Mindful Monday – Why So Many Cats With White Tummies?

Olivia has a gorgeous fluffy white tummy that I love to tickle when she displays it during one of her yoga stretches. She prefers, however, that I keep my hands off her delicate tummy, so mostly try to I comply. While admiring her tummy one day this last week I recalled an article I read once describing how cat color is formed in the womb. I thought you might be interested too, so I went in search of the article and didn’t find it. As I recall, one fact I thought fascinating was that kittens start out white. The color is produced from top to bottom which is why so many cats have white tummies. Many calicos do, as well as tabbies, tuxedo cats and some others. You’ll also notice that a lot of cats have white paws—giving the impression that the gestation period sometimes ends before all of the kitten’s color is dispersed, so the extremities are left white.

I didn’t find that particular article, but here’s one about cat color that is equally interesting. It’s packed with color- and pattern-related information—some of which you’ve probably never heard before. For example,

  • Cats come in only 3 colors—black, red, or white or some combination or dilution of these colors (black becomes blue and red becomes cream). I read this and I was left wondering about cats in brown shades—pointed Himalayan’s or Siamese, for example, or the Havanna Brown. Turns out that shades of brown in a cat’s fur actually comes from the black gene.
  • A white cat is called piebald. I remember when I was involved in horses—a horse with a mostly white face was called a piebald. Interesting term. A white cat is thought to lack pigmentation—so technically white isn’t a color, but a lack of color.
  • All cats are tabbies. I can certainly see some striping patterns in Olivia’s calico patches, but what about solid-colored cats? Experts say that many kittens show the tabby pattern when little and that if you look at your cat’s fur in the bright sunlight, you might see hints of tabby, even if the stripes aren’t

Here’s a site that further details some of the points I’ve made here and offers quite an extended lesson in cat color. Enjoy. https://www.catster.com/cats-101/different-cat-colors


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Frivolous Friday – Who is Olivia Today?

Hey, that might be a good title for one of her books. You may have noticed that so far I’m using Olivia’s name in the titles for the Calico Cat Mysteries. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to come up with title ideas, but it’s fun while it lasts.

I chose the title for this post because of Olivia’s quirky purrsonality. As you know I had her tested to see what cat breeds are in her DNA. She is definitely an interesting blend of breeds, and sometimes an inkling of a particular breed seems to emerge.

Now that I know Olivia’s DNA make-up I often attribute some of her characteristics and traits to one or more of her possible ancestors. Sometimes she’s super snuggly and clingy like her Persian, Ragdoll, or Maine coon ancestors. Other days she’s aloof and standoffish—she doesn’t even want me to touch her, more like the Egyptian Mau. She can be as active as the Abyssinian and as quiet as the Ragdoll. She might carry something in her mouth and even go fetch it and bring it to me like the Abyssinian or the Ragdoll in her genetic pool might, and she can jump like a gazelle—wait, that’s not a cat. She is thought to come from the genetic pool of the Cheetah, so maybe that’s where that skill comes from.

I have to wonder though if the part of her that isn’t a breed at all, but a color pattern—the calico—is trumping all of the breeds when it comes to her sometimes quirky—sweet and sassy behavior.


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Thoughts for Thursday – Juggling Two Cat Series

People wonder, now that I’m writing two cozy mystery series with cats, do I ever get the characters mixed up. Do I attribute one of Rags’s traits to Olivia and vice versa? Do I actually ever work on two books at once? I have to say “yes” to all of the above.

I start the next Calico Cat Mystery while the current Klepto Cat Mystery is with the beta readers and I work on it while the Klepto Cat story is with the editor. So when we publish the latest Klepto Cat Mystery, I have a pretty good start on the next Calico Cat Mystery. For example, the pre-publication readers had Book 3 of the Calico Cat series last week and I took the opportunity to start outlining Book 54 of the Klepto Cat Mystery. Most of you know that we published Book 53 of the Klepto Cat Mysteries within the last few weeks. And we’ll be ready to publish Book 3 of the Calico Cat Mysteries next month.

Now that’s just about as close to putting out assembly-line books as a person can get without having a stable of writers, which I don’t. Still fans contact me asking, “When’s the next book coming out?” It’s as if they’ve waited years for a new story to be developed. Come on, people. I already live and breathe these stories, except when I’m playing with some of my great-grandchildren. I’d say that 6 published books in 9 months is quite remarkable. We published 9 books in 2020. Do you know another author who has reached their 80th year, and who produces as many books as I do on a regular basis?

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Wild (and Sometimes Crazy) Wednesday – Feline Feeding Frenzy

I’ve learned a lot over the years about cats and their traits and preferences. It’s been an interesting and enjoyable journey. One thing that was always fairly straightforward with all of the cats I’ve loved is their eating habits. You put down a plate or a bowl of food and they eat it. Oh, we’ve had cats, over the years get sick and stop eating. Red Flag! That cat gets an immediate trip to the vet. We discover the problem, attempt to remedy it and usually the cat will resume eating—depending on the problem and the age of the cat and so forth.

Then Came Olivia (yeah, that’s the title for my next Calico Cat Mystery). Well, she has never been a very good eater, yet she’s a fairly big girl and has plenty of meat on her bones. At nearly 11 pounds, I’m sure she’s just fine. But darn it, I want to see her eat.

As a kitten, she got canned and dry kitten food and I’d see her eat it. In fact, I’d sit and watch to make sure which cat was getting the right food—Sophie, our senior cat, does not need the rich kitten food, and Olivia, as a kitten, couldn’t have regular cat food. Sometimes Olivia would not eat while I watched, so I’d leave the area and go about my business. The food would often disappear at some point, but I wasn’t always sure who ate it.

I’d sit with Olivia when I’d feed her and watch her sneak up to the plate as if stalking it, take a sniff, maybe a taste, and dart off to parts unknown. Sometimes I’d watch for thirty minutes—nothing. I’d leave the area and come back to find the food gone.

When we switched Olivia to adult food she started eating a bit of the canned version more often. Then she stopped altogether. She still wasn’t losing weight, so I was pretty sure she was eating enough kibbles to keep her going. The vet finds nothing wrong with her and, as I said, she is maintaining a good weight. She just thinks canned food is gross—unless she decides she wants to eat it.

Well, I’ve quit putting a plate down for her when I feed Sophie (who adores canned food). Sometimes she hears the can open and tears into the kitchen all excited, runs to her feeding spot and waits. So I fix her a plate. Sometimes she will eat it. Often, however, she will sniff the food and walk away. Sometimes she’ll refuse the food, then come back and eat it.

Lately, however, she is back to ankle-hugging me while I prepare Sophie’s meal. She runs to her old eating spot waiting for her plate. Eight times out of ten, lately, she’s been eating it, especially if it contains liver. Who knew? We’re feeding a lot of liver-flavored cat food these days in case Olivia feels like eating it.

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Newsday Tuesday – Houses for Cats

Cats have good instincts for the most part—and those who live in the elements must develop excellent instincts or they won’t survive the seasons, the storms, the drought, and the lack of food. In our world there are many homeless, abandoned, unwanted cats—more than I can report here. The numbers are to unsettling. And those numbers are all our doing—human-caused. The numbers I like to focus on are the number of cats that are being cared for—are loved, well-fed, warm, and safe. That is a high number too and that’s also because of us.

Bless those of us (individuals from the human race) who care for the homeless cats. I think we’ve all fed a stray, adopted or rescued cats over the years, helped and taught someone else care properly for their cat, including our children. Bless us, but some humans go above and beyond.

Today I’d like to take my hat off to those who provide food and a safe place for cats, but also to those who providing housing for those cats that prefer not to be confined indoors with a family—cats who would otherwise be out in the cold, rain, snow, and extreme heat.

There are caring individuals who design and build houses for cats out of plastic bins, tires, Styrofoam containers, repurposed dog houses, and more. Some people and rescue groups purchase ready-made insulated, heated houses for cats trying to survive neighborhoods. They come in one- or two-cat size or for multiple cats in just about any style you want. Or you can find plans for cat houses online. Here’s a fun site with some interesting ideas for indoor and outdoor cats: https://bookmypainting.com/blog/cat-house-diy

This site features some very innovative ideas for outdoor cat houses made of everyday things you may never have thought of. https://excitedcats.com/diy-outdoor-cat-house-plans/

And if you ever get to Turkey, you must visit the Cat Village there and see the array of houses they provide for the 100 resident cats. Here’s a sneak peek: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/turkeys-cat-village

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Mindful Monday –Neighborhood Cats-A Photographer’s Dream

Just look at this gorgeous photo I snapped of our next door neighbor, Mollie, one evening as we dined on our patio with her human. Mollie and her actual sister, Annie, (the sleek black and white cat pictured below) always follow their family members when they take a walk, visit other neighbors, and even when we used to have our monthly neighborhood potlucks. Charming.

But the two cats also visit neighbors by themselves. Mollie and Annie consider our yard an extension of their yard, one reason being there are no dogs and there are a lot of birds and squirrels to watch, and trees to climb. While some neighbors don’t appreciate visits from neighborhood cats, I enjoy seeing them outside, staring in at Olivia and Sophie, accompanying me as I putter in my yard, and just relaxing in a sun puddle or in the shade of our guava tree.

And as you know, I sometimes take advantage of these two (and other) cats with my camera. Well, they can be so darned photogenic. How can I resist?

Don’t get me wrong, there have been cat intruders into our yard that I’m not in love with—those expert bird-hunting cats, for example. Annie and Mollie are not very good at it and not motivated by hunger, although I have seen them trot home from here with a rodent in their mouth. Thank you, girls.

I don’t welcome neighborhood cats that want to attack Olivia and Sophie through the window screens or that are snarly to us when we try to pet them. Those cats can just go home (after I get a few pictures of them, of course).

How do you feel about free-roaming cats visiting your property? Yay or Nay? Do you make nice with them or shoo them away?

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Frivolous Friday – Readers Love My Storybook Characters

It is said that if movie goers or readers love or hate a character that’s a huge compliment to the screen writer or author. I’m pleased to say that readers often comment on my characters. “I’d like to know those people.” “They’re so nice to each other.” “Your characters are so interesting.” “I love watching the characters grow through each story.”

These are just some of the comments fans post in their reviews and that they write to me. I consider this a huge compliment because that’s what I attempt to achieve—a connection, not only to the cats in my stories, but to the human characters.

Certainly not everyone in my stories is kind and interesting. You must have the bad guy or gal—otherwise there’s no conflict. Even the coziest of mysteries must have a conflict, which is generally tied into the mystery. But to have readers see my characters as people they feel they know, that they’d love to sit down with and get to know, is a good feeling.

Fans also become attached to the cat characters. Rags and Olivia each have their own following. One reader said, “I love Rags. Please don’t ever let him die.” And I’ve had several readers tell me how important my books have been to them throughout these difficult months. My stories take them to gentler times and make them smile and even laugh out loud. What more could a cozy mystery writer ask for?


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Thoughts for Thursday – Genetic Red Flags in Cats

Earlier this week we talked about cat breeds from all over the world—some of them are derived from mutations and forced breeding experiments. What happens when we aren’t careful with breeding programs or when we exploit a mutation? We can get genetic issues.

I know a beautiful, lovable munchkin—actually a kinkalow-munchkin—who is being treated for a liver infection. I began to wonder if the munchkin and/or the kinkalow is prone to liver problems.

I thought today we’d explore weaknesses in cat breeds. If we don’t want to watch a cat suffer and we can’t afford large vet bills, maybe we should do a DNA test on even our shelter cats before we adopt—I’m just saying… If we discover the cat has a lot of a particular breed in its DNA, we might choose another cat that may not have the issues that are often found in these breeds.

The Siamese and the Persian, for example have lists of potential genetic issues, including those related to the liver and heart. The Maine coon is just one of quite a few breeds that’s prone to hip dysplasia. The Himalayan is thought to be at risk of developing kidney disease along with several other problems. The British shorthair is genetically sensitive to hemophilia—a bleeding disorder. If you’re interested in what you should be watching out for as far as potential health issues with your particular cat, here’s an excellent site to study.


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Wild (and Sometimes Crazy) Wednesday –We Love Funny Cats

First, I’d like to announce that Book 53 of the Klepto Cat Mysteries is available now in both print and Kindle versions. I think you’ll enjoy this lively and fun and suspenseful story where Rags Gets the Upper Paw. Oh yes, he keeps busy in this tale of many dimensions, which he shares with a bird friend, as you can see from the cover. Who better to pair a precocious cat with than a clever and spirited parrot? Available now at Amazon.com.

What crazy, silly, interesting things have your cats been up to this week? If your cats are like ours, they are pretty much creatures of habit—you’ll find them sleeping in one favorite spot by morning, another when the sun comes out, another place in the late afternoon and they go to bed in the same spot each night. They play with the same toys, react the same to their treats and they follow the same routine at meal time. Our Olivia prefers to graze on kibbles. She’ll occasionally eat canned food, but mostly she seems to think it’s gross. Sophie, on the other hand, nibbles on kibbles, but she love, love, loves a meal of canned food. Three times a day it’s the same thing. She finds me wherever I am and yowls reallllly loud. I look at the clock and often it is almost right on the button time for her to eat. She watches me head for the kitchen then she waits in her usual feeding spot for me to place her plate on the floor. Not Olivia. I used to try feeding her yummy cat food. She’d take one sniff and walk away.

It’s charming to watch the cats follow their habits—their chosen patterns of life day in and day out, but I enjoy a little shift in their routines, too. It might drive me crazy and scare me silly when I can’t find Olivia anywhere. I’m accustomed to seeing her in certain places at certain times—but not always. She likes to mix it up a bit at times and make me look for her. I think, sometimes, that she has a warped sense of humor as she obviously hears me calling and she stays quiet. Sometimes she’s actually watching me walk past her while screeching her name. Yet she continues to hide, often in plain sight. Sure, I can see the humor in it once I find her. I can forgive her for frightening me—fearing she has slipped out, broken through a window screen, or is hurt somewhere. Yeah, I have a big imagination.

What funny thing has Olivia done this week? I got a kick out of her nose-to-nose meet-up with a humming bird that hovered outside my office window inches away from where she sat one afternoon. It was kind of eerie as if the two of them exchanged a secret message or something.

A fire truck drove down our street past our house one day this week and that excited Olivia. She likes trucks! She used to hear the trash truck and she’d run and hide. Now she hears it or the UPS or Fed-Ex truck and she scurries to the screen door or a window perch to watch it rumble past.

Good news—remember that Olivia is a feisty (sweet and sassy) calico. She turned one year old in May, and she has not been okay with a grooming routine. However, I’ve been persistent—she has fairly long, fluffy fur and sharp claws. She needs regular combing and nail-trimming. Well, we’ve finally come to a pretty good understanding about her personal hygiene. If she’s relaxed in my lap, I may be able to trim the nails on one paw at a time. In order to do another one, we need to obtain the same level of relaxation together on another day. And we’re doing more combing and brushing. There’s one rule I must adhere to—leave the floofy tummy alone. Her claws might be trimmed, but she still has sharp teeth.

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Newsday Tuesday – Cats From Every Corner of the World

I came across a domesticated cat I don’t think I’ve written about here because I don’t remember hearing about it before. This cat is thought to have come from the wild forest cat of Russia and they call it Ussuri.

Discovering this got me to wondering what other cats are out there that most of us haven’t heard of and where do they come from? I was surprised by the answers and you might be too. While there are a lot of cat breeds from the US, many of them seem to be created from mutations and breeding experiments. The Maine coon is thought to be the only or one of only a few natural crossbreeds attributed to the US.

The Burmese originated in Burma, of course, the British shorthair is from England and we’ve all heard of the Egyptian Mau and the Norwegian forest cat. Oh yes and there’s the Japanese bobtail, the American curl, American bobtail, and so forth, and it’s pretty clear that a cat called Chartreux is from France, right? But have you heard of the Sokoke from Kenya, Raas from Indonesia, and the Donskoy from Russia. There’s also the Australian Mist—you guessed it from Australia. We need to check out that one for a future blog post, and the Aegean from Greece.

Visit this site to learn more about the Ussuri, https://allaboutcats.com/cat-breeds/ussuri I was surprised to find that the Ussuri isn’t even mentioned on this interesting Wikipedia chart of cat breeds.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cat_breeds

So far this week, we’ve had a moment of remembrance related to cats and an educational on cats. Tomorrow we’ll have a bit more fun and cut loose on the funny things cats do.

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