“I’m just going to say that I have a couple new #fostercats in the studio, and the #fourhousecatsoftheapocalypse want to know exactly what the story is. Can’t tell them or you right now, but I will soon enough. And I want you to just take one guess about what color they are.” They’ve been camping outside the door, waiting for their introductions and a chance to steal the fosters’ food.
Yes, I am fostering two cats in my studio. I haven’t had fosters in the house since Mariposa joined us, but this year is difficult for all fosters because there are so many cats. These are two very special fosters so I need to keep them close. And no, it’s not because they are housepanthers, but once again it’s ironic that fosters are once again housepanthers. That makes 10 in this house and two non-housepanthers.
Why the studio instead of the bathroom, which had always worked so well? The bathroom is out of sorts right now, with the hole in the ceiling, and the floor repair, waiting for me to find a person and the money to fix them, so I can’t foster in there. The studio is not an easy room to foster most cats with my open shelves with materials and equipment, the computer, printers, matboards, all materials that cost me money until I turn them into money by making things with them. I have any breakable or sharp materials packed into drawers or cabinets, but one frightened former feral trying to find a way out of the room, as they do, could clear off a lot of shelves and smack the computer to oblivion while knocking hundreds of dollars worth of pastels into dust. There is not enough room for a crate, but there are plenty of little nooks and crannies for a feral kitten or catten to hide in where I can’t get to them.
That’s right boys, and that’s why you’re here. The only situation that would work in the room is one or more socialized, friendly adult cats, and that’s the situation that presented itself, or themselves.
You are very good boys! In the front, Simba, in the back, Midnight Louie. That pretty much describes their personalities when they are together: Simba is bold and Midnight Louie is just the type of timid who is intimidated by a bold and physical kitty like Simba. Individually they are both friendly and affectionate, playful, love people and being involved in what people do, but in the same small room Simba is first in line, and Midnight Louie sometimes heads to one of those hiding spots to get away from him.
Simba is like a big overstuffed toy except that he gives hugs and kisses and loves lots of scratches and pets. He loves to be picked up and held, have his face smushed and kissed, rub his big head all over you, and snuggle next to you.
He is big like my Basil, and somewhat overweight, and also has a lot of thick, fuzzy fur with an undercoat that is very Persian-like. Where you see the light areas on his neck and chest and belly are pale gray feathers that are irresistible to touch.
Midnight Louie is no less loving and affectionate, but feels a little vulnerable with Simba around. In a room without Simba, or with Simba completely distracted, Midnight Louie rolls around for attention, loves all his pets and to be held and kissed, rubs on you and lets you know you are the best person in the whole world.
He is short-haired and very sleek, slender but muscular and tall, with long legs.
You can see they’ve both got their roles in the studio figured out. When I’m not in the room, Simba owns it and Midnight Louie usually comes sliding out from one of his protected spots with coaxing—protected from Simba. Simba wants to play hard, Midnight Louie does not, so he takes cover. When I’m in there Midnight Louie is a little nervous at first but I share my attentions between each and include a lot of play, they are both engaged and hang out. It’s not an ideal situation for them, especially Midnight Louie, and I didn’t think it was going to work at all at first, but I felt giving them some time to work it out would help.
They’ve been here since Saturday. I spent a good bit of the first day in there with them, then two sessions on Sunday and Monday for several hours each. Last night we had a catnip party to loosen things up. I hesitate to use nip with a cat like Simba who stood a good chance of getting even more physical, which can backfire, but I kept him occupied with a kicker stick while Midnight Louie had a wild party with another one. That really helped us all bond and Midnight Louie has been spending more time out after that.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Simba appointed himself as the studio supurrvisor, helping me finish and pack votives.
And he’s really silly sometimes. I have the Swan fountain in the studio and he was skeptical at first because his ears got wet, then he decided he liked it and I often find his head is wet when I come in to pet him. He has a unique way of drinking, by lying flat on his belly and watching the water, then drinking out of the bowl, then drinking from the spout.
The studio floor has lots of spots on it in that area. At one time I had my easel there and pastel dust dropped, much as I vacuumed it the floor stained with the pigments. I also used it to experiment with some watercolor and acrylic techniques and water and alcohol washes and spatters dropped more on the floor. It’s commercial grade 3/4″ plywood that I laid on top of the boards of the original floor to protect them. Studios will have spills and things, I let the plywood take the punishment.
Here is their story
I can’t give all the details, but I can say they’ve been through quite a bit for kitties and have come quite a long way from the beginning of their situation.
Almost a year ago, a few days before Thanksgiving 2020, their person, a neighbor, died unexpectedly while away from home. Denise, the feral caretaker on my street, lives two doors down from the house and was good friends with their person. They had exchanged keys to care for each others’ cats when they were away—before he died, he fed Denise’s colony on one shift and I fed on the other. She let the police know there were five cats in the house and stepped in to take care of them until the family was contacted and had a chance to get to the house. The family had planned to take all the cats with them, but the cats were terrified and hid, and some had little experience with people other than their person. Denise continued helping to care for them, and began trying to calm and resocialize them, ultimately gaining their trust and even friendship with a couple until the family took over early this year. I’ll just say care took a wrong turn in April and she resumed. The cats were all traumatized and scattered again, and we have taken several means to keep the cats in good care, resocialize them, and ultimately hope to find them new forever homes.
There are many more details, and it’s been consuming for Denise and all the work she did, and me on the sidelines working on organizing care and other details.
Midnight Louie is six years old and Simba three years old, both socialized, neutered and well-cared for, and were their person’s only cats after his elderly cat died several years ago. One of Denise’s colony was a shy tabby and white cat who showed up for dinner only, distrustful but socialized, and though we shared photos we never determined where she, as it turned out, came from, if she was owned, or even if she was male or female. She would sometimes show up around the house two doors down and he grew to love her, to the point he wanted to take her in. January was brutal and he decided it was time. The Covid shutdown prevented a veterinary visit and after gaining weight and trust for her person—surprise—she gave birth to five kittens, only two of which survived. Those are the five cats involved.
I met them in the beginning of the situation, helping Denise who was so upset at losing her friend, and it’s unnerving going into a home when a person has died. At that time, Midnight Louie was friendly but stayed on the kitchen counter then on top of the refrigerator, and it turned out later he was intimidated by Simba and the other cats. Simba hid on a windowsill behind a drapery and growled and hissed if anyone came near, and I really thought he’d been a feral cat. He had actually been adopted as a young kitten from a socialized litter, and I thought perhaps he hadn’t been integrated into the house well. The mother cat kept her distance and the kittens hid. I helped Denise arrange beds and things for them and helped her with information on socializing them to surrender to a shelter or a rescue. Later, after April, she did it all again in hopes of having them all in good socialization once again to surrender.
In midsummer, when it seemed like the situation would soon be resolved, Midnight Louie and Simba had made great strides but still needed some work to be handled and to act normally in a home, and I felt the next step was to move them to a foster home with all the activities of a household and people around full time. A neighbor agreed to foster them and the moment we let them out of their carriers in the foster room, Simba strolled around the room, rubbed on legs, asked for pets, inspected all the corners and was a totally different cat, and Midnight Louie was nervous but curious and affectionate. Eventually she introduced them to her cats and dogs and Midnight Louie was timid but mingled, and Simba tried intimidating others without success, held them at paw’s length but napped with them. At this point, three of them are in good situations, and only Simba and Louie need places
That foster situation was to be a couple of weeks to a month at the most, but ended up being almost four months, far longer than we had anticipated and I appreciate her fostering at all, and staying on for those extra months was beyond amazing. Because of the situation we still need to keep them in foster, and I spent weeks asking even people I haven’t talked to in years, with no luck. The three kittens my friend Jan has been fostering also need a move—they love her but were not warming up to me while still in their situation. I had been considering possibly repairing the bathroom and taking one of the kittens at a time, or beginning with a small crate in the studio, but knew these two adults would work out in there. The cooler weather makes it possible, I’ve had two rescued or surrendered adult cats in that room plenty of times over the years, so here they are. I have also changed their names to keep a level of anonymity.
A long-term foster, possibly to adopt
I am looking for a long-term foster, possibly to adopt, and considering their dynamics they don’t need to go together. Midnight Louie would do well with another cat with his demeanor: cautious, but friendly, but he’d also do well as an only cat. Simba would need to be paired with cats of his demeanor who are ready for some rough but friendly handling.
My studio is not ideal even if Midnight Louie doesn’t continue to be intimidated by Simba. It’s okay in the short term, but not much space for two young adult cats long-term. It also closes off one full room in this small house to the 10 other cats who live here, and that was one of the reasons I quit fostering in 2018. In the meantime, I’ve opened up the basement as napping and prowling and living space for them as well as work space for me, so the situation has also changed for them.
I don’t know that I can introduce these two to the household any time soon, if at all. I’ve had more than 12 cats in here many times over the years, but success in that depends on the cats involved as well as how I manage it. Midnight Louie is intimidated by Simba, and seemed to be intimidated by all the cats in the house he came from, and this may just be too many cats. A dominant personality like Simba would be difficult to fit in between Mr. Sunshine and Giuseppe, and while the siblings and Mimi fostered many cats young, old and in between for several years, they are not as young and flexible as they were in those days and I respect that. It would be a very long-term and difficult undertaking that may not work well for most of the cats involved.
And I need that space to get my work done in there. That’s where I work on portraits and illustrations, make my votives, keepsake boxes, cat signs, jewelry and most of the other small gift items that I sell. I also print all fabric transfers and trim fabric, print and trim greeting cards and so many other things, and that’s all new for my studio. Not until this year have I made the volume of handmade goods that I do. I need them all to make my living. It’s cute, but it’s hard to work with cats interacting with my stuff. Cat hair sticks to everything, and people with cats understand cat hair but they don’t want some other cat’s hair in their gift.
Also, provisions. I have plenty of toys—friends bring toys for my cats all the time and we enjoy them while I share some with the fosters and others I help support with donated goods. Their foster brought food and treats and Denise gave me some she knew they liked, and my wonderful friends at Pet People in Green Tree helped me with food and litter and some interactive toys and scratching items that had been returned.
But I am just at my limit with food and litter for 10, so if anyone would want to help in that respect I’d gladly accept it. Any cans of pate would be wonderful. Simba prefers dry food, and while I’d rather start moving him to canned food to help reduce his weight, Louie prefers wet food and that difference helps ease one important potential stressor—they aren’t competing for food. Simba’s food is Purina One, but I also gave him some other brands of donated dry food and he ate anything I put in his bowl.
I usually use wood pellet litter but I didn’t want to change their litter so dramatically when they came here. I don’t like clay because of the dust, or anything scented, and right now am using a donated bag of walnut shell litter. Any of those lightweight ones would be wonderful.
Send me an email: bernadette at bernadette-k dot com, or if you’d like to contribute money for goods, you can do that by visiting www.PortraitsOfAnimals.net and purchasing one of the things I make. Also, my Paypal address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my Venmo is @Bernadette-Kazmarski.
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