Tuesday, October 29, 2013

National Cat Day

There seems to be a national day for almost everything. Some national days seem rather silly, like National Stuffed Animal Day or National Sandwich Day or National Flip Flop Wearing Day. Others have significance and substance. I like National Astornomy Day, which floats its date each year according to the moon's phase and what planets are visible, and I like National Lighthouse Day--August 7th--of course. This Friday, November 1st is National Author Day. (Hooray for me! Perhaps my husband has some exciting activity planned to celebrate my success. Dinner out at my favorite eatery??)

Today, October 29th, is National Cat Day. Meow! Purr! Rub! Being a cat lover and cat owner, I like the idea of National Cat Day. On the way home from campus today I heard on public radio about the importance of cats in our lives and that they outnumber all other species as pets in American homes. They are considered therapeutic for some people. (Me? Probably.) That seems to qualify National Cat Day as something akin to a federal holiday, I think. My sister would agree. She has, at any given time, at least ten cats, most rescued from a cat dumping spot about a half-mile behind her house. (Why do people throw away cats? They're not disposable pets!)

October 29th is a good day for NCD. It's near Halloween, a time we often think of cats and their eerie habits, their flitting nocturnal forms, silent footsteps, and coven consorts. We once feared the prospect of a black one crossing our path. Cats got a bad rap in days of yore and were labeled unlucky. But lucky for them, their reputation has  improved in recent years. These days, they're simply fun emblems of a scary night. I have a black cat on my front porch for Halloween

In fact, there's a lot of cat minutia around my house--trinkets really. My laundry room is decorated in a cat theme; it's the unofficial room for my two cats. Their litterbox and drinking fountain and food bowls are in the laundry room, and on any given day they can be found curled up in the laundry basket on top of the dryer (warm!) or napping in the yarn baskets on the upper shelf. Sometimes, they sit in the laundry room window and stare and stare at the world outside.

"Cat in the Window." It's an iconic image for anyone who is owned by a housecat, and an image I chose for my new e-Book publishing company. That's the late, great Zsa Zsa below, a.k.a. "Lighthouse Kitty." She saw me through many of my writing projects 1996-2009.

She was the star of "Kids on the Beam," the column I wrote for Lighthouse Digest for many years. She got lots of fan mail, which she always answered (with my assistance, of course), she had her own email address and website, and she is immortalized in a painting that hangs--where else but--in my laundry room! Above, she's shown sitting on my office computer in 2006 as I worked on The Lighthouse Keepers' Menagerie: Stories of Animals at Lighthouses. It has an entire chapter about cats that lived at lighthouses. I ended up dedicating the book to Zsa Zsa the Lighthouse Kitty. (You know you've written a lot of books when you start dedicating them to your pets!)

The radio pitch today was really a call to action: Please visit your local humane society and adopt a cat. Humane societies and shelters are crowded with cats and kittens this autumn. The end of summer usually brings a rise in feline numbers at shelters. Many more litters are born in the warmer months than in winter, and lots of cats wander away in the summer months, or are abandoned by people who think cats can live on their own. Many can, but... They need and deserve homes. I do my share to make sure some of them get a good home. Here in the DeWire household, they live like royalty!

I've had many shelter cats over the years. Currently, I have two--Sophie and Sadie. Both came from my local humane society. Yes, I know their names sound like they're a couple of saloon girls! They are, all decked out in fancy fur, glamorous made-up eyes, and with personalities full of fun and devilment. They're beauties, as you can see from the pictures below. Sometimes I get them confused and call them Sodie and Saphie, especially when they're chasing each other over my desktop when I'm hard at work.
Sophie, top, is almost two and a short haired tabby-tortie. Sadie, bottom, is one-half (seven months old tomorrow) and looks like she has a little Maine Coon in her pedigree. Both girls love my office and sprawl on my desks, sit on my computer towers and book shelves, play with my pens and paper clips and rubber-bands, harass the single fantail goldfish in my little office aquarium, and sleep in a cushioned chair by one of the windows. Every morning, they sit in my office window like statues, watching the birds and buggies. They're writer's cats, all the way.

In the archives of my blog you'll find a post I did months ago on writers and their cats. Some very famous writers have had cats, including Hemingway, Flaubert, T.S. Eliot, and Twain. A picture of a cat on Mark Twain's mantle in his Hartford, Connecticut home became famous as the "object" of his nightly fabricated tales for his daughters. I have a print of that cat in a frame. It's a reminder to me that cats are good grist for writers.

Below is a shot of Hootie, a cat that owned our family from 1986-2001. (No, he wasn't named for the band, Hootie and the Blowfish. He preceded them.) His face appeared on an issue of Weatherwise Magazine. I wrote an article for the issue called "Feline Forecasters." Our cats were the no-cost models for the images used in the article. The only pay they got was extra food. After his debut on the magazine, Hootie went by the epithet "Cover Boy."

Dusty, shown sphinx-like on the stairway railing in our house in 1978, was the inspiration for my first short story, published in Cat Fancy in December 1982. It was titled "For the Need," and featured a ghost-like cat that resided in a house where various renters and owners came and went, always with a need the cat met. Another story Dusty inspired was called "The Two-Timer," about a cat that lived at two homes. She two-timed us in Florida, mooching off our neighbor and even being let in her house for treats and naps.

There were other cats in my life--Ruby, Pooh, Boots, Cody, Puff, Buster, Warhead (named by my Navy ordnance officer husband!)--and other stories and articles too. In fact, I've written so many cat tales--fiction and true--I should wrangle them into an e-Book. It might be a good seller on National Cat Day!

A final note: I find it ironic that Amazon calls its e-Book business Kindle, the term for a litter of kittens...and for starting a fire! Stroke your cat from head to toe on a dry, cold day if you want to feel that spark of fire in every cat. (Yeah, I know it's just static electricity...or is it?)

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