‘Yes’? A Quizzical Tuxedo Portrait

Camera outline on a plain background

This is one of those cat photos that you will look at and smile! I invite you to create a caption for Miranda’s portrait yourself.

Miranda was cleaning her whiskers after breakfast and I happened to be holding my camera. I took a few shots and one of them was this rather quizzical tuxedo look a bit like the look a teacher might give you if you disturb the class!

I can almost see the ‘Yeeees?’ in her Professor McGonagle look!

Miranda Portrait Settings

  • ISO 200
  • 50 mm
  • f5.6
  • 1/15

Toulouse Update

He has cystitis and has been on medication this past week – Buprelieve (painkiller) and Clavomox (antibiotics). He finishes the medicine today.

Harvey’s Story Will Steal Your Heart

Celebration Banner with Champagne bottle and streamers

We had some exciting news this week!

Harvey’s story (and my first published short story) which had been accepted for the anthology ‘Purrseverance – Inspiring Stories of Cat Resilience and Hope‘ will be published on 11th April 2024. You can pre-order your own copy of the ebook on Amazon (Kindle) or at B&N (Nook).

  • Our friends Kitties Blue also have a story in the book so you have even more reasons to pre-order a copy!

Paper copies of the book are available on Amazon (Affiliate link).

When I see his picture I miss him all over again. He was so special.

Portrait of white cat after a pinnectomy
Closeup of a young Siamese cat face, with blue eyes.

My Cat Got a UTI or The Trials of Toulouse

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Last week’s Thursday photography post was derailed by my favourite model tabby cat Toulouse. Drama and a trip to the vet followed because the darned cat got a UTI!

I hope this post will be helpful for beginner cat owners and those whose cat has never been diagnosed with a Urinary Tract Infection known as a UTI for short. This was a learning exerience for me as the worst we have coped with recently, as a cat family, have been flea allergies, abcesses and scratches.

Know Your Cat’s ‘Normal’

I heard this suggestion from a vet at a cat health seminar here in New Zealand several years ago. He suggested that if you know what your cat’s day to day, normal life and habits are then any change in this will make you sit up and take notice. It was this that made me realise that we had a problem on our hands.

You know, better than anyone, your cat’s moods and behaviour. You quickly learn their likes and dislikes. We can all identify with responses like ‘That expensive cat food? No thanks…’ or ‘All I want is one more Churu pleeeeeze’. Without you realising it, over time your cat’s actions and reactions, foibles and quirks become part of your daily life. They are your cat’s ‘normal’ when life is good.

It’s when things deviate from this ‘normal’ baseline you have a valuable (and free) indication that something might be wrong. Let me relate this to our boy Toulouse to give you an idea of how a change might feel and look.

A bladder infection (often called a UTI or cystitis), is a bacterial infection inside the bladder. Bladder infections are usually occur if there is another medical problem present affecting the urinary tract (i.e. bladder stones, diabetes, kidney disease,  etc.,). They rarely develop without an underlying cause and for this reason, if your cat develops a UTI your vet will check for other problems as well.


Realising Something is Wrong

For us, Toulouse has never yowled in the night. Scampers and zoomies yes, sad cries definitely not happened before. Another indicator was his listless behaviour. Our tabby is usually a vibrant and sparky pesonality who chatters, which is his own ‘normal’. Yowls are definitely out of character.

I saw Toulouse sat in the litter tray as I walked into the room. I thought nothing of it until I realised five minutes later that he was stlll there. A faint alarm bell rang but he seemed OK hopping out of the little tray leaving a very small damp patch. He then hurried out into the garden ready to play with his best friend who lives next door, or so I thought.

Later I spotted him in a corner of the garden squatting, again for too long, before getting up and walking a short distance. He flopped down looking glum and subdued. A second alarm bell and I began to be a bit concerned, thinking Toulouse might be constipated, or have a tummy upset.

He came in for a treat which gave me the chance to do a quick body check, running my hands along his body for anything unusual like a swelling, a bite mark or scratch but found nothing.

Poop Problem
If one or several of the organs in your cat’s digestive tract become inflamed, they will experience digestive discomfort and their food could be irritating their system….. [Common Cat Digestive Problems)

Royal Canin

Toulouse seemed to be happy in himself as the day went on, he wanted supper and enjoyed a few treats before bedtime.

But things became a little more serious overnight.

Twice during the night Toulouse yowled rather sadly and I gave him one of his favourite Puree Kisses with .4 of Meloxicam. At this point cat dad and I decided we needed to call the vet when they opened the following morning. This was very out of character.

  • For anyone who has not dealt with an unfamiliar infection of any kind, working out what is wrong with expert help is essential.

Cats Hide Their Symptoms

For less experienced cat owners, remember cats are great at pretending they are well, even if they are in pain.

Cats are resilient and astonishingly good at hiding any kind of discomfort. This is a cause of frustration for every cat lover not just new cat families .

Something is Wrong But What?

I rang the veterinary surgery and explained Toulouse’s symptoms and behaviour. They immediately asked us to bring him down and leave him at the surgery for the day for observation and treatment.

I realised that Toulouse was not well but I had no idea what was wrong and, at this early stage, it could have been a bladder infection or ‘poop’ issue. I have included a quote/link on basic digestive issues, in case your cat goes the ‘poop route’, as well as a link from a trusted British site that briefly outlines urinary problems in cats.

  • TIP If you are in any doubt about your cat’s health, don’t Google symptoms and panic about what you might read. Contact your vet for advice you can trust and a diagnosis you can work with.
Tabby cat playing

A Vet Visit and Toulouse Diagnosis

As with our visit, yours will begin with an examination of your cat and the vet will take note of any thing you can report. If worries about ‘what’ and ‘when’ details vanish from your mind make a note or add it to a smartphone note app like I did for Toulouse:

  • cat spent a long time in the litter tray – Thu
  • not sure if its a pee or poop thing
  • can’t feel and bumps or scratches
  • Unhappy yowling in night – Thu night

It turned out that Toulouse was blocked and could not pee. He was sedated and the blockage removed. After the very quick surgery he was put on a drip to hydrate him.

Toulouse was collected later in the afternoon by cat dad and brought home. He was happy to be back in familiar surroundings but did not really settle until I arrived home from teaching a student and made a gentle fuss on our ‘poor boy’.

To help recovery, the vet recommend that Toulouse be put on a restricted diet of urinary food (Royal Canin and Hill’s) for at least the next six weeks when he has his next check up. From here we only have to convince him that urinary food is the world’s best cat food….


If you are in any doubt about your cat and a possible health issue contact your veterinarian. If we’d have left Toulouse a day or more his discomfort would have got much worse. Imagine not being able to go to the toilet, much as you wanted to,

Never dismiss a niggling worry about something new or unfamiliar. Your cat will thank you, even if they hate going to the vet.

Cat Health Online Support

If your diagnosis is something more challenging than Toulouse’s bladder problems you will find that there are established groups and web sites online. Never be afraid to ask for help.

Some are whole web sites devoted to feline medical conditions as well as Facebook (FB) groups. FB groups have a lot of cat owners who pool knowledge, experience and support.

boxes and tins of cat food in a pile
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Wellington Zoo’s Baby Giraffe Nia

Camera outline on a plain background

Today, as promised last week, some sweet captures of Wellington Zoo’s baby giraffe Nia.

In the first photograph you will see the Nia who was born in December 2023. From this picture you will not be able to guess at her size at all but, like every giraffe she has a unique neck pattern of spots which is how staff tell them apart.

According to Wellington Zoo, due to a rapidly falling population in the last few decades, these beautiful animals are now classed as ‘vulnerable to extinction‘ due to issues like habitat loss and illegal hunting. The thought of no Giraffes is too terrible to think about.

  • You can help protect their wild homes by purchasing sustainable timber and paper products marked with the FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) logo.

In these photographs you can see how small Nia actually is as she stands beside Sunny the male giraffe. He was very protective of his small family member and I think this was because the fine weather had brought a lot of families to the zoo.

Giraffes spend up to 20 hours a day feeding, but you’re unlikely to catch them sleeping it off – Giraffes sleep the least of any mammal, and only need between 10 minutes and two hours of sleep each day.

Wellington Zoo

A favourite giraffe capture is this one. It’s almost as if Nia and Sunny are posing sweetly for the camera isn’t it? The charm of giraffes, their grace and beauty captures the heart and I always stop to take photographs of them before exploring the Zoo further.

Giraffe Portrait Settings (DSLR)

  • ISO 200
  • 200 mm
  • f8
  • 1/320

This last image below shows baby giraffe Nia and Sunny wandering up the enclosure’s slope and still the adult is looking after the small giraffe.

Thursday Post Delay

This week’s Thursday post got derailed by Toulouse falling ill. He is on the road to recovery and I will report on what happened next Thursday along with some lovely portraits of the boy.

Tongue Out Tuesday Snapshot Surprise

Giraffe on an ombre background of blue and black

This week’s short post shows how I captured some wonderful shots to share during our summer visit to Wellington Zoo. Like every good photographer I was after a unique shot but did I get one? Let me show you my tongue out Tuesday surprise including the camera settings I used.

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At the giraffe enclosure I hit the jackpot. Not only did I see a new baby giraffe, which I will share next week, but I captured the funniest shot ever (for me). An absolutely amazing giraffe having a munch of lunch.

Tips for Giraffe Photos

For those using their DSLR, I was using my 55-250 mm zoom lens as I was about four metres (16 feet approx.) away from the Giraffes on a raised platform. I got the cool shot that I know will make everyone laugh on Instagram too (dashkittenphotos) when I schedule it for Tongue Out Tuesday.

One thing you can’t see it which matters for this photograph.Visitors approach the giraffes on a raised walkway which allows them to see the giraffe from the animal’s eye level and get a good look at these wonderful beasts. The raised viewpoint allowed me to get as close as I could, then adjust my zoom lens, take a steadying breath and fire off a handfull of shots.

  • Remember that in order to get your shot, you will find you have a lot of ‘almosts’ and ‘not quite’ shots. This happens and you can delete these.

Giraffe Portrait Settings (DSLR)

  • ISO 200
  • 250 mm lens (121 mm – 2nd photo)
  • f8
  • 1/120 (320 – 2nd photo)
Giraffe looking to the right of the viewer

Find out more about Giraffes on Wikipedia

My Most Useful Canon Lens

I thought you might like to see the dimensions of my Canon DSLR zoom. This is the lens that sits on my camera most of the time (unless I am doing cat closeups) It is taller than my kit DSLR lens (which would come up to about the words Canon in this photo). It does make the camera a bit heavier but the lens can take super sharp shots and is so versatile. I use it a lot for my cat portraits and, alongside my small 50 mm lens, the pair works for me.

How Do I Rescue an Old Photo?

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Have you ever discovered an old photo you had forgotten about? Or when you are out clearing out old boxes or an attic you finding unexpected faded memories? Suddenly you find yourself lost in the past as thoughts come flooding back about the day, the time, who was there?

This happened to me, and I knew that I had to do something to preserve this memory beyond the paper original. So, I started thinking. How would any of us rescue an old photo like this, if we found one, and I came up with a seriously good solution you might want to consider.

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Let me tell you how the adventure started.

I discovered, carefully preserved inside a book, an old photograph of Dash Kitten, the blog’s Founder Cat. It was, thankfully, flat but had a bit of surface damage as well as a slightly yellow tint. This image was at least nine years old and it held some lovely memories. It is one of the rare full-face portraits I have of Dash Kitten.

  • How could I restore the photo so I could share it with Dash’s many friends who still remember him with so much affection?

I wanted to adjust the portrait so it was look fresh and bright. It deserved to be more than a slightly discoloured and damaged photograph with uneven white balance but how?

I had to admit that the image needed work and even with my photo skills, I decided to call in professional help in the form of a local photography shop. I decided that I wanted a high quality digital scan as well as a good quality print, neither of which I could create at home.

Portait of a honey coloured cat looking at the camera
DASH KITTEN PRINT © Marjorie Dawson

A Print Bureau Can Revive Your Photo

Yes, I know, you can scan your image and then spend a lot of time repairing surface scratches and sharpening the image yourself. If you have the time, and the photo software, and a good photo scanner – which I don’t have.

If you are like me, you reach a point that regardless of your skills you need to refer to those with more expertise than yourself.

What I did was go to a local photography bureau here in Lower Hutt, Camera House. They are a long established print house that are busy dealing with the recent surge in popularity of film cameras and development. Shops or franchises within larger shops are mushrooming everywhere thanks to film’s return to popularity so check your closes one online.

You probably have your own treasured memento hidden in a corner somewhere. A photo of you and your first cat, you as a small child on the beach, or a formal wedding photo of your Mum or Grandma looking their beautiful best. They are fragile paper and can fade so easily. But, with the help of professionals, you can breath life into these important pieces of family history.

Film cameras are very much a thing. I was given a Kodak Ektar H35 for Christmas which I will be exploring over the coming months!

Portait of a honey coloured cat looking at the camera in front of a ghostly clock
‘Lost in Time’ © Marjorie Dawson

My Renewed Photo of Dash Kitten

The digital image of Dash was returned to me a few days ago by email and, as you can see, the results are excellent.

The surface damage on the original has been removed and the picture looks as good as new. I have so few images of Dash Kitten that if I find one it is important for me to preserve the memories as best I can. I am so happy I found it and got help rescuing the image and I suggest you consider it to. Expert help can make a real difference.

It also, on a positive note has allowed me to start doing something Bode’s Mom Sylvia suggested I do several years ago, which is make a tribute to Dash.

How Do you Work with a Photo Bureau?

Involving a photo bureau to revive an older photo is an investment of your time and money. They will be able to ‘repair’ your original by creating a perfect copy with no bent corners then return the original and any copies to you.

  • A bureau can brighten or adjust colours or sharpen tones for a black and white image.

If you are not sure how to approach a local bureau, make a list of what you would like them to do. Maybe you want them to repair a digital image and print you a couple of copies? Make a list of things you might like then get a local business to quote you for the work. You will be supporting a company in your local community and be able to ring them up if you need to for advice.

If you are in a more isolated area, research online for the requirements of a bureau who work by post. Again be specific about what you want and be very particular about the safety of your image in transit to them and back to you. Look for recommendations. A company that has lots of happy customers not just one or two (which could be friends boosting friends). Research is essential if youwant to ensure you get good service.

You may not be able to stop time, but you can preserve and share precious memories with a little bit of help, just like Dash and I.

Oh my new film camera? Here’s a picture of it.

Image of camera and a roll of film in a box

Snow Leopard Portrait

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The summer weather allowed me to take a trip to Wellington Zoo and, see the Snow Leopards closeup. I visited two years ago but their ‘home’ was little more than a building site at that time so, I was keen to see the magnificent cats in their new carefully built ‘habitat’.

As it was still school holiday time it was tough to capture a really good shot of Asha and Manju due to the crowds, but I have cropped one of my images so you can see the wonderful colouring and markings of the Snow Leopard. There is a picture below that gives you an idea of its shape and size.

About the Snow Leopard Home

Rather than describe the new habitat created for the Snow Leopards, this link will take you to the Zoo site. If you scroll down to ‘Project Overview’ you can see a photo of the habitat and read how it was constructed. The image was taken with a drone camera from much higher up than visitors get to go and was taken on a much less crowded day! Otherwise I enclose a brief outline below to show how carefully it has been thought out.

I hope to return on a less busy day to take some better big cat photos which I will share here.

Snow Leopard Portrait Settings (DSLR)

  • ISO 200
  • 250 & 135 mm
  • f8
  • 1/160
Snow Leopard full length looking to the left

The habitat will emulate the Snow Leopard’s natural environment, encouraging the animals to display natural behaviours. The steep, rocky terrain will provide physical exercise by encouraging jumping and climbing. The habitat will also offer plenty of space for Asha and Manju to patrol and will include trees for climbing and scratching. The design of the habitat will allow our Snow Leopards to feel camouflaged and rest whilst still being visible to visitors.

Wellington Zoo

Austin at Catachresis

Cat on blue background

I realised that I had still kept my interview with Austin of Catachresis so I am republishing this as a tribute to a cat and his Mum whose blog I loved. All blogs should inspire this amount of affection.

An Unusual Ginger Cat Portrait

Cat on brown background

This week’s short post is a lesson in what works, and what surprises you, and works in a different way.

I often tell beginners taking cat photos that the perfect photo is not always the image you expect, this unusual ginger cat portrait is a great example.Think about it. What kind of image might people expect as a ‘cat portrait’? A clear, sharp image of a cat, nicely posed and looking calmly at the camera. The light is as good as it can be, and focus on the cat’s eye is pin sharp, as this is where people look first.

But, sometimes the photo becomes something else.

An Unexpected Portrait

You end up with an image like this unusual capture of our senior ginger boy Jack (who I have showcased in a lovely cat portrait). Take a look and you will see what I mean.

Why is it different? As I said at the start, we expect a portrait to face front, and be sharp and clear but this is the opposite!

If you need to make the photo bigger it should enlarge if you click on it. This is something I am trying in WordPress, so please let me know if it works for you.

The Story Behind the Cat Portrait

It’s a shot of Jack’s back and tail as he walks slowly away up the garden path. More importantly, for me and the family, this is the first time that Jack has ventured out for a garden stroll in many months.

He had plodded past me before I gathered my wits and grabbed by camera. So it may not be perfect but it is a sweet memory and this is its whole point. A family member portrayed with great affection and a smile.

In its favour the image has a leading line that guides your eye to his receding figure and a sense of movement from his body. You can see the pink toe beans of one paw as he walks.

That’s why I am sharing it. It’s a lovely photo, and to me it matters. That is your first call when you take a photo. Not its perfection but the message it carries from you to the world.

Jack’s ‘Portrait’ Settings (DSLR)

  • ISO 800
  • 180 mm lens
  • f8
  • 1/2000

Cats and Cocktails (Book Review)

faint image of a cat looking upwards

What do cats, cocktails and cameras have in common? They are all involved in the creation of an inspiring and fascinating book of cocktails and ‘mock’tails created and photographed by a group of cat lovers on Instagram.

No, you don’t have to be on Instagram to enjoy the book, but if you are, check out the links to the cool cats who appear in the links below the photos.

Why do I love the book as a cat photographer? Because it is a source of some of the best cat photos you will see in book form this year and you will love browsing.

Best of all, the profits from the book are donated to a cat charity. You can read the recent exciting announcement below.

Who and What are Cats and Cocktails?

The Cats and Cocktails Club (CCC for short!) is a worldwide group of cat lovers on Instagram who love to create and sip cocktails. The group began to flourish during pandemic times and founders Kayla Tabish and Jenna Aviano say the group has been a source of strong and supportive friendships.

Bengal cat sniffs at a glass with green cocktail
Meowdel Credit: @memphisandcash_

The Cats and Cocktail Book

Although you all know I am a cat photographer and the images are what first took my breath away, I need to spotlight the detail and very high production qualities of Cats and Cocktails. Why? Because I believe it this is part of the book’s pleasure. This is a real book that is an absolute joy to hold, to browse though and then to use.

A team of skilled volunteers contributed to the editing, mixology, design and proofreading, and they have created a cocktail book much better than many you will find in bookshops.

Here’s why:

  • The meowdels are all cats
  • The 144 colour images are superb
  • The paper is top quality heavy paper (130 gsm)
  • Superior quality hardback format
  • Clear instructions for the 52 cocktails and mocktails
  • Printed in the Netherlands – Grafistar B.V.
  • All the proceeds have been donated to a cat charity (see below).

The cocktails are divided into seasons, so I can enjoy Summer cocktails while my US and European friends sip their Winter cocktails. Each drink has a two page spread with a stunning image and a clear cocktail recipe with a mini cat bio at the bottom as a final flourish. I love this Harry Potter themed autumnal (fall) image from valor_mystic.

Cat posing with a cocktail
Meowdel Credit: @valor_mystic
  • The bio is great chance to explore the cats’ Instagram feeds (although being on IG isn’t essential to read the book!)

Can I Take a Cats and Cocktails Style Photo?

Yes, you can!

What is inspiring about the book (for cat photographers) is that many of the setups for the photos are simple with a touch of elegance There is a bonus page of helpful tips to help you create your own cat and cocktails portrait and a fun page of bloopers and a few sneak peeks that give you insights into how some of the cat photos were taken.

I am sharing one of my favourite ‘staged’ photos below. A little more work in this one I am sure, but Zimba just nails the cool cat look!

Bengal cat enjoying the sun while sat on a beach chair.
Meowdel Credit: @lotsameows

Cats and Cocktails Fundraising Announcement

A list of the charities involved can be found on the book page. The book’s success has been such that the following announcement was posted on Instagram recently:

The Cats and Cocktails Club is overjoyed with the success of our book. Thanks to all of your support, we are able to fulfill our goal of helping cats. Mission Meow will receive a $4000 donation, which is the proceeds from US sales of our first batch of books.

We will also be donating another $4000 in proceeds from our European sales to European charities. We can’t wait for batch two so that more people can enjoy the book and more cats can be helped!

CCC Instagram

Where Can I Get the Book?

The first edition of the book sold out and a reprint is on the way. If you are interested add your name to the essential Cats and Cocktails Book Waitlist

Dash Kitten
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