Aug
23

More about Beloved Karma of Blessed Memory (and Empress of Everything)

This card, which I illustrated from a photo of Karma at Christmas time and embellished with cartoons of what cats might wish for, was our 2004 holiday card. In 2006, after she died, I reissued the card with a little story of her life inside. I got more responses to that card than almost any other holiday card I’ve ever done.

Even though Karma has been gone a while, she is remembered – and vividly so – by those of us who had the “honor” to know her. I put the word honor in quotes because truthfully, Karma turned out to be only a one-and-a-half person cat. How so? She loved me and tolerated Michael. Everyone else was pretty much loathed on sight. (I read years later that Russian Blues, of which we believe she was at least half, have a tendency to be one-person cats. I guess the other part of her was the part that tolerated Michael.)

Anyway, you don’t get to be as old as Karma without exerting considerable influence over your world. Karma certainly did that. The minute someone came in the door they were warned not to try to pet her. Some folks listened, some did not– and gave blood. She would bite, and bite hard. We could not board her while we were away; she freaked out so badly in the car and at the vet that it was way too stressful (for her and for us). So we got pet-sitters. Preferably people who could actually LIVE in our house while we were gone. Karma might be hateful toward each person the whole time, but at least there would be a human there. Since I have worked from home for many years, she was used to having someone around.

The thing was, she was gorgeous, especially when she was younger. So of course everyone wanted to pick her up, stroke her long, soft, fluffy fur, and so on. They’d be attempting to do this while one of us would be lunging toward them going “Nooooooooo!!!!! Don’t do that!” Snarl. Hissss. Chomp! Too late.

Some “friends” even voiced their opinions that we should get rid of her. Sorry, we took her on for life. It was never easy, but it was never boring, that’s for sure. Because as much of a bee-yotch as Karma could be, she was wildly entertaining. She would fetch toys for hours and push them up against our feet to make us throw them again. She could leap 4 feet in the air and catch them in her mouth, while doing a pirouette and half-gainer. And she did have her moments of affection, especially once she got older.

When she hit about age 18, she began slowing down and we noticed the early signs of kidney disease. A visit from our mobile vet confirmed this. Hydrate Karma with a needle? Not on your effin’ life. Not even once. We put her on a special diet, gave her as much love as she would allow (more as she got older), and just tried to give her the best quality of life we could. And by god she chugged along for two more years. The last month of her life, though, she went blind. It happened one weekend while we were gone. When we came back, I noticed she wasn’t getting up on the bed (she slept with me every night). Michael had made her a little inclined carpet-covered step, and she used that to get up on the bed since she had gotten much weaker. I put her on the bed with me, and she took two steps and fell off. I was horrified. That’s when I realized she was blind.

I called our vet and they assured me that when Karma was ready to go, I would know. She would stop eating and drinking and so on. But for another several weeks, she ate, drank, purred and used the litter box. Between one day and the next that all changed. She could barely walk, she had no desire to eat or drink, and she kept falling over. We had a very compassionate mobile vet on standby who would come to the house. I called her up and the next day we said good bye to Karma, as I held her on my lap and cried, even though I had told her good bye the night before.

Twenty-one and a half years is a long time to live with an animal. We had her cremated and her ashes are in a small wooden box with a picture of her on the front. The caption says, “Beloved Karma, Empress of Everything” – and that pretty much sums it up.

I still miss her.

 

Aug
16

Neutering Theo: a Cautionary Tale (or should it be Tail…?)

You know, there are some darn good reasons that kittens get neutered early these days. When you go to adopt one at a shelter or other facility, they’ve usually already been taken care of. Of course, that’s because so many people can’t be trusted to take care of that on their own, thereby allowing their cats to roam free and impregnate or be impregnated at will. Shame on those people.

But anyway, if you don’t neuter a male cat early, he gets even more Cattitude than he was rightfully born with. And since Theo had so much to begin with (a good friend of ours said, “I like him! He’s got a BIG personality.” And boy, was she right.), he just got more and more aggressive as he got older.

We were on a tight budget (both of us being artists and all, we are not rolling in money) so when I heard of a volunteer MOBILE vet clinic coming to our area I jumped at the chance. Called “Catsnip” (clever name, huh?), they would set up in a local mall parking lot and you could just drop off your cat in the AM and pick him up a few hours later. At least that was the plan.

We drove Theo over there (he’s wonderful in the car, very calm, never howls and just sits quietly in his carrier) and left him in the allegedly capable hands of the mobile vet folks.

Not more than an hour or so later, I got a phone call and a very terse and pissed-off voice told me to come get our cat, that they could not neuter him. I said, “What? Why not? What’s wrong?” and they told me, “We are not equipped to handle an animal like this. We don’t have leather gloves or restraints and he’s attacking everyone and trying to tear up the van!”

I couldn’t believe it! Theo could be aggressive with us, true, but never that bad. I guess he just freaked out so totally much that he lost it. I hightailed it over there and picked him up. Of course he was just as calm and sweet as could be in the car, and by the time we got home, a distance of only maybe 3 miles, he was fine.

We researched some local vets and ended up taking him to Church Street Animal Hospital, which is where we still take him for his “maintenance.”

But I never could get the picture of Theo freaking out all over the vet out of my head. Here’s a quick rough sketch of how I think he must have looked.

 

Aug
09

How Our Cats Come to Us (or, “The Tucker Suckers”)


Like many cat lovers, our cats choose us. We rarely get to choose them. Karma (of blessed and bitchy memory) was chosen, but first she was dumped, along with her mother and two brothers. Someone dumped the mama cat and three little kittens along Ponce de Leon and a saintly woman took them in. She then put up the fateful sign: “Free kittens to good homes.”

We happened to be cat-less at the time, temporarily of course, and saw the sign one Saturday as we were driving into Decatur (we lived in Inman Park then). So we stopped, introduced ourselves and met the kittens. Karma was the only long-haired one, and she was also the only one that came right up to us. She was pretty fearless! She actually stood on my thighs with her front paws on the dashboard as we drove her home. She was only about 12 weeks old at the time. Later, she came to loathe and despise car rides so much that we couldn’t take her to the vet anymore and had to find a vet who would come to us.

Buster, who also lived to be very old, showed up one morning at our back door in Inman Park, starving to death and howling his heart out. I guess we had some kind of invisible sign that only cats can read, saying, “Soft-Hearted Suckers Live Here” or some such. Anyway, he was already full-grown, several years old, and looked awful. So of course no one wanted him. (My husband Michael even said, “Linda, you can feed that cat as much as you want and he’s never going to be good-looking.”) Well, I proved him wrong. Less than a year later, people who met him for the first time would say, “What a handsome cat!” And I would look at Michael and just smile…

Buster was even famous for a little while; I was interviewed by the Atlanta Business Chronicle about website design and he got his picture in the ABC!

Buster was an outdoor kitty and wouldn’t even come into the basement when it was cold. So he became the porch cat. We didn’t like leaving him outside so much but he could howl loud enough to make you insane, and could do it non-stop. Once we moved to Tucker however, we had to turn him into an indoor-outdoor cat, and he became the first cat to live in the downstairs studio and office space while Karma ruled the upstairs roost. It actually worked out better than it sounds. He was a total love sponge and would just sit on your lap as long as you let him. He did drool a bit, but hey, he was kind of old.

Buster eventually slowed down a lot and went out less and less. He developed kidney disease; we put him on a special diet and started hydrating him. He hung on for about another year and a half or so before we finally had to say good-bye. I figure he was between 18 and 20 years old by then.

OK, you are saying, but that doesn’t explain “The Tucker Suckers.” Oh, well that is the name my friend Paul Glickstein, a brilliant wordsmith, just came up with once we caved into Theo and admitted we were keeping him. He said, “You two are just the Tucker Suckers, aren’t you?” And, you know, I had to admit it was appropriate. I do wish we could have more than just one cat… But unfortunately, Theo has rather strong opinions on the matter.

Next post: Neutering Theo. OMG.

 

 

Aug
02

Full Name: Theobold the Magnificent, Panther Boy of Death (and how his name got that big)

Well, once we decided to keep Theo and had him neutered (another whole story), we had to name him. My husband and I both being artists, we came up with lots of creative names, some in other languages, some based on Greek or Roman myths. None of them stuck. Then one day a friend was visiting and she said he looked a little bit like her old black cat, Thelma. “Theo is kind of like a male version of Thelma,” she said. Ah HA! Theo it is then. Easy, short, has the right kind of sounds cats like (no “s” in there, not too many syllables, sounds a little bit like “meow”).

But. Theo kept getting bigger and bigger. And even though we’d had him neutered, he still acted like he was a MAN. It was like he was channeling Muddy Waters. He would swagger around the house and you could just hear him singing,

(Background bass: Bah Bah Bah BOMP, Bah Bah Bah BOMP.)

“I’m a MAN

I’m a full-grown MAN

Yes I’m a MAN…”

He liked to bite, and he liked to scratch. My arms were covered with either bleeding wounds or scars or both. Yet he had his little moments of cuteness. I frequently pointed out to him that those little moments were keeping him alive. And all this time, Karma (remember Karma from before?) was still with us, getting more and more feeble but still chugging along. So Theo had to live downstairs and Karma lived upstairs. It was not easy.

As Theo got more and more large and in charge, his name kind of morphed along with him. First it became Theobold (he pretends to be very bold but he’s really a fraidy cat). Then, Theobold the Magnificent. Panther Boy was because of his shape and coloring, and the “of Death” part was because of his aggressiveness.

Of course we only call him his FULL name when he’s been bad. “Theo” is much easier most of the time. And unlike many cats, he knows his (short) name and responds to it almost always. (We think he was a dog in many previous lives.) He’s now 8 years old, so he’s calmed down a lot. He meets us at the door when we come home, comes running upstairs when we call him from the upper part of the house, and is in general too smart for his own good.

Wait, you’re saying. He comes upstairs now? What about Karma? She was the upstairs cat, right? Oh no…she finally passed away, didn’t she? Yes, but not until she was 21 and a half years old. She had the longest life of any cat we ever had. And once she was gone we began the process of convincing Theo that he could now have the run of the whole house. That took a while but of course, he now acts as though this is HIS house and we, his slaves, are graciously permitted to live here. As long as we obey his every command. Which, of course, we pretty much do.

Next post: More about Theo and Karma.

Jul
26

First Name, Theo. Full Name…?

Theo came to us out of nowhere. As so frequently happens, we had no intention of getting another cat. Oh yes, we had a cat already and had recently lost another one in the past few years, due to old age. The one we had left, Karma, was already very old. She was over 18 years old in fact. And, she had never been an “easy” cat. She was “bad Karma”  way more often than she was “good Karma.” (I used to say she was half Angora, half Russian Blue, and 100% bitch. People would laugh, but it was true.) She was gorgeous, though. (See the pics below.)

From top left: Karma was a playful cat even when she got old, and loved ribbon and string of all kinds. Top right: Karma posing on her favorite pillow. Bottom: Karma doing her Greta Garbo impression (“I vant to be alooooone.”)

Our plan– of course we had one – was to wait until Karma had gone to the big kitty litter box in the sky and then, and ONLY then, would we get another cat. And we would get two cats, young but not kittens, that could be buddies for each other.

Well, Theo had other ideas. He showed up one day in the late summer of 2004. Actually he showed up in the very early morning while it was still dark. Michael (my husband) and I were just starting our daily 3-mile walk, about 5:30 AM. We got to the end of our tiny cul de sac, and heard a piteous crying behind us. Turning around, there was this very small and very thin black cat, not really a kitten but certainly not grown, following us. Michael was very firm. He pointed sternly at the little cat and said, “No! Don’t follow us! Go to your own home!” And we walked out of our street and did our 3 miles.

When we came around the corner toward our street on the way back, the little black cat was still sitting at the corner of our street in our neighbor’s yard, waiting for us. As soon as he saw us, he gave us a meow, stood up, stuck his tail straight up in the air, and followed us back to our house, mewing pitifully all the way.

Well! We certainly weren’t keeping him. And although he was thin, he was clean. No fleas, no obvious injuries. So I spent most of that day driving him around the neighborhood and asking everyone if they knew whose kitty he was. My best friend Janie and I had him scanned for microchips. I put up signs all over the neighborhood. Nothing. Then I placed a “FOUND” ad in the paper. Nothing.

 

When Theo first came to us, he was exhausted and starved. He spent some time hiding under furniture and in boxes.

Did I mention that Karma had absolutely ZERO tolerance for any other cats? As far as she was concerned, she was the only cat on the planet and that was how things should always be. No way we could try to get the two of them together at her advanced age, and she already had kidney disease. So we kept Theo in the downstairs part of our house, where our studios are. Plenty of windows, lots of places to hide and play, and we were down there a lot. But. He could not be with us upstairs. OK, that’s fine, we’ll find someone to adopt him. No luck. He had not yet been neutered and was really starting to act like a MAN, if you know what I mean. Plus, as soon as we started feeding him and he rested up, he doubled in size and weight in no time. People would come to look at him and say, “But I thought you said he was a kitten!”

Meanwhile, all our friends are like, “So what are you going to name him?” And I would say, “We’re not naming him because we’re not keeping him.” And they would say, “Oh, sure, Linda…”

Eventually of course we caved. We realized he’d been with us for what, two months? More? He had gotten really big and nobody else wanted him. Plus he was not as socialized as he needed to be, and he could be really aggressive.

So what did we do next? Well you already know we still have him. But the name? How did he get that very long and dramatic name…?

Stay tuned…

Jul
19

Launching Art with Cattitude: A Whole Other Animal

So, if you’ve read the Creation Story, you may remember it took over a year to this baby off the ground. “Why was that?” you ask. “Did it take you that long to draw all the cat art?”

Heck no! The art was a breeze, compared to everything that had to go into launching the site and really getting it going. In fact, I feel that we are still experiencing birth pangs.

True, I have run a successful graphic design and marketing communications business for years. Actually 25 years (you can visit our corporate site at http://www.designthatworks.com)! But almost all our clients are B2B (meaning Business To Business) – we don’t work with retail companies or big consumer chains. So I’ve never actually had to figure out how to run a retail business of my own, never mind how to design, build and launch a site where folks can actually buy stuff.

OK, I can hear a lot of you saying, “Hey, there’s this great art site called Etsy, have you been living under a rock? Why didn’t you use Etsy to build your site and business?” Well, to be perfectly frank (which I nearly always am anyway), I was going to put all my Cattitude art up on Etsy. I spent months in 2011 studying up on it. I went to hundreds of cat-related artists’ pages. And read page after page of Etsy’s rules and regulations. And even began designing the banner for my page. But the more I learned, the more I realized that I would be relinquishing more control than I could handle.

See, almost all artists (and especially graphic designers) are control freaks. We have little or no control over our clients (as some of my readers know), so we tend to want to control whatever else we can. So one day, it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks: I didn’t want to go on Etsy. Nothing personal, Etsy, I know lots of people just love you. But I wanted to have it be mine, ALL MINE (cue the evil bwa-ha-ha laugh here).

But how to make that happen? In a still-struggling economy? Well, if you know as many people “in the business” as I do, you can find someone to work a trade with. So I agreed to do a logo design for a new consulting business if the client’s significant other would build my website and help me get comfortable with WordPress (yet another story).

But before I could do that, I had to copyright the artwork. Oh sure, some of you are probably familiar with copyright law that says, basically: “The creator of the artwork (or whatever) is the sole owner of the work at the moment of creation, yada yada.” And that is true, as far as it goes. BUT. If you are putting cool stuff up on the Internet without going through the formal copyright process with the US government, you are opening yourself up for all kinds of hurt. People have a tendency to steal stuff out there on the Web, you know! (“I’ll just download these fun images and use them for my own!”)

Copyright is not an easy process. You have to download a 30+ page PDF giving you helpful hints on how to do all the forms correctly. I went through all that, did the best I could, and I still got emails from the government office telling me that I did some things wrong… well, you get the idea.

So all this took a while. A lot longer in fact than I thought it would. Then, there’s getting printing costs for the cards. And what about labels? And envelopes? And prototype T-shirts? And tote bags? And a merchant account with PayPal? And, and and…

And last but not least, I was trying to do all this in my “spare” time, meaning I could really only work on this when things were slow and my “real” business wasn’t keeping me that busy.

So that’s just some of the reasons this took so long to get going. Next post: more about our current cat, Theo. You’ll probably enjoy that one more anyway, but I wanted to get this one off my chest.

Nov
16

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