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.


My Feline Garden Sprites

photo of two cats in a garden

Namir and Cookie inspect my gardening.

I first posted this article in April 2009 as Namir and Cookie and I finished cleaning up the garden for another gardening year and republished it again in 2010 in honor of Peaches 100th birthday, and now in 2011 in honor of Senior Pet Awareness Month. A number of cats have grown to their senior years here, and one of the treats they get is to carouse in the backyard with me as I garden; the sunshine and fresh air is so invigorating for them and we can enjoy that little bit of extra time and special memories.

My two seniors join me outdoors to supervise my gardening.

My two seniors join me outdoors to supervise my gardening.

It’s a joy to share the time and the experience with them, but with a flicker of sadness, to watch Namir sprint across the yard just for the joy of running and Cookie patrol the garden paths, even in the late winter when strewn with weeds and debris. It means they are old enough to want to stick with me while I’m out in the garden, old enough that our time is limited and these will be our golden memories. It’s a tradition when the old ones get to be this old that they also get to enjoy time outdoors with me.

Because animals live shorter lives than we do, chances are we will outlive them. And if we adopt and foster a number of animals, we’ll live through that many losses. It never gets easy, but with the awareness gained from each loss, watching the oldest grow into their senior years is less shocking and painful. Animals are so graceful about aging, not like us fretting about gray hair and memory loss. The brevity of their lives may seem unfair to us, but that span is normal for them. The lesson is to enjoy them in this moment while preparing for the unavoidable, but not to dwell on either.

Read the rest of this entry »


Eva Adds Up Her Donation

photo of Eva's face

Eva's expression

As you remember, Eva offered to donate 50 cents to FosterCat for every person who commented on her blog in April. The counting is done, and read about the total (and the counting)!

Thanks Eva and you-know-who! There will be some rescued and fostered kitties who will be very thankful as well!

Sorry Zorro ate your vegetable plants. We can’t start any here this year because the Big Four go grazing among the flats in the basement like a bunch of black cows…


Congratulations to the Winner, and to FosterCat!

pastel painting of a cat on a table with peonies

Peaches and Peonies, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Congratulations and thank you to Kym Detrick who had the final bid on the print of “Peaches and Peonies” last night at 11:46 p.m.! Because of her generosity, FosterCat will receive $130, and just in time to rescue more adult cats as kittens are arriving in earnest already at shelters.

Donations were also being made to FosterCat through MyThreeCats.com and on Peaches’ BFF Eva’s blog, so Peaches and I can’t wait to see all the generosity people offered through Peaches’ simple request—consider senior pets for adoption, and simply be aware of a few special health conditions, and your senior can live many happy healthy years longer than we’d ever expected them to live before now.

fostercat logo

Thank you to Alexa Howald of FosterCat for guest blogging to tell us about FosterCat and the importance of adopting and caring for senior cats, to Ingrid King of the Conscious Cat for writing an article about health care for senior cats in honor of Peaches’ birthday, to Linda Mohr for congratulating Peaches and telling us about her senior girls, to Marg for telling us about Squeaky and to Eva for being Peaches’ BFF and to her mom Renee for allowing computer privileges so Eva can communicate with Peaches.

Peaches appreciates your interest in and support of senior cats. She enjoyed a wonderful 100th birthday yesterday, gobbling a whole can of salmon pate through the day! I can tell when she gives me her special look, however, that every day is a celebration, and I love her just as much.

The print which Kym will receive is an 11″ x 14″ giclee, the highest quality reproduction method true to color with archival inks, printed on matte-finish archival paper, which I sell for $75.00.

In one way or another, I make donations for animal welfare through every piece of artwork in donating pieces for auctions or through the portraits I create. I also offer other sizes of giclee prints, and have a special offer which includes a donation with for purchase of a full-size print. I sell the print for $150, but $25.00 of that will go directly to a senior pet adoption program of your choice. Please visit Senior Pet Adoption Program on this blog.

For those who are still interested in a print of “Peaches and Peonies”, I offer several options in size and price:

  • The most affordable is an 8″ x 10″ photo print double-matted and framed in an 11″ x 14″ mahogany frame for $45.00 plus shipping. I also offer this as a matted and framed 5″ x 7″ for $25.00, but the image loses detail at that point, though it’s still very beautiful as a small wall piece.
  • I also offer various sizes of digital prints, which are not archival but are still very true to color and clear in detail. An 11″ x 14″ of this print is $25.00, and other sizes are available.

All of these items can be found on my website.

Other articles celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday

Bid on this Print and Start Celebration Peaches’ 100th Birthday

How Peaches Stole My Heart

Old is Awesome!

Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, Part 1

Beyond Food and Water, Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, part 2

My Feline Garden Sprites

Eva Offers a Donation in Honor of Peaches’ 100th

A Poem Dedicated to an Old Cat

Help FosterCat Even More Through My Three Cats

Cookie Reminisces

It’s Peaches’ 100th Birthday!

On The Conscious Cat

How to Care for Your Older Cat

On Catnip Chronicles

Peaches and Peonies

On Marg’s Pets

Old Cats Are Wonderful

Donate to FosterCat Through Other Blogs and Websites

Eva Offers a Donation in Honor of Peaches’ 100th

Help FosterCat Even More Through My Three Cats

Other articles about Peaches

Peaches Applies for a Job

Get Well Wishes for Peaches

Peaches Says, “Thanks for All the Get Well Wishes, They Worked”

Feline Faith and Understanding

This is a short list—Peaches appears in many articles I’ve written on my household, on pet loss, and even some silly things I’ve written on my website before I had a blog! Search “peaches” in the search box for more articles.


It’s Peaches’ 100th Birthday!

peaches' birthday photo

Peaches wears her green hat for her 100th birthday!

The big day is finally here!

And did I ever think I’d make it this long? Honestly, I never really thought about it! I can tell you from experience that we animals never really worry about these things as humans do, but that we are glad for every day we are here.

Especially when we’ve got wonderful parents like my mom, and a world full of friends, near and far away!

photo of cat in box

I've got a big box ready for all my gifts!

Thanks to everyone for all the birthday wishes and the get well wishes as my mom and I continue to work with my kidney failure (and what a birthday gift I’ll get later today—another 100cc of fluids), and I hope we’ve given many other cats and their people the idea that living to 100 is not only entirely possible but not all that uncommon anymore. Little health issues may be troublesome as the years go on, but we’ve provided information on those so you know what to expect.

And the point I find most important is that older pets need homes too, so don’t be afraid to adopt us just because we’re old! My mom took me in at age 15, and I’m still going strong at 20, and my brother Stanley in this house lived to be about 25! With animal health care getting better all the time and all the information available to pet parents these days, any one of us could live a long and healthy life.

Now, mom, bring on the salmon pate!

There’s still time to bid on the print!

Bidding on the print of “Peaches and Peonies” is open until midnight tonight, May 1! Whoever has the highest bid by that time wins the print with all proceeds going directly to FosterCat, so you get to make a tax-deductible donation to a worthy feline rescue organization AND you get a piece of artwork as a thank you! Click here to read the article and bid.

Other articles celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday

Bid on this Print and Start Celebration Peaches’ 100th Birthday

How Peaches Stole My Heart

Old is Awesome!

Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, Part 1

Beyond Food and Water, Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, part 2

My Feline Garden Sprites

Eva Offers a Donation in Honor of Peaches’ 100th

A Poem Dedicated to an Old Cat

Help FosterCat Even More Through My Three Cats

Cookie Reminisces

On The Conscious Cat

How to Care for Your Older Cat

On Catnip Chronicles

Peaches and Peonies

Donate to FosterCat Through Other Blogs and Websites

Eva Offers a Donation in Honor of Peaches’ 100th

Help FosterCat Even More Through My Three Cats

Other articles about Peaches

Peaches Applies for a Job

Get Well Wishes for Peaches

Peaches Says, “Thanks for All the Get Well Wishes, They Worked”

This is a short list—Peaches appears in many articles I’ve written on my household, on pet loss, and even some silly things I’ve written on my website before I had a blog! Search “peaches” in the search box for more articles.


A Day in the Life of a Senior Kitty and Her Mom

Another article in celebration of Peaches’ 100th Birthday.

cat peaking over blanket

The usual awakening.

Peaches didn’t awaken me this morning. All the black cats were on me or on my bed and Cookie was curled in the position of honor on my left against my ribs where she could feel my heart beat against her back. Kelly was having a bath on the sunny windowsill in hall and Dickie peeked in on his way from his favorite bed in the bathroom to the steps. I watched the doorway for a minute or two thinking she’d come upstairs once she noticed the activity. But no Peaches.

Not all my cats sleep with me every night, and not all participate in my awakening in the morning. But usually any cat who is in some chronic condition will be there in the morning or will show up in the doorway, make eye contact with me, our way of checking in with each other. If they don’t, it may not be a good sign. Peaches is very consistent and usually sleeps on me, and if not she doesn’t let me sleep late so this likely meant she wasn’t feeling well in one way or another.

She was fine last night, I thought, or just a few hours ago when I finally got to bed, and she was great all day yesterday. Things can change unexpectedly when the kitty is in chronic renal failure, though, so I bypassed my usual wakeup routine, put my glasses over my sore eyeballs and headed straight for the stairs.

She looked up at me from the butterfly rug where she was settled with all paws curled underneath, but she didn’t sit up or get up, and I could see her eyes were not as round and open as usual. Begin the diagnosis: she is dehydrated to a certain extent, she may be feeling some general indigestion as a side effect of the renal failure we’ve been fighting, and she might be constipated, an issue for Peaches as long as she’s been with me and common since she’s been in fluid therapy, plus she’d been eating very well but I hadn’t seen a significant “deposit” from her yesterday.

Well, let’s see how she eats at breakfast. Sometimes she’s a little sluggish. I was just buying time, though; I knew this wasn’t the case.

This was a very busy day ahead, I had stayed up late to get work done and especially made sure Peaches was in good shape so I wouldn’t have to worry while I was out. I really didn’t have time to fuss and fret over Peaches, but of course I would.

man and cat

My brother Mark and Cookie take a break from yardwork.

What was on the agenda for today? Complete minor corrections to design jobs customers had sent over yesterday; pick up post cards and greeting cards for the show I’m having Friday through Sunday, deliver them to another printer to score and fold, pick up the ones that are done, pack in boxes; call the nursing home I’d be moving my mother to later this week; call the personal care home she currently lived in and make arrangements to pack her belongings and settle paperwork; pick up a check from a customer at noon, deposit; order greeting card boxes; talk to disabled brother about his budget for May; work on a few of the bigger jobs on my desk right now; photograph some of the new pieces for the show; visit mom in the hospital…I knew I’d be out or otherwise occupied all day, so I got as much in order as I could before I went to bed.

Each of us has days that are full, and herein lies the quandary of caring for a chronically ill pet. When I worked away from home I was always frantic about leaving my cats when I knew they were ill. I also didn’t know symptoms and simple treatments as I do now. Working at home, even when I’m out for a good bit of the day, and with two family members who regularly need care, paperwork or more, I have the flexibility to treat my cats throughout the day. But I give thanks to all the senior cats who’ve come before and taught me what to look for and what to do.

Peaches came in the kitchen, ate a little dry food, ate a little canned food, then left. Eating in general is good, but Peaches usually eats like she didn’t just eat a few hours ago, pacing around on her countertop, waving her paw at me until she gets her food, focusing entirely on it until the first serving is done, having a good long drink of water. This could mean many things, and it was up to me to figure out.

She was on the butterfly rug again when I went to my computer a little later, and didn’t move to jump onto my lap, as usual. I looked at her and felt just a flash of irritation, then concern.

peaches and Kelly on the butterfly rug

Peaches and Kelly

Right now Peaches is a priority, not just because she’s my sweet little senior cat and her birthday is Saturday, but also because at her age and in renal failure, she can crash fast. I’ve seen her feeling fine in the morning, by evening her skin feels like bread dough and I need to get a reasonable dose of sub-Q fluids into her, and it will often take until the middle of the next day before she’s eating well again and feeling comfortable. So, let’s start the triage, then I can observe her while I get some work done before I leave the house, which means working with one eye on Peaches and getting up to follow her if she gets up to leave the room, which I’ve been doing for so many years with a succession of cats that it’s second nature now.

First, Petromalt, which I found long ago softens up nicely in the pocket of my bathrobe so that when you shove it in the cat’s mouth they can’t spit it back out in a lump. Peaches got two half-inch gobs, all of which went in. Ooo, not happy.

Second, just in case she’s developed any type of an infection, I take her temperature, finding it normal but also serving to grease up her other end. Just in case she is constipated, the thermometer and the petroleum jelly will help to dislodge something that may be in the way. Peaches has had bowel problems since before she was with me, and even on a mostly wet food diet with fiber supplement and a little sip of milk every few days—nope, I don’t like to give them milk either, but I discovered years ago that the extra fluid plus the fat in the milk can help an older cat with hairballs and constipation, and a tablespoon won’t hurt—she’ll still have occasional problems.

Third, aforementioned milk. Peaches was mad at me and ran, she’s a little suspicious but forgets she’s mad when she sees her dish and the milk carton. She doesn’t finish it, also not a good sign.

photo of two tortie cats

Cookie and Kelly at the computer

Let her sit, get more work done. Posting on Facebook, calling to confirm my order for greeting card boxes, calling printer to ensure my printing is done. Peaches leaves several times, always just to the water bowl in the kitchen and back; this is good. I make one more call, and off goes Peaches, headed for the basement. I finish my call and follow.

I’m not sure if she’s not entirely comfortable with any of the ten litterboxes in the house, but Peaches no longer uses one, even the empty, fairly flat one I added just for her. She prefers the floor in two areas. Fine, I can clean up after that very easily, and it’s almost convenient because I always know what she’s “done”; this can be hard to tell in a house with nine cats unless I confine her, which upsets her.

photo of calico cat

Do I look hungry enough?

Okay, there’s number 1 in the number 1 area, then number 2 in the number 2 area. Good girl! Yes, it was more than her usual, so that likely was the problem. Clean up, back up to the kitchen. After a little clean-up on the butterfly rug, Peaches is actually hungry.

I call my neighbor who recently graduated from vet tech school and who watched my cats while I was away three weeks ago, leaving a message asking if she has the time for fluids for Peaches. I can dose Peaches myself but it’s a little bit of a struggle. I also like Teri’s help; she will make a wonderful vet tech some day when the job market opens up again. Peaches really likes her and is completely relaxed when the two of us give her fluids; I also like being able to help Teri keep her hands in the business while she’s applying for jobs and working in a pet food store.

So between other phone calls and getting work done for customers, I feed Peaches a little at a time as she asks. By mid-morning she’s resting on my lap, by late morning when I’m ready to start my errands—a little later than anticipated because I wanted to be sure she was comfortable before I left—she is pretty much back to normal.

This was an easy morning, made easier by years of experiences with many other cats growing older. With each one I sharpened my observational ability, learned a new physical skill in caring for them such as dosing subcutaneous fluids, learned a lesson in symptoms and side effects, learned to control my fears and relax because I’d project my feelings on the cat, sensitive to me in return, and only make the situation worse.

Being an artist I’m attuned to minute physical changes in familiar things, especially my cats. After finding a veterinarian who didn’t wave me off when, for instance, I said my cat’s eyes weren’t as big as they normally were, I learned to trust these observations as well learning that a squint can be a sign of pain and sunken eyes appearing smaller than normal can be a sign of dehydration.

photo of my mother

My mother two years ago.

And I’ve been able to use the knowledge I’ve gained in treating my cats to understand the same illnesses in humans, and vice versa. My mother has a history of illnesses and surgeries, including with the lung cancer surgery and subsequent COPD, renal failure and congestive heart failure that necessitated her move to personal care several years ago. I had learned about renal failure prior to that from treating one of my cats, so I understood what was happening with her when I saw the symptoms.

And when my Namir was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure he was prescribed the same medications as my mother, and it was comforting to be familiar with what each would do for him.

In fact, I had the same conversation with my mother’s doctor and with my veterinarian on nearly the same day about the importance of hydration: if we could keep these older bodies hydrated they’d be much healthier generally, my mother’s medications would work better, my cats would have a better appetite, both would have more vitality and their organs would function better and for longer. It’s a struggle to get my mother to drink enough liquids, and I can’t just pop a needle under her skin to hydrate her as I can my cats, and it’s always a comfort to me when I see the sometimes miraculous recovery after a simple dose of fluids.

watercolor painting of rainbow and hearts

Original sketch for Heal Your Heart.

I ran all my errands, made all my calls, checked on Peaches, checked on my mother, at the end of another day all is as well as it can be. I still have hours of packaging and tagging merchandise for the upcoming sale, and I can use those hours to muse about the spectrum of life, the slower span of humans arching over the faster span of our companion animals like the arcs of the rainbow where, perhaps, we all mingle at the end.

Other articles celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday

Bid on this Print and Start Celebration Peaches’ 100th Birthday

How Peaches Stole My Heart

Old is Awesome!

Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, Part 1

Beyond Food and Water, Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, part 2

My Feline Garden Sprites

Eva Offers a Donation in Honor of Peaches’ 100th

A Poem Dedicated to an Old Cat

Help FosterCat Even More Through My Three Cats

Cookie Reminisces

On The Conscious Cat

How to Care for Your Older Cat

Donate to FosterCat Through Other Blogs and Websites

Eva Offers a Donation in Honor of Peaches’ 100th

Help FosterCat Even More Through My Three Cats

Other articles about Peaches

Peaches Applies for a Job

Get Well Wishes for Peaches

Peaches Says, “Thanks for All the Get Well Wishes, They Worked”

This is a short list—Peaches appears in many articles I’ve written on my household, on pet loss, and even some silly things I’ve written on my website before I had a blog! Search “peaches” in the search box for more articles.


Cookie Reminisces

Even though Cookie doesn’t want to admit it, this is another article celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday. Cookie is my main tortie, and though she’s two years younger than Peaches she’s been with me the longest of any cat currently in my household, and she has many stories to tell. She’s also been a very special friend of mine all these years for reasons you’ll read in her story.

photo of tortie cat

Cookie Ponders

I just don’t understand all this fuss about Peaches. I mean, I know she’s an old cat, but so am I, except that I’m “mature” where Peaches is just “old”.

It’s not hard to get “old”, really it just happens. What is more interesting is how you get there. And you have to have a good human who will take care of the important things for you.

I have lived my life in service to my mom, and I have let no other living thing, human, feline or otherwise, come before her. To me, and to the rest of us, she is like Freya, goddess of just about everything that is worth living for, and I have happily served as one of her chariot cats all my life.

Most people don’t know that tri-color cats have an excellent memory, and can recall everything we’ve experienced through our lives. It’s one of the reasons tri-color cats have been considered good luck through history, though most humans think it’s only because of our unique coloring. That extra gene that gives us our tri-color coat also gives us an extra ability both to remember and to perceive. Sometimes, we can be a little irritable, but it’s only because we’re processing an awful lot of information.

So I remember all the way back to my beginning, which was pretty grim.

There were four of us kittens with our mother and we were pretty happy and warm in our little box in a house until someone in the house decided we should be raised outdoors “like real cats” and put us outside. I was very young and still nursing, only tasting real food now and then.

Our mom moved us to a safe place then went off to get some food since she was told to “fend for herself”. We never saw her again, though we called and called for her.

Other little humans heard us, though, and led some other big humans to where our mom had hidden us. We were so hungry all we could do was cry. Unfortunately by that time two of my sisters were silent and we knew we’d never hear them again.

One of the big humans picked up my sister and one of the little humans picked up me and the big human told the little one that we needed special food and it might be a lot of work, but that we were probably old enough to survive if we got enough food.

So I went off with the little human, but not to live happily ever after. It seems his mom wanted no parts of me, even though he already had another feline in the house. He brought me inside overnight because she didn’t notice, but the next day she would put me outside. I really don’t understand some humans.

But he fed me and he played with me and I understood that he really loved me, so I stayed close to his house and when he came outside to look for me it made him so happy when I’d magically appear from under a bush or around the side of the house.

He always managed to feed me something, but there were times when there wasn’t much. Then the weather got colder and colder, and I heard him and all the other humans talking about how we hadn’t had “snow”, that icky cold wet stuff that gets on everything when it’s cold outside, “that early in winter”. When there wasn’t snow it was just cold, and it really hurt my paws.

pastel painting of snow in morning

Morning Snow 1, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

One day I had had enough. Cold wet snow was falling fast and I just started walking. I found a spot where warm air was flowing out of a little window and I settled underneath it, since it was somewhat dry there. I heard the boy calling and when he got close enough I came out and he picked me up and began to carry me back to where we lived.

We stopped on the way to talk to a big human in a little house I had passed. While he held me and proudly told her “this is my kitty”, I could see there were other cats in the house looking out the windows. They looked so warm and happy I could only wish, but I knew my future was in this icky outdoors. Still, I heard her say, “If your mom puts her back outside, just bring her here.”

And later that day his mom came home and literally tossed me out the door into the snow, which was really deep and wet by then. He brought me back in, and I heard them on the phone, her saying, “I don’t care if that cat dies it’s not coming in here, he already has one…”

Then he put me in his coat and in a minute we were back at the lady’s house. “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll take care of her, and you can visit.”

So we went inside and she put me in a nice warm room by myself then left. There was a bowl of food and a bowl of water but I was so tired and confused after my awful day that I ignored it at first and just curled up on a nice soft bed and fell asleep.

The lady came back in and picked me up to take me to another room with bright lights. She sat on the floor and put me on her lap and talked to me while she gently ran her hands all over me, pulled on my ears, lifted my face and looked right into my eyes, lifted each of my paws and felt all my toes. Any other time I’d have given her a piece of my mind at treatment like this, but it wasn’t like the kids outside would do, and besides I was kind of in a stupor in the warmth with food and gentle petting.

I curled myself up on her lap really tightly and started on the second toe on my left hind foot. “Hmmm…” she said, picked me up and looked at my foot, pulling my toes apart and looking really closely. Then she let my paw go and I went back to it with my toe, feeling a big profound purr begin deep inside me, but again she took my foot and inspected it and let it go. This time she just petted me while I worked on my toe and after a while I heard her say, “Oh, little kitty, you’re nursing on your toe…” Well, when I lost my mom and then my sister and I was alone a lot, I needed something for comfort. What could it hurt?

photo of tortie cat in basket

Cookie in the basket.

I stayed in the warm, quiet room with the food bowl and the lady came to visit a few times a day with food in a little can—yum! I heard the other cats outside and we sniffed under the door at each other. She petted me and talked to me and called me “Chocolate”, but I was still wary and usually kept my distance when she came in, acting unconcerned, except when she sat down and then I could curl up on her lap and work on my toe. I just knew this had to end, and I wasn’t going to get too accustomed to the room or to her since I had loved the little boy too, and had to leave there. I had lost my mother and all my sisters, and I wasn’t taking any chances anymore.

But one morning when she came in and cheerily said, “Good morning, Chocolate!” I impulsively turned and walked over to her, put my tail up and asked her a question with just my eyes, “I’m staying here, aren’t I?”

“Oh, little kitty, I’m so glad you’re happy to be here!” Humans can be very intuitive too. I knew I was right. And I knew that I’d be devoted to this person for all my life. Eighteen years later, I still am. In fact, right now I’m properly draped across her lap, right paw extended and my chin resting on her right wrist as she types, and just a little purr is intended to massage her wrist and to relax me. Mom is working and I am attentive as her kitty in waiting. We are very happy.

photo of two tortie cats

Cookie and Kelly at the computer

I have seen many changes since the day she let me out of that room and I officially joined the household (and I had no idea until some time later that I nearly left with someone who was looking to adopt a tri-color kitty who ended up with Sunshine, a calico who had been wandering the neighborhood as well as me). I was the youngest then; now I’m the second oldest, but I’ve been here the longest. I grew to love all the cats who were here when I came for what they taught me, even those who came for a while then left, and all the others who came and stayed and are still here. I even managed to get over my pique when my mom took in another tortie, that scrawny, noisy Kelly who is so un-tortie in so many ways, and now it’s hard to believe that Kelly is a senior cat too.

photo of tortie cat in the sun

Cookie-patra

I knew some day I’d hold this position of honor as the lead cat in the household. I was instructed by the best cats in the world just exactly how to take care of my mom and how to be a leader among cats so that you earned respect without having to lift a paw, though sometimes you need to say something. Usually, a stern look will do.

Cookie and Sophie

Cookie and Sophie

But mostly I’ve loved being one of my mom’s guard cats. I knew this was my place and learned the position from my sister Sophie, who was here when I came in and who became my closest friend in the household, though she could be a little strange at times. Still, whenever our mom settled down, we would take our positions on either side of her, either curled in vigilance on either side of her on her desk or literally leaning against her ankles, either just being vigilant or giving her the strength and support she needed in the moment.

We lost Sophie a few years ago, and it hurt as badly as losing my mother and sisters did all those years ago. I couldn’t even be there for my mom, or she for me, until one day we looked at each other and noticed we’d each quit eating and were losing weight and just feeling sick all the time. We curled up together and gave each other the strength to go on.

photo of two cats in a garden

Namir and Cookie inspect my gardening.

We’ve lost others too, and last year we lost Namir; even though I wasn’t as close with him as I was with Sophie, and he used to run up behind me and swat my butt then trot away giggling, we had great times out in the back yard helping mom with her garden and just enjoying being cats out there and it’s just not the same out there without him.

There has been so much more in my eighteen years here with my mom, and I am looking forward to many, many more. Our Stanley lived to be really, really old, several years older than I am now, and I don’t see any reason I can’t do the same.

photo of cats on bed

Mewsette questions Cookie

Besides, who would look after our mom if I wasn’t here? The only kitty I’ve seen with any potential all these years is Mewsette, who has been hanging out near me and asking questions. I have to put her in her place now and then because she’s a little too friendly for me, but even though she’s not a tortie she is big and strong and solid black and I think she may be able to be the next kitty in waiting.

About Cookie’s name…tortie cats can look very brown when they are young, before their markings develop clarity on a slightly larger body, and Cookie was the first tortie I encountered. I called her “Chocolate” because of her coloring and because she was sweet. Because she was small I called her “Chocolate Chip”. One day I called, “Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Cookie, Cookie and she ran out from under the bed with big round eyes as if to say, ‘How did you know my name?’ ” She’s been Cookie from then on, but her full name is Semi-Sweet Butterscotch Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. You know how these things develop.

Other articles celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday

Bid on this Print and Start Celebration Peaches’ 100th Birthday

How Peaches Stole My Heart

Old is Awesome!

Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, Part 1

Beyond Food and Water, Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, part 2

Other articles about Peaches

Peaches Applies for a Job

Get Well Wishes for Peaches

Peaches Says, “Thanks for All the Get Well Wishes, They Worked”

This is a short list—Peaches appears in many articles I’ve written on my household, on pet loss, and even some silly things I’ve written on my website before I had a blog! Search “peaches” in the search box for more articles.


Help FosterCat Even More Through My Three Cats

my three cats logoMyThreeCats.com will donate $5.00 to FosterCat when you place an order!

MyThreeCats.com and The Studio of Bernadette Kazmarski have partnered to create a wonderful opportunity for you to help homeless cats.

In addition to bidding on the print, you can shop at www.MyThreeCats.com and trigger an instant donation to FosterCat, Inc.  For each and every order you place at www.MyThreeCats.com now through May 1, 2010, MyThreeCats & Co., Inc. will donate $5.00 to FosterCat, Inc.

Once www.MyThreeCats.com has received your order, you’ll receive an email confirmation of the donation.

There are only 7 days left to this special offer, so please act now!

_________________________________________________

photo of pink plate with daisiesMy Three Cats & Co., Inc. is one of my customers for design, photography and promotion. In fact, they are the longest-standing customer for my commercial art business—we’ve been working together for 12 years!

From the very beginning, it’s been the company’s philosophy to find the best products for your cat in value, durability, safety, nutrition and fun.

From the beginning, my own philosophy has been to work with customers whose product or service I used, supported or believed in so that my work could further my goals for the world. I think this worked out just fine between me and My Three Cats.

Please visit their page in the “graphic design and illustration” section on my website at My Three Cats to see some of the work I’ve done for them.

Happy shopping, and thanks for supporting both one of my customers and FosterCat at the same time!


A Poem Dedicated to an Old Cat

painting of a gray cat with a pink sweater

A Rosy Glow, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Dedicated to the most gentle, loving being I have ever encountered.

Things I Found in the Woods

Tiny rivulets of water released from thawing soil
flowing beneath last year’s debris, trickling and gurgling all around
hurrying down hillsides before the freeze returns.

A cup-shaped fungus holding a tablespoon of snowmelt
for a song sparrow to sip, practicing its vernal melody
for the time when spring arrives in earnest.

Ferns, newly-green, draped on cliffs,
fluttering like garlands in the mild, caressing breeze
gathering a little nourishment to last the rest of the winter.

Fallen trees blanketed with bright green moss,
thick and lush already in the brief January thaw
filling a span of life in but a few days.

Four young white-tailed deer, capricious as the gusts,
feeling the flush of their first spring as adults
cavorting as if winter might not return tomorrow.

An understanding that life and love are cycles,
and that the moment must be taken for what it offers
even if what it offers is not what we expect.

A fraction of your dignity,
and the desire to walk with you to the end of the path
as you transition from this beautiful world into the next.

__________________________________________

black and white photo of gray cat on bricks

Moses on her bricks.

I’ll tell Moses’ full story some day; 19 years of love can’t be condensed easily.

She had been a feral kitten my niece managed to capture, only because Moses was near death from starvation. To everyone’s surprise, she not only lived but thrived, except for her hobbled hind legs—the “knee” joint hadn’t completely finished and the bones kind of knocked against each other.

Just give me good food, no medications, Moses said, but most of all, let me lie in the sun every day. And so I did, indoors or outdoors when I could be with her.

She was healthy and rational until about a month before she died, and she knew what was coming and accepted it; I could see this in her eyes. To appease myself I had her checked by a veterinarian and even emergency when she had breathing difficulty one night. She forgave me for this, and I wrote this poem sitting in the waiting room for them to finish some procedure.

Waiting for Moses

I remembered a moment earlier in the day
even through the fear and pain of your impending death:
in that moment when I reached out to you
and you firmly rubbed your face against my hand,
nuzzled your nose between my finger and thumb
and lifted your chin for me to scratch underneath,
eyes squinting at me, whiskers curved forward, nose crumpled;
you, reassuring me.
The look in your eyes wipes the tears from my face
and I can, for the moment,
spontaneously smile and love you completely as of old,
above our grief.

And just a day or two later I was in the woods photographing the spring thaw in wonderment at the changing of seasons and the transience of life—here it was still winter but it felt like spring and everything that lived was taking advantage of the moment.

So was Moses. So should I.

photo of cat in sunshine

Late in the Year, black and white photo © B E Kazmarski

So I resolved just to let her follow her course and she would let me know what to do.

I have kept this lesson in my heart with each of the older kitties I’ve loved since. I don’t care what’s coming for us. I love them right now, this moment.

Other articles celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday

Bid on this Print and Start Celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday

How Peaches Stole My Heart

Old is Awesome!

Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, Part 1

Beyond Food and Water, Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, part 2

My Feline Garden Sprites

Other articles about Peaches

Peaches Applies for a Job

Get Well Wishes for Peaches

Peaches Says, “Thanks for All the Get Well Wishes, They Worked”


Eva Offers a Donation in Honor of Peaches’ 100th

photo of Eva's face

Eva's expression

Eva says,

Help celebrate my BFF Peaches’ 20th birthday by going to my Blog and posting a comment-We’ll send 50 cents to Foster Cat., Inc for each comment made during the month of April!

Eva has computer privileges and her blog is very fun to read!

This is where I read that Eva needed an office assistant and, while mom was away, I actually applied for the position and had an interview! Then I developed renal failure and we all decided that I should stay put, but Eva and I became BFFs. I’m so happy we met! And see what a nice kitty she is?!

Visit Conversations with Eva at www.evaevaeva.com, but make a comment on Help Cats and Kittens in Need.

photo of Peaches on my desk

Peaches is back to work.

Thank you, Eva! Without people willing to foster, the two of us might be…well, nowhere. Scary thought. Please read about Eva’s amazing rescue; mine was nowhere near as frightening as this, and I am very proud of Eva for hanging in there until her forever mom came along…the second time.

And read about what FosterCat does for kitties so you’ll know why Eva would donate for the cause!

Thanks to everyone who opens up their heart and their home to a cat in need.

Peaches