tortoiseshell cat

Torties, Friendship, and a Very Special Book Signing

tortoiseshell-cats

This has to be one of the more unique post titles I’ve ever come up with – but what transpired earlier this week was one of the most unique, and special, experiences of my life. Let me explain.

It all began on August 17, 2009, when I wrote a post titled Tortitude – the Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats. It rapidly became one of the most popular posts on this blog. When you google “tortoiseshell cat,” “tortie cat,” “tortitude” and any number of other combination of these terms, the post pops up in the first three results on Google’s results page. Readers started leaving comments sharing stories about their torties. It rapidly became so much more than just a blog post. With more than 3500 comments to date, it has turned into a real community of tortie lovers. (Editor’s note: as of April 2012, the post had more than 9500 comments.)

About a year ago, a core group of tortie lovers began to post almost daily, and what started as an exchange of tortie stories turned into online friendships. We not only continued to share tortie stories (and anyone owned by one of these cats knows there’s always plenty of new material!), but we supported each other through life’s ups and downs.

ingrid-king-buckleys-story

There is Harry in Virginia, who, along with his wife Julie and daughter Rachel, volunteers and saves untold feline lives with Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, and his tortie Brooke. There is Bernie in Western Pennsylvania, who had never had a cat in her life until a determined tortie named Steeler decided that she wanted to live with her. There is Jay in Eastern Pennsylvania, who taught his tortie Stirfry to trust humans again. There is Bernadette in Western Pennsylvania, whose two senior torties Kelly and Cookie grace some of her artwork. And there are many more: Glen in Canada, who rescued his tortie Kasey from a rough life outside a mechanical plant. Shannah in New York and her tortie Emma. Michael in Arizona and his tortie Honey. The list goes on and on.

With two exceptions, none of us had ever met in person. I had met Bernadette at the Cat Writers Association conference in November of 2009, and I had met Harry and his family at the National Capital Cat Show in Chantilly, VA in September of 2010. I had never met any of the others, and I never really expected to. Then Bernie, Jay and Bernadette decided that they would make the trip down from PA to come to my book signing at the Stray Cat Café, to benefit Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, on April 10. As Bernadette put it in her write-up of the event, “On Sunday I took off for Falls Church, Virginia with a person I’d never met before to get together with a bunch of other people I’d met on the internet. Sounds like the sort of thing they tell you not to do, but I happened to know that each of these persons, including myself, owned at least one tortoiseshell cat, so I knew the worst we’d do is talk about what our cats did in the litterbox or deposited on the floor.”

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Finally, we would all meet in person, after talking to each other on the blog for over a year. When Bernie, Jay and Bernadette arrived at the Stray Cat Café, it was like being reunited with old friends. The evening flew by. Harry and his wife Julie graciously invited us to their home for brunch the following morning so we could continue our gathering before the PA contingent headed home again. We spent a delightful spring day on Harry’s screened in porch, enjoying a delicious brunch, with five of his seven cats, including the lovely Brooke who started it all, hanging out with us.

This day will forever remain in my heart as one of life’s special memories. The time went by much too fast, and we all reluctantly said our good-byes.

stray-cat-cafe

All of us continue to marvel at how all of this came about. We couldn’t come from more diverse backgrounds. Our interests vary widely. Our love for our torties brought us together.

This day will forever remain in my heart as one of life’s special memories. The time went by much too fast, and we all reluctantly said our good-byes and sent the PA contingent on their way home.

Friendships can start in the most unexpected ways if you open yourself to the possibilities. In our case, we have Brooke, Steeler, Stirfry, Kelly, Cookie, Amber, Buckley, Allegra and all the others to thank for opening our hearts, and our lives, to new friends. I, for one, will be forever grateful for these wonderful cats, and the wonderful new friends they’ve brought into my life.

Photos, top to bottom:

Amber and Buckley, photo by Ingrid King
Julie, Ingrid and Harry, photo by Bernadette Kazmarski
Bernadette Kazmarski with me, photo by Renee Austin
Jay and Bernie, photo by Bernadette Kazmarski

Book Review and Giveaway: First Person Cat by Jacque Heebner

When I came across First Person Cat, I was immediately intrigued.  A murder mystery featuring a tortoiseshell cat – I had to read this one! 

Tiffany, a tortoiseshell Persian is living the good life in Beverly Hills, CA when her human mother, a former rock star, is found murdered in her home.  Even though Tiffany didn’t witness the murder, she is sure she knows who killed her mother.  Highly intuitive and with an uncanny (or maybe catty?) ability to read minds, Tiffany wants to make sure the right person is caught and justice prevails.  As the murder investigation progresses, she charms a handsome detective on the Beverly Hills police force, who just happens to be a cat lover.  As the story unfolds, Tiffany uses every feline wile at her disposal to direct the detective’s attention toward the person she believes killed her mother.  In the process of her feline sleuthing, she even manages to prevent a second murder.

As the title suggests, the book is written from Tiffany’s perspective.  Set in glitzy Beverly Hills, and filled with plenty of designer name dropping (the cat on the book’s cover is wearing a David Webb diamond necklace), the book is highly engaging, and you’ll find yourself cheering Tiffany on as she attempts to communicate what she knows to the sometimes frustratingly (for her) slow humans.   

The author’s celebrity friends readily endorsed the book:

“Tiffany the cat is a cute and very enjoyable read . I love cat Tiffany and her point of view with humans and their flaws” – Lou and Carla Ferrigno, actors and body builders

“The beautiful Beverly Hills Tiffany, Tiff to select few, will guide you through a most fascinating, page flipping murder mystery. It deals with the rich, the conniving, the rock and film stars, the devious and then ever clever detectives. However, none is more clever than the magnificent Tiffany in solving the crime, with its intriguing cast of celebratory characters. By the way, Tiffany is a hot tortoise-shell Persian Cat!” – Tippi Hedren, actress and founder of Shambala Preserves for Big Cats & Exotic Animals

I enjoyed this book, especially the passages when Tiffany is trying to communicate with the humans around her.  Heebner’s love for and knowledge of cats comes through loud and clear.  The book leaves a little to be desired when it comes to human character development, but this is more than made up for by Tiffany’s endearing personality.  A delightful, entertaining read.

I requested this book from the author’s publicist.

Jacque Heebner is a former Daily News journalist, animal rights activist, and owner of Jacque Designs Presents.  For more about Jacque and First Person Cat, please visit her website.

 
   

I’m offering one copy of this book for one lucky winner.  To enter the drawing, leave a comment here.  For an additional chance to win, share this giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter and post the link in a separate comment.  This giveaway ends Friday, March 18.

 

Steeler the cat, accidental (and unofficial) team mascot

I’m not a football fan, and the only reason I occasionally watch the Super Bowl is for the commercials.  But this year, I’ll be cheering for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and it’s all because of a friend’s tortoiseshell cat named Steeler.

I first met Steeler when her human, Bernie, discovered my post “Tortitude” – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats here on The Conscious Cat.  The post has received more than 2000 comments since I first wrote it in August of 2009, and has resulted in a small community of tortie lovers who enjoy sharing stories about their special cats.  In the process, Bernie, and many of the others who frequently comment on the thread, became friends. 

Bernie found the abandoned tortoiseshell cat crying at her backdoor in rural Pennsylvania. She had never had a cat before, and knew nothing about cats.  The little cat wanted in, and Bernie did not want a cat.  When it became colder, and no shelter would take her, Bernie decided that any cat that wanted a home that badly could stay.  She called her Steeler, because she stole her heart, and because she’s a big Pittsburgh Steeler fan.  And because, like all tortoiseshell cats, Steeler proudly wears the gold and black not just on game day, but every day.

Steeler became a comfort to Bernie’s husband, who was becoming increasingly debilitated from Alzheimer’s.  After he was hospitalized, Steeler continued to provide love and support to Bernie.  As she got to know Steeler better, she also became familiar with “tortitude.”  Torties 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.  They can be a little unpredictable, and if they were football players, they’d probably be playing defense.

On game day, Steeler watches the games with Bernie.   And she appears to be turning into somewhat of a lucky charm – after all, the Steelers are going to play the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl this Sunday.  When a Pittsburgh television station asked viewers to post photos of their pets in Steeler gear on their website, Bernie posted Steeler’s photo, proudly showing off  her team colors, and even wearing a little Steeler hat.  As of this writing, Steeler’s photo has received almost 50,000 views.

There are plenty of tigers, cougars and wildcats who are team mascots.  Perhaps the Pittsburgh Steelers should consider making a feisty tortoiseshell cat named Steeler their mascot.  So far, she has brought them good luck.  With apologies to my readers who are Packers fans, I hope that streak of luck continues on Sunday.

Carmina the Cathedral Cat

There are probably any number of cats who live and work in churches and cathedrals around the world, but only one cat can call Washington National Cathedral home – and she’s a tortoiseshell cat.

Her name is Carmina.  She is about eighteen months old, and was rescued by the Washington Humane Society, along with her litter of week-old kittens, from a deserted parking lot in Southeast Washington D.C.  The kittens had all found new homes after being fostered, but Carmina was going to be returned to the shelter, facing an uncertain future.   Cathedral Choral Society staffer Victoria Chamberlin did not want to see this happen, and led the charge for the Choral Society to adopt Carmina during its audience sing-a-long of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

Carmina initially came to the cathedral for a one-month-trial period.  She turned out to be friendly and independent, and was ultimately chosen for her personality and her mouse-catching skills, which, Chamberlin says, are impeccable.  Carmina succeeds Catherine of Tarragon, a tuxedo cat who was adopted by the cathedral as a kitten 16 years ago to catch mice in the cathedral’s green house.  Catherine recently retired and now lives out her golden years in a private residence in Georgetown.  She summers in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Carmina leads a busy life.  She welcomes cathedral staff to work in the morning and usually wanders from office to office for petting, treats, and some play time.  In the afternoons, she likes to be outside to hunt mice before coming back inside for a nap and a snack.  She enjoys climbing trees, walking along pipes in the ceiling, and chasing her toy mice.  She doesn’t like having her ears cleaned, and she loves anything with turkey flavor.

Her favorite places are her bed at the top of the stairs, the window sill in the library, or the slate walkway in front of the library.  She is a lap cat and distributes her attention equally among staff members.  All of the Cathedral Choral Society staff take turns feeding and caring for her.

I asked Chamberlin whether Carmina attends services.  While Carmina is friendly, she tends to avoid crowds, so Chamberlin thinks she will probably  be sleeping in on Sundays.  The only service she has attended to date was the Blessing of the Animals.

If you’re in the Washington DC area, or are coming for a visit, Washington Cathedral is well worth adding to your list of places to see.  And you just might get to meet Carmina the Cathedral Cat.

Photos by Washington National Cathedral, Craig W. Stapert, photographer, used with permission.

Eva’s Journey – Second Chances and Lessons Learned

This is a story of a Christmas miracle.
This is a story of how some encounters are simply meant to be.
This is a story of the perseverance of the feline spirit.

This is Eva’s story.

Eva FB

Guest post by Renee L. Austin

Second chances are hard to come by, especially when the crazy pace of life can cause us to miss the fact that there was an initial opportunity to begin with.  And when there is a chance to change a life, one’s own or someone else’s, a second chance is even more precious – particularly when that life hangs in the balance…

I’d seen her at least a week, maybe two weeks earlier, climbing an embankment on the side of the road.  Even though there were no houses or barns nearby, the collar she was wearing stood out, and with some degree of relief I gave her just a fleeting thought.  I was in a bit of hurry and traveling the back dirt roads. Well, by December they’re usually treacherously slick and muddy narrow lanes flanked by the dull browns and grays of winter.  I have no business using them when they are so bad, but haste often overcomes common sense.

The next time I came upon her was in an even more remote area.  She was wandering ahead of me up the middle of the road through the freezing rain.  She was so un-cat-like; helpless looking and forlorn, head down, shoulders slumped, plodding through mud the consistency of pudding.  She seemed totally unconcerned with my car pulling up behind her and barely glanced over her shoulder before slightly quickening her pace.  Dejection and misery radiated from the little body.

When I stepped out and into the muck to call her, this suddenly animated creature whirled around and half ran to me chattering on and on in short rapid bursts.  She leapt into the car without hesitation and proceeded to hug me; purring loudly and rubbing her face against mine as I settled back behind the wheel.  Before I even got us turned around we were both covered in the mud she’d carried in with her.  The inside of the car was a mess, too.  And there I was, late-late-late, headed back to the house with a stray tortoiseshell cat loose in my car with cautionary thoughts churning of rabies, crazed tortie attacks, and wondering how I was going to explain this one to the folks at the emergency room.  She rode standing in my lap, shivering and smelling of cold, wet earth and winter, front legs wrapped tightly around my neck, face pressed hard against my cheek. It turned out that my biggest concern was being able to keep the car on the road while trying to see around her head.

It was much later that night after I’d returned and had time to really study her, that I understood just how close she must have been to the end – that she already must have decided there would be no more chances.  For however long she’d been on her own, and whatever had sustained her thus far, those resources and energy stores were gone. She was spent.  Clearly there was no longer any expectation of help.  Hope had faded and simply ceased to exist.

I remember looking down at her and thinking ‘no room at the inn’.  We do have a full house, and I’d been waffling back and forth between frustration and acceptance over the rate and circumstances at which the fur-footed population was increasing here.  Not only that, but I’ve been so slow to heal after losing my two special friends, each my heart and my soul.  Sometimes it’s just too hard to find space for others amidst the broken pieces.  In that moment I tried to close myself off even more, and then the little gray cat looked back up at me, stumbling and losing her balance in her weakened state.  The drawn face filled with anxiety, showed all of the uncertainty and desperation she’d been carrying-for who knows how long.

It’s been a year now, and this cat that I was so reluctant to bring into the fold is a constant companion; always on my lap or at my feet, or greeting me at the door – when she’s not off raiding the kitchen.  She could stand to lose a pound, maybe a bit more, but that’s something we’ll deal with much later.  Her enthusiasm for all food is rooted, I’m certain, in her having been so near starvation when I picked her up.

Eva walks with an awkward waddle as she follows me whenever I move throughout the house.  Her back, neck, and hip problems are always apparent-even more so-when she first awakens and tries to work the stiffness from her sore joints and muscles.  The chronic cough from a heartworm infection sometimes wakes us all in the night.  These things don’t seem to prevent her from playing by herself in my office while I work, or from efficiently devouring the contents of my plate if I look away for even a moment, or from applying teeth and nails if I decide too soon that she needs to get down.  She is a happy cat – as long as things go her way.

Sometimes I try to imagine what it must have been like out in the middle of nowhere with no food, no shelter, no hope.  Just hunger and cold and loneliness, and a hopeless fading day by day.  And then I marvel at how, with my crazy schedule and ever changing routes, there could have been the teensiest possibility in all of the minutes and hours and days and miles, of coming upon Eva a second time.

A couple weeks ago I was driving the back way through the rain and gloom and saw a gray form moving up an embankment.  I kept going and then stopped, backing carefully until I was even with a little gray tortie cat.  She wanted nothing to do with me, but as I drove away and worried that she might just simply be frightened and still in need, I realized that I had at least stopped for that first opportunity.  I tucked my own concern away, and have not been back through there since.  Some things are meant to be, some things are not. You can’t be sure until it happens, or doesn’t happen.  The latter is the tricky part, isn’t it?

One thing I do know is that we have to be willing to stop and back up for a moment-and keep our hearts open, even if there’s only just a tiny bit of space among the pieces.

Editor’s note: Eva passed away in September 2014. 

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

Is There a Connection Between Cat Color and Temperament?

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My recent article on “Tortitude – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats” led me to wonder whether there’s a link between other cats’ coloring and their temperaments.  After all, both color and temperament can be inherited and genetically controlled, so it doesn’t seem to be too much of a leap to think that a cat’s coloring may be an indication of his or her personality.  It seems that there are, indeed, some commonalities between cat color and personality.  This is what I found:

Tabby Cats

Tabbies have a reputation for being laid back, calm and more sociable.  They’re also said to be very affectionate, and relaxed to the point of being lazy. 

Black Cats

Black cats can be stubborn and friendly at the same time.   They are said to be good hunters, but they can have a tendency to roam.  They’re good natured and sociable.

Ginger, Orange and Red Cats

Orange cats are usually males (only one out of five orange cats is female).  Cats with this coloring can be laid back and affectionate, but can also have a bit of a temper.  Females tend to be more laid back than males.

Black and White Cats

Black and white cats (some are known as tuxedo cats when their coat pattern resembles a tuxedo jacket) are said to be even tempered and placid, but they can also be wanderers.  They can be very loyal to their family, often to one person in particular, and can be real lap cats.

Blue, Cream, Gray and Lilac Cats

Cats that have lighter coat colors all carry the same gene, called the dilution gene.  I found conflicting information on this particular coloring – some say cats with this coloring can be mischievous and a bit frantic, while others say they are laid back and mellow.

I believe that each cat has a unique and special personality, and color is only one aspect of what may play into making kitty who she is.  Other factors, such as breed and environment also come into play.  And of course, our cats are also spiritual beings, and perhaps spirit plays the biggest part in determining personality.

Does your cat’s personality fit into one of these classifications based on coat color?

“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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