A look back at the Stanley Center for the Arts presentation of the artwork of Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani

From January 20-March 22, 2010, the artwork of Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani was on exhibit in the Stanley Center for the Arts Loretta M. Romano Room Gallery.

Mirikitani is a Japanese American artist who was held in an American internment camp during World War II and was homeless for many years as an adult. He is the subject of the film The Cats of Mirikitani, directed by Linda Hattendorf. Much of Mirikitani’s work is about Camp Tule Lake, where he was held, Hiroshima, which claimed the lives of his mother’s family, September 11 and cats.

Color drawing of a cat lounging in a wooded area.

Cat Taking a Sun Bath in Autumn by Jimmy Miritikani

Why cats? “I like cats,” says Mirikitani simply in the documentary. Additionally, as a young man in Tule Lake, a young boy used to follow him around, requesting pictures of his favorite animal: the cat. The boy never saw the outside of Tule Lake again. He died there, and Mirikitani never forgot his young companion.

Why else? Perhaps because when one has survived a concentration camp in the land of the free and witnessed one of the most heartless acts of terror in history, the cat symbolizes resilience and survival. Perhaps it is because in the midst of anguish, the cat’s antics provide precious moments of levity.

And perhaps he just likes them and they make him happy.



I want to go to Key West because cats

Winter is coming. Leaves are turning and the air is refreshingly crisp; without a doubt, autumn is my favorite season, I just wish that it didn’t lead to winter.

After a few months of cold and snow, those of us who don’t ski or snowboard are ready for sunshine and warm temperatures, and our thoughts turn to a late winter/early spring vacation. Some people blend their holidays with their love of cats by taking photos, tours, or volunteering.  A near perfect destination for cat fanciers is Key West, Florida, and it’s on my bucket list.

The most famous cat-related destination in Key West is the Hemingway Home & Museum. Ernest Hemingway owned the home for 30 years, and resided there for a decade. According to lore, “Papa” became friendly with a sea captain, who bestowed his polydactyl (extra-toed) cat to the author as a gift. Today, more than 60 polydactyl cats live on this property; some are the descendants of the sea captain’s tom. The cats’ care is part of the Hemingway Home’s budget, and staff people work closely with local veterinarians to ensure that all cats are up to date on wellness exams, vaccines and flea and parasite prevention. All but a select few of the cats are spayed and neutered in order to keep the population under control while guaranteeing the future of “Hemingway’s Cats” on the island. (In fact, kittens are not adopted out because the museum only breeds enough to replace the cats that have died.)

Polydactyl tiger cat standing by a typewriter in the Hemingway House

Hairy Truman, Hemingway House cat (http://www.hemingwayhome.com/cats/)

Although you may not find a cat-themed restaurant in Key West, you can certainly dine on one of kitty’s favorite foods – seafood – in her honor. There is no shortage of shrimp, yellowtail snapper or stone crab claws that would be fit for Bastet.

Crab with mallet in its claws

Back away slowly, kitty, the seafood is mine.

If you want to feel at home (as in, surrounded by cats) at your hotel, Island City House Hotel is for you. You’re sure to feel at home with the property’s cats out and about – there was even a book written about them! Pet-friendly accommodations aren’t exactly abundant, but there are a couple of places where you can stay with your pet; I’ll definitely cut them some slack there – Key West is a destination, and people moving from Point A to Point B aren’t going to be passing through on their travels, so there’s probably not the demand that we’d find in other places.

This is what I’ll be daydreaming about from February through March. Someday, it’ll be more than a daydream, though.

TNVR works in Rome

Note to trolls: Go back under your respective bridges and wait for the billy goats. Your comments will not be posted here.

In the cat world, there is a huge debate (more like a schoolyard argument at times) about trap/neuter/vaccinate/return (TNVR) programs for feral cats. More and more people and organizations advocate this method as a humane and viable way to control populations of stray and feral cats, while others claim that trapping and euthanasia is the only method of control. A case in Rome, New York demonstrates that the humane, TNVR approach works.

An elderly woman was caring for a colony of approximately 20 cats when she passed away in 2011, and a neighbor voluntarily assumed her responsibilities. The new caretaker contacted the then newly-formed R-CATS Program, seeking advice and assistance with managing this colony. Not only had the primary caretaker requested guidance, but three other individuals had also contacted the group, whose leaders agreed to help as much as they could.

With the assistance of R-CATS volunteers, cats began to be trapped, spayed or neutered, and released back into their territory in order to avoid a vacuum effect. Over the past few years, each and every cat in the colony was spayed or neutered, with kittens being placed in foster homes, socialized, and adopted into homes where they still to live as happy house cats. Over the past three-plus years, the population of the remaining cats has significantly dwindled. In fact, there is a lone female tortiseshell cat living as a colony unto herself.

A major factor in the decline of this population is the fact that the cats could not reproduce (and any kittens that were adopted into homes were also spayed or neutered, ensuring that they would not contribute to pet overpopulation). While some may have found greener pastures, or fallen victim to natural predators or modern dangers such as busy roads, these felines lived the only lives they had known – those of free animals. In short, over three years, a colony of more than twenty cats has naturally whittled its way down to one.

Many feral cat colonies have well over 20 cats, and so take longer to manage by TNVR, but as the Rome case shows, this method does work. As the cats get to live out their lives and humans do not have unnecessary killing on their consciences, everybody wins with a well-managed TNVR program.

(I’m not even touching the debate over the damage to wildlife that outdoor cats do. Right now, I think that both sides are manipulating data, so until something definitive and peer-reviewed comes out, I don’t believe what either side is selling.)

Woo hoo! R-CATS is an Amazon Smile charity

The R-CATS Program is now a registered charity with Amazon Smile! I’ve volunteered for them for several years, and they do a lot of good Trap/Neuter/Vaccinate/Return (TNVR) work in the Rome, NY area.

Stack of books recently purchased from Amazon Smile.

I don’t need to justify my Amazon.com habit, but if I ever do, I’ll say that I’m doing it for the cats!

If you’re not familiar with it, Amazon Smile is a product of Amazon.com that donates 0.5% of eligible purchases to the not-for-profit organization of the your choice (as long as they’re registered with Smile). The Smile website carries, for all intents and purposes, all of the products as the parent website, with the same prices and user experience. Not all items are eligible for a Smile donation, but those that are have the notation, “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product detail pages in the box on the right (you have to be signed in to see if the item is eligible). There are nearly a million charitable organizations participating, and it’s easy to sign up to support R-CATS; there is even a bookmark you can install on your toolbar, depending on your browser.

R-CATS is listed under its full name, which is Rome Cat Assistance Tlc Society Inc.

If you have a favorite not-for-profit organization (even if it isn’t R-CATS, I suppose), you can see if they participate. If they don’t, get them on board!

Photo of an orange tiger kitten with his face in the camera.

The power of Tigger compels you. Seriously, kitties like him will benefit.

Protect your cat from heat stroke

It’s hot. And gross. And uncomfortable. It’s also dangerous, especially for the elderly, ill, very young, and pets. Here’s some information about heat stroke and your cat…

Like dogs, cats don’t sweat and release excess heat through their paw pads or by panting (generally, cats have to be either really stressed or overheated to pant).  Short-nosed cats such as Persians are more vulnerable to heat stroke, but it can happen to any cat.

Heat stress is first indicated by the cat trying to find a cool spot, panting, grooming excessively and drooling. This is when you want to move the cat to a cool, quiet place and provide cool (not ice-cold) drinking water.

If the heat illness progresses, the cat will show signs of heat exhaustion, which include rapid pulse and breathing, very red tongue and mouth, dry gums, vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea and stumbling. If you find a cat showing signs of heat exhaustion, move her to a quiet cool place, offer her water and cool her down using a cool, damp towel; use extreme caution if this cat is not familiar to you – you may want to call animal control, in case the cat isn’t suffering from heat stroke, but from something contagious. Make an urgent call to your veterinarian for guidance on how to proceed; they may want you to come right in, so have a carrier ready. If a cat has not been found by this stage of illness, she may succumb to heat stroke and have seizures or fall into a coma (another good reason to keep your cat inside during a heat wave – you’ll be able to keep an eye on her).

If you happen to find a cat suffering from heat stroke, gently run cool (not cold) water over her, wrap a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel and place it between her legs, covering her belly. The cat must be taken to a veterinarian immediately. Trust me because I’ve seen this before – this is not something you want to handle on your own unless you’re a veterinary/animal care professional.

The veterinarian will be able to evaluate the cat and provide supportive care, including intravenous fluids to help stabilize her temperature and hopefully prevent permanent damage to the heart, liver, kidneys and/or brain.

Heat stroke, and other health problems caused by hot weather, can easily be avoided by providing cool, shady shelter for your cat, keeping fresh water on hand at all times, restricting exercise in extreme heat and never leaving your cat unattended in a vehicle (even with the windows cracked).

Temperature guides for cats:

  • 100-103 – slightly elevated
  • 103-104 – elevated and requires veterinary attention
  • 105 and over – life-threatening and in definite need of veterinary attention
Tuxedo cat in a bathtub with water.

Have a cat that likes water? That’ll make keeping her cool much easier.