Hey there! This is going to be a kitty post…My cellphone is full of photos of my cats (though there are a million of ’em!), so today I thought I’d share some recent ones, since I have nothing much to report… Here goes! 🙂

My Piccolo

Stefano likes to keep a note of anniversaries, birthdays, and other important events, but sometimes I would really prefer not to be reminded of certain dates. This morning, for example, as I was checking my phone calendar, which I share with Stefano, I saw that six years ago today we had Piccolo, our extraordinary and much beloved 14-year-old male cat, put to sleep.

It hit me…tears…grief…

No matter how much time goes by, it is still hard…

But no, I don’t want to remember the period around Piccolo’s death, or, even less, the terrible day he died, one of the worst in my life.  I want to remember him when he was well, happy, with us (almost all his life).

Piccolo…how funny and smart and loving he was (I have written a bunch of posts about him, incidentally). And sometimes I look at what one of our cats is doing and think “Hey, Piccolo used to do that,” and it really makes me smile. There is a bit of Piccolo in all of them, especially Pandora…

My Piccolo

Here is a photo of him…not a great one, but it will have to do…taken in the days before I got a decent cellphone, methinks…

I miss you, my sweet boy…you gave me so much joy…

I’ll focus on that today…amore mio.

Just a cute cat photo

One afternoon last week Prezzemolo and I were lying in bed, watching a TV series. Okay, okay, truth be told, he wasn’t that interested in the series. He was fast asleep, snuggled up right next to me.

At one point I must have moved and woken him up. He looked up at me reprovingly and then started yawning. I was quick enough to catch almost the entire sequence on my cellphone.

This is one of my best shots.

How about that long tongue???? 😀 

Almost spitting images

One of my best friends here in Florence gave me a lovely present the other day. It was supposed to be a Xmas present, but my friend was so excited and eager to see my reaction that she couldn’t wait until December.

She had ordered two small, woolen versions of Pixie and Pandora (my 14-month-old sisters) from an Italian woman who specializes in the needle felting technique, which I believe originated in Japan and is quite ancient.

My friend didn’t have any up-to-date photos of the two sisters, so, while we were away in Matera, she asked our cat sitter to be her accomplice…Photos were taken and sent off to the artist.

And here’s the result. A few days ago, when I pulled the two small kitties from the box, I recognized Pixie and Pandora immediately (even though the orange is a bit too bright) and got a bit teary…Such a sweet present!!!

Quite realistic, I’d say…but not TOO realistic, which I would have found way too freaky!

Of course, Stefano and I now want mini versions of ALL of our cats, so I’ve contacted this young woman and have placed an order…Top of my list: two mini versions of our beloved Piccolo and Puzzola, as hard as it’s going to be to open THAT particular box…eh.

Anyway, aren’t they wonderful? Yes, these are terrible photos, I know, but I had to be really QUICK…Both kitties were interested not just in harmlessly smelling their alter egos but in pulling at the wool, as you can see Pandora doing in the second photo…The mini kitties are now in a super safe place where they can be seen but not reached (and destroyed) by the cats. 🙂 


This morning one of my best friends and I took Pandora and Pixie (my two 8.5 month old kittens) to the vet clinic for a pre-spaying check-up to make sure they are healthy enough for surgery…heart, lungs, etc.

Pixie was fine. But when Pandora’s turn came, I related this incident to the anesthesiologist: one day, not too long ago, Pixie (probably in heat) was zooming like a maniac around the house, with Pandora right behind her.  After a few minutes, Pandora threw herself down on the carpet, panting like a dog, with her tongue out. Pixie was resting, too, but normally (no panting, i.e.).

I’d never seen a cat PANT like that, so, worried, I picked her up and tried to calm her down. But when Pixie jumped up and took off again, Pandora struggled to get free. I let her go.

Based on this story, the anesthesiologist said she’d like to do an X-ray to see if Pandora might have asthma. Or…whatever. I agreed, of course.

Turns out that her lungs are fine, but the vets did see something on the x-ray that made them want to do an echocardiogram. I’m taking Pandora to the vets on Thursday to have that test done and to speak with the cardiologist.

One thing the anesthesiologist told me is that Pandora has a bigger-than-normal heart. Not sure what that means. Need to do some research…Anyway, I’ll find out on Thursday…

Then, on Monday, presuming all goes well (with the test results, I mean), Pandora and Pixie will be spayed, and I’ll be super relieved since they are making the other cats (all spayed and neutered) very JUMPY these days…

It’s time.

These are some photos I took during the check-up…The first two show Pixie being examined by the anesthesiologist, with Pandora in the background. Then it’s the post-visit relief/exhaustion before going home…Note: they’re in my beloved Piccolo’s carrier…

Incidentally, everyone at the clinic stopped what they were doing to come over and admire my babies. And, well, I have to admit that they are both…simply irresistible! 🙂

“Il gatto non è mica morto!!!”

I dedicate this post to my bestie, to my wonderful life companion…to a normally VERY sensitive guy…  😉 

On Saturday evening Stefano insisted that we watch a 2016 movie called “A street cat named Bob,” based on the true-life story of a homeless man/former heroin addict whose life was completely turned around after he encountered a stray cat named…Bob.

I didn’t know much about this story, so, during a rather difficult part, I turned to Stefano and declared, “that cat had better NOT DIE at the end of this movie!!!”

He reassured me that the cat wasn’t going to die…

Well, of course (if you’ve seen the movie, you will understand…I think!), toward the end I got all emotional and teary-eyed…I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s the story of a wonderful super cat, but: cat gets lost…human companion is desperate…days go by…cat finally finds his way home…happy ending…

I mean, tears were an absolute MUST. From my perspective, at any rate.

As the closing credits were rolling, showing photos of the real Bob and his human companion, Stefano turned to me, saw my tears, and exclaimed, “well, what are you crying for? The cat DIDN’T DIE!!!” (in Italian: “Ma perchĂŠ piangi? Il gatto non è mica morto!!!”).

Men!!! They just don’t get it… 🙂

Anyway, if you love cats, you will love this movie…highly recommended…

Blindness and laser therapy

We spent almost the entire day Thursday at the vet clinic with Piccolo, our (now) eldest cat. He was recently (last month) diagnosed with spondyloarthrosis, a joint disease of the vertebral column. It’s a very painful, degenerative condition…

Thanks to my research online, however, for the past two weeks he has been having laser therapy at the vet clinic, three times a week. These sessions have proven to be extremely beneficial: he’s no longer in pain, which means he’s able to walk around the house, stairs included.

I’ve also been giving him a daily dose of cortisone and, until a couple of days ago (when all hell broke loose, as you will read below), a bit of curcumin, the same C3 Complex that I take, mixed in with his food. I will resume the curcumin this evening, now that things have settled down a bit…

Okay, so here’s what happened: about a week ago, perhaps a bit longer (it seems like a century ago to me!), I noticed that he didn’t seem to be able to focus on anything. He wouldn’t look into my eyes, for example, not even when I was at eye level. In short, he didn’t seem all there. In the beginning, I thought it might be because of the pain from his spondylosis…but when this “space cadet” condition persisted, I asked the vets to check his eyesight.

A few days ago the vet ophthalmologist confirmed my suspicions, unfortunately: Piccolo is completely blind in one eye, his right one, and almost completely blind in his left eye; he sees just enough to avoid obstacles.

But that isn’t it. The following occurred just a few nights ago, Wednesday night to be precise: Piccolo began walking in circles. Stefano and I knew something was terribly wrong, so we took him to the vet clinic first thing in the morning. Our vet did a few tests and confirmed that it must have been caused by some sort of neurological problem and set up a CAT scan for the following afternoon.

The good news is that the scan was negative for brain tumors or anything life-threatening. In fact, the vets found very little that would explain Piccolo’s sudden (and almost complete) blindness. They suspect it was caused by something like a TIA or mild stroke that might heal a bit in time, and that is definitely good news, of course. Since there is really nothing wrong with his eyes, nothing that would explain the blindness, according to the ophthalmologist, it is in fact possible that some day he might be able to regain a bit of his sight. Or not.

His blood tests have also improved since July. Definitely good news, there.

An aside: we spent so much time in the vet clinic on Thursday (eye tests and blood tests in the morning, and then the CAT scan and his laser therapy in the afternoon/evening) that we came to know some of the furry or feathery patients…and their humans, too, of course.

And some of the stories we heard on Thursday made me realize that, in spite of these difficult furry times, we have been very, indeed VERY lucky. Unlike other folks, in fact, we’ve never really had to deal with any major health problems with our cats until recently. Well, come to think of it, there have been a couple of things in the past (mainly with Piccolo, as it were), but we managed to get past them without too much heartbreak.

Anyway, case in point: on Thursday afternoon, at one point, a distraught young man came out of one of the examining rooms holding his adorable 11-month-old kitty. I heard him utter the words “chemo…useless…transfusions haven’t worked…” After he’d left, we learned that this poor little kitty had a fulminating type of cancer (blood cancer, I daresay) with a dire prognosis. The kitty had already had three blood transfusions…I forget now if she’d had some chemo, too, but at any rate, nothing had worked. But since she was still so young and alert, and in fact she looked just fine to me, poor dear, her human had made the decision not to have her euthanized. He took her home…to die. I asked the clinic’s secretary if the kitty would suffer. She said, no, that wouldn’t happen.

So sad…

Unlike this young man, at least we’ve had many happy years with our beloved cats. No cancer, no horrible deaths at a young age, blablabla. And, as I said, Piccolo, who is now more than 14 years old, will probably get a bit better, in time, with curcumin, cortisone, and a specific brain neuron-healing product that contains, among other things, fish oil and resveratrol…eh.

I’d like to end my post with a positive note. Early this morning I woke up and found all the cats on alert because of a thunderstorm. Piccolo was restless and wandering around, too.  Well, to my surprise, he walked up to me, resting his head against my leg, for the first time in days and then followed me around as I checked the windows to make sure it wasn’t raining in. I reached down to pet him and then spent several minutes rubbing and scratching him…He didn’t purr (he hasn’t purred for days, unfortunately), but he seemed content enough. And that is when I began feeling that we’d turned a corner. Finally.

He also slept a lot today, for the first time since we brought him home on Thursday evening.

One last, obvious thing: the world is full of blind cats, and Piccolo is not even completely blind. So I’m sure he will figure it out, and we will do our best to help him.

Everything is going to be fine…

More on healthful purring

A blog reader (thank you soooo soooo much!) translated the cat-relevant part of the 2003 Swedish study, Purr as a cat–and avoid osteoporosis, which I mentioned in my recent cat purring/bone healing post. Fabulous! So today I am going to post a quick update containing most of his translation. I have highlighted (in bold) a few of the more important, in my opinion, passages:


WHY do cats have such strong bones and so rarely bone defects and fractures compared with dogs? According to new evidence and theories, it is their purring which seems to be healing and strengthening for bone tissue. Purring provides vibrations which stimulate bone cells.


The cat achieves its purring via nerve pulses to the musculature of the throat and abdomen, according to A. L. Lyons, veterinarian at the University of California, Davis. In doing so, it sets an elastic sinew, between the clavicle and the windpipe, in vibration. The sinew vibrates at both inhalation and exhalation of the domestic cats according to a fixed pattern and frequency. Variations in frequency range between 25-150 hertz, and cats can vary the strength of their purr. Among big cats, however, the vibrations are limited to exhalation. The frequency range is especially interesting because it corresponds well with the frequencies that researchers in animal experiments have found can stimulate bone density and the healing of fractures.


Cats are hunters and strongly dependent on speed and strength of muscles and skeleton.  The cheetah, the fastest land animal on Earth, creeps up slowly on its prey and then accelerates lightning-fast to speeds that can approach 100 km per hour, then it strikes down its quarry within about 20 seconds. The final hunting phase rarely lasts more than a minute.


An animal weighing between 40 and 65 kg can make bring down a catch of up to 40 kg. But it eats an average of under 3 kg of meat a day. Therefore, its life on the savannah consists largely of lying still – the greatest risk factor for osteoporosis and muscle atrophy! The small amount of physical activity these quadrupeds normally expose their bones and muscles to in their survival on the savannah is hardly sufficient for them to be in the highest trim.


But purring is a mechanism that requires small amounts of energy and yet can still stimulate muscles and bone to strength and explains the cat’s performance ability despite the low level of exercise [=my Puzzola in this recent photo]. Perhaps it can also provide the background to the proverb that the cat has nine lives, as the purr vibrations should facilitate the healing of fractures and other tissue damage in reference to what has been shown in animal experiments in the laboratory environment.


Obviously, it is tempting to argue that cats purr for them to feel satisfied, but it’s more likely that their purring is partly a way for them to communicate and that it is also a potential source of self-healing and strengthening of the muscles and skeleton.


[…] Maria Sääf at the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, who has long studied the issues surrounding osteoporosis, […] was very enthusiastic about the possibility that vibration could also be beneficial for people with osteoporosis. A couple of pieces fell into place when she told me how vibrations are already being used in sports medicine to stimulate healing processes for injured elite athletes and that there is a new prototype machine at a school for children with limited movement which actually works with vibration technology. Her database search gave many hits of studies of the effects of vibrations on bone strength in animal experiments. But unfortunately there was a lack of work with results from human trials.


My reader/Swedish translator told me about a purring 2003 “Scientific American” article. I looked it up: And, while reading it, I remembered that all of my cats purred like mad after they had been “fixed.” At the time, I thought that they were simply happy to be home. How silly of me! Now their purring makes more sense: they were healing themselves, and, in fact, I bet that their purring helped alleviate the pain that they must have been feeling, poor dears.


The SciAm article confirms that purring corresponds to sound frequencies that have been shown to improve bone density and promote healing. And, interestingly, both the Swedish study and the SciAm article discuss the fact that cats do not display as many muscle and bone abnormalities as their more strongly selected carnivore relative, the domestic dog. Perhaps cats’ purring helps alleviate the dysplasia or osteoporotic conditions that are more common in their canid cousins.


So snuggle up to your cat or cats, as I have been doing more and more lately. Let me warn you that snuggling could have unfortunate consequences. You see, now, every time I sit or lie down during the day, Priscilla demands in no uncertain terms to get under my sweater (see photo: so far, this is the best shot I have been able to get of her under my sweatshirt). Ignoring her is not an option. And her insistence can get to be a real drag when I am busily typing or reading. But then I think about my bones and how her purring may prevent future problems for me…

Purring against myeloma

As many of you already know, I adore cats, the most wonderful creatures in the world. I have four cats now, two years apart in age…even though years ago I found out that I am allergic to them (just my luck!!!), which forces me to use a cortisone inhaler once a day. I don’t mind, though, it’s a small price to pay for all the joy they bring to me and Stefano (who is also probably allergic to our darlings, by the way). Our friends think we’re nuts. That may well be true, but at least we are happy nuts.


Well, after what I read this morning, I am beginning to suspect that they might be giving us more than (allergies and) joy…but let me proceed by degrees.


Priscilla, my second youngest, now 3+ years old, is our “wild” cat. I posted her story on my blog a while ago, but, in a nutshell, I found her abandoned as a tiny kitten on our street and saved her from certain death. Even though we have tamed her to some extent, she still hisses and spits and even growls (sometimes) if you try to pick her up. But she also has a very sweet affectionate side, as my parents well know (she worships them). For instance, whenever we lie down, she nestles next to us or on top of us and purrs and purrs and purrs. She loves to get under blankets (see photo). When I am sitting at my desk, she frequently gets into my lap or tries to perch on my shoulder (well, when she was a baby, she fit right on my shoulder, but now she hooks her claws into me to hold on, ouch!). Or she gets under my sweater. That is her favourite place.


Well, I am no longer going to try to discourage her sweater retreat, even though most of my turtlenecks are full of tiny claw-made holes.


The reason. A blog reader (thanks, Sue!) recently left a blog comment with a link to a page about the healing effect of a cat’s purring: An extraordinary read, I must say. So I decided to have a closer look at this purring business today, even though I really should be working on my more serious piece.


We all know that pets in general (not just cats) have a soothing effect on their “owners,” in terms of reducing blood pressure etc. Indeed, some time ago I think I posted about a study in which folks who do not have cats in their lives had a much higher risk, 30-40% as I recall, of dying from heart attacks or strokes compared to cat “owners.”


At any rate, this morning I did a bit of research on PubMed and came across a few scientific studies that discussed the purring/healing phenomenon. But these studies had no abstracts and were a bit dated, so I won’t even bother asking Sherlock to retrieve them for me. However, I would like to highlight the title of a 2003 Swedish study: Purr as a cat—and avoid osteoporosis. Too bad I don’t know a word of Swedish. Still, an intriguing title, no? 


I did find an article in English addressing the issue of bone healing: The author writes that Consistent vibrational sound frequencies of 25-150 Hz, which is the range of a cat’s purr, aid in the healing of bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles, as well as providing pain relief. Cat lovers, please go have a peek at this article.


Another interesting titbit is that cats purr when frightened or injured or giving birth. Ah, in fact, I have noticed that all of my cats (except for Peekaboo, who is fearless), Priscilla in particular, howl but also purr when I take them to the vet. The purring never made sense until now. So, as the author points out, in addition to expressing contentment, purring must be some sort of survival strategy.


And read this: Cats’ bones heal faster and more easily after fractures than those of dogs. Veterinary medicine researchers note that 90% of cats that plummet from extraordinary heights survive despite serious injuries. There is also evidence that cats are less likely to suffer postoperative complications after surgery than dogs. This rapid healing ability may be attributable to purring. Of course, the conditional tense is used here.


Then we read that Dr. Clinton Rubin [for info on Dr. Rubin, check out:, love that turkey photo, hehe] and his colleagues have discovered that sound frequencies of 20-50 Hz can increase bone density. From what I gather (but I could not find the original study), these researchers performed two tests, one on chickens, the other on rabbits. Both chickens and rabbits had stronger bones after exposure to 20-50 Hz, which also stimulated the healing of broken bones as well as the speed of bone regeneration. Healing of broken bones? Increased speed of bone generation? How much is two plus two?


And here is the clincher:


Cats are also less likely to suffer from osteosarcoma, osteoarthritis and myeloma (a tumor of the bone marrow’s plasma cells). Oh boy!


The rest of the article (the effect of purring on pain relief, tendons and muscles, etc.) is interesting, too. This morning I read online that people suffering from migraines get some relief when purring cats are placed next to their heads. Well, well. And hey, it occurs to me that my cats lie next to me or on me whenever I am ill. When I had pleurisy (and almost kicked the bucket), they were with me all the time. Now I know why. And hey, even if this purring business is an old wives’ tale, isn’t it a good one? I, for one, like to believe it’s true.


Well, heck, now I guess I am going to have to learn how to purr, perhaps while sipping a dark hoppy beer. For the moment, though, I will continue to cuddle my little tiger under my sweater as often as she wants.

Qigong moves

Well, Stefano and I are leaving tomorrow (early afternoon) for Northumberland. Ooooh, I am sooooo excited!!! Puffins, here we come!  No Internet until we get back, probably. That will be hard!

Last night Peekaboo entertained us with a series of qigong moves of her own invention. I thought I would share some of the photos I took (when will I learn to take a video with my digital camera???).

First though, a couple of words on the meaning of qigong (which I practice, by the way). 

From Wikipedia:

Qigong (or ch’i kung) refers to a wide variety of traditional “cultivation” practices that involve movement and/or regulated breathing designed to be therapeutic. Qigong is practiced for health maintenance purposes, as a therapeutic intervention, as a medical profession, a spiritual path and/or component of Chinese martial arts.

The ‘qi’ in ‘qigong’ means breath or gas in Chinese, and, by extension, ‘life force’, ‘energy’ or even ‘cosmic breath’. ‘Gong’ means work applied to a discipline or the resultant level of skill, so ‘qigong’ is thus ‘breath work’ or ‘energy work’.

The first (above, left) depicts her meditation pose. Before doing any qigong exercises, she indictates, it is important to relax and meditate for a little while. 

So do some deep abdominal breathing exercises and push the negative energy downwards and away from your body, as she demonstrates with her paws in photo number one.

Then shift slowly to one side, then to the other (see photo number two, above, right) in order to relax your paws…or arms…thereby increasing your life force.

Photo number three (above, left) gives a demonstration of just how far to the side you can go with this particular qigong exercise. By the way, I would not recommend it to those who suffer from sore backs… 

Photo number four (on the right) is Peekaboo’s final move, which provides instant relaxation: 

stand on the tip of your toes, pull your paws/arms up, focus on an invisible adversary, whatever that may be (an evil cancer stem cell, perchance?) and…POUNCE!!!