Frivolous Friday – How Many is Too Many Cats?

Lindsay Detwiller has five cats and she’s proud of it. But it took her a while to get to the place where she’d admit the number of cats she cares for in her home. She used to shudder at the thought of revealing the number of cats sharing her home because she didn’t want to be thought of as “that crazy cat lady.” She didn’t want to be judged. She says she has come to the place where she’s proud to say that she has rescued these needy cats and that they’re safe in her home. As she says, she no longer gives a damn what other people might think. Her article is here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-im-not-ashamed-to-be-a-crazy-cat-lady_us_59398385e4b094fa859f1667?utm_hp_ref=cats

I believe that one reason we might hesitate disclosing the number of cats we have is

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because of the negative connotation. We don’t want to be thought of as a hoarder with cats, litter boxes, fur, and feces everywhere and a home that smells to high heavens of cat pee. And that’s just a darn shame. There are a lot of people in the world who lovingly and successfully care for numbers of cats in their home—purposely providing adequate space and provisions for them and dutifully cleaning up after them. Then there are people with even one or two cats who can’t manage them—whose house is a disaster.

I once had eleven cats—all inside-outside kitties. Among them was a litter of five kittens. Yeah, that was back in the day before I understood how many cats I can successfully manage to maintain healthy cats. The most I’ve had since I wised up is four. For me, four is too many. Three is on the verge of too many. For me, two is perfect. How about you? Do you know your limitations? Are you known by friends, family, and neighbors as the cat lady or cat guy?

As I said, I only have two cats, but I’ve always had cats and my family and friends know I adore cats, so they often give me cat-related doo-dads. Of course, this has accelerated since I began writing the Klepto Cat Mystery series. My office is decorated in cat. For me, this means my calendars have cats on them, I have a wall dedicated to the covers for my 23 Klepto Cat Mysteries, I have a great cat poster showing vintage ads using cats, there’s an adorable small rolling suitcase with cats (I use it to deliver books to bookstores and for signing events). I have a trashcan with a cat on it, a screen cleaner that is a cat, a cat mouse pad and more. I have cat jewelry, salt and pepper shakers, coffee cup—yeah, I’m a cat lady. But I hope I never ever wake up to a house like one that’s on the market as we speak in Arizona. They call it a House for Cat-Crazies.

Every inch of it is decorated in cat posters, photos, stuffed cats, 12 cat condos, and other kitty-cat paraphernalia. Yet the owner only had 3 cats. Here are the particulars if you’re interested—photos, too. Oh my. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cat-house-arizona_us_5942b8a5e4b0f15cd5b9c340?utm_hp_ref=cats

By the way–The Kindle version of Catnapped, the first in the Klepto Cat Mystery series, is FREE for the rest of today. Order your FREE copy at amazon.com

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Thoughts for Thursday – Cats in the Hood

Monday, I talked about the outside versus inside cat controversy. Did this conversation strike a chord with you? Are you pro or con either side?

While I keep my cats inside, I sure do enjoy seeing cats roaming the neighborhood—lolling on our deck, sleeping under the shade of a tree in our backyard, watching as I garden, perched on a rooftop, or curled up in a birdbath. And I often photograph them.

I look for cats when I travel—in windows and on porches of the homes I pass, hunting in an empty lot, even inside stores—you know, shop cats. When I travel without seeing cats, I miss mine all the more. And this happens more often than not.

However, as you know, there are now cat cafés abroad and even here in the states and, you

Peeek-a-Boo

might recall that I featured a cat wine bar in this blog. It just came to my attention that there’s a cat café in Santa Barbara. Their goal is to raise adoption rates and help to inspire more support for local shelters. They serve coffee and tea, smoothies and juices. It appears that you need to make an appointment in order to visit the cats. Learn more here and see pictures of adorable kitties: https://www.cattherapysb.com

I ate at a restaurant once while traveling where cats roamed in and out. That was before cat cafes and probably under the radar of authorities. For me, it was a treat. These cats were formerly feral cats who found a kind lady willing to feed them and they stayed.

 

 

 

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Wild (and Sometimes Crazy) Wednesday – Voicing a Character

Yesterday, we heard from Dena Dahilig, the woman who “voiced” the characters in the first Klepto Cat Mysteries to go audible. Today, Dena talks about some of her techniques for voicing a variety of characters and how she pulls the recording all together. Here she talks about the Aunt Margaret character:

What do we know about her?  

She’s Savannah’s aunt (her mother’s sister), 57-years old, broken foot, needs glasses to read, loves cats, passionate about cat rescue, volunteers at Max’s shelter, might have a thing for Max, often exaggerates to make a point (“a wild boar”!!) or get her way, impulsive, community-oriented, danger-excitement

What adjectives does the author use to describe her?  playful, spunky, capable, courageous, “curvy”

How does she describe her: “I’m not an invalid, you know!” “I would have done OK by myself this whole time”

But is she: “foolish, self-centered, stubborn”? If not, why does she describe herself that way?

So what does Margaret sound like? Does she remind me of anyone? (Yes! My dear friend Anne!) Can I pull in any of Anne’s vocal qualities for Margaret? Oh, yes. Much of Margaret’s vocal exuberance is based on Anne’s infectious laugh, and on the pure joie de vivre I hear in each wild story she tells. So the connection I feel for Margaret as a character is driven by her familiarity.

All of these elements inform the voicing of Margaret, and, by extension, all other characters.

Creating and Completing

Once all of the prep work is done, it’s time to record! I typically record only as much as I can completely edit per day. Some people record a whole book first, then go back to edit, but that seems so daunting! I like checking items off my lists (thank you David Allen and GTD ), so smaller, bite-sized chunks give me daily completions… and a good night’s sleep.

One of the most challenging criteria for producing audiobooks is being word-perfect. In the same way that I was taught as an actor to never alter a playwright’s words, the necessity for accuracy in audiobooks was trained into me as a volunteer reader for the Braille Institute. It’s always best to have a second set of eyes follow along, and this process has reminded me that it’s a necessity, not a luxury!

Once recording, editing and quality control are all finished, I send my edited files off for mastering. For Catnapped I used the awesome people at Deyan Audio in Tarzana, CA to create the final ready-for-amazon files.

Wrangling the Feline

It’s very rewarding to have lived with these characters in their world for so many days. Thanks to Patricia and Catnapped I learned an awful lot about cat rescues and cat-lovers, and I even got to record my own cat, Stanley. What you hear of him in the book is about 1% of what I recorded… the other 99% is the sound of him decidedly not meowing, but instead, purring and rubbing his head on the microphone… which he also drooled all over. If you need to know what a drooling cat sounds like, I’m your gal.

Dena Dahilig is a voice actor in Los Angeles, California. http://www.denadahilig.com

 

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Newsday Tuesday–Get to Know the Voice Behind the Audiobook

As you know, I’ve been excitedly telling you about my new audio book. A lot of people have told me over the last four years that they’d love to read my Klepto Cat Mystery series, but they just don’t have time to read. They listen to books while working out, commuting, vacationing, and so forth. So this year I revised Book One in the series—Catnapped. Why? Well, I think I’ve learned a lot about writing fiction after 23 books and I just felt as though it needed to be brought up to snuff. Then I found Dena Dahilig, who does marvelous voiceover work. And together, we produced Catnapped as an audio book.

I thought you might enjoy meeting Dena, so I interviewed her for this blog. Here’s the interview, a picture of Dena’s home recording studio, and an adorable shot of her cat, Stanley. (Stanley actually has a part in the Catnapped story. Listen for him.)

Q: Dena, welcome. What would you like to say about the process of doing audio for Catnapped?

A: Well, first of all… hellooooooo! It was definitely a learning process for me! Most of the work I’m hired for as a voice actor is in the commercial television/radio realm. Commercials usually top out at 30-60 seconds, so recording a 7-hour book required a completely different toolbox… and a fair amount of organization! Although I regularly do several “long-form” non-fiction recordings, working with characters is an incredibly rewarding challenge.

As the process began, I realized right out of the gate that this is Book One! I mean, that’s obvious, right? But the full reality of what “One” means hit me! This is Book One of twenty three! And counting! That means that Patricia is sowing the seeds of multiple books in this first volume.

Starting from Basics

There are lots of questions to be asked of any book: Where are we? What is this world like? Who lives here and who are the outsiders? What are the significant relationships? etc.

With a series, I had to go further: Which of the 40+ characters are recurring? Which become lead characters in future volumes? And, of course… what’s with all the cats?!?!?!

I started by reading the book, of course… building up a basic familiarity with it. Then I charted out each chapter, scene, location and character as they occur. Finally, I annotated the entire script. For this I use a piece of software called iAnnotate for the iPad and iPhone. I import the script into the software then start bookmarking chapters, noting where each character first appears, and creating a palette of colors to identify who is who. Each of the 40 characters was assigned a distinct highlight color that was easy to identify at a glance. Yellow? Savannah. Lime Green? Aunt Margaret? A slightly-sexy burnt umber? Why, Dr. Michael Ivey, of course!

Finding the Voice

I don’t consider myself an expert at “voices” in the animation/cartoon/video game sense, but voicing characters in a novel does require a clear distinction to be made, and these distinctions can’t be arbitrary. So to begin to create clarity, I look for clues. Let’s take a quick look at Margaret, for instance.

This is part one of Dena’s interview. Tomorrow, she talks about Margaret’s character and the process of how she found Margaret’s voice. She’ll also reveal her cat, Stanley’s, part in the recording. Don’t miss it the next segment of Dena Dahilig’s interview.

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Mindful Monday – Is Your Cat a Roamer or a Homebody?

First, let me share my news: The Kindle version of Catnapped, the first book in the Klepto

Lily recommends Catnapped

Cat Mystery series, is FREE all week—Monday through Friday. Download your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Catnapped-Klepto-Cat-Mystery-1/dp/0991106512/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497812453&sr=1-1&keywords=klepto+cat+mysteries

Now to the topic at hand. Everyone has an opinion about cats. In fact there are some major controversies involving the feline species. Should we spay-neuter or not? Should we breed or not? How many cats are too many? (See Wednesday’s post for more on this sensitive subject.)

One of the biggest controversies and difficult decisions for some cat owners is, should I let my cat outside or make him stay indoors? For some, the decision is made by the cat—she is either too frightened to venture out or you cannot—no matter what you do—keep the cat inside.

Since I became a supporter of the inside-only kitty, I’ve actually had the sort of cat who insists—I mean insists—on spending time outside.

It was several years ago. We had just lost Daisy, a beautiful calico, and we had room for one more cat. We found a sweet teenage girl at the animal shelter waiting for a home and her name was Katie. Oops, we already had a cat named Katy. So we ultimately changed the calico’s name to Dinah.

Well, Dinah let us know quite early on that she would not…I mean WOULD NOT use the litter box. No, she didn’t soil the carpet—never ever did she pee or poo in the house. But she had to do her job outside. In the heat, even when it was raining, she insisted on going out. She went in and out throughout the day—which meant someone was constantly opening the door for her. And she loved joining me when I gardened. It worked for us. And the other cats we had at the time were content to stay inside. As you can see, Dinah also enjoyed being inside and always appreciated a lap to curl up in—even if the lap belonged to a dummy.

Seven years ago, my sister-in-law gave my mother a kitten from her “oops” litter. Her

Smokey, the inspiration for this series

ragdoll cat had slipped out at the wrong time and met up with a neighborhood “Cat-sanova”. The result included a ragdoll look-alike, a calico, and a grey-and-white kitten, who was destined to be Mama’s lap cat. Wrong. While Smokey loves a little lap-time now and then, he prefers the out-of-doors. In fact, there was no way to keep him in. However, Mama does bring him in at night.

Cat experts say that inside cats have a greater life expectancy than those who go in and out or who live outside. In fact some say that a feral cat lives to an average age of eighteen months. That’s a dismal statistic. However, when left intact, they live long enough to create several litters of kittens.

I have to say that before I adopted the mandatory indoor cat ruling, my cats never lived to be even ten years old. I’ve lost cats to cars, coyotes, gopher poison, dogs, leukemia (before the vaccine), something akin to AIDs, a brain tumor (the illnesses probably not associated with outdoor living). Since I’ve kept my cats inside, I’ve had two live to be over 17 and one died from cancer at the age of 12.

What’s your experience?

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Frivolous Friday – Cats Who Choose Their People

Have you ever been chosen by a cat? I mean, he might belong to someone else, but continually show up at your house wanting your company. Several years ago, we were frequently visited by a tangerine beauty and we didn’t know where he came from. Finally, we began feeding him. One day, however, he appeared at the back door with a post-it note on his forehead that said, “I belong to Tyler. Don’t feed me.” True story!

We currently have two cats. Lily has pretty much put her claim on me and Sophie adores Dennis. And that’s just the way we like it.

In Idaho, my nephew’s family began noticing a black-and-white kitten coming into their yard quite often. He’d play with their five-year-old daughter throughout the day, then disappear at night. They didn’t invite him in because a member of the family is allergic to cats. But every day, as Maria played in the yard, this kitten would join her and spend most of the day there. Soon they learned that he lived across the street in their rural neighborhood and his name was Gomer. Try as they may, the neighbors could not keep Gomer home. When my nephew moved—a few years later, the neighbors gave Gomer to them because they could see how attached he was to Maria and vice versa. He lived out the rest of his life with his best little girl-friend, who grew up with him nearby.

Yesterday I talked to a woman via email about my Klepto Cat Mysteries. And, as often happens, she told me about her cat. Mr. Jambo, this beautiful Maine coon cat, had a home, but he preferred Alycia and he made that known in every way possible until his owner released him in her custody and made them both very happy. Alycia plans to write his story at some point as there seems to be many layers to this cat and their relationship. Can’t wait.

In the meantime, as you can see, he’s a fan of Rags and his friends in the Klepto Cat Mysteries. Don’t forget, you can order this book, Book One, Catnapped, in print, for your Kindle and as an Audio Book at Amazon.com. And be sure to check out my new Klepto Cat website. http://www.KleptoCatMysteries.com

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Thoughts for Thursday – The Challenge of the Feral Cat Population

Unfortunately it has become necessary for individuals and organizations and even informal groups to gather and intervene on behalf of cats. There are thousands of such agencies. Yet, there are still far too many cats without homes, comfort, love, and protection. I heard one professional say that cats on the streets live an average of eighteen months.

Despite the fact that there are thousands of organizations just in the US designed to help these cats, and  there are still many who are falling through the cracks—way too many. And people can do only so much. How do you provide a safe haven for cats that are too frightened to enjoy it or even tolerate it?

In my Klepto Cat Mysteries, I sometimes address the feral cat situation. I’ve created one

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solution for feral cats in one area—a wealthy woman with a heart for cats has a large enclosure where feral cats with no hope of becoming comfortable in a home environment can live out their lives in relative safety. Of course, they participate in a spay/neuter program as well. Certainly there are similar provisions here in the US and elsewhere. But still not enough.

While there are reported to be 86 million pet cats in the US, there are still estimated to be 50 million who are homeless. This is a problem—too many cats are suffering. And the problem is world-wide. There’s a small island in Japan where the human population is 22 and the cat population is 120.

If you dare—check out this site where you’ll be shocked at statistics involving cats—some of them good and some not so good. http://catingtonpost.com/animal-overpopulation-shocking-facts-and-figures/

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Wild (and Sometimes Crazy) Wednesday – Cats From Hell—and Heaven

Have you ever watched Jackson Galaxy’s program, Cats From Hell, on Animal Planet? Wow, does he take on some challenging cat situations. There are cats that don’t get along with each other barely surviving in the same household, cats that hate their owner’s boyfriend or girlfriend, scaredy cats, destructive cats… And Jackson comes in with his guitar case full of cat toys and other potentially useful paraphernalia and he assesses the situation, gives the cat owners some homework to try with their cat and then comes back once or twice to see how things are going.

Often he suggests bringing in tall cat trees and building ledges all around the upper portions of the room for the cats to climb on and relax on. He says that cats like to be high—it helps to give them a sense of power and confidence when they’re looking down on the world instead of peering out at it from under a bed or dresser or out from a closet.

He also recommends a lot of playtime with appropriate toys—usually a feather toy or some other toy on the end of a wand.

He also shows the people various techniques for handling their particular cat situations, such as using wood panels to help keep cats apart so they don’t fight and giving them something to claw on so they don’t tear up your belongings and tips for getting a cat to warm up to you.

I recall one incident where the cat suddenly became frightened and I think even somewhat aggressive. Turns out the cat was hard of hearing and once when he was in the yard, a big dog or a big truck approached and caught him off guard and scared him. He carried that fear with him after that, until Jackson helped the family to figure out what had caused it and guided them in helping the cat to gain his confidence back and, of course, he thought them to be more aware of the cat’s handicap.

I hadn’t watched the program in a while. When I turned it on last week, I noticed they also have a segment about Cats From Heaven where Jackson showcases a cat who has done something amazingly worthwhile—save a family member, console someone who’s ill or something like that. In the segment I watched, the cat alerted the family to the fact that the baby in the crib was suffocating in a blanket.

If you get Animal Planet, you’ll probably enjoy watching Cats From Hell and Cats From Heaven. You may even learn a few techniques to help with your own cat.

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Newsday Tuesday – Fascinating Cat Stories in the News

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The Huffington Post loves cats and I love to peruse their site in search of interesting cat news stories for you. Here’s a rundown on some stories they’re running right now.

Read about the veterinarian in Dublin who’s advertising for professional cat cuddlers. What a fun job that would be. But he only wants people with “cattitude.”

How would you like to work or volunteer at a kitten nursery? In San Diego, the Humane Society has opened one—in fact it’s open 24-hours part of the year—and they hire 20 staff members to feed and love on the kittens and around 200 volunteers.

In Japan, there’s a company that pays employees to adopt cats—yes, they actually pay the equivalent of $45/month. And they even allow—maybe encourage—employees to bring their cats to work. At present, there are about 9 cats wandering and lounging around with the staff every day.

One of the inspirations for cats used in the stories.

There’s the story of the little black cat who was nowhere to be found after a house fire. Two months later, the family dog—a good friend of the cat—drew the family’s attention to a sound in the floorboards of the damaged home and there they found their beloved cat—malnourished, but alive.

In Charlotte, NC, a family gave their cat quite a party when she turned 15. They made it a Quinceanera. Dressed in a designer dress and wearing a crown, Luna was the star of probably the biggest party ever thrown for a cat.

Read these stories and more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/topic/cats

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Mindful Monday – Are Cat Owners Happier?

I’m sure that I smile more often throughout the day when there’s a cat around. I love having the company of one or more cats. Just last night, we were laughing out loud at Sophie’s and Lily’s antics as they played hide-and-seek, leap frog, and chase.

I love it when Lily gets an itch and runs to me for a scratch. No kidding. She’ll lay down flat in front of me so I can ease her itch with a rubber kitty grooming brush.

I smile every morning and evening as Lily leads me in our rising and bedtime rituals. And I’m sure you can relate. As if you don’t get enough joy from your own cat, here’s a facebook page called, Cats Make Me Happy. Watch a man and a cat share a croissant and a cat giving her owner a massage. It made me chuckle. So cute. https://www.facebook.com/CatsMakeMeHapppy

The Huffington Post editors also seem to love cats and often run something about them. Here’s one I enjoyed featuring happiness secrets that only cat owners understand. Wayyyyy cute. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/happiness-secrets-only-cat-owners-know_us_5791311fe4b00c9876ceb307?utm_hp_ref=cats

I’d love to hear how your cat makes you happy. Is it when he uses the litter box instead of your carpet or cashmere sweater? When she snuggles in your lap? I really enjoy it when Lily brings me a toy or her slippers. And when Sophie begs, in her cat-like way, for me to spread the cozy blanket-throw on the sofa for her to lay on—I have to smile.

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