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.


A Little Bit About Kelly, Part 2: The Rescue

tortoiseshell cat at window

Pensive Kelly.

I had feline sisters in this strange place, as it seemed most of us were girls of various ages. I was frightened at first and confused by their sudden outbursts at each other and sometimes at me though all I did was try to get enough to eat and drink and to stay warm as it grew colder, but eventually I learned the way they communicated and what my place was in the group.

bedraggled orange cat on porch

Neighborhood Stray Cat

By that time I had seen a certain pattern in the other girls, the sudden yowling and extreme physical activity which was often quite entertaining even if it was a little frightening. I heard what I learned were male cats who sometimes entered our little place and while I ran and hid and covered my face and my ears and nearly fainted from fear of all the scrambling and screeching and what sounded like killing, I came to understand what was happening. And there were the swelling bellies, the births, somehow it was all connected.

I had watched kittens nurse and grow, and noticed that, even though the mothers found a protected space away from the group at first the other mothers would sometimes help with them, both mothers nursing and cleaning all the kittens even of different ages, and as their kittens opened their eyes and began to walk and tumble about even those without kittens would help to keep them safe, if at all possible, as it sometimes was not.

Watching this, I remembered being with my own mother and the feel of her tongue combing through my fur as she had bathed me while I nursed and we all purred together, how comforting that had been and I unknowingly cuddled close to a big tabby cat as I swam in this sweet memory. She tolerated it for a bit, then swatted me.

cats on sidewalk

Cats from a local stray and feral colony.

But this odd physical affection grew in me and soon I was prancing around and while I talk all the time I was singing now. The sisterhood was comforting and nurturing if still a little rough when to my surprise I came into my time and suddenly became emboldened and wandered, had experiences with violent male cats which were at the same time horribly frightening and more exciting than I can explain; I still bear a few scars on my neck from this time. I had no idea it would lead to my next life experience…my own babies.

My body knew just what to do when I gave birth, and the experience was very natural for me. I kept my babies clean and happy and had the same help from my sisters, but while I was busy being a momcat other things were happening. The weather was turning warmer and suddenly we heard people around the outside of our building and while we couldn’t understand human we didn’t have to—we knew they meant us harm. Some cats ate some food they’d left even though it tasted funny, and later they grew sick and died right there among us. Then a human pulled out one of the windows and pointed something inside, making loud popping noises and I just rolled in a ball and trembled with my babies until it stopped, and some of our sisters were injured and crying afterward.

I never saw the human who had always brought the food that had first attracted me, but many of my sisters did and were actually friendly with her; while I watched from a safe distance, humans were just a bunch of noisy stomping feet with long frightening legs and I never looked any farther. But when this human brought the food for us and discovered what had happened I understood the sounds she made were sorrow. She actually picked up as many cats as she could get from the outside and took them away. She came back later and took as many more as she could catch.

tabby cat living at abandoned house

Tabby Cat Living at Abandoned House

Later that day and the next, more people came, many footsteps and lots of human sounds and shadows outside, then inside above us, then in our very space, humans were among us! They were a very quiet sort, not the stomping, yelling sort, but I trembled again. One of them saw me with my babies in our little nook and came toward us, I could tell they were cautious, I remembered nice humans, a warm hand stroking me, a soft voice, falling asleep on a comfy lap—but I was overcome with the memory of the loud pops and the stomping and the death and I ran, I ran from the human and tried to get my babies to run with me, they were old enough, but they weren’t fast enough and the human threw something over all of them.

Hiding in the shadows with a few other girls I almost ran back to fight, but I saw the human uncovering my babies and petting them the way I remembered being petted, nuzzling each of them before putting them into a box. I could hear their familiar little mews, now frightened and again I started forward, especially when the human came quietly walking toward us with my babies and making strange little sounds of her own. We understood this human was safe but none of us would move. Eventually the human backed away, I heard my babies’ little voices fading farther, and all the humans left. All was quiet, the cats who had died were gone, things had been moved, everything was different.

But somehow I felt my babies were safe, and I decided to stay.

The small group of us who were left continued on but the humans, the nice ones who gave us good food and spoke in soft and comforting voices, visited more often and tried to make friends with us. They did make friends with a few of the other cats and took them away. From the number of cats who had once lived there, just a few were left.

But soon enough I found myself with babies again as did a few other girls. We grew accustomed to the humans coming in and feeding us inside, leaving bowls of water and now and then walking off with one of us, but especially paying close attention to the kittens. They even petted my babies—they were very young and couldn’t run but I ran a safe distance away and they never touched me. I was certain they’d take my babies again and couldn’t figure out why they didn’t.

Then one day one of them, who had been visiting me and my babies nearly every day, did a very strange thing, and everything changed forever. She approached us as usual and I ran off to where I always waited while she petted my babies. Then she put a wire thing next to my babies and put them in it! And then she left! My babies were in that horrible wire thing and I could see them but I was so frightened of the wire thing I just crouched in my corner and looked at them, pacing now and then. But soon they began crying, crying for food and for me, and they had to be cold and I knew I had to be brave for them. The room had grown dark when I approached the wire thing, much less frightening without all the light shining all over it, walked around it and smelled at my babies, then around again. They could smell me and hear me and began crying to break my heart and I forgot all about how frightening the wire thing was, I had to get to my babies and ran around and on top of the thing, trying to figure out how to get to them. I found an opening on the opposite end from where they were and ran inside, hardly noticing when a loud “snap” sounded behind me. I squeezed over something to get to them walked around and purred and curled around them, lying down so they could nurse as I nuzzled them and licked them as my own mother had all that time ago. We were all exhausted and soon they slept, while I worried, vigilant, in that wire thing, frightened that something awful would happen.

Moon and Sputnik on my deck.

As soon as there was just a bit of daylight I heard the human quietly enter. One of my sisters, more frightened than me and quite wild, ran silently for her hiding spot. A light shone in my eyes and I heard the human making quiet noises, coming toward me. I got up and flattened myself against the wire when I realized I had no room to run, leaving my babies just awakening and moving around. She made what felt like comforting noises and the light went out, then the cage began to move and I realized she was taking us in the cage. I looked up at her hand and trembled where I was as we moved through that dark space that had become so familiar, up and into the early daylight on a sweet spring morning, all was still quiet except birds singing their morning songs.

I was frightened, I would not look at the human and I didn’t make a single sound, but though I had no idea what would happen next I knew this was better than staying in that place, for me and for my babies.

——————

This portion of Kelly’s story is pieced together from notes in her file that had been related to the woman who eventually adopted her; I filled out the details from my own experiences with rescues of stray and feral colonies who were in danger from human activity and had to be evacuated.

We knew that Kelly had given birth to at least two litters of kittens though she may have had others as well, that the first litter was taken to a shelter though they could not catch Kelly. The woman who had regularly fed the cats had found them after the rat poison and BB guns then watched the colony closely and continued to rescue as many cats as she could. Eventually it was down to Kelly and a few other cats. She caught Kelly only by “using her babies to lure her”; I described what I had once done to catch a stray momcat.

The building had been condemned and was demolished, and I have no idea if the other cats were ever trapped and removed, but I am glad that Kelly managed to find a moment of trust and allow herself to be caught. I am also grateful to the woman who cared for them and saved so many, not just for Kelly’s sake but for the sake of all stray and feral cats who do their best to live in a world that is largely hostile to them. This would have taken place in late 1995 and early 1996 when TNR was still fairly new in many areas and colonies were often rounded up and simply euthanized.

tortoiseshell cat curled sleeping

Kelly Really Sleeping

But Kelly is still a few experiences away from the happily purring Kelly on my lap right now as we have two more chapters to go in her rescue story. 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.

A magical kitty like Kelly in touch with a deep contemplative side, and I treasure the poem of that nature she inspired, “Pawprints and Raindrops”, which I featured yesterday.

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

tortoiseshell cat

Mysterious Kelly

I’m not certain how I came to be where I was, and I didn’t know how to get away from it because everything else was much more frightening than the dark and dirty basement where I found myself.

tortoiseshell cat with green eyes

Kelly in Motion

I was very young and had gone from being a kitten with my mom and siblings to being with a bunch of people somewhere, all I remember was legs, they were so tall and loud and frightened me with big loud feet so close, so I ran one day for where it was quiet and peaceful, and then I couldn’t find my way back. I looked and looked and found nothing familiar so I just started trotting around the streets, crouching behind bushes, under cars, I had no idea where I was or what I was looking for. I was so hungry and realized the food that had always been available had come from those people, and the water in nice bowls like I was used to…what had I done?

Just desperately trotting, I had no idea how long or how far I wandered, but the day grew dark and more quiet, then became light again and noisy. There was just house after house, and cars parked and moving down streets, even at night, and those long-legged people who terrified me more and more.

Other cats were on porches and in yards and I thought they might help me, just answer a question, but they clearly told me to keep out, even the one who looked like my mom and I thought she might understand when I tried to explain, but she yowled some feline profanity my young ears had never heard and slapped me across the face.

tortoisesehell cat outdoors

Kelly outdoors (modern day, of course).

My chest tight with fear and sadness, I ran and ran and ran until I was so tired and hungry and thirsty I thought I just might die, but I smelled and sensed other cats again and I was so desperate for just the presence of others like me that I slowed down and stopped, quickly washing my face, swiveling my ears and bobbing my nose to catch the little threads of sound and smell…yes, cats, many cats, and I even smelled the deep birth smell there, the first smell I remember ever, even before the smell of my mom.

And I smelled food. It seemed to be coming from a building across the street, and then I saw an orange cat come out from under the porch, and in the darkness under there I could see other cats too.

I slowly approached, and if it had not been for the enticing smell of food I would have been much more polite and even waited until after they had gone to move forward but my stomach was already gurgling, ready for food and in a daze I started to talk about food and how hungry I was and I walked across the street and into the yard and through the brambles around the porch and the little opening in the criss-cross wood behind it.

The smell was intoxicating. I saw a bunch of cats of all types gathered around a big bag of food, ripped open and the dry bits falling all over and still mumbling to myself I hurried forward in a daze grabbing several pieces from the dirt with my mouth and barely chewing before swallowing, getting a sharp swat from one of the cats already at the bag.

Without any awareness of danger or proper feline etiquette, I shouldered in, under and between two cats and got my face in that pile of food talking vigorously through mouths full of dry crunchy wonderfulness, getting more swats and shoves and jostles and warning sounds through their mouths full of food, but I think they were just as hungry as me, and for the first time since I’d nursed with my siblings from our mother I felt the comfort and warmth and smell and sound of another cat, and for that moment reveled in the community I’d found.

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This is the fictional portion of little Kelly’s rescue story, the part no one really knows but her. I’ve pieced it together from observing the arrivals of many other young kitties who have found themselves a member of a stray and feral cat colony in an urban setting, and included as much of Kelly’s innate personality as I guess would have influenced her activities.

slender cat

Kelly talking to me.

On that note, I make reference to Kelly talking and mumbling and explaining. It is one of the most endearing things about Kelly, for all her timid and cautious nature she is one of the most talkative cats I’ve ever known. She always has something to say, either simple remark or a complete sentence. She’s quite the storyteller, and talks not only to me but to herself as she goes about her daily activities.

It’s about time we told little Kelly’s story! She’s been a part of this home since 1997, joining us along with Namir as fosters from a person who was traveling to California for graduate studies and hoped to take them at some point but never found stable enough housing before we decided they belonged here.

Pieced together from long-ago records, we do know what Kelly was found with a stray and feral colony in an abandoned building in Oakland, near Pittsburgh, in the midst of several colleges and universities, so it was assumed she’d been adopted by a college student and either escaped or been abandoned.

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 the rest of the story:

Part 2: The Rescue

Part 3: Saved at the Last Minute

A magical kitty like Kelly in touch with a deep contemplative side, and I treasure the poem of that nature she inspired, “Pawprints and Raindrops”, which I featured yesterday.

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.


The Artist’s Life: Still Inspiring

Cookie, "The Goddess" block print © B.E. Kazmarski

In the last two months Cookie was with me I suddenly had orders for the t-shirt and print with this image, both directly to me and from wholesale customers, even customized versions of them. I will always think of this as a great sendoff for her, this favorite image immortalizing her and traveling out all over the world. And, of course, came the stories of the favorite torties who had led people to Cookie’s image.

The interesting part was that I didn’t actually have any prints or tees for sale at the time—none listed on Etsy or even on my website, though I had the image displayed as I always do. These people made special requests, checking to see if I had any or when I would have tees or prints. So I got busy and made up more of them to fill all the orders, and then made up more again, happily spending time with this image that is a favorite of mine, and in all that printing and painting it helped me have happy and positive thoughts about Cookie.

So in this article I have stories of Cookie and her inspiration, of the tortie lovers inspired by The Goddess including lovely photos of them, and I explain how I developed the hand-painted print including a little bit about block printing and testing fabric swatches, plus the new things I’m designing around my tortie girls as they continue to inspire.

In the studio

cat sleeping in rag basket

Cookie in her favorite bed, my rag basket in the studio, from October 2011.

Cookie always loved to be near me when I worked and she loved the “new” studio, heading there every day in her last few months for her long daily nap in the rag basket as you see in this photo; this was also a sketch in the months before I began posting them and a plan for a painting. I just loved to see her there.

The night Cookie died we were all in my studio and I painted new t-shirts for a while in an effort not to be too upset around her; me working on something and her watching me work was a lifelong activity we shared, and in her last few hours was likely a great comfort to her. For me, any creative work in my studio was relaxing and fulfilling and helped me to accept what was happening, and I’ve no doubt it was timed perfectly for me to be done and to catch that last truly conscious moment with her, when she looked into my eyes and put her paw comfortingly on my hand.

Cookie’s portrait

pastel painting of cat looking out sunny door

The Little Sunflower, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Because I paint commissioned portraits, people look for the portraits of my own cats. I will admit that I don’t have portraits of all the cats who’ve lived with me, though I have the missing ones planned.

But Cookie, my studio cat? Well, I painted one of her many years ago called “The Little Sunflower” (you’ll need to scroll down on this link). To anyone else, this may not be recognizable as Cookie, but because I adored this moment when Cookie had a sunbath every sunny morning, I loved her shape and her shadow, and the feeling of joy emanating from her when she quietly sat there, teaching me a lesson in yoga I’d yet to learn, it is the Cookie I took with me every day. In time, this led to her joining me outdoors, and anyone can see what a joy that was for both of us.

But I also have this block print, and while I exaggerated her shape for greater humor—Cookie was well-rounded but she was never that fat—her face, her expression and her markings are all the best portrait of Cookie I could ever have created; farther into this article I have a comparison between my reference photo and the print. After all these years, I still laugh when I look at her, the way a portrait should touch you.

Recent stories

Here are a few of the recent stories from people who contacted me about prints and tees in the past two months and who I thought about as I worked in my studio (authors have given me permission to print).

Rosie from the UK

tortie cat in the grass

Rosie from the United Kingdom

“I found your print of “The Goddess” and think she looks like my cat, Rosie…I live in the UK and was wondering if it was possible to get a print without the frame… If they’re not coloured, would it be possible to get one coloured like Rosie if I sent you a photo? I’m assuming not but thought I’d ask! (Of course I could, and the finished print is below.)

“We got Rosie when I was 11. My dad told me we were going to mum’s boss’s house to pick something up and asked if I wanted to go with him, and as Annie, the boss, had two ginger cats my sisters and I loved to play with I went. When I got there I saw a tiny purring little bundle of fluff and claws and played with her for about an hour. Then dad came in and told me to pick her up, we were going home!

“15 years later, and we’ve moved to another city. Rosie is still going strong, mum had a terrifying moment a few years ago when she felt a lump in Rosie’s belly and [went] to the vets with the instructions to not allow her to be in pain….The vet sent her back with a packet of diet cat food. She’s a wonderful purry old thing, with a beautiful temperament—she had to have one to grow up in a house of 3 little girls and all the neighbourhood kids!

tortoiseshell cat print

Polly as The Goddess

“Whilst we got Rosie as a kitten, Polly is the tortie who holds my heart. She was much more than a cat and was my constant companion for the two years we had her. I adored her, she adored me. Then one night she escaped, and my housemate forgot about her and didn’t let her in. I returned home to find her missing and we spent 4 days looking for her, I was distraught and couldn’t cope without her, but then we got a phone call from the vets, Polly was found by a lovely lady (who was also owned by a tortie – Mitzy) who realised how sick she was and took her to the vets. She lasted 2 days before dying of anti-freeze poisoning.”

Kitty

“This cat on the tee looks so much like my cat “Kitty”. She was a rescue cat..she just showed up at my door, and I took her in. I loved her..she slept with me..back to back, lol. But because of my allergy I needed to give her to a good home. I miss her so much..but it was something I needed to do.”

Kitty’s mom ordered a tee to remember Kitty.

tortoiseshell cat

SadieCat relaxing among the library books.

SadieCat

SadieCat’s mom bought a hand-colored print for herself as a birthday gift.

“…I especially love the pictures of the tortie cats. When I saw the block print of “The Goddess” my heart stopped. Three years ago I rescued a starving little kitten who soon became the love of my life. I couldn’t help myself from attaching a couple of pictures of SadieCat (seen here). Someplace I have a photo where she looks exactly like your print, but I couldn’t find it.

tortoiseshell cat face

Now there's a face!

“[Sadiecat] will only consent to being held when she’s in the mood and she’ll bite if you’re late with her dinner, but I love her and wouldn’t have her any other way. (Well, I could probably do without the biting). And thanks for…putting Sadie out there, I’m too shy. 🙂  She’s shy too, but what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

Visit the original post, The Goddess Truly Inspires, to read more stories and to add your own.

About creating “The Goddess”

I looked at Cookie on the kitchen floor, on her back with her toes curled, a defiant look on her face, and it happened—that moment of visualization. I could see a linoleum block print in black ink on white rice paper, hand-tinted with oranges and yellows for the patches in Cookie’s tortoiseshell fur and green for her eyes and pink for her nose. I would call the print “The Goddess” for the many women depicted with generous figures in sculpture and painting through the millennia.

Compare the photo and the print:

tortie cat on back

Reference photo for "The Goddess"

Cookie, "The Goddess" block print © B.E. Kazmarski

From the time I first described it to someone, who chuckled at the idea of the image, I knew Cookie was a winner. And through the years she has continued to bring people and stories to my display no matter where I am—everyone knows a cat who looks like Cookie!

cut linoleum block

The full block, of course it's in reverse.

Cookie inspired not only a design, but a particular style and technique and a new element to my creative life and my merchandise. With an inspiration that strong, I probably would have done it anyway, but I had other reasons as well. In the late 1990s having my sketches and paintings reproduced was still expensive and not always successful and I wanted artwork that I could reproduce easily and inexpensively myself so that I could have something more affordable than original artwork to sell in my displays.

closeup of linoleum block

Closeup of Cookie's face in linoleum block; the light areas are the smooth surface that holds the ink.

I’d worked with small linoleum block prints for years and always enjoyed the medium, but this time I decided I wanted something larger and I might actually create a series—which led to “The Roundest Eyes” depicting my other tortie, Kelly, a few months later. Between the two, Cookie gets more notice and stories, but Kelly sells more t-shirts and prints…we just never let Cookie know that.

Capturing all Cookie’s freckles and spots and stripes was indeed a challenge, especially when I went to actually cut them out of the surface of the linoleum block.

printed fabrics

I have a lot of painting to do.

New items

colors on fabric

Success! The washed strip of muslin with thinned fabric paints passes the wash and dry test.

Why does this scrap of muslin stained with orange and yellow make me so happy? Because I’ve finally found the new coloring for my Tortie Girls prints!

Because I hand-paint the color into these prints I print them in oil-base ink, even on paper, because water-base ink is totally water soluble, like tempera paint. On paper I can use watercolor, but on the tees and other textiles I have to use a permanent dye of some sort. I want the wearer to be able to wash these without too much fuss, but in order to be able to create and sell them I don’t want to have to wash the fabric to set the dye, then iron the items for presentation, in part because of the oil-base ink and also because washing and ironing is very time-consuming. In creating merchandise for sale I need to strike a balance between my time and materials and what I charge for a product.

Years ago I found a cold-set dye that I could paint on just like my watercolors. I mixed it up about ten years ago and kept it in an airtight glass jar in the dark, but I’m nearly out of it. I created the tees mentioned above because tees are popular, but I’m not a t-shirt person so I’ve also printed a slew of other textiles through the years. Last year I printed the placemats, table coverings and even pillowcovers and appliques for bags you see above, but did not have enough dye to paint them so they have sat, waiting, since last May.

color swatches on cloth

First color test with drawing ink.

swatches of color

Letting it air dry.

washed cloth

Fail!

After several tries with drawing ink, above—which stains everything it touches and won’t wash out when you want it to, but washed right out when I tested it—various fabric dye substances including full-strength from the bottle and a strong mix of powder in various brands, and various paints and markers, none could both look like washy watercolors and stand up to the wash test.

color swatches on fabric

Second color test.

fabrics

Second color test air drying.

faded colors on fabric

Second fail! Not as bad as the first.

Until now, using Jacquard fabric paint and screen-print ink. And now I can follow through with all the new products I’d planned last year featuring The Goddess and the little girl with The Roundest Eyes—you’ll see them soon.

two black cats with art materials

As always, Feline Inspection and Quality Control; Mewsette and Jelly Bean have to approve as well.

Above are square muslin tablecloths to be painted and either hemmed or with a decorative stitch added around the edge and fringed, canvas placemats to be painted and possibly stitched, and simply printed squares of muslin ready to be painting and stitched onto bags, pillows, even clothing.

I love to know that I’m sharing Cookie forever with the block print of her, and while some day I’ll do the painting I’m visualizing as well as other paintings of her with other cats, this block print will always be the image I remember.

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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.