Saturday, December 12, 2009


Dear readers,

That was the final odometer count on my old "Little Red Skittle," before it was finally towed away.

That Nissan 200SX and I spent 193,573 miles over 12 years together, from the prairies and skyscrapers of Dallas/Fort Worth to the cornfields of Illinois, to the hills of Pittsburgh and beyond. Just a few weeks ago, I said my final goodbye. (If you missed that story, regarding my sentimental attachment to the fatally wounded car, look a few posts down for the background.)

I went up to the North Hills Firestone, where the car had been parked since its Labor Day breakdown as I figured out what to do next. I signed over the papers of my Texas title to the regional Goodwill Auto Auction.

And then, completely unconcerned about how weird I might look to the mechanics, I pulled up my new Little Red Skittle - almost the exact same car, only newer and fancier - and parked the two cousins nose to nose. I took a little movie with my camcorder, and narrated the story of my car replacement, and the transition from Skittle One to Skittle Two.

Then, I climbed into the old car, laid my head on the steering wheel I had held for so many hours of my life, closed my misty eyes, and reminisced about all the things this era of my life - and, thus, this car - represented. The cross-country moves. My life as a Texas girl that I thought would never end. My life in graduate school in the Midwest. My life as a Pittsburgh journalist that took me by surprise, and even exceeded my ambitions and dreams. All the exciting media banquets I have presided over as president of the Women's Press Club of Pittsburgh. All the people I have met, known, loved and parted with. All the dates and occasions for which I primped in that rearview mirror. All the American scenery I saw. All the conversations I had within those walls of metal and glass.

The most recent and poignant memory, perhaps, was this: All those Animal Friends foster kittens I had transported in that car, back and forth to that place I called my second home for three years. And, with a heavy heart, I have to share this news: that part of my life, too, is no more.

Not fostering itself: Mother Catresa is passionate about what she does, and will continue her work saving lives. But now, it will be with a different organization. (More on that later, but I already have started with two adult foster cats, Terry and Teddy, and I am excited to give my devotion and work to this great new group.)

As it turned out, my car breakdown symbolically foreshadowed what soon was to come in my life: an unexpected twist for which I was unprepared, and that shook me up. Indeed, almost the exact same thing - doing foster work, only at a different place - soon came, just like my new Skittle car did. I have great hopes for my future, and know I will go on to persevere and thrive once again.

Yet, I loved many of the people I met and befriended at Animal Friends, and I miss them deeply - especially during the Christmas season, when we shared wonderful Yuletide parties. I really feel the absence, and it hurts. To those people - you know who you are - know this: I cherished our time together, miss you, and hope to stay in touch.

And to everyone at Animal Friends, I thank you sincerely for the opportunities you gave me, and the years we spent together as I learned and grew in my new venture as a kitten foster mama. I have wonderful memories, and learned skills, that will stay with me a lifetime.

Mother Catresa is not truly gone: she is with you in spirit, still roaming the halls of Animal Friends. Still cracking jokes and being a goofball. Still beaming at you when she's happy to see you. Still lighting up when her kittens, and all the animals there, find their forever homes. And still writing her blog, which she hopes you'll continue to read and enjoy. Please don't forget me.

May y'all remember me, especially, whenever you smell a gassy kitten. It gets me giggling every time.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, dear readers.

I remain, ever yours,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mother Catresa Goes Trick-or-Treating

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

So, what makes a true friend after all?

Many would cite these characteristics: Loyalty. Trustworthiness. Reliability. Honesty. Integrity.

I love - in fact, require - these characteristics in close friends. But do you want to know what really makes someone stand out as a keeper?

Someone who dresses up as me for Halloween.

Yes, you read that right. Aw, ain't that a sweet hoot and a half?

You see, my friend from graduate school - Cousin Catnip from the Cornfields, who is the subject of a self-titled blog post a few entries back - decided to honor Mother Catresa for her work rescuing homeless kittens. Catnip - otherwise known as Jaime Ingle, from Illinois - created a Mother Catresa nun costume for All Hallow's Eve by adorning the habit with cat ears, and painting black whiskers and a nose on her face. Check out these pictures. (Note: this is the first time the technologically challenged Mama C actually uploaded photos onto her blog!)

When people naturally asked Jaime what the heck she was supposed to be, Catnip told her friends the story of me - her friend in Pittsburgh who has a passion for rescuing homeless kittens, and giving them all the love they can stand. Now, Mother Catresa has a fan base in the Midwest.

Hey, Jaime? I'm very flattered, amused and tickled pink. I have to say, I also am quite relieved that the Kellie costume didn't involve some scary, gory mask.

Thanks for your support and fandom, sweetheart. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

With love from,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cats and Dogs and ... Hamsters? Oh, My!

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeeeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

I am crazy busy this week, but I just couldn't resist this quickie sound bite about an odd but delightful new development at Animal Friends. Apparently, a recent humane rescue involving an irresponsible snake owner wielded several homeless hamsters. The kindhearted humane agents rescued the hamsters, at least a dozen of them, and brought them in to Animal Friends, where they await adoption in individual cages.

Normally, the shelter adopts out cats, dogs and rabbits. But now, many adopters are surprising themselves by instead leaving with tiny, furry hamsters burrowing under sawdust. Shelter workers gave many of the rodents ham-themed names, like Hampshire, Ham Salad, and the like. Clever!

Now, as for me, I would love to take home a cute little hamster. That is one pet that I never had, even with a lifelong Noah's Ark-type lineup that included cats, dogs, parakeets, a rabbit, a hermit crab and even an Arabian horse. My high school friend, Lori Friedman, once jokingly called my childhood house "Animal Kingdom!" Surely, it's tempting to adopt a pocket pet and bring it home.

Yet, something tells Mother Catresa that - in a household of four cats, plus any number of baby, razor-toothed carnivores at a given time - a rodent is not the wisest choice of pets. Even if I could keep the hamster in a safe, high place, the poor thing probably would have a heart attack just peering down at the circling feline predators down below who view it, literally, as a ham salad.

Yes, indeed. A hamster is tempting. But for Mother Catresa, wouldn't having a pet hamster be like Charlton Heston of the NRA owning a pet deer?

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten"0

Monday, September 28, 2009

High Mileage Cars, High Mileage Cats

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeeeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

Until Labor Day, I had two major, in-person fixtures in my everyday life that tied me to my Texas roots and have shared multiple phases of my life with me: Rum Tum Tugger, my 13-year-old orange tabby, and my well-loved, fire engine red, 1997 Nissan 200SX. Now, I'm down to just Rum Tum - and, old buddy, you'd better stick with me for a long, long, time to come!

A few weeks ago, my adorable, sleek, girlie-girl-foxy-Texas-woman's-Sun Belt type-of-car that I got brand-new after college graduation - a car I called my Little Red Skittle - had a breakdown that turned out to be fatal. While I have no attachment to metal, rubber and upholstery, per se, I tend to get very attached to things like cars, apartments, houses, and even grocery stores. They are a part of my routine - and, therefore, they are a part of me. And I don't let go easily.

Parts of my everyday life, even the inanimate ones, become a comfort to me. I have sat in every apartment I have left, crying and reminiscing before, finally, I walk away and close that door one last time - usually, after re-opening the doors several times for one more peek. Some of my friends think it's silly - and, in a way, it is - but I know many people nonetheless can relate to such impractical sentimentality.

My car and I spent 193,000 glorious miles together through multiple life phases and cross-country moves. I drove it for numerous road trips under the blazing Texas sun, punctuated by a year in Illinois for graduate school. I remember, after I arrived up north and winter rolled in, I beheld about the darndest thing my Southwestern driver's eyes had ever seen: my Little Red Skittle, covered with a half foot of snow!

And then, a few years later, I and my mechanical bud - with Rum Tum and Buster, my late gray and black tabby, packed up cozily in the back seat - embarked on the biggest and longest-lasting adventure so far: my move up to Pittsburgh from Dallas. And Skittle has been with me ever since: in fact, as of the week of Halloween, I will have been here seven years. Yes, seven.

Now, wouldn't you know it, the Good Lord knew what was coming, and already had the perfect replacement car lined up for me. Guess what I bought a week ago? Another Little Red Skittle! Yep, it's my old car's kissing cousin, only a year newer, 60,000 fewer miles, and an upgraded SE model with more options and a fancier interior. Can you dig it?

I love my 1998 Nissan 200SX-SE. It feels like home. And so does Rum Tum, who remains the only living part of my past that is with me every day.

Oh, will I grieve hard when it's time for him to go, but - God? - may that be a long, long ways away. He gets frequent oil changes - er, vet visits - and top-notch, 93-octane gas - er, nutritious food.

Now, this reminds me: although I want to see all my kittens get homes, if you're looking for a feline, please remember that high-mileage cats like Rum Tum still run great. And the adults, especially older ones, are the kitties who need homes the most. This weekend, Animal Friends had an "Oldies but Goodies" event, where we promoted our older animals while '50s music played in the background. It was a precious idea.

Everyone seems to want a kitten, but please don't forget to consider pre-owned cats. Often, like cars, they have very low mileage, and lost their homes at a young age because of an owner's move. Sometimes, people "trade in" their cats for a boyfriend, or even a newer model that matches the furniture better. But these cats still have many years left in them, full of love to give to a special someone. Depreciation of value is nonexistent in the pet world.

So, please visit your local animal dealer - um, shelter - today. Whether you adopt a baby or an adult, we guarantee a manufacturer's rebate of love and affection.

Until next time, this Skittle lover remains,

Mother Catresa
Patrons Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Won't You Be My Littermate - er, Friend?"

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

Alright, I finally did it. This technology-resistant fuddy duddy caved in to the pressure from family and friends and joined Facebook. (Hey, folks? You can lay off now.) :)

Ever since this Web site exploded during the past year, I've been resisting it, and wary of being sucked in to this phenomenon. I frankly thought it was juvenile, and really, it is. Doesn't it sound kind of junior high-ish to have a public listing saying, "Lookie here - these are my friends! So-and-so wants to be my friend! She's my friend, but not your friend! I have more friends than you - neener, neener, neener!"

And surely, Facebook redefines the word "friend." Really, how many people have hundreds or even thousands of friends? Casual acquaintances, maybe, but friends? Get real. I've also noted how Facebook seems to be a colossal time sucker.

"It's addicting," friends tell me. "I can spend hours on it."

Oh, no, I think. I've had real addictions, the deadly kind. So maybe Facebook won't knock off my brain cells, but still ...

Well, nonetheless, I realized that Facebook, if anything, is a great way to promote Mother Catresa's Chronicle, so I took the plunge this weekend. I hope it will make KITT-FM's fan base explode. Wouldn't you know it; I already have numerous friends. And yes, I'm spending way more time on it than I should.

So, I have a favor to ask - um, will you be my friend? Please? Pretty please? I'm kind of a loser, you know, and I need friends. C'mon, it will make your Facebook profile look more impressive if you beef up your friend list. Please send me a friend request, and approve mine if I sent you one.

Actually, I think there really is at least one other Kellie Gormly on Facebook. I'm the one with the blank picture square from Pittsburgh - unless, I have a double who joined in the past few days. Otherwise, that's me.

I plan to put a picture of a kitten up there as soon as I figure out how. Until I drop a few pounds, my public image will remain a furry one.

Meanwhile, I'm loving on Gonzo and her four babies, who are dividing their time between nursing and eating real food. Gonzo is such a good mom: she's letting these 6-week-old kittens indulge in her teats longer than they need to. But I'm sure she'll soon reach the point where she says, "Uh, uh, junior. Time to cut it."

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Onward and Upward

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

Thursdays are my busiest and most exhausting days of the week, with deadlines galore. So why, then, am I wrapping up this day with yet another thing to write?

Well, simply, there's a big difference between writing for work and writing for fun. At work, it can take me hours to compose a newspaper feature article. But with Mother Catresa's Chronicle, it's a whole different ... um, animal. These blog entries come very easily and quickly to me and are a pure joy; the words usually just flow right out, and I feel energized, not tired, when I'm done. And no editor needs to approve a word of it before I publish. Cool!

I just wanted to check back in after the heartbreak described in my last post: the little black kitten from my current litter died. I am happy now to report, though, that her four littermates seem to be thriving. They are about one month old now, hobble and wobble around like toddlers, and are just beginning to romp and play a bit, along with the constant sleeping of early infancy. The mother, Gonzo (not Grover, as I thought before), is taking good care of them and still nursing the babies. I'm trying to turn them on to a bit of canned food, since they should start the weaning process soon.

I'm sure Gonzo's boobs are quite sore by now, and she will welcome this restful move toward her kittens' independence. Think about it: we humans get sore with one baby nursing from one teat. Imagine having four hungry babies sucking away on you, all day. Ouch!

Thank you to everyone who spoke such kind words to me when I lost the baby a few weeks ago. It brought comfort to my heart. I realize that we fosters are like ER doctors: we're in the business of saving lives, but inevitably, in our line of work, some lives will be lost. I feel like I just finished a lucky, uneventful two-year residency with no patient deaths - and now, starting with this loss, I'm a full-fledged doc who's seen it all.

Does losing this kitten make me want to quit fostering? Absolutely not. In fact, I am all the more motivated to do this work. Look at it this way: I've saved some 50 lives over the past two years, and 49 is a much bigger number than 1.

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Friday, July 31, 2009

Kitty Heaven Has a New Angel

Dear Mother Catresa fans,

I suppose I knew, deep down, that this day would eventually come. But that doesn't make it any easier, and I never could be prepared.

On Wednesday, one of my five newborn kittens died.

The tiny, all-black, female baby was barely a week old when I came home from work, and found her lying, frozen and lifeless, in a corner of the nursery. She had seemed fine before that; in fact, she seemed to want to break away from the litter and step out of the nursery (an extra-large cat carrier) and explore the big world waiting for her. This seems like the feline version of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

I've been told that this happens all the time, and that newborn kittens - particularly those from unhealthy backgrounds - are just so fragile and vulnerable, and some just don't make it.

Surely, I know, in this line of work I do, the occasional death of a baby I foster is inevitable. This was the first time it has happened to me in my two years of fostering - and, with many years ahead of me, I'm sure it won't be the last.

Still, I feel so awful about it, wondering what more I could have done to save her. I am so saddened to see this tiny little kitten, barely beginning her life, gone so very soon.

When I found her dead, I lovingly wrapped her in an old washcloth, and held her close as I cried. I then gently placed her and the cloth into a shoebox. This morning, I wept hard when I brought her in and left her at the shelter, where they will have the body cremated.

"I'm so sorry, baby," I whispered, tears streaming down my cheeks, as I petted her furry, soft head one last time.

Then, as I turned around and limped away on my sprained ankle, I prayed that, someday, this sweet little feline who lost her earthly life will be there to greet me in that otherworldly "Sweet Bye and Bye."

As always, I am,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Oh, Rats!"

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

On Friday, I picked up a litter of five newborn kittens and their mom: a malnourished, sweet black kitty named Grover. She was part of a big rescue done by the Animal Friends' humane investigations department; some owner evidently was pretty negligent and irresponsible. From that home were seized some 20 cats, many of which were expectant or new mothers. It kind of reminds me of the poster situation for human welfare reform: poor, young, unwed mothers having numerous kids for whom they can't provide well. But when an animal is the mommy, it's entirely the custodial human's fault for not taking care of her and getting her spayed.

But, oh, what sweet babies resulted from this! They are tiny newborns, no more than a few days old. Their eyes are barely open, their ears are folded down, and they fit into the palm of my hand. They look like little ... rats! (Shall we scientifically call a newborn cat a "kittenus ratticus," maybe?) Seriously, they look like cute little rodents at this age! There is one black one, a black and white one, a solid grey one, a grey and white one, and a white one with a few black blotches, like a little cow. So cute!

Now, I thought the "Oh, Rats!" title simply would be a play on the appearance of newborn kittens, but then, the interjectory expression took on an unfortunate new meaning. On Sunday, I suffered an awful fall at my house and sprained my ankle. I have taken two days off of work to heal my ankle, which is so bruised and swollen that it hyperbolically reminds me of, perhaps, an inflatable Batman's foot at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I went to my doctor's yesterday, and was sent to a hospital for x-rays, to make sure I didn't fracture a bone. I'm waiting for those test results, and hobbling in an ACE bandage in the meantime.

I have to say, newborn kittens - so long as they are with their mom - are the perfect foster kittens for an injured foster mama like me. The kitty mama does pretty much all the work with the tiny babies and wants to be left alone most of the time, so I don't have to run up and down the stairs constantly! I just bring Grover some food, clean her litterbox, pet her (and the babies, a little), and then lie down and watch Grover nurse her kittens. The maternal scene is so sweet and calming.

Altogether now: aaaaaawwwww!

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Loving, Losing and Living

Thanks for tuning into KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks,

I had to bring my beloved baby girl, Brita, back to the shelter on Sunday. There, she and her black sister, Babe, who finally was starting to warm up to me, are awaiting their spay surgery in a cage.

And their mom-mom, yours truly, longs to hold and comfort them. And she thus far largely has avoided going into the now-vacant kitten room at home, because it chokes her up. It's as if Brita and Babe will burst through the door when it's opened, and instead, it's empty.

I love all animals I foster, but Brita was something extra special. I totally fell in love with the grey and white beauty, whom I nursed to health from her frail, anorexic condition when she was only about six weeks old. Brita was one of the sweetest, most gentle and affectionate kittens I ever have had - if not, the sweetest. She just couldn't wait to cuddle up to me, and would start purring like a motorboat just when I walked in the room.

I wanted to adopt her so badly, but with four cats - three of which are "foster failures," and the other of which is an ailing senior - I'm just at my limit. Love doesn't always mean clinging at all costs; quite the contrary. In fact, truly loving - in a sacrificial way - sometimes involves setting the loved one free, if that's what is best for the person/cat, etc. Even though it may break your heart.

So, Brita, my sweet baby - I miss you and Babe so much. I am praying that God is preparing a home with people who will love you as much as I do. I will hold my adorable "smitten kitten" in my heart forever - and don't you ever forget yours, either.

Oh, Brita. You had me at "meow."

Oodles of love, hugs and kitty kisses,

Mother Catresa
Patrons Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dr. K.B. Gormly, D.V.M.

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks,

I have had an exhausting deadline day with newspaper stories today, so I just had to wrap up my day with a quick epistle of the fun, unedited stuff.

Now, unfortunately, the KITT-FM topic isn't nearly as fun this time: it's about my sweet old guy Rum Tum Tugger, who is still quite ill with the respiratory infection he came down with two weeks ago. I took him to the animal ER on July 3, then I had to have him hospitalized overnight a few days later. Since then, he's been on intensive home care. At least once a day, I have to clean off his crusted face, put on the vaporizer, force-feed him with a syringe, and even give him fluids under the skin via a needle and IV bag. I also give him an antibiotic, immune booster and eye ointment twice a day.

The poor guy is hanging in there, but still very congested, and he has no appetite. I am giving him his next dose of the appetite stimulants tonight. Rum Tum definitely has perked up, though, and isn't isolating himself like he was before. The vet thinks he definitely is on the mend. Please keep the 13-year-old orange tabby and white kitty in your prayers. Having Cousin Catnip from the Cornfields here (see my last post) was such a blessing to both me and R.T. She was his roommate, and he got some good cuddle time and morale boosting. Catnip was like the nurse, and I was like the doctor who came in for the treatments, and said, "Syringe, please! Forceps, please!"

Meanwhile, my two kittens - Babe and Brita - remain next door. I am going back and forth between them and R.T. during the evenings, and using up a lot of hand sanitizer. I think the kittens will be going back on Sunday. I hope they forgive me for my slight neglect during the past two weeks. My time has been in much higher demand than usual.

With my newspaper industry in shambles, maybe I should apply to go to vet school. What do you think?

Nah, it's out of the question at this point. But it's always fun to fantasize about what I want to be when I grow up.

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cousin Catnip from the Cornfields

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

I've had a rough week: Rum Tum Tugger, my senior cat, is very sick with some kind of respiratory infection. I had to take him to the ER on Friday, and to the vet again today. He is staying overnight for treatment, because he is so weak and dehydrated, and hasn't eaten for a few days. Please keep sweet little Rum Tum, and his mom, in your prayers.

The vet is confident that the orange tabby trooper will pull through, and that he will recover fully after home care. And he'd better, because on Friday, his aunt Jaime - otherwise known as Cousin Catnip from the Cornfields - is paying Mother Catresa a visit from Illinois! Catnip and Rum Tum, a longtime buddy of hers, will be roommates in my guest room. They should keep each other company.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about Cousin Catnip from the Cornfields, and how she got that way.

It all started back in 1999 - wow, it's the 10-year anniversary of that dramatic life change and grand adventure! I was working in my first post-college job as a staff writer at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram back in Texas. Yet as good as that looked on my resume, I was like a brand-new Porsche with four flat tires: I looked great, but I wasn't going anywhere. It was a great job in some ways, but clearly, advancement and greater challenges were not possible.

I could write an entire anthology on this chapter of my life, but I'll put it in a nutshell: after numerous job doors slammed in my face, I opted for something else - graduate school. I applied and was accepted into the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield, one of the most pretigious master's programs in the country for journalism.

I am so proud to be an alumna of that program, and also to say that I worked a reporting/writing internship for Copley News Service at the Illinois Statehouse in 2000, when Barack Obama was a state senator! The next President of the United States, in my midst? Wow, what a trip. And both Catnip and I lived in a 1920s-style apartment complex just down the road from the Downtown Springfield governor's mansion, where lived the corrupt George Ryan, who since has joined the Illinois governors' wing of prison. (Hey, George? Kellie from Texas here. Remember me? That bratty student from down South who grilled you at a news conference, and whom you chewed out? Say hi to Blagojevich for me, will you?)

Anyway, I left my home, friends and job in Texas - very difficult and scary emotionally - and embarked on my journey up to the cornfields of Central Illinois for a one-year program. It turned out to be a wonderful new beginning for my career and life in general, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. Even the student loan bills.

So, it's there that I met Catnip, who simply was known as Jaime at the time. Well, actually, I sometimes called her Scarecrow, and she called me Dorothy, and we once sang, "Ding-Dong, the Witch is Dead!" We even bought red shoes and clicked our heels. But that "Wizard of Oz" thing is another story.

She, too, was an animal lover, and instantly bonded with my two cats - Rum Tum and Buster, who, God rest his soul, went up to kitty heaven on Oct. 31, 2007. I remember a big laugh when, just a few weeks into the year, our classmate Holly said, at a party, "So, how are your cats? Boom-Boom and Bruce, right?"

It was a hilarious misunderstanding of my cats' names, and the wrong names still stuck as the occasional nickname (Buster "Bruce" Gormly, for instance).

Well, Catnip really did enjoy my cats. I'll never forget the time when, on a glorious Sunday morning, we were getting ready to walk to a nearby church for a worship service. I started panicking, because I couldn't find Rum Tum - one of the feline world's sneakiest hiders - anywhere. After combing the place and looking for Rum Tum everywhere but inside the bathtub drain, we finally found him - smooshed between the wall and the back of the old-fashioned gas stove. We had to chase him out with a broom!

So then, years later, Jaime became Triple-C when Kellie became Mother Catresa, and Catnip instantly became one of my biggest fans. In fact, Catnip promises that when she buys her own house, she will start a St. Louis-area campus for the Mother Catresa operation. In fact, I am seeking associates all over the country who want to resuce kittens - any volunteers?

Hey, Catnip? I'm holding you to that. But in the meantime, you just get yourself down here, and I'll show you a good time in Pittsburgh. Rum Tum, the girls (my new cats, whom you haven't met) and the two foster kittens - Brita and Babe - are waiting. Oh yeah, I am too.

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Smelt It - But, Who Dealt It?

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

I thought that I was giving my two kittens back this week, and that this post would be a sentimental tear-jerker about loving, losing and letting go with Brita, the gray and white "smitten kitten" I've bonded with so much. But, because Babe still needs to gain weight, Brita got to come back home with her sis for another week or so, while Babe - who also needs more socialization - fattens up. Yippee! I think God knew that I wasn't yet ready to give up my baby girl, who has been such a source of comfort, love and affection during a stressful time for me.

Meanwhile, Blythe and Basia, the tuxedoes, got adopted into good families on Sunday. Hooray!

So, since the drama has been delayed for awhile - now, it's back to the wild comedy for which Mother Catresa's Chronicle is known.

I want to share with you an amusing pattern I've observed at the shelter during kitten adoptions. As I have shared before, a common malady of kittenhood is malodorous gas - seriously! Whew! It's provided some unpleasant nose-tickling, but also delightful funny-bone-tickling, for me. You've just gotta have a sense of humor about these things - life is dull otherwise! You've been warned: read on for more, if you can stand it.

Well, kitten farts tend to be the silent but violent types. So, in a social situation, it can create some embarrassing moments for the foster moms and adoption counselors. The kitten will slyly cut one, and since there's no sound to pinpoint the origin, there's just a mysterious odor - and, naturally, the people in the room wonder who is responsible. Surely, not that tiny little kitten, right? Oh yes, it was! We know that, but the visitors don't. People get paranoid that the visitors think they, not the frisky felines, are floating the smelly air biscuits.

So, to tactfully address the aroma, staff members and volunteers often simply say, "Um, I think he/she needs to use the litter box."

The other day, I overheard such a remark during a kitten shower at the shelter, when Basia was being Little Miss Grumpy McGassy. I couldn't stop giggling about it for the rest of the day, and it's still making me chuckle.

Does anyone else get how funny that is?

What? No? You're not laughing?

Well, I guess you just had to be there.

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Friday, June 19, 2009

She Loves Me Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

I love all of my kittens, and most of them eventually end up loving me. Every once in awhile, though, I get a furry baby who just seems to be crazy about me, falls hard, and can't get enough of me. I, in turn, lap up the attention like the kitty would with tuna juice from a can, and I can't help falling especially in love.

In this litter, that kitten is Brita - the grey and white baby who was so emaciated and not eating well when I first brought her and her littermates home on Mother's Day. The poor girl has had a tough time, and seemed so weak when I got her, compared to her more rambunctious littermates. But even then, she sought me out like I was her own four-legged mother, and she wanted to do nothing but lie gently and quietly on my chest and snuggle. Brita is like my shadow. I have to watch my every move, so I don't accidentally squash her. If I am lying down on my side, for instance, I have to stretch my hand behind me, to make sure she isn't lurking behind my butt before I roll over. And she usually is somewhere within a three-inch radius of my body, if she's not actually on top of it.

Now, I am happy to report that Brita has gained weight, is eating like a champ, purring loudly, and romping around like a regular, happy kitten. Meanwhile, her black and white tuxedo sisters - Blythe and Basia - went in for their spay surgery this week, and are out on the adoption floor. Brita and Babe, her black sister, are not quite big enough yet to be spayed, but I am bringing them both in to Animal Friends on Sunday for a kitten shower. An adopoter can pre-adopt either kitten, then pick them up when the kitties are ready. The two I have may have gained the tiny amount of weight needed in the past week to go ahead and have the surgery.

Gosh, kittens like Brita - the ones I bond the most deeply with - are the hardest to give up. I am going to spend lots of time with the babies this weekend. And I'm going to cry when it's time.

It feels so good when an animal loves you that much - in fact, Brita starts purring just by looking at me, as soon as I walk in the room. It's so sweet and touching. She is a smitten kitten indeed, and so am I.

Now, if only I could find a two-legged primate who would fall in love with me like that!

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Whoop-Dee-Doo, a Baby Switcheroo!

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, heeeeere's your hostess, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

It's among a mother's worst nightmares: someone switches babies on her at the hospital, and she takes home the wrong one. Well, in Mother Catresa's case, the feline version of that scenario provided much-needed comic relief - though it did startle me something awful!

I had to take in my kittens - still the four slumber party girls - to the medical department at the shelter last week, so they could be weighed and examined. The day after I took them in, I swung by after work to go pick them up. After chatting with the medical staff, we packed up the kittens in a cardboard carrier. Sure, there were other animals in the room, but that didn't quite register on me. My kittens were right in front of me - or so I thought - so I simply picked up the carrier, walked out, and left for my car.

Well, when I was almost home, it occurred to me: these kittens, who were noisy on the way to the shelter, seemed awfully quiet during this drive. Curiously, I glanced sideways at the box on the passenger seat - when, much to my shock, a tabby arm suddenly popped out of one of the portholes!


I was so confused, I didn't know whether to scratch my watch or wind my butt!
I don't have any tabbies, I thought; mine are gray, black and white. What the hairball hell is happening here?

It was past 7 p.m., and the shelter was closed. So I called the after-hours numbers in a panic, and tracked someone down on her cell phone.

"I took home the wrong kittens!" I cried. "I'm on my way back in - can somebody please help me?"

Well, on the drive back to Animal Friends, the begged question dawned on me:

If these aren't my kittens, I thought, then where are mine?? And whose are these??

As I drove into the parking lot, I peeked inside the box at my furry captives - they were a tabby kitten and a tortoisehell kitten. Very cute. But I had no idea who they were, or where those charged to my care were.

Someone let me in, and figured out the source of the confusion. Apparently, I accidentally took the kittens of a shelter worker who also fosters, and vice-versa. Luckily, she lives just a few miles away, so I hurried on over there, and we traded kittens over a few laughs. And yes: this time, I did indeed peer inside the box - just to be sure, before I left, that it didn't house a tarantula. You know.

Sure enough, the box contained my cute little babies: black and white tuxedoes Blythe and Basia, gray and white Brita, and little black runt Babe. They peered up at me curiously, as if to say, "What's up with all this ado, Mom? Can we go home now, ahem?"

Now, since then, Brita hasn't been eating well and became emaciated - while Babe remained too tiny. So, they are in the medical department, while the robust Blythe and Basia are at home with me, eating like little piggies and running around like they're on crack (in other words, normal kittens). The tiny babies have started eating adequately again, so I should be bringing them back home tomorrow to join their big sisters.

I know, I know - I will double-check the carrier first, before I leave. I'd hate to carry it upstairs to the kittens' room, open it and ... out pops a rambunctious puppy! Eeeek!

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Three Weeks, Three Litters

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

A few weeks ago, I wrote a long post about the mother cat and her two tiny babies, whom I fostered for awhile. Damn my computer, which farted right as I clicked "Post," and the entire entry was gone. I was so bummed. I thought I'd just try to recapture what I wrote by memory, but in just one week's time, I've gone through another litter - then, I brought home new ones yesterday!

That's three litters in about three weeks. Read my last post with news from our meteorologist, Chance O. Showers: it really is pouring (or is it purring?) kittens!

Let me recap the lineup so far.

The first litter featured a beautiful and sweet mother cat named Dorianna, and her two newborn babies. They were only a few days old when I got them, and their eyes weren't even opened yet. Such delicate little angels! I've never had kittens that little. It was so sweet to watch them snuggle up to their mommy and nurse. Kittens that young don't do much; their movements consist mostly of stretching in search of a nipple, a very slight and shaky crawling, and rolling over onto their backs. This is the cutest pose, because the tiny babies kick their legs in the air, like bugs on their backs. I took a movie of them on my new camcorder. If I can ever get tech-savvy enough, maybe I can post it here on my blog.

Unfortunately, I had to give up Dorianna, a medium-haired gray kitty, and babies - Malcolm and Inara - early, because Malcom had a nasty eye infection. The staff wanted to send the litter to a foster home where someone is available throughout the day to clean the eye constantly. I can't take cases like that, because of my work schedule. I greatly miss the mama and babies; they were so very sweet, and Dorianna was a model doting mom. She deserves a Mother's Day can of tuna!

The second litter - sisters Orla, a blue-cream longhaired tortie, and Lenore, a black-and-white tuxedo - came to me in the middle of last week, and it seems like they were in and out faster than you can say kitty litter. They just needed to stay somewhere for a few days before the kitten shower, held yesterday (Sunday) for Mother's Day. So, Sunday morning, I packed them up and headed to Animal Friends, where each was claimed by a loving family within three hours. Our time together was short but sweet.

Now, finally - the current residents at Mother Catresa's sanctuary! I left the shelter yesterday with a litter of four tiny, five-week-old girls - oh, they are so itty-bitty! The runt, a little black girl, practically fits in the palm of my hand. I haven't checked the paperwork for their names, although I know that the shelter staff gave them all names that begin with "B." Two are black-and-white tuxedoes that look exactly alike; I'm hoping to find a unique freckle on one of them, so I can tell them apart. One is solid black (the runt), and the other is gray and white. They are all shy and mostly hiding in my bookshelves and around my computer, but wouldn't you do the same if you were an orphaned baby missing its mommy in a strange place?

I am amused that I have an all-girl lot of kittens - it's like a slumber party up there! Maybe I should head to a toy store and buy them some Barbies and a Dream Corvette, so they can play girly games together. And I, the mom, can bake cupcakes - and eat them all myself. Hey, it's for their own good; chocolate and sugar must give kittens bad gas.

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Thursday, April 16, 2009

This Just In: It's Raining Kittens! Hallelujiah!

We interrupt this regular programming for an urgent news flash from KITT-FM and our meteorologist, Chance O. Showers:

PITTSBURGH - Good evening, folks!

Previously, KITT-FM reported partly cloudy weather, with a chance of kitten showers soon to come as spring rolls in. But according to our sources, a massive wet front now is headed our way, and we can expect to see kitten thunderstorms striking as soon as tomorrow at Mother Catresa's Pittsburgh sanctuary.

"Just look at that sky - man, isn't that forbidding?" remarks Mother Catresa, KITT-FM's popular hostess who also goes by Kellie Gormly. "Gosh, it's been gray all week. But now, it's almost black out there, and those clouds are swelling. Don't even get me started about the humidity, too; it's making my naturally curly hair all frizzy. What is this, the 'Wizard of Oz?' "

Catresa, 36, reportedly received a message from Animal Friends today that several kitten litters need prompt shelter. And as kitten season goes, this torrential monsoon is expected to last several months.

"So maybe it gets muddy and messy, but oh, I can't wait!" she says. "I start seriously jonesing for kittens after those dreary winter months!"

Stay tuned for frequent weather updates from Chance O. Showers, right here on KITT-FM.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Know They Miss Me Buh-LIND ... Don't They?

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia, heeeeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

That odd title, for most of my peers, will ring a bell in its reference to one of the early '80s hits, "Miss Me Blind," by Culture Club (you know, the band fronted by Boy George with that bizarre clown makeup). May I say, for the record, that I think that song was one of the more annoying ditties of my childhood decade?

Anyway, what's the feline connection here? I just returned from a lovely four-day trip to El Paso, Texas, to visit my grandmother and mother for Easter. We had a great time. Truthfully, though, when I'm traveling, I miss my kitty-cats. As much as I love the thrill and experience of going places and experiencing different things - a'la "Karma Chameleon," I suppose - going to bed sans furry, vibrating companions (no double entendre intended, seriously) makes a bed feel extra strange. I slept four nights in a cat-free bed, and it felt weird. I could almost hear a phantom purr, see a phantom sphynx shadow lurking above me, and feel a phantom wad of fur brushing against my arm. Then, when I awoke in the mornings, my initial reaction was wondering, "Why aren't my cats loving all over me, and pestering me for their breakfast?" Oh, right, I thought. I'm at my grandma's.

Yes, it is nice to get a break from even the best things in life - especially if they involve work, like pets. But still, when you're a cat lover - especially a Mother Catresa type who is surrounded by felines - catless days have a certain odd feeling about them.

I can't help but wonder: do my cats miss me as much as I miss them when I'm gone? Although cats aren't nearly as needy as dogs, and pet-sitters will take care of the cats' basic needs once a day, my kitties seem to be happy to see me every day when I come home from work. When I've been gone a few nights, then, they seem all the more eager. I can almost hear them yelling, "Mommy! Mommy!" as they run toward me after I open the door. They usually follow me back to my bedroom, where I'll plop down on the bed, and they all leap up and join me, one by one, for petting.

Of course, as anti-cat folks accuse, maybe they're just eager for food, and the cats are only pretending to like me to get some. But, I testify, their food dishes were full. Take that, dog people!

Sure, my cats miss me. In fact, as Boy George would say, I think they just might even "tumble" for me, just like I'd "tumble" for them. But I most certainly do the lion's share of the tumbling - out of bed, to shut their hungry and demanding mouths up in the morning.

Then, there is the tripping and Figure-8 routine in the kitchen. But that's another story. Read about it in my last post.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mea Cat-Culpa - Well, Sort Of

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

As a journalist, I learn so much about the world and its people - and, alas, about myself - through the stories I write. Since I write a lot of human-interest features about relationship issues, I often conduct interviews where I can honestly say, "Yeah, really. I hear you, sister! Don't you hate it when that happens? I know, guys like that are schmucks, aren't they?"

(Yes, there's a feline angle to this post; I'm getting there. Promise!)

Recently, I wrote a story about a topic on which I am passionate: the importance of apologizing sincerely and effectively, and how to teach your children how to do this, so that they can have successful relationships in the future. I was interviewing an author about this topic, and we discussed the non-apology: the charming "I'm sorry you got so upset," or "I'm sorry you thought I was a jerk." (In other words, an actual blame wrapped in hot pink, fake apology tissue). I am all too familiar with it, and it's hurtful.

When the author gave me tips on how to model the art of apologizing with kids, one of the things he suggested was setting an example with the family pets. "What do you mean?" I said. "Well," he replied, "like when you step on the dog's paw, tell Fido, 'I'm sorry.' "

Now, I definitely could relate to that one, and I told him so: just that very morning, in fact, I had stepped on my cat Dharma's paw. And I, the noble one, apologized loudly to her as she shrieked in discomfort!

And then, as I silently patted myself on the back while talking to my subject, it dawned on me: The hypocritical Mother Catresa, ever so disdainful of non-apologies, actually gave one to Dharma!

The grey and white tuxedo cat, see, was doing the feline Figure-8 routine in the kitchen; y'all who have cats surely are familiar with it. I had stepped into the kitchen for my morning Diet Coke, and the ravenous Dharma started encircling my moving legs in Figure-8 patterns, while she meowed and demanded that I feed her breakfast. Combine a drowsy head with walking legs and marathoning paws, and what happens? You step on the poor pet's foot. Ouch!

"Oh Dharma!" I said. "I'm so sorry I hurt you! Poor baby."

And then, came the disqualifying "But":

"But, darn it, will you quit running over my feet and between my legs when I'm walking?"

The translation, let's face it, is: "I'm so sorry you got hurt, but it was your own damn fault."

It's like saying the following to the pedestrian you've just hit: "My God, I am so sorry. Really, I am. I feel horrible! But geesh, nucklehead, what the hell were you thinking running in front of a moving car doing 70 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike?"

A sincere apology, the experts say, never includes a "but."

OK, so I did it. I felt bad for hurting Dharma's paw, but I gave her a lame non-apology. I admit my error, and I am truly sorry.

But ... Dharma, quit tripping your mom-mom, already!

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tinsel, Tooting and Chicken Looting

We finally return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, heeeeere's your hostess - broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Catifornia - Mother Catresa!

Hi folks,

Long time, no meow, huh? This is Mother Catresa's downtime, because it's the winter, and female cats aren't popping out kittens like gumballs; kitten season will begin in the spring. But I was hoping that maybe y'all missed me, even just a little, and that you would love a winter dose of MC cheer humor. (And if you don't - hey, that's OK. I don't need to know.)

And besides, I do have a kitten. Yes, a kitten! Not a real little one, but about a six-month-old teenager. She's a little redhead named Tinsel, and she's a welcome extension of Yuletide cheer during the dreary winter months. I got the orange tabby just before Christmas (hence the cute Yuletide name) and she's been staying in my kittens' room all by her lonesome ever since then. Tinsel, bless her heart, came into Animal Friends with some sort of unknown animal bite. So the poor dear, as a safety precaution, has to be quarantined until early March, to make sure she doesn't develop any disease. Her littermates got adopted a few months ago.

So anyway ... Tinsel! Get off my desk! (Push ... plop!)

Ahem, as I was saying ... Hey! Tinsel! Get off my keyboard! (Push ... plop!)

Can't you tell I'm now in the kittens' room - which, by the way, doubles as my office? Luckily, my computer is old, because the cord-loving kittens, who also love using my stuff as bowling pins, have banged it up a bit. It's hard to get any typing done up here, because ... Tinsel!! Little stinker, you're really being annoying now! (Push ... plop!)

Tinsel is a little sweetheart, affectionate and sweet, yet also quite impish and playful. I feel so bad for her having to be isolated up here, but I try to spend as much time with her as I can. And when she knows I'm home and downstairs, that loud one makes sure of it with her caterwauling. It's like she's bellowing, "What about me??? Get your bald ass up here this instant, mom!"

Aaah, the fiery, vocal, spirited redhead. Hey, does that sound like someone else you know? I'm just saying.

Well now ... eeew, pew. I smell kitten gas! At least she's on the lower level of my desk, and not by the keyboard, right in my face. Incidentally, for no particular reason, I have been calling her "Tinsel Toot." I think it's cute. (Hey, that rhymes!)

It looks like Tinsel has ... er, pooped out now; she's lying down on the other side of the room, purring. Ok, now I can have some peace and quiet, and type uninterrupted. Too bad this blog entry is almost done.

Tinsel isn't the only mischievous cat around here. I took a break from writing and went downstairs a few minutes ago, because I realized that I had left on the couch a bag with leftovers from my chicken dinner. I panicked; biiiig mistake! See, one of my cats, Rum Tum, is the feline world's most notorious chicken bandit. He has been known to dig chicken bones out from the bottom of the kitchen trash if there remains even a fraction of a scrap of meat. Sure enough, after just a few minutes home, I found shredded chicken and tinfoil all over the floor. Ugh! There goes tomorrow's dinner.

I'd better sign off and go back downstairs. MC has some cleaning up to do. But I'll take chicken scraps over the litter box any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")