How sweet! Fellow blogger, feline slave and bird lover Wazeau purchased a print of my photo of Sophie and blogged about it. Hope Sassafras approved of the box! Visit and read about brother and sister kitties Sassafras and Nekoka and her birds Bandit and Merlin.

Wazeau's World

I love reading Bernadette Kazmarski’s The Creative Cat’s blog.  Especially her stories of how she met some of the cats in her life, and the wonderful photos and paintings that highlight them.  A little while ago she had this lovely entry about her cat Sophie which included a gorgeous shot of her peeking out from behind some pale white lace curtains overlooking a spray of blue flowers.  I am not sure why but the photo spoke to me and I had to have it.

DSCN3022_edited-2

Of course, once it arrived, it had to be given the seal of approval by Sassafrass before I could bring it upstairs and hang it in the spot which I had earmarked for it the moment I saw it.  Sass may, however, have just been approving the lingering scent of Bernadette’s pack of felines.

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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.


A Visit from Aunt Lisa

woman holding tortoiseshell cat

Lisa cuddles Cookie.

We had a visitor today! Another lap to sit on , another pair of arms to cuddle and hands to pet! Never mind that Lisa DiGioia-Nutini from Mexico Lindo was here to help me with my wireless router installation and setting up my network, her first visit was with all the cats in the house—with the exception of Kelly who was visiting Narnia at the time. Even thought the black cats greeted her, Cookie comes first, and I don’t need to explain why.

Cookie has been feeling WONDERFUL lately, and lately once again manages to get herself up onto and into her favorite places, like my desk. The best thing about Cookie is that she’s always been one of the friendliest kitties I’ve ever known, and while she doesn’t always like to be held, a nice wool sweater, lots of hair and arms accustomed to older kitties will convince her a big extended hug is worth her time. Feels like mom? Maybe so. Lisa was rewarded with Cookie’s nice round rolling purr as she watched my computer load things. I know tortoiseshell kitties generally have an attitude, and Cookie and even Kelly can act as if they do, but they really don’t. I’ve included a little slide show below  of Cookie visiting with Lisa and getting her cuddles, and then the Fantastic Four.

The Fantastic Four had their visit with Aunt Lisa as well!

four black cats and woman

The three boys practically shoved each other out of the way for attention, Mewsette needs to show some restraint.

When you approach my door, be certain that you are being watched. And that when you enter the door, you must greet the cats first, only then can you talk to me. The Four watched Lisa get out of her car and walk up to the door, then come inside! Once I opened the door it was all good, and the boys raced to the end of the table for attention from our visitor. Mewsette is a deep thinker and needed to ponder the situation and study Lisa, as you can see. It’s hard to tell there are three black cats there, but trust me, they can pack themselves into a space suited for one cat. Lisa did get to see Mimi, but the photo wasn’t good.

Here’s a little slideshow of them watching Lisa approach, then greeting, then getting a little gift!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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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.

 


Oh Very Young…

black cat looking up

Mewsette asks for more.

“Mmmm, that smells good! Can I have some?”

“No, Mewsette, this food is for the senior girls.”

“I’m a girl. Can’t I have some?”

“Indeed you are a girl, but you’re a young girl, not anywhere near being a senior girl.”

“Why does that mean I can’t eat when they do? Why do they get to eat all the time when we can only eat twice a day?”

“They are older and can’t eat as much at one sitting, so I feed them in between.”

“You’ve got to be kidding—I’ve seen Cookie pack it in and lick her dish!”

“I don’t give her as much as I give you.”

“That’s not fair. I want to be old so I can eat all day.”

“Someday, Mousse, you will be old, but it’s going to be a long time before you get there.”

“How long do I have to wait to be old?”

“Well, you’re just past three years old so you’re barely an adult kitty and you’ve got a long way to go.”

“How old is Kelly?”

“She is sixteen.”

“How old is Cookie?”

“She is eighteen.”

“How old was Peaches?”

“She was twenty.”

“Peaches always let me take a few bites of her food.”

“I know. Peaches was a nice kitty.”

“She was. I miss her. She was a nice pillow too.”

“You all took good care of her.”

“So how long till I’m old?”

“Never, if I have anything to say about it.”

“That’s not fair! Why?”

“Because after you get old, then you go away like Peaches did.”

“Oh.”

“I want you around for a long, long time, Mewsette.”

“I might be around longer if you fed me more.”

“Oh, Mewsette! Well, at least I kept you occupied long enough for the girls to finish their lunch.”


An Update on Fromage, My Little Foster Kitty

photo of black cat and woman

Maggie looks adoringly at Fromage.

She’s quite the young lady, slender and affectionate while waving her fantastical tail.

The little charcoal gray fuzzball with the stubby tail and legs and Hello Kitty head is shaped quite differently these days! She is no less active and imaginative, though, and has each a feline “brother” and “sister”.

And an absolutely adoring person from whom I hear regular updates on Fromage’s personality and antics.

Who doesn’t like to hear great returns about the kitty they fostered! I guessed Fromage at two weeks when she came here, hazy eyes, unsteady gait and ears hardly lifted up on her head. I hadn’t had a neonatal kitten for so long I had nothing approaching formula on hand much less little bottles. We made do until I got the right stuff, though she never liked the bottles, preferring to first lick what had dripped on my arm, then pooled into the crook of my elbow.

Fromage with her ball and formula splashed across her nose.

For a little bit of background and some baby pictures, please read A Little Baby Foster Kitten and A Little Life Saved. Though it’s also in the first story, I’ve posted my favorite photo of Fromage here because it’s one of my favorite kitten photos, ever.

I have fostered dozens of cats and kittens, mostly years ago before my household had grown into a group of older cats needing extra attention, and especially not need annoying kittens around. I had always relied on those cats to welcome and teach the little fosters, but I was starting over with most of a new household when Fromage joined us. The Fantastic Four were just past two, and I learned a few important details about each of their personalities, notably that Jelly Bean will be a great nanny to anything and that they are all open-minded enough to hiss once or twice, then get down to making the new cat find its place.

And below is Maggie’s story of how Fromage came into her life and, hence, to mine.

My daughter found Fromage when she was visiting from NY in September, cooking for G-20 protestors. My little anarchist kitty.

I got a tearful phone call, went out in the night to pick her up, utterly unprepared for the fact that she was truly a newborn. Tried dipping bread in milk for her to suckle. No luck, but she latched on to the little piece of brie cheese I offered her. Hence her name. She’s still partial to cheeses.

Fortunately, Bernadette, an important part of my life, answered my tearful call for help, and took Fromage into her extraordinary care.

I was not to be the “forever home” but as each week elapsed, I felt Fromage had come into my life for a reason.

photo of two cats

Fromage hides the chenille strip from Cranberry

Photo of two cats

Fromage with big brother Mr. Peach

Has she ever. She’s still intrepid — rules the roost with large, orange 10-year-old Mister Peach, and elegant, awkward 4-year-old Cranberry, a loving Siamese I inherited when my mother died in May. I had not had a kitten in many years. Forgot the energy — those wooden shoes Fromage wears as she tears around the hardwood floors — the needle claws and teeth, the insatiable curiosity, and the gentle sweetness.

photo of black cat with show on wood floor

Fromage with purple pipe cleaner

So Fromage has a household to run! Mr. Peach is decidedly not a leader, and Cranberry, while acting superior, is actually quite conciliatory. Bring an inquisitive and capable kitten into this group and she attempts to run roughshod over them both, but she took her knocks and went on playing.

She really did hit the ground running, literally, when she went to Maggie’s house. She had her own room but time to be out to explore. First I heard reports of her being friendly and affectionate, then reports of her interacting with Mr. Peach and Cranberry, but no serious disputes coming from it all. She has continued conquering the house, annoying and making friends with her feline siblings.

black cat in camera bag

Fromage in my camera bag

photo of black cat with black shoe

Fromage with my shoes

This is what the former foster wants to hear! You never know with kittens who have been orphaned young how they will respond to leaving their foster home and settling into their new home. Often they remember humans as sources of comfort and affection, but because they missed the opportunity to grow and socialize with other kittens they can be timid and unaffectionate. I did my part with feeding and cuddling, but the Big Four did the more important part of giving her an identity and nurturing her as one of the gang, albeit the size of one of their heads.

photo of black cat walking

Fromage's tail

She has a very long tail and she knows how to wave it around. This is not the best photo of her tail, but it shows the proportion of it to her slender body, and she curls and coils it as she walks.

What a girly girl! I love it when cats reach this age, nearly as big as adult cats but still lean and ready to show off their attributes. I hear all the time about how cute and charming she is, and when she’s not busy exploring or playing she’s loving up her mom, sleeping on the bed, something she never had the chance to do here.

black cat by the open door

Ready for action

Who knows where she came from or how she came to be where she was? She was not going to be left behind, and that was that. After initially thinking all the food was hers, she now waits her turn and thanks her mom when her bowl arrives on the floor, rubbing against the cabinet and looking up with loving eyes before digging in.

photo of siamese cat by door

Fromage's sister Cranberry

photo of wallet with chat noir and fromages

Now here's an interesting find!

Read other articles about Fromage:

A Little Life Saved

A Little Baby Foster Kitten


Peaches Has Her Interview!

photo of peaches looking at me

"Go do something else."

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. My mom even wrote about it on her old website.

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.

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!


Farewell to Fay, and Someday Farewell to Dogfighting

A few weeks ago, the HSUS posted a story about one of the dogs rescued in raids which broke up a huge dogfighting ring in the Midwest.

At first glance, the bared teeth in Fay’s photo looked as if she was on the attack, as a recent fighting dog might be. At second glance, it looked like a big dog smile because Fay’s demeanor was hardly that of a angry dog.

At third glance, I suddenly noticed something was terribly wrong with Fay’s face. The bared teeth were not intentional but involuntary as I saw that her entire muzzle was misshapen. Reading the brief synopsis, it seemed that her lips had been…removed.

I’ve seen and known former fighting dogs, especially pit bulls and mixes. I also know what a dog’s teeth are meant to do and capable of doing in its wild state—to puncture and tear flesh in order to kill prey, then to dismember it with the same teeth. I’ve always tried not to imagine these teeth buried deep into another dog’s lovely shiny nose or the soft droopy skin most dogs have around their lips.
Keep reading…


My Creative Cats Will Be Moving to a New Blog Site Soon…

Work is Fascinating

Work is Fascinating

Me and my creative cats will be moving our blogspace to our own website! Being in the WordPress community has been wonderful, but it will be so much easier when all my images and essays are right there, in the same folder. “Today“, my photo blog, will be moving as well and integrating with my main photo gallery, and eventually my “Marketplace” will be set up as a blog, too. I’m not sure what the addresses will be, but I’ll post that as soon as I have them set up. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to move all my messages to the new blog, so eventually everything will be there and I’ll close this one down, or just leave it with a message for everyone who has me bookmarked, or is signed up to receive the message automatically, or reads me in a reader, or however else everyone finds me! Thanks for visiting, and if you get a chance, please write a comment or send an e-mail.


Help to Avoid Feline Breast Cancer by Spaying Early

Poor Mimi doesn't even get a break to eat.

Poor Mimi doesn't even get a break to eat.

Mimi, above, arrived in my home on July 30, 2007, with four black fuzzballs who were three days into this existence. To my knowledge, she was about four years old and had had several litters of kittens, though this litter would be her last. Incidentally, this is the Fanciful Four, who are often pictured here, at their inglorious beginnings.

I frequently give Mimi’s belly a little extra rub top to bottom, not because she likes it, but because I like her.

Feline breast cancer is the third most common cancer among cats after lymphoma and skin cancer. In a 2005 study done at the University of Pennsylvania, “cats spayed prior to 6 months had a 91% reduction…those spayed prior to one year had an 86% reduction in the risk of mammary carcinoma development compared with intact cats.” Spaying between 1 and 2 years of age only reduces the risk by 11%, and after two years it doesn’t reduce the risk at all. Actually giving birth to kittens doesn’t change the risk factors, either. The average age of diagnosis is 12 years.

While breast cancer in cats is more common than in humans, it is far less common than it is in dogs, but cats have the highest malignancy rate and the lowest survival rate of all three.

That myth that “it’s good to let a cat have a litter of kittens” has no basis in fact, and can be a death sentence since spaying your cat before it even goes into heat the first time is the best way to avoid breast cancer, not to mention reducing the risks of injury and disease a cat faces while out carousing.

And those of us who have rescued cats or adopted cats who have borne even one litter would be wise to keep an eye open for symptoms.

Recently, friends of mine rescued a “torbie”, or tortoiseshell tabby kitty, from a warehouse in a grim section of town. She was unspayed and had apparently had several litters of kittens, though who knew what had happened to them.

The urgency to rescue stemmed from her living conditions and the fact that she appeared pregnant at that time. It turned out that she was not pregnant, but may have recently been nursing kittens as her abdomen from chest to hips felt symmetrically lumpy and her stomach was a little bloated; this may have also been mastitis or symptoms of heat. The spay went fine and she was back on her feet in no time, the abdominal abnormalities disappearing completely. They estimated her age was about 4 years.

Despite dodging forklifts and semis, she is both charming and mischievious, acting as if she’s always lived indoors, and teaching the young’uns how to steal food, which had never occurred to any of them. In a cat, charming + mischievious = intelligent and manipulative, and they practically have to hang the cat food from the ceiling to keep her from getting into it and threatening to burst her stripes.

A year or so after she joined their household, one of them felt lumps on her torso/belly when they picked her up and thought the lumps felt “different/odd/new/wrong”. Taking a good guess that this was pretty serious, they took her to the vet and discovered that she had feline mammary cancer. The vet guessed her age at six or seven then, a little older than the first guess. One surgery and a course of chemotherapy later and she was fine, but they’ll keep checking for the rest of her life because she had a little relapse about two years after the initial surgery. [I am sad to say that Callie’s cancer returned and she lost her battle on February 11, 2010. I will write about her as soon as her people have been able to work through some of their grief.]

That monthly mini-exam is a good practice for any animal guardian to undertake, just running your hands over your cat’s body feeling for lumps or bumps or cuts or any abnormality that has simply shown up. Check for tender spots, look closely for any change in movement, study your cat’s eyes and even smell its breath. Of course, you may end up with your nose surgically removed since many cats don’t care for being handled, especially in vulnerable areas like the belly, but do your best without too much bloodshed.

And especially for those girls, check for any changes in those eight mammary glands, which are usually completely symmetrical and slightly reducing in size from chest to hips. Look for changes in the nipples or any discharge, uneven lumps or swelling and tender spots. At least we humans only have two mammary glands to worry about.

Sally

Sally

When I started this exam routine years ago, I found a small lump on my Sally’s belly and made a special appointment with the veterinarian to get what I was sure was a horrifying diagnosis. I wrung my cold and trembling hands as my veterinarian felt the area of Sally’s belly I’d indicated, only to learn that it was scar tissue on her spay scar. So, get to know her spay scar, which is usually tiny but may contain a little hardened scar tissue, and it may also be a site of cancerous growth, so check for changes.

Mimi, wonder mom of the Curious Quartet and quite a few others, gets her little exam at least once a week. Kelly, too, was a rescued feral and apparently gave birth to a few litters of little Kellies. I’m not certain of her age, but she was likely between 1 and 2 when she came to me, and she’s been with me since 1997 so she’s at least 13 years old. It’s taken Kelly years to find a certain comfort level with people though she is very friendly, and the regular tummy exam is a little weird for her but she has grown to enjoy it.

For more information on the disease and treatment, reference these two articles: Association between ovarihysterectomy and feline mammary carcinoma, http://www.biomedexperts.com/Abstract.bme/16095174/Association_between_ovarihysterectomy_and_feline_mammary_carcinoma, and Mammary Cancer in Cats, http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&A=2445&S=2

It used to be that six months, the approximate age a cat reached sexual maturity, was the best time to spay a cat. There were two problems with this. First, cats often went into heat before this age to the surprise of their owners who thought Fluffy’s biological alarm clock wasn’t set for four months. Second, people wanted to adopt young kittens and were sent home with an assurance of a free or low-cost spay for Fluffy included in the cost of adoption. Somehow, Fluffy wouldn’t get back in time, sometimes never.

Most shelters now spay and neuter cats when they reach two pounds, about eight to ten weeks, and they are not available for adoption until then. They recover quickly and are still cute kittens, frisky and full of fun, and no one needs to worry about their biological clocks.

If you’ve taken in a stray or adopted a kitten who is not spayed or neutered, there’s no question that spaying or neutering is expensive. Here are a few options to help keep it affordable. All programs have an application process with an income level that determines the final price of your cat’s surgery. In many cases the surgery alone can be done for under $50.00.

In Pittsburgh, you can contact Carol Whaley of the Low Cost Spay/Neuter Program (LCSN) at Animal Friends at 1.800.SPAY.PGH or cwhaley@ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org or on their website at www.thingkingoutsidethecage.org.

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society has a three-level program that includes spay/neuter as well as vaccinations and microchipping, detailed at http://www.wpahumane.org/Spaying.html. Call the
North Shore Shelter ay 412-321-4625 X 157  or email questions spay.neuter@wpahumane.org

The Animal Rescue League sets aside one day a month for low-cost spay and neuter for which you must make an appointment, and they fill up fast so don’t wait. The information can be found on their website at http://www.animalrescue.org/cms/name/Veterinary+Clinic+Spay+and+Neuter or call 412-661-6452 x 211 or x223.

Many shelters in the counties around Allegheny also offer deals like those above.

Outside of the shelters, the Spay Neuter Clinic at the corner of Frankstown and Rodi Roads always offers low-cost spay and neuter as well as other basic services. Call 412-244-1202 for information and an appointment, or visit their website at http://www.spayaz.com/Home_Page.html. The practice is actually one of several which originated in Arizona specifically for the purpose of low-cost spay/neuter, so most of the information is about those offices, but you’ll find the Pittsburgh office with a phone number, and, most importantly, you can download their price list.

And outside of the Pittsburgh area, you can do a search on Low Cost Neuter and Spay at http://neuterspay.org/ (search by city, not zip code, it’s more successful), Love That Cat at http://www.lovethatcat.com/spayneuter.html, or Spay USA at http://www.spayusa.org/.


Perhaps the storm is finally over

Hurricane Katrina, Namir, a household of cats and my personal creative inspiration

"Awakening", block print

"Awakening", block print

I remember the night Katrina was headed toward New Orleans, partly scoffing at the hyperactive media reports and partly worried that the storm of the century really was heading for the Gulf Coast and knowing that, if it did, many people, most people, would not take it seriously. For all the dire warnings, natural disasters rarely fulfill their potential so it’s easy to sit back and wait for a while, much easier to stay in the place where you feel the most safe and guard the things you hold most dear; just stay home. At the beginning, we can never know the final impact, or what the disaster will encompass.

And sometimes a public event marks a time or a circumstance in your life, in fact stands as a metaphor for your circumstances, even though it has no connection with you or your life at all;  yet, whenever you encounter a remembrance of that event, it brings back that time in your life as if it was a slideshow playing for your review.

I don’t have a television. I heard about the storm on the radio and read about it on the internet, then visited The Weather Channel to actually look at the meteorology of it. I would naturally avoid all the hype of 24-hour news stations making a story out of possibly nothing in the slow news flow of late August.

The only reason I saw any television coverage was because it was on in the waiting room of the animal emergency hospital where I was waiting for the diagnosis of Namir’s sudden, frightening condition. I paced all night long between visits from the attending veterinarian as they x-rayed, blood tested and medicated Namir, then placed him in an oxygen cage. The veterinarian’s face was blank to grim, though no final word was given until nearly dawn.

Sophie, "The Perfect Camouflage"

Sophie, "The Perfect Camouflage"

I’d noticed that he wasn’t his goofy self for a few days, just subdued, then on that day he had begun crouching on the floor instead of sitting on my lap or my desk. I noticed his breathing was shallow, he wouldn’t eat dinner. He had had a compromising bladder condition for several years so I always observed his activity and took action with whatever seemed appropriate, but these symptoms were not indicating that condition. He looked up at me imploringly in the evening, those lovely, slanted, gentle tourmaline eyes telling me this was serious. I called the emergency hospital, packed him in a carrier and drove with cold, stiff fingers and my own shallow breathing, knowing this was not good.

Kublai, "Are You Looking at Me?"

Kublai, "Are You Looking at Me?"

As the veterinarian and technicians went through their paces and I watched Katrina spin toward New Orleans, I was sure, in my middle-of-the-night fearfulness, that the world was really coming to an end. I took hope for both New Orleans and Namir when the storm was reduced to a Category 4 sometime in those hours; even the smallest improvement could have a vast positive outcome.

Yet as the dawn began to open details in the black outside the windows the veterinarian told me that Namir had developed congestive heart failure through hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. I fully understood the detailed explanation the vet gave me, following his sketches and descriptions in my own visual language, visualizing Namir’s damaged heart inside his delicate feline chest, struggling to move the blood through but not quite moving all of it every time, the blood circling and swishing around in the chamber, the walls thickening, the fluids building up instead of washing away. I understood that Namir was in very serious condition, that the condition could not be cured.

The hospital closed at 7:00 a.m. being only for overnight emergencies, but in the same rooms the specialty clinic opened at 8:00 a.m. Namir would stay there and see a doctor who specialized in his condition the next day, have more comprehensive diagnostic tests done.

Namir's "Bedroom Eyes"

Namir's "Bedroom Eyes"

They allowed me to say goodbye to him in the oxygen cage. I couldn’t touch him, and he didn’t come to the window but crouched close to it with an IV in one leg and several shaved patches and looked at me with those same eyes, but instead of the worry, near panic, I’d seen earlier, I saw hope, and perhaps he saw the sadness and fear in my eyes temper with it. We would work together on this, no matter what happened.

Katrina was reaching landfall as I drove home through the growing dawn and early morning traffic and I equated the gray misty light with the howling gray images I’d seen of New Orleans and elsewhere along the coast, pondering the veterinarian’s prognosis of Namir’s recovery: about a month with no treatment, six months with medication and careful observation, perhaps a year if we were lucky. Even with recovery his quality of life might not be optimal, he might actually experience a lot of discomfort and even great pain. I would know more the next day after an ultrasound and other tests.

Stanley, "After Dinner Nap"

Stanley, "After Dinner Nap"

In August 2005, I was occasionally dosing Stanley with sub-q fluids for chronic kidney failure, but he was overall well—amazing for being somewhere past 20. All the others were fine, Moses at 19, Sophie at 16, Cookie at 13, Kelly at 9, and even the two new senior fosters, Peaches and Cream, estimated at 15, were adjusting well.

In the following year I would lose four members of my household, my four oldest cats, and three of them my oldest friends, Moses, then Cream, then Sophie and finally Stanley, and shortly after Stanley, the kitten I’d taken in and simply adored after all that loss, Lucy, at 15 months.

Lucy, Pink and Gray

Lucy, Pink and Gray

Namir lived almost four years with his condition, and hardly evidenced any discomfort though he hated his twice-daily medications and needed to stop back at the emergency hospital for a tune-up now and then. I don’t know how many times in those four years I said, “Namir was first diagnosed with congestive heart failure the night Katrina hit New Orleans…” Namir and I certainly had a better outcome and what we experienced in no way compares with what happened there, but whenever I hear about Hurricane Katrina I remember that night when my own storm began, my own little life inexorably pulled apart by circumstances beyond my household’s control, but in much the same way as the aftermath of Katrina it was the hidden reserves of strength that determined the final outcome, individuals pooling and sharing their strength and supporting each other.

Cookie, "The Goddess"

Cookie, "The Goddess"

I heeded my own natural disaster as best I could with the warnings I was given. Now I hope that my storm is finally over for a while. I know that I will have losses again, and with older cats likely I’ll have a few illnesses to treat. Even though Peaches hasn’t seemed to age a day since she came here and can still jump right up onto the kitchen island where she eats, she is 19 years old. Cookie hasn’t seemed to age since she was about 3, but I can see her slowing down and experiencing a little hearing difficulty, though we act as if we don’t notice. Little Kelly, who has to be at least 13, hasn’t shown any diminishing of ability and it’s hard to imagine her as a senior. My “Golden Girls” as I classify them…And I now have a big jump in age to Mimi, who is likely 6, then her kids, who just turned 2, though as I learned with Lucy and FIP that illness and death have no recognition of age.

After all this I was surprised I haven’t been in pain over Namir’s loss, considering the big personality he was and how close we were. He left strict instructions with “the kids” on my care and feeding, however, and I have never felt alone since Namir’s been gone—I’ll be writing more about this later, now that I have a perspective. But it hasn’t been just Namir’s loss, but all the others, too, all of them together, through it all knowing that I’d lose Namir, too, and finally I feel that process is complete.

Moses, "A Rosy Glow"

Moses, "A Rosy Glow"

The one thing I can’t avoid is that in two months I haven’t done much that’s creative—no blog entries, no new poetry, I’ve had to drag myself into my studio and still I’ve only done one piece of artwork, only a few photo sessions and all the other things I’ve done daily for years to keep my creative intellect in shape have just been neglected.

I know why that is. That’s the very core of myself, and in opening myself up to those creative experiences I leave myself vulnerable to hurt. It’s easy just to live on the surface as if floating on clear water, able to look at the beauty of the depths but frightened to go there, even though the risk, the plunge, the exploration and the return with new insights to share far outweighs any pain that might be experienced in the endeavor.

Now that the deepest part of my grief has passed, I’m ready to finish and fulfill the things I’ve planned, and to move on with new things. The hardest part of grief is letting go and feeling that who and what you leave behind will be forgotten, but we leave behind and let go in a million ways every day without ever knowing. Namir came to me one year after I lost the love of my life, my Kublai, and if I had kept myself closed off and held on to Kublai’s memory for fear of his being forgotten, I would never have known Namir, which would have done none of the three of us any good, or any other of the foster cats who became loves, or the people or the places I’ve known and experienced since then.

So I’m a little out of shape, but it’s never taken me too long to get back into it before. I love this time of year, and probably most inspired by it, when summer changes to autumn and I can feel the pace of life slowing a little.

And I have a wonderful feline portrait with which to begin my new season. I’ll post the first update in a day or two and update the images and other thoughts regularly.