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Posts from the ‘13 Cats Project’ Category

It Takes a Village

January 1, 2014

pieceablekingdom

There can be no vulnerability without risk. There can be no community without vulnerability. There can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.  M. Scott Peck

Because this first blog post of 2014 has a happy ending, we might as well begin it with “Once upon a time.”  So, here goes.

Once upon a time, in a land not far south of Seattle, there was a handsome young cat named Gabriel.  Actually, no one knew his given name at the time he was first seen feeding with a group of feral cats behind an office building.  No one knew how he had suddenly come to be there, but the kind women who fed him did know that he was not feral, and that something was wrong with his back legs.  Terribly wrong, in fact, because Gabriel could barely move without pulling himself with his front legs.

Gabe under quilt

Gabriel snuggled under his quilt, Constance Perenyi, 2013

As it happened, the women who fed Gabriel knew an animal- loving man in the office building who agreed to take the injured tabby to his animal-loving daughter.  Enter Gabriel’s fairy godmother, a woman who has spent much of her life rescuing and caring for cats.  She took one look at this beautiful brown tabby and bestowed on him a name with dignity, hope, and wings.  Gabriel would need all three for the adventure he was about to begin.

Initial x-rays revealed bad breaks and dislocation in Gabriel’s both legs.  The veterinarian believed surgery could work, but the cost was well beyond the means of his rescuers.  His godmother refused to resign herself to the worst.  She had fallen in love with this fellow, seen the spark in his eyes, and knew there was a way to help him if she told his story.  Word spread, and within a few days, Purrfect Pals agreed to take Gabriel and provide the care he needed.

By the time Gabriel arrived at the shelter in Arlington, he had many concerned followers.  A fund was set up in his name, and donations from all over the world helped pay for his surgery.  After a long and involved procedure, the orthopedic surgeon noted he had never seen anything quite like Gabriel’s injuries.  Whatever happened had caused this young cat unthinkable pain.  His will to survive was essential to his recovery.

Back at Purrfect Pals, Gabriel amazed his caregivers.  He healed quickly, used his back legs eagerly, and was soon ready for a forever home.  His adopters, a physical therapist and a nurse, had been following his story, knowing they had the unique skills to help him fully recover.  Gabriel now has a loving family, and an opportunity to make up for a lost kittenhood.  His humans believe he is actually younger than first estimated, and his cat and dog siblings often wish he were less rambunctious.  Gabriel tears around the house with boundless energy, stopping for an occasional cuddle before he dashes up the stairs to oversee his kingdom.

Detail of Gabriel's Quilt

Detail of Gabriel’s Quilt

With the help of many caring people, this story unfolded quickly.  Gabriel was found at the end of June 2013, and was in his new home a month later.  I got to assist with his transport to Purrfect Pals, and his godmother and I watched with wonder as he intrepidly explored the shelter office despite his impaired mobility.  I knew he had to be part of the 13 Cats Project, and started to design a quilt of bright, energetic colors for him to rest on during his recovery.  But before I could even start stitching, Gabriel was well on his way.  His “healing” quilt is now a place for him to rest between his many adventures.

Gabriel got a second chance because so many people were willing to take risks on his behalf.  A fairytale ending was never guaranteed, but then, it never is.  It truly takes a village of fairy godmothers, skilled veterinarians, willing adopters, and a shelter where every cat matters.

As the New Year beckons with promise, we all have a chance to make a difference.  Please welcome 2014 with a donation to an animal shelter in your area. I plan to share part of my first paycheck of the year with Purrfect Pals, in honor of Gabriel, and all of the cats who can look forward to their happily-ever-after beginnings in the months ahead.

Portrait of Gabriel, Paper Collage, Constance Perenyi, 2013

Portrait of Gabriel, Paper Collage, Constance Perenyi, 2013

A Tale of Two Mothers

May 10, 2013

pieceablekingdom

One cat just leads to another.  ~Ernest Hemingway

Yes, it is ironic to start a Mother’s Day blog with a quote from Ernest Hemingway.  I am sure many people referred to Papa as a “mother” during his life, and he most likely deserved it.  He was a troubled, tough guy, with a big soft spot in his heart for cats.  A friend recently returned from the Florida Keys with stories about Hemingway’s house, now a museum, and home to over 40 cats, descendants of Snowball, the polydactyl kitten given to the author by a sea captain over 80 years ago.  Without me even having to ask the question, my friend explained that there was a spay/neuter program in place.  Females have one litter, are then spayed, and the original line continues.

Since that conversation, I’ve thought about how many cats a single, unspayed female produces.  A look online yielded some wild numbers, up to 400,000 if all her offpring are also reproductive.   Snopes  debunked that total, citing a feral cat colony study done by the University of Washington’s Math Department:
Cat reproduction graphic“Here are the assumptions used for the population projection: One female cat gives birth to six kittens per year. Kitten gender is 50 percent female, and only 25 percent of kittens survive to reproductive age. All surviving female kittens become adults and reproduce with the same birth and kitten mortality rates. If no adult cats ever die, how many cats/kittens would there be at the end of seven years? One female cat and her offspring could produce between 100 and 400 cats by the end of seven years.”  

Given that cats can have multiple litters in a year, the estimate seems low, but still a nightmarish statistic for those contending with overpopulation.  Cats can become pregnant at a mere 6 months, when they are still kittens themselves, which is why progressive shelters spay and neuter as early as 2 months of age.  If they are not already strays, many pregnant cats are turned out of their homes because people don’t want to deal with kittens.  Not that long ago, humans did the same thing to our own.  Every town has old buildings that were euphemistically called” homes for unwed mothers,” and in some places in the world, pregnant women still deliver their children in exile from their communities.

If a feline mother is lucky, she is taken in by concerned people who either foster or find a rescue organization to care for the cat and her kittens until they can be adopted.  In my last post, I wrote about the opportunity that Purrfect Pals and Foster Dad John Bartlett have given us through the Kitten Cam.  In the comfort of our own homes, we can watch a mother cat and her kittens, knowing that their stories will end happily when they all find their forever homes.

And now, the stories of 2 cats I want to honor this Mother’s Day.  The first is rather famous.  Named for the Sigourney Weaver character in Alien, Ripley is a slim and elegant cat.  Found as a stray and taken to a shelter, she ended up at Purrfect Pals, where she gave birth to 5 kittens.

Ripley in paper

Ripley’s portrait in paper collage

In John’s words, “Ripley doted on her kittens constantly when they were newborns, always providing them with a warm belly to feel safe with and to nurse. Her fans remember her fondly for her trademarked wide-eyed look every time she heard any kind of noise that couldn’t be 100% identified.”  Ripley won the hearts of thousands of Kitten Cam viewers, and we held our collective breath on adoption day as her kittens left one by one, and Ripley patiently waited.

The wait was worth it.  In the afternoon, John posted a message to tell us someone was on the way to save the day, and later, he shared a picture captioned “Ripley with her gentleman.”  As it turns out, Ripley has a whole family, with 2 loving people, and 2 other cats who have accepted her into the fold.

Ripley shares her quilt with cat sister Lilly

Ripley shares her quilt with cat sister Lilly

And onto the quilt I made her.  Ripley will represent the Kitten Cam mamas in the 13 Cats Project, and indeed, her story is a fairytale, from the lonely streets to a loving home.

Another mother who will be featured in the project still awaits her forever home.  Glorianne is a Himalayan, recently rescued from a breeding facility where she had been regularly bred for a decade.  That means Glori had at least 10 kittens a year, probably close to one hundred before she was finally spayed by Purrfect Pals.   She was surrendered along with 2 breeding males, Gordon and Gunther, who are about her age.  All of them spent their lives in individual cages, handled only when they were bred, but otherwise lacking any interaction with people or other cats.  Without  proper socialization, and in poor condition when they arrived at the shelter, their adoption prospects looked bleak.

Glori and Gunther

Glori and Gunther on their quilts

Enter Purrfect Pals, and their relentless belief in every cat in their care.  Glori, Gordon, and Gunther spent the next few months pampered by foster mother extraordinaire Connie Gabelein, Executive Director at Purrfect Pals. Connie  lured the three Gs out of hiding with countless cans of smelly food.  She slowly gained their trust, and they became more confident.   Last weekend, they were introduced to the world at the Average Joe Cat Show, and are now available for adoption at the Issaquah Petco.  All three have their quilts already, each stitched from William Morris reproduction fabrics in different color schemes.  I figured that if ever a group of cats deserved dignified quilts, it was the Gs.  As soon as they find their forever people, I will do their portraits, and finish writing their stories.

So, back to the Hemingway quote.  I admit to using it a bit out of context.  Papa didn’t intentionally refer to cat reproduction, although he was surrounded by unspayed females, one generation leading right into the next.  My interpretation of his words is this: when cat lovers invite one feline into our hearts and homes, there is inevitably room for more.  Ripley’s family found that open space.  It is my fervent hope that Glorianne, Gordon, and Gunther find their people soon.  Even more than that, I hope that everyone will realize the importance of adopting from rescue groups and shelters, and that in time, no other cats will be bred for profit.  On this Mother’s Day, let’s make a special place for all the mama cats like Glori who richly deserve a loving home.

Glori, ready for her forever home

Glori, ready for her forever home