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.

————————————

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 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.

————————————

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.

——————————————-

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.

————————————

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.


Don’t Wait to Spread the News

feral cat

A friend's feral cat.

You just never know when a half-grown stray or feral kitten will show up.

And I never used to know when I should say something about whether or not a kitten is spayed or neutered, or whether anyone was caring for the feral cats.

I sometimes feel I’m risking being known as the “crazy cat lady”, but over the years I’ve learned to always speak up. Sometimes I’ve been embarrassed, but usually I’ve been pretty glad I did because often I can spread information about low-cost spay and neuter and managing stray and feral colonies to people who really didn’t know this existed, or that the appearance of a kitten could indicate the need for such activities.

Last summer, on their Facebook page, the Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest posted that there were kittens behind their office, then posted a photo “for those who need a Friday kitten photo.”

I know their office is in a pretty urban area in the City of Pittsburgh, and it’s likely this kitten was stray or feral. Also, by her coloring as a dilute calico, she was likely a “she”. In any case, I figured it didn’t hurt to say something, so I asked if the kitty had a home, and mentioned that they should trap and spay ASAP if someone else didn’t or they’d have some extra kittens soon. The author replied that he thought the kittens lived in the yard behind the office, and asked if I was a neighbor.

I answered that I was not, but that I was always concerned when I saw kittens or adult cats who might be stray or feral or headed that way, and I always offered a bit of information about TNR and spay/neuter deals at shelters, including the Homeless Cat Management Team (HCMT).

The author replied that there may already be a feral colony there because he saw kittens and cats last year, very skittish, and that he had a friend who was involved in TNR and would enlist her help.

In the meantime another reader commented to say thanks for the information, she hadn’t known about HCMT but was glad to find out the information and encouraged me to keep spreading the word.

I had been hesitant, but I was never more glad to have spoken up. I gave information to two people who are aware and will likely use it, and pass it on as well.

In years past, I would have headed over there to assess the situation, and if no one in the vicinity was interested in taking care of the situation, either caring for the colony themselves or trapping and moving them, I would have returned with traps and tried to catch as many as I could myself, taking them home and getting veterinary care, altering, feeding and re-homing on my own. Ah, the bleak 1980s and 90s, too many cats and not enough programs, but I was glad to have found a few sympathetic vets who knew what I was doing.

Along came TNR, the Homeless Cat Management Team, early spay and neuter for shelter animals and aggressive spay/neuter programs for adult animals at shelter clinics, and a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. With more options and more awareness, I could get away with handing out handfuls of information, posting flyers in the area and making a few follow-up calls. As my household grew geriatric and I was less willing to bring in rescued cats in miscellaneous condition, I had built up a network of concerned friends and converts who were glad for the information and I could focus on my rescues here at home, knowing I’d at least spread the word.

So now instead of doing the footwork, I do the social network—though I always carry good old-fashioned flyers with me, and often have conversations with people who are totally off the network. I work with or am a member of a number of local conservation groups and visit their land, and also use local trails. I also tend to go off on painting and photo forays to uninhabited areas on the edge of town such as the now-empty steel mills and industrial areas, and along the waterways that run behind everything.

Often, I see cats, settled into these quieter areas that afford protection, but an easy run to a dumpster or someone’s back yard where they might be fed. I’ve posted HCMT and clinic information in these areas, talked to people on trails who say they always see the cats, and also handed it to people in their back yard who were sympathetic to the cats and fed them though they found it difficult to keep up with caring for them, but felt they couldn’t stop now that they’d started.

I sometimes follow up with people I’ve sent information to, and it often takes a nudge to get people to take advantage of the programs. But each time it’s accepted, and often with gratitude, it confirms that animals, and especially cats, are increasing in respect in our society, and not considered the throw-aways they once were, and that we should always speak up and offer whatever we feel is appropriate. Helping even one cat with spay and neuter helps to solve the problem of feline overpopulation.

—————————————

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.


Don’t Wait to Spread the News

Urban forest kitten

Urban Forest Office Kitten

You just never know when a half-grown stray or feral kitten will show up.

And I never used to know when I should say something about whether or not a kitten is spayed or neutered, or whether anyone was caring for the feral cats.

I sometimes feel I’m risking being known as the “crazy cat lady”, but over the years I’ve learned to always speak up. Sometimes I’ve been embarrassed, but usually I’ve been pretty glad I did because often I can spread information about low-cost spay and neuter and managing stray and feral colonies to people who really didn’t know this existed, or that the appearance of a kitten could indicate the need for such activities.

On their Facebook page, the Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest posted that there were kittens behind their office, then posted this photo “for those who need a Friday kitten photo.”

I know their office is in a pretty urban area in the City of Pittsburgh, and it’s likely this kitten was stray or feral. Also, by her coloring, she was likely a “she”. In any case, I figured it didn’t hurt to say something, so I asked if the kitty had a home, and mentioned that they should trap and spay ASAP if someone else didn’t or they’d have some extra kittens soon. The author replied that he thought the kittens lived in the yard behind the office, and asked if I was a neighbor.

I answered that I was not, but that I was always concerned when I saw kittens or adult cats who might be stray or feral or headed that way, and I always offered a bit of information about TNR and spay/neuter deals at shelters, including the Homeless Cat Management Team (HCMT).

The author replied that there may already be a feral colony there because he saw kittens and cats last year, very skittish, and that he had a friend who was involved in TNR and would enlist her help.

In the meantime another reader commented to say thanks for the information, she hadn’t known about HCMT but was glad to find out the information and encouraged me to keep spreading the word.

I had been hesitant, but I was never more glad to have spoken up. I gave information to two people who are aware and will likely use it, and pass it on as well.

In years past, I would have headed over there to assess the situation, and if no one in the vicinity was interested in taking care of the situation, either caring for the colony themselves or trapping and moving them, I would have returned with traps and tried to catch as many as I could myself, taking them home and getting veterinary care, altering, feeding and re-homing on my own. Ah, the bleak 1980s and 90s, too many cats and not enough programs, but I was glad to have found a few sympathetic vets who knew what I was doing.

Along came TNR, the Homeless Cat Management Team, early spay and neuter for shelter animals and aggressive spay/neuter programs for adult animals at shelter clinics, and a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. With more options and more awareness, I could get away with handing out handfuls of information, posting flyers in the area and making a few follow-up calls. As my household grew geriatric and I was less willing to bring in rescued cats in miscellaneous condition, I had built up a network of concerned friends and converts who were glad for the information and I could focus on my rescues here at home, knowing I’d at least spread the word.

So now instead of doing the footwork, I do the social network—though I always carry good old-fashioned flyers with me, and often have conversations with people who are totally off the network. I work with or am a member of a number of local conservation groups and visit their land, and also use local trails. I also tend to go off on painting and photo forays to uninhabited areas on the edge of town such as the now-empty steel mills and industrial areas, and along the waterways that run behind everything.

Often, I see cats, settled into these quieter areas that afford protection, but an easy run to a dumpster or someone’s back yard where they might be fed. I’ve posted HCMT and clinic information in these areas, talked to people on trails who say they always see the cats, and also handed it to people in their back yard who were sympathetic to the cats and fed them though they found it difficult to keep up with caring for them, but felt they couldn’t stop now that they’d started.

That was also how we managed the “kitten problem” at the Agway, as I wrote about just recently.

I will probably follow up on this, and on a few other situations I’ve sent information to. But each time it’s accepted, and often with gratitude, it confirms that animals, and especially cats, are increasing in respect in our society, and not considered the throw-aways they once were, and that we should always speak up and offer whatever we feel is appropriate. Helping even one cat with spay and neuter helps to solve the problem of feline overpopulation.