It’s Not All Fluff and Cuteness

Joshua at his best.
Joshua at his best.

Yes, it starts out cute, oh, sweet little fluffballs with their Hello Kitty ears, and the comical places these mom cats think are safe to give birth. But quickly the constant press of need, day after day, night after night, from people and cats is overwhelming, and hearts are broken because many of these kittens struggle and in the end do not survive. Many of the rescuers I know here in Pittsburgh and all over the country have suffered some painful losses in the past couple of weeks and it’s time to pause and recognize what they do, and a few kittens who pulled a lot of heartstrings.

At the top is Joshua, found in a dumpster near death; the photo his rescuer Kaleenaa Raybic first posted is directly below.

Joshua when he was first rescued.
Joshua when he was first rescued.

He was barely breathing, didn’t register a body temperature or show any awareness of his surroundings. Volunteers organized to get him to the Homeless Cat Management Team clinic and he was transported by Nic Pesante for emergency care and cuddles and love from Lindsay Joyce along with Lynne Choltko Cullieton, Robin Duffy and Deana Ann Boggs and others who volunteer at the clinic each day. He began to recover, even eat and drink on his own, walk around, talk a bit, though he was still weak and dragging an IV line for fluids. He continued to progress for a week, then suddenly crashed one night. Through the night and into the next day he was given all support he could take, but he didn’t survive the next day.

Joshua starts to recover.
Joshua starts to recover.

Kittens are found in boats parked in your driveway, in the eaves of an old garage, under a pile of debris in the back yard, on the cushion of your deck chair when you lift up the cover to clean your porch furniture. Your neighbors found a litter in the dirt under their deck and someone who works with you said a cat snuck into their garage and had kittens on a shelf. Every back yard has its own litter of kittens. And they are found in trailer parks, parking lots and abandoned buildings, parks and picnic areas and campgrounds. There’s an abandoned house where the owners walked away but the cats are locked inside breeding and starving. They are found confused along a road near their mother who’s been killed by a car as she tried to lead them to safety. They are found taped into boxes left outside the shelter door.


Wendel was found at a farm where at least 30 cats were living with no vet care at all. The owner wasn’t willing to do anything but wouldn’t stand in the way if Renee Neal Boby would organize to TNR the cats and try to foster friendly kittens. She and the rest of our group did just that in the matter of a few hours with three donations of $500 each, organizing traps and plans. When she first visited she saw this tiny black kitten lying in the gravel driveway looking pretty lifeless, decided she couldn’t leave him there. He was dehydrated and infested with lice and intestinal parasites, weak and though he would lap water he had no appetite. Over the course of a week he wavered, progressed, fell back, seemed better, but in the end he too succumbed to the severity of all that had happened to his little body.

It’s not cute anymore. Cats and kittens need to be trapped. They need foster homes. They need food. They need formula. They need veterinary care. Some of them struggle to live. Some of them die. Some mother cats are hostile, the feral offspring of a female cat abandoned last year, or traumatized by abuse or life on the streets. Some people who find kittens are willing to help, many only want someone to come and “take care of it”. And somewhere in there, someone who already has more cats than they can feed and take care of is taking in yet more to be neglected and to inbreed and to starve because they think they can save them.

At the vet.
At the vet.

Erin Cassidy got a call about a kitten who was found by animal control lying on the side of the road not moving. It turned out he really was alive, and even though the veterinarian said he was hypoglycemic, severely dehydrated, filled with parasites and the prognosis wasn’t good, she was gonna try. Back and forth to the vet and looking for other ideas to help him, he didn’t live out the day, leaving her with several other kittens with horrible URIs and messy eyes. Sometimes the best you can do for them is show them love and comfort and hold them in their last hours.

A little abandoned kitten.
A little abandoned kitten.

This overflow of kittens is preventable by something cats cannot do for themselves but we can easily do for them any day of the year: spay or neuter. Spay or neuter your own cats. Encourage people whose cats are not spayed or neutered to get them done. Encourage people whose cats have a litter of kittens to spay the mother and not give the kittens away to anyone without veterinary care. Find low-cost spay/neuter programs and offer to help people take advantage of it. Find the owners of cats you see outdoors or determine if they’ve been abandoned. Help rescue cats living outside and spay and neuter them too if they haven’t been, and help bring them in and find a new home if they are friendly. Create a network of people who can work together so it doesn’t all fall on a small group of people.


After trapping as many cats as the property owners would permit her to trap at a hoarding house that was subsequently demolished, Amy Tadija got word about a mother cat and litter of kittens at a building at an office park near her. She trapped all but one kitten, spending hours waiting with the trap set even over the 4th of July weekend fireworks and noise, and finally caught him to complete the litter of five fluffy kittens. But one of the white ones she called Smudge for the faint gray spot on the top of his head just wasn’t right, and then seemed lethargic, and then outright ill. Several trips to the vet for fluids and tests and care, and he was diagnosed to have a probable liver shunt, a congenital condition where the blood vessel that usually carries blood through the liver to be detoxified before it recirculates in the body bypasses the liver instead, sending the blood full of toxins back through the heart and all over the body where the toxins are absorbed. Diet can control some of the effects, but surgery is possible for cats. Smudge is getting excellent care while blood tests are out to confirm the liver shunt, and Amy is raising funds and planning for his surgery and treatment.

Smudge and Amy.
Smudge and Amy.

If Smudge had been left living outdoors with his mother and littermates, he would be slowly dying a horribly painful death, outdoors, with no care at all. This should never happen to a kitten, cat or any domestic animal. There is no reason why, in this day and age, animals suffer in this way. We need to push for stronger animal cruelty, neglect and abandonment laws and see that they are enforced evenly.

We also need to step out of our own worlds where we are responsible to find others who are not and give them an education to show that neglect and cruelty is not acceptable, or no laws will ever be effective.

Shelters, Assistance, Spay/Neuter Pittsburgh and Beyond

Search for TNR Programs or Low Cost Spay/Neuter US and Canada


See also Of Starfish and Kittens


How you can help

Amazon Wish Lists

amazon wish list for kittens
The Amazon Wish List for our group’s foster kittens.

Many rescuers pay out of pocket for veterinary care and food but the costs of raising even the average litter of four healthy kittens is more than many people have, and many rescues have greater needs. Pittsburgh CAT has a number of wish lists that include foods for feeding neo-natal kittens like KMR, and other lists that include the best kitten foods, adult cat foods, food and materials for feral cats, and preferred toys and litter.

Pittsburgh CAT Wish List:

2015 Foster Cat/Kitten Wish List:

Winter Kitten Wish List!

Fall Wishlist for Fosters/Ferals!

Food For Foster Kittens:

Our Groups Foster Kittens!

Can’t adopt? Foster! Can’t foster? Donate or volunteer.

There are so many ways you can help cats who need homes and care. You may not have room to adopt another cat, but can foster a cat or kitten for a few weeks. If not that, you can volunteer at a shelter or with a rescue, or donate. You do this because you love your cat, and by doing so you help all cats. No matter which of these actions you take, you help to save a life, and make life better for all cats.

  • Adopt one of the cats I’ve posted here, or from any shelter or rescue near you, or from Petfinder, to open up a space for another cat to be rescued and fostered.
  • Offer to foster cats or kittens for a shelter or rescue near you.
  • Volunteer at a shelter or rescue.
  • Find a group of volunteers who work with homeless cats and help them with their efforts.
  • Donate to a shelter or rescue near you.

If you can foster kittens or adults cats to help prepare them for a forever home, please run to your nearest shelter and find a cat who needs you! Anyone can help with this effort at any level, even if all you do is donate to a shelter or rescue so they can help to pay for the food or medications needed for their foster, or the spay/neuter/veterinary care during a clinic.

Need to know more? Read Fostering for Your Shelter and Fostering Saves Lives


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Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters Tuesday: Rescue Stories Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork Thursday: New Merchandise Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!



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© 2016 | | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!




From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

3 thoughts on “It’s Not All Fluff and Cuteness

  • July 13, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Godspeed Josh, Wendel, & ….Panda ♥♥♥♥♥ We hope you all know you were loved and people did truly care . May St Francis have been by each of your sides; as you made your journeys to heaven ♥♥♥♥♥ We are truly sorry ~~~~~~~ boomer, dai$y, tuna, dude & sauce

    N smudge, may R total lee awesum pal St Francis send you blessings a plenttee N them sum; we hope everee thing that can be done ta help ewe out small dood,…. can be done …& ya live a happee healthee life… for yeerz ta come ♥♥♥♥♥

  • July 12, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Wish I could do more than just say, “Thank you,” to all those you mentioned in your post. $475 at the vet today for Fiona ( 6 year old with CKD), money to the rescue/TNR group I support to help save cats living at local steel mill, and a $1200 crown for my tooth, and I am tapped out. Please keep spreading the word. Sometimes that is the best we can do..

    • July 13, 2016 at 11:48 am

      You do plenty, Kittiesblue, now and in the past. Just telling people the right way to do things makes a difference for cats.


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