Wendy Christensen writes and paints at Bobcat Mountain Studios, high on a wooded hillside in rural New Hampshire. She shares her home with her scientist husband, over 10,000 books, and the family of dear feline muses who daily inspire, amuse, mystify and comfort her — and serve as her models.
Wendy is a cultural ailurologist (student of feline social and cultural life); award-winning writer, artist and illustrator; painter of cat portraits; designer and builder of cat jewelry; cat behavior consultant; and pet columnist.
Her writing focuses on a wide range of feline topics, but especially the social life, culture and behavior of cats living in groups with humans. She’s written extensively on virtually every feline topic imaginable for every cat publication you’ve ever heard of, and some you probably haven’t. Her painting focuses on capturing the uniqueness, beauty and “catness” of each individual kitty she portrays.
In all her activities, Wendy encourages and facilitates feline-human harmony; understanding and overcoming feline behavior challenges; creative environmental enrichment for indoor cats; and designing comfortable, easy-care shared living spaces that work for both cats and humans.
Wendy is the award-winning author of Outwitting Cats: Tips, Tricks and Techniques for Persuading the Felines in Your Life That What YOU Want Is Also What THEY Want and other books.
Also an award-winning illustrator, Wendy illustrated the best-selling Why Do Cats Do That: A Collection of Curious Kitty Quirks by Karen Anderson, and a children’s book, Daddy Day, Daughter Day by TV’s Larry King and his daughter, Chaia King. Her colorful, realistic, highly-detailed cat paintings have been reproduced on magazine and book covers and on a wide range of consumer products from collector plates to t-shirts.
I’m delighted to welcome Wendy to The Conscious Cat today.
Wendy, what came first: painting, or writing?
Definitely painting. I’ve always been an artist, and my original goal was to become a professional illustrator. I was accepted into the top illustration college in the US, but it was far too expensive for my family. So I went to night school and became a software engineer instead. I loved engineering, but I eventually retired to try to pursue an art career, again. Along the way, I accidentally became a writer.
You also create unique jewelry for cat lovers. Tell us a little about the pieces you make.
I’m an engineer at heart and I love designing and building things. I love jewelry and especially cat jewelry – I have a large collection – so making my own cat jewelry was a natural. I enjoy the exciting and never-ending search for cat beads, pendants and vintage cat jewelry for use in my one-of-a-kind pieces. And I really enjoy the intensive process of manipulating tiny components, wire, beads and gorgeous gemstones. I want each piece to be a treasure for someone. (Editor’s note: Wendy’s jewelry is available in her Etsy shop.)
What is the creative process for a project, whether it’s writing or painting or jewelry making, like for you?
Meticulous, detail-oriented and craftsmanlike, with a dash of intuition. It’s all the same process, with different tools and materials. I may be using a keyboard, pliers, brushes, or grammar to manipulate words, beads, wire, colors or images for the different things I do, but it’s all the same design/composition/assembly process. I see a lot of synergy and synchronicity in everything I do. All my creative pursuits feed one another. I may write an article in my head while hiking, get an idea for a new necklace while tending my hundreds of lilies, or mentally sort out color options for a painting while doing paperwork for the Cat Writers Association.
Where does your inspiration come from?
My cats, and all the cats I’ve ever known. I grew up with a large family of cats (44 at one point) and individual cats of the past still inspire me.
Do you have a favorite medium, or do you enjoy writing, painting and jewelry making equally?
I love doing all of these things, and I usually have several projects in each medium in progress at any time.
Tell us about your own cats.
I always adopt from shelters, and always in pairs or trios. I’ve been lucky – I have the best kitties in the world! Senior felines-in-residence are eleven-year-old Ada Augusta Abigail Tabitha (“Tabigail”); Sir Sterling Silver Longfellow (“Silver”); and Handsome Harry, Wizard of Bobcat Mountain (“Wiz”). They’re joined by ten-year-old calico sisters Angel and Chrysanthemum, both polydactyl on all four paws. A trio of seven-year-old tabby sisters, Pemigewasset (“Pemi”), Aunt Jesse Guernsey (“Jessie”) and Winnepesaukee (“Winnie”) and a six-year-old brother sister team, golden tabby Prince Syvert the Bold and torbie Hazel-Marie round out the group.
I’ve learned so much from all of these cats, and they continue to teach me every day.
They’re a terrific group, get along extremely well (most of the time), and manage their feline social lives skillfully. Some of them have self-appointed jobs. I spend a lot of time just observing and studying them. They’re my best friends, napping buddies, and constant inspiration.
You are passionate about the welfare of cats. Are there any topics that are particularly close to your heart?
My mission in life is to keep cats in their homes. Behavior problems kill more cats than any disease does. That’s why I’ve long specialized in cat behavior issues, especially feline group and social behavior. No cat should lose his life or home because of behavior issues, but millions do. In all my writing, and in my one-on-one consulting with cat owners, I try to help them resolve the behavior challenges they and their cats face so that everyone ends up happy and the cat keeps his home. A forever home should be just that – forever. My goal is happy, healthy, harmonious human-feline families – for everyone.
My new blog, CatsCatsCatsCats on http://www.wendycats.com/ (launching soon!) will feature lots of behavior questions and answers from readers, as well as lots of discussion of preventive strategies (including “defensive decorating”) to make sure owners don’t get into some of the tragic binds they find themselves in when feline behavior issues get out of hand.
What does a purrfect day look like for you?
1. Sleeping in late under a pile of kitties.
2. Working on several different ongoing creative projects – or, especially, starting a new one.
3. Hiking up to the Wapack Trail or taking a long walk up and down my rural road in the afternoon.
4. Helping a few cat owners with behavior issues via email or phone.
5. Discovering a great new source of cat beads, or some great vintage cat pins in one of my favorite rural antique shops.
6. A nice long cat nap – with plenty of cats.
7. Staying up late painting, totally losing track of time.
You can find more information about Wendy and her art on her website.
All images © Wendy Christensen, used with permission