The Cats of Ulthar

is a great story by H.P. Lovecraft. You can read it at Wikisource. A more relevant but less amusing-to-me title for this page is

The Cats of Cathy and Sarah


Kinsley the Cat I adopted Kinsley from the San Francisco SPCA at the end of January 2002. I made a couple of trips there to scout for cats, but without finding The One. And then, on my third visit, I saw a beautiful four-year-old tortoiseshell female with compelling eyes and cheekbones. There was something unusual about her gaze. When we were introduced to each other, I discovered that she had the softest fur I had ever felt. We got along swimmingly, and two days later the adoption paperwork was completed and Kinsley came home with me.

Her shelter name was Maggie, which didn't suit her at all. We spent the afternoon of that first day sitting on my bed together, while I looked through the glossaries of my old geology textbooks, reading name candidates aloud. Nothing was right. I started reading off place names from my map of California, and when I said "Kinsley," she stopped licking herself and looked at me. I tried another possible name, and she went right back to her indifferent grooming. I tried saying "Kinsley" out loud again, and we both were quite content with it. The naming business concluded, we went out to the living room for a photo session; the picture at left was taken that first day, and is my favorite shot of her.

Another photo from that first afternoon.
And a third.
Whee! It's amazing what she'll put up with from me. August 2003.
At home on her favorite chair. April 2005.

Kinsley photos by Cathy Bell (that's me) and Danek Duvall.

MCat and her kittens, Grissom and Warrick

MCat the Cat My roommate and I temporarily cared for a stray called MCat. MCat followed me home one night in mid-March 2005, and no one responded to my attempts to locate her people. She was a tiny little creature, weighing only about six pounds at that time. Partly she was just built small, but she was also woefully undernourished from being out on the street. We guessed she was about eight months old. She was obviously not feral, as she was familiar with houses and was very affectionate towards us--but she had a curious antipathy towards being picked up. That, plus a rapidly expanding belly and swollen nipples, soon made it clear that she was pregnant. Whoever had cared for her when she was very young apparently didn't care enough about her to see that she was spayed before she came into heat, or even to search for her when she got herself lost.

Sarah and I each had a cat already, and neither of us felt that we could take lifelong responsibility for another. At the same time, we felt obligated to take care of this little girl--she had picked us, after all, and her disposition was so sweet that we didn't feel comfortable sending her off to the shelter right before she was going to have her kittens. So we participated in a fostering program with San Francisco's Animal Care and Control. We cared for MCat and her kittens until they were of an adoptable age, and then sent them cheerily on their way to new homes.

cat eyes MCat got her name only after a few weeks. Sarah and I had a terrible time coming up with an appropriate moniker for the young cat. We called her "the new girl" or "the little one" for a week or two, and eventually settled on the name Minnow. But it never came out of my mouth right. I'd stammer, and all sorts of nonsense would come out of my mouth. After a few days, I had definitely started calling the cat Mittens, so I considered that her name. But then I started producing confused noises again, and before long I gave up and just called her M-Cat. Since I thought it was kind of funny, and since it also worked as a short form of "Mom-Cat," the name stuck.

Crouching on the kitchen floor.
Looking up at a toy. You can sort of see her rounded, pregnant belly. If you look hard. Yeah.
Look at those cute white whiskers.

On April 30, 2005, MCat gave birth to two kittens! She delivered 'em like a pro. I was out getting groceries when she had the first, a little orange one. She had it licked clean and dry by the time I discovered that she'd gotten started, and about fifteen minutes after I got home she gave birth to a slightly smaller black and white kitten. She was totally comfortable with my presence, so I got to watch the kitten being born, which was way cool. She didn't have any trouble pushing the kitten out, and she started cleaning up the newborn right away. She expelled the afterbirth about fifteen minutes later, exactly as my cat book said should happen. Before long, both the little ones were nursing, and MCat was purring away contentedly.

Sarah and I were impressed with her mothering skills, which we'd been a little worried about because she's so young. (We underestimated the power of instinct, I guess.) We were also glad she didn't have a huge litter; with only two, she didn't have any difficulty producing enough milk for the wee ones. That means we didn't have to do lots of supplemental feeding in the middle of the night!

One day old: Closeup of the two kittens. They're about twenty-one hours old in this photo, and are already noticeably larger than they were their first night. The orange one's name is Grissom and the black-and-white one's name is Warrick. (I'm pretty sure they're both male.) Here's MCat in her kittening box, with Warrick peeking between her legs. You can see his eyes are still closed. They will open after about a week.

Two days old: No pictures, sorry, but the kittens are visibly bigger. Their legs and paws are significantly more sturdy than they were at birth, and their tails aren't stick-straight all the time. They also aren't as flat-faced as they were, but their ears are still way down on the sides of their heads. Warrick still has a slightly feeble-looking neck.

Eight days old: Aren't they cute? The kittens have roughly doubled their weight, and Warrick is a little bit bigger than his orange older brother. You can see that Warrick's eyes are just starting to open.

Eleven days old: Warrick, though a little runty-looking at birth, is noticeably larger than Grissom. Warrick's right eye is fully open today, and his neck still looks small, but it's now obviously just the result of this funny cowlicky fur he has at the nape of his neck. Grissom is about a day and a half behind on the eye-opening schedule, but he's coming along. He looks a bit more compact and sturdy than his black-and-white brother; it'll be interesting to see how their builds compare when they're fully grown.

Two weeks old: The kittens' eyes are fully open, and are blue. The pupils look sort of muddy--they aren't very clearly differentiated from the iris yet. The ears are starting to unnfold and look a little bit more like cat ears, though they're still small and at the side of the head. Both Grissom and Warrick have started teething, with a row of teeny tiny little incisors emerged on the bottom jaw; fortunately neither the kittens nor their mom seem to have any pain associated with that yet. Both kittens can stand up, in a wobbly kind of way. They spend a lot of time doing push-ups. And they even seem to have started playing with each other just a bit! Until now, they just wiggled all over one another.

Five months old: The kittens aren't so kittenish anymore! Their no-longer-new person sent some pictures. They've been in their new home since July, and they now weigh about six pounds. Grissom is now Puck, Warrick is now Baloo. Here they are together. Wow!

photos taken by Danek Duvall, except day-old kitten photos taken by Mark Johns and five-month-old photos taken by Lee


Cosmo the Cat Last but not least (greatest, in fact, at least in mass) is my roommate's cat Cosmo. He is a big dumb boy. He isn't fat, but he must weigh a good seventeen pounds.

Cosmo begins to warm up to the idea of playing.
Cosmo gets his claws stuck in a cat toy.
Mmm, catnip.
Another one of Cosmo with catnip.
Lying on the kitchen floor.
A portrait.

Cosmo pictures taken by Danek Duvall

cmbell (at) comfychair (dot) org