May Catnip Chronicles

tortoiseshell cat

Mysterious Kelly

You should be reading Catnip Chronicles every month already, but go and read the May issue featuring about two dozen articles of feline health and lifestyle and photos of lovely cats, and I’m always proud that there’s an article or two of mine published there.

This month features parts one and two of Kelly’s rescue story, “A Little Bit About Kelly”. Especially this month, as many stray and feral kittens enter the world, Kelly’s early life is a poignant story featured this month in Catnip Chronicles.

You can subscribe to receive Catnip Chronicles in your e-mail every month, and also connect with Facebook.

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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.


Who Was That Namir, Anyway?

cat sleeping

A Blissful Namir.

Who was Kelly’s soul-mate, this cat named “Namir” who she met and still remembers?

I’m certain Namir had a pretty frightening kittenhood, but the wonderful woman who rescued both him and Kelly related it to me in such a humorous way it actually seemed fun, and it is all I know about his rescue.

A little gray and white kitten visited the house where she lived while in college and she realized after watching him that he seemed to live at the fraternity down the street. Not certain if he had just wandered there to hang out with the guys or if they had actually adopted him, she started feeding the kitten when he visited because, as she said, she was “sure they were feeding him mashed potatoes and beer.”

photo of Namir

Namir, photo © B.E.Kazmarski

She’d only lived with dogs before but came to adore the friendly and affectionate little kitten. Christmas break came and she offered to take care of the kitten while they were away and…just never managed to give him back. And possibly because he was suddenly neutered he really didn’t care for that carefree lifestyle anymore. Oh, and the food, that was definitely a plus over the bachelor diet of mashed potatoes and beer.

He wasn’t very cat-like at the time, no playing, no bathing, but she’d never owned a cat so she didn’t notice because he was really friendly and affectionate, enjoying brushings and being carried around. But he also had some specifically cat-like traits such as removing the screens from windows, opening locked doors and finding any other means of escape. He just needed a way to find a small rodent to sacrifice and bring its head to his human as proof of his gratitude for rescuing him, or perhaps as a threat to what might befall her should she fall from grace, she was never certain which it might be.

When she graduated and began working, her friends convinced her that Namir needed a buddy rather than staying home alone, so she went to the shelters and asked for “the next cat in line for euthanasia,” and that was how Kelly came to be a part of their lives.

Namir’s angry reaction to coming here and to me was a big surprise considering how friendly he’d always been with everyone in every situation, but I understood that he growled at me because I was the one who had taken away his mom, and he was one deeply devoted cat. How to explain the situation to him? His heart was broken by this abandonment and betrayal, and only time would help him heal, as I knew myself after losing Kublai, the black cat who I always call the love of my life, the year before, and still felt the twinges of his loss.

namir's bedroom eyes

Namir's "bedroom eyes".

Months passed, he and Kelly finally began exploring the upstairs and then the downstairs and for a while he treated guests with more affection than he treated me. But a heart as loving as Namir’s can’t hold out forever and one day he gave me one of his affectionate swats on the elbow as I walked past him, gave me his squinty look that was a mock dare, and we were buddies.

And as for that name…she had explained that a friend had suggested it to her because it meant “swift cat”, referring to the grace of his movements. I have found that it does mean “swift cat” in Persian languages, not Hebrew as she thought, but in Hebrew it seems to mean “leopard” or “spotted”.

gray and white cat in the sun

Sunwashed Namir

Well, he may have been gray and white on the outside, but I knew that underneath that common coat was a long feline heritage of Oriental influence. I always said he was a prince who had been painted at birth, seeing the long legs with oval paws, muscular torso and rising curved back, the long sweeping tail with the slight angled kink at the end that showed when he was curious, the large upright cupped ears. And he often sat or stood with his right paw lifted and crossed over his left leg, which I thought was simply cute until I did a portrait of two Abyssinian cats and learned that is a particular trait of Abys.

As I’ve mentioned, Namir was the inspiration for beginning this blog, and is the kitty in the header. He had a long list of medical conditions by that time, idiopathic cystitis, herpes in his bladder, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, I told him he just liked to use big words, and while nothing slowed him down his care was constant and complicated. At the beginning, being new to blogging, I didn’t feel that writing about his many conditions and his care was appropriate. By the time I finally felt comfortable he was at his end and I didn’t have the time to share him while he was alive, or to relate his illness and care in a way that would benefit others.

watercolor of a cat in kitchen

Darling Clementine, watercolor © B.E. Kazmarski

During my period of grieving him, I decided what I would do with this venue and my cats within it and began posting articles more and more frequently, and introducing my cats. When Peaches was diagnosed the following spring with chronic renal failure I began immediately to write about the disease, her treatment, and our experience from that point, through the course of the illness to her death that autumn.

I still miss that goofball, but he left behind so much of himself in what I’m doing today that I remember him with fondness every time I open The Creative Cat. And of course he was a great friend to Cookie as they became my most recent feline garden sprites.

I wrote a remembrance of him on my website after he died, My Good Friend, Namir. I also post an article about him each year around his birthday, Not a Bad Deal on a Pre-owned Cat, and he inspired what I feel is one of my best articles, the first I wrote with the intent of what to do with this new blog, Perhaps the Storm is Finally Over.

And we haven’t hear—or seen—the last of him!

Read other rescue stories and stories of my cats featured here on The Creative Cat.

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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.


April Catnip Chronicles

close up photo of a black cat

Mimi tells her story.

You should be reading Catnip Chronicles every month already, but go and read the April issue featuring about two dozen articles of feline health and lifestyle and photos of lovely cats, and I’m always proud that there’s an article or two of mine published there.

Because I can’t stress often enough the importance of spay and neuter on The Creative Cat, Mimi once again tries to convince we poor misguided humans that, although her kittens were all perfect in every way, the world already has enough perfect kittens, and not only that, Mimi Says, “I Love Being Spayed”. Take it from a cat who knows,  featured this month in Catnip Chronicles.

You can subscribe to receive Catnip Chronicles in your e-mail every month, and also connect with Facebook.

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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.


A Little Bit About Kelly, Part 5: Home

cat sleeping on rocker

Kelly on the rocker, in the corner of the spare cat room.

Namir had a habit that really upset me at first, until I grew to love him and understand his deep compassion and understand…his occasionally bizarre sense of humor. He would suddenly reach out and swat me, sometimes really hard, and he never said anything afterward, just looked at me with his big oval eyes. I would cringe and begin to retreat into myself as he stared at me, then turned around and walked away. Afterward he was fine. I had known cats who simply hit other cats just to hurt them, and I was often the one who was hit so I learned to hide.

But this was Namir, he loved me, I knew that. He would never just hurt me, and something about the way he looked at me made me think about his motivation. I surprised myself after one incident.

Don’t hit me like that!

His stare changed to his slanty-eyed blink and he came over and gave me a quick, vigorous bath around my head, then hit me again, but just a tap. I hit him back, just a tap of my own.

You’re learning, Kelly.

gray and white cat at mirror

Namir was a little different.

I did learn. I learned to trust, even though my first response was often fear, I learned to put that aside and remember this was my soul brother Namir and he would never hurt me. Odd that he had to use physical means to teach me this, but I would not have learned it any other way; I know because he tried all the other means of love and affection but I had to come to the realization myself. He would still hit me now and then when he was feeling full of himself, but I understood it was just Namir being Namir, and often we would have a fun wrestling match. This was what I had seen my babies do, and here I was, a mature kitty, playing like a kitten.

I was grateful for this lesson when I entered the next chapter of my life, my final home, my final person, and my family of feline siblings.

Another journey

The human who had carried me out of the cage place with all the other animals had been planning something, even I knew that. People came and went, and paid special attention to Namir and me. I was very shy and did not come out to meet them, but I did not fight if they came to see me under the bed. But they always went away.

Then one horrible day she put me and Namir into the noisy moving box and off we went. She carried us from the moving box into another place similar to where we had lived, but I could smell and hear so many cats there, and it was completely different from the one we had just left. We were placed in a room with another person’s stuff and the door was closed, and our human and another human stood talking. I started to look and sniff around, but Namir was really, really mad and hit me several times, even growling at me—this was not Namir trying to teach me a lesson, this was a Namir I didn’t even know existed. I ran to hide underneath something safe and did not come back out, even when our person laid down on the floor and begged me. She left and I decided I’d just stay there until she came back. Namir, looking out the window, growled again.

She left in the moving box.

I didn’t know what to think. Neither did Namir. The other human came back in to talk to us, gesturing toward the food and water, which we could easily see, and the litterbox. Did she think we were fools? We knew what to do with those.

Then she came to pet us. Namir growled at her, even yowling, and took a big swat, claws out. He missed her hand and she withdrew it, still talking softly, but Namir would have none of it. That frightened me even more, and confused me. This human seemed just as nice as our human. I wasn’t ready to be friendly, but I’d give her a chance. But my first allegiance was to Namir, and I would follow his direction. When she laid down on the floor and looked in at me, talking and slowly moving her hand toward me I froze, simply not knowing what to do.

Namir decided we’d wait for our human to come back, we’d eat and drink and use the box, but we wanted no parts of this new human and all the other cats who were communicating through the door. We established a pattern of action, being friends with each other when the door was closed and we were in there, but I hid and Namir growled whenever she entered. We ignored the cats outside the door.

I don’t know how much time went by, but our human did not return. We saw the seasons change outside the window, from the yellow leaves to the snow to the longer days of spring and still she did not return. Our new human continued to be nice to us, spent time quietly doing her thing in the room sometimes but mostly left us alone.

white cat in sun

Sally.

Then one day she opened the door and left it open. Several other cats came and looked at us and we couldn’t avoid them now. I stayed in my dark spot in the corner but Namir sat in the middle of the room, glaring. Only a pure white long-haired cat came in, boldly walked around, smelled Namir, looked at me, then left; we both got the idea she was not to be messed with. Our human closed the door again.

But each day she opened it, and it was open longer and longer and soon all the other cats were coming in as if they owned the place! Then we learned, little by little, that two of them had begun their time in this place in this very room, and all the others had begun their time with this person in a similar way, though not here. Other cats, who no longer lived here, had also spent time in this room. We began to wonder what would happen to us…

tortoiseshell cat

Cookie.

Why do you stay in here?

A friendly cat, tortoiseshell like me, came in to look at both of us. She talked to Namir. I listened from my safe place.

We are waiting for our person to come back.

Do you have to stay stuck in here while you do that?

We want her to be able to find us. Has anyone else’s person ever come back?

Yes, they have, others, no. Most of us never had people. All of us came from different places. What are you so mad about?

I loved my person. I miss her. I want to go back.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be with us for a while.

But I really loved her, and Kelly is really frightened.

Look, we’re all cats and we can just be together. It took me a while but I love this person, and even if you are waiting for your person to come back, you and Kelly should be with the rest of us.

I cautiously came out and listened to Cookie, and had no idea that she would later be my best friend though I never dreamed we’d even do as much as tap noses.

In time she told us about all the other cats, and as each came in to be with us we learned their stories: Cookie and Sophie, Stanley and Moses, Sally and Fawn and her sister Nikka, who had gone off to live with someone else for a few years and then come back. We learned that there had recently been two other cats who had died just a year before we arrived, and our person still missed them as did the rest of the house.

At first, I did not communicate with the rest of the household directly, but through Namir. There were too many cats for me, and even when I had lived in the dark place with all the other girls I kept to myself. But in time Namir and I, together, began to explore the spaces upstairs. Namir quit growling at the new human, though he did not act friendly.

two cats

Namir and Kelly, the first time they came down the stairs.

One day we went down the stairs together, and that day, somehow, the waiting was over. Whatever happened to us, if our person ever came back or never came back, we realized this was our home for as long as we needed it. We did go back upstairs for a few more nights behind the closed door, and I still hid behind the furniture and didn’t leave myself vulnerable in any way, but each day we were more a part of this new family, and this new person became our person.

Home

cat sleeping in the sun

Gentle Moses was a good friend.

I have lived in this home and family now for fifteen years. When I arrived I was the youngest, now I am the oldest. I had never thought about what my life would be like or had any expectations, I never found a place where I felt secure in who I was as Namir did, and Cookie and Peaches and Moses and all the other cats I came to know and love, until very late in my life, just a few years ago, in fact. I started out so lost and frightened that for years I kept running to hide, even when I no longer needed to, and Namir delivered a lot of swats in our first years here.

Namir came to love our new person as much as he had loved our old person, and I saw him make friends with every human and cat who ever came into the house. Still, even though it wasn’t just him and me, we remained deep soul-mates, always there for each other, even to Namir’s last night in his body. Sometimes I still feel him swat me, even though he’s gone, and I know we will be together again.

tortoiseshell cat

Kelly, quiet time.

And now I realize I have a lifetime of cats to remember and love and look forward to seeing when our spirits meet again, and humans as well, including this human who has always understood my constant conversation, my need to keep moving around the house and my need to find quiet time by myself, and after many years, time with her especially with Peaches and Cookie. Now it’s very strange to have her all to myself, until the black cats come along, but I’ve learned to love her lap and feel safe there. Funny how it took me all my life to get here, but I’m glad I did, finally, find my way home.

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tortoiseshell cat in sun

An introspective Kelly.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the story of Kelly’s rescue and how she came to live in this household of felines and me. She has many stories to tell about getting to know each of the cats who lived here, and making very close friends with a few on her journey of self-awareness.

Kelly has been the sweet, quiet presence you don’t see as often as her more outgoing housemates. I’ve long tried to condense her story, but decided that didn’t do justice to a kitty who’s been through a lot. Because her story is long and involves details of the story of a stray and feral colony along with Kelly’s own long path toward learning to trust humans, I’ll be telling it in several parts over the next few weeks for my Tuesday rescue feature. She has traveled a great emotional and spiritual distance to be the kitty you see today, and who is right now curled in a happy purring ball on my lap, head turned upside down and hugging all her legs together.

Read the first chapters of Kelly’s story:

A Little Bit About Kelly

Part 2: The Rescue

Part 3: Saved At the Last Minute

Part 4: A Friend

And you can find Kelly in photos and sketches and stories all over The Creative Cat.

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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 Little Bit About Kelly, Part 4: A Friend

tortoiseshell cat lookign up

Kelly, photo © B.E. Kazmarski

At first I thought the wire space was better. Things could only get at me from one side and I felt very protected. Here, there was just…everywhere, and the best I could do was find a dark corner underneath something. Mostly under the bed. Food and water and digging box were easy to find, but I waited until everything was dark and quiet for those.

The human was very nice. She was there sometimes and she wasn’t there other times. She got down on the floor and talked to me, and she never tried to touch me, she just seemed to understand I needed my space.

I remembered when she had held me in that last place, and carried me and whispered into my fur and kissed the back of my head. I got the same feeling from her now and I knew that if I came out from under the bed, she would do that again. Oh, how I wished that I was brave enough to come out!

photo of Namir

Namir, photo © B.E.Kazmarski

But I might have stayed under that bed forever if it hadn’t been for the gray and white cat who was there to greet me. He knew I was coming, and he looked right at me as if he knew me when the person let me out of the box.

I felt no danger at all except the space seemed to go on forever, into the outdoors and up into the sky, but I stood in one spot, getting my bearings, aware of the cat on one side of me and the human behind me and this big mass of space all around while the human talked softly and told us each others’ human names.

His name was Namir, and while he was larger than me he was very slender with big ears and a long tail, and there was something different about him from what I remembered from other boy cats. He moved his head around and got as good a look at me as he could get from where he was standing, and then slowly walked toward me, in a few steps coming close enough to sniff me.

Stop shaking, there’s nothing to be scared of.

I turned to look at him. He continued sniffing me, glancing at my face now and then. I had sensed this sort of communication before, but not so clearly. There was only one cat here, and I perceived the message clearly.

I had so much to ask, but all I could do was watch him as he slowly moved around me and thoroughly sniffed me. I was getting more frightened by the moment, not of him or the person, just because there was this huge space all around me and I felt very vulnerable.

Suddenly, I couldn’t stand there, I had to find a safe place and I ran to the farthest spot I could see, ending up under a bed where I spent most of the first two weeks in my new life with humans.

cat's nose looking

Namir peeks at Kelly.

I was grateful the digging box and food and water were moved into that room when I rolled myself in a ball in my dark safe place and would not move or even look at them. The human came to visit regularly, but Namir stayed with me much of the time and we began a series of long conversations and long silences that lasted all our lives together.

What are you afraid of?

It’s so big.

At night when the human was sleeping, or during the day when she was not there, I began to follow Namir and creep to the edge of my enclosure, then step out from underneath, a paw at a time, slowly, and look around, then explore the space I was in and discovered it really didn’t go on forever. Then Namir would walk outside of the space to another and eventually I followed him and found all the edges. Nothing could get me.

The human is a very good human. Most humans are.

I know she’s good. I just don’t know what to do when she’s around.

I’ll show you.

When the human visited Namir began to walk around her and rub himself on her, and she ran her hands all over him and kissed him on the face. Then she picked something up and moved it toward him and I wanted to tell him to watch! It seemed dangerous, but she rubbed that on his fur instead of using her hand and he liked that even better. In fact, he made a real fool of himself rolling on the floor and running around while she rubbed him with it. He looked at me upside down with a couple of his legs in the air, his fur was beautiful and I could hear him purring and he didn’t need to tell me what I was supposed to know from this.

You’re a goof.

He squinted at me and purred.

photo of a cat on refrigerator

I've never felt safe on the floor.

I felt safe to come out from my place when the human came to visit me, and though I didn’t touch her I didn’t mind being close to her, as long as Namir was there.

Kelly, I’m so happy to see you!

She tried to pet me and I almost let it happen, but ran at the last minute. Namir ran after me.

Don’t run away!

But I’m scared! I’m not ready!

Well get ready!

Why!

Because…because, I want her to like you!

But she does, she tells me all the time.

But so do I!

What does that have to do with her?

I just like you, and I want all of us to like each other.

I didn’t really understand this. What was “like”?

Just let her touch you next time. You’ll make her so happy. It’s good to make humans happy. We should all be happy.

“Happy” was another concept I didn’t quite understand.

Trust me, just let her touch you, you’ll feel how happy she is through her hand.

The next time she tried to touch me, I stood still and closed my eyes and let her. Namir was right, I could feel a warm and wonderful feeling right through her hand. I remembered being held and kissed. This was going to be okay.

tortie cat bathing belly

Kelly bathing her belly.

But I had a question for him.

Why don’t you ever bathe?

Bathe? You mean that thing you do all the time where you lick yourself all over? Why would I do that?

All cats do, that’s why!

I lick my paws, I wipe food off my face, and I clean myself after the box.

But why don’t you wash all over?

I’ve never really seen a cat do that until you.

I remembered him telling me that he didn’t remember his mother at all, and his first memories were living with a bunch of loud and dirty humans who were nonetheless  very nice to him. I guess that’s where he learned to trust humans though I think I would have run away! Then he came to live with this human, and he’d never lived with another cat.

Let me show you how to do this.

I love to wash myself. Sometimes I do it just for fun. I gave myself a thorough bath while he watched.

Yuck.

I went over and began to wash him, it was just the most natural thing to do. We had always washed each other when we lived in the basement, all cats did that. He moved back but I followed and he let me lick him on the face and shoulder. I realized that although he had guided me around with a push or a light swat of his paw we had hardly ever touched.

That’s nice.

Gllmfnmm.

I couldn’t understand that.

You’re really dirty. I have a lot of work to do.

Namir liked his bath, and our human made a happy human noise when she watched me do this. I went back to washing myself and he observed me, and then he started to lick himself. Bathtime became a part of our regular daily routine, though Namir always made fun of my quick little baths in between.

tortie cat with blue ribbon

Kelly With the Blue Ribbon Snake

Another day I was feeling bold and ran over and swatted a little mouse, tossed it in the air, pounced on it and kicked it and chased it some more. I heard our human make a happy human noise again and that made me happy. Then I remembered myself.

Kelly, are you okay?

I’m fine. What’s the matter?

Well, you were just acting as if you were possessed.

I was playing. That’s what those fake mice are for. I’ve killed real ones, but you have to keep in practice. Namir, I’ve never seen you play!

Play? Like that? I push those things around now and then, and it’s cool when the round ones roll a little bit. But I’ve never made a fool of myself like that. We don’t have to kill mice, and I’ve killed mice, those don’t look anything like them.

It looks like I have something else to teach you.

So I demonstrated over and over and even tossed toys at Namir, and so did our human who seemed to understand what I was doing, until eventually he caught one and I could see it all came together.

tortoiseshell cat plays with catnip toy

Kelly teaches the catnip candy cane a lesson.

Kelly, did you notice something.

What, Namir?

You’re out in the middle of the room on your back with a toy, and the human is right there.

I looked at him. I looked at her. I clutched my toy and bit and kicked it. I hadn’t noticed, but it was okay. I let the human touch me all the time and I could always feel the good feeling in her hand. I had known from the beginning she was a good human but didn’t know how to let her know I knew until Namir showed me. I had known from the beginning Namir was my friend and that he always would be. I had the feeling this was “happy”.

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The woman who adopted Kelly did indeed have Namir at home waiting for a buddy. She worked for a company I freelanced with and I heard about the two on a regular basis, hearing about Namir’s housing with a fraternity when she was in college and Kelly later teaching him “how to be a cat”. The woman had always lived with dogs and didn’t find it at all strange when Namir didn’t bathe or play with cat toys and I could tell by the way she talked about them and the stories she e-mailed to me that she was thoroughly charmed by them both.

I wrote this section from the stories she related, and did my best to understand the actions of a frightened and traumatized feline. After all, Kelly had one more stop to make, and that was to my house where for a while she regressed to the frightened, glowing kitty eyes under the bed.

We live near Pittsburgh. Their person was accepted into a graduate degree program in California and would be living on someone’s couch for a while if not for the duration. We tried for months to find foster or adoptive homes for them, preferably together, to no avail, so in October 1997 I agreed to take them to foster until I found homes or she came back. She ended up going from Berkeley to Europe and we decided the kids belonged with me.

We have one more chapter, next week, when she moves in with me, a setback in her progress, but eventually she settles in and becomes the Kelly you know today and relates being the baby in a house full of “really old cats”. And it sounds as if we’ll have to talk about Namir at some point as well.

tortoiseshell cat curled sleeping

Kelly Really Sleeping

Kelly has been the sweet, quiet presence you don’t see as often as her more outgoing housemates. I’ve long tried to condense her story, but decided that didn’t do justice to a kitty who’s been through a lot. Because her story is long and involves details of the story of a stray and feral colony along with Kelly’s own long path toward learning to trust humans, I’ll be telling it in several parts over the next few weeks for my Tuesday rescue feature. She has traveled a great emotional and spiritual distance to be the kitty you see today, and who is right now curled in a happy purring ball on my lap, head turned upside down and hugging all her legs together.

Read all the chapters of Kelly’s story:

A Little Bit About Kelly

Part 2: The Rescue

Part 3: Saved At the Last Minute

Part 4: A Friend

Part 5: Home

 

And you can find Kelly in photos and sketches and stories all over The Creative Cat.

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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 Little Bit About Kelly, Part 3: Saved at the Last Minute

tortoiseshell cat in front of window

Kelly ponders things by her favorite window.

For quite some time I wasn’t so sure my next stop was much better than where I’d been. I was in another wire thing not much bigger than the one the lady had carried me in when we left the other place, and though I had my babies with me we had no safe place to nest. You could see right in, humans walked around all the time and I could see and hear and smell many, many other cats, and off in the distance I could hear dogs! When I looked straight ahead all I saw were more cats in more wire things, some with babies, some without, all of us pretty unhappy.

My frequent urge to talk about things, mostly to myself, became a loud wailing that I could not control at first. I was just pouring out my fear and confusion, my life had always been one frightening experience and another and I had no control over any of it. Worst, I felt I couldn’t even keep my babies safe. I cried and cried until people came to me and though they seemed comforting I ran to hide in the corner, being silent and making myself as small as possible. When they left I began crying again until it seemed I frightened even my babies. Finally, I curled with them and licked them talked to them as they nursed. What would become of us?

To shield my three babies from all these things that were new and frightening to me I used everything that was available to me, covering them with blankets and papers, putting them behind the digging box and even just shoving them in the corner and pressing myself against them while I turned my back on all those horrors.

The difference here was that, although all the humans were big and loud and smelly, they were all, well, nice. There were humans I saw all the time, and others who I never saw again, but I never felt any anger or danger from them as I had with many other humans, though I didn’t like when they touched me and my babies. I hid myself in the corner and couldn’t stop trembling whenever they approached.

The problem with kittens is that they just aren’t afraid, and it takes a good cat mom to keep them under control and teach them right from wrong. But they kept escaping from my careful nests and running around the little place, and people would stop and look at them and make happy people noises. I will admit, my babies were the most beautiful babies I had ever seen, all my babies were, but those human faces were so big and humans are so loud! I just had to run to my corner and hide my face and hope for the best.

So concerned at first that I wouldn’t be able to feed myself, I was very grateful for the food that was always available, without any worry in finding it under a porch or catching and killing something around the place. And between that bowl of food and bowl of water, and the digging box in the corner that I suddenly remembered being taught to use, I envisioned just a little bit of a memory of being a kitten myself, with my mother, and in a place with people, and being very happy.

My kittens were now at the stage when they grew very fast and became as agile as adults and the little place was hardly big enough for all four of us. Humans would come along and actually open the door and take them out—my babies, in humans’ hands! But any mother understands praise of her children in any language, and I could tell the humans were admiring their beauty and sweetness, and though I still kept myself in the back of the place, I watched with pride as humans cooed and kissed them. One by one, I said goodbye and watched them go off with humans, while those humans I’d come to know would try to pet me and always speak softly and comfortingly to me.

At least I felt my babies were now safe, and I could just disappear. I had no interest in living in this strange world of meowing cats and barking dogs. I didn’t even try to escape because I barely remembered anything I might want to run to. I just sat in the back of the little room all day, facing away from everything outside. Even the day soon after my last baby left when someone actually took me from the space and something very awful and unexplainable happened, I awoke in another place feeling as if I’d been in a horrible fight with such pain in my abdomen, I didn’t fight when they took me back to the little room. I just huddled in my corner, managed the deep pain and eventually felt better.

Much time passed, I have no idea how long. All the cats around me left and more came in, even the humans changed. Other kittens and cats appeared in my cage and tried to be friends with me, but I paid no attention. Sometimes humans stopped to look at me but I pressed my face into the corner, squeezed my eyes shut tight and even held my breath until they left. If I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me. If I acted as if I didn’t exist, they would leave. But now and then my cage door would open and I felt hands on me, even lifting me out and holding me. One of the familiar humans would always make comforting noises for me and all the humans were very gentle. Over and over I would hear the story about the cats who were “rescued” from the basement, how I had come in with kittens, all the parts of my own story, even some that weren’t right. But I didn’t care, and I always ended up back in the little space.

Until one day when one of the people who had handled me and put me back in the cage actually came back later. I knew her by her voice and then by her smell, and she was very kind and soft and I knew right away she’d never ever hurt me, though I was still trembling and hid my face against her.

I don’t understand, she’s so pretty, didn’t anyone else want her?

Lots of people have looked at her, but she just rolls up in a ball and trembles and you can’t blame a person for adopting a cat who’s friendly instead. Like I told you, we love this little girl, she’s been here for months and she’s just scared. We keep hoping she’ll open up and trust us. You can see, she’s just trembling while you hold her, but she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, she’s never hissed or growled, never tried to scratch or bite anyone, ever. And when no one’s looking, I guess it’s when she feels safe, she talks to herself! It’s really cute, she just keeps up a running conversation. And she’s always washing herself, it seems to keep her calm. We just know there’s another cat inside her.

How does she feel about other cats? I did mention I have another cat—he’s really friendly, but I’m working so much a friend told me he needed a buddy to keep him company. That’s why I’m adopting. What do you think?

She came in with kittens and was a very good mother. While she’s been here we’ve tried introducing other cats to her cage, from kittens to cats her own age to older cats who are pretty mellow. She never tried to hit them or anything, but she just stayed in her corner. I still think she’s just scared and she’ll never change while she’s here, but if she got out of this shelter into a nice quiet house I think she’d be fine. I’d just hate to see such a nice kitty…we’d just like to see her have a chance.

So she’s kind of “next in line”? I had decided I would adopt “the next kitty in line”, meaning this would be the cat’s last day, just because I knew it would be hard to choose one and I could at least save a life. You mean she’s…

I hate to say it, I’m not trying to scare you, but yes, we have to have this cage for tomorrow. We’ve been getting litters of kittens with mothers in here every day, we have them in bathrooms, in peoples’ offices, even a few foster homes and more keep coming in. It won’t stop again until fall.

And her name is “Kelly”? Where did she get that name?

I don’t know, I think someone here just chose it for her.

Well, it’s a nice name, I might change it.

So you’ll adopt her?

After all that I can’t leave her here.

I felt the woman hugging me tighter and kissing the top of my head, then we were moving and she and the other human were talking as I heard sounds coming and going around us. She held me tightly in her arms; I stopped trembling but didn’t look up until they were putting me in a box as I’d seen around there before. I didn’t want to go in the box and started yelling and waving my legs, grabbing the edges of the box so I wouldn’t fit but they calmed me enough to get me in there.

For the second time in my short life I was in a container being carried by a human, and again it would change my life. If I had only known I was about to meet my soul-mate, my best friend Namir, the cat who would teach me it was good to live with humans and love me every minute to the end of his life, and I’d have all the best things a kitty could wish for I certainly wouldn’t have wailed so loudly in the moving box that she had to stop and comfort me. But I loved her already.

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This person was not me—Kelly was saved by another kind person who ultimately brought her here with her forever friend Namir. In her final chapter next week, we’ll learn how Namir taught her to trust people, and she taught Namir more about being a cat, and eventually she came to live with me. Little Kelly has quite the epic journey! I wrote this section based on shelter records and what the woman who adopted her related to me.

And I mention that she was next in line to be euthanized in the shelter where she’d been taken, but as I know from all the open-door shelters I’ve worked with, the staff used all the means at their disposal to get Kelly adopted, as they did with every other cat and kitten who came through their doors.

Unfortunately, because people don’t spay and neuter their cats, “kitten season” starts earlier every year and lasts longer, and in order to make room for these new cats someone, somewhere, has to make the decision to euthanize a healthy cat—or dog—so that another homeless animal can have a chance at adoption. These decisions are not made only based on time spent in the shelter as many people think. In Kelly’s case, she spent several months in the cage because the staff knew she was a nice kitty who was frightened, but outside of the shelter she’d probably be a sweet and loving kitty, and so she turned out to be, and still is.

tortoiseshell cat curled sleeping

Kelly Really Sleeping

Kelly has been the sweet, quiet presence you don’t see as often as her more outgoing housemates. I’ve long tried to condense her story, but decided that didn’t do justice to a kitty who’s been through a lot. Because her story is long and involves details of the story of a stray and feral colony along with Kelly’s own long path toward learning to trust humans, I’ll be telling it in several parts over the next few weeks for my Tuesday rescue feature. She has traveled a great emotional and spiritual distance to be the kitty you see today, and who is right now curled in a happy purring ball on my lap, head turned upside down and hugging all her legs together.

Read all the chapters of Kelly’s story:

A Little Bit About Kelly

Part 2: The Rescue

Part 3: Saved At the Last Minute

Part 4: A Friend

Part 5: Home

And you can find Kelly in photos and sketches and stories all over The Creative Cat.

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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.


March Catnip Chronicles

black and white photo of long-haired cat

Sophie in all her fuzzy glory.

You should be reading Catnip Chronicles every month already, but go and read the March issue featuring about two dozen articles of feline health and lifestyle and photos of lovely cats, and I’m always proud that there’s an article or two of mine published there.

Since Tuesday is the day I like to tell rescue stories on The Creative Cat about the fine felines who have shared my life, as well as those I’ve fostered and been friends with through my life, it’s really exciting that Sophie, my housewarming cat, is featured this month.

tortoiseshell cat looking through deck railing

Cookie in early December 2011, tired of having her photo taken.

And my precious Cookie is included in the Rainbow Bridge in this month’s issue as well. Her rescue story was featured last January, “Cookie and Me, Our 18th Anniversary”.

You can subscribe to receive Catnip Chronicles in your e-mail every month, and also connect with Facebook.

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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.