Since we converted this little attic room from a vivarium for our iguana into a play den for the cats, I have sometimes photographed them on the window sill. Every time I wonder what made me have the sloping walls painted bright yellow. I wanted a happy room for the cats to have fun, but it makes correcting colour casts in my photographs almost impossible. Not only that, but with the only natural light coming at an extreme angle through the tiny window, I also have to rely on a single fluorescent tube. Therefore I have two different sources of light giving yet more strange casts.
However, I couldn’t resist the other week when I spotted little Foxy sunbathing on the radiator shelf. Rushing downstairs to grab my camera, she was still in position when I returned a couple of minutes later. I turned the light on and let her settle for a moment before kneeling down between an assortment of toys and play tunnels. I took one test shot. She stayed put and so I shuffled a bit closer. She was clearly comfortable with the camera now and gave the most enormous yawn.
Over the next couple of minutes I was able to get a series of shots as can be seen above and below. The images still took a long time to process because of all the weird colours, but it is now a location that I’m happy to use for any future photo shoot. Now the days are getting longer, we get more sun in the room during the late afternoon and the warmth draws the cats inside like a magnet.
I took delivery of a new (to me) camera a couple of months ago. I decided it was time to find out what it was like to own and use one of the best full frame DSLRs around. I’ve been thrilled with the landscapes I’ve managed to take so far, but most of all, I’ve been blown away by how much it loves the cats.
It seems so long since we last had some decent light indoors, that I couldn’t wait to set up my “studio” when the sun put in a rare appearance a few days ago. By “studio”, I mean the only place that gets natural light in our old house, which is our bed. I covered it with a fluffy throw, chucked on a couple of catnip toys and within seconds most of our eleven cats were going berserk. I clearly wasn’t able to isolate just one for a portrait, so I let them play for a while. Eventually, some moved up to their play den in the attic and I was left with just three.
Chai has always been my preferred model, as her colour and markings work well, especially in the low winter sun. She is also very co-operative and seems to understand what I need when I stick the camera in her face. She was rescued at the age of just ten weeks in a park in Romania. Someone had cut her all over, hit her so hard it detached her lower lip, slit her throat and broke both her front legs. A wonderful rescuer friend of mine dedicated herself to Chai’s recovery and a few months later, we had her brought over to the UK with her two friends, Foxy and DeeDee. It’s incredible, not only that she survived, but she did so with an unwavering trust in humans that still reduces me to tears.
If anyone is interested in adopting a cat from Eastern Europe, feel free to contact me for details. We have brought over nine so far and they are the most loving cats you could ever wish to meet. They get on so well together and we are constantly amazed at how they will sleep, wash and play together. The rescuers don’t ask for adoption fees, will do the paperwork on your behalf and you only need pay for the transport. To save a little life like Chai’s could cost as little as £150.
I wasn’t going to write another blog post about our cats sunning themselves, but with weeks of temperatures about average, it’s hard to avoid. Chai and Sonea are still feeling the cold however, as several times a day, one or both, can be found in the cat bed next to our Aga. I don’t know how they do it!
Back to the photographs though and the one featured at the top is of Pearl from Bulgaria, who found a stray sunbeam in the study. As the room where I process all my images, I keep the curtains closed as much as possible. Pearl still managed to find a bright spot across one of the radiator beds though.
The next two are of our dear little Foxy. She can be timid at times, but not when it comes to getting the best spot in the sun. Either on the window sill in our south-facing bedroom, or spread out on the carpet as she is here.
Last week I photographed a couple of our cats in the sun. Like me, they were stunned to find these bright spots in our south-facing rooms. It was like watching iron filings attracted to a magnet. Cats and the sun. Same thing. The featured image is of our beautiful one-eyed, three-legged cat. I had already spotted the patch in the kitchen as I went out to make myself a quick lunch. I got my camera from the study and tried the kitten, who ran off immediately. Then I tried Bubu and then Vicky, but they all had better things to do. I put the camera down and returned to my snack. Then Marta hopped through from the dining room. She saw the small bright rectangle and made a bee line for the spot, where she lay down in just the right position. Grabbing the camera again, I used spot metering on her ear, capturing the details in the brightest highlights and letting the rest of the room fall into shadow.
The next images are of Buddy at the top of our stairs a few days earlier. We had been steam cleaning litter trays, but as I passed one clean, dry tray to my husband in the hall, I saw light streaming down from the bedroom window. Buddy was already there sunning himself and so I raced to get my camera before the special light vanished.
I thought I would share a few photographs I took of a beautiful little sand cat a few years ago at Exmoor Zoo. We haven’t had a holiday in well over 20 years, but recently my husband lets me away with the camera for three days a year. This location was chosen to give me a chance to recover after all the early mornings and late starts. (I generally get up around 4.30 every morning to get to a location for sunrise and then I don’t get to bed until nearly 11.00 at night). The zoo was well run and more to the point, it had a café, toilets and plenty of places where I could sit down.
The sand cat is the only cat to inhabit true deserts and until very recently was listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list. It was down listed to “least concern” in 2016.
It inhabits both sandy and stony desert in areas far from water. Having very furry feet, it is well adapted to the harsh conditions found in these places. They all have sandy fur – some with spots and/or stripes and some with neither. It weighs between 1.5 and 3.4 kg. It can be found in North Africa and South West or Central Asia where it can survive temperatures ranging between -5C and 52C. Although it will drink water when available, it can survive for months on just the body fluids of its prey.
There are only 200 individuals in European zoos and attempts are being made to breed them in the hope they can eventually be returned to the wild.
I went upstairs to vacuum yesterday afternoon, to find eight of our eleven cats either on our bed or draped along the window sill. They were all enjoying the sun. I couldn’t bear to disturb them, so the housework had to wait until this morning. The weather is dull and dreary now and to my knowledge, we have three of them huddled round the Aga in the beds that we installed some time ago. Spoiled? Of course they are!
It reminded me of the photographs I took of little Foxy a few weeks ago. Once again, I had gone upstairs for something and spotted our timid little girl snoozing on the bedroom carpet. I rushed back downstairs to grab the camera and managed to get the image featured above. From my vantage point on the stairs, I could see that she wasn’t alone and I could just make out Pearl’s eyes in the darkness under the bed. She sometimes likes to curl up on top of the plastic storage boxes. Foxy clearly knew she was there as can be seen from the next photograph.
Later on I found Foxy had moved from the floor into the cat bed that lives on top of our bed. She was warm and half asleep and I managed to get this shot before she woke up. There are times when I wish I was a cat…
I thought it was about time I introduced you to Bubu, our very first Eastern European rescue. Without him and his gentle ways, we would never have brought over another eight cats from both Romania and Bulgaria.
Bubu and his mother were being fed outside, where they spent most of their time living under a parked car. Then one day the rescuer found Bubu seriously injured, having been kicked very hard. The vet operated to repair a ruptured diaphragm and also to “unstick” his liver from his heart. He stopped breathing for a long time, but the vet refused to give up and miraculously he survived. She and I are now friends on Facebook.
We brought him over just before Christmas 2012. A few months later we adopted Bijou as a playmate and they are besotted with one another. He has welcomed each and every other rescue the same way and we would be lost without him. He loves nothing more than to sleep in my arms all night and to ride on our shoulders. Still playful at the age of five, he adores going round our old house, checking in every corner for spiders. It’s not unusual to come downstairs in the morning to find a disassembled spider on the kitchen floor.
I haven’t done a blog post about Buddy before, so I thought I ought to introduce him properly. Spotted on Facebook two years ago, the painfully thin little scrap was living on the streets of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Someone had already damaged his tail beyond repair and either they, or someone else had picked him up a short while later to burn off part of his left ear. Knowing that if he wasn’t taken away from there soon, there wouldn’t be a kitten left to rescue, I contacted a friend and arranged transport to a vet in Sofia, 150 km away.
He was originally supposed to be adopted by a lovely lady from a pet forum I used to frequent. Sadly, not long after we delivered him to her, I received an e-mail saying her health had taken a turn for the worse and could we take him instead. Fortunately he has fitted in perfectly with our other cats and is a joy to have around.
His favourite game is playing in the cardboard box pile that I leave on the dining room floor, as can be seen in the featured image above. The photograph below was taken as he was playing in the late afternoon sun at the top of the stairs.
The final image was taken a couple of days ago in a patch of sun on the bedroom carpet.
I was working in the study yesterday afternoon. The curtains were closed because the room faces west and I needed to process some images. It’s lovely to see the wildlife outside, but when colour and detail are important, the last thing you need is the sun in your eyes. The cats also love to watch the wildlife and so they had repeatedly jumped on my desk and pushed their way through the middle. It wasn’t a large gap, so I left the curtains alone.
Then Chai wandered in and greeted me as usual by jumping on the top of my chair and chirruping, before rolling down behind my back. She would have stayed had I not winkled her out and placed her gently on the floor. Then she spotted the narrow ray of light and jumped up on one of the radiator hammocks to bathe in the sunbeam.
The sun was about to disappear behind neighbouring woods, so I grabbed the camera and yelled for my husband to come and catch her attention. We probably had less than a minute, but I was able to capture the image featured above. Cats and light – perhaps one of my favourite combinations.
The featured image and the one below shows our latest rescue from Bulgaria. She is the 9th cat we have adopted from Eastern Europe and we haven’t regretted a single one. They are all intelligent, incredibly loving and they get on together like a house on fire. We just bring them home, open the cat basket and have no problems at all.
I spotted Marta on Facebook – a short video from a friend of a friend. It was obvious she only had three legs and one remaining eye and clearly wouldn’t survive on the street. A pack of dogs took her leg some time ago. She had a home once, but after her “Dad” died, the daughter got workmen in to empty the house and everything was thrown by the side of a busy road, with Marta the cat on top. She must have gone to a neighbour for food and he hit her with a large stick (the Bulgarian translation was a pole). It damaged her eye beyond repair.
I turned to the only person who could help, my friend Bistra Datzova, who runs a rescue called the Cat House. She collected Marta for me early the next morning and took her straight to the vet. She stayed there for three weeks being treated, before moving in to the Cat House. Bistra rents space where all her rescues can live with a certain amount of freedom, surrounded by beds and cat toys. The sad truth is that most rescuers in Eastern Europe are only able to house their cats in cages at the vet. I’m used to it now and while they wait for their new homes it keeps them off the streets, where they would otherwise be killed by dogs, shot or poisoned. The Cat House is a vast improvement on that though.
It houses up to 55 cats at any one time, but can only keep running on donations from supporters, who are always thin on the ground. There is the monthly rent, cat food, litter, worming and flea treatments, not to mention the massive vet bills. Bistra takes on cats that others can’t afford to fund. There are losses, but also small miracles. Just take a look at this video of Leon who was passed to the Cat House from another rescuer earlier this year. It’s a tough watch at the beginning, but the transformation at the end is heart-warming. He wouldn’t be alive now had it not been for my dear friend.
The Cat House is run by just three girls and one who helps out at weekends when she can. If you would like to offer support (and even the smallest amount would help), then why not follow the Cat House on Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/Cat-house-521267061344013/ Please don’t be put off by the language barrier. Facebook translates (badly sometimes) from the original Bulgarian, but Bistra speaks perfect English and German as well I believe. There are always wonderful cats and kittens needing new homes. There will be a home check and a contract to complete. The rescuers will do all the paperwork on your behalf and also arrange transport. The cats will have FIV/FeLV tests, be vaccinated, wormed, chipped and have their passports. To Germany the adoption fee is 150 Euros in total. For the UK, there is no adoption fee, but you pay £170 for the transport. It’s easy and not much to pay to give a cat another chance at a new life – like little Francie in the photograph below. She was going to be put to sleep because her owners didn’t want her any more. She is patiently waiting for another home.
For those who feel they aren’t up to donating or adopting, I have created a Red Bubble shop where 100% of the profit will go straight to the Cat House. Orders can be taken anywhere in the world except, Iran, Cuba, Sudan, North Korea, Syria and the Crimea. If even this is too much, then please help by sharing. Thank you. https://www.redbubble.com/people/Zooey1/shop?asc=u