because she travels to California to see her family a couple of months at a time. Plus she was unsure if she would be able to manage Sylvester’s medication.

After meeting Sylvester she decided she wanted to try to make him a permanent member of her home and has already begun to make provisions to have him cared for while she’s away. She’s very open to us visiting whenever we have time and calling to check in to see how things are going. She also stated she will call me if she ever feels she needs help or feels she cannot care for Sylvester. I believe she will do just that.

She is a very kind and sweet lady who also seems to have Sylvester’s best interest in mind. I think she will do her best to make it work and with us monitoring things closely Sylvester will never be without anything he needs.

Melanie

photo of beagle

Cocoa.

And don’t forget…

Melanie has been working with Dorothy and her pets for nearly a year, all through Dorothy’s diagnosis and decline from brain cancer last year, and Dorothy’s death in February, all the while caring for her own 14 cats and three dogs. Anyone who has rescued animals knows what a toll this has taken on her time and her means. She managed to place three of Dorothy’s five pets; two of her cats were placed by the friend Dorothy stayed with in Ohio at the end of her life, read more in this post.

Now Melanie has another complication and a sad diagnosis with one of her own rescues. Her beagle, Cocoa, was just diagnosed with transitional cell carcinoma, and she needs to raise money to help continue with Cocoa’s chemo.  Melanie has set up a new ChipIn account to continue with donations for Sylvester’s continuing care, and for others who would like to help this rescuer who has done so much with one of her own: http://dorothyspets.chipin.com/sylvester-and-cocoa.

A Foster Home for Sylvester

Sylvester Steps Out, Update on Dorothy’s Pets

Dorothy Must Finally Let Them Go: A Final Wish

An Update on Dorothy’s Pets: A Final Wish

Chipin for Dorothy’s Pets: A Final Wish

A Final Wish


Sprocket is Looking for New Place to Roll Around

Look at those lovely citron eyes!

Sprocket is a very friendly and affectionate 7-year-old male cat who gets along with men, women, children, dogs, and other cats. He’s a playful white neutered male with big black spots and markings and he still has his claws. Sprocket has been an indoor cat his entire life since venturing outdoors wasn’t really an option in his current neighborhood.

From his family…

The reasons we can’t keep him:

We have a new baby on the way and with our current work schedules it is very difficult to give Sprocket the attention he wants, needs, and deserves. This will only be worse once the baby comes and he has been living on our small enclosed back porch for a few months since we are remodeling parts of our house  as we continue searching for a new home for him… He’s very lonely and we’re desperately seeking a loving new family to adopt Sprocket as soon as possible where he can be part of the family again and get some attention and interaction with both people and hopefully other animals too…

If interested in this lovely cat,please either email Chris at christopher.vendilli@gmail.com or call him at (412) 849-6276.

Wouldn't you like to take me home?

And enjoy a slideshow of photos of Sprocket rolling around and being charming…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos were provided by Sprocket’s family.

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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.


So a Cat Walks Into a Meeting…

black and white cat

Henry on his first night in my basement.

It’s not a joke, Henry really did walk into a meeting I was attending and proceeded to get himself rescued and subsequently adopted.

On a mild and misty spring evening, May 8, 2008 to be exact, I met with the board of a community conservation organization to review the illustrations for an interpretive sign we were creating for one of their conservation areas. The meeting was held in the municipal building, a small newer brick building that also housed their public library. This was among a group of buildings that included their local Post Office and public works buildings, and all were situated in a small parking lot along a winding country road.

Not terribly remote, there were houses on the hills around and along the road as well as industrial and small manufacturing businesses in an area that was slowly converting from a rural and agricultural character to a more residential area.

That early in the year the air conditioning was not yet in use and the room had grown stuffy so we opened the door to let the cool evening air fill the room.

I sat with my illustrations and designs awaiting my turn on the agenda. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a cat walk in the door. I accepted this apparition without question since I seem to see cats everywhere, yet the shape or color or pattern usually turns out to be leaves or a shadow or someone’s shoes that my searching visualization turns into something familiar and recognizable.

However, the logical remembrance of a very rectangular metal doorway and door painted a neutral tan with gray concrete on the outside and tan carpeting on the inside and a gray and quiet evening without caused me in the same moment to reconsider the appearance of a large rounded black shape with white spots moving through the doorway.

I quickly turned around to see that it was not the mechanizations of my visual acuity, it really was a large black and white cat walking very purposefully through the doorway and into the room, looking curiously up at the humans around the table as he stepped off the plastic runner and decisively turned into the first room on the left as if he belonged in that room.

Others also looked at him, but no one reacted, so I thought he really did belong in there. I turned around but kept alert for movement in that area.

A few minutes later the cat came out of the room, looked at us again, went down the hall and explored other open offices and areas and came back, all as if he was completely familiar with the space, all while the meeting proceeded. When we moved into that first room on the left, a small conference room where we could spread out the drawings for the sign, the cat joined us and I asked if, perhaps, he lived in the municipal building. No one recognized him. We petted him and talked to him as we discussed the illustrations, and with that attention he stayed with us in the room.

The meeting over, a few of us discussed the sign and also the cat and what to do about him. I don’t like to just scoop up a cat from where it’s wandering if it seems safe because it’s easier found if it’s close to home. This cat wore a pretty green collar, though the collar seemed rather small, and the cat as clean as could be. Considering it was a rainy spring day and the area was either grassy or a post-winter parking lot, he, as we presumed, would be dirty if he’d been outside for any length of time. Still, cars and trucks traveled pretty quickly along the winding two-lane road and this particular clean, trusting and well-rounded kitty might not have a clue what to do when approaching.

What to do with a friendly kitty?

As we left and he followed us out I looked around at likely homes. The closest were across a little creek with somewhat muddy banks. I looked at his clean paws. He looked at me. I picked him up, a dangerous thing that I usually avoid at all costs unless I totally intend to take the cat home with me because I am lost once I touch them in any way, petting or nuzzling or even just letting them rub on my legs.

But picking them up can also help me assess more about them in temperament, health, and general outlook. This zaftig kitty settled easily into my arms and purred, looking around at the view from that height. He was not acting at all like a runaway or a confused kitty someone had tossed out. Either he was one of the most self-assured kitties I’d ever met or he was completely clueless.

black and white cat being held

Henry at the vet when he was scanned for a microchip.

A few friends from the meeting and I began to speculate and decide what to do, since none of us wanted to leave him. None of us felt we could take him for the sake of pets we already had so we decided to ask around the few people who were still there as the evening had progressed.

I walked into the library with him, a small one-room affair with a counter at the entrance, and asked if they’d ever seen this cat. The person behind the counter didn’t seem too pleased to have a cat inside and said she’d not noticed him, nor had anyone around the front of the room. Not sure what I would do with him I asked if I could post a sign with his picture on the bulletin board and got permission, saying I’d be back with it the next day.

I walked outside with him and since it was now approaching dusk, putting the cat down to see if he headed in any particular direction I asked a few people in the parking lot if they’d ever seen him, or if they could take him in to foster. It would be so much easier if he was in a home in the community rather than coming to my home, about ten miles and two communities away. Two teenagers said they’d seen him the day before behind the public works buildings, but they thought he belonged to someone near. Several people were interested in helping and one couple with children, leaving the library, discussed it at length and seemed convinced they could, but decided against it because they weren’t sure they could keep him confined from their dog and other cats.

Realizing I’d left my portfolio and backpack leaning against a bench near the entrance to the building, I decided I’d at least put those things in my car while I thought about what to do with this friendly cat. As I walked to my car he trotted alongside me, turning his big black and white face up to me as if we were buddies on an outing. When I opened the driver’s side door to reach in and unlock the back door, he hopped in and began to explore, completely unafraid of the car or what a trip in the car usually meant for cats. I placed my things in the back seat and closed that door. The cat settled into the passenger seat and began a complete bath, starting with his face. He was clearly at ease.

So I got in, closed my door, put on my seatbelt and started the car. No reaction from the cat. I reached over to pet him and he nuzzled my hand and gave it a few licks before returning to his own bath. I usually took the back way home where I could drive slowly in case he freaked on me at some point. In the deepening darkness his white patches glowed, so I’d have no problem finding him if he decided to get up and move around.

“Well, Henry,” I said, giving him the name that had been coming to mind for him, “we’re on our way.”

Guess he’s coming home with me

He was fine on the way home while I pondered what the heck I would do with him when I got there with nine cats already, Peaches, Cookie, Namir, Kelly plus Mimi and the Fantastic Four. At nearly 10 months old they were still spending overnights in the bathroom so the seniors could get a good night’s sleep, plus they were still in that observation period for their first year we had all agreed on because of the risk of FIP, and I didn’t want to expose another cat to that possibility.

The spare cat room was filled to capacity with art stuff as usual, not really even enough floor space to accommodate a litterbox plus food and water bowl, I wasn’t sure where I’d put him. He continued his bath without concern.

I got home and left him in the car (seems to be a pattern with me), fed the household their dinner, closed off the basement since there was a litter box in the bathroom, and took him in through the basement door, removed all the litterboxes and gave him a clean one. He could spend a few hours there while I rearranged the studio to fit him safely in there.

Efforts to find a home

And Henry took it all in stride, friendly and affectionate, eating happily and purring. I took a few photos of him, though he was so hungry for affection and wanting to be held it was difficult to get a good one. After the move upstairs I designed a flyer and sent out an e-mail to friends, attaching the flyer for friends who lived in the community he’d come from to print out and post. I began looking for an owner, a foster home, a clue to where this really handsome, loving, friendly cat had appeared from.

Giving him a mini exam I guessed he was in those middle years, maybe four to eight, neutered, decidedly overfed, and likely had been kept completely indoors from the looks of his perfectly pink paw pads. For some reason I pictured an older person or couple who had doted on him, fed him lots of treats, spent time with him on their lap with a lot of carrying and cuddling and affection, though I couldn’t figure out the slightly-too-small green vinyl collar. He seemed healthy so I decided to forego a veterinary appointment but instead decided to put my efforts into finding his owner through flyers and phone calls and e-mails, shelters, local police and all the other means available. A trip to a local clinic to have him scanned turned up no microchip or electronic identification of any sort.

Despite all these efforts no one turned up to claim him, and no one even seemed to recognize him.

Henry closeup

Henry, still at the vet, was pretty comfortable with people, even during an exam!

I felt so sad for Henry, not just that he had lost his person but that I had little time to spend with him for the sake of working entirely at my computer downstairs and keeping up with the young ones and the old ones in my household. Namir at that time was requiring four medications twice daily, one of them the diuretic Furosemide or Lasix, and with his bladder condition he often couldn’t make it to the litterbox in time, so I was regularly cleaning up after him. I usually keep unknown strays, no matter how nice, isolated in the spare cat room for four weeks even if I’ve had a few preliminary tests done so he was stuck in there to begin with, not to mention he stayed well clear of the door and looked at me with wide-eyed uncertainty when he heard them outside.

And ten cats was just too many. But even with that knowledge and all the other complications of my household, I had recently been thinking that black and white, tuxedo or otherwise, was one kitty flavor I’d never lived with…I have to stop having those sorts of thoughts as the universe hears me too clearly and they always lead to another rescue.

Thanks to FosterCat

I was so grateful to FosterCat for agreeing to take him in after he’d been with me for three weeks.

For all his affectionate nature he really was shy around other cats and still a quiet guy. He spent some time at PetSmart but other cats were more outgoing so he came back to his foster home. Through their website they did find a home for him with a couple who really adored him and he went on to his final home in February 2009.

Even after he’d gone to FosterCat I continued poking around to look for an owner for him, but never found a clue. With cats like Henry and Sophie and so many others who end up in odd places and ask to be rescued I never stop wondering about where they came from, who might be missing them especially since I don’t presume cats are always dumped; we all know someone whose cat got out and disappeared and was never seen again. I just hope that if an escape is the case that somehow the word gets back to wherever it needs to that the kitty was found and is safe. Perhaps I read too many fairy tails but it helps to mitigate what is often the unpleasant truth, and it doesn’t hurt to project positive thoughts.

You’ve read about FosterCat many times here on the The Creative Cat. Also visit their website and look for your next feline best friend, or consider being a foster home.

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


A Little Baby Foster Kitten

Fromage with her ball and formula splashed across her nose.

In fact, the world does revolve around me.

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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