Feline Lifestyle

Pet Photography – an Interview with Megan Lee of Paws and Claws Photography

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Megan Lee of Paws and Claws Photography.  When I wanted to get a professional author photo for Buckley’s Story that also included Amber, I turned to Megan.   I had seen her work on her website, and had also seen her in action at the annual Santa Portraits event at Seneca Hill Animal Hospital Resort and Spa in Great Falls, VA.  I figured if Megan can take amazing photos of dogs and their owners in the chaotic setting of an event that attracts hundreds of dogs, she would be able to take a great photo in which both Amber and I looked at the camera at the same time!

Megan brought a complete photo studio to our living room.  While Amber was not too terribly thrilled at having her space invaded in this way, she was a good sport about it.  For her perspective on the photo shoot, click here.  Megan took a lot of photos of Amber and me in various poses and in front of different backdrops for about an hour, and I was thrilled with the end result.

Megan was kind enough to answer the following questions for us: 

Megan, how did you get started photographing pets?

Megan Lee Before I started my company, I tried to take my pets to a studio to have their photos taken.  Not only did the photos not meet my expectations, the entire experience was stressful for my pets and me.  So I decided to eliminate the inconvenience of transporting pets and the anxiety of introducing them to strange environments by coming to your home.  I find that most pets and their family are more relaxed and photogenic in familiar surroundings.  Plus, I have found a way to bring studio quality lighting and backdrops to virtually any location, resulting in professional portraits without the hassle.
 
What kind of pet photography do you do?

I specialize in unique portraits of pets and their people by coming the location of your choice. 

Is it more challenging to photograph cats than dogs?

Yes because cats won’t sit and stay.

How do you get dogs and cats to look at the camera?

I use a combination of treats, squeaky toys, and verbal requests. 

You have a way to capture the essence of the pet, as well as the relationship between pet and person in your photographs.  How do you do that? 

Photographing in your home or at a location that you and your pet feel comfortable in cuts down on a lot of the anxiety that the animal or human might feel. 

What was your most challenging or funny experience at a photoMegan Lee3 shoot with a cat?

Once while shooting several cats in a client’s home, one of the cats got loose and ran into the master bedroom.  After searching for 30 minutes we finally found him in the box spring of the master bed.  This particular cat was adopted the day before and didn’t come out until after I had left.  So far it’s the only animal that I couldn’t successfully photograph!  

Do you have any tips for our readers on how to take great photos of their cats?

Lots of patience and either no flash or an off the camera flash. 

For more information about Megan and Paws and Claws Photography, and to see more of Megan’s wonderful photos, please visit her website.

Copyright for both photos used in this post:  Megan Lee, Paws and Claws Photography.

Random Mind Scan: Memories of Pets Emerge

Sometimes, random snippets of memories enter our mind for no apparent reason.  Today, Cathleen Hulbert remembers former pets in this guest post.   We’d love it if you leave a comment and share your stories of pets that have come and gone, and touched your lives.

Guest Post by Cathleen Hulbert

What set this off? The names and faces of former pets begin to work their way into my memory.

Cathleen Hulbert cat

What happened to Muffin? Muffin was a gray and white cat that I had around the age of 5. One day Muffin was gone. Mom and Dad said she “ran away.” Cats don’t run. Not well-loved, well-fed cats. I now suspect a car. It would have kinder to say she was hit by a car. Feelings linger of being rejected by a cat.

We try hamsters.

Charlie and Ben were brown and white. I told them they were good boys soCathleen Hulbert hamster that I wouldn’t be rejected again. Being in a cage,  they were less likely to run. One day there were these little fuzzy things in the cage with Charlie and Ben. Turns out that Charlie should have been named Charlene. Ben gets removed from the cage so he won’t eat the kids. One day he escapes and hides behind the fridge. I don’t remember much about the hamsters after that. We gave the kids away. I really wanted a dog.

My Mom is French, so we name the new dog from the pound, “Minette.” I thought she was a big dog, or at least medium-sized. Recently I was told that she was small, like a rat terrier. I find this hard to believe. She seemed substantial when I was 7. One day Minette is gone for a while. I’m glad when she comes back. I had a lump in my throat. I want no more of rejection. Weeks later, her sides get big and we realize she’s going to have puppies. She’s mostly white and the puppies all are jet black. I have questions. The puppies are eventually adopted.

When we move to Atlanta from our Florida  house, we’re going to be in an apartment for a year or so. Minette gets dropped off at a farm and I sit in the back seat in shock. It all seems so wrong. Was that always the plan? To leave my dog on a farm?

We get a white mouse because mice can cope with apartment life.

But the mouse, whose name I have blocked, gets out of the cage and scares my Mom in the night. I think he runs up the back of her nightgown. She almost has a heart attack and puts the mouse and his cage outside. It’s cold and he dies. Having pets starts to seem like a tragedy. When do we get one that we keep for a long time?

Cathleen Hulbert orange kitten

Benjamin is a red tabby. He’s pretty cool but he pees in my Dad’s good suitcase between business trips. He always finds just the right moment when the suitcase is open and my Dad is not around. Benjamin gets a free ride to the Humane Society. I sob in the back seat. Some college students adopt him before we even gets inside. None of them go on business trips or own expensive suitcases, so they think he will be fine. Will I ever love again?

I grow up and realize that I now have more control over the fate of my pets. Cathleen Hulbert cat2A little more control, but it’s not complete. A few more cats pass through my life: Daisy, a long-haired beauty, Marmalade and Harvey — the latter named after an invisible rabbit in a Jimmy Stewart film of that name. Marmalade contracts a rare disease and dies. Daisy and Harvey go to live with my ex-husband, Joe, after we get a friendly divorce. I know they are in good hands. We were in New York City at the time and he had a bigger apartment. I was starting a new career. I have to admit, the freedom from pet responsibilities wasn’t bad. 

Cathleen Hulbert German ShepherdYears later, after returning home to Georgia and suffering through the death of my second husband, I meet an amazing animal: a gorgeous fox-red, part chow, part shepherd rescue dog who rescues me and keeps me from staying in bed for a long time. Her owner has died and we’re in the same boat. I name her Phoenix. Together we rise from the ashes. We have some good years together. Then a brown recluse spider takes her life. She’s the kind of soulful, loving animal that people in my family still talk about. I think she is around, like one of those spirit guides that shamans and other healers rely on when there is something important to do. I love you Phoenix. I know you can hear me. 

For a time I thought that I could never love a dog as much as I had loved Phoenix.

Then I saw Angel outside of a pet store on a mild winter day nearly two years ago. She was for sale: $225. I told the pet rescue lady that I didn’t have that kind of cash. I knew she had been watching me bond with Angel. She said she would give me the $75 “overflow special rate.” She turned to Angel and said, “See. I told you that we’d find you a new Mom today.”

At 10 months, Angel (that was the name she came with) was nearly grownCathleen Hulbert dogs but still had lots of uppy inside. She was wild at first, with Jack Russell traits dominating her gene pool. She ripped up part of my favorite couch, but I couldn’t hold a grudge. I was watching “The Dog Whisperer” by then and I knew I had made some mistakes. The couch is as good as new now, and Angel has become a woman’s best friend. My brother’s dog, Boo, an aging Yellow Lab, is the other dog with whom I share a home.

We all live together, along with my 9-year-old nephew. I watch him play with his childhood pets and I realize that he’ll always remember them: the way Angel cuddles with him in the morning before he goes to school; the way Boo likes to pick up a dog toy on the way to greet him at the door when he comes home. He knows that pets die. He still misses Phoenix and Yogi, another Lab that died of cancer. But he adores Angel and Boo.

These thoughts bring so many feelings. It’s all clear. Some of the most important people in our lives are animals.

Cathy_Hulbert_small1Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She is the author of The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination, a time-travel tale of redemption and forgiveness. For more information about the author and the book, go to http://cathleenhulbert.com/.

Seven Social Networking Sites for Cat Lovers

Facebook

Guest post by Mary Ward

Fellow cat lovers know we are a different breed, and we’re darned proud of it!  What you may not know is that beyond blogging there are some wonderful sites out there for people like us and our precious pets, where we can link up together, share, and help troubleshoot some of the more concerning aspects of companionship. You can find a social networking site for just about everything, and that is especially true when it comes to the cat lover in you.  Here are seven of the top social networking sites on the net for cat lovers like us.

1. My Cat Space – This is what social networking is all about! This site links you up to the very best in cat information and links you to cat lovers everywhere. You can share your stories and pictures, or simply drop in to see what new tips are out there. This is a great site to go to meet other cat lovers just like you!

2. Feline Fanatic – If you think that there’s nobody out there as passionate about their cat as you, visit this site for awhile. You will see that you are not alone in your love of felines and can visit with other like-minded individuals and share your views. A great meeting spot for feline fanatics everywhere!

3. Catster – Sure you can search under any given topic, find blogs or forums of other cat lovers, and search for valuable information—but there’s even more! It’s all about connection here and whether you connect with cat lovers in general or chat it up on a given subject, you will feel right at home here.

4. Meow Mail – As cat owners, there’s a special understanding of how cherished our pet is. Through this social networking site, you can share your opinions and thoughts on just what it is to love your cat. You can connect with others who recognize a cat not just as a pet, but as a part of their family.

5. Cat Club – This social networking site is so elite that you have to join as a true member to gain access. You can not only get access to a ton of information, but you can reach other cat lovers from all across the world. You can share stories and photos, and even gain some valuable discounts in the process!

6. Cat Hobbyist – The point of a social networking site is to meet others like you or with similar interests, and you will do just that here. You don’t need to hold back on how much you love your cat, because you are bound to meet many others just like you on this popular site.

7. Purrsonals.com – There is truly something for everyone, and this site is testament to that! If you want to date others that love cats as much as you do, then this social networking site can act as your matchmaker. This is the perfect dating site if you want to connect with and meet a fellow cat lover like yourself.   

Whether for fun, camaraderie, education or information, these sites have lots to offer the cat lover in any of us.  Join in and get your daily dose of feline fun and facts!

Mary Ward is a freelance writer and likes writing about animal-related career topics, such as how to obtain an online Vet Tech degree, job and education tips, and more.

A Day in the Life of a Cat Sitter

Today’s Guest post is by Renee Austin.  Renee is the owner of Whimsy Cats, Northern Virginia’s premiere cat sitting service.  Whimsy Cats specializes in cats who need special care such as administration of medication, fluids or insulin, senior cats, post-surgical care, and more.   

Renee Austin

It’s 5:30 a.m. and I’m just now turning the car onto the road, heading north for a few miles through the pre-dawn mist, slowing from time to time for the deer that linger along the roadside, and then turning east to join scores of other cars for the trek into town and beyond. It occurs to me that there might be only a handful of other drivers who are as pleased as I am to be on their way to work. In fact, there are times when I wonder if maybe I ought to be paying for the privilege. My clients are generous and kind in their immeasurable appreciation for the services I provide-and they spoil me. You see, I step in for those who want to vacation, or need to travel for work, or have to leave town for a family emergency. I watch over what they value most while they are away, easing somewhat, the strain of leaving cherished ones behind. I am the cat sitter, and I care for the ‘fur-kids’ and ‘fur-babies’ of a very, very wonderful group of people.

My first stop is the final for this particular client. The custom; sit on the step just inside the doorway and greet everyone as they swarm around me, chirping and rubbing (it’s one big group fur-hug), then off to the kitchen to prepare and serve a noisy breakfast, adding in the medications I picked up at the veterinarian’s yesterday. I keep one eye on the diners while reviewing the ‘exit’ checklist and finishing the housekeeping, make a quick dash to feed, water and count the little noses of the feral cats waiting in the yard behind the house, and then head back through to ensure that everything is in order. The visits to this particular home have involved overturned lamps and pillows, a partially devoured loaf of bread dragged into the living room, bottles of kitty medications scattered on the floor, shredded paper towels-all due to the antics of a very active ’hive’ of happy cats. Hopefully everything will still be tidy by the time ‘mom’ gets home. Before leaving, I wave goodbye to the little girl hiding under the desk, and then give each of the others, eight in all, snuggles and squeezes and a final, thorough once-over. The ages here range from several months to 18 years and include tripods, a whole array of colors and personalities and needs, and a blanket of unbelievable feline energy. They’re gathered at the large picture window, watching as I walk away down the driveway.

I’m back in the car with cat fur still swirling around me and a grin running from ear to ear. It’s time for the very long drive out to my next client, and after such an excellent start to the day, I’m ready.

It’s the same greeting here-smiles and purrs. Samson leans against me and gazes into my eyes while I’m preparing his insulin and medication, and I just have to stop and embrace him. I take a deep breath, hold it and him, and then let everything out on a sigh. In that one deliberate action my body and mind are completely relaxed. This is the reason why I drive fifteen miles outside of my usual range to come here. His younger sister has recovered from last night, when I sat with her in the basement as she hid from the fierce thunderstorms. She’s waiting at our play spot, opting out of the morning meal for some one-on-one time. We play a bit more after she supervises the clean-up and then the three of us hug and cuddle. I won’t be seeing them again for a few months so I linger. As I head for the door I look back and see, with some regret, that Sabrina is back at her spot…hoping.

Every stop follows a similar routine; a balance between efficiency and details, and entertainment and affection. There are notes, medications, premise checks, housekeeping lists, disinfecting, that all require focus and constant evaluation. And as each household has its particular flow and idiosyncrasies, so do my little whiskered ‘clients’.  Between clients I’m weaving through traffic, diverting around back-ups, always reviewing details of the last visit to ensure I haven’t missed a step, and mentally rehearsing what will happen on the next.

I work mostly with cats that have special needs and chronic medical conditions, so in addition to having the ability to read their individual needs and preferences, I must also be able to tune in to their demeanor and posture, watch for subtle changes in behavior, detect that slight shift in the eyes that says things are not quite right. Cats can be a challenge in this respect. The natural tendency of a feline in the wild to mask any sign of illness carries over completely into the domestic realm.

On top of this, it’s up to me to remember favorite toys, activities, and comfort levels, and to recognize when someone wants rubs and reassurance instead of playtime on a particular visit. It’s important for me to provide individualized attention to each and every cat. While I can’t replace the family who has ‘mysteriously disappeared’, I am at least able to offer a different kind of routine that brings some level of comfort and security until everything is back to normal.

By 10:30am, I’ve finished at the nearest library after sending out progress reports and answering e-mails (I probably know every free WiFi location along any given route that I have to take). Then, I’m off to the mid-day visits and answering calls from clients checking in for updates on their kitties. Today will include a pair of cats – one that decides after eating that he just wants cuddles, and the other who is very shy and has finally come out of hiding to join us, then one special little guy who, on my arrival, leads me straight to his play station for tissue paper ‘facials’ and body rubs, and finally, the sweet older girl with kidney disease for whom I have to administer fluids under the skin.

I swing back around and have a few extra moments to check in with one of my handful of doggie clients. This little fellow has been back and forth to the veterinarian and can use a pick-me-up. His human has been extremely worried, and we’ve worked on a list of questions for him to ask next time he’s at the animal hospital. I’m then off to feed a handsome orange tabby and spend time with him on the veranda, and finally, I stop to give an insulin injection to one of my most challenging and unpredictable kitties. She’s a princess cat, and I never know whether she’ll be pleased to see me, or if she’ll try to run me out of the house before I can pull the syringe out of the bag. Tonight I get off with a nip on the ankle – a clear sign that the food service is way too slow.

Back home I do my own chores, feed and medicate each of the special needs creatures that live with me, and then, even though I’m a night person, collapse into bed before midnight. I’m road weary, but not cat weary. Within moments, my own special group is snuggled up against me, purring and sighing with pleasure – all of us, together for the next several hours.

Not too bad, for a full day’s work.

For more information about Renee and Whimsy Cats, please wisit her website at http://www.whimsycats.com.

“Tortitude” – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats

tortitude tortoiseshell cat personality

Tortoiseshell cats are named for their distinctive coloring – a combination of patches of black, brown, amber, red, cinnamon and chocolate.  The size of the patches varies from a fine speckled pattern to large areas of color.  The term “tortoiseshell” is used for cats with brindled coats that have few or no white markings.  Cats of this coloring with larger areas of white fur are called calicos. Sometimes, these colors present in lighter versions such as lilac or cream.  Torties with this lighter coloring are called dilute torties.  Occasionally, the typical tortoiseshell colors are also seen in a tabby (striped) pattern, and these cats are sometimes referred to as “torbies.”

Tortoiseshell cats are almost exclusively female.  Tortoiseshell and calico coats are the result of the interaction between genetic and developmental factors.  The occasional and very rare male tortoiseshell cat is the result of a genetic mutation.

In addition to their distinctive coloring, torties also have a reputation for unique personalities, sometimes referred to as “tortitude.”  They tend to be strong-willed, a bit hot-tempered, and they can be very possessive of their human.  Other words used to describe torties are fiercely independent, feisty and unpredictable.  They’re usually very talkative and make their presence and needs known with anything from a hiss to a meow to a strong purr.  These traits are stronger in tortoiseshell cats than in calicos – it seems as though these traits are somewhat diluted with the addition of more white to the color scheme.

As of the writing of this post, I share my life with Amber*, and those of you who’ve followed this blog for a while have gotten to know her in her Amber’s Mewsings posts.  You will soon be able to read all about Buckley in Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master TeacherThe photo above shows Buckley in the front, Amber behind her.

Prior to Amber and Buckley, there was another tortie in my life.  Virginia was the first office cat at the animal hospital I managed.  She was my introduction to torties, and my love affair with this particular type of cat began with her.  She, too, had the “tortitude” I so love about these particular cats.

Do you have a tortie or calico in your life?  Does she have “tortitude?”

*Sadly, Amber passed away on May 13, 2010, after a sudden, brief illness.  I now share my life with Allegra and Ruby, two tortoiseshell cats who have their own columns here on The Conscious Cat, titled Allegra’s World and Ruby’s Reflections.

Photo ©Ingrid King, all rights reserved

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Unique Cat Products With a Modern Twist

ikea_pouf

I recently came across a wonderful blog titled “ModernCat“, featuring some of the most unique products for cats I have seen anywhere.   I had so much fun cruising around the site that I wanted to share it with all of you.

From the owner of Moderncat:  “This blog is a resource for cat owners with a modern style. I seek out the newest products for living with cats in a modern home. I try 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.

In addition to working in consumer product development and marketing, I am a dedicated cat owner with a background in design. I am passionate about this topic and hope that this blog will serve as a useful resource.”

I hope you enjoy looking through this site as much as I did.  While my own living style is neither modern nor traditional (I prefer to think of it as “eclectic”), I love unusual and unique things, and this site definitely fits the bill.