Valentine Tabbies Note Cards: Sneak Preview

block printed note cards

Block-printed Valentine note cards!

I had such fun today printing little note cards for Valentine’s Day I couldn’t wait to show them off! These two are from my series “Tabbies”, “Sunshine and Flowers” and “Let Me Clean You Up” and have always had a sweet and cuddly feel to me. I’d always printed these in natural earth tones but have been planning to print them in bright colors on brightly-colored paper as well.

These are printed in magenta on flourescent pink and blue card stock, are blank inside, and I have a rubber stamp to print the necessary information on the back. They are 4.25″ x 5.5″, blank inside and come with a coordinating envelope—I couldn’t get the ones I wanted that matched the paper stock, so I have to settle for ones that are more pastel, but they actually look nice.

I’ll finish up these sets, and I’ll also have a few other cards to offer as well. I’ll be posting this week.

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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.


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

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

My first cat, Bootsie

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

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

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

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

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

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


Kitties And Cream

two cats eating whipped cream

Kitties and Cream

From last year on Christmas morning, Cookie and Kelly enjoy their treat!

The girls get their Christmas morning breakfast treat—a dollop of whipped cream on a fancy dish! A little bit can’t hurt, and Kelly asked so nicely I could hardly refuse. Besides, I had some in my coffee and it just wouldn’t be polite not to share.

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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.


An Animal’s Love is the Gift

Fromage with her ball and formula splashed across her nose.

Fromage with her ball and formula splashed across her nose.

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

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

But what about the kitty?

black kitten with toy

Giuseppe Meets Catnip

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

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

The holidays can be dangerous

black kitten in kleenex box

Tiny Mewsette in tissue box

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

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

Veterinary care at the holiday

young black kitten

Young Mr. Sunshine

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

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

What about the recipient?

black kitten in bed

Giuseppe in bed.

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

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

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

Fromage makes it down the steps

Fromage makes it down the steps

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

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

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

So let’s go shopping—for pet stuff!

Giuseppe is patient with this.

Giuseppe is patient with this.

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

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

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

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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.


Wishing You Peace and Joy

cat looking at star

Star of Wonder

Whether you celebrate the ancient customs of the miracle of the sun’s return, the sacred oil that lasted eight days, the birth of your savior or any number of old and new rituals of heritage and family, my Creative Cats and I wish you peace and joy in your gatherings, travels and meals. At this darkening time of year may the star of love and friendship of family and friends, both human and animal, light your way.

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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.


Donate to WPHS With Every Purchase

cat-themed holiday cards

"Star of Wonder" and "Can We Get That Thing?"

For every purchase of one dozen “Star of Wonder” or “Can We Get That Thing?” holiday cards for $20, I will donate $10 to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society so that the dogs, cats, bunnies, ferrets, birds and any other animal can have a brighter holiday season with your help!

For details, visit my Friendraising page for WPHS.

And read about the inspiration for the cards here.

I used to be hard on people who “dumped” pets at shelters, but you can’t generalize reasons why pets end up there nor the people who surrender them, so now instead of getting angry I put my energy into creating things that help people love animals all the more, helping shelters find good and loving permanent homes for the animals in their care.

western pennsylvania humane society logo

WPHS logo

About the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society

The WPHS is an “open-door” shelter helping animals in need in Pittsburgh and Allegheny county since 1874.

I prefer the term “open door” for a shelter which will take in any animal in need at any time because I know the alternative to a shelter is a drop off in a park or isolated woods or some lonely back road for a cat or dog or rabbit—I’ve rescued plenty of them. I have also seen WPHS through the years find every new and ingenious way of getting their animals out in front of the public and into a permanent home, and I know the costs of running a shelter that serves over 13,000 animals per year is huge, only accomplished with the help of donations large and small. And they are apparently wise with their money; Charity Navigator has designated the Western PA Humane Society as a Four-Star charity, its highest ranking for efficient use of donations, five years in a row!

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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.


Holiday Cards: Greetings From Our Backyard Birds

pastel painting of cardinal in branches

Accent, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

These designs don’t involve cats, but they do show our backyard birds which many readers here at The Creative Cat enjoy.  I’ve posted an article about them on Portraits of Animals Marketplace.