Saturday, June 8, 2013

So Many Kitties...

Yesterday, I stopped by the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter to photograph some of their amazing kitties! From time to time, I am asked why I prefer to work with the cats vs the dogs, since I come across as much more of a dog person. Well, in fact, I prefer cats! I do absolutely adore my dogs, but when it comes to my cats, there is nothing as special as having one of them curl up in my lap for a nap - or nothing as comical as my daily back massage while I am sitting in front of my easel! (Yes, Jazz, my black cat climbs up onto my chair and gives me 'biscuits' on the back of my neck while I work - it's super relaxing!)

While I find a dog that I love each week at the shelter and spend some time with him/her, when it comes to the cats, I just have a connection that speaks volumes. I divide my cat photos into three sections at the shelter. 

First, we have the kittens, which are always fun and adorable - they also get adopted faster than I can photograph them, so they really are the lowest photo priority for me. 

Then, I focus on the Senior cats. WCRAS has a great reputation for finding homes for all of the animals in their care, including the seniors. From time to time we have an influx of senior cats, but generally, the senior population is small and each is given as much attention as possible to ensure they do not get overly stressed in the shelter environment. 

Last, there are the adolescent and adult cats. This is my favorite group of cats, mainly because I really get to know these babies. Unfortunately, this group of cats are often the long-stay cats that I see from week to week. I find that I build a relationship with many of these kitties and from time to time, I make a point to update their photos in a new pose to maybe bring in a new potential adopter their way. 

Yesterday, in particular, I met an adorable kitty named Cricket. Cricket is terrified in the shelter environment, yet something in her eyes just screamed 'Play with me!' I always work slowly with cats like cricket, letting each warm up to me with a sniff of my hand and, if they let me, a nice chin rub. Cricket would crawl to the front of her kennel, sniff my hand, playful bat at it and cower back to the back of her blankets. She did this three or four times, while I made sure to sneak in a nice chin or ear rub each round. Finally, she allowed me to pick her up and immediately, she curled into my arm, purring loudly. In the moment, I could feel myself tearing up. This poor little cat, who probably had a family that loved her at one point in her life was left behind at the shelter. Of course, she is in good hands, but the shelter is not a home and she deserves a family that will give her all the love she deserves. As I put her back in her kennel, I couldn't help but give her a few extra rubs and kisses, letting her know that everyone here loves her and that, in time, a new family will adopt her and love her forever. 

Of course, not every cat is scared at the shelter, and I find that many cats love to play the belly rub game. By that, I mean they roll over, asking for a belly rub but as soon as I give them one, they chomp down on my arm. Usually this game is playful and rarely do I find a cat that really wants to hurt me. That was the case with Philetus, a silly big Russian Blue mix that had me laughing during our entire photo session. Imagine if cats could talk, now mix that with a little seduction and you would have Philetus. As soon as I set him into my photo area, he laid down, rolled onto his back and gave me 'the eyes'. If Philetus was a man, even Fabio would be jealous! I couldn't help but laugh at this silly boy as I snapped his photo. I know that whoever has the opportunity to bring him into their family is one lucky lady! 

I wouldn't be doing my job as a volunteer if I didn't mention the kittens and our need for fosters right now. I took a few minutes at the shelter to grab some photos of our many little kittens that are not quite old enough for adoption. Unfortunately, our kitten room is full to the brim and these little babies have to wait until they are old enough for spay/neuter to go out to their forever families. Kittens are fragile little ones and the shelter environment is no place to grow up. It can be especially hard on their little immune systems as upper respiratory problems are prevalent in any shelter. For me, the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter is my number one priority - and I would LOVE to see all of these little ones in a safe foster home while they grow old. Many of my clients and readers are not in the Austin area but I know that all shelters face the same issues and could use dedicated foster families! If you are looking for a super rewarding experience - foster some kittens! You won't regret it!

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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Here are a few of my favorite photos from yesterday!
Visit for more information about these kitties!!