When cats beget creativity.

Text and Photos by Stef dela Cruz, MD

Once in a while, inspiration comes in the form of a cat.More times than I can count, an idea pops into my head whenever my regally grumpy black cat, Merlin, slowly crawls on top of my laptop in that adorably needy, I-don’t-care-if-you’re-typing way he has. The more he demands attention while I’m busy, the more I get inspired to work.Perhaps the surge of affection I feel for him leads to a burst of creativity. Or maybe, unconditional love brings inspiration.

Lucky Charms

I have always believed that Merlin is not only my source of inspiration, but also my lucky charm. Of course, not everybody concurs, what with him being of a color much dreaded by the superstitious.

“Black cats bring you bad fortune,” they might say, but I beg to disagree. I believe that any cat, regardless of color, can be a positive influence in our lives.Christine Tomajin, whose art is quite obviously inspired by cats, is of the same mind. “Some people don’t believe in luck, including me [in the past]. But I do now. It’s hard to resist a wonderful thing if it’s already staring you in the face. I believe my cats [bring] me luck and success, art-wise.”

Christine has seven cats, five of which are rescues. Because of her fondness for cats, she has decided to commission a few of her cat illustrations to help fund different animal welfare organizations. “My cats’ unconditional love inspired me to do more and pay it forward.”

Aside from her desire to help felines, she also wants her work to touch other people’s lives. “[I want] to inspire [someone] enough that it would make him pick up a pen and draw.”With pictures of her work posted online, people soon started to notice her talent. It was just a matter of time before the inevitable happened: Miao Cat Café, a coffee shop in Quezon City where people can enjoy their food while also relishing the purrs and meows of feline residents, asked Christine to doodle on their walls.“[The owners] requested…me since they knew I was into cats. [At first], I had to think about it.

I had never painted a colored mural before.”Eventually, she said yes. Her cat mural—the first she has ever painted—is now a favorite highlight of the café.“I took a big leap and I am glad I did. The mural turned out pretty well. The main owners of the café were into rescuing cats as well so that added to the inspiration.”This month, Christine will start selling her artwork at facebook.com/tintacity. Most of them will be zentangle illustrations, the proceeds of which will be forwarded to several animal welfare organizations.

Touched by an Angel

Twenty-four-year-old Arrah Miranda, who molds clay into cat trinkets, draws inspiration from a black kitten named Toshi.“I was supposed to adopt a different black cat, but the owners of Pet Meow Hotel had something else in mind for me. They introduced this kitty to me. I thought, ‘He’s a black cat with yellow eyes: one of my dream cats.’ I didn’t hesitate.”Arrah felt fortunate to be Toshi’s fur-mom. “He had the sweetest meows and purrs I’ve ever heard. He was the first cat in the household who loved belly rubs. He never bit or scratched me.”After having spent three months in Arrah’s company, Toshi started getting sick.

He was soon diagnosed with a respiratory disease and had to stay at a clinic in Laguna.While still at work, Arrah received a phone call bearing bad news. “He died at the vet’s. My mom had to fetch his body. She told me he was still warm and he smelled like flowers.”Stuck at work miles away from home, Arrah could not join Toshi, even during his last moments. She had no choice but to watch his burial via a video. Toshi earned his angel wings in May before he was six months old. He was too sweet, too young, and too loved.

 

Forever touched by Toshi, Arrah now makes cat magnets, earrings, and key chains out of clay, which are bestsellers among cat owners. She wants to make clay cat art for people who want to memorialize their fur-kids, especially those who have already crossed the rainbow bridge.Her most memorable customer is the ‘hooman’ of Saab, a black kitten who reminds her of her very own Toshi. (Saab, who passed away after battling feline infectious peritonitis, was featured in Animal Scene’s June issue.)

Arrah showcases her clay art at facebook.com/pawlymeow. She can customize charms based on the markings of a purrent’s cat. Part of the money she gets goes to animal advocacies.“Half of my commission in September goes to the Bustos cats,” Arrah shares. So-named because they hail from Bustos, Bulacan, these cats—thirteen in number—were left behind after their humans migrated to Cebu. Of the twelve captured by rescuers, eleven are alive and still hoping to find their furever-home.

Inspired and Converted

Cha Laxamana, whose doodles are also inspired by felines, has a confession to make: she used to be cat-averse! “I only got to interact with cats when I started volunteering for an animal welfare organization in 2008. I was a dog person and knew nothing about cats; in fact, I was scared of them!“A lot of work needed to be done with the cats so I ended up volunteering to care for them. I then fostered the cats and fell in love with them.”After watching movies depicting cats as villains when she was young, she had no reason to like them. However, there was something about cats that fascinated her.

“I’ve always liked a cat’s form, so I drew them a lot even as a kid. They look so graceful and agile. A lot of people say horses are the best subjects for grace and agility but I’ve always associated those two [traits] with cats.”Six years after becoming a happy cat slave, Cha started posting her cat doodles online. “A friend saw my doodle on Facebook and asked me to make her a large piece, so I did. I got another request from someone who saw what I made for my friend. I started making art for sale to see if anyone would buy them and they did!”

She considers her “first-born” cat, Logan, as her main inspiration. “All of my friends know who my favorite cat is, even though I try not to have favorites!”Logan was rescued when he was about two weeks old. He and two siblings were found in a plastic bag at the gates of the animal shelter where Cha volunteered.“The shelter was full and they needed bottle feeding. As green as I was then, I took them in. His brothers were adopted by a good family, but I kept Logan!”This month, Cha will make an illustration of Phoenix, a cat who was burned alive and dumped in the trash bin. Surviving on her own for a week, she was finally rescued.News traveled fast. Soon, the whole world heard about Phoenix.

Touched by her will to live, people from different countries rooted for her. However, she eventually bid farewell, crossing the rainbow bridge after one more week of fighting for her life.By making a piece on Phoenix, Cha hopes to help with the Phoenix Fund of the Philippine Animal Rescue Team. The Phoenix Fund gives hope to other abused and rescued animals, in memory of the cat who inspired it all.Cha will post her artwork of Phoenix at facebook.com/inkycatsandco.

Has your cat ever inspired you to be creative? Share your story, together with a photo of your cat, on Instagram! Tag me, @StefdelaCruzMD, and use the hashtag #FTWanimalscene.

About the cat slave:Stef dela Cruz, M.D. is a blogger-columnist. She was conferred the 2013 Health Media Recognition by the Department of Health. She is the proud human of a cat and a dog, both of whom she treats not as pets, but as family. Connect with her on www.stefdelacruz.com or via Twitter and Instagram (@StefdelaCruzMD).

This appeared in Animal Scene’s November 2015 issue.