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.


Peaches Has Her Interview! 2010

peaches looking at me in front of the computer

"Go do something else, I need your computer."

The follow-up to “Peaches Applies for a Job”, to her surprise she actually got an interview! But perhaps she wasn’t surprised—I think Peaches was pretty confident of her abilities from the beginning.

Oh, my! I’ve been waiting ALL DAY for my mom to leave the computer. Eva posted a comment on my blog post last night, and I even sat on my mom in bed this morning trying to get-her-up!

We finally got to the computer and I heard her say, “It’s a good day to concentrate and get things done,” something to do with the weather which is “out there” and I don’t pay any attention to it, but she barely left her seat for long enough for me to grab a snack and get back before her.

photo of peaches on my lap

Guarding mom's lap.

I sat on her lap to make sure I’d know when the computer was free—usually I love days like this—but finally I’ve got a few minutes to answer Eva’s questions.

Hmmm, let’s see…

1) So, what are some of the jobs you’ve had before and what is your favorite?

Peaches with camera

Here I am ready to take a photo.

Well, let’s see. I’m a late bloomer, which is why I hope you don’t mind my age. For all my life before I came to my current mom, I lived with another nice lady and my sister who kind of bullied me and I hid a lot. I’m not sure how it all happened, but the first lady disappeared and here I am, and I didn’t have my first real job until I got here and began to use my mom’s little digital camera.

I’ve also become an artist’s model—in fact, I can hardly get any rest that my mom isn’t poking a camera in my face or making me stand still while she’s working so she can get her painting right. Of course, sometimes I’m sleeping and I don’t know.

2) Can you type?

photo of calico cat with keyboard

See, I'm typing.

I can walk on the keyboard, see—lkppppppppppppppppk. Does that count? Of course, I’m typing this.

3) Do you have your own laptop?

You mean that nice warm bed my mom tries to use on the kitchen table? It’s hers, but it’s just my size because it’s what she calls a “notebook”. It’s not mine, though, but I think I could operate it.

4) What are your favorite snacks?  Do you like Encheesladas?

I absolutely LOVE cheese, so if I didn’t like the rest of it I could lick the cheese off. I love any kind of fish at all.

5) What are your favorite places to sleep?

1) Mom’s lap, 2) in front of the heater vent in her office, 3) on her desk under the kitty keep-warm lamps.

6) What would you do if a silly doggie came along and ate your snacks and ruined all of your work?

I would probably go and take a nap until the silly doggie was gone. I got snacks once, I’ll get them again, and I can do the work another time. I’m very small and cute, I can’t scare anyone and no one ever believes it when I try to get mad.

7) What are your pet peeves at home and at work?

photo of calico cat

Do I look hungry enough?

Home and work are the same place here. You mean they’re different places if you’re somewhere else?

Well, as I mentioned first, not getting fed as often as I feel I need, not getting enough lap time unless I guard mom’s lap, and having to deal with the Maddening Mob of two-year-olds who for some reason really like me and they don’t leave me alone.

8) It sounds like you have a really nice home right now, even though snack and lap-time are problems. Would it be difficult to make such a big change? Amber’s mom suggested that maybe you could be a virtual assistant. I don’t know what that is, but I’ll look it up and let you know what I find out.

photo of black cat and calico cat sleeping

Giuseppe is very warm and comforting.

It is a nice home, and I’ve been really happy here for the four years I’ve been here. I just remember how nice it was at my last place where there were only two of us, and even though my sister bullied me I still got a lot of attention and anything at all I wanted to eat. I’d like that again. But I’ve been able to do so many new things since I’ve been here, and I’ve really come to enjoy being with people, and I have to admit I feel better and I’m a lot healthier here than I ever was with my other mom. And the kids aren’t so bad—in fact, Giuseppe curls up with me in the winter and he’s so big and warm I could sleep all day.

I like being a model, too. I don’t suppose there’s any opportunity for that at your house, is there?

photo of black cat and calico

Mimi and I convey the idea of dinner by preventing further work.

Well, I can hear it’s almost supper time, even though I ate less than an hour ago, and then I need to take a nap while you read this. Since everything is electronic, I could be a virtual assistant. We could try that for a while.

And if not, it would be nice to have a friend on the computer.

We have to figure out some way to fool your mom, though!

I look forward to your reply!

Read the first part of this series (and make sure you follow the links to Eva’s blog so you get to know her too):

“Peaches Applies for a Job”

Things changed a little for Peaches after this; you’ll read about this next.

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


Peaches Applies for a Job: 2010

photo of cat with keyboard

I'm typing a message.

“Seeking office assistant for very busy kitty who needs help with things.  You should be able to type and to understand business stuff.  Must be professional and good with other cats.  Lots of nap breaks and some snacks.  Multi tasking would be good-like maybe watching out the window for visitors while also getting food from the kitchen counter.”

I can do that. There was more, you can read the rest here, and there might be a d-o-g, but if I can put up with these four ingrates, a dog will be no problem. It was from a kitty named Eva, and her situation sounded way better than mine. So I applied.

photo of peaches looking at giuseppe and mewsette

Those two oversized idiots hog mom's lap.

Don’t let my mom know…I’m considering a change in venue because my mom is totally inadequate when it comes to feeding me every 42 minutes, plus there’s this group of hyperactive two-year-olds here, so I am considering a change of venue. I can push papers around on a desk with the best of them and I walk on the keyboard regularly only to find myself unceremoniously placed on the floor. I suit all your other requirements, and I hope age isn’t a factor because I think I’m 19 and I probably am, but I’m a very agile and young-looking 19. How is lap time at your place?~Peaches

And you know what? Bad economy or not, I got an interview! Eva posted a message on her blog and on Facebook saying she was waiting.

You see, we older kitties are very computer savvy because those young yahoos just have no attention span.

So I’m going to tell Eva that I have an idea that could work to both of our advantages. We look very much alike, and with Eva’s agility and my absolute cuteness, I could be a decoy and we could work together to fool her mom into thinking there’s only one cat while Eva gets the treats! Then we could have a great time on the internet ordering even more!

photo of calico cat

Peaches Wakes Me Up

Here’s my application photo, so you can see how much we look alike. And by the way, this is what I have to do to get my mom out of bed in the morning…

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This is a sweet memory from two years ago when Peaches met her BFF Eva. More to come about Peaches!

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


Feline Faith and Understanding

Peaches knows the door will open if she looks at the doorknob long enough.

This was one of my very first posts on The Creative Cat a little over three years ago—wow, here is little Peaches just being herself, the Fantastic Four were 18 months old, I know Cookie was right there with me because I have more photos from this particular morning, as was Namir, who was actually the inspiration for this blog and whose image is in the header.

Sometimes persistence is a very physical thing, sometimes it’s more cerebral.

Cats dislike closed doors, and will have you come and open the door just so they can look inside and see if there may have been anything that might at some time have been of interest to them. After even only a quick cursory glance, they may see that there was nothing of interest in there after all, and will simply walk away without apology. After all, you exist to fulfill their needs, and their needs aren’t all that great—what does it take to open a door, or put out some food, or move over in bed, or toss the toy, or pet them for the 32 seconds or two hours they want? Oh, and there are several other things that should be done, but we can leave these for another posting.

My house is very small, and without very many doors. The ones that exist are rarely closed, except those to the outside.

In this case, however, the door in question is the entry to what may be seen as “the good life” by the feline members of my household. This is the Spare Kitty Room, as I have no need for a spare bedroom, and often it actually contains a spare kitty, a rescue of some stripe or other, or a foster.

Peaches continues to look at the doorknob.

Peaches continues to look at the doorknob.

It can also contain a sick kitty, one who is actively ill with some acute or chronic illness as rescues or very rarely a regular resident may be, or one of the very seniors who needs a little extra care. Often, the room is only used as an observation area to isolate which kitty has been leaving the really awful stuff in the box, or to see if if someone can pee.

Now, why would they associate a room with “the good life” which I associate with illness and recovery? For the same reason I was always envious of my accident-prone brother—he got all the attention, the extra gifts, the time out of school, lots of special treatment I never got! Both humans and felines can easily forget or ignore the side effects of illness when there is some treat involved.

In this case, the room is warm and cozy with the best bed, one’s own litterbox, usually special food and sometimes it’s available all day, not this ungenerous twice-daily dash for the dishes before it’s taken away again. A nice window with a bird feeder directly outside provides entertainment, and, because the Spare Kitty Room sometimes doubles as my art studio where I perform non-computer-related activities, they get special time with mom, and having mom’s lap to one’s self in a house with multiple cats is apparently worth more than food.

Right now, Kelly is in there because she was the one found to be emitting the nasty stuff in the box. She is very upset by the existence of Mimi’s Children, so she’s in the room having quiet time and getting special attention.

Peaches is still looking at the doorknob.

Peaches is still looking at the doorknob.

So Peaches will patiently sit and look up at the doorknob, sometimes dozing off. Peaches is very sweet and I love her to pieces but I don’t think Peaches is the type of cat who reflects—in fact, I think her mind is most often nearly empty with only one thought at a time taking up a small portion, and that usually having to do with food or mylap. She is 18 years old and her age may have something to do with this, but I don’t think Peaches was ever the introspective sort, just quiet and consistent, pretty straightforward.* I’m not sure she’s even considering why she’s looking at the doorknob, only that if she does it long enough, she will get some sort of reward. Her focus can stay entirely on the doorknob, and when the door opens it can move to what is waiting inside.

I know she’s up there right now, waiting.

*Underneath that understated exterior, Peaches is a very creative thinker as I discovered when she considered becoming a photographer—read “Area Senior Cat Finds Muse in Photography” in the writing area of my website.

Read more about Peaches, the kitty I adopted at age 15 and who lived to be 20, It’s Peaches 100th Birthday!

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


Senior Pet Adoption Donation Program

pastel painting of a cat on a table with peonies

Peaches and Peonies, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

I pledge to support senior adoption programs at shelters by making a donation from the sale of every full-size or half-size gicleé print of “Peaches and Peonies.”

I’ve told many stories about Peaches on this site so you know her story of losing her person and entering my life when she was fifteen as a foster, and that we shared a very fulfilling five years before she passed though others were afraid to adopt her for fear she’d die soon. That was not in Peaches’ plan, and not in the plan for most older pets who need homes!

For Adopt a Senior Pet Month I’m featuring this donation offer involving prints of the portrait I painted of her. She’d like the idea that she’s still helping people adopt senior pets and helping shelters help senior pets, and I like the idea that I help to spread her memory through my artwork.

Read the rest of this entry »


Area Senior Cat Finds Muse in Photography

Peaches with camera

Here I am ready to take a photo.

If cats can paint, why can’t they photograph, too? Peaches Kazmarski has been looking for a creative outlet all her life, and finally found it one day when her person left her camera unattended.

“It was just too convenient,” Peaches remarks. “She walked away from one of her ridiculous projects, leaving the camera on the tripod and a convenient stool next to it and stuff all around. I couldn’t resist giving it a try, seeing that it was all set up and ready to go. I didn’t even have to turn the camera on.”

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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.

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