A Little Bit About Kelly, Part 5: Home

cat sleeping on rocker

Kelly on the rocker, in the corner of the spare cat room.

Namir had a habit that really upset me at first, until I grew to love him and understand his deep compassion and understand…his occasionally bizarre sense of humor. He would suddenly reach out and swat me, sometimes really hard, and he never said anything afterward, just looked at me with his big oval eyes. I would cringe and begin to retreat into myself as he stared at me, then turned around and walked away. Afterward he was fine. I had known cats who simply hit other cats just to hurt them, and I was often the one who was hit so I learned to hide.

But this was Namir, he loved me, I knew that. He would never just hurt me, and something about the way he looked at me made me think about his motivation. I surprised myself after one incident.

Don’t hit me like that!

His stare changed to his slanty-eyed blink and he came over and gave me a quick, vigorous bath around my head, then hit me again, but just a tap. I hit him back, just a tap of my own.

You’re learning, Kelly.

gray and white cat at mirror

Namir was a little different.

I did learn. I learned to trust, even though my first response was often fear, I learned to put that aside and remember this was my soul brother Namir and he would never hurt me. Odd that he had to use physical means to teach me this, but I would not have learned it any other way; I know because he tried all the other means of love and affection but I had to come to the realization myself. He would still hit me now and then when he was feeling full of himself, but I understood it was just Namir being Namir, and often we would have a fun wrestling match. This was what I had seen my babies do, and here I was, a mature kitty, playing like a kitten.

I was grateful for this lesson when I entered the next chapter of my life, my final home, my final person, and my family of feline siblings.

Another journey

The human who had carried me out of the cage place with all the other animals had been planning something, even I knew that. People came and went, and paid special attention to Namir and me. I was very shy and did not come out to meet them, but I did not fight if they came to see me under the bed. But they always went away.

Then one horrible day she put me and Namir into the noisy moving box and off we went. She carried us from the moving box into another place similar to where we had lived, but I could smell and hear so many cats there, and it was completely different from the one we had just left. We were placed in a room with another person’s stuff and the door was closed, and our human and another human stood talking. I started to look and sniff around, but Namir was really, really mad and hit me several times, even growling at me—this was not Namir trying to teach me a lesson, this was a Namir I didn’t even know existed. I ran to hide underneath something safe and did not come back out, even when our person laid down on the floor and begged me. She left and I decided I’d just stay there until she came back. Namir, looking out the window, growled again.

She left in the moving box.

I didn’t know what to think. Neither did Namir. The other human came back in to talk to us, gesturing toward the food and water, which we could easily see, and the litterbox. Did she think we were fools? We knew what to do with those.

Then she came to pet us. Namir growled at her, even yowling, and took a big swat, claws out. He missed her hand and she withdrew it, still talking softly, but Namir would have none of it. That frightened me even more, and confused me. This human seemed just as nice as our human. I wasn’t ready to be friendly, but I’d give her a chance. But my first allegiance was to Namir, and I would follow his direction. When she laid down on the floor and looked in at me, talking and slowly moving her hand toward me I froze, simply not knowing what to do.

Namir decided we’d wait for our human to come back, we’d eat and drink and use the box, but we wanted no parts of this new human and all the other cats who were communicating through the door. We established a pattern of action, being friends with each other when the door was closed and we were in there, but I hid and Namir growled whenever she entered. We ignored the cats outside the door.

I don’t know how much time went by, but our human did not return. We saw the seasons change outside the window, from the yellow leaves to the snow to the longer days of spring and still she did not return. Our new human continued to be nice to us, spent time quietly doing her thing in the room sometimes but mostly left us alone.

white cat in sun

Sally.

Then one day she opened the door and left it open. Several other cats came and looked at us and we couldn’t avoid them now. I stayed in my dark spot in the corner but Namir sat in the middle of the room, glaring. Only a pure white long-haired cat came in, boldly walked around, smelled Namir, looked at me, then left; we both got the idea she was not to be messed with. Our human closed the door again.

But each day she opened it, and it was open longer and longer and soon all the other cats were coming in as if they owned the place! Then we learned, little by little, that two of them had begun their time in this place in this very room, and all the others had begun their time with this person in a similar way, though not here. Other cats, who no longer lived here, had also spent time in this room. We began to wonder what would happen to us…

tortoiseshell cat

Cookie.

Why do you stay in here?

A friendly cat, tortoiseshell like me, came in to look at both of us. She talked to Namir. I listened from my safe place.

We are waiting for our person to come back.

Do you have to stay stuck in here while you do that?

We want her to be able to find us. Has anyone else’s person ever come back?

Yes, they have, others, no. Most of us never had people. All of us came from different places. What are you so mad about?

I loved my person. I miss her. I want to go back.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be with us for a while.

But I really loved her, and Kelly is really frightened.

Look, we’re all cats and we can just be together. It took me a while but I love this person, and even if you are waiting for your person to come back, you and Kelly should be with the rest of us.

I cautiously came out and listened to Cookie, and had no idea that she would later be my best friend though I never dreamed we’d even do as much as tap noses.

In time she told us about all the other cats, and as each came in to be with us we learned their stories: Cookie and Sophie, Stanley and Moses, Sally and Fawn and her sister Nikka, who had gone off to live with someone else for a few years and then come back. We learned that there had recently been two other cats who had died just a year before we arrived, and our person still missed them as did the rest of the house.

At first, I did not communicate with the rest of the household directly, but through Namir. There were too many cats for me, and even when I had lived in the dark place with all the other girls I kept to myself. But in time Namir and I, together, began to explore the spaces upstairs. Namir quit growling at the new human, though he did not act friendly.

two cats

Namir and Kelly, the first time they came down the stairs.

One day we went down the stairs together, and that day, somehow, the waiting was over. Whatever happened to us, if our person ever came back or never came back, we realized this was our home for as long as we needed it. We did go back upstairs for a few more nights behind the closed door, and I still hid behind the furniture and didn’t leave myself vulnerable in any way, but each day we were more a part of this new family, and this new person became our person.

Home

cat sleeping in the sun

Gentle Moses was a good friend.

I have lived in this home and family now for fifteen years. When I arrived I was the youngest, now I am the oldest. I had never thought about what my life would be like or had any expectations, I never found a place where I felt secure in who I was as Namir did, and Cookie and Peaches and Moses and all the other cats I came to know and love, until very late in my life, just a few years ago, in fact. I started out so lost and frightened that for years I kept running to hide, even when I no longer needed to, and Namir delivered a lot of swats in our first years here.

Namir came to love our new person as much as he had loved our old person, and I saw him make friends with every human and cat who ever came into the house. Still, even though it wasn’t just him and me, we remained deep soul-mates, always there for each other, even to Namir’s last night in his body. Sometimes I still feel him swat me, even though he’s gone, and I know we will be together again.

tortoiseshell cat

Kelly, quiet time.

And now I realize I have a lifetime of cats to remember and love and look forward to seeing when our spirits meet again, and humans as well, including this human who has always understood my constant conversation, my need to keep moving around the house and my need to find quiet time by myself, and after many years, time with her especially with Peaches and Cookie. Now it’s very strange to have her all to myself, until the black cats come along, but I’ve learned to love her lap and feel safe there. Funny how it took me all my life to get here, but I’m glad I did, finally, find my way home.

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tortoiseshell cat in sun

An introspective Kelly.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the story of Kelly’s rescue and how she came to live in this household of felines and me. She has many stories to tell about getting to know each of the cats who lived here, and making very close friends with a few on her journey of self-awareness.

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

Read the first chapters of Kelly’s story:

A Little Bit About Kelly

Part 2: The Rescue

Part 3: Saved At the Last Minute

Part 4: A Friend

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

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


The Lovers on St. Patrick’s Day…

black cat looking at green leaves

It is indeed a Happy St. Patrick's Day!

With names like Giuseppe Verdi and Mlle. Daisy Emerald Marguerite and a bit of Irish heritage, at least on Miss Daisy’s side, St. Patrick’s Day is definitely for these lovers!

Giuseppe insisted I drop everything on this sunny and beautiful day to announce that his French-Canadian belle femme and truest love Mlle. Daisy Emerald Marguerite has sent him a holiday message full of green and happy thoughts.

photo of black cat on bed

Miss Daisy Emerald Marguerite, feline Queen of the city named for Kings in Canada.

Bon jour my dearest, most loved, most cherished Giuseppe Verdi ~

The window to the southwest is open wide and I have been at that window,trying to imagine how fresh and pleasant the air in your town of Carnegie is. I am sure your windows are open wide and I saw the photo of you and your family at the window on your Mama Bernadette’s Creative Cat. I so wished I could have been there with you and your Mama Mimi, sister Mewsette and brothers Mr. Sunshine and Jelly Bean.  But alas, my Mama Denise tells me that your open window is far, far away.

I did have visitors to my window this morning—Wiccan the big black cat with the bushy tail, always a gentleman—and that little skinny black guy who Mama feeds and allows in on cold winter nights, Pumpkin, came to say good morning.  But Wiccan’s handsome visage and Pumpkin’s pleasing personality in no way make my longing for you to come to my window any less.

Oh my dearest Giuseppe……

I must allow Mama to turn off this magic message machine and go to my clinic to buy my medicine. Don’t worry my beloved.  I am healthy and strong and my black hair is soft and thick—Mama calls me The Velveteen Kitty. She seems to like calling me that so I allow it though I prefer to have her call me Daisy Emerald Marguerite, my very pretty name that includes Emerald, the name of my great great great great—oh many greats—grandmother Emerald Cat who my Grandpere loved on the farm in Quebec many years ago. (Can you imagine Giuseppe mon amour, Grandmere Emerald Chat used to catch snakes and bring them home to impress her humans on that old farm. I have never seen a snake. Have you?)

As you have requested, Mama Denise will send you an album of photos of me that you may enjoy to look at and even share with your family.

I send love and purrrrrrrs and nuzzzzzles and my promise to love you forever.

Your Mlle. Daisy Emerald Marguerite, xo.

black cat on stairs

Giuseppe sings and operatically gesticulates.

Giuseppe’s response

I thought I would have to pick Giuseppe up off the floor where he was swooning beginning with the salutation in French, but he is now in the stairway, singing in his castrati voice, “Nessun Dorma” from the Opera Turandot. (Where does he learn this stuff? I’d better check my search history. He does choose appropriate lyrics.)

Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!
Tu pure, o, Principessa,
nella tua fredda stanza,
guardi le stelle
che tremano d’amore
e di speranza.

(In English)
Nobody shall sleep!…
Nobody shall sleep!
Even you, o Princess,
in your cold room,
watch the stars,
that tremble with love and with hope.

My precious and perfect, mio amore bellissimo,

I sing to welcome your loving message as I picture you at the window, and your two servants Wiccan and Pumpkin (that little dairy product*).

We were meant to be together on St. Patrick’s Day by the heritage of green-ness in our names. I sing my best aria for you, ma belle, so that the world can hear, especially you, my emerald-eyed Princess in the cold north land. I so long to keep you warm in that cold room as we watch the stars as they tremble with love and hope for us.

I live for the day when we will be together, and I will spend the rest of this beautiful day dreaming of you and the day when I will at least have photos of you to ponder at length.

Always your ever-constant love,

G.V.

black cat

"Sigh."

*Pumpkin’s name is actually “Yogurt”, so Giuseppe regularly refers to him using the names of various dairy products, refusing to say his real name.

Catch up on the affaire between the young American cat, five-year-old Giuseppe Verdi, and his mature French-Canadian admirer, 12-year-old Mlle. Daisy Emerald Marguerite, including videos of Giuseppe receiving mail.

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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.


See Us In Catladyland!

two black cats

Giuseppe knights Jelly Bean.

We are just getting more famous every day! Visit us in Catladyland! And make sure you take the time to meet Phoebe, Saffy and Cosmo!

 


A Little Bit About Kelly, Part 4: A Friend

tortoiseshell cat lookign up

Kelly, photo © B.E. Kazmarski

At first I thought the wire space was better. Things could only get at me from one side and I felt very protected. Here, there was just…everywhere, and the best I could do was find a dark corner underneath something. Mostly under the bed. Food and water and digging box were easy to find, but I waited until everything was dark and quiet for those.

The human was very nice. She was there sometimes and she wasn’t there other times. She got down on the floor and talked to me, and she never tried to touch me, she just seemed to understand I needed my space.

I remembered when she had held me in that last place, and carried me and whispered into my fur and kissed the back of my head. I got the same feeling from her now and I knew that if I came out from under the bed, she would do that again. Oh, how I wished that I was brave enough to come out!

photo of Namir

Namir, photo © B.E.Kazmarski

But I might have stayed under that bed forever if it hadn’t been for the gray and white cat who was there to greet me. He knew I was coming, and he looked right at me as if he knew me when the person let me out of the box.

I felt no danger at all except the space seemed to go on forever, into the outdoors and up into the sky, but I stood in one spot, getting my bearings, aware of the cat on one side of me and the human behind me and this big mass of space all around while the human talked softly and told us each others’ human names.

His name was Namir, and while he was larger than me he was very slender with big ears and a long tail, and there was something different about him from what I remembered from other boy cats. He moved his head around and got as good a look at me as he could get from where he was standing, and then slowly walked toward me, in a few steps coming close enough to sniff me.

Stop shaking, there’s nothing to be scared of.

I turned to look at him. He continued sniffing me, glancing at my face now and then. I had sensed this sort of communication before, but not so clearly. There was only one cat here, and I perceived the message clearly.

I had so much to ask, but all I could do was watch him as he slowly moved around me and thoroughly sniffed me. I was getting more frightened by the moment, not of him or the person, just because there was this huge space all around me and I felt very vulnerable.

Suddenly, I couldn’t stand there, I had to find a safe place and I ran to the farthest spot I could see, ending up under a bed where I spent most of the first two weeks in my new life with humans.

cat's nose looking

Namir peeks at Kelly.

I was grateful the digging box and food and water were moved into that room when I rolled myself in a ball in my dark safe place and would not move or even look at them. The human came to visit regularly, but Namir stayed with me much of the time and we began a series of long conversations and long silences that lasted all our lives together.

What are you afraid of?

It’s so big.

At night when the human was sleeping, or during the day when she was not there, I began to follow Namir and creep to the edge of my enclosure, then step out from underneath, a paw at a time, slowly, and look around, then explore the space I was in and discovered it really didn’t go on forever. Then Namir would walk outside of the space to another and eventually I followed him and found all the edges. Nothing could get me.

The human is a very good human. Most humans are.

I know she’s good. I just don’t know what to do when she’s around.

I’ll show you.

When the human visited Namir began to walk around her and rub himself on her, and she ran her hands all over him and kissed him on the face. Then she picked something up and moved it toward him and I wanted to tell him to watch! It seemed dangerous, but she rubbed that on his fur instead of using her hand and he liked that even better. In fact, he made a real fool of himself rolling on the floor and running around while she rubbed him with it. He looked at me upside down with a couple of his legs in the air, his fur was beautiful and I could hear him purring and he didn’t need to tell me what I was supposed to know from this.

You’re a goof.

He squinted at me and purred.

photo of a cat on refrigerator

I've never felt safe on the floor.

I felt safe to come out from my place when the human came to visit me, and though I didn’t touch her I didn’t mind being close to her, as long as Namir was there.

Kelly, I’m so happy to see you!

She tried to pet me and I almost let it happen, but ran at the last minute. Namir ran after me.

Don’t run away!

But I’m scared! I’m not ready!

Well get ready!

Why!

Because…because, I want her to like you!

But she does, she tells me all the time.

But so do I!

What does that have to do with her?

I just like you, and I want all of us to like each other.

I didn’t really understand this. What was “like”?

Just let her touch you next time. You’ll make her so happy. It’s good to make humans happy. We should all be happy.

“Happy” was another concept I didn’t quite understand.

Trust me, just let her touch you, you’ll feel how happy she is through her hand.

The next time she tried to touch me, I stood still and closed my eyes and let her. Namir was right, I could feel a warm and wonderful feeling right through her hand. I remembered being held and kissed. This was going to be okay.

tortie cat bathing belly

Kelly bathing her belly.

But I had a question for him.

Why don’t you ever bathe?

Bathe? You mean that thing you do all the time where you lick yourself all over? Why would I do that?

All cats do, that’s why!

I lick my paws, I wipe food off my face, and I clean myself after the box.

But why don’t you wash all over?

I’ve never really seen a cat do that until you.

I remembered him telling me that he didn’t remember his mother at all, and his first memories were living with a bunch of loud and dirty humans who were nonetheless  very nice to him. I guess that’s where he learned to trust humans though I think I would have run away! Then he came to live with this human, and he’d never lived with another cat.

Let me show you how to do this.

I love to wash myself. Sometimes I do it just for fun. I gave myself a thorough bath while he watched.

Yuck.

I went over and began to wash him, it was just the most natural thing to do. We had always washed each other when we lived in the basement, all cats did that. He moved back but I followed and he let me lick him on the face and shoulder. I realized that although he had guided me around with a push or a light swat of his paw we had hardly ever touched.

That’s nice.

Gllmfnmm.

I couldn’t understand that.

You’re really dirty. I have a lot of work to do.

Namir liked his bath, and our human made a happy human noise when she watched me do this. I went back to washing myself and he observed me, and then he started to lick himself. Bathtime became a part of our regular daily routine, though Namir always made fun of my quick little baths in between.

tortie cat with blue ribbon

Kelly With the Blue Ribbon Snake

Another day I was feeling bold and ran over and swatted a little mouse, tossed it in the air, pounced on it and kicked it and chased it some more. I heard our human make a happy human noise again and that made me happy. Then I remembered myself.

Kelly, are you okay?

I’m fine. What’s the matter?

Well, you were just acting as if you were possessed.

I was playing. That’s what those fake mice are for. I’ve killed real ones, but you have to keep in practice. Namir, I’ve never seen you play!

Play? Like that? I push those things around now and then, and it’s cool when the round ones roll a little bit. But I’ve never made a fool of myself like that. We don’t have to kill mice, and I’ve killed mice, those don’t look anything like them.

It looks like I have something else to teach you.

So I demonstrated over and over and even tossed toys at Namir, and so did our human who seemed to understand what I was doing, until eventually he caught one and I could see it all came together.

tortoiseshell cat plays with catnip toy

Kelly teaches the catnip candy cane a lesson.

Kelly, did you notice something.

What, Namir?

You’re out in the middle of the room on your back with a toy, and the human is right there.

I looked at him. I looked at her. I clutched my toy and bit and kicked it. I hadn’t noticed, but it was okay. I let the human touch me all the time and I could always feel the good feeling in her hand. I had known from the beginning she was a good human but didn’t know how to let her know I knew until Namir showed me. I had known from the beginning Namir was my friend and that he always would be. I had the feeling this was “happy”.

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The woman who adopted Kelly did indeed have Namir at home waiting for a buddy. She worked for a company I freelanced with and I heard about the two on a regular basis, hearing about Namir’s housing with a fraternity when she was in college and Kelly later teaching him “how to be a cat”. The woman had always lived with dogs and didn’t find it at all strange when Namir didn’t bathe or play with cat toys and I could tell by the way she talked about them and the stories she e-mailed to me that she was thoroughly charmed by them both.

I wrote this section from the stories she related, and did my best to understand the actions of a frightened and traumatized feline. After all, Kelly had one more stop to make, and that was to my house where for a while she regressed to the frightened, glowing kitty eyes under the bed.

We live near Pittsburgh. Their person was accepted into a graduate degree program in California and would be living on someone’s couch for a while if not for the duration. We tried for months to find foster or adoptive homes for them, preferably together, to no avail, so in October 1997 I agreed to take them to foster until I found homes or she came back. She ended up going from Berkeley to Europe and we decided the kids belonged with me.

We have one more chapter, next week, when she moves in with me, a setback in her progress, but eventually she settles in and becomes the Kelly you know today and relates being the baby in a house full of “really old cats”. And it sounds as if we’ll have to talk about Namir at some point as well.

tortoiseshell cat curled sleeping

Kelly Really Sleeping

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

Read all the chapters of Kelly’s story:

A Little Bit About Kelly

Part 2: The Rescue

Part 3: Saved At the Last Minute

Part 4: A Friend

Part 5: Home

 

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

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


Approaching a Milestone

painting of cat

Warm Winter Sun, oil pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

I’m amazed to see I’m approaching 100,000 visits here on The Creative Cat. The pace has increased dramatically over the past few months as December and January topped at over 10,000 visits each and February nearly 12,000. So far in March daily visits have averaged 500, I would guess we’ll hit 100,000 sometime next week. I’ve placed a widget to display the number of visits in the left column so we can all watch. I’m thinking about a giveaway of some sort on that day since I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell who is the 100,000 visitor! Guess we’ll have to see when we get closer.

five black cats at basement door

We do many things together.

Not that I look at statistics just to see numbers! Actually, I rarely looked at the overall number until I noticed it was increasing so quickly, rather, I look at the statistics for individual posts and for subjects and images. I love sharing my stories and articles and creative works through my artwork and the goings-on of my household of felines and I check these numbers along with comments here and on social media to see your response and hear what people have to say.

namir's bedroom eyes

Namir

I began The Creative Cat on January 28, 2009 as I was learning ever more about Namir’s hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and I realized we didn’t have much time left to share. I wanted to begin sharing him and the rest of my household in stories and art, and from there just to see what would develop. As the inspiration for this site Namir is the kitty in the header, and I’ve included the full painting at the top of this article.

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

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

Since then I’ve continued with the goal of doing pretty much what I’m doing today: sharing my personal and other rescue stories, writing articles about feline health and welfare and my and others’ experiences in pet loss and providing an online gallery for my artwork and other creative endeavors inspired by my cats and others’ animal companions.

male cardinal in snowy forsythia

Cardinal in Forsythia

Along the line I realized that many people were interested in gardening, wildlife, feeding birds and backyard wildlife habitats, so I added articles I’d written for conservation newsletters and expanded from there.

tortie cat and sculpture

Kelly, acting as studio assistant, cautiously approaches the sculpture.

In 2011 I found people were interested in reading about my process in both creating artwork and in creating products from that artwork. I added articles about my life as an artist and began seeking out other artists who create with cats and other animals and who I think you’d enjoy reading about, and writing about creative efforts from a technical standpoint so that non-artists can have a greater understanding of how we do it, and working or aspiring artists can read about anothers’ technique.

It’s all a work in progress, not only to build what I offer, but also to build myself as a creative person.

Keeping organized has been a challenge, especially once I began the daily photos in earnest, then added the daily sketches in December 2011. I am working on a complete redesign, going from just a blog template to a complete website design where categories of content will be much easier to find and follow. Categorizing has been dull but necessary. Believe me, I can’t even find things I’ve posted!

tortie cat with parsley

Cookie has Parsley Eyes.

I had been planning an “anniversary event” for January 28, and even having the new site up and running, but Cookie wasn’t well through much of December and especially January so I put these plans aside to focus on her. She was by my side, literally, through most of my creative life and while I’d hoped, and I’m sure she did as well, that she could continue with me for a few years longer as I pursue new goals, she is with me in spirit as I move on.

sketch of tortoiseshell cat on papers

Kelly Ball, colored pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

And those new pursuits will be guided, again, by your readership, comments and suggestions. For instance, Kelly’s recent rescue story “A Little Bit About Kelly” has inspired several people to ask if it will be become a book with illustrations, and really, you read my mind! Kelly is sweet but complex, and her story is not only moving but also touches on so many issues of animal care and welfare that I wanted to let it play out completely; my daily sketches of her have suggested a style of illustration to go along with the story. For Kelly’s story and other book ideas I am diligently studying POD publishing, e-books, different readers and tablets, and even recording for audio books.

watercolor of tortoiseshell cat

Colorful Kelly (same painting, photographed instead of scanned), watercolor pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

Two of my recent daily sketches, “Colorful Kelly” and “Mimi in the Middle”, brought in “likes” from everywhere, even a non-reader who just happened to be in my studio and saw them. The purpose of these sketches is multiple: to allow me the freedom of an extemporaneous piece of artwork every day, to try new media, and to present my experiments without editing for people to enjoy and comment; from there to determine what individual images and styles are popular and use that to further my experimentation and work in that medium and style, and also to develop new feline-themed products using that and similar art. I could picture both on ceramic items and asked a few of my customers what they thought would work as a product for these and coasters, trivet tiles and mugs seem to be likely. I am pricing these out through regular suppliers I already work with and looking into Zazzle and Cafepress in addition to my Etsy shop.

This feedback will be even more important to me in the future because I’ve also decided to close up my little shop in Carnegie Antiques, which had been an outlet to meeting the public and gathering feedback. I’m actually very sad to do this but business is a little too slow to justify the time spent there, and I can help the owner who is also one of my customers for design and promotion, much more by giving her back that room to display her vintage finds.

So maybe once the big day is here I’ll collect comments for 24 hours or something, and give away a $125 portrait certificate. I like that, so we’ll plan for something like that a little over 4,000 visits from now.

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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 Bit About Kelly, Part 3: Saved at the Last Minute

tortoiseshell cat in front of window

Kelly ponders things by her favorite window.

For quite some time I wasn’t so sure my next stop was much better than where I’d been. I was in another wire thing not much bigger than the one the lady had carried me in when we left the other place, and though I had my babies with me we had no safe place to nest. You could see right in, humans walked around all the time and I could see and hear and smell many, many other cats, and off in the distance I could hear dogs! When I looked straight ahead all I saw were more cats in more wire things, some with babies, some without, all of us pretty unhappy.

My frequent urge to talk about things, mostly to myself, became a loud wailing that I could not control at first. I was just pouring out my fear and confusion, my life had always been one frightening experience and another and I had no control over any of it. Worst, I felt I couldn’t even keep my babies safe. I cried and cried until people came to me and though they seemed comforting I ran to hide in the corner, being silent and making myself as small as possible. When they left I began crying again until it seemed I frightened even my babies. Finally, I curled with them and licked them talked to them as they nursed. What would become of us?

To shield my three babies from all these things that were new and frightening to me I used everything that was available to me, covering them with blankets and papers, putting them behind the digging box and even just shoving them in the corner and pressing myself against them while I turned my back on all those horrors.

The difference here was that, although all the humans were big and loud and smelly, they were all, well, nice. There were humans I saw all the time, and others who I never saw again, but I never felt any anger or danger from them as I had with many other humans, though I didn’t like when they touched me and my babies. I hid myself in the corner and couldn’t stop trembling whenever they approached.

The problem with kittens is that they just aren’t afraid, and it takes a good cat mom to keep them under control and teach them right from wrong. But they kept escaping from my careful nests and running around the little place, and people would stop and look at them and make happy people noises. I will admit, my babies were the most beautiful babies I had ever seen, all my babies were, but those human faces were so big and humans are so loud! I just had to run to my corner and hide my face and hope for the best.

So concerned at first that I wouldn’t be able to feed myself, I was very grateful for the food that was always available, without any worry in finding it under a porch or catching and killing something around the place. And between that bowl of food and bowl of water, and the digging box in the corner that I suddenly remembered being taught to use, I envisioned just a little bit of a memory of being a kitten myself, with my mother, and in a place with people, and being very happy.

My kittens were now at the stage when they grew very fast and became as agile as adults and the little place was hardly big enough for all four of us. Humans would come along and actually open the door and take them out—my babies, in humans’ hands! But any mother understands praise of her children in any language, and I could tell the humans were admiring their beauty and sweetness, and though I still kept myself in the back of the place, I watched with pride as humans cooed and kissed them. One by one, I said goodbye and watched them go off with humans, while those humans I’d come to know would try to pet me and always speak softly and comfortingly to me.

At least I felt my babies were now safe, and I could just disappear. I had no interest in living in this strange world of meowing cats and barking dogs. I didn’t even try to escape because I barely remembered anything I might want to run to. I just sat in the back of the little room all day, facing away from everything outside. Even the day soon after my last baby left when someone actually took me from the space and something very awful and unexplainable happened, I awoke in another place feeling as if I’d been in a horrible fight with such pain in my abdomen, I didn’t fight when they took me back to the little room. I just huddled in my corner, managed the deep pain and eventually felt better.

Much time passed, I have no idea how long. All the cats around me left and more came in, even the humans changed. Other kittens and cats appeared in my cage and tried to be friends with me, but I paid no attention. Sometimes humans stopped to look at me but I pressed my face into the corner, squeezed my eyes shut tight and even held my breath until they left. If I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me. If I acted as if I didn’t exist, they would leave. But now and then my cage door would open and I felt hands on me, even lifting me out and holding me. One of the familiar humans would always make comforting noises for me and all the humans were very gentle. Over and over I would hear the story about the cats who were “rescued” from the basement, how I had come in with kittens, all the parts of my own story, even some that weren’t right. But I didn’t care, and I always ended up back in the little space.

Until one day when one of the people who had handled me and put me back in the cage actually came back later. I knew her by her voice and then by her smell, and she was very kind and soft and I knew right away she’d never ever hurt me, though I was still trembling and hid my face against her.

I don’t understand, she’s so pretty, didn’t anyone else want her?

Lots of people have looked at her, but she just rolls up in a ball and trembles and you can’t blame a person for adopting a cat who’s friendly instead. Like I told you, we love this little girl, she’s been here for months and she’s just scared. We keep hoping she’ll open up and trust us. You can see, she’s just trembling while you hold her, but she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, she’s never hissed or growled, never tried to scratch or bite anyone, ever. And when no one’s looking, I guess it’s when she feels safe, she talks to herself! It’s really cute, she just keeps up a running conversation. And she’s always washing herself, it seems to keep her calm. We just know there’s another cat inside her.

How does she feel about other cats? I did mention I have another cat—he’s really friendly, but I’m working so much a friend told me he needed a buddy to keep him company. That’s why I’m adopting. What do you think?

She came in with kittens and was a very good mother. While she’s been here we’ve tried introducing other cats to her cage, from kittens to cats her own age to older cats who are pretty mellow. She never tried to hit them or anything, but she just stayed in her corner. I still think she’s just scared and she’ll never change while she’s here, but if she got out of this shelter into a nice quiet house I think she’d be fine. I’d just hate to see such a nice kitty…we’d just like to see her have a chance.

So she’s kind of “next in line”? I had decided I would adopt “the next kitty in line”, meaning this would be the cat’s last day, just because I knew it would be hard to choose one and I could at least save a life. You mean she’s…

I hate to say it, I’m not trying to scare you, but yes, we have to have this cage for tomorrow. We’ve been getting litters of kittens with mothers in here every day, we have them in bathrooms, in peoples’ offices, even a few foster homes and more keep coming in. It won’t stop again until fall.

And her name is “Kelly”? Where did she get that name?

I don’t know, I think someone here just chose it for her.

Well, it’s a nice name, I might change it.

So you’ll adopt her?

After all that I can’t leave her here.

I felt the woman hugging me tighter and kissing the top of my head, then we were moving and she and the other human were talking as I heard sounds coming and going around us. She held me tightly in her arms; I stopped trembling but didn’t look up until they were putting me in a box as I’d seen around there before. I didn’t want to go in the box and started yelling and waving my legs, grabbing the edges of the box so I wouldn’t fit but they calmed me enough to get me in there.

For the second time in my short life I was in a container being carried by a human, and again it would change my life. If I had only known I was about to meet my soul-mate, my best friend Namir, the cat who would teach me it was good to live with humans and love me every minute to the end of his life, and I’d have all the best things a kitty could wish for I certainly wouldn’t have wailed so loudly in the moving box that she had to stop and comfort me. But I loved her already.

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This person was not me—Kelly was saved by another kind person who ultimately brought her here with her forever friend Namir. In her final chapter next week, we’ll learn how Namir taught her to trust people, and she taught Namir more about being a cat, and eventually she came to live with me. Little Kelly has quite the epic journey! I wrote this section based on shelter records and what the woman who adopted her related to me.

And I mention that she was next in line to be euthanized in the shelter where she’d been taken, but as I know from all the open-door shelters I’ve worked with, the staff used all the means at their disposal to get Kelly adopted, as they did with every other cat and kitten who came through their doors.

Unfortunately, because people don’t spay and neuter their cats, “kitten season” starts earlier every year and lasts longer, and in order to make room for these new cats someone, somewhere, has to make the decision to euthanize a healthy cat—or dog—so that another homeless animal can have a chance at adoption. These decisions are not made only based on time spent in the shelter as many people think. In Kelly’s case, she spent several months in the cage because the staff knew she was a nice kitty who was frightened, but outside of the shelter she’d probably be a sweet and loving kitty, and so she turned out to be, and still is.

tortoiseshell cat curled sleeping

Kelly Really Sleeping

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

Read all the chapters of Kelly’s story:

A Little Bit About Kelly

Part 2: The Rescue

Part 3: Saved At the Last Minute

Part 4: A Friend

Part 5: Home

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

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


March Catnip Chronicles

black and white photo of long-haired cat

Sophie in all her fuzzy glory.

You should be reading Catnip Chronicles every month already, but go and read the March 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.

Since Tuesday is the day I like to tell rescue stories on The Creative Cat about the fine felines who have shared my life, as well as those I’ve fostered and been friends with through my life, it’s really exciting that Sophie, my housewarming cat, is featured this month.

tortoiseshell cat looking through deck railing

Cookie in early December 2011, tired of having her photo taken.

And my precious Cookie is included in the Rainbow Bridge in this month’s issue as well. Her rescue story was featured last January, “Cookie and Me, Our 18th Anniversary”.

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.