A Tabby Late Night

Shadowy cat on blue background

You might remember my report on Toulouse when he got a UTI recently.

After a long period of time where we believed he was healing nicely we were abruptly awakened in the middle of Tuesday night with Toulouse (Tooly for short) laid on the floor yowling in pain. All of a sudden we were heading for a tabby late night dash to the vet

Just so you know. Toulouse rarely lies on the carpet, he prefers the cat beds mounted in the windows, and he never ever yowls, unless he sees neighbour Dory who comes for a visit and a snack.

Thankful Thursday Graphic at Dash Kitten

The Dash to The Vet

So, we found ourselves in the car in the dead of night; OK 2.30 a.m. we began the race to get Toulouse to the After Hours Veterinary Surgery. There were almost no other vehicles on the road it was like a ghost planet. Sometimes a lone car passed us, other times we saw an overnight delivery lorry on its way into Wellington. I wondered if they were as surprised as I was to see someone else on the road.

  • The After Hours Veterinary Surgery is open overnight not during the day, our own vet covers the daytime hours.

In cats, diseases of the lower urinary tract (bladder and urethra) are often grouped under the term feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD). This is because it can be challenging to distinguish between the various diseases of the bladder, urethra, and urinary opening.

VCA Animal Hospitals

Tooly did not have to wait long to see the vet. One cat came out and we went in. He was given a brief examination, to confirm our suspicions that this was a recurrence of his earlier UTI and then Dr. Sally (who saved Miranda from death when she was shot by an arrow) gave us her assessment.

Toulouse needed immediate pain relief then surgery to clear his blockage – fast. So, rather than sit for four hours or more in the small waiting room, we were told to go home and grab a bit of rest then return to collect the boy when we could deliver him to our own trusted local veterinarian to continue treatment.

  • One day I will win the lottery and my first purchase will be a set of spacious luxurious Sleepypods!

What Was Wrong?

It turns out Toulouse had quite a nasty blockage with a build up of crystals, all of which has to be cleared out. He must have felt better after the after hours vet operated because he immediately ate two tins of cat food then pooped.

After a two night stay at the vet, he is scheduled to come home with painkillers and medication. He will be under ‘house arrest’ for several days and we may need to keep him in a crate to stop him sneaking out to meet his friend next door.

One thing we did realise is that Toulouse is bigger than we thought when we tried to fit him into the standard cat carrier; with his protective collar and the rehydration cable and drip attached to his front paw and the bag of hydration fluid. There seemed to be a lot more of him he is all grown up!

I will try to add a ‘home’ picture when Tooly arrives!!

Depth of Field Cat Portraits

Camera outline on a brown background

My Thursday post this week on the blog introduced an element of photography that can cause a bit of confusion to new photographers – Depth of Field.

Sunday Selfie graphic and a cartoon lady and her cat

This is a technique that allows a cat photographer using a DSLR or mirrorless camera to soften the background.

The soft background can look really nice as you can see from these photos of some of my favourite feline models. (It also makes an untidy room look better!) For smartphones, check your ‘portrait’ mode for a similar effect.

This favourite image of handsome Taz shows him posed near a potted tree’s branch that is softer thanks to the camera settings. I am adding the f-stop under each photo so you can see the difference it makes.

Setting – f5

Definition of Depth of Field

Depth of field‘ is the distance between the closest and farthest objects in a photo that appears acceptably sharp.

Photography Life

Miranda’s photo made me realise how many of my cat photos have the kitty posed facing to the viewer’s right. I need to check my photo albums to see if this is something I do a lot, or if it is something the cats make me do!

Tuxedo cat looking to the right
Setting – f6.3

Take a look at this closeup of Toulouse.

You may have seen this photograph before because it is a favourite capture of our tabby boy. Again, the soft focus background softens a lot of visually ‘busy’ background that might have distracted you.

Toulouse the tabby Close Up
Setting – f3.5

Finally, a second photo of Taz. This is a smartphone image using iPhone ‘Portrait’ mode. This mode simulates the effect of the soft focus a DSLR/mirrorless camera lens creates. Black cats make excellent models and, with just a touch of light on an overcast day, his fur has definition and he looks rather cool.

black cat sat on a rug draped on a bannister
Smartphone Portrait

OK I am biased but I love a nice black cat to photograph!

All American Pet Photo Day 2024

Faint text on a coloured background

July 11th is the day all pet lovers grab their cameras and celebrate pet photography on All American Pet Photo Day. For Dash Kitten this means CATS.

I am celebrating with some links to useful cat photo posts, and cat photos. The tips work for other pets too, of course! Please take a moment to explore a post to boost your cat photo skills

All American Pet Photo Day is joyfully celebrated each year on July 11. It is a day solely dedicated to appreciating our lovable pets who make life better every single day. While our pets almost always enjoy the limelight, this day encourages us to make it even more special and make them the main focus all day. 

National Today
Black and white profile shot of a tuxedo cat

Posts to boost your photo skills

Venture into Black and White

If you want to try something easy that might surprise you, try working in Black and White. Here are a few helpful tips to inspire you. You can change your photos before or after to take them. Tody is a great time, celebrate Pet Photo Day with a successful shot!

Black cat in kitty loaf position looking at the camera

Absolute Beginners Start Here

A set of shorter posts to introduce subjects like ISO and Aperture that intimidate beginners. From here you can read further with more confidence and not feel completely lost as you explore photo sites online.

black cat sat on a rug draped on a bannister

Your Smartphone and Great Cat Photos

Yes, your smartphone takes great photos. They excel in taking photos when a mirrorless or DSLR camera might falter because of poor settings. Get to know the camera settings of your own smartphone and use them to make your cat photos even better.

Never be afraid to take a photo and All American Pet Photo Day is the day to try. Editing can bring out details you don’t realise are there and filters can transform the whole image. If you don’t believe me, check out my Snapseed review.

Ginger cat with overlay of a city window reflection

Thrilling 2023 Cat Writers Certificates!

Blue background with line drawings of two people holding cameras to their eyes

I want to update everyone on our successful submissions to the prestigious Cat Writers’ Association (CWA) awards and to mention some tremendous friends who also achieved success.

The Certificates took barely a week to reach us in New Zealand and here is the blog’s Certificate. They are beautifully printed on top quality heavy paper with a dazzling golden paw seal!

Receiving a Certificate is a very special moment and puts you in the running for a Muse® Medallion.

Dash Kitten Images

I am delighted to let you know that one of my images made the final cut in the ‘Single Image‘ category. You can see my photograph of Jack (below). I was also awarded a Certificate in the ‘Series‘ category for my set of photos about Miranda’s journey back to health after her arrow attack.

  • Miranda’s Certificate is special – Muse or not, I am proud the judges appreciated her journey.

Competition was fierce this year with 31 entries in the Single Image category and only 9 Certificates awarded. But, tough judging aside, I am thrilled to see so many people enter their images. This means cat photography is becoming a CWA category for bloggers to genuinely consider submitting their work to.

  • You don’t need to submit the perfect photo, you submit a photo that means something important to you. Yes, being sharp counts for something but personality, humour and a fun shot count for a lot too.
black and white portrait of a cat. Closeup.
A Senior Reflects

Dash Kitten Blog

The Blog got a Certificate of Excellence which is lovely, although I feel we can do so much more to help people learn about cat photography. The Let’s Talk About section is coming along….

Miranda Victrix Cat recovering from arrow attack sits on a wooden railing
Miranda Victrix (one of the series)

Praise For Blogging Colleagues

The quality of blog posts by CWA members continues to climb and some categories dazzle with their range of posts. Health, Behaviour and Welfare posts are an essential and critical tool in keeping the public up to date on cat issues; and the creative sumissions like stories, art and poems are thrilling to see.

I want to take a moment to spotlight some valued friends who you will know and applaud with me.

  • The Kitties Blue do brilliantly with their blog (Did you see Sawyer turned 7 this past week?) Periwinkle and Stinky also caught the judges’ attention. Those two are pure magic and their adventures are always fun to follow.
  • Melissa and Mudpie Melissa submitted a fantastic image of Mudpie. It is just SO gorgeous and a worthy Certificate honoree.
  • Sierra Koester mum to Tylan and Giovanni is the Editor of Purrseverance where Harvey’s story appears. She submitted some lovely cat articles.
  • Beverley Garland of I Love to Draw Cats is an artist whose skills I love. Beverley does breathtaking portraits and is scheduled to do one of our cats. She actually did a New Zealand cat before – check out the video! She is amazing!

Couch Potato Tuxedo

Text and outline of a smartphone.

Sometimes you see images of a cat and they are lounging like a human in a chair. If you are like me, you think these poses not very cat-like or even real but I captured my own couch potato tuxedo today….

Sometimes, these unlikely poses are real as I discovered when Paul called me to look at who was on the sofa. I peeped over and, trying not to giggle, I just had to grab my smartphone.

This is our tuxedo cat Teddy in one of the poses I used to think cats are put in by their owners for a photo opportunity. But, he did this himself!

Couch Potato Tuxedo

TV Dinner Cat

So, I learned something new about cats. They can lounge on their own like a couch potato, with no help from us and they don’t even need a TV dinner! It is your job, as an alert cat photographer on the lookout for an opportunity, to grab the shot and make everyone smile.

This is such a transformation from early thin Teddy, which is a really nice bonus for us. He still jumps at loud noises though, that will take time for him to recover from (and no we are not looking forward to firework night).

Smartphone Photo Tip

Each new iteration of the smartphone (both Android and iOS) takes ever more thrilling cat photographs in low light. So, never be afraid to snap a shot even if you think the light is gloomy. Your ‘phone will prove you wrong so often. If you are not 100% happy there are countless filter treatments to enhance your image, like free app Snapseed.

If you have time you can adjust your format from rectangular or square (if you are sharing on Instagram) but concentrate on the shot. Remember that you can crop an image later if you need to, but seize the moment. Even a slightly fuzzy capture will look great.

Tuxedo Cat Looks Up from a sofa. The couch potato tuxedo.

Active Listening With Cats

Black cat on a pale blue background, looking to our left

We’ve all been there, right? Someone is venting about work stress or one of their cat’s health issues, and our minds wander to ‘Did I get enough kibble?’ But what if we truly listened and focused on what they’re saying?

Let’s find out as Toulouse and Jack guide us through a cat chat and discover how we can all benefit from something called active listening.

What is Attentive Listening?

Active or Attentive listening (both names can be used) is not just stopping for a chat to a friend, it goes deeper and it takes two (or more) people, or as we shall see below, two cats.

It is not just about hearing words, ready to jump in with a comment, as we often do. It’s about giving someone your undivided attention, making eye contact and putting away your smartphone so you can focus.

Portrait mode snapshot of ginger cat
Eye Contact and Attentive Listening

Active listening is more than ‘hearing’ someone’s words. It means fully attuning to the feelings and views of the speaker, demonstrating unbiased acceptance and validation of their experience (Nelson-Jones, 2014). 

Simple Psychology

The Power of Listening

Let’s eavesdrop on a chat between Jack, our senior ginger and Toulouse the rambunctious young tabby. They are friends and I sometimes find them close together for bedtime naps. This is a great active listening example!

  • The Setting: Jack is settled by the window watching a little bird TV. There is fresh seed in the feeder so plenty of feathered visitors to the garden.

Toulouse: (jumps up on the window ledge) Jack. JACK! Did you see Thomas! He just chased down a rat, he had it cornered, it got away, he got it again. It was brilliant to watch!

Jack: (Twitches an ear but remains focused on the bird feeder)

Toulouse: (Sighs dramatically) Honestly Jack, are you ignoring me? This was pure drama and excitement, you should have seen Thomas’s moves! Let me….

Jack: (Finally turns with a patient sigh) Now just a moment young Toulouse. Don’t you lecture me about listening. Who spent half an hour chasing a catnip toy yesterday while I was sharing some critical laser pointer skills I knew you would really like?

Toulouse: (Looks defensive) Catnip Jackl! You want undivided attention when I had a catnip toy?

Jack: (Rolls his eyes) Exactly my point Toulouse! Really listening attentively isn’t just about swivelling your ears every now and again. It’s about understanding the intent behind the words, you see?

Toulouse: (Pauses to think) Hmmmm OK, I think you may have a point there Jack. So, are you saying you want to hear about Thomas’s dramatic rat chase?

Jack: (Turns from the window with an amused look). Perhaps young cat. Now, tell me how did this dramatic rat chase play out?

Toulouse launches into an excited account of the dramatic twists and turns of the chase and capture. Jack listens intently, occasionally offering a comment or asking a question. The conversation continues, a purrfect example of attentive listening (cat style).

Friends Listen Attentively

More Than Just Hearing

So the chat by Toulouse and Jack shows us that active listening isn’t just ‘listening’ with half a cat’s ear. It’s about paying closer attention to what may be happening in a conversation. Toulouse setting aside his catnip mouse to listen properly to Jack would have given him a chance to learn, and to engage fully with his friend’s wise words.

Active Listening Techniques

How to improve active listening skills? Here are some easy to remember tips.

Body Language

As Jack does to Toulouse in their conversation, give the person you are talking to your full attention. Make eye contact with your speaker and avoid fidgeting. Put your ‘phone away and think ‘mirror – not statue’ to show you are fully engaged in the conversation. Yes, this can be hard, Toulouse will confirm that it’s not just a human failing.

A verbal cue is a spoken signal that tells someone what to do next. Just like in a conversation, it’s your turn to speak when you hear your cue!

Verbal Cues

Simply saying short phrases like ‘uh-huh’ or ‘go on’ lets your talker know that you are following the conversation and encouraging them to keep talking. Had we stayed while Jack and Toulouse conversed we might have heard Jack ask ‘and then? or nod at important moments, engaged in Toulouse’s exciting story.

Ask Questions

This can help your conversationalist feel you are engaged and really listening. Ask what are called ‘open’ questions. These are ones that need more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to answer them. They show you are interested and want to understand, just like Jack does with Toulouse.

black and white portrait of a cat. Closeup.
Attention Brings Value to Your Chat

Barriers to Attentive Listening

Listening in an active way can be hard enough. (Toulouse found it very hard not to interrupt at the start of the conversation with Jack!) There are some human faults that might bring you up short when you chat so watch out for these too:

  • Holding judgements. Cats don’t have this issue but humans might. If you respond with criticism you can increase the other person’s defensiveness. and make it difficult for them to express their feelings.
  • Suggesting solutions. This can be really tempting as we want to help but you might discourage someone from coming up with their own solutions to a problem so try to listen carefully.
  • Interrupting. Don’t, until a gap in the conversation arises you can use. I am sure Toulouse was tempted to say ‘but….’ or ‘what if’ at some points in his chat with Jack but he tried hard to be respectful. If you do feel you have interrupted, you can say ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt, go on’ letting the other person continue without feeling awkward.
  • Don’t derail the conversation by mentioning a similar event you encountered. This takes the focus off your speaker and can send a message that they are not as important as you, or your story. This is so common, try to keep still because this is not about you.
Portrait of a tuxedo cat napping in a bed attached to a window.
Relax and Listen

A Rescue Cat Called Sam

Camera outline on a brown background

Flu’ tripped up any chance of new cat photos this week, so I am showcasing a memory of a fine ginger rescue cat called Sam.

The flu’ is taking its time to go but ‘Online No-One Can Hear You Sneeze!” (to paraphrase the movie) and no, I still haven’t seen Alien. Far too scary for me.

Sam was an emergency foster with quite a story behind him and the retelling of his tale won the blog a Cat Writers’ Association Muse® Medallion. I hope it might also make people think long and hard about adopting cute boy kittens.

Sam’s story also taught me that we must never EVER assume anyone adopting a kitten for the first time has a clue about anything. Step up and help with gentle advice, or a friendly suggestion. You could stop another ‘Sam’ from happening.

This weekend is also, in my diary, the Angelversary of dear friend Timmy Tomcat on 23rd of June. Pete Cusack was a valued friend to so many of us, and a support to Dash Kitten.

I took some time and visited Timmy’s Blog today. I spent a happy time browsing posts about selfies, birthdays, memories and the heartfelt passing of friends.

Enjoy your Sunday. Our Southern Hemisphere days will slowly get a little longer now we have past our shortest and your longest day (if you are in the Northern Hemisphere). The cats are looking forward to more garden time already!

Mono Awards Cat Photo Submission

Brown banner with faint image of a cat

Today’s selfie is of Miranda our arrow attack survivor. I am really pleased with it.

I am excited to be submitting Miranda’s image to the Mono Photography Awards for 2024! As an amateur, my submission ($17) costs much less than professional photographers. Professionals must gain half their annual income to be considered the level above ‘amateur’ and the competition is fierce.

I try to submit an image each year to the Monos when the ‘early bird pricing’ in active (ends July 7th) but as the winning images are not announced until January 2025 I won’t be holding my breath!

I received a Mono Awards Commended Certificate in 2020 for my portrait of Chenzou which was a big thrill. If I can do it, maybe you can take a look at your images and see if one of them is submission worthy. Seriously, this isn’t about perfection, it is about a special one-off image that might capture the judges attention.

“We are open to all points of view, all levels of expertise, and all ideas of black and white photography.

Mono Awards

Take a look at the Awards statement. It mentions all levels of expertise, that means if your cat photo is a little bit special (in black and white) you can enter. You do not need to be an expert. If you look at the ‘Professional’ category you will see how astonishing high level photographers can be.

A Cute Silver Tabby Portrait

Text and outline of a camera

Today’s showcase is a lovely cute silver tabby from Neko Ngeru Cat Cafe in Lower Hutt.

The cafe is thriving and is becoming a positive and fun meeting place with regular adoptions of their sweet and fun rescues. The cafe has proved so successful that they now have two evening openings so working folks can enjoy some feline downtime without waiting for the weekend.

silver tabby cat

This is Alfie. He has a specific need.

Don’t worry, it’s NOT medical – he simply needs a playmate for company. A single cat household would not be beneficial to him. He is a bit tentative but the cafe knows that trust and patience will make his personality shine as he is comfortable around people at the cafe.

silver tabby cat

“I have been in the café for a while. I’m taking my time to find a new home because I have a condition. I need a play mate in the same house. I still do not trust humans 100%.

Neko Ngeru FB
silver tabby cat

iPhone Portrait Mode with Black Cat

Text and outline of a smartphone.

Sometimes I just have time to grab my iPhone as my camera is too far away for me to plan and grab a shot, so, when I discovered ‘portrait’ mode for cat photography I knew I had found something you really need to try.

This portrait of Taz is a real success. You will have no trouble taking a shot like this. The ambient light is bright and it lights up his fur’s highlights (important with a black cat).

I did not make any adjustments to my smartphone before I took this photo. But, if it had been sunnier or a bit too later in the day, I might have considered changing the exposure a little bit.

  • Always remember – light is the cat photographer’s best friend
black cat sat on a rug draped on a bannister

Smartphones have a better ability to cope with lower light than you think. You can try a cat photo when the light is not perfect because you have nothing to lose and may end up with a cool photo like Taz. Not sure of the light? Still try the shot.

Smartphone Exposure

Your smartphone will have an option to change it’s exposure. You can usually navigate to the exposure settings from your camera screen but, if you are not sure, check the company’s website. This will have all the basic information you need. You can also use an app like Snapseed to add a gentle touch of extra light.

Most iPhone cameras have a series of options specifically meant to change your cat portrait in different ways. Some are subtle, others add more drama. I admit that I have never used High Key Light Mono sucessfully, but if you have let me know.

iPhone Portrait Options

  1. Natural Light Nos. 1 – 3 are ways to make slight/subtle adjustments.
  2. Studio Light
  3. Contour Light
  4. Stage Light – isolates your subject with a dark background
  5. Stage Light Mono – same but black and white
  6. High Key Light Mono – increases overexposure

‘Not A Cat’ use of Portrait Mode

The ‘Stage Light’ option under iPhone Portrait mode darkens the area around your subject dramatically. It works like a spotlight, lighting a performer and surrounding them with darkness on a theatre stage.

For a change, I wanted to show you the option used on something other than a cat as I was really pleased with the results I got here.

This lamp is similar to the salt lamps you can find, although the ‘stones’ here are rough glass and there is a bright LED bulb inside which radiates no heat at all (the lamp is really heavy even though it is quite small).

Glowing lamp with white and wlue stones resting in a doily surrounded by darkness

The lamp seemed a fantastic subject to try Portrait mode ‘Stage Light’ on. What do you think?

Remember that your smartphone is getting better all the time. So, much as you might love your DSLR/mirrorless camera or compact camera, don’t be afraid to explore with your smartphone too!

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