Feline Lifestyle

Cat Time

Guest post by Lucille Dumbrava

People who don’t have cats don’t understand when I talk about cat-time. They shake their heads and frown slightly and change the subject. But cat-time is a very real subject in our house.

First thing in the morning, I have a doctor’s appointment. It’s a half-hour drive; 15 minutes to wash the cat bowls and fill them with new food. It takes me 15 minutes to drink my tea and eat a breakfast bar, figure 30 minutes to dress, so for a nine o’clock appointment, I should set the alarm for 7:30, right? This is where cat-time comes in.

The alarm goes off, and I reach over to shut it off, Pansy takes advantage of my stretch to climb on my stomach and settle down for several minutes of ear scritchies. Her head turns from side to side, making sure I reach all her favorite areas. The other two wait patiently, but as soon as Pansy’s satisfied, either Smudge or Sassy claim my hand so they can get their morning loving.

Finally, I can get out of bed, and I put the pillows on a chair and begin to make the bed. I tug the sheets up and start to pull the blanket. It won’t budge. Smudge is at the bottom, tugging it with his teeth. We do this routine with the quilt too. Then as I fold the blanket that goes across the foot of the bed, he disappears inside the folds. Suddenly, this light decorative blanket weighs 15 pounds and is wiggling. I lift it by one corner and he comes tumbling out and runs away. By now, I am running 20 minutes into cat-time late.

As I head to the kitchen to make breakfast, the three cats do the shark dance, weaving in and out between and around my legs. They stand in front of the cabinet where the canned food is kept. After I choose the can, they scamper around the kitchen following my every move. I empty what’s left of the night bowls, wash the bowls and dry them, then share the contents of the can among them. Then I empty, wash, and fill the water bowl and check the shared kibble bowl to see if I need to add more. As I work, each cat comes and bumps my hand, hoping for one of their special treats. Fat chance!

Once the cats are busy eating, I prepare my tea, and pull out a granola bar. Whose priorities are skewed?

I planned ahead last night and laid out the clothes I’m going to wear, so I start to dress. Wait. Where did my other stocking go? I peek around the corner and see Pansy walking across the floor, the stocking clenched in her teeth and trailing behind. Sassy has noticed and is ready to pounce. I grab the stocking and Pansy gives me her tragically disappointed look. Too bad. A quick check, and the stocking goes in the trash – a run goes from toe to top. After getting a new one, I go back to dressing. I’ve chosen a particularly pretty black skirt with roses for today. It reaches almost to my ankles as all of my skirts do, and as I pull it up, I suddenly feel fur brushing my leg. Smudge is underneath it playing peek-a-boo, a game that’s fun when he hides under the bed or behind the curtains that cover the knee space in the bathroom. Not so much fun when I’m running late and trying to dress in a hurry.

After I distract him with a toy, I use the sticky roller to lift the cat fur off my skirt. And I’m nearly done. But, no. Smudge has run into the bedroom and lain partly on top of Pansy. Her indignant yowl tells me I better get in and check it out.

All that’s left is my makeup. This takes a while anyway. I mean, after all I’m trying to look good. Now the cats line up in the bathroom to watch and see what they can get into. The makeup’s in a drawer and, of course, that’s an irresistible attraction. The powder and blush are boring, but eye and lip pencils are like magnets for little paws, and lipstick tubes are just the right shape for rolling across the floor. Finally, I’m done, everything is back in the drawer and the drawer is tightly shut, much to the great disappointment of the cats.

A quick call to the doctor’s office and a white lie about a dead battery that needed to be jumped, and I am on my way – thirty minutes into cat-time.

© 2010 Lucille Dumbrava

Lucille Dumbrava is a retired teacher/counselor whose love of cats and love of writing started when she was a child. Many of her stories about the cats in her life have been collected in a book entitled Cat House, now available from Amazon, Alibris , http://www.bookstandpublishing.com, and Northern California bookstores. You can also order directly from Lucille by e-mailing her. 

Handmade Goodies for Cats

Guest post by Kate Benjamin

Over at Moderncat.net, we are huge fans of handmade goodies for cats. There are so many wonderful crafters on Etsy who make the cutest and smartest things! And it’s obvious that they all love their cats very much. Here are just a few of my most favorite Etsy finds.

Lovin’ Like Kittysville


You can’t beat these beautiful retro-style kitty beds from Like Kittysville. Each bed is handcrafted with gorgeous designer and vintage fabrics. The boomerang shape fits kitty perfectly.

Tasty Treats from Jake & Micah


These adorable catnip fortune cookies from Jake & Micah and are sure to please kitty! Each one comes with a cat-themed fortune.

Critters for Kitty from Oh Boy Cat Toy!


Oh Boy Cat Toy makes some of the most awesome catnip stuffed critters! Watch kitty as she attacks the giant roach, or sneaks up on the felt snail. These are sure to be a favorite.

Drink Up With an Olive Meowtini from K Grant Designs


It’s martini time with this fabulous Meowtini set from K Grant Designs! The set comes with two jumbo olives stuffed with catnip and presented in a martini glass. Kitty might get a little tipsy!

Marvelous Melissa Makes Recycling Fun


These little critters may not be able to see, but they will sure give kitty a run for her money! Marvelous Melissa makes her Three Blind Mice from recycled felted wool sweaters. Each one is filled with a little catnip for an extra kick.

Kate Benjamin is the founder and editor of Moderncat, a resource for cat owners with a modern style. She seeks out the newest products for living with cats in a modern home. She tries to identify not only products that fit a modern aesthetic, but also items that are truly innovative and that make living with cats a more enjoyable experience. Moderncat combines product reviews with other useful information for cat owners in a clear and concise format.

The Gallery Cat

Guest Post by Bobbi Hahn

She was “mature” when I began working here six years ago.  With each passing year, more gray appears in her shiny black coat.  Once a sleek, panther-like feline, with four fashionable white mittens and a snowy white chest, she’s now a little rounder . . . and a lot slower.  (Aren’t we all?)  She has a narrow muzzle with long whiskers, a shiny black nose, and the longest fangs I’ve ever seen on a cat; they’re visible when she has her mouth closed! Her large green eyes are the color of the sea on the best day of summer.

Her name, befittingly, is Princess.  She was once the alpha cat, ruler of the feral colony living in the area around the art gallery I manage.  Now, she defers to the younger, completely black Petruce.  Although most feral cats are skittish around people and avoid them at all costs, Princess was already socialized when I met her.  Granted, it took a while for her to trust me, but we eventually became friends.  She thoroughly enjoys her life outdoors, but is quick to come in for a nap under the hot gallery lights – especially if the day is particularly cold or rainy because she hates getting wet!

She’s usually waiting for me on the porch when I arrive on my bike each morning; if not, when she hears my tread on the wooden floor, she’s quickly by my side, waiting for me to unlock the door.  Once inside, she walks me to the bathroom, where I store the cat food.  We go out onto the porch together, and she waits while I pour three separate piles of food on the floor: one for her, one for Petruce, and one for Grey Kitty, whose real name is Bob.  He’s a big, sturdy grey male.  He was standoffish for the longest time, but with frequent bribes of food, I got him to come closer and closer.  When he finally accepted me, the transformation in his attitude was dramatic: now, he purrs and rolls onto his back for tummy rubs, often delaying his meal for several minutes in favor of some lovin’.

If I neglect to put out water with her food, Princess will give me an hour or so to realize my mistake.  If the water bowl is still empty, she’ll sit at the full-length glass door and stare inside until I notice her.  If you’ve ever been the subject of the intensity of a cat’s stare, you’ll understand why I scramble to see to her needs, all the while apologizing for my deplorable lack of service.

When it’s cold out, she’ll sometimes spend the entire day inside, curled into a tight ball of feline contentment in her round cat bed; on other days, equally as cold, she’ll sleep in a patch of sun among the foliage out front, or occasionally on the still-warm hood of a car.

She shows her appreciation for my care with a gift now and then . . . sometimes it’s a mouse, often it’s a lizard.  Dead or alive, the status really doesn’t seem to matter; I suppose it’s the thought that counts.  She once brought a lizard into the gallery and dropped it at my feet.  It quickly sought shelter behind a bookcase and I thought, “Oh, great! Now I’ll have to go on a lizard hunt behind every piece of furniture in here!”  But Princess caught it again and brought it back to me.  I grabbed some cat food from the bathroom and lured her out to the porch.  As I put the food down behind her, she dropped the lizard, turned around, and began eating.  I gingerly picked the lizard up by the tail (it didn’t appear to be injured at all), and flung it into the leaves on the ground.  Princess turned around, looked at the now-empty floor, then up at me as if to say, “Okay…where’s my lizard? I put it down right THERE!”

She has a fan club of loyal followers who return to this area each year.  The first question I hear from them is, “Where’s Princess? Is she still around?”  She loves the attention, and will tolerate petting for . . . oh . . . an hour or so.  She has no problem with most adults, but she disappears whenever a child comes near.

If the day is warm, I’ll eat my lunch outside on the porch, usually with Princess or Petruce by my side.  If I haven’t packed a lunch, one of them will usually meet me as I return to the gallery after getting something at the deli.  The cat will walk by my side, giving a perfect impression of a dog at heel, although a cat would never admit to such a thing.

When I leave at the end of my workday, Princess is usually on the porch and she’ll come over for a quick scratch behind the ears.  I tell her I love her and will see her tomorrow; then she accompanies me down the steps and walks away from the gallery, her workday also at an end.

Editors’s Note:  Today is the one-year anniversary of Princess’ passing.

Bobbi Hahn has lived with her husband and two wonderful cats beside a lagoon on Hilton Head Island, SC for six years. She works as the General Manager of a gift store/art gallery, a job she absolutely loves because she meets people from all over the world, in a breathtakingly beautiful setting. She enjoys biking on the beach, cooking, reading, and fussing over friends and family when they come to visit. Her poetry has been published in several anthologies; her essays have been featured on numerous online websites; her writing and photos are included in Hilton Headings, the second anthology by Island Writers’ Network. For more information, please visit her website: http://www.bobbihahn.com.

June is Adopt-A-Cat Month – Share Your Cat Adoption Stories

Sponsored by the American Humane Association and the CATalyst Council, Adopt-a-Cat Month is designed to help make a difference in the lives of cats.

Approximately 4 million cats end up in shelters every year, including thousands born every spring and summer during “kitten season.” Your local shelter and rescue group is brimming with cats of every breed, age and personality just waiting for a loving home. Whether you prefer young and frisky or mature and mellow, you’re sure to find the perfect cat companion during Adopt-A-Cat Month!

The Conscious Cat wants to hear your stories!  Did you adopt your cat from a shelter or rescue group?  What made you pick this particular cat over all the others at the shelter?  Or did kitty pick you?  Do you work or volunteer at a shelter?  Do you have a favorite adoption story?

Leave your story in a comment, and, if you’d like, introduce the shelter or rescue group you adopted your kitty from and leave a link in the comment so they can get some recognition, too.   At the end of the month, we’ll pick the most heart-touching story, and the winner will receive an autographed copy of Buckley’s Story.

New from Moderncat Studio: The Scratch Tower

Every once in a while I come across a product that is so cool, I just have to share it with you – and this Scratch Tower by Moderncat Studio is one of them. 

***Moderncat is giving away a Scratch Tower to one lucky winner in the month of June – look below for details!***

Guest post by Kate Benjamin

Last week I showed you the new Wave door-hanging cardboard scratcher from Moderncat Studio, and this week we have another exciting new design to share with you: The Scratch Tower. Also designed in collaboration with the team at Juggernaut Design, The Scratch Tower is a huge hit at my house. We’ve been testing prototypes for months and this thing is definitley a cat magnet.

The Scratch Tower is a freestanding cardboard scratcher, unlike any other scratcher on the market. Just like Wave, The Scratch Tower is held together with compression instead of adhesives, so you can easily replace and recycle the cardboard when it becomes worn. This also allows you to change the configuration of the cardboard pieces to create an endless number of geometric, sculptural designs. You can try different configurations until you find just the right design that suits both you and your cat. And if one area of the cardboard gets worn out, simply rearrange the pieces so kitty can keep on scratching, although the cardboard we used is extremely durable and mine hasn’t shown signs of wear yet, even with repeated scratching.

There are two styles of cardboard pieces to choose from: Trio and Triangle, plus you get to choose either red or black for the ball on top.

Here are just a few of the designs you can make by rearranging the cardboard:

The sturdy base is made of Arreis sustainable design, 100% recycled fiberboard with a high-gloss white laminate on top and four non-skid feet on the bottom to help protect floors from scratching and to provide stability on hard surfaces.

The Scratch Tower measures 11″ by 11″ by 19.5″ tall and the cardboard scratching portion is 6″ by 6″ by 14″. All parts are fabricated in Phoenix, Arizona and hand assembled at the studio. Each Scratch Tower comes fully assembled and ships via USPS to addresses in the US. International shipping is available. The Scratch Tower is available in the Moderncat Studio Etsy shop for $95 US. Replacement cardboard will be available for $30.

Moderncat is giving away one of these fabulous Scratch Towers to one lucky winner!  Enter the giveaway during the month of June by clicking here.

Kate Benjamin is the founder and editor of Moderncat, a resource for cat owners with a modern style. She seeks out the newest products for living with cats in a modern home. She tries to identify not only products that fit a modern aesthetic, but also items that are truly innovative and that make living with cats a more enjoyable experience. Moderncat combines product reviews with other useful information for cat owners in a clear and concise format.

The Best Cat Tree for Your Kitty

Gaijin in her heated third-floor condo, Phoenix on the second floor and Crosby waiting to pester the first cat that comes down. Photo by Daniela Caride.

 Guest post by Daniela Caride

Do you share your home with a kitty as nasty as Fluffy the Destroyer, who sinks his claws in every piece of furniture? Do you want to provide your beloved cat with the pleasures of a penthouse? I highly recommend you get a cat tree, then.

But beware. Not any cat tree will impress your kitty, and I’m sure you want to make the right choice at the store — these products are expensive and big, therefore difficult to carry.

The taller the better

A cat tree should be as tall as possible. Cats love heights. My gray tabby Gaijin, for example, loves to spend her days monitoring the house activities from our 5-foot tall cat trees. Our four felines love their the three Whisker City cat trees more than anything else. (See picture)

Cats feel more protected when they’re up high, and cat trees help them clarify ranking status among other kitties in the household (the cat on higher areas rules – more on the subject here). And many cats enjoy looking down on everybody else. 🙂

Round and curved instead of flat surfaces

Make sure you choose a cat tree with beds or curved platforms instead of flat surfaces as levels. Cats feel like relaxing and sleeping only in places they feel secure. Flat platforms pose a risk of them falling down if they fall asleep, so many cats will avoid lounging on them.

Sisal rope versus carpet

Cat trees come in various sizes and shapes, and covered with many materials. The most common ones are carpet, faux fur and sisal ropes. Cat trees wrapped with sisal ropes are a hit here at home. Cats love scratching sisal and stretching on it.

If you want to preserve your carpet and rugs, I don’t recommend cat trees wrapped with carpet. You may send your cat a message that it’s OK to scratch your rugs.

Stability is a must

Make sure the cat tree you choose is stable. Cats hate to land on wobbly objects. If the new cat tree is not steady enough, they will visit it only once. So I urge you to go to a store instead of buying cat trees online – unless you already tested the brand somewhere in person.

To check the stability of a cat tree in a store, try to simulate a cat jumping from one level to the other by pulling down on top of the tree, scratching and shaking it. People may think you’re crazy, but it’s better to test it before bringing it home and then having to return this enormous, heavy product.  To be on the safe side, you can try attacking the cat tree only when there’s nobody in your aisle.

Follow these simple steps and, if nobody calls the police before you get to check out, your cats will be very pleased with their new present!

Daniela Caride is the publisher of The Daily Tail (http://www.TheDailyTail.com), a participatory blog about pets with stories, tips, and reviews. She lives with three cats, Crosby, Gaijin and Phoenix, three dogs, Frieda, Geppetto and Lola, and her husband, Martin, in Cambridge, MA.



Amber has purrsonally selected some cat trees for The Conscious Cat Store – she wouldn’t mind seeing some of them in her own house…

The Cats in the Pages

Guest post by Clea Simon

“How’s Musetta?” These days, people I know ask about my cat more often than about me. “Is she still plump? Have you had her teeth cleaned yet?”  While I answer (well, yes, and soon again) with the facts about my real cat, the flesh-and-blood feline who often sleeps in a chair behind me as I work, snoring gently, I know that’s not who they really mean. These inquiries are often from readers, and they’re really addressed to my little pet’s black-and-white doppelganger: the feline heroine of my Theda Krakow series.

I started writing those books in 2003. By the time the first, Mew is for Murder, was published in 2005, the real Musetta – whom we adopted in 2001 – was already a full-grown housecat. But in the book, she’s still a tiny little tuxedo kitten, an awkward lost stray who wanders into my heroine’s life and steals her heart. She grows up in the subsequent books – Cattery Row and Cries and Whiskers – to the point where she has “fish breath” and needs that dental appointment in Probable Claws. And by that point, I have managed to not only endanger her person, Theda, and several of their two- and four-legged friends, but also Musetta herself, as my real kitty has never, ever been. When the fictional Musetta apparently gets lost in a wild winter storm in Cries and Whiskers, I had trouble writing. (The real Musetta is indoors only, though she did once creep up my apartment’s back stairs and gave me a scare.) When she gets into worse trouble – I’m not telling – I found that I was typing as fast as I could, and had to remind myself to breathe. Only the presence of the flesh-and-blood jellicle on the chair behind me reassured me, and helped me finish the scene.

In many ways, this literary version of my pet is restorative for me. After all, she was first introduced in my nonfiction book,  The Feline Mystique. She is the kitten I adopt after the death of my long-time pet Cyrus, the little bundle of love that begins to heal my broken heart. And I get to relive that reawakening, that healing, that warmth, every time I write about her, particularly every time I risk her in some fictional adventure – and then get to write about how happy she is, safe home at last, in Theda’s arms.

But there’s another side of feline love, and I have tried to bring that to the pages of my Dulcie Schwartz books: “Shades of Grey” and the new Grey Matters. These books deal with a beloved cat, very much like my Cyrus, who is no longer with us. But unlike the real Cyrus, who lives on in my heart and my memory, Mr. Grey remains a palpable presence in Dulcie’s life. As we so often hope our pets will, perhaps in part of our hearts believe they do, he stays with his person. A loyal cat to the last, Mr. Grey appears when Dulcie needs him – when she discovers her roommate’s body or falls out with her boyfriend, her professor, and her roommate –  and, unlike the real cats in my Theda books, he also dispenses advice, going over her various predicaments with the kind of bemused affection I always imagined a cat would have.

I wrote him like that because this is so often what I wanted, after Cyrus was gone. And it was so often what I felt I almost had – the voice I almost heard in the wind, the weight and warmth at the foot of the bed As for the rest, I figured that, as a ghost, he would be exempt from most of the restrictions placed on real cats. But because he is, after all, still a cat in spirit – if not in body – his advice would be enigmatic and loving, wise but never exactly direct.

While I have thoroughly enjoyed writing Theda and Musetta, and like to think that even without words, Musetta managed to make herself very well understood, I’m enjoying this new direction. Correction: I love writing a talking cat. It’s so much fun! Like our real pets, our fictional cats can have such distinct personalities. And since I’m now meeting them in the realm of fiction, I am free to let them express themselves however they want.  It is liberating.

A confession: At various times, I have spoken out against “talking cats” in mysteries – and now I’m living to happily eat my words. In fact, I am now sending around yet another mystery manuscript, a book in which the protagonist – a bad-girl animal psychic – takes a lot of grief from her cat, a crotchety tabby named Wallis. And I am also preparing to start on yet another Dulcie Schwartz book, too. So as I begin to think about “Dulcie #3” (as my publisher calls it  – I’m thinking “Grey Zone”), I find myself listening – an ear for the wind, for my real-life Musetta’s purr – hoping to catch Mr. Grey’s voice, once again.

Clea Simon is the author of the Dulcie Schwartz and Theda Krakow mysteries and the nonfiction The Feline Mystique – On the Mysterious Connection Between Cats and Their Women as well as several other nonfiction books.  For more information about Clea, please visit her website or her blog.

The Cat Who Likes to Wear Clothes

Guest Post by Joann Biondi

People often ask me what I do to get my cat, Lorenzo, to wear clothes. Do you bribe him with treats? Use toys to distract him? Put him on tranquilizers? I do none of those things. In fact, I do nothing other than slip the shirts over his head and onto his furry little body.

Ever since he was a kitten, Lorenzo has loved wearing clothes. I have no explanation for this other than the fact that he is one cool cat with the patience of a Buddhist monk. Or perhaps, just perhaps, he is a reincarnated fashion model who was just a tad too catty on the runway and has suffered a karmic set-back. 

It all started when he was just a few months old and used to steal dirty clothes from my laundry basket. He’d drag them around the house, chew on them, and then curl up and go to sleep with them. It wasn’t much of a problem except when company came over and they spotted a rolled up ball of underpants beside the coffee table.

But one day I got mad at Lorenzo and decided to get even, so I placed a spandex tank top over his head and onto his body as a joke. Lorenzo was unfazed. He adjusted his shoulders, threw out his chest, and looked at me with an expression that said, “You think this bothers me? Well it doesn’t. In fact, I like it.” He walked around wearing that tank top for days.

For most cats, wearing clothing is unpleasant to say the least. Owners try to dress them up in silly costumes and take a photo for laughs. But the result is often a feline that looks as if it’s having an epileptic seizure—get this off me! There are other cats that just hunker down into a pose of utter humiliation and horror, especially if there is a hat involved. And then there’s Lorenzo, who struts his stuff like an Italian fashion model on the cover of GQ magazine.

I have had several cats before Lorenzo, and I never tried to put clothes on any of them. Nor did the thought ever enter my mind. But with Lorenzo, it seems natural. It’s as if he knows that that’s what he was put on the planet to do—wear clothes, pose for the camera, and make people laugh. I have been photographing Lorenzo wearing clothes for over a year now, and I must admit, doing it is one of the most fun and rewarding things I have ever done.

It’s fun because for Lorenzo, the camera is catnip. He responds to it, or more precisely, he responds to me when I have the camera in my hand. He knows what’s going on, and he is an active, earnest participant in the shoot. And when I know that I’ve gotten a good shot of him and I shout out loud, “bellissimo Lorenzo,” he preens, and turns his nose up in the air as if he knows that he has done a great job.

The rewarding part of the photography work is what I have learned from Lorenzo. One of those things is that the cliché of cats being stubborn and aloof is just that—a cliché. As I button up his shirt and then watch him through the lens, I marvel at how perfectly content he is while doing it. I marvel at how he has found his way in the world, and is totally willing to step outside the preconceived notion of a cat’s comfort zone. So what if he doesn’t act “normal” and defies the rules of standard cat behavior. So what if people laugh at him.

Yes, I may be reading more into this than other people can see, but I’ve always felt that we have a lot to learn from animals if we allow them to teach us. And what I’ve also learned from this Maine Coon cat is, shouldn’t we humans also shed what is safe and predictable in order to embrace something new no matter how weird we may look? Shouldn’t we humans drop the old clichés that have ruled our lives for so long?

Joann Biondi is a Miami-based writer and photographer. Her cat, Lorenzo, has his own website http://www.lorenzothecat.com and his own Facebook page .

Watch Lorenzo model various outfits in this video:


Meditating with Your Cat

Guest post by Stacia D. Kelly, PhD, MHt

My husband thinks it makes for a funny picture whenever I sit down to meditate. In our house, I usually have a cat or two as I sit cross-legged on the couch in my lap or somewhere nearby purring happily and meditating right along with me. Of course, said husband also freely admitted a week or so back that our girl Bella laid right down on his chest while he was listening to a Nancy Georges hypnosis session – shame on him for not listening to one of mine! 😉

Bastien, our youngest rescue, is learning to be a great hypnosis assistant. He’ll either curl up in my lap or next to my clients during a hypnotherapy session to settle right down for the 40 minutes or so, purring the entire time. And while he irritates his sister felines, Bella and Bijoux, since he’s so young, he is such a momma’s boy that he tries to do whatever I’m doing. If that means meditating, he’s right there with me. And, thankfully, my clients love him.

I wish I knew what’s going thru their minds when they curl up with me, but I know the soft purr and warm body only help to enhance my focus. Somehow, they just know the right spot and the right level to help you achieve that perfect moment of Zen.

Mine never interrupt; none of them ever have.

I’m not sure what the trigger is…the breathing, the music, the sudden calmness? Sagesse, an angel kitty now, was the only one who helped me through those late nights as a first time mom. She’d learned how to calm and meditate with me when she was a kitten, so, when I needed it most, she was right there next to me vibrating that same purr, in the same spot. She helped me make it through those first weeks. Gabe, our hunter, hit the same note when it was time for me to let him cross over. I wasn’t ready, but he was, and he let me know with that soft purr on just the right note.

So, how do you meditate with your cat? (I haven’t tried this with dogs, but please do and let us know the results!) Some are naturals…some require some guidance. Thankfully, mine have all gravitated right to it, but that may be because we make it such an intrinsic part of our household or it’s such a part of my nature, I only attract those who are inclined to be good about it too.

First, create a space for yourself that you are going to use consistently to meditate. This is a must, whether you’re trying to get your 4-legged to cooperate or not. It helps to set your subconscious up for success when you’re ready to sit down to focus. I use my couch and a cross-legged position. My body naturally falls into a receptive mode and starts to relax. My husband will meditate in bed and the cats are fine with it. (They refuse to participate if I’m in bed and meditating…instead I get the meows and the growls.) Wherever it is, make it consistent.

Next, start to introduce soft music when you’re out of the house, and they are more naturally at rest. Use harps, strings, nature sounds. Note: DO NOT USE music with BIRDS! They start stalking the CD player or the TV. I’ve watched it happen!

Next, use that same music they’ve been listening to during day for your relaxation/meditation sessions. You will see they start to quietly unwind and come to curl up next to you as your breathing evens out. Most will want to touch you in some way, so they may lie in your lap or next to you. Do NOT give in to to the need to acknowledge their presence. NO petting. If you must, lay a hand on them and keep it still. Remain focused on your meditation.

And, just breathe.

Open your eyes whenever you’re ready.

You can see our cat family at http://catklaw.com/kittens/ – this is our hidden yet dedicated site to all those who are familiar in our lives. I don’t post up often, but they are integral to our family.

For those interested in a Guided Meditation with their feline family members, please, post up! I’ll create one to share!

Stacia D. Kelly, PhD, MHt takes a whole mind-body-spirit approach to health and well-being and teaches her clients to do the same. She is the Mind-Body-Fusion Specialist. Breathe. Focus. Achieve. She is a Master Certified clinical hypnotherapist, a 1st degree black belt, and spends way too much time with her nose in a book. She writes paranormal romances with a very hypnotic style and tries to inject humor in all her non-fiction writing. She plays doorman (woman) to three cats while the young one is off to school and the husband is all over the state for either the day job or a band. Stacia is also the founder of CatKlaw, Inc., a Creative Solutions Company, and Mind-Body-Spirit Works, a Holistic Health Practice.

Stacia is offering one of her guided relaxations titled Relax Into Being as a free download.

An Interview with Animal Artist Bernadette Kazmarski

It’s hard to know where to begin to introduce Bernadette Kazmarski.  She is a multi-faceted creative spirit:  artist, writer, graphic designer, painter, animal advocate, environmentalist.  I met Bernadette at the Cat Writers Association conference last November, and I’ve been fascinated by her creations ever since.  From commissioned pet portraits to animal inspired merchandise ranging from prints to textiles to greeting cards, looking around Bernadette’s websites are a feast for the senses.  It’s my pleasure to introduce this wonderful artist to you today.

Welcome to The Conscious Cat, Bernadette! 

Hello, Ingrid, and thank you for inviting me! And also thank you for visiting my website and giving me a “positive review”.

You told me that you have your cats to thank for being an artist.  How did they inspire you?

At a time in my life when my artwork was ready to emerge, they were there as my muse. I studied English in college and intended to be a writer and a college professor, and someday take the time to follow my interest in art, but I never thought I had much talent. My career plans changed and I found myself with some time after work as a typesetter at the end of the day, and was moved to try drawing again on my own. I was visualizing sketches of my cats, and I’m convinced that those first sketches were successful because of how I loved my cats.  If that family of cats hadn’t been there, I don’t know that I would have continued, or even made a serious start at drawing and painting.

I was first introduced to your work through the sample greeting card you enclosed with the materials at the Cat Writers Conference .  My package had Cookie Looks at Me in it, and I thought it was one of the most beautiful cards I’d ever seen.  Tell us a little bit about how you came to create the cards.

How wonderful that you, with your special love of tortie cats, got the card featuring my special tortie out of the dozen different samples I had brought with me!

They came from the experience of many losses. I had always had the idea in mind for general animal sympathy cards, but knew I was waiting for a “cat”alyst, inspiration from my cats, and I was also waiting for my design ideas to mature so that I had a diversity of ideas to offer to others instead of my more personal sentiments.

I had lost cats in the past, but endured the loss of most of my household in a short period of time. Between February 2006 to January 2007, I lost my four oldest cats, one to cancer, one to kidney failure, the other two just to old age. Those two, Stanley and Moses, were the last two of the ones who had been with me from those earliest days and seen me begin my career as an artist.  They were also my first teachers as I worked to learn about feline health. Moses, the first loss of the four, was 19 and had been feral but was the most gentle creature I’ve ever known, and Stanley, the last loss of the four, was with me for 21 years and came to me as an adult, so he had to be 23 or older, and part of their gift in this was to give me a perspective on my feelings about living with animals through those long, complex relationships.

Then just a few months after Stanley, Lucy, the rescue kitten I’d decided to keep, was diagnosed with effusive FIP at the age of one year, and I lost her three months later, learning the lesson of loss in a relationship in the full bloom of first love.

My Namir was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure just before all this began, and I lost him in July 2009 after all the others and after four years of caregiving. I had known that his time was limited, and his loss was kind of an ending point for that cycle.

Each time I’d lost a cat, I designed a card dedicated to them and sent it out to friends as a part of my grieving process—I’m an artist, and creating is how I work through everything from joy to sorrow. I also received a number of sympathy cards from friends and saw that not much was available for the loss of an animal companion. Even in their passing they are teachers, and with Namir’s loss I knew the time was right. I pulled together all the photos and some of the art I’d been visualizing, wrote the text from my heart remembering the most comforting things I had heard and thought and said to others in their losses, and put all the cards together. I could hardly work fast enough to keep up with my thoughts.

What is the creative process like for you?  Do you paint from live models, memory, or photographs?

I actually work in all three ways to get there, usually a combination of the three in one work I always start from my initial “inspiration” which comes from life, something I’ve seen or experienced, even if the work is not realistic, then if it’s not possible to be able to do the work in that moment, which it usually is not, then I have memory and photographs as reference. In the end I put everything aside and simply intuit the last details that come from my deep, creative self and then I know the painting is finished. All this is true not just for paintings but also writing and photography as well.

Visualization of that finished work is not a conscious act nor is it something I can force, it’s just something that’s always been a part of my consciousness from the time I can remember.

I learned in painting my cats how important this visualization was and that it needs to exist before I can start. I need to see my goal before I start or I don’t know what to do. Not that I can always see it in all its detail, or that I always end up with that initial visualization or force myself to stay with it. I can usually see the medium I’ll use, and this even happened before I knew how to use a medium, like watercolor. All of my images of my own cats were created this way, not just the paintings and sketches but even the block prints and photographs—I saw that beautiful moment that I wanted to share and in that moment saw the finished work. Then I set about enjoying my path to that end. I then applied this to all the other work I do and I’ve found it’s how I instill a part of myself in each one.

Tell us a little about your feline family members.

Oh, my, I don’t know where to begin! I live with nine wonderful cats right now, and I’ve always lived with seven to nine in my household. I’ve rescued and fostered for almost 30 years, and my household has evolved; everyone was a member unless they were adopted out. While I actively took in cats, I’ve never really consciously adopted a cat. I let the universe decide who was to stay and share my life more permanently. You can read many stories from the past by visiting “My Cats” on my website.

Thank you for stopping by The Conscious Cat, Bernadette!

Be sure to visit Bernadette’s websites at http://www.bernadette-k.com/ and http://portraitsofanimals.wordpress.com/ and look around – it’s like visiting an art gallery.

Holding the Space

Aliza and Matisse – photo courtesy of Laura Kuhlmann

Guest Post by Laura Kuhlmann

Last night, I finished reading Buckley’s Story, Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher by Ingrid King. Although I had purchased this book last fall, it was too difficult for me to read, having said goodbye in November to our beloved boy cat Matisse, aka Mr. Boober, after his brave battle with lymphoma.

Ingrid’s book is more than just a story about a special cat named Buckley, for Ingrid touches upon many aspects of the human-animal bond, as well as the animal-animal bond, including intuition and communication, that really make one stop and think. This is a book that sticks with you after you finish it, and no doubt I will be reading sections over again.

Ingrid talks about her cat Amber “holding the space” which really intrigued me. Here’s a short excerpt, from page 86:

“…..I made sure that I paid enough attention to Amber during this time … She quietly held the space for both Buckley and me. Some people, as well as some animals, are masters at holding the space. It means creating a quiet, safe, and peaceful environment. By being completely centered and secure in herself, Amber focused her gentle energy on allowing Buckley and me to relax into whatever was happening and to find our own way through it with as little worry and fear as possible.”

This concept – holding the space – is what our cat Mr. Boober did in our home, especially with our two girl kitties Lulu (his little sister) and Aliza (for better or for worse, his constant companion.) But we didn’t realize this until he had passed away. The attitudes of the girls, and the dynamics between them, were suddenly all messed up. The girls didn’t know quite how to cope, because the one who had held the space for them was Boober, and now he was gone. My husband and I described Boober as the glue that kept the three cats together and content. Holding the space.

I am fortunate to have met Ingrid via Twitter (gotta love social media!) and we’ve become friends. Ingrid thinks that perhaps Aliza or Lulu might eventually step up to fill the void (and hold the space) but of course it won’t be exactly the same.

It immediately made me think of a series of pictures that I took last fall. Both girls were extremely attentive to Boober toward the end of his life when he went blind. Aliza and Lulu would stick close by him…taking turns cleaning him…just being with him. Aliza especially, who was literally hopelessly in love with Boober, rarely left his side. I wanted to take some pictures of the two of them together, although our digital camera wasn’t cooperating. When I came around the bed, I saw Aliza’s paw and arm on top of Boober’s. My heart melted, and I’m so glad I captured this moment. I think Aliza’s only concern was to provide comfort and serenity in the midst of some scary changes. I think during those moments, she was holding the space.

Laura Kuhlmann is the owner and designer of Petscribbles, a unique line of hand-crafted greeting cards for, from, and about pets.   Laura designs and makes the  artistic and upscale, yet fun, personal, and whimsical cards herself.   The cards are made to order in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, USA, and only the best cardstocks, decorative papers and embellishments are used.  Laura and her Chief Feline Officer Lulu pride themselves on using recycled materials whenever possible. Laura and her husband are owned by two cats: a 9-year old Ragdoll girl named Lulu (the CFO mentioned above); and a 15-ish years young formerly feral kitty named Aliza-Loo Doolittle. Aliza enjoys a fulfilling retirement doing very little work (aka Doolittle).