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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Harper Design. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
The Japanese are the masters of the cutie-verse like no other culture in the world. My lust for all things kitty-san started with Hello Kitty back in the 1980s (yes, according to die-hard fans, I know she was "born" in England, but Sanrio, the parent company touted with creating HK is a Japanese company). For many years I've been putting together a small collection of Japanese books, collectibles and toys featuring cute-ific felines, so you can imagine my delight when a certain book arrived in my mailbox. They had me at the title: AMI AMI KITTENS: Seriously Cute Crochet!
What IS Ami Ami? Using crochet, a new craft form called Amigurumi; which translated means knitted stuffed toy, was born...but what crafty artists do with this form is what makes it so special.
In her latest book AMI AMI KITTENS: Seriously Cute Crochet!, Mitsuki Hoshi not only creates amazingly detailed crocheted kitten figures, she places them in perfect miniature scenes, each with delightful details that make the Amigurumi seemingly come to life.
I barely opened the book before I was swept away by the sweetness of each image, which spans the full width of every page. These may be the cutest photos I've ever seen. The tiny kitten figures are photographed as if they're real kittens; being mischievous, acting curious and carefree, only they're made out of yarn. They're so completely adorable that I immediately wanted to learn how to crochet OR beg Ms Hoshi to create some kitten toys for me.
Even if you're not crafty, just looking at the photos is enough reason to add this book to your collection because you'll smile every time you turn the page, whether it be the first time or the hundredth time. If you're a cat-loving crafter, there are complete instructions and patterns in the book so you can make your own tiny crocheted kittens.
AMI AMI KITTENS: Seriously Cute Crochet! (Harper Design; Trade Paperback; On Sale: March 1st, 2016; $14.99) is a craft book following on the heels of the great success of AMI AMI DOGS and AMI AMI DOGS 2, but now for cat lovers!
In AMI AMI KITTENS, crocheters will learn:
- Basic crocheting techniques (perfect for beginners!)
- Spiral techniques to ensure stuffing will not come out
- Patterns and detailed directions for many different types of kittens! Including: Tabby, Pointed, Black/White Solid, Calico, Black and White, Scottish Fold, Siamese, Russian Blue, Munchkin, Maine Coon, British Shorthair, and American Shorthair!
If you'd like to WIN a copy of AMI AMI KITTENS: Seriously Cute Crochet! simply leave a comment here about something cute. Enter by 2/14/16 at 11:11PM EST. Winner, as chosen by me, will get one copy of the book. Entrant's mailing address must be in the United States for a chance to win. One comment PER person, please. Comments are moderated to prevent SPAM so it may take a few hours for your entry to appear. BOOK MAY NOT SHIP UNTIL AFTER THE PUBLICATION DATE of March 1, 2016.
I didn't have much time to mourn Laney, Winnie and Piglet leaving to go to their forever home because the day after their adoption a family contacted me, interested in Louie and Larry. I'd had a few applications on the boys over the past year they've been here, but none of them were a good fit. This one sounded promising, but I never assume anything until the cats leave in a carrier.
Louie and Larry were two cats I never really got to know well. The girls were so much more affectionate that even though I tried to handle the boys, the girls were always in the way. Originally there were nine cats in the room who all needed attention. Sadly, the ones who didn't get as much, ended up being a bit more shy. I knew as the cats got adopted I'd be able to spend more time with whoever was left, but I was already concerned because if the boys didn't warm up, it could mean they'd be here a lot longer.
It was unsettling, entering the foster room and only seeing the four boys. The room felt empty without the girls buzzing around my ankles, purring and chirping their greeting to me. I longed for the familiar routine, but I also appreciated the fact that I had a lot less food to give out and less in the litter pan to scoop. After five and a half years of having a room constantly filled with cats, it was nice to have the numbers go down a bit. I wondered if it would ever be empty again.
The boys really missed their mom. They were more shy with me than before. But fairly soon they were taking over her routine of chirping and meowing at me when I brought them their meals. Larry, especially, became more outgoing and even came over to me to be petted. He and Louie are such handsome boys. I felt badly for not admiring them more sooner. I always enjoyed play time with them because Louie, especially, would go crazy after the toys, growling to the others to stay back when he had his mouth on the prize. He'd fly after a toy and run until he was panting. If I kept on he'd chase the toy until he fell over.
Yesterday, I spent some time with the boys before Renee and her family came to meet them. They seemed a bit more relaxed around me and Larry even enjoyed being petted, instead of running away when I approached him. As my fingers rubbed behind his ear, he began to purr. It was the first time I'd heard it since he arrived here from Georgia last March. I imagined it being a sweet parting gift IF he and Louie were to be adopted. I really wasn't sure if the boys were going to go. They never showed well, always hiding when strangers entered the room. I'd told Renee about that when I did the home visit, but she and her husband have had cats "forever" and their two boys were raised with cats. Maybe it would be a good fit in time.
The family arrived and all the cats hid. The room was noisy and filled with Renee, her husband and two sons. I tried to get everyone to settle down, grabbing some cat toys to help the cats forget to be scared. Distraction with play time is a great way to help cats gain confidence in stressful situations and this was certainly one of them.
Louie and Larry began to play right away while Jelly Belly and Lolli seemed to evaporate into a parallel universe. Everyone was chatting and asking questions about the cats. They'd come to see all four cats, but I knew that Jelly and Lolli wouldn't be a good fit. They're just too fearful, especially Lolli, to be with a family of four who live in a very big house. It would be too much for them to handle and they'd only hide even more. My hope was that if they started the boys off in their own room for a week or two, that they'd be able to manage. But would they be adopted?
They boys began to tire. Renee's husband reached out and was able to pet Larry. Once that happened I had hope this adoption would go through. The boys are truly sweet cats, but they also need time to blossom and maybe this family would give them that chance.
I left the room so the family could decide what they wanted to do. They could go anywhere and adopt any cats they wanted. My boys were over 10 pounds now, a far cry from the kittens they once were. Part of me didn't want to see them go since I'd just said goodbye to their mom, but part of me yearns for foster kittens and the emptier the room, the sooner I can fill it up again.
A little while later, the decision: Louie and Larry were going to their new home. Laney and Winnie's family was broken up for good. The co-parenting they did, the way they all slept in a big pile together every night was really over now. I'd have Jelly and Lolli left while the others went off to live their new life with their forever families. It's how it's meant to be. It's my job. As happy as I was to know they were on their way, part of me longed for the way things used to be and my heart ached over having to separate any of the cats from each other.
I can only do this if I believe the cats are going to a good home. I remind myself that I can't give them the love and time they deserve. I can't give them the space to run around and explore. I can't even sleep with them each night. My home is just the way station. Now they can begin their life without restrictions (other than staying indoors!).
Happy life, boys. May you only know love and joy in your new home. Congratulations to you and your family.
When I think about Laney and look into her owly-shaped pale-lime colored eyes, I feel relief. She weighs a bit over 10 pounds now. Her fur is sleek and silky, her expression sparkles with vitality. The fleas and parasites that plagued her body over a year and a half ago, are long gone. Her womb is no longer filled with a rag tag mix of kittens. Her fourth known litter was her last because we had her spayed. Instead of trying to scrape together a meal, living outdoors with filthy pest-covered kibble to sustain her, her meals are nutritious and brought to her twice a day.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Passion Fruit Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Years ago, when I first started Kitten Associates, some of my colleagues jokingly warned me about rescuing Tortoiseshell cats. I couldn’t imagine why, having never lived with one, but that soon changed. As fate would have it, my first litter of foster kittens included a “tortie.”
She was named Cinnaminnie and boy was she a pip! It is said that torties have big personalities, which can sometimes translate into being high-strung and more sensitive to their surroundings. A recent study done by UC Davis suggests there is scientific evidence to prove torties and their 3-colored, calico cousins can be “challenging” to live with.
The one thing they don’t mention is how devoted these cats can be to one person in their human family. I wonder if torties live big and love big, too?
Exploring that proposition is Ingrid King, author of the multi-award-winning blog, The Conscious Cat. In her latest book, Tortitude, the BIG Book of Cats with a BIG Attitude, King explores the mystique of these confetti-colored creatures. King is a long time tortie-devotee, stemming from her first tortie, Virginia, over a decade ago, to her girls Allegra and Ruby, who share their home with her today.
Tortitude is a love story, as told by King and championed in the forward by Catification expert, Kate Benjamin. In addition to their personal tortie-tales are fun facts about tortie-DNA and tortie-folklore. What makes up the majority of the book are carefully curated images of torties paired with charming quotes about cats.
[Full disclosure, three of my own photos are in the book. One is below.]
Ingrid King clearly adores torties (there are no crazy cats here) and to anyone else who also shares her passion, this is THE book to choose if you want to celebrate the wonder of these multi-colored marvels. The only thing lacking is I wish there were even more photos (can’t get enough) and a picky request that I wish the paper was glossy, to bring out the full glory of the images. But even with that minor issue it’s clear that if you love these sassy beauties, you’ll love this book.
I had a chance to ask Ms. King a few questions about her passion and her dreams for Tortitude.
CICH: What was it about Tortoiseshell cats that won you over or was it just fate that you would meet and fall in love with one?
IK: Torties just sort of grew on me. My first encounters with tortoiseshell cats were in a veterinary clinic setting. During my training, I was often warned to approach these cats with a healthy dose of caution, so it's actually kind of surprising to me how much I came to love these cats. But it wasn’t until I met Virginia, my office cat at the animal hospital I managed, that I totally fell in love with these special cats.
CICH: What are your top 5 favorite things about torties that you think makes them stand apart from other breeds or coat color of cats?
IK: I love cats of every breed and color, but there's just something about torties... I love everything about them! I love the uniqueness of their fur and coat pattern. I love their strong personalities. Maybe it’s because I can identify with their strong sense of independence. Maybe it’s because they seem to live by their own rules. Whatever it is, I’m a tortie lover for life.
CICH: Do you imagine you’ll ever open your home to a non-tortie?
IK: When I was looking for a companion for Allegra after Amber passed away, I wasn't specifically looking for another tortie, but I just kept being drawn to them, and when I met Ruby, I knew that we were going to be a two-tortie houshold. It's hard for me to imagine not sharing my life with a tortie, but you just never know with these things, do you?
CICH: Do you feel that having two torties is two-times the trouble?
IK: At times, it's tortitude squared, but it's also two-times the love!
CICH: What was the inspiration for your book beyond your love for multi-colored cats? Were there any myths you wanted to dispel?
IK: The book was inspired primarily by my love for torties, but I also wanted to show that even though all torties have tortitude, they're also all individuals. I'm all about learning from our cats, and I think torties teach us that you should never judge anyone or anything based on appearance alone.
CICH: If you had to do it all over again is there anything you’d change about your book?
IK: I wish I could have included more photos. I received almost 1,000 photos from my followers, and it was really hard to narrow it down to only the ones used in the book. Of course, it also meant that for about two months, I had the best job in the world: I got to sort through hundreds of photos of torties!
CICH: If there’s one thing you could tell my readers about torties what would you want them to know?
IK: Life will never be boring when you share it with a tortie.
CICH: Any plans for a sequel?
IK: You never know...
CICH: I’m starting to ask this of all my interviewees: What is your favorite cat body part?
IK: How could I possibly answer that! I love everything about cats - I think they're the most beautiful creatures on the planet. But if I absolutely had to pick one body part, I'd have to say the eyes, because, as cliched as it sounds, they're the window to a cat's soul.
If you'd like to WIN a copy of Tortitude, the BIG book of Cats with a BIG Attitude simply leave a comment here about something that shows your cat has tortitude (even if it's not exactly a tortie). Enter by 1/29/16 at 11:11PM EST. Winner, as chosen by me, will get one copy of the book. Entrant's mailing address must be in the United States for a chance to win. One comment PER person, please. Comments are moderated to prevent SPAM so it may take a few hours for your entry to appear.
How do you define artistic genius? For a painter, perhaps it’s through tiny details carefully mastered at the tip of a brush. For a writer, it's via a rainbow of words woven into a tapestry of memorable characters, effortlessly transporting us into another world. Then there’s another kind of genius, too, one that can distill an otherwise mundane or even distressing experience and turn it into a handful of hilarious, simply drawn images. That is the gift of animator-cartoonist Simon Tofield.
Simon’s Cat: Off to the Vet …and Other Cat-astrophes is the fifth offering in the series of Simon’s Cat books; featuring cartoons of none other than the rascally-catbit Simon’s Cat. For those not familiar, Simon’s cat® is eternally hungry and oh-so-obsessed about how he might get himself an extra snack. Birds are his favorite target, yet he reminds us of Wile E. Coyote, who as brilliant as he thinks he is, he never quite outwits his prey. Meanwhile, it is his outlandish failures that are what keeps readers coming back for more.
What’s hooked fans since 2008 when Simon’s Cat first appeared in a YouTube video entitled, Cat man Do, (which has had over 56 MILLION views to date) is how on one level he’s relatable and very much like every-cat, but on another, he goes to far more outrageous lengths to get what he wants. Because he’s so adorable we hope he’ll get it (even if it means a broken lamp or ruined sofa in the process).
Simon’s Cat: Off to the Vet…is an energetic romp Tofield renders artfully in pen and ink. He captures the humor in a task cat-parents find completely dreadful—taking their cat to the Vet. With Tofield’s genius as a cartoonist, each page turned is another reason to snicker, especially in scenes where Simon’s Cat wrestles with wearing the dreaded cone-of-shame. Because Tofield is able to find the punchline in these moments, perhaps we can as well, the next time we’re faced with wrestling our cat into the carrier for that dreaded trip to you-know-where in the car.
Simon's cat, forever hungry, in his iconic pose. Photo from original drawing donated to our rescue, Kitten Associates.
Simon’s Cat: Off to the Vet…includes a return of our favorite characters like the Hedgehog, the Garden Gnome and the Kitten, as well as inviting a few new ones to join in the adventure. While after four previous books it would be easy to assume we’d see the same thing over and over again, Tofield finds a way to keep the antics fresh and laugh-out-loud funny. I found myself gleefully anticipating what the next page turn would reveal.
I particularly enjoyed the surprise at the center of the book. It reminded me of the point in the film, The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy arrives in Oz and the film goes from monotone to full-color. Tofield’s simple black and white line drawings are transformed by the addition of dazzling watercolors, creating a dimension not only to the look, but to the effect of the storytelling that was quite appealing.
In 2016, a full-color, fully funded (record breaking), Indiegogo campaign sponsored, feature animation based on this book will debut and I can’t wait to see it.
I had a chance to ask Simon Tofield a few questions about his life, the loss of one of his cats, as well as his aspirations and inspirations:
CiCH:I’m very sorry to hear of Hugh’s passing at the age of 10. How did that effect your work and do you feel there might be some changes to Simon’s Cat in the future as a result?
ST:Hugh was very dear to me and so his passing was very sad. I still find myself calling his name at the cat’s feeding time by accident. When it rains and my other black cat Teddy’s fur gets wet he looks like the spitting image of Hugh, which often catches me off guard when he comes through the cat flap. In relation to Simon’s Cat, I draw upon all cats I have ever owned for inspiration past and present, so even though he has passed away, its nice to know that Hugh will live on in my work.
CiCH:Do you still have three cats and are you considering adding to your cat-family any time soon? If so, what sort of cat would be ideal?
ST: Yes, I still have three cats, Old jess, big Maisy and fluffy Teddy. I would love to get another cat after Hugh's passing but I also have a little nineteen-month-old boy. So the idea of having new kittens and a toddler running around the house is maybe not a good one. Although saying that, my wife and I have already agreed that when my little boy is old enough we will get another cat or two.
My favourite sort of cat is the giant Maine Coon. I love the fact they grow so big and are so gentle and friendly. Although when the time finally does come to get a new cat I think it will have to be another rescue cat from the centre.
CiCH:If Simon’s Cat was a specific breed of cat what kind would he be?
ST:If Simon's cat were a breed he would probably be a British short hair. A moggie of no real breeding but with buckets of character and charm. He would also have a white coat and be slightly over weight, he would be lazy but have a very clever, calculating little mind.
CiCH: Was it after “Cat-man Do” went viral when you decided to focus your career on doing Simon’s Cat or did something else occur that made you realise this was your life’s calling?
ST:When I saw how much people seemed to enjoy Cat-man-Do, I really wanted to do another one. I had always loved animation and cats, so combining the two seemed like an ideal job. However, It was only when someone came up to me and offered me a book deal that I could start concentrating solely on Simon's Cat.
CiCH:How has fame changed your life beyond improving your finances?
ST:I have to say that my life is kind of the same as it has always been; I wouldn't really call myself Famous. I look at it as the cat is the famous one I'm just his owner who has to look after him. My life has been completely turned upside down recently though but It's due to a baby in the house, something my real cats are still coming to terms with.
CiCH:What dreams do you have for Simon’s Cat going forward?
ST:Well I'm delighted that people still enjoy watching my cat and his antics and in that sense my dreams have already been realised. If I had wish for more, it would probably be for a TV series, I think that would be great to see him on Television.
CiCH:It’s been said you get inspiration for your art from your cats, but are there people who inspire you? Other cartoonists? Other artists?
ST:As a boy growing up in the 80's I fell in love with the Transformers cartoon series and would often video it and watch it back to learn how to animate. I would go through each frame at a time trying to figure out how many drawings it took to do a certain movement. I used this knowledge a few years later when I discovered the magic of making flipbooks at college. So from quite an early age I was hooked on animation. Having dyslexia I found reading quite a struggle as a child so tended to draw everything instead, this of course has helped me greatly in later life. I tended not really to look at other peoples work as I was too busy scribbling my own stuff but in my twenties I discovered Gary Larson and his Far Side cartoons. It always amazed me how he could create so many funny situations with HILARIOUS CHARACTERS. I certainly looked up to him as an Artist for sure. Another Artist who I greatly admired was Bill Watterson and his charming Calvin and Hobbes series, pure genius.
CiCH:You have a great gift for being able to take an uncomfortable subject, like the struggle most cat-parents have, to get their cat to the Vet and show the humour in it in just a few images. Are there any aspects of living with cats that you don’t feel you’d want to explore in Simon’s Cat?
ST: Well there are certain aspects of living with cats that probably wouldn't make great topics to draw. A few years ago I would have said the whole litter tray scenario but I have found myself going there and it's actually quite funny. I have always had a great love of wildlife and birds in particular. I have a little rule that Simon's cat although he tries very hard never actually catches or kills a bird. I would like to say the same about mice but He has eaten a mouse in the past and showed the remains to Simon. I try to base Simon's Cat as much as I can in real life and this is just one of those things cats do.
CiCH:When will the animation be airing of “Simon’s Cat Off to the Vet” ?
ST:We plan to realise the 'Off to the Vet' in 2016.
CiCH:What is your favorite body part on a cat? (I love big fluffy cat bums)
ST:My favorite cat body part has to be the tail; I think it’s a window into the mind of the cat. Every emotion can be picked up by the subtle little movements and shape of the tail. I use this a lot in my animations and illustrations. Cats are really great for cartoons because they can say so much with their body language; they are all visual in their feelings, perfect for drawing. You can draw a cat and let everyone know how that cat is feeling with out writing a single word. This is probably the reason why there are so many cartoon felines.
If you’d like to WIN a copy (paperback) of Simon’s Cat: Off to the Vet…and Other Cat-astrophes simply leave a comment here and tell us what your cat does when you try to take him, her or all of them to the vet. Funniest comment judged by me wins. I have TWO copies to giveaway so there will be two winners. Deadline to enter is December 31, 2015 at 11:11 PM Eastern Standard Time. Please only one comment/entry per person. All comments are MODERATED to prevent SPAM so it may take some time for your comment to appear, but since they are time stamped I’ll know if your entry is within the deadline once you send it in.
FTC DISCLAIMER: I was given a copy of this book to review, but I was not paid for this post in any way. These are my sentiments and opinions only (other than where Mr. Tofiled is quoted). Your mileage may vary.
BIG NEWS FOR SIMON’S CAT FANS. We’re going to be auctioning off an ORIGINAL SIMON’S CAT drawing, done in-person by Simon Tofield. Proceeds will go to our rescue, Kitten Associates. Special thanks to Simon Tofield and Ingrid King for their generosity in giving us this fabulous drawing of Simon’s cats (featuring Hugh!).
STAY TUNED for INFO ON HOW TO BID ON THIS MASTERPIECE! If you'd like to get on our mailing list to find out when it will be available for bidding, sign up for our Newsletter through the Kitten Associates web site. or email us at info @ kittenassociates.org (remove spaces after "info" and before "kitten" for proper address.
We are beyond thrilled to be able to offer this drawing for sale to raise funds for our rescue efforts. Sadly we could not get our auction going by the time this review posted due to Holiday insanity but it should be up just after the New Year.
Lil BUB is a magical creature who's caused a mythical impact on her over 2.4 million (as of this writing)Facebook fans thanks, in part, to the careful marketing and image management by her "Dude," Mike Bridavsky. For this perma-kitten-sized cat (she barely tops the scales at four pounds), born to a feral mama in a toolshed in rural Indiana, that's a lot to live up to.
Yet one look at BUB's goggly green eyes and bazooka bubblegum pink tongue, which hangs over her underdeveloped jaw (she was also born without teeth and has 6 toes on each paw), and most cat-lovers are immediately smitten. She can never be just any old cat to her fans. Her likeness inspires artists to paint her portrait, create murals of her and otherwise celebrate her remarkable differences. Through BUB we learn that what makes us different is what makes us all stars in the Bubverse and we love her for that.
BUB's Dude utilizes BUB's curious likeness for good (he gives back to other rescues, created the ASPCA's Lil BUB's Big FUND, and supports small businesses who work with him to develop a line of BUB-centric memorabilia) in addition to bringing home the tuna for his growing family.
We've seen internet celebucats rise and fall, some clearly pushed towards a goal of making a buck and leaving it at that. I wouldn't write about BUB if that was the case, but I do admit that the more merchandising surrounding BUB, the more I'm going to buy it(full disclosure, I'm the graphic designer who created the carton design for Lil BUB's "Bubblehead" figure and you can see it HERE).
So last night, when I had the chance to travel to Beacon, NY to see BUB again (you can check out my last visit with her HERE), even though I was recovering from the flu, it wasn't going to stop me. (and No, I wasn't contagious!)
It was a dark and rainy (not stormy), night. It didn't deter BUB's fans from waiting outside Audioccult for a chance to see her. The meet and greet was to celebrate the launch of BUB's first musical endeavor entitled, "Science & Magic." Owning a recording studio, BUB's Dude knew it would be a perfect fit to create a selection of original songs that include BUB's signature "squonks" (since she doesn't meow as most cats do, Dude calls it "Squonk").
If these songs could be seen, they would look just like BUB. In the song entitled: Rebirth you can hear BUB snoring in the background, but it's so subtle you find yourself transported along with the music into a technicolor wonderland (where you'll undoubtedly begin dreaming of BUB, too).
Although I don't regard myself as a music critic, I enjoyed each song and I felt they captured a different part of BUB's personality. I also thought the album cover art was fabulous and certainly worth adding to any collection BUB memorabilia.
I spoke with a few "Bubbies" (a term I'm using to refer to BUB's fans) who were waiting on line. One couple took the day off and drove from Rhode Island to see BUB. They work at Hasbro in the Media Dept creating videos. They have a bank of monitors running all sorts of content day and night. It is now a tradition to run Lil BUB's Magical Yule Log video on a loop for the week between Christmas and New Years.
Another couple drove over 120 miles (each way) to see BUB and were happy to do it. There was a dad, a bit embarrassed, holding a place in line for his two teenage daughters. While we continued to wait in line a woman came up to us holding a stuffed plush Lil BUB in her arms. She held it out to us and said "Hi, I'm 52 years old, how old are you?"
We all burst into contagious laughter since she said what many of us were thinking; “Look at us, most at least in our 30's if not much older, standing in the freezing rain so we can get our photo taken next to a cat."...and odds are everyone on that line had at least ONE cat of their own waiting for them at home on a nice warm, soft bed. How silly are we? We don't care! We LOVE BUB.
I was scheduled to have a few minutes to interview Lil BUB and her Dude, but they'd hit bad traffic and arrived late with no time to spare. I took the bad news well, okay I whined a bit, wishing I'd get more than a fleeting moment with her, but knowing that BUB was also still recovering from a near-death scare last month made me wonder if she should even be away from home at all.
BUB accidentally broke her leg, which required surgery to repair. For most cats this wouldn't be a big concern but BUB has osteopetosis and that makes her bones more brittle and thicker. Though the surgery went well, the recovery from anesthesia did not. With BUB's small size meant it was harder for her to breathe and coming out of sedation didn't go well at all. BUB had to have a tracheotomy and the 36 hours following were touch and go. I don't even want to think about a world without BUB, but while most of us had no idea, BUB's family must have been suffering terribly with worry.
As Mike detailed on BUB's Facebook page, BUB is doing well and had the very best of the best care. As of last night I was told she's continuing to do well, but in all honesty, I think she looked tired and the cat-mom in me wanted to take her home and tuck her into bed. Now that her Dude is a daddy (to a human son), is married and has family obligations, there are hints on social media that perhaps BUB won't be traveling as much in the future. It made this night even more important to those of us who could meet with her.
The shop door opened and we were ushered into the small record store. I really enjoyed the decor as it was filled with oddball collectibles, along with a smattering of carefully curated LPs (yes, vinyl!). The shop owner, Sean, and his wife were cordial and had the event well organized. We were to sanitize our hands (even though we couldn't touch BUB), then bring our LP over to the table for Mike Bridavsky and Matt Tobey to autograph it for us, then we'd get a few seconds with BUB.
Considering they had nearly 100 people in line, every single person was warmly greeted, treated kindly, and made to feel they would have a special moment with BUB. They made sure everyone had at least a few photos to take home with them, too.
And as I'd seen before, BUB's Dude was very protective of her, watching her every move out of the corner of his eye, making sure she wasn't disturbed too much and politely answering questions while letting people know they were welcome and appreciated, but...under all that I could sense he was quite tired. As with BUB, now I wanted to pack Dude up, too and just get them out of there so they could rest. I didn't care if I got a photo or not. I really wanted them to be safe. Yes, it's the Jewish Mother in me rearing up. I know they're fine and Dude is a tough cookie, but maybe when this tour is over they can take a very long break.
Though my few moments with BUB and her Dude were just that, it will always be worth it to have a chance to see her again. BUB really isn't a cat after all. She is living proof that magic does exist in every day life.
Gracie aka, “Beanie,” or “Miss Bubbles” is gone, but instead of making all of you cry, yet again, I wanted to share some stories about her life and why she was so very special to us. Although you might not guess it from looking at her, Gracie was a very funny cat. She was also magnificent in her youth, truly a spectacle of fine flowing fluff. She was fearful, but lion-hearted. She was kind. I do not believe she ever hissed or growled at anyone. Super-Deb, our friend and Vet Tech at Dr. Larry’s called her, “A Lady” and remarked that you could do whatever you needed to do to her and she wouldn’t cause a fuss.
Gracie was my first “unwed mama-cat.” I’d only fostered one cat before she arrived and he was a foster fail named Spencer who became the mascot of Covered in Cat Hair. I didn’t quite know what to do with Gracie or her three kittens: Scooterpie, Annabelle and Petunia. Gracie was very skittish and didn’t exactly welcome my presence, so I gave her plenty of space and focused on socializing the kittens. I can’t say I really got to know Gracie very well during those days, but when it seemed as though she was never going to be adopted and I only had a cat or two at the time, I decided that she and her daughter Petunia could stay with me.
Gracie was a great mama and when it was time for her to leave the confines of the foster room, Gracie hid a lot or ran off if Sam or I tried to come to her. Again, we gave her space to acclimate and in time she began to appear on our bed in the morning or sleep a bit closer to us when we watched TV in the living room.
The one thing Gracie loved was to be brushed. I used to call her a “Brush Whore” because she would probably have sold her soul to get brushed. All I had to do was ask Gracie; “Brush?” and she’d run over to me excited and ready to be groomed. She’d sit still as I got the clumps out of her thick ruff. She’d purr, but she had a very soft purr I could barely hear. Maybe she was too shy to let it rip. I didn’t care. I was just glad that I found something she enjoyed. Brushing Gracie was something we did every single day, over the last few months of her life. We did it after she had to be pilled or syringe-fed, so our encounter would always end pleasantly.
Gracie loved toy mice. She’d grab one, then sit motionless holding it in her mouth for what seemed to be an hour. I don’t know why she did that, but after a time she’d start to yeowl while continuing to hold onto the mouse. Maybe she was announcing her latest victory over the toy mouse population? I know she lived outdoors before she came to us so maybe she was reliving the good old days?
One night Sam and I were in bed reading. We heard Gracie’s familiar yeowl and saw her running down the hallway into our bedroom with a toy mouse in her mouth. I looked up at her, amused at her silly antics, then went back to reading.
Gracie ran around the bed to Sam’s side. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Gracie throw the mouse up into the air. Sam, glued to his book didn’t pay any attention. Gracie was making odd sounds, really getting frantic over this toy.
Once again I saw the mouse fly up into the air but this time it landed on the bed between Sam’s legs. My primitive brain reacted to the sight first. Suddenly I found myself out of bed and halfway down the hallway as my modern brain caught up with the visual. I screamed:
“That’s NOT A TOY!!!!!”
There, in Sam’s lap was a dead mouse; A REAL MOUSE. There, was Gracie looking up at him as if to say; “What? What’s the matter? Can I get that back?”
Something happened to Gracie after she had a dental about eight years ago. She started to drool when she got brushed or petted for a long period of time. I nicknamed her Miss Bubbles because the drool always came out in perfect crystalline beads. Somehow they always ended up on my arm even though I tried to avoid the onslaught of saliva.
Sadly, it seems that her daughter Petunia also does this now and she drools so much it’s like turning on a faucet. As much as I love her it’s kinda gross to pet her for very long.
Something else also appeared after Gracie’s dental, milliary dermatitis. I wrote about my struggles with her (HERE and HERE). I don’t know what caused it or why she had it. I know we could not get it to go away even with a clean, raw diet, even with two years of going to see dermatologists here and in New York, giving Gracie shots, pills, tests, biopsies. I couldn’t give her steroids because I knew at only 7 years of age she’d have a significantly shorter life. I was, however, able to stop her from barbering off her fur and vomiting the fur back up every day. She seemed comfortable and her skin improved enough so she stopped feeling itchy.
Part of helping Gracie feel comfortable required giving her a bath a few times a week. Though she was not a fan of her bath time, she was a pretty good sport. I even took her to Dr. Larry’s because Super-Deb could give Gracie a “spa day” of grooming and bathing to help soothe her crusty skin. I was always so proud of Gracie because Super-Deb always said she was a good girl and easy to bathe.
I never learned the root cause of Gracie’s condition, but I do know that it lead to one cancerous lesion that we had removed many years ago. Looking back I believe that was the culprit in what eventually caused Gracie’s premature demise. And yes, I do believe 14 years is too young for a cat to pass away, especially because not three months ago Gracie seemed to be in such fine form. But I promised happy stories so let me think of another.
In the past few years Gracie overcame a lot. She stopped being so shy and began to seek out attention. It was marvelous to see her blossom, but it also unleashed a bit of a devil. You see, if we didn’t get up early enough to get her breakfast started she would quietly enter our bedroom, then stand up on her hind legs and drag her front paws, claws out, down the bedroom door. This would not only damage the door (because it’s a cheap piece of crap), but she would push the door shut which would flip out the cats who were on either side of the door.
I knew if I got up I was training her that I’d react to her antics, but if I didn’t get up one of the other cats might flip out or need to get out to use the litter pan and there isn’t one in our bedroom.
Gracie often made me grumble as she sat defiantly near the door. If she was Simon’s Cat I’d expect her to point at her open mouth wanting to be fed. I guess I should be glad that unlike Simon’s Cat, Gracie couldn’t mange to bring a baseball bat into the bedroom.
Gracie always had her way.
Gracie’s latest crazy thing was to sit on the kitchen table every morning and cry to get her goat milk/pro biotic drink. Her meow was very raspy and, well, not very delightful. She sounded like a really old cantankerous lady who only knew how to complain. I’d tell Gracie to shush and that I’d get her her drink right away. I think that looking back on this, too, I should have realized she might have been self-soothing her belly. If she had cancer back then it might have been starting to bleed and perhaps the cool drink and the goat milk comforted her. I know that cats hide illness very well and I’d say she did a really good job keeping the wool over my eyes for way too long.
She loved that drink. It gave her a milk moustache.
Gracie had a feather-fetish. If there were feathers attached to a toy instead of chasing them she would lick them. She’d lick and lick and lick as if she was grooming herself after a meal. I never let her have the feathers for too long for fear she’d ingest them. Even on her last days I gave her a catnip carrot that was crowned with green feathers instead of leaves. I knew she was still Gracie because she still licked the feathers.
After Gracie passed away and before we had her privately cremated, Sam and I wrapped her in a gorgeous new turquoise blue fleece blanket. I added a photo of us, to which we each wrote Gracie a special message. The final piece was Gracie’s catnip carrot. I slipped it between her front paws so she would always have it with her. I didn’t want Gracie to be wanting for anything even as she embarked on her next journey to the Rainbow Bridge.
Gracie brought us a lot of joy over the twelve years we had together. When I think of her I try not to think of the dark days. It’s not easy, but I know that in time I’ll only smile when I hear her name or look at a photo of her. Right now my heart is still raw from grief, but I’d do it all over again if it meant having those sunny days back, too.
It may be long overdue but it’s no less sincere: a BIG, BIG SHOUT OUT AND THANK YOU TO Andrew, master craftsman and design daddy behind the sublime line of cat scratcher/loungers called Brawny Cat.
I’ve written about Brawny loungers before, but this lounger is different. It’s far bigger, bolder, utilizes exotic hardwoods and is completely hand built. It even had a tiny metal plaque on it that glints in the sun. It’s HUGE. It’s heavy. It’s built to last for a very long time. It’s called the Big Sleeky Comfort Throne and our little Freya is lucky enough to have one to call her own.
This story began innocently enough. Last autumn I reached out to Andrew for advice. Freya hadn’t had her surgery yet and although she loved using corrugated cardboard scratchers, she keep soiling them to the point where I was replacing them every DAY. Clearly that was not a good use of resources so I thought there had to be a better way. I knew Andrew must have scraps of laminated cardboard so I hoped I could take some of it off his hands and use those.
Andrew chose to go above and beyond, telling me that although he was taking a short break from building cat loungers and didn’t have anything he could send me right away, that he would send me a little something later in the year. He did just that, shipping Freya a lounger that took our breath away. When a HUGE box arrived for Freya, I knew it was from Andrew. Inside the box was a breathtakingly GIGANTIC lounger, far bigger than Freya would ever need.
What’s not surprising is that our other ten cats have spent time on the lounger, too. Frankly, it’s rarely ever empty. That said, if Freya wants the lounger-end of discussion. She may be small, but that’s HER lounger and she’s not going to share. If she wanted to there’s plenty of room on it for two.
Freya also likes to watch TV since the Throne is in view of her favorite shows. In the four months (yes, a very tardy thank you) we’ve had it, the cardboard is still in great shape and the lounger is a nice compliment to our furnishings.
We also have a few Sleeky Lounges, which are a very budget friendly version of the Throne. They wear well. It’s been nearly two years since we’ve gotten those loungers and they’re still going strong and are used every day. You can see more about them here.
As most of you know, Freya did have her surgery and is doing GREAT. I’m sure if she could talk she’d thank Andrew, too, for his generosity and for his compassion for cats-especially a little kitten who needed his help.
Many years ago when I was first fostering, I’d heard about conditions cats and dogs face in the southern United States at overcrowded municipal shelters. At the time I didn’t want to know any details. I kept my eyes to the ground and just fostered a few kittens here or maybe an entire family, but never too many to feel overwhelmed. I was protecting myself from a heartbreaking truth that I was convinced I couldn’t do anything about because I was just one person. Fostering a few kittens meant giving back to my community and helping cats. I didn’t have to find them homes, my “boss” did that. I didn’t have to get too attached because I only had the kittens for a week or two.
In fact, there were times when I could have learned more about terrible conditions right here in my own state when the rescue I volunteered for helped out with a hoarder, but I couldn’t handle it. I told them not to tell me or “I’d lose it.”
Because I write this blog, invariably someone will see my words and it will effect them, which in turn will end up changing my life, too. That’s how I finally gained the courage to open my eyes to the plight of cats and kittens in the south-one person who already knew about the horrors contacted me, asking me to help. She ended up being one of our most important volunteers, our first foster home and the key to beginning to make a difference in the lives of cats from the south.
The horrors these days, with Facebook abuzz with pleas for help, seems almost trivial because it’s not a secret: overcrowded shelters euthanize cats and kittens, even ones just born, to make space. Most don’t get more than a day or two to get out via a rescue or adoption. Since kittens get sick so quickly, with their lack of a mature immune system, often they are the first to die. It makes me cry to even write about it, even after all these years of facing the ugly truth that if people don’t spay or neuter their pets, this will continue on and on.
Even though my rescue is small, we’ve made a difference in more than 500 cats' lives by directly rescuing them from shelters or by networking online to help others. It’s like emptying the ocean with a spoon, but it’s something-and for those cats it means everything.
That’s why when someone else, who is “just one person,” reaches out for help to rescue cats in need, I will try to do something and that’s the case for my friend, Joan Flores.
Joan is based in Chattanooga, TN and has been helping dogs and cats for as long as I’ve known her. Even though Joan is admittedly flat out exhausted and trying to step back from doing rescue so she can work on rebuilding her business (which took a big hit earlier this year), she can’t let animals die without trying to do something, anything to help.
Joan recently contacted me telling me the bad news-that this “kitten season” is one of the worst anyone can recall. Every week cats and kittens are being put down for no good reason other than there’s no place to put them all.
I realize that this scary and sad news might make you want to tuck your head under the blanket, but I’m going to ask you to try to be brave with me, with Joan, with our foster mom, Moe, with Bobby, Warren, Mary Jo, Kendra, Jame, Dorian, Katherine, Connie, Connie S., Adrienne, Amy and SO MANY MORE “just one person” who is trying to make a difference by fostering cats and kittens. If you add up all the cats each of us has fostered, you’re starting to look at some very impressive figures. Be just one, of many and join us.
Right now Joan is in DIRE need of foster homes in Chattanooga, TN area AND pretty much anywhere in central Georgia. I need foster homes HERE in Sandy Hook/Newtown, CT. It doesn’t take much to foster but it will keep those cats from dying. Will you be sad when they leave? Sure. But I would much rather be sad that they left me and went to their forever home, then left a shelter in a black plastic bag never having known love or joy.
Also, Joan is desperately trying to raise funds to provide surgery for a very pretty Siamese kitty named Amara, who, along with her little scruffy kitten, were destined to be put down. Thanks to Joan, they are safe, but Amara’s eye is in bad shape and she needs surgery.
This is not easy or fun to write about, but I'm so passionate about this topic that I truly hope you’ll take a leap of faith and open your home to Joan, our rescue, or ANY rescue in your hometown. Try fostering. Save a life, or two, or four. You’ll feel blessed to be around tiny creatures who have no sadness in their hearts. You’ll find your smile seeing them thrive-even on your worst day. You will make a pledge to be brave, for them, for the little ones who have no hope to live without you.
Let’s Save Some Lives!
Chattanooga, TN area and Georgia friends: Please contact Joan Flores at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to know more about the kittens posted here for adoption or if you’d like to offer assistance by being a foster home.
Please contact ME if you live in Sandy Hook/Newtown, CT at email@example.com if you’re interested in fostering for us!
That was the day I met Freya and you know what happened after that. Freya required round-the-clock care, specialized surgery and lots and lots of vet visits. Freya is still here 8 months later and is now part of the Kitten Associates family. Sadly, once again, Mia would have to wait to be socialized and I felt terrible about that.
Mia’s offspring began to find their forever homes and so did a few of Celeste’s. Whichever cats were still waiting were moved over to the big foster room. Mia was nonplussed with newcomers. In fact I began to wonder if she had a vision problem because she didn’t react to anything. Her eyes were often dilated when I thought they shouldn’t be. She didn’t seem to look at toys if they weren’t making sounds, as if she was blind. I did a few tests but I’m not sure if she saw me or only has shadow vision. She’s too fractious to take to the vet and our vet said unless it’s pretty obvious (like cataracts) it’s tough to tell the degree of vision loss a cat has.
We began transporting Laney’s family north from Georgia earlier this year. The oldest four came up first and were quickly adopted because they were outstanding cats. One of them, Jules, was adopted along with Wallace, the once tiny kitten we’d taken from the Danbury Fire Department after they’d pulled him out of a concrete wall. Fernando and Astro were adopted together and so were Jasper and Jasmine.
That left Mia and Woody, the kitten no one seemed to want. Because Laney and gang were set to arrive I knew I’d have to move Mia and son into the blue bathroom so Laney’s group could have the bigger space. It meant no sunshine for Mia and Woody since the room faces north. It’s one of the reasons I wish I had more foster homes because this really isn’t an ideal room for a cat.
With Woody vying for my attention, I could only do a little bit with Mia. I’d tempt her with treats and lightly brush her paw with my finger. I was careful to be at ease with her and not tense. I wanted her to be used to me being around but she always hid in a corner if she heard me coming. She never climbed on the cat tree, which added to my suspicion about her vision. It might also make socializing her much harder if she couldn’t see me very well, if at all.
Laney and the gang have been here for about 2 months and I hopefully have a lead on ONE home for two of the kitties, but that’s it. Poor Woody, Mia’s remaining son, who has been with us over a YEAR, has never had even one application. I don’t know why we can’t find him a home because he’s amazing, but sadly he’s also keeping me from working with his mom.
During these past few months one of our adopters, who has become a good friend, came to visit the kitties. Her name is Kendra and she teaches art to children. She’s a wonderful artist in her own right and has volunteered to create torn paper portraits for many of our donors (she even did a big one for us of our dearly departed kitten, Fred that you can see on her ETSY page). Kendra is adorable and when she’s with our cats she her voice takes on a magical quality. It sounds a bit like a cross between a little girl and an elf. The cats love it. Even my shy boy Cricket will sit in her lap while she tells him how handsome he is.
I spoke with Kendra about my frustrations with Mia while we were in the blue bathroom with her. Without hesitation, Kendra reached out and started petting Mia while we were talking! WHAT????!!!!
Yeah. She was petting Mia. Mia who had been in our program for over a year and in one second Kendra is petting her.
Did Mia like it? Meh; not so much.
Did Mia bite her or swat at her or growl? No.
It was shortly after that when Kendra contacted me and offered to foster Mia, hopefully unlocking the key to help socialize her. I had my hands more than full and she wanted to help. Kendra’s boyfriend, Brian, had been around feral cats all his life. She referred to him as the “feral cat whisperer.” Once we worked out the details we set a date to begin.
Saturday, Kendra came over to pick up Mia, but first I had to get Mia into a cat carrier.
I was lucky that Mia was in the bathroom because removing hiding places is the key to getting a cat into a carrier when you can’t pick them up. The first thing I did was move Woody out of the room, then move the cat tree, litter pan and anything else giving me full access to Mia. I also knew that because fearful cats feel safer in a small dark space that if I controlled where the small dark space was, then she’d go to it sooner or later.
I knew, too, that Mia had already had this happen to her before so even with a plan of action it might prove difficult.
As I moved things out of the way, Mia dashed across the floor and hid behind the toilet, which was the only thing I couldn’t move. I put the open cat carrier to her right. It was covered with a big towel so it was nice and dark inside. Mia wouldn’t budge.
I had to get the broom. I didn’t want to do it, but I couldn’t risk being bitten. I tried to keep Mia calm, but she shot between a small space between the toilet and the cat carrier and jumped into the bathtub. She was very scared but didn’t growl or try to attack me. I kept at it, coming towards her, slowly herding her back to the cat carrier.
She was so afraid her bladder let go. I felt so badly when I saw the pale yellow fluid run out from under her tail. I wanted to rinse her off, but it was make or break and she needed to get into the carrier. I used the broom to carefully push her towards the open cat carrier. She wouldn’t move at first, but then suddenly made a run for it, this time into the cat carrier. I closed the door behind her and made sure it was closed properly.
I told her I was very sorry and I truly was. I opened the door to the bathroom and Woody entered. He was distressed, too. He knew his mom was leaving him, but this was her only chance to blossom and to finally enjoy the loving touch of a human. With Woody left in the room it was time for him to leave, too. I’d begin to transition him to meeting my cats since he was so easy-going and it was far less crowded than adding him to the room with Laney and family.
Kendra had a room ready for Mia, with no places to hide. I waited for her to get home and update me on how things were going. Within a few minutes of her arriving, she sent me this video.
Later that night I got more images and videos. Brian was working on becoming Mia’s BFF. He “forgot” she was feral and picked her up. She just hissed, confused by the sudden contact. Brian and Kendra are both able to pet Mia, not just on her face, but on her back and even on her paws. Even Kendra's 8-year old son could pet her! Mia is stressed, but has moments where she closes her eyes and relaxes. It seems that it’s just a matter of time before we see even bigger changes. Maybe by tomorrow she’ll be ready to go?
All joking aside, we can’t give up on Mia. Maybe I wasn’t the person who could help her overcome her fear, but I was the person who was ready to take action when an opportunity came up that would give her the chance of a lifetime. Now I have hope that maybe one day Mia will be ready to find her forever family. For now she's got a great team, working hard to help her overcome her fears.