Memoirs of a Cool Cat is a rolicking, tender account of a cat family’s experiences in the home of the human who loves them. Lambert the Cat recounts how he and his feline cohorts came to live in Cool Cat Utopia. He bravely describes his battles with plamacytic-lymphocytic stomatitis, gently derides his sister’s bouts with OCD, and moves the reader to tears at the loss of a beloved companion. Memoirs is sprinkled liberally with photos of Lambert and his loved ones, as well as his gymnasium, his toys, his custom-made food, and the bathtub that lurks in ambush. You will devour this book like the made-from-scratch diet Lambert and his homies thrive on!
Cool Cat Utopia begins when Joy adopts Lambert as a companion for her elderly cat Sheeb, who is suffering from kidney failure and a broken heart following the death of her brother. She ends up coming home with a companion for Lambert (so he won't be lonely once Sheeb is gone), and a long-haired tortie lady. (So here we all were, a yelling, flatulent little mob, in one large carrier.) From there readers are given an unforgettable glimpse into this new little family as they learn to deal with each other's quirks and special needs. At times this book had me laughing out loud, and then it had me sobbing. (Just wait until you read sweet Weasel's story.) Watching these three cats, as well as new additions, take care of each other and love each other, prove without a doubt the depth of love these perfect little creatures are capable of for each other and their human companions.
Mixed into this book are the author's insights on a wide variety of pet topics, ranging from adoption to nutrition to creating a feline-friendly environment in your home. I was incredibly honored to have the chance to interview Joy about her thoughts on these topics and many others, and was thrilled to learn that she is currently working on a sequel!
Truffles and I adored this book and we highly recommend it to cat lovers everywhere. We hope you enjoy the interview and that you snatch up your own copy of the book as well!
Interview with Author Joy Cool
What made Lambert decide to dictate a book about his adventures?
I love to write, I always have, and I was having a pina colada in my cat-friendly condo one day with a friend and shooting the breeze, and Lambert did something or other that was gregarious as usual, and we started "putting words in his mouth," just claiming he was saying this or that, and we decided he did have a way with words. And then one or the other of the other cats was doing something I decided to catch in a photo, and my friend remarked that I really should share some of the photos, b/c the condo was such a good cat environment -- one thing sort of led to another, and I promised her that I would start writing in my spare time. I decided to do it in Lambert's voice because he communicated so much to me -- they all did, they all DO, don't they? And once I got started, it took on a life of its own -- writing about myself, from another's perspective, just great fun!
I read in your biography that a good part of your animal shelter volunteer work involved socializing feral and abused cats for adoption success. What did that entail?
Ah, socializing feral cats. Abused cats actually revert to being feral, distrusting humans because they've been hurt by them. And nobody wants to adopt a cat that huddles under a piece of furniture spitting at them. But if you have the patience to get close to them gradually, and give them time to arrive at their own conclusion that you won't hurt them, nearly any cat can become a cuddle-bunny. Some faster than others, some with blinding speed. My favorite method was when the cat was sequestered in a bathroom or a large cage, so that I could actually go into the cage, or the small room, and just sit with the cat, in its own environment. The first week, I would just sit there for a while, talking to it and meeting its eyes with a slow blink of my own. Then I'd softly run my hand down its back and then get off before it could try to strike. Then I'd leave my arm outstretched, with my hand maybe a foot away from it, and just continue talking, looking, blinking. I talk with a question mark at the end of every sentence, an opening, an "I'm-on-receive" setting, as it were, rather than announcing anything that they had to accept. This may sound hokey, but I had really good results. The next time, usually a week later, that I showed up and started asking them from outside the cage how they were doing, most of them responded to me, and it only took two or three sessions to get them to approach me, and then the sky was the limit, you just go on from there. They were usually let out to mingle with the other cats within a couple of weeks. Oh! -- I forgot to say, the first time, I'd wear heavy leather work gloves, because sometimes they would go after me. When that happened, since my hands were protected, I'd just let them fasten on, and continue softly asking them, e.g., "Are you biting me?" And they'd stop. And I'd use their name, a lot. Get to be their personal acquaintance. Sometimes I'd get so attached I'd have to go into another room when they'd find their permanent family, because I'd really miss them.
Your condo sounds like a feline paradise! What are some things we can all do in our homes to make our decor more cat-friendly?
I actually miss that condo! I got married three years ago and moved into my husband's house, and my cats adopted his dog. :-) And as cat-friendly as the condo was, the sun room we have at the back of the house is a paradise! The cats love to watch the birds eat from the birdfeeder right outside the window, and to stretch out on the couch in the sun. I think one important thing is to have furniture -- either special cat furniture or people furniture that you don't mind the cats getting on -- just inside a window, so that the cats can watch the neighborhood dogs walk by, birds and other animals scurrying around, clouds, sun, etc. And cat trees that they can climb are wonderful, and the exercise is good for them. My cats enjoy doing various calisthenics on the carpeted basement stairs. They're the kind of stairs that you can see between; they don't have the rear face of the step, only the stepping part, so the cats do chin-ups and hang under them with their arms around the step, all kinds of things. AND, this is very important, NO room "fresheners," or other perfumed things, they're actually bad for humans and animals. There are certain herbs that are cat-friendly, but the chemical things aren't.
You advocate for a species-appropriate diet for our cats. Do you have any recipes or feeding suggestions to share?
I used to use a recipe that I found on a Canadian website called felinefuture.com, and make my own food. It was a very good recipe, using raw ground meat and carefully balanced supplements. The important thing to realize is that cats are obligate carnivores, they simply do not need carbos. Any, ever. They eat protein and fat. Eating the convenient cat kibble has been the ruin of many a cat's health; they become overweight and get diabetes. I feed my cats Rad cat food now, which is made of the very same ingredients I used to use and is available frozen at organic pet food stores. It isn't cheap, not at all, but it's the absolute best already-made cat food I've ever seen in my life.
You have had some extremely special needs cats in your life...how have you coped with it all emotionally?
I'm sure you can resonate with what I'm going to say about pouring your heart into a special-needs pet. Even when you know their time is not going to be long, you make it as good for them as you can, which of course involves getting emotionally invested -- I mean, how could you not? And they know it. The very toughest part is knowing when you need to let them go -- you keep them going as long as they have quality of life, and they let you know when they need to stop. The decision from hell, always too soon, always too late, at the same time, but you just stay in very close touch with them, listen to what they're telling you, and let them have their long rest when they tell you to. There will always be that ache in your throat even just thinking back to it, but that's what emotional investment entails. As with loving any living being, you decide that loving and being loved is infinitely richer than being safe.
You've also had some frightening experiences with your own health...how are you doing now?
Thank you for thinking of me, Melissa, I really appreciate that! I'm living without an ileum. I'm not sure it's ever been done for this long -- I'm in my twelfth year. I can't absorb fat or the fat-soluble nutrients, which I won't bore you by going into in detail, will just say that living with a sub-basement Vitamin D level is NOT easy. I went from having the bone density of a 21-year-old at age 50 to being a hair away from osteoporosis in my hip several years later, the one thing I was sure I'd never have to worry about, being a serious, lifetime, heavy weight-lifter. I still do the weights, though, and so far I haven't broken anything. I've developed chronic hives and eczema, and my thyroid kicked the bucket from the first few years of everything tearing through me. The famine response of the eating disordered without the eating disorder! The fatigue is nearly overwhelming, but I've got the best husband in the world! I was able to retire a year and a half ago, which I never saw coming before, and we keep plugging along. In fact, we sing and play guitar together (I started learning when I was 59), which is the second-most-fun thing two people can DO together!! And I've become an avid -- if flawed -- gardener. Making pretty things grow is a lot of fun. And I seem to have taken up interior and exterior decorating -- we totally redid our kitchen, which I designed. Life is just rife with opportunities for self-expression, it seems.
I'm almost afraid to ask this, but are all of the cats in your book still with you? Any new additions?
I (we, because my husband Cap had become very closely attached as well) lost both Pandora and Lambert last year, Pandora to an extremely aggressive dental tumor that came out of the blue sky and Lambert after years of kidney cancer. Swishy Girl lost her battle with skin allergies several years ago. They're all hard, but Lambert nearly tore us to pieces. All of these updates will be recounted in Lambert's sequel, God willing and the creek don't rise. Tut Tut was wandering around so bereaved after Lambert's passing that we went back to the cat shelter where I volunteered and got another old guy, Joey, to keep him company. He has completely stolen our hearts, of course.