I’m pleased to present my first published work, truly a labor of love from creating the portraits within it to collecting the stories and designing, printing and publishing it.
Great Rescues is a 16-month desk calendar and gift book featuring 15 portraits of rescued cats I’ve been commissioned to paint in the 20 years I’ve been an animal portrait artist, plus the portrait of my own which I consider my first.
While the portraits are lovely and I’m proud of my body of work, the stories of these cats, and the people who rescued them, is what compels me to share them with you. Each of the stories tells of cats from shelters and cats abandoned and saved, cats found inside car engines and cats reluctantly surrendered by people who could no longer care for them, but each one has a happy ending as a cherished companion in a loving home.
And while each cat has an individual story, each rescuer has a story as well of reaching out to an animal in need to bring it in from the streets. In many cases they helped heal physical and emotional wounds and gave that cat a lifetime of love, in return receiving love and devotion; often those humans received some healing in return they weren’t aware they needed.
Great Rescues is spiral-bound and measures 8″ x 8″ to easily fit on your desk or in a purse, briefcase or backpack. It has a die-cut cover with the title stamped in gold foil and each spread features a portrait and the stories of the rescue and calendar pages including every pet day, week, and month currently celebrated listed in each month of the calendar.
Following the calendar section is a section of stories of the rescuers and their feline families today, notes on the design and rendering of each of the portraits, a mini cat-care book illustrated with my drawings and “22 Cats” decorative notepaper with a collage of all the portraits.
Visit the Great Rescues Calendar website to learn more and to purchase.
If the calendar is a gift to someone, or you have a particular cat or cats in mind, I would be glad to add an inscription in the front of your calendar.
Here are images of the other portraits in the book—perhaps you’ll recognize a kitty you know!
On Sunday I took off for Falls Church, Virginia with a person I’d never met before to get together with a bunch of other people I’d met on the internet. Sounds like the sort of thing they tell you not to do, but I happened to know that each of these persons, including myself, owned at least one tortoiseshell cat, so I knew the worst we’d do is talk about what our cats did in the litterbox or deposited on the floor.
Besides, I did know one of the people—Ingrid King, author of Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher and the personality, along with tortie Allegra, behind The Conscious Cat website and author of the blog post that brought us all together, “Tortitude”—the Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats. I had met Ingrid at a Cat Writer’s Association conference in 2009 and purchased her book the following spring. And the group of us have been trading cat stories for at least a year on the blog post, so we had only to meet in person to feel complete!
We met at the Stray Cat Cafe in Falls Church, VA, hosted by Harry and Julie Shubin, and the book signing and Chinese auction proceeds would benefit an organization for which he volunteers and fails in fostering for the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation of Arlington, VA.
I mention “fails in fostering” because they’ve officially added another cat, Piper, who had been a foster for about five minutes, as evidenced by their car…but they’ve also found homes for many cats thr0ugh the years.
We also had the pleasure of meeting Renee Austin of Whimsy Cats Specialized Home Care for Cats in Ashburn, VA and
author “you-know-who” of Eva’s blog EvaEvaEva. Eva and my Peaches were BFF, and Peaches even became Eva’s virtual assistant for a while last year. Don’t just adopt a senior kitty, hire one too! I was very happy for the opportunity to meet Renee, especially since out cats had become such good friends using our computers behind our backs.
While it’s nice to see Ingrid and Renee, I also wanted to catch a little bit of the artwork in the cafe—really wonderful colorful style and actually dimensional as the paintings continued right off the canvas onto the wall. Along with the Lost Dog Cafe, the Stray Cat Cafe helps to support the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue, so you can “eat, drink and rescue”. The menu includes Mouse Tails, Catnip Dip, Nachos Gatos, and many more feline-themed foods, and feline-themed drinks like a Neuter Shooter, Feral Hiss and other amusing names that have to do with less-than-amusing feline activities.
We’ve been corresponding on the internet and feel as if we’ve known each other for years, but without the internet we probably wouldn’t even know about each other. All of us remarked at what a wonderful opportunity it was for us to be able to get to know each other, share stories and interests and eventually get together thanks to Ingrid’s one blog post about “tortitude”!
You can see photos of everyone’s cats by visiting The Conscious Cat on Facebook.
Sure enough, author Tammy J. Banks has written an article about me on her blog, Sketch People.
Tammy, or T.J., Banks has worked as a columnist, feature writer, a book and arts reviewer, a stringer for the Associated Press, and an instructor for The Writer’s Digest School. I’m acquainted with Tammy through the Cat Writer’s Association where I had heard about her award-winning book CatSong. Tammy has also written Houdini, Souleiado and the recently released A Time for Shadows about a schoolteacher who becomes a Red Cross Nurse in WWI, and her experiences there.
She interviewed me about my “career” such as it is, this mix of things I do each day.
Shortly after I had published my farewell article to Peaches, Karen Payne, fellow writer* and editor of the Cat Writer’s Association’s newsletter Meow, wrote me to send her condolences and tell me she was thinking of naming one of the kittens in a rescued litter after my Peaches.
“I’m thinking of naming a foster cat after Peaches—a very sweet little girl who needs a lovely name—would Peaches like that?” she wrote.
My Peaches’ original name was “Rosebud”, which she never answered to for me but seemed to really like when I gave her a new name, “Peaches”, so I think she’d love the idea of another rescued kitty adopting her name and finding a new life as she did. And I was thrilled to know there’d be another little Peaches out there named for my girl, a new life in the good hands of a foster mom.
Karen wrote to tell me a little more about their rescue and about Peaches’ littermates and their mom.
“Our little girl was in so much trouble, but then we found a way to get her family off the street and they are all doing so well. I use Reiki and Tellington TTouch to increase their trust—those things and patience usually work very quickly. Little Peaches, a pale orange/white, is the only girl—her brothers are (we think) Benjy (gray tabby), Toby (white/gray), and Tristan (Turkish van colors and long hair), and mom is calico Emma.”
They had developed a little eye infection so they needed to be treated before their modeling session, and in that time Karen got to know the sweet little family.
“It took a little time to get everything just right and give the kittens and mom a chance to adjust and be ready for their new homes. They are ready now—and they are a playful, sweet family, ready to make some people really happy.
“It’s unusual that the kittens are so playful and yet so willing to lap-sit—very endearing.
“Peaches is a leader in all their activities, and she was first to warm up to us and purr.”
Just like my girl, very decisive. Once her mind is made up there is no turning back and unfailingly sweet and friendly. As Karen wrote in a flyer about Peaches, “Peaches is a real peach, a very sweet and mellow kitten who loves to investigate new toys and also craves to find a welcoming lap and be petted; she’s shorthaired, pale orange-and-white with vivid gold eyes.”
Here are their descriptions, and if anyone is interested in adopting Peaches or any of the other kittens in the litter, “hurry to contact Cat Network mom Karen at 305-665-1639 (phone/fax/messages), 305-205-4646 (cell – not reliable for messages), firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Want a playful companion AND a contented lap kitty all in one? These kitten babies and mom are for you!
PEACHES is a beautiful peaches-and-cream color, and she has a mellow, sweet personality to match her delicious name. She’s always the first to check out a new toy, and she loves to chase strings and feathers. But she’s also first to give her affection; she’s a loving kitten. Peaches was rescued with mom Emma and sibs from a 12-inch space between fences where they were abandoned.
The kittens were born August 15, 2010. All the kittens are healthy, purring babies, ready to bring you joy. All of them (and mom Emma too) love to be petted, and all love to play and chase toys. You can pass many happy hours with a kitten snoozing contentedly on your lap while you meditate or watch TV.
Peaches will touch your heart with her sweet ways; she’s 11 weeks old, with vet work done, ready for love – everything you could want in a pet. To adopt, contact Karen P at 305-665-1639 or via email.
ALL – affectionate, playful sweethearts. Tested, dewormed, shots, neuter-spay included, healthy. Mellow, yet fun-loving…. Kittens 11 weeks, Emma 10 months old.
TRISTAN – semi-longhaired with green eyes and Turkish Van markings (white coat with brown color on ears and tail), very relaxed and happy, a lover
PEACHES – white and pale orange with deep golden eyes, first to investigate anything new, mellow and sweet, a real peach
TOBY – white and gray with green eyes and bandit markings, the baby of the family and mom cat’s favorite, gentle and loving, a little doll
BENJY – light gray with gray eyes, adventurous, sweet, outgoing, great sense of humor, determined to make you smile, a heart winner
EMMA – beautiful petite young calico mom, smart, loving, sensuous, adores purring while you pet her, a true treasure
About Karen Payne and Princess Kitty
Princess Kitty was Karen’s very talented cat who actually became quite famous for her ability to learn tricks and to perform, appearing in her own performances and in television programs.
According to Karen’s Princess Kitty website, she was “the most highly trained cat who ever lived. Easily able to do more than 100 tricks on command, Princess Kitty has delighted audiences around the world through her television, movie and commercial appearances. Her charitable, live performances have brought joy and magic to more than 20,000 children in schools and hospitals nationwide.”
July brings the anniversary of many things feline-related—losses, rescues, births, new artwork, and I’m looking forward to sharing the stories and related articles and information.
I begin below with two losses, but read on, they turn into beautiful things.
Today as I compiled and packaged my entries for the Cat Writer’s Association Communications Contest I had bittersweet memories of June 30 last year, the last day Namir spent with me. Though we knew his time was very limited due the advanced nature of his hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and more frequent and severe bouts of congestive heart failure (CHF), his last day was just like any other day and for all that he and I shared I am glad we didn’t share a long and painful decline and debility.
I wrote a tribute to Namir about two weeks after he passed, and I’ll run this July 1, in memory of the first anniversary of his passing. It’s not sad because Namir was full of energy and creativity, a truly remarkable cat beloved by visitors to my house—in fact, he was always greeted before I was. I’m looking forward to sharing his antics and laughing over the goofy things he did.
And in his memory I’ll be providing links to information about HCM, which is all too common in cats but with newer treatments and medications is no longer a death sentence.
Between February 2006 and January 2007, I lost my four oldest cats. In the middle of those losses I fostered and found homes for a litter of kittens born to my Mimi, before she was my Mimi; I kept one of those kittens though I hadn’t wanted to with all the needs of my older cats. I hadn’t had a kitten for years, and my next youngest cat was then 11. Sleek, petite Lucy, solid black with yellow eyes became the new future of my household.
But when she was a year old she was diagnosed with effusive feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), and I lost her at 15 months. The entire experience was a story in itself, but to honor Lucy I’ve been working on some artwork using her image, bright and colorful and playful as the kitten she was. I’ll be glad to introduce the artwork and the story of her kittenhood in paintings.
Mimi and the Fantastic Four
As much as I would rather have shared a long life with Lucy, she gave me a wonderful gift from beyond the rainbow. A few days after she had passed I was watching her mother in my garden, quite pregnant with another litter, and I know Lucy put the idea in my mind that hot July morning to take her in.
So July brings a rescue day and a birthday. The Big Four will be three years old on July 26, and Mimi joined my household on July 29. Now that’s a reason to celebrate!
And in honor of Lucy, the whole extended family, even the kitties who don’t live with me and those from other of Mimi’s litters, will be getting swabbed and entered into the FIP study at the University of California at Davis. I’ll be providing links to information about FIP and writing a few articles about treating FIP.
Many years ago a good friend of mine compiled a huge, comprehensive page of information about cats. This friend happens to be the mom of Angus and Donal, Lucy’s brothers, and she is also the person who taught me my first few lines of HTML coding back in 1997, sending my career off in an extra direction of design.
Amby’s Cat Information Page at www.amby.com still exists, and though she hasn’t had the time to update links and information I’ve decided there is too much there to just let it sit unnoticed. I’ll be extracting information, updating links and posting articles on The Creative Cat, beginning with an article Amby wrote detailing the process for trimming claws. In addition to the illustrations, we discussed videotaping the process and adding that to the article as well, so we’ll be working on that project for July as well.
Now that I’ve got my studio in shape, I’ll be able to begin working on portraits again, and I really can’t wait. I’ll be posting updates as I work so you’ll be able to see them take shape.
But for now, Peaches, who is doing well now that we seem to have her right inner ear under control, wants dinner. Everyone who’s been sending good vibes to Peaches, thanks! Keep it up every so often because it really seems to work for her!
As a part of celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday, I am reprinting this article, Part One in a two part series exploring Senior Cat Care that was first published in Cat Chat on My Three Cats in 2006; Part Two, appearing tomorrow on The Creative Cat, will give you tips on optimizing your senior cat’s environment and information about senior illnesses and palliative care.
Bogey dares you to guess how old he is. He knows you’ll be wrong, because he knows that cats have a unique way of hiding aging from even the most attentive owners. Once cats reach three to four years of age they can go well into their teens before they show signs of physical weakness, arthritis, failing eyesight and hearing and other common ailments of an aging body of any species.
And even then they can often get along just fine with a good diet, lots of love, and a little something extra from their people. Just like senior humans have special needs befitting the physical age of their bodies, our cats will benefit from an appropriate diet and exercise, regular health checks and even some palliative care you may not give to a younger cat.
Definition of “Senior”
“Senior” is as loose a term with cats as it is with humans, and feline aging is not the equivalent of canine aging.
We used to assume that dogs and cats both age, over the course of a lifetime, an average of seven “human” years for every year the animal is alive. Cats, however, tend to live a little longer than dogs, so while dogs are still averaged at seven “human years” for each “dog year”, cats average only five “human years” for every “cat year”.
In addition, the age considered “senior” for an animal was, and still is in some cases, only seven years old. More recently, though, other authorities and perhaps even your own veterinarian, differ in opinion, especially for cats, varying from eight to twelve years of age.
Cats are living longer and longer, and while reaching the double digits in age used to be quite a milestone, reaching the second decade isn’t unusual. This is why older cats need different care from younger cats as they age.
From kittenhood, Tabby should see the veterinarian yearly as part of her regular care even if there’s no apparent health issue, as a benchmark from one year to the next. If a health problem arises, our cats can’t say to us, “Hmm…I think it was in January that I first noticed that…,” but an observant veterinarian will know if a lump, bump or symptom was present at the previous yearly examination. If you’ve been lax when Tabby was young, and unless your veterinarian indicates any chronic conditions developing, tighten up your schedule when she reaches about ten years of age.
In addition to this yearly checkup, and because health symptoms are that much more likely to arise in an older cat, consider a “senior exam” for your cat between ten and twelve years as well. Many veterinarians and clinics offer these as a matter of course, but be cautious what they include, which is sometimes no more than a regular yearly exam with a basic blood test, but the cost is triple the charge for a regular annual exam.
The purpose of the senior exam is to determine baseline data on the cat’s major health indicators at an age when everything appears normal. Find an exam that lists not only the procedures but also the conditions or symptoms for which tests are performed: a CBC, or complete blood count, does not include the T-4 or thyroid test, and in some cases does not include measures for BUN and creatinine, the indicators for renal failure, two very common chronic illnesses in older cats. So in addition to the usual exam of eyes, mouth, ears, weight, heartbeat and temperature, a geriatric exam should also check your pet’s blood, urine, blood pressure and/or radiographs for problems such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or arthritis. None of these conditions may be present, or only the earliest symptoms, but later if you do begin to see changes in Tabby’s lifestyle you have a record of her body when she was healthy and your veterinarian has a much more clear starting point for diagnosis.
If you haven’t already, start reading labels. Tabby may tend to fill out around the middle as she gets older, or she may be a little chubby to begin with. Also, while maintaining the proper weight balance is critical as cats age, be careful with weight loss and management.
Cats are “obligate carnivores”, meaning that they must eat protein to maintain their body tissue. While many senior foods may advertise reduced protein content because it’s assumed to be better for an older cat, the only content that should be reduced is calories, just like a human diet or senior program. If protein is changed at all it should only be made more easily digestible, but should still be animal protein, not vegetable protein.
One other change in the food content should be an increase in fiber, obviously necessary as the cats’ digestion changes, also aiding in hairball prevention.
If you currently feed only dry food or leave dry food available all the time, you may also consider feeding an increased amount of wet food. It has a stronger smell to attract her, is easier to chew and swallow, and the increased moisture content is always a benefit. If you feed at specified times, consider feeding an extra meal in between; just like senior people, Tabby will eat less at each meal and her digestion can only handle a certain amount, but she needs just as much food through the course of a day.
Feeding at specified times instead of leaving food available all the time is a good idea all through Tabby’s life. For one reason, the food is always fresh, and sense of smell is what prompts a cat to eat; with aging this becomes critical. More importantly, monitoring Tabby’s dining habits is important as she ages, and a change in her consumption or even her attitude toward mealtime and her food can often be the first early indicators of a health problem.
Tabby may still be racing to the top of the cat tree and running laps in the middle of the night at age 15, but at some point she’ll slow down in either speed or frequency. While it has always seemed that she could sleep 18 hours a day and eat whatever she wanted and still stay in prime physical shape, she may need a little encouragement as she grows older.
Physical activity not only helps to keep her muscles toned, but it also keeps her heart and lungs and circulatory system in good condition, helps with digestion and elimination and even appetite if that starts to wane. If you don’t already play with her on a regular basis, find some toys that get her excited to leave around, and some interactive toys so that you can see she gets her exercise.
You can find plenty of references for care for older cats around the internet from CatChannel.com to The Cornell Feline Health Center to the American Association of Feline Practitioners and in books such as Complete Care for Your Aging Cat.
I’m proud to say that part two of this series won a Muse Medallion in the Cat Writer’s Association’s 2007 Communications Contest and the Hartz Mountain Everyday Chewable Vitamin Award for the best article on senior cat care in the same contest. That’s when I joined the Cat Writer’s Association and it’s been one of the best associations I’ve made in my career for both writing and learning.