Laboring At What We Love

portrait on easel

Portrait in Progress.

You hear about me and my work all the time, but I also try to give credit where credit is due—to my feline family, who through the years have always worked just as hard as me…in their own way. But as I constantly reiterate, they were my inspiration for art, and I might not be where I am today if not for them, showing and selling my art was the basis for my business plan for self-employment along with commercial art, and being able to be at home with them, especially as my first group grew older, was one of the decision points in actually deciding when to take the plunge.

(Kelly adds this, “9+**************366666……”. Go figure.)

You can find the portrait above, “Ripley, Murphy, O.G., Veda and Missy Kitty”, in progress and finished on my Portrait Demonstration page.

And below, I’ve pasted a few posts of my cats at work with links to others. We are busy today as I prepare for an upcoming month of events!

Ready for Work

two torties in studio

Tortie Girls reporting for work.

My studio supervisors arrive at work before me! I’m working on starting the day in my studio when my eyes are rested and I have daylight to work with instead of ending it there and working too late into the night.

My tortie girls agree! They’ve been staying up all night with me for more years than they want to remember—after all, they have to supervise me or how could I get any artwork done? The most important role they serve is sleeping on my lap or next to my feet so that I need to stay put and therefore get work done. One would never get up or move while a cat is sleeping.

The younger ones have something to learn from keeping me under control, perhaps someday one of them will show some potential.

Cookie has had a lifelong role in what I do, and this will clarify what she does: I Will Never Get to Retire.

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And Then I Gave Up Work for the Day

four black cats on desk

Maybe she'll notice us now.

Okay, okay, I admit I’ve been busy, but do you guys like to eat?! Then you’ll keep doing things like this as inspiration.

I also admit I posted this nearly two years ago, but it’s still appropriate today, as is the text below. The one thing I’d add is two torties on my lap, and Mimi on my keyboard shelf. I have been busy, and I’ve missed sharing a lot of photos.

For now, enjoy somewhat over 50 pounds of black cat on one desk.

They are always doing something unique, that whimsical quartet of siblings, but sometimes they have the right idea. I really was tired, my eyes were strained, I was losing focus at the end of a long day, and one by one the three boys piled up trying to get their point across (we need dinner, you need to stop working), hence the multiple nap. Then Mewsette, the big sister, piled on top of all of them and began bathing them all in turn, causing things to start falling off my desk. Still, I could pile papers on top of them and keep working. When the paws and tails expanded onto my keyboard, I decided to take their advice and quit working for the day.

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My Tenth Anniversary

desk with six cats

Desk with Six Cats; sometimes my office is not so beautiful! From left it is Stanley, Sophie, Kelly, Namir, Cookie and Peaches. Only Cookie and Kelly are still with me, but still working hard.

Ten years ago today, January 1, 2000, I fulfilled a dream I had worked a decade to reach when, for the first time in forever, I stayed home to go to work. Even considering the wild ride this past decade has been, I wouldn’t reconsider my decision. I love everything I’ve had the chance to do, all the people I’ve met, and all the businesses and organizations I’ve helped to succeed. In return they’ve helped me, too, as every assignment has also been a lesson, and every accomplishment another level of confidence and credibility.

Needless to say, my cats also approved of the decision.

I remember the 1990s after I had bought my little house and done a good bit of fixing-up, and all I wanted to do was stay here and enjoy what I’d accomplished so far. When I left for work each day I’d stop at the door and look at this room with its new windows, new paint, my art on the walls and carry that vision with me as I left for another day of unknown length and content working as a typesetter for a direct mail company.

[Read more as I describe my work history and working at home with my cats]

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Move Over Ikea Cats, Cookie’s Back in the Shop!

tortie cat in front window

"I'm so pretty, I'll bet all sorts of customers will come in today just to see me."

While I had enjoyed Cookie’s company in my Portraits of Animals shop room at Carnegie Antiques through the spring, summer was hot and busy, and Peaches needed Cookie’s company too, so Cookie has had to stay home all these months. Yesterday, she gave me the look and I decided I’d love to have her company down there again.

blur of cat

Cookie was a whirlwind as soon as she got there.

It’s good to be back! I hated the ride in the pink thing and I really let my mom know about it, but once we got here I knew exactly where I was and I got right to work.

Who needs those fancy IKEA cats—I can run around and jump on things as well as any kitty, and I don’t have to share it with 99 others!

[Read all about Cookie’s adventures with links to other her trips to the shop.]

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Peaches Has Her Interview

photo of peaches looking at me

"Go do something else."

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

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

Read more, including a link to Peaches’ decision to apply and her application! Peaches Applies for a Job

 

Happy Labor Day everyone! We are off to work!


Ready for Work?

two torties in studio

Tortie Girls reporting for work.

My studio supervisors arrive at work before me! I’m working on starting the day in my studio when my eyes are rested and I have daylight to work with instead of ending it there and working too late into the night.

My tortie girls agree! They’ve been staying up all night with me for more years than they want to remember—after all, they have to supervise me or how could I get any artwork done? The most important role they serve is sleeping on my lap or next to my feet so that I need to stay put and therefore get work done. One would never get up or move while a cat is sleeping.

The younger ones have something to learn from keeping me under control, perhaps someday one of them will show some potential.

Cookie has had a lifelong role in what I do, and this will clarify what she does: I Will Never Get to Retire.


We Really Are Helping Our Friends in Japan!

So far six Torti Girls tees sold to help animals in Japan! That’s a donation of $75! I still have six tees left, and it would be so nice to make a donation of $150! I’m donating to either Animal Refuge Kansai (if I can convert dollars to yen correctly), or to Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support.

Painting by Kuniyoshi Utagawa

The Japanese people are legendarily fond of cats, have been through history. In every stage of art in their culture you’ll find felines of all stripes and spots and solids depicted in paintings happily ensconced in homes, walking about the estate, in sculptures curled in sleep and famously with one paw lifted welcoming you to the garden. More than a few of these kitties are calico or tortoiseshell as “red” is a favorite and highly symbolic color.

And, often, in the background of the painting you’ll see the ocean, as it is in the background of their lives every day. Obviously, being a chain of islands, the ocean, what it gives and what it takes, is a constant presence in the lives of the Japanese, and with it the cultural knowledge of the ocean’s destructive power. (See a little more art like that at left here).

We witnessed that power on March 11 as an earthquake shook the land at Sendai, creating a tsunami that slammed into the eastern coastline. Remembering from the 2004 tsunami and the Haiti and Chile earthquakes as well as other natural disasters, we won’t know the full toll for days or weeks.

In Japan, wherever there are people, there are cats, beloved pets, and where pets are not allowed there are Cat Cafes where cats live to be visited by customers who drink tea and pet kitties. And tragically the earthquake’s epicenter was about 60 miles from Cat Island, a haven for the elderly and for many stray cats who are fed and cherished by all residents. To date we’ve heard that Cat Island had a good bit of damage and supplies are needed, but the island also has a good bit of high ground so hopefully people and cats could escape the tsunami.

My Tortie Girls Go to Japan

detail of "the goddess" face

Detail of "The Goddess"

detail of the roundest eyes block print

Detail of "The Roundest Eyes"

Through one of my wholesale customers, many of my Tortie Cats t-shirts have shipped off to customers in Japan. Considering their love of cats, this is not surprising.

Also considering the tradition of block printing, or relief printing with wood, in Japan, especially hand-colored prints, this seems like a natural combination. After all, where do you think I first saw this technique, and years later decided to render my girls’ portraits in this medium?

Donate to Animal Refuge Kansai for the Animals of Japan

I will donate half of the selling price to Animal Refuge Kansai from sales of my t-shirts and framed block prints sold in a set or individually. I have limited stock, in part because I always wait for warmer weather to print these shirts and prints:

Read below more about block printing and about these prints, and visit my Etsy shop to purchase. Also visit The Conscious Cat to find other opportunities to donate and help all animals in Japan after this devastating disaster.

Inspired by my felines

I am unendingly inspired by my houseful of felines, especially those two tortoiseshell calicos. I print these by hand from a hand-cut linoleum block, then each individually is hand-painted in watercolor.

“The Goddess”
Well, everyone knows a fat cat who knows she’s beautiful, and Cookie would tell you that a woman with a round shape was once most desirable and an object of worship. That’s why I call her “The Goddess”.

“The Roundest Eyes”
Sometimes when I look at Kelly the only feature I can distinguish in all those tortie markings is her extremely round eyes.

framed block print of tortoiseshell cat

The Goddess

framed block print of tortoiseshell cat

The Roundest Eyes

Each image is 8″ x 12″, with mat and frame outside dimensions 14″ x 18″, horizontal or vertical as shown in the photo.

Find the girls in my Etsy shop under “Prints”.

I have also printed the girls on white t-shirts. You can also find these in my Etsy shop under T-shirts or in the Marketplace on my website under Apparel>Block Printed Tees.

About Block Printing

I really enjoy working in this medium and I can free myself from the traditional media and a greater realism in rendering. Linoleum block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of artist’s linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper is pressed against the block and when it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the paper.

The resulting work isn’t a one-time thing, but meant to be printed multiple times–and I do, on just about anything I can think of. They all start out on paper, but they’ve been printed on t-shirts and dresses and aprons and curtains, to name a few things. I will sometimes add color to them with watercolor or dyes to give them extra interest. The resulting work, even though they are all printed from the same block, is a unique print, still handmade by the artist.

Because of the nature of the medium, each print is unique and ink coverage is not always perfect. Most artists consider this random activity to be part of the process of creating an individualized print, and along with the hand-painting makes a unique work of art.


Tortie Cats to Help Our Friends in Japan

Painting by Kuniyoshi Utagawa

The Japanese people are legendarily fond of cats, have been through history. In every stage of art in their culture you’ll find felines of all stripes and spots and solids depicted in paintings happily ensconced in homes, walking about the estate, in sculptures curled in sleep and famously with one paw lifted welcoming you to the garden. More than a few of these kitties are calico or tortoiseshell as “red” is a favorite and highly symbolic color.

And, often, in the background of the painting you’ll see the ocean, as it is in the background of their lives every day. Obviously, being a chain of islands, the ocean, what it gives and what it takes, is a constant presence in the lives of the Japanese, and with it the cultural knowledge of the ocean’s destructive power. (See a little more art like that at left here).

We witnessed that power on March 11 as an earthquake shook the land at Sendai, creating a tsunami that slammed into the eastern coastline. Remembering from the 2004 tsunami and the Haiti and Chile earthquakes as well as other natural disasters, we won’t know the full toll for days or weeks.

In Japan, wherever there are people, there are cats, beloved pets, and where pets are not allowed there are Cat Cafes where cats live to be visited by customers who drink tea and pet kitties. And tragically the earthquake’s epicenter was about 60 miles from Cat Island, a haven for the elderly and for many stray cats who are fed and cherished by all residents. To date we’ve heard that Cat Island had a good bit of damage and supplies are needed, but the island also has a good bit of high ground so hopefully people and cats could escape the tsunami.

My Tortie Girls Go to Japan

detail of "the goddess" face

Detail of "The Goddess"

detail of the roundest eyes block print

Detail of "The Roundest Eyes"

Through one of my wholesale customers, many of my Tortie Cats t-shirts have shipped off to customers in Japan. Considering their love of cats, this is not surprising.

Also considering the tradition of block printing, or relief printing with wood, in Japan, especially hand-colored prints, this seems like a natural combination. After all, where do you think I first saw this technique, and years later decided to render my girls’ portraits in this medium?

Donate to Animal Refuge Kansai for the Animals of Japan

I will donate half of the selling price to Animal Refuge Kansai from sales of my t-shirts and framed block prints sold in a set or individually. I have limited stock, in part because I always wait for warmer weather to print these shirts and prints:

Read below more about block printing and about these prints, and visit my Etsy shop to purchase. Also visit The Conscious Cat to find other opportunities to donate and help all animals in Japan after this devastating disaster.

Inspired by my felines

I am unendingly inspired by my houseful of felines, especially those two tortoiseshell calicos. I print these by hand from a hand-cut linoleum block, then each individually is hand-painted in watercolor.

“The Goddess”
Well, everyone knows a fat cat who knows she’s beautiful, and Cookie would tell you that a woman with a round shape was once most desirable and an object of worship. That’s why I call her “The Goddess”.

“The Roundest Eyes”
Sometimes when I look at Kelly the only feature I can distinguish in all those tortie markings is her extremely round eyes.

framed block print of tortoiseshell cat

The Goddess

framed block print of tortoiseshell cat

The Roundest Eyes

Each image is 8″ x 12″, with mat and frame outside dimensions 14″ x 18″, horizontal or vertical as shown in the photo.

Find the girls in my Etsy shop under “Prints”.

I have also printed the girls on white t-shirts. You can also find these in my Etsy shop under T-shirts or in the Marketplace on my website under Apparel>Block Printed Tees.

About Block Printing

I really enjoy working in this medium and I can free myself from the traditional media and a greater realism in rendering. Linoleum block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of artist’s linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper is pressed against the block and when it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the paper.

The resulting work isn’t a one-time thing, but meant to be printed multiple times–and I do, on just about anything I can think of. They all start out on paper, but they’ve been printed on t-shirts and dresses and aprons and curtains, to name a few things. I will sometimes add color to them with watercolor or dyes to give them extra interest. The resulting work, even though they are all printed from the same block, is a unique print, still handmade by the artist.

Because of the nature of the medium, each print is unique and ink coverage is not always perfect. Most artists consider this random activity to be part of the process of creating an individualized print, and along with the hand-painting makes a unique work of art.


Cookie and Me, Our 18th Anniversary!

me and cookie on the steps

Cookie and me, 2010, photo compliments Green Tree Times

Looking back in my records it’s not clear if the big day was December 6 or December 9, 1992, but no matter. Cookie is my main tortie and she’s been with me the longest of any cat currently in my household, and she has many stories to tell. She’s also been a very special friend of mine all these years for reasons you’ll read in her story.

It’s not hard to get “old”, really it just happens. What is more interesting is how you get there. And you have to have a good human who will take care of the important things for you.

photo of cat and flowered dress

Cookie and I have lunch al fresco.

I have lived my life in service to my mom, and I have let no other living thing, human, feline or otherwise, come before her. To me, and to the rest of us, she is like Freya, goddess of just about everything that is worth living for, and I have happily served as one of her chariot cats all my life.

tortoiseshell cat in forget me nots

Cookie in forget-me-nots

Most people don’t know that tri-color cats have an excellent memory, and can recall everything we’ve experienced through our lives. It’s one of the reasons tri-color cats have been considered good luck through history, though most humans think it’s only because of our unique coloring. That extra gene that gives us our tri-color coat also gives us an extra ability both to remember and to perceive. Sometimes, we can be a little irritable, but it’s only because we’re processing an awful lot of information.

So I remember all the way back to my beginning, which was pretty grim.

closeup of tortoiseshell cat

Cookie Closeup

There were four of us kittens with our mother and we were pretty happy and warm in our little box in a house until someone in the house decided we should be raised outdoors “like real cats” and put us outside. I was very young and still nursing, only tasting real food now and then.

Our mom moved us to a safe place then went off to get some food since she was told to “fend for herself”. We never saw her again, though we called and called for her.

Other little humans heard us, though, and led some other big humans to where our mom had hidden us. We were so hungry all we could do was cry. Unfortunately by that time two of my sisters were silent and we knew we’d never hear them again.

One of the big humans picked up my sister and one of the little humans picked up me and the big human told the little one that we needed special food and it might be a lot of work, but that we were probably old enough to survive if we got enough food.

So I went off with the little human, but not to live happily ever after. It seems his mom wanted no parts of me, even though he already had another feline in the house. He brought me inside overnight because she didn’t notice, but the next day she would put me outside. I really don’t understand some humans.

But he fed me and he played with me and I understood that he really loved me, so I stayed close to his house and when he came outside to look for me it made him so happy when I’d magically appear from under a bush or around the side of the house.

He always managed to feed me something, but there were times when there wasn’t much. Then the weather got colder and colder, and I heard him and all the other humans talking about how we hadn’t had “snow”, that icky cold wet stuff that gets on everything when it’s cold outside, “that early in winter”. When there wasn’t snow it was just cold, and it really hurt my paws.

pastel painting of snow in morning

Morning Snow 1, a painting from that winter, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

One day I had had enough. Cold wet snow was falling fast and I just started walking. I found a spot where warm air was flowing out of a little window and I settled underneath it, since it was somewhat dry there. I heard the boy calling and when he got close enough I came out and he picked me up and began to carry me back to where we lived.

We stopped on the way to talk to a big human in a little house I had passed. While he held me and proudly told her “this is my kitty”, I could see there were other cats in the house looking out the windows. They looked so warm and happy I could only wish, but I knew my future was in this icky outdoors. Still, I heard her say, “If your mom puts her back outside, just bring her here.”

And later that day his mom came home and literally tossed me out the door into the snow, which was really deep and wet by then. He brought me back in, and I heard them on the phone, her saying, “I don’t care if that cat dies it’s not coming in here, he already has one…”

Then he put me in his coat and in a minute we were back at the lady’s house. “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll take care of her, and you can visit.”

painting of cat looking out door

The Little Sunflower, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

So we went inside and she put me in a nice warm room by myself then left. There was a bowl of food and a bowl of water but I was so tired and confused after my awful day that I ignored it at first and just curled up on a nice soft bed and fell asleep.

The lady came back in and picked me up to take me to another room with bright lights. She sat on the floor and put me on her lap and talked to me while she gently ran her hands all over me, pulled on my ears, lifted my face and looked right into my eyes, lifted each of my paws and felt all my toes. Any other time I’d have given her a piece of my mind at treatment like this, but it wasn’t like the kids outside would do, and besides I was kind of in a stupor in the warmth with food and gentle petting.

I curled myself up on her lap really tightly and started on the second toe on my left hind foot. “Hmmm…” she said, picked me up and looked at my foot, pulling my toes apart and looking really closely. Then she let my paw go and I went back to it with my toe, feeling a big profound purr begin deep inside me, but again she took my foot and inspected it and let it go. This time she just petted me while I worked on my toe and after a while I heard her say, “Oh, little kitty, you’re nursing on your toe…” Well, when I lost my mom and then my sister and I was alone a lot, I needed something for comfort. What could it hurt?

cat in basket

Cookie in the basket several years ago.

I stayed in the warm, quiet room with the food bowl and the lady came to visit a few times a day with food in a little can—yum! I heard the other cats outside and we sniffed under the door at each other. She petted me and talked to me and called me “Chocolate”, but I was still wary and usually kept my distance when she came in, acting unconcerned, except when she sat down and then I could curl up on her lap and work on my toe. I just knew this had to end, and I wasn’t going to get too accustomed to the room or to her since I had loved the little boy too, and had to leave there. I had lost my mother and all my sisters, and I wasn’t taking any chances anymore.

But one morning when she came in and cheerily said, “Good morning, Chocolate!” I impulsively turned and walked over to her, put my tail up and asked her a question with just my eyes, “I’m staying here, aren’t I?”

“Oh, little kitty, I’m so glad you’re happy to be here!” Humans can be very intuitive too. I knew I was right. And I knew that I’d be devoted to this person for all my life. Eighteen years later, I still am. In fact, right now I’m properly draped across her lap, right paw extended and my chin resting on her right wrist as she types, and just a little purr is intended to massage her wrist and to relax me. Mom is working and I am attentive as her kitty in waiting. We are very happy.

photo of two tortie cats

Cookie and Kelly at the computer

I have seen many changes since the day she let me out of that room and I officially joined the household (and I had no idea until some time later that I nearly left with someone who was looking to adopt a tri-color kitty who ended up with Sunshine, a calico who had been wandering the neighborhood as well as me). I was the youngest then; now I’m the oldest, I’ve been here the longest. I grew to love all the cats who were here when I came for what they taught me, even those who came for a while then left, and all the others who came and stayed and are still here. I even managed to get over my pique when my mom took in another tortie, that scrawny, noisy Kelly who is so un-tortie in so many ways, and now it’s hard to believe that Kelly is a senior cat too.

photo of tortie cat in the sun

Cookie-patra

I knew some day I’d hold this position of honor as the lead cat in the household. I was instructed by the best cats in the world just exactly how to take care of my mom and how to be a leader among cats so that you earned respect without having to lift a paw, though sometimes you need to say something. Usually, a stern look will do.

Cookie and Sophie

Cookie and Sophie

But mostly I’ve loved being one of my mom’s guard cats. I knew this was my place and learned the position from my sister Sophie, who was here when I came in and who became my closest friend in the household, though she could be a little strange at times. Still, whenever our mom settled down, we would take our positions on either side of her, either curled in vigilance on either side of her on her desk or literally leaning against her ankles, either just being vigilant or giving her the strength and support she needed in the moment.

Recently, I started helping her in her shop where I greet and supervise customers, and of course you know I am on the sign to let people know where to find good cat art—with me as a subject, how could it be otherwise?

We lost Sophie a few years ago, and it hurt as badly as losing my mother and sisters did all those years ago. I couldn’t even be there for my mom, or she for me, until one day we looked at each other and noticed we’d each quit eating and were losing weight and just feeling sick all the time. We curled up together and gave each other the strength to go on.

photo of two cats in the grass

Cookie and Namir relax in the yard.

We’ve lost others too. We lost Namir; even though I wasn’t as close with him as I was with Sophie, and he used to run up behind me and swat my butt then trot away giggling, we had great times out in the back yard helping mom with her garden and just enjoying being cats out there and it’s just not the same out there without him.

Peaches and Cookie are exhausted with all the new information.

Peaches and Cookie are exhausted with all the new information.

And we lost Peaches, who I still miss even though I thought it was rude of her to “cut in line” coming in the house at age 15 and not working her way to her senior position the hard way, as I did, getting tossed around by the older cats and finally getting my mom’s full attention. Peaches was one of the nicest kitties to come into the house, though, and I miss curling up with her on mom’s desk; I even miss keeping an eye on her all those months when she was ill.

There has been so much more in my eighteen years here with my mom, and I am looking forward to many, many more. Our Stanley lived to be really, really old, several years older than I am now, and I don’t see any reason I can’t do the same.

photo of cats on bed

Mewsette questions Cookie

Besides, who would look after our mom if I wasn’t here? The only kitty I’ve seen with any potential all these years is Mewsette, who has been hanging out near me and asking questions. I have to put her in her place now and then because she’s a little too friendly for me, but even though she’s not a tortie she is big and strong and solid black and though she’s young and silly I think she may be able to be the next kitty in waiting.

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

About Cookie’s name…tortie cats can look very brown when they are young, before their markings develop clarity on a slightly larger body, and Cookie was the first tortie I encountered. I called her “Chocolate” because of her coloring and because she was sweet. Because she was small I called her “Chocolate Chip”. One day I called, “Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Cookie, Cookie and she ran out from under the bed with big round eyes as if to say, ‘How did you know my name?’ ” She’s been Cookie from then on, but her full name is Semi-Sweet Butterscotch Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. You know how these things develop.

This article originally ran as “Cookie Reminisces” as we celebrated Peaches’ 100th Birthday in April 2010.


Cookie Reminisces

Even though Cookie doesn’t want to admit it, this is another article celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday. Cookie is my main tortie, and though she’s two years younger than Peaches she’s been with me the longest of any cat currently in my household, and she has many stories to tell. She’s also been a very special friend of mine all these years for reasons you’ll read in her story.

photo of tortie cat

Cookie Ponders

I just don’t understand all this fuss about Peaches. I mean, I know she’s an old cat, but so am I, except that I’m “mature” where Peaches is just “old”.

It’s not hard to get “old”, really it just happens. What is more interesting is how you get there. And you have to have a good human who will take care of the important things for you.

I have lived my life in service to my mom, and I have let no other living thing, human, feline or otherwise, come before her. To me, and to the rest of us, she is like Freya, goddess of just about everything that is worth living for, and I have happily served as one of her chariot cats all my life.

Most people don’t know that tri-color cats have an excellent memory, and can recall everything we’ve experienced through our lives. It’s one of the reasons tri-color cats have been considered good luck through history, though most humans think it’s only because of our unique coloring. That extra gene that gives us our tri-color coat also gives us an extra ability both to remember and to perceive. Sometimes, we can be a little irritable, but it’s only because we’re processing an awful lot of information.

So I remember all the way back to my beginning, which was pretty grim.

There were four of us kittens with our mother and we were pretty happy and warm in our little box in a house until someone in the house decided we should be raised outdoors “like real cats” and put us outside. I was very young and still nursing, only tasting real food now and then.

Our mom moved us to a safe place then went off to get some food since she was told to “fend for herself”. We never saw her again, though we called and called for her.

Other little humans heard us, though, and led some other big humans to where our mom had hidden us. We were so hungry all we could do was cry. Unfortunately by that time two of my sisters were silent and we knew we’d never hear them again.

One of the big humans picked up my sister and one of the little humans picked up me and the big human told the little one that we needed special food and it might be a lot of work, but that we were probably old enough to survive if we got enough food.

So I went off with the little human, but not to live happily ever after. It seems his mom wanted no parts of me, even though he already had another feline in the house. He brought me inside overnight because she didn’t notice, but the next day she would put me outside. I really don’t understand some humans.

But he fed me and he played with me and I understood that he really loved me, so I stayed close to his house and when he came outside to look for me it made him so happy when I’d magically appear from under a bush or around the side of the house.

He always managed to feed me something, but there were times when there wasn’t much. Then the weather got colder and colder, and I heard him and all the other humans talking about how we hadn’t had “snow”, that icky cold wet stuff that gets on everything when it’s cold outside, “that early in winter”. When there wasn’t snow it was just cold, and it really hurt my paws.

pastel painting of snow in morning

Morning Snow 1, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

One day I had had enough. Cold wet snow was falling fast and I just started walking. I found a spot where warm air was flowing out of a little window and I settled underneath it, since it was somewhat dry there. I heard the boy calling and when he got close enough I came out and he picked me up and began to carry me back to where we lived.

We stopped on the way to talk to a big human in a little house I had passed. While he held me and proudly told her “this is my kitty”, I could see there were other cats in the house looking out the windows. They looked so warm and happy I could only wish, but I knew my future was in this icky outdoors. Still, I heard her say, “If your mom puts her back outside, just bring her here.”

And later that day his mom came home and literally tossed me out the door into the snow, which was really deep and wet by then. He brought me back in, and I heard them on the phone, her saying, “I don’t care if that cat dies it’s not coming in here, he already has one…”

Then he put me in his coat and in a minute we were back at the lady’s house. “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll take care of her, and you can visit.”

So we went inside and she put me in a nice warm room by myself then left. There was a bowl of food and a bowl of water but I was so tired and confused after my awful day that I ignored it at first and just curled up on a nice soft bed and fell asleep.

The lady came back in and picked me up to take me to another room with bright lights. She sat on the floor and put me on her lap and talked to me while she gently ran her hands all over me, pulled on my ears, lifted my face and looked right into my eyes, lifted each of my paws and felt all my toes. Any other time I’d have given her a piece of my mind at treatment like this, but it wasn’t like the kids outside would do, and besides I was kind of in a stupor in the warmth with food and gentle petting.

I curled myself up on her lap really tightly and started on the second toe on my left hind foot. “Hmmm…” she said, picked me up and looked at my foot, pulling my toes apart and looking really closely. Then she let my paw go and I went back to it with my toe, feeling a big profound purr begin deep inside me, but again she took my foot and inspected it and let it go. This time she just petted me while I worked on my toe and after a while I heard her say, “Oh, little kitty, you’re nursing on your toe…” Well, when I lost my mom and then my sister and I was alone a lot, I needed something for comfort. What could it hurt?

photo of tortie cat in basket

Cookie in the basket.

I stayed in the warm, quiet room with the food bowl and the lady came to visit a few times a day with food in a little can—yum! I heard the other cats outside and we sniffed under the door at each other. She petted me and talked to me and called me “Chocolate”, but I was still wary and usually kept my distance when she came in, acting unconcerned, except when she sat down and then I could curl up on her lap and work on my toe. I just knew this had to end, and I wasn’t going to get too accustomed to the room or to her since I had loved the little boy too, and had to leave there. I had lost my mother and all my sisters, and I wasn’t taking any chances anymore.

But one morning when she came in and cheerily said, “Good morning, Chocolate!” I impulsively turned and walked over to her, put my tail up and asked her a question with just my eyes, “I’m staying here, aren’t I?”

“Oh, little kitty, I’m so glad you’re happy to be here!” Humans can be very intuitive too. I knew I was right. And I knew that I’d be devoted to this person for all my life. Eighteen years later, I still am. In fact, right now I’m properly draped across her lap, right paw extended and my chin resting on her right wrist as she types, and just a little purr is intended to massage her wrist and to relax me. Mom is working and I am attentive as her kitty in waiting. We are very happy.

photo of two tortie cats

Cookie and Kelly at the computer

I have seen many changes since the day she let me out of that room and I officially joined the household (and I had no idea until some time later that I nearly left with someone who was looking to adopt a tri-color kitty who ended up with Sunshine, a calico who had been wandering the neighborhood as well as me). I was the youngest then; now I’m the second oldest, but I’ve been here the longest. I grew to love all the cats who were here when I came for what they taught me, even those who came for a while then left, and all the others who came and stayed and are still here. I even managed to get over my pique when my mom took in another tortie, that scrawny, noisy Kelly who is so un-tortie in so many ways, and now it’s hard to believe that Kelly is a senior cat too.

photo of tortie cat in the sun

Cookie-patra

I knew some day I’d hold this position of honor as the lead cat in the household. I was instructed by the best cats in the world just exactly how to take care of my mom and how to be a leader among cats so that you earned respect without having to lift a paw, though sometimes you need to say something. Usually, a stern look will do.

Cookie and Sophie

Cookie and Sophie

But mostly I’ve loved being one of my mom’s guard cats. I knew this was my place and learned the position from my sister Sophie, who was here when I came in and who became my closest friend in the household, though she could be a little strange at times. Still, whenever our mom settled down, we would take our positions on either side of her, either curled in vigilance on either side of her on her desk or literally leaning against her ankles, either just being vigilant or giving her the strength and support she needed in the moment.

We lost Sophie a few years ago, and it hurt as badly as losing my mother and sisters did all those years ago. I couldn’t even be there for my mom, or she for me, until one day we looked at each other and noticed we’d each quit eating and were losing weight and just feeling sick all the time. We curled up together and gave each other the strength to go on.

photo of two cats in a garden

Namir and Cookie inspect my gardening.

We’ve lost others too, and last year we lost Namir; even though I wasn’t as close with him as I was with Sophie, and he used to run up behind me and swat my butt then trot away giggling, we had great times out in the back yard helping mom with her garden and just enjoying being cats out there and it’s just not the same out there without him.

There has been so much more in my eighteen years here with my mom, and I am looking forward to many, many more. Our Stanley lived to be really, really old, several years older than I am now, and I don’t see any reason I can’t do the same.

photo of cats on bed

Mewsette questions Cookie

Besides, who would look after our mom if I wasn’t here? The only kitty I’ve seen with any potential all these years is Mewsette, who has been hanging out near me and asking questions. I have to put her in her place now and then because she’s a little too friendly for me, but even though she’s not a tortie she is big and strong and solid black and I think she may be able to be the next kitty in waiting.

About Cookie’s name…tortie cats can look very brown when they are young, before their markings develop clarity on a slightly larger body, and Cookie was the first tortie I encountered. I called her “Chocolate” because of her coloring and because she was sweet. Because she was small I called her “Chocolate Chip”. One day I called, “Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Cookie, Cookie and she ran out from under the bed with big round eyes as if to say, ‘How did you know my name?’ ” She’s been Cookie from then on, but her full name is Semi-Sweet Butterscotch Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. You know how these things develop.

Other articles celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday

Bid on this Print and Start Celebration Peaches’ 100th Birthday

How Peaches Stole My Heart

Old is Awesome!

Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, Part 1

Beyond Food and Water, Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, part 2

Other articles about Peaches

Peaches Applies for a Job

Get Well Wishes for Peaches

Peaches Says, “Thanks for All the Get Well Wishes, They Worked”

This is a short list—Peaches appears in many articles I’ve written on my household, on pet loss, and even some silly things I’ve written on my website before I had a blog! Search “peaches” in the search box for more articles.