May Catnip Chronicles

tortoiseshell cat

Mysterious Kelly

You should be reading Catnip Chronicles every month already, but go and read the May issue featuring about two dozen articles of feline health and lifestyle and photos of lovely cats, and I’m always proud that there’s an article or two of mine published there.

This month features parts one and two of Kelly’s rescue story, “A Little Bit About Kelly”. Especially this month, as many stray and feral kittens enter the world, Kelly’s early life is a poignant story featured this month in Catnip Chronicles.

You can subscribe to receive Catnip Chronicles in your e-mail every month, and also connect with Facebook.

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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.


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.


Kittens in the Night

two kittens

Timmy plays with Smudge's tail; Smudge studiously ignores him.

Sometimes, even though you’ve done your best to rescue kittens from a bad situation you don’t succeed, and you never forget the ones you couldn’t catch, but in this case I did manage to catch two out of five and have my left hand deeply punctured at the knuckle by a kitten who had no intention of being stuffed into a carrier. Every time I look at the scar on my hand I remember him, and all those kittens and that night.

The favorite dumping spot

One late evening in summer in 1995 I was driving home on a stretch of two-lane back road adjacent to a residential neighborhood near me. Suddenly in the shadows I saw what appeared to be leaves blowing around on the road and I slowed in automatic response.

The leaves slowed and regrouped and turned into a group of various-sized kittens before running to one side of the road and up a slight hill among the underbrush, one or two peeking back out at me.

Oh, no, how am I going to catch them all? I thought.

At least there wasn’t much traffic right then, though this road had recently been groomed as an access to a highway on-ramp and did get busy during rush hour, long past for the day, and hours in the future the next morning. I was on a downhill slope with nowhere to pull over, so I simply pulled to one side and shut off my car.

I saw a box on the side of the road a little ahead, and knew immediately that someone had dumped kittens here. As I walked to the box I saw a bag of dry kitten food next to it—a Good Samaritan trying to do what they could, or the person who had dumped them thinking they were giving them a nutritious head start? Looking into the box I saw one orange kitten, older, maybe ten or 12 weeks, but it  was not moving. Stories began to form but there was no need to piece this together when there were kittens to be caught.

Looking back at the kittens who were running across the road again I saw two distinct sizes, two very stripey orange ones the size of the one in the box and some tiny fuzzballs maybe six weeks old, orange, black, white, perhaps three of them. All were very apparently terrified and had no idea what they were doing. Had one been hit and someone stopped to put it in the box? Or had it died in the hands of the people who had dumped them all? It didn’t look as if it had been hit by a car. Was it possibly ill with a fatal disease of some sort and they’d been dumped in lieu of medical care?

As I watched I could see it was apparently two different litters, too close in age to have come from the same mother, of whom there was no trace. Was someone just doing some housecleaning and decided to get rid of the extra kittens in the garage? Had someone offered a neighbor, “Hey, I’m going to dump off these kittens, how about if I take care of yours too?”

Stop it now, don’t get angry, it will only waste time and energy. If I couldn’t catch them, how could I at least get these kittens away from the road which had only a paved curb giving immediately to steep brush-covered hills on either side? And how could I trap them in those circumstances? I wondered why some idiot had chosen this spot and learned later that until recently it had been an unpaved back road with little traffic and kittens had been dumped there pretty regularly. They could at least have chosen a new dirt road.

Trying to make friends

I attempted to ingratiate myself, which I knew would be nearly impossible under the circumstances. Their fear would remain a barrier until I could simply be near them for a while and accustom them to my scent and sound and presence. I had, and have, chased many kittens, a totally useless endeavor because they are running for their lives, but sometimes it’s all you’ve got with no opportunity to sit quietly in the woods until they find they trust you. The fear barrier often grows with groups of cats and kittens who are traumatized as they tend to sense fear in each other, magnifying it, though catching the trust of one cat, however minimal, could start to break it down.

Hoping no cars came by, I walked toward them until they had scampered into the brush on the side of the road, sat down on the curb and began talking softly to them. If they’ve had experiences with humans which have been in any way positive, keeping still and talking softly will sometimes remind them that humans can be good and they may start to relax, sit still, even do cat things like bathe. If they’ve had little or no experience with humans, or if their experiences were traumatic, they will have no parts of you and will either move away or will act hostile and threatening.

In this group, the younger kittens had hissed and acted hostile, sadly funny in such tiny fuzzballs, but the two older kittens had simply looked startled but were not running away or acting defensive or hostile. They gathered in a group well out of my reach and in safe cover under the brush, but they were settling and the tiny kittens had stopped their hostility. Of the two larger kittens one was solid orange with very clear stripes, and the other looked quite orange until he turned to face me directly and was mostly white. The smaller kittens were a tiny solid orange stripe, a tiny tuxedo and a tiny tortoiseshell, still fuzzy, still somewhat blue-eyed, and perhaps not even six weeks old.

In time I may have won them over somewhat, but it was evening and night would soon fall. I knew from experience that I likely had one chance at catching them tonight; if I caught only one I would never catch another. It was probably their first night away from their mother and in totally unfamiliar circumstances, and after a night in the woods they would likely be too wild to even find. Unfortunately they would probably keep coming out to the road because it was clear and the brush was so dense and the hill so steep. I decided to run home and get a few more carriers and enlist my neighbor and her children, having them help me corral them.

The children, especially, were a great help because they could sneak way up the hill above the kittens and slowly sort of herd them toward we two adults waiting with blankets and carriers; I told the kids not to yell or run and scare them. But the kittens would reach the curb where we might have been able to reach for them without having our eyes poked out or we might have been able to toss the blanket over them, then turn left or right and head back up the hill. There was no way to build a corral around them with the brush the way it was, and nowhere to set a trap that it wouldn’t have slid down the hill.

three photos of a cat on steps

Smudge plays the Terrible Stepmonster.

Not much luck

In the end, before nightfall we only caught two orange boys, one older and one younger. They had tried to run across the street as a group and I reached with both hands for tails or legs or torsos or even loose skin, managing to get a hind leg on one of the older boys with my left hand and the tiny orange kitten by the torso, scooping him up in my right. I dropped the little guy into the upended carrier I had waiting, and let the door fall into place but didn’t lock it. I would have to act fast, but he was probably small enough that he couldn’t jump the height of the carrier and knock the door open, though I’ve seen more amazing and desperate things than that.

I scruffed the older boy with my right hand and was trying to ease open the door drop him into the upended carrier but he shrieked and flung his legs out and knocked the door shut again. I flung it back open, got him most of the way in by the scruff and was letting go, blocking the opening with my left hand when he tried to leap straight back out. I put my left hand over the opening and that’s when he dug is teeth into the knuckle at the base of my first finger, and while I could feel his bottom teeth puncture the soft skin on my palm it was his teeth sliding between the bones of my knuckle and nearly getting lodged in there that made me gasp and scream and nearly pass out, causing him to really flail around and the tiny kitten too. I actually had to grasp his head and get the fingers of my right hand into his mouth pry his teeth loose from my knuckle, pull him away, drop him into the carrier and slam the door.

When you are focused on something so intently as catching cats, you tend to stay focused even in the face of extreme pain. I’m sure other rescuers who’ve fallen out of trees and rolled down hillsides and nearly been hit by cars will tell you that the rescue was topmost in their minds and only later did they realize the danger or the injury. I closed the latch on the door and then the pain in my left hand was as if it had exploded. But the two cats were locked in the carrier, and that was that.

“You really freaked out the rest of them,” my neighbor told me. We watched them scrambling around in the underbrush in the gathering darkness. I knew that the whole experience of chasing them, trying to corral them into fabric barriers and the kitten shrieking as he bit me had completely destroyed any trust the rest may have ever had in me. The other surviving older orange kitten was probably thinking I had killed his brother and put him in the plastic box and the two little ones were clearly following him. The two in the carrier were wailing and scratching to get out and we’d just have to take them home so they’d quit upsetting the others, and so they wouldn’t hurt themselves.

I decided to go home and they would stay for a while longer to see if they calmed down and if they could catch any others.

Arriving home, I settled the two in their carrier into the recently vacated spare cat room and first cleaned the puncture wound on my hand, completely bandaging it in preparation for litter duty. I had no dog cage at that time though the room didn’t hold as much stuff as it later did, so I placed a litterbox and food and water in there and let them go, preparing to go back to the roadside.

I had been hearing thunder, hearing it grow closer. My neighbor returned and she and the kids told me the kittens had seemed to settle down a little while the humans sat on the curb and talked to them, blocking their possible passage onto the road in the dark. But they decided to come home with the growing storm, bringing the dead kitten in the box to bury in their back yard.

Timmy the kitten

Timmy on the rocker.

And storm it did, lights out, ground-shaking thunder, blinding lightning, all I could think of was those kittens, especially the tiny tortie hissing at me, the tuxedo so frightened he fell as he ran, and the older orange one apparently trying to care for them. I knew it was unlikely the little ones would survive the exposure of such a drenching; the woods were fairly new and not dense enough to provide protection. Worse, they would feel the need to get out of the dripping woods to a clear space, and that would be the road.

The two in the room must have thought the world was ending. They stayed well hidden when I was in there to sit in the dark until the lights came back on with ice on my hand. I could hear them shuffling under the furniture like mice, and later saw flashes of white and orange and even glowing eyes.

black and white photo of kitten on steps

Smudge ventures down the stairs.

I went to work the next day, stopped in that spot on the way home but found no trace of them, only a soggy bag of food on the curb. I parked the car a distance away and sat still on the curb near the spot but didn’t even hear anything in the woods but birds, nor did I see anything that looked like a cat. I ended up spending that evening in the emergency room getting IV antibiotics because I waited so long to get my injury treated. I wasn’t sure what to tell them when they asked if the cat was mine; luckily I said I’d rescued them and intended to adopt them—otherwise they’d have probably taken them! I returned and scouted all through the woods on both sides of the road and never saw a trace of the other kittens again, but I will never forget those round little faces that should have been full of curiosity and mock kitten aggression but were instead masks of fear as they disappeared into the darkness behind the orange boy.

kitten peeks around the corner

Smudge checks the scene before proceeding.

It was a long road to trust with Sugar and Spice, as I called them at first. Both hid completely when I was in there, though they used the litterbox and ate and drank. I simply went in there to work on my art and portraits, standing at my big drafting table, and eventually they began investigating my feet, growing accustomed to my scent, the radio and stereo, my aimless singing and talking.

The tiny kitten was named Timmy by those who adopted him, though I called him Spice while he was here. He calmed down quickly and eventually learned to trust me and was quite playful with Sugar and on his own, but he was always reserved, quiet and polite, remained wary of people. He was adopted after only a few weeks to a quiet home.

Smudge, so named for the bit orange splotch on his muzzle, turned into quite the love bug with people he knew, though he could be shy. He had the advantage of integrating with my household and meeting all nine cats with me then and got along just fine.

Like all dumped cats and kittens, I wonder where they came from, and at the heartlessness of people who could actually drop them off in the dirt and drive away.

But enough time spent on that, wondering what their motives are doesn’t necessarily make change or help cats and just makes me angry. Out of the five, I’m glad I at least had the chance to save these two and find homes where they could be loved and cherished.

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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.


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.


How Peaches Stole My Heart

two calico cats at a window

Peaches and Cream at their first home

I’ve mentioned Peaches frequently, the little kitty who arrived at age 15 and lived to be 20, and who had a profound effect on my household and on my portfolio of sketches, paintings and photos, including a favorite, Peaches and Peonies. It’s just two years ago that Peaches was diagnosed with chronic renal failure and I began writing about her condition. Readers still discover those articles and find them helpful when their cats have been diagnosed and are being treated for the condition, often largely receiving fluid therapy at home. I’m going to repost those articles from two years ago as they come up.

Here is the first, an introduction to Rosebud and Angel, who became Peaches and Cream, and above is the very first photo I saw of them, the one given to me by the person caring for them as described below to convince me I needed to help rescue them. Who could resist? And, yes, it is on my list of images that I love; read more at the bottom.

I saw a friend and animal lover catch sight of me from across the room, give a big wave and make a beeline for me, weaving through the crowd at the gathering we were both attending while digging in her purse.

“I know of two cats who desperately need a home,” Betsy said before she even reached me, waving a photo. “They’re going to be put to sleep if someone doesn’t take them!”

Now, among those of us who are known for rescuing cats and dogs and other things, how many times have we heard that?

I will always listen to the story, though. This woman was, first, an animal lover but not a cat person and not one of those constantly sending communiqués about cats about to be euthanized, and was also, though retired, a former architect and respected board member and support of various organizations I also supported, and not the type to make idle threats. I decided whatever story she had to tell was probably completely accurate down to the last fact, and there was a reason in addition to the two homeless cats that she was desperate to find a home.

And then she showed me the photo, above, which is lovely in its own right, but I also knew those two gorgeous calico cats were looking at someone they loved very much and waited to hear more.

Left behind when an owner died, a common story

As it turned out, her good friend and neighbor had died, leaving behind her two 15-year-old cats with no instructions for care. Betsy was distraught at losing her friend and neighbor of many years. Because the woman had no family in town, only a son in Chicago who could only stop by infrequently, she had undertaken to clean out the woman’s house and care for her cats as a last act of friendship and respect for the things her friend had loved so much. She had dogs and couldn’t take the cats but was in the house frequently enough to be able to feed and water and look after them until she could figure out what to do.

two calico cats on chair in sun

The other photo Betsy showed me of Peaches and Cream.

She and the son had initially discussed a few options, and he had decided to take them to their veterinarian to see what he thought and to likely have them put to sleep. He couldn’t take them and the last thing he wanted to wanted to do with his mother’s beloved cats was to take them to a shelter and drop them off, knowing what is usually the fate of old cats in a shelter.

Apparently the veterinarian told him they were healthy and friendly and advised him, if they had someone to care for them in place, to just hold onto them until they needed to leave the house. A little more time wouldn’t hurt.

So back they went, and for about two months Betsy kept an eye on them while she visited the house daily and cleaned and sorted and organized things for the estate sale and realtor visits. When the house was up for sale, the realtor advised to remove the cats, and that’s when Betsy magically saw me, knowing she could appeal to me.

I already had four senior cats

At that time I had seven cats, including four in their teens, Stanley over 20 and in chronic renal failure, and I was determined not to add to the household knowing somehow the senior health issues would be mounting. I loved each of these cats intensely, and I really wasn’t interested in taking in two 15-year-old cats, no matter how nice they were.

Sometimes I can steel myself against the knowledge that a cat who needs a home may not meet a good end if someone doesn’t help it along somehow with a temporary home. Although I normally had about nine cats, with the extra care for senior cats seven was about my limit and that usually reinforced my decision to not take more cats into my home, when Betsy called and said they had to leave the house and were bound for a shelter, I knew she was serious…and something told me to give them a chance.

Back up to nine cats, my magic number.

But I had always had some luck placing cats, even adults, so I planned on fostering until I could find a home.

two cats on steps

Peaches and Cream with a friend

Their own little marketing campaign

My little June kitties came in with different names; Peaches was “Rosebud” and Cream was “Angel”. Cream was mostly white with a few clear black or orange spots, one resembling the AC Delco logo on her shoulder blades, interchangeable orange ears and a detachable black tail—this last a reference I always made to cats whose extremities were colored as if intentionally setting them off. Peaches was petite and looked as if someone had laid large sections of peach and gray fur across her the top of her as her chest, belly and legs were all creamy white.

I know Betsy would have been diligent in feeding and providing water, but possibly they didn’t care for the food and water provided in the self-feeding and self-watering containers because they were both a little dehydrated and had a few bowel issues when they arrived. I was already dosing Stanley with sub-Q fluids and watching for other symptoms of renal failure, so I just added them to the list. Peaches responded right away, brightening up, but Creamy needed fluids every few weeks and then more often and always seemed to be a little tired no matter what I did for her.

Well, I’ve been in advertising and marketing long enough to know that I needed a really catchy name to get attention for two 15-year-olds who should be kept together, and “Peaches and Cream” came to mind and stayed there.

cat with little girl

Now there's a portrait! Cream with my great-niece Cassidy.

Both were nice cats, very friendly and social and actually mingling pretty well with my household, though Creamy decided right away she owned me and chased everyone away, which didn’t do well when I had to keep an eye on my two oldest, Stanley and Moses. So Peaches and Cream had the run of the house during the day, but stayed in the spare cat room overnight.

Cream was so friendly that I began taking her to the personal care home where my mother lived to visit the ladies there who had lost their kitties when they entered personal care. I would visit my mother in the evening, and Cream would wander around the living room, choosing one woman and then another to rub her face against and curl upon and purr.

I also had a little retail space at the time and had an open house so people could meet them, and I wrote about them on my website (no blog yet) and contacted everyone I knew who might possibly be interested in the two, or even one of them.

The biggest objection

The biggest objection to adoption of either one or both was, very simplified, “they are old, they’ll die soon, and that will hurt.”

I could hardly argue with that. We can never know how long they’ll be with us, and it hurts no matter. That didn’t change the fact that, for however long they were alive, they needed a home, and perhaps one where they’d get more attention than in mine.

two calico cats in a box

Not the best photo, but a favorite

And we did lose Creamy the following March to kidney failure. She was trying to hold on, even to the point where her skin would leak from previous treatments when I gave her a dose of fluids; she was holding on for her person who I’m sure she always thought would come back. I remember her looking at me with determination in those last few days, knowing she had no intention of giving me the sign she was ready to go, and having a very hard time balancing between my logical understanding of a cat who had reduced from ten pounds to four, who was not eating or drinking and was in fact subsisting on subcutaneous fluids and hope, and her clear desire to maintain.

Oddly enough it was trying to decide what to do with her remains after she died, knowing she wouldn’t be happy in my yard with the cremains of my others, that helped me and her make the decision. Deb Chebatoris of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation suggested I find her person’s grave and scatter her ashes there. I was immediately put at ease with the thought, told it to Creamy and she did accept, relaxing and letting go over the next few hours, and I had her put to sleep the next day.

I had lost my 19-year-old Moses just a month before; Creamy was the second older cat of the four I lost in the space of one year. In addition, the August after they arrived, Namir went into congestive heart failure for the first time and she will always be a part of the beginning of these events, inextricably interwoven into my household.

catphoto-peaches

Peaches, Feline Photographer

Peaches goes on

Peaches, on the other hand, seemed to find a new youth, and five years later still  looked like a young cat, her 5.5 pound figure unchanged, her clearly patched peach and gray and white fur soft and shiny, green eyes clear and round, and very little unsteadiness to her gait. When people came to visit she was one of the favorites with her petite good looks, quiet friendly face rub and round-eyed welcoming  expression, and her curiosity never ceased to surprise me when she went exploring a bag or a box or the newly-renovated bathroom.

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 was always been with me. I had the feeling that Cream, much bigger and bolder, had always dominated tiny submissive Peaches from what Betsy had told me and from what I saw.

One morning I opened the door to the spare cat room and Peaches purposefully walked out as if she’d been waiting. I intuitively closed the door behind her. Peaches looked around the landing and into the two other rooms, then looked directly up at me and I could tell that was the moment she accepted the loss of her other person, decided she was staying here and accepted me as her new person, even though it meant leaving Cream behind.

We packed a lifetime into those years, beginning on that day as a senior foster when she decided to start a new life and became, from what I hear, a completely different kitty from the timid and elusive kitty she had been.

tortoiseshell cat bathing calico cat

Kelly gives Peaches a sisterly bath on the butterfly rug.

My household changed over constantly from the moment she arrived, and she went along with all of it, letting others have the attention when they needed it. She didn’t let four boisterous kittens bother her, and in fact they loved their older sister very much. She found them very useful in the winter when she could snuggle in among them.

While she was friendly with every cat she encountered, she found a sweet friend in Kelly who absolutely adored her; Kelly had grown up the youngest and has always seemed most comfortable with older cats, and took to Peaches right away.

Not only did she settle firmly in the household, but she also settled firmly on the internet! She corresponded with others through our blog and on Facebook, and she even applied for a job as an office assistant finding a best friend, Eva, and regularly corresponded with her!

And it never even occurred to her I might not love her to pieces, which I do. Her little silent meows, hopeful looks, prompts for dinner and slight weight sleeping on me when I awaken all became a part of my life. I guess it’s really not hard to fit another cat into the household or into your heart; you’d think I already knew this.

pastel painting of a cat on a table with peonies

Peaches and Peonies, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Where would my portfolio be without her?

I’ve always painted and photographed my cats, but nearly as soon as Peaches entered my house she became one of my most regular subjects. Perhaps because I’d been working with the others for so long and she was new and very different from all the others, but she continued to be one of my favorite subjects, and still is.

I painted “Peaches and Peonies” in 2008 from photos I’d taken in 2007. Some cats have to wait a lifetime before their portrait gets done, and I still have a few waiting!

Too bad for those who wouldn’t adopt her

So even though Peaches has gone into memory, I still celebrate her every day. I’m glad she ended up staying with me for all she gave to me and all I could give to her. Anyone who chose not to adopt her lost out on a great kitty with just a few little issues.

Don’t let fear of loss stop you from adopting

photo of calico cat on wooden floor

Precious Peaches

But I hope this is a lesson for anyone uncertain about adopting an older or senior cat. Even though they don’t have a full lifetime with you, you never really know how long a lifetime will be. Right after I lost my fourth senior cat in that awful year, my Stanley at about 25, I lost a kitten I’d adopted, my Lucy, to FIP at 15 months.

Still, in Lucy’s 15 months, and Stanley’s 25 years and Peaches’ five with me, we’d shared enough to last a lifetime. The moment you love, it’s forever.

Calico and tortoiseshell cats seem to be the beauty queens (99% of the time, anyway) of the feline image world. I always say it’s because the human eye loves pattern and color, and these cats certainly deliver! The first photo of Peaches and Cream in the window has long been an image I’ve wanted to work with, but I have so many ideas and I’ve been undecided in what seemed best. I don’t want to over use it in whatever I choose, a greeting card or painting or decorative item. It also works equally well as a photo as it would as a painting, and often that is my deciding point in creating a painting—much as I love to paint, if it’s a good photo and I can’t add anything to it by creating a painting I’ll stay with it. Still, my fingers itch to study and render their faces and spots as well as the delicate shadings on the window frame and the reflections of the trees in the glass. So I remain undecided!

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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.


Who Was That Namir, Anyway?

cat sleeping

A Blissful Namir.

Who was Kelly’s soul-mate, this cat named “Namir” who she met and still remembers?

I’m certain Namir had a pretty frightening kittenhood, but the wonderful woman who rescued both him and Kelly related it to me in such a humorous way it actually seemed fun, and it is all I know about his rescue.

A little gray and white kitten visited the house where she lived while in college and she realized after watching him that he seemed to live at the fraternity down the street. Not certain if he had just wandered there to hang out with the guys or if they had actually adopted him, she started feeding the kitten when he visited because, as she said, she was “sure they were feeding him mashed potatoes and beer.”

photo of Namir

Namir, photo © B.E.Kazmarski

She’d only lived with dogs before but came to adore the friendly and affectionate little kitten. Christmas break came and she offered to take care of the kitten while they were away and…just never managed to give him back. And possibly because he was suddenly neutered he really didn’t care for that carefree lifestyle anymore. Oh, and the food, that was definitely a plus over the bachelor diet of mashed potatoes and beer.

He wasn’t very cat-like at the time, no playing, no bathing, but she’d never owned a cat so she didn’t notice because he was really friendly and affectionate, enjoying brushings and being carried around. But he also had some specifically cat-like traits such as removing the screens from windows, opening locked doors and finding any other means of escape. He just needed a way to find a small rodent to sacrifice and bring its head to his human as proof of his gratitude for rescuing him, or perhaps as a threat to what might befall her should she fall from grace, she was never certain which it might be.

When she graduated and began working, her friends convinced her that Namir needed a buddy rather than staying home alone, so she went to the shelters and asked for “the next cat in line for euthanasia,” and that was how Kelly came to be a part of their lives.

Namir’s angry reaction to coming here and to me was a big surprise considering how friendly he’d always been with everyone in every situation, but I understood that he growled at me because I was the one who had taken away his mom, and he was one deeply devoted cat. How to explain the situation to him? His heart was broken by this abandonment and betrayal, and only time would help him heal, as I knew myself after losing Kublai, the black cat who I always call the love of my life, the year before, and still felt the twinges of his loss.

namir's bedroom eyes

Namir's "bedroom eyes".

Months passed, he and Kelly finally began exploring the upstairs and then the downstairs and for a while he treated guests with more affection than he treated me. But a heart as loving as Namir’s can’t hold out forever and one day he gave me one of his affectionate swats on the elbow as I walked past him, gave me his squinty look that was a mock dare, and we were buddies.

And as for that name…she had explained that a friend had suggested it to her because it meant “swift cat”, referring to the grace of his movements. I have found that it does mean “swift cat” in Persian languages, not Hebrew as she thought, but in Hebrew it seems to mean “leopard” or “spotted”.

gray and white cat in the sun

Sunwashed Namir

Well, he may have been gray and white on the outside, but I knew that underneath that common coat was a long feline heritage of Oriental influence. I always said he was a prince who had been painted at birth, seeing the long legs with oval paws, muscular torso and rising curved back, the long sweeping tail with the slight angled kink at the end that showed when he was curious, the large upright cupped ears. And he often sat or stood with his right paw lifted and crossed over his left leg, which I thought was simply cute until I did a portrait of two Abyssinian cats and learned that is a particular trait of Abys.

As I’ve mentioned, Namir was the inspiration for beginning this blog, and is the kitty in the header. He had a long list of medical conditions by that time, idiopathic cystitis, herpes in his bladder, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, I told him he just liked to use big words, and while nothing slowed him down his care was constant and complicated. At the beginning, being new to blogging, I didn’t feel that writing about his many conditions and his care was appropriate. By the time I finally felt comfortable he was at his end and I didn’t have the time to share him while he was alive, or to relate his illness and care in a way that would benefit others.

watercolor of a cat in kitchen

Darling Clementine, watercolor © B.E. Kazmarski

During my period of grieving him, I decided what I would do with this venue and my cats within it and began posting articles more and more frequently, and introducing my cats. When Peaches was diagnosed the following spring with chronic renal failure I began immediately to write about the disease, her treatment, and our experience from that point, through the course of the illness to her death that autumn.

I still miss that goofball, but he left behind so much of himself in what I’m doing today that I remember him with fondness every time I open The Creative Cat. And of course he was a great friend to Cookie as they became my most recent feline garden sprites.

I wrote a remembrance of him on my website after he died, My Good Friend, Namir. I also post an article about him each year around his birthday, Not a Bad Deal on a Pre-owned Cat, and he inspired what I feel is one of my best articles, the first I wrote with the intent of what to do with this new blog, Perhaps the Storm is Finally Over.

And we haven’t hear—or seen—the last of him!

Read other rescue stories and stories of my cats featured here on The Creative Cat.

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


April Catnip Chronicles

close up photo of a black cat

Mimi tells her story.

You should be reading Catnip Chronicles every month already, but go and read the April issue featuring about two dozen articles of feline health and lifestyle and photos of lovely cats, and I’m always proud that there’s an article or two of mine published there.

Because I can’t stress often enough the importance of spay and neuter on The Creative Cat, Mimi once again tries to convince we poor misguided humans that, although her kittens were all perfect in every way, the world already has enough perfect kittens, and not only that, Mimi Says, “I Love Being Spayed”. Take it from a cat who knows,  featured this month in Catnip Chronicles.

You can subscribe to receive Catnip Chronicles in your e-mail every month, and also connect with Facebook.

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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.