Frivolous Friday – Unlikely Cat Friends

Is there anything as charming as watching unlikely animal friends interact? I saw a picture of a fawn and a bobcat curled up together this week trying to find shelter from one of the fires. I also saw the most adorable scene showing an elephant and a lioness walking together toward a waterway. The elephant carried her cub curled up in his trunk. (I was suspicious of this picture, however, and discovered it was photo-shopped—bummer.)

There are programs on Animal Planet and even gift books showing unlikely friends frolicking together in a pasture or snuggling together on a sofa—a pig and a duck, a lamb and a pony, a dog and a goose, and certainly many types of animals make friends with cats—horses, calves, gorillas, birds, and dogs.

This morning I did a little internet search and found cats pairing up with an owl, a fox, a duck, a crow, and even a dolphin. There are many stories of wild cats making a sweet connection with other animals—dogs, bears, and others. One of the sweetest to hit the internet lately is the mother hen keeping a litter of kittens warm. Adora-dorable!

Having a bad day? Is it gloomy outside? Do you need cheering up? Grab your favorite beverage and snack and go to the internet in search of unlikely animal friends. It’ll make you smile, guaranteed, and might just make your day.

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Thoughts for Thursday – The Mystery and Awe in Cat-Related Book Titles

One of my challenges as the author of cozy mysteries with cats is creating titles for so many books. By comparison, it’s easy to come up with titles for nonfiction books. In order to attract the right readers for your nonfiction book, you must be literal in your presentation of it; and a major part of that presentation is the title and subtitle. Here are some examples of my nonfiction book titles. The Mainland Luau; How to Capture the Flavor of Hawaii in Your Own Backyard. And how about this one: Youth Mentoring; Sharing Your Gifts With the Future? And this one: Creative Grandparenting Across the Miles; Ideas for Sharing Love, Faith, and Family Traditions. These titles pretty much describe the book you’re about to buy. Then there are my publishing-related books, for example, Propose Your Book, How to Craft Persuasive Proposals for Nonfiction, Fiction and Children’s Books and A Writer’s Guide to Magazine Articles.

Yes, these titles are fairly straightforward and will attract the reader for whom the book is intended. But it’s not as easy to capture the essence of your story in a brief title for fiction. I tell authors that if the main title isn’t descriptive, always use a subtitle—yes, even in fiction. My subtitle for my novels is always “A Klepto Cat Mystery.” Then folks know this is a mystery and part of a series and it involves a cat—one that presumably takes things. They get the idea that this story is fun, probably light, and entertaining. This is a technique used by many novelists.

If the author insists on using a one- or two-word title such as, “Abandoned,” “Forgotten,” “The Girl on the Train,” “Shattered,” “Lonesome Dove,” for example it helps the potential reader if you explain further on the cover. You can do this sometimes adequately and sometimes only partially through your cover design. But still the reader wants to know is it a novel, a memoir, true account or what? I suggest adding “A Novel,” “Memoir of a Street Urchin” (War Veteran, Holocaust Survivor, etc.) or “A True Story.” You can see that my friend Mollie Hunt has done this with her series of cozy mysteries. The title of this book is “Cat Cafe.” The subtitle says, “The Fifth Crazy Cat Lady Mystery.”

With fiction, titles are not as direct and this is why I spend so much time trying to create titles for my Klepto Cat Mysteries. I’ve complicated matters by always using a word indicative of cats—even if it means I have to create new words—MEOWvelous, for example, PAWtners, PURRfect, PURRsuit and so forth. And I use catty phrases, such as “By Crook or By Cat,” “Catnapped,” “Mansion of Meows,” “Claws for a Cause,” and “Cats in Cahoots.”

When I hear a new use of a cat-related word, I write it down. I have a file folder full of cat-related terms I could possibly twist into a meaningful title—aMEWsing, PAWssible, CATastic, PURRpose, Felinest, HISSterical. Fun, isn’t it? But after having created titles for 33 books in the series, it can become a bit overwhelming. So any ideas you want to send my way, I’d appreciate. (By the way, yes, Book 32 is with the editor as we speak–the title is fixed, and I’m working on Book 33 with a working title in place.)


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Wild (and Sometimes Crazy) Wednesday – Cats and the Burrowing Instinct

What does your cat do when she feels vulnerable? Many cats, when a stranger invades her space, there’s a loud noise (the trash truck picking up barrels in front of your house, a siren screaming past, the vacuum cleaner running over the carpet), will hide. They’ll seek out a dark closet in the back of the house, a cozy spot behind your computer, or under a bed. In our house, Sophie hides under a piece of furniture and Lily scrambles to where she feels most safe—under the covers.

Cats also like to play or sleep inside enclosures on their cat tree, a tunnel or tent or a box.

Hiding is not uncommon behavior for a cat. I talked to an in-home physical therapist yesterday who remarked that my mother’s cat was the only one he’s met who doesn’t hide when he arrives for a therapy session. We certainly see traits in our house cats indicative of their wild ancestors and hiding or burrowing is quite natural in that context. While some cats bring with them a stronger instinct to hunt or to climb or to experience the out of doors, some are more inclined to run and hide when they feel threatened in any way.

So it’s no wonder that the Thundershirt works to calm some cats during a thunder episode or fireworks display too close to home, for example. Pressure for calming is widely used among veterinarians and other animal practitioners on a wide variety of animals for various purposes. Cats feel secure in tight spaces. So it follows that the Thundershirt—designed to apply a comforting pressure around the torso of the cat can create a calming effect in times of stress. I should have thought of this when we had to evacuate during the fire in December. It’s probably something worth getting your cats accustomed to for unexpected storms or natural and unnatural disaster episodes. They only cost anywhere from $15 up to around $40.

Have you used a Thundershirt for your cat or another form of pressure in times of stress? Tell us about it.


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Newsday Tuesday – Is Fire Approaching–Flooding? Please Don’t Leave Your Pets Behind!

It has happened again. There are horrific fires raging in Southern and Northern California. Along with news reports of the fire’s intensity, evacuations, deaths, etc., come personal stories. Many of those focus on the animals. I’m appalled by the number of people who leave their pets behind. Some people are shown on TV coming back to check on their dog or cat after the danger has passed (or after their home was lost). What??? Why was the pet left alone amidst that danger in the first place? This I do not understand.

Firefighters and other responders are often shown rescuing a dog from a second-story window of a flooded home, cats are found suffering from injuries after a tornado or hurricane. Last week a fireman rescued a cat on the front porch of a burning home forty miles from me. The cat was drenched (from the firemen’s hoses) and badly burned. They were able to capture him and get him help. But the question remains, why was he left behind?

One answer might be not enough time and I can understand that to an extent. Certainly, a disaster can catch you off guard. I know of some who left their homes in the middle of the night during the Thomas fire, in their pajamas with only their purse and car keys. But others wait around until flames are lapping at their windows before executing a plan to leave.

Many of us do not have adequate provisions and a plan for disasters. We might buy extra water and bandages, then use them up over time and not replace them. But surely you have carriers for each of your cats, bunnies, tortoises, birds, and harnesses/leashes for dogs, pot bellied pigs or whatever else you care for. You wouldn’t leave a child behind to fend for themselves in an emergency situation. Why do people bother to take in a pet and commit to him or her, then abandon the pet when he really needs your protection?

Folks, no matter where you live or what disasters might visit your area, start today preparing for the possible evacuation or other sort of emergency for all of the pets you’ve acquired. If it is impossible, I’d say it’s time to relinquish some of those animals to someone who can protect them even in time of disaster.

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Mindful Monday – It Takes a Village to Keep a Cat Safe and Healthy

I believe in Hillary Clinton’s statement, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I used that quote the other day with regard to my aging mother. Yes, we’re finding that it takes a village—at least several caring family/friends and many resources to keep a ninety-seven-year-old healthy and safe. And it occurred to me that the same is true of our pets.

Hopefully you learn important tips and care techniques from the research I present here in the Catscapades blog. You do your own research on behalf of your precious cat, and you talk to friends about issues you’re having with her. And you discover the best solutions to whatever cat questions come up.

In our neighborhood, and probably yours, everyone watches out for each other’s critters. I told a neighbor yesterday that I’d seen their cat, Moonie, paying a lot of attention to a certain area of her body—that maybe she has something going on there. Emily thanked me profusely for being observant. Well, Moonie is in my yard (which is free of little children) more often than in her own yard and I noticed this.

Another neighbor told me about her cat’s suddenly swollen face. I’d seen enough abscesses and tooth problems on the veterinary shows I watch on weekends to know what this could mean. I said, “Take her to your vet now. The poor thing is in pain.” She promised to do so. (I heard later that it was an abscess and the veterinarian had to do some minor surgery.)

In our neighborhood, we have keys to other neighbors’ homes and we take over the care of each other’s pets when need be. I’ve taken care of bunnies, chickens, cats, dogs, fish, wild birds, and, yes, horses. We’ve had neighbors in to care for our fur babies. It’s nice to live in such a village. If you have just moved into a new area and you have pets, it will behoove you to get to know your neighbors. Assess their character, habits, and interest in others and animals, and you’ll no doubt discover someone that you feel comfortable handing over your extra house key and the care of your animals in time of disaster or should you take a trip, for example.

Make it a habit to speak up when you see a free-range cat with a potential problem—excessive scratching could indicate fleas. A cat can die from flea infestation if he’s in a weakened condition. Maybe the cat is limping or getting thinner or behaving differently. People who let their cats roam, those who work away from home all day, and the elderly sometimes aren’t aware of a deteriorating condition in a cat or they don’t know that a neighbor kid is tormenting their cat or dog, for example. Be a good neighbor. Speak up. Give the cats a voice—be part of the village for good.

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Frivolous Friday – The Debate: Talking Cats Versus Non-Talking Cats

By the title of today’s post, you might think I’m referring to vocal cats—those who are constantly “speaking” to you. Experts say that cats don’t “talk” to one another. They picked up that trait from humans. Some breeds seem to have more to say than others—Siamese cats, for example, are notorious for expressing themselves through meows and mews and yowls. Those others noted for their talkativeness are breeds probably linked to the Siamese—Burmese, Tonkinese, Birman…

I’d say that it’s the more intelligent cats who vocalize. They’re probably mimicking their human and they’ve learned that it rewards them with attention, food, or something else they want.

But today my intent is to discuss talking versus non-talking cats in fiction. There are a LOT of cozy mysteries with cats series. My Klepto Cat Mysteries, of course, Sofie Kelly’s Magical Cat Series, Mollie Hunt’s Crazy Cat Lady series, Paige Sleuth’s Cozy Cat Caper Mysteries, Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Joe Grey Mysteries, Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy series, Carole Nelson Douglas’s Midnight Louie series and so many others. Let’s not forget the possible originator of cozy mysteries with cats, Lilian Jackson Braun and her Cat Who series.

A few years ago I was asked to chime in for an article in the Wall Street Journal on talking versus silent cats in novels. We’ve all known talking cats in cartoons and children’s books, but there are also some authors of cozy mysteries and other novels for adults who put words in their cat characters’ mouth. How do you feel about that?

Those of you who know my books, know that my cats do not talk except for a cat-like yowl or meow once in a while. As with the majority of authors of cozy mysteries with cats, the cats have other ways of communicating, being noticed, sharing a secret, uncovering a clue, and so forth. What is your preference—a cat with a voice and a point of view in the fiction you read or an ordinary cat who acts more like a cat—albeit an exceptionally clever, smart, savvy, inquisitive, cunning cat?

Posted in About Cats, Cat Books | 2 Comments

Thoughts for Thursday – Unusual Props for the Klepto Cat Mysteries

People wonder how I come up with my Klepto Cat Mystery stories. And that’s somewhat still a mystery to me. It’s just the way my mind works these days. How I made the switch from a staunch nonfiction writer to a novelist, I’m not quite sure. It seemed to be a natural transition for me. I wrote nonfiction articles and books during my working years. Now, in retirement, I’m having a blast being entertained by Rags and his friends.

Fans are interested in some of the props I use in my stories. For example, the methods I devise for carrying Rags on horseback when Savannah rode him into a desolate spot to see if he could find Marissa in A Picture-Purrfect Christmas. Rags rode in a duffle bag sort of carrier across the front of the saddle. And while I’m on the subject, don’t forget to consider thrilling your friends with a gift of a Klepto Cat Mystery. A Picture-Purrfect Christmas would be a lovely surprise gift for anyone who enjoys a light mystery with cats.

In the latest story, Savannah has to create a sling using her sweatshirt to carry Rags on horseback. And there was the time when Rags went hiking and Michael rigged a backpack for when he tired of walking on the leash. He could either lie on top of the pack or sit inside and peer out. That gear was featured in Book 27, The Perilous Purrsuit.

I guess I could expand my Klepto Cat Mystery brand by coming out with Rags carry-packs and slings for sale. We could design cat harnesses and leashes—a long leash for general use and a short one for specific purposes. How about a car seat for cats? Sure they have them, but we could create a spin for Rags’s car seat. One of my favorite book covers is the one of Rags with the bra hanging from his mouth. We’ve designed note cards with that image. We could expand that collection to include coffee mugs, magnets, jewelry, t-shirts and so forth. The mugs and clothing should have a slogan or a saying. Does anyone have any ideas for that? Look at Book One, Catnapped and Book Six—Celebrity Cat Caper and come up with something to say about the picture of Rags with the bra.

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Wild (and Sometimes Crazy) Wednesday – Klepto Cat Mystery Teaser

Some of you have already read Book 31 of the Klepto Cat Mystery—FURever Bound. Even though that was one of my longest stories and even though I just published it a matter of weeks ago, I’m close to finishing Book 32—Cats Don’t Squeal.

I thought I’d tell you a little about the new story. The Iveys and Michael’s twin brother, Keith, and his family are enjoying a beach house for a few weeks. Of course Rags travels with them to Southern California because Rob (his agent) has arranged for some book signings in the Los Angeles area. As Rags’s fans know, a book signing is usually a great opportunity for Rags to misbehave or find some sort of trouble to get into. And his appearances in SoCal this summer are no exception. Imagine Rags in an oily mess, and what do you think happens when he finds himself a wild animal baby. Oh my!

Rags also digs up something that puts Savannah in a most precarious situation. Who will take care of Rags, not to mention the children, if she’s arrested? Of course the malady is resolved—or is it? Sometimes these things can twist into something unexpectedly ugly.

I had fun with the side stories—Adam (Michael’s son from a previous marriage) visits and he inadvertently opens up some opportunities for interesting occurrences. One involves our warm and crusty Detective Craig when he rolls on a possible horrendous crime scene and is treated to anything but. And I introduce a spunky and fun new cat in this tale. Of course she comes with a mighty secret that rattles the entire beach community.

Oh yes, there’s a lot going on in this story including several mystery threads to keep readers on their toes.

Stay tuned, we may have Book 32, Cats Don’t Squeal ready for purchase before the year’s out.

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Newsday Tuesday – Heartwarming Kitty-Cat Rescues

Along with the loss due to Hurricane Michael came the unveiling of surprises and interesting new direction for some. Anytime we’re challenged by unexpected change, we have choices. We can wallow in the disappointment or we can step up and make new decisions. I like the story of the couple who planned to wed in Mexico Beach. The venue they chose was destroyed, so they used what was left of that venue as the backdrop and were married there nonetheless. Good for them.

But this blog is about cats, and I do have a couple of cat stories. I promise, they have happy endings. One family was surprised during the hurricane when their ceiling broke away and a litter of kittens all huddled together fell to the kitchen floor. Talk about a gift from heaven. Evidently they didn’t know the kittens were in their attic, so this unexpected entrance by the cute little fur balls may have saved their lives.

Organizations across the nation leaped into action after the hurricane to take care of dogs and cats living in shelters that were damaged in the storm. Over thirty cats and dogs went to Chicago thanks to an organization called PAWS. The injured animals were treated and all are now at home in the Chicago area. Another hundred went to shelters in Delaware and Pennsylvania and others were airlifted and caravanned to shelters in Northern Florida, Georgia and other states.

I think we all saw the video of the man walking nearly waist-deep in flood waters while carrying a cat to safety. And what about the video of the cat who was swimming in those waters trying to find a dry spot to light. Thank heavens for caring people who will stop to help an animal. And there are many still in this world.

Yesterday I received a recorded call—not from a telemarketer, but from an organization called LostPetAlert or something like that. They were alerting neighbors of a missing cat. Snow White is a nursing mother who was injured and presumably ran off in fear. Hopefully someone receiving this call has seen her and she has been located and is back with her kittens.

I think everyone who loves cats has a cat rescue story. Want to share yours here?

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Mindful Monday – Cute Kitty Quirks

Did your cat come with a quirk? Like humans, dogs, and horses, cats can have quirky things about them—unique trademark habits or abilities or anomalies. Look at the famous Grumpy Cat. Now that’s an unusual, and evidently marketable (exploitable) face. I saw a picture of a two-headed kitten once. Now that’s certainly an oddity—a conversation piece, for sure.

There are cats with unusual markings—a heart-shaped spot, moustache, goatee, eyebrows, etc. Check out this link for some of the most delightful markings you’ve probably ever seen on a cat.

Some cats have a rather subtle quirk of some sort. Our Lily, for example, has such soft ears that when she washes her face sometimes her ears get bent back and stay that way until we flip them forward the way they’re supposed to be or she does. I’ve never seen a grown cat with ears so flexible—Gumby ears. Cats have very different sleeping preferences. Ever notice that? While some, like my mother’s cat, Smokey, sprawls to sleep, others prefer to sleep undercover—I mean under the covers. I’ve had kittens fall asleep while eating from a bowl. Talk about cute! And some cats find the craziest sleeping positions ever. Want a chuckle this morning? Visit this site showing sleeping cats:

There are cats who figure out ways to use their paws like hands. They open cupboards, pick up kibbles and eat them from their paw, and even drink using their paw.

Some cats are touch-sensitive. They shy away from having their head petted. Some prefer rough petting and some want it gentle. Smokey is a herding cat. He uses his body to move you in the direction he wants you to go—toward his treats. He’ll get in front of you, bump you, and lead you to the spot, then meow for his treats. Yes, he usually scores. How can anyone resist?

What interesting quirks does your cat have? Did he learn it or does it seem to be innate?

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