Black Cat Appreciation Day


Black Cat Appreciation Day was August 17. While we should be thankful for all our feline companions, cats born with a black coat can have a more difficult life.

For some reason, black cats are the hardest to place with people looking to add a new family member to their home. No one is sure why that is, but it seems to be true in shelters across the country. Perhaps their coats aren’t perceived as pretty as other colors. They don’t stand out as well in their shelter enclosures or online photos in comparison to their more colorful peers. Maybe their ebony fur combined with cats’ natural sneaky nature make them unappealing. Is it because of superstition, such as not allowing one to cross your path? Black cats became synonymous with witches during the Salem Witch Trials in America, with some people believing that the malevolent ladies can take this animal form to move from place to place unnoticed.

Not all countries have an aversion to black cats. They are considered good luck in places such as Italy, Great Britain, Russia and Japan. The Egyptians idolized all cats, and harming one was a serious infraction.

Max - Security at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast

Max – Security at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast

Did you know that black cats are often the friendliest cats? Maybe they are grateful to be received into a loving home. Orange colored male cats are also said to be friendly, although my Tiger is an exception. I love him, but he is a bit of a jerk, in particular when it’s near feeding time. I adopted him from the shelter and I know he is grateful in his own way.

Many kitties born the darkest color can be found in shelters and rescues across the country waiting for pet parents to give them a good home. Some adoption centers will run specials on black cats, either reducing their adoption fee or eliminating it. If you’re interested in adding a black cat to your home, be sure it’s not right before Halloween. Many shelters and rescues will not adopt a black cat out at that time due to fear. There are some disturbed people that don’t have these cats’ best interests in mind, and to protect them, shelter workers will not allow them to be adopted at this time. It’s the best solution for everyone involved.

I have always wanted a black cat, an onyx colored friend I could give a fun name related to my favorite holiday, Halloween. Most of the cats who have come into my life have been tabbies, with a tortoiseshell and dilute calico in the mix. I have never been owned by a solid colored cat, but that’s just how it worked out. I wouldn’t resist a homeless kitty based on coat color. If you’re not considering adopting a black cat, you may be missing out on a best friend. Just as humans promote the black cat with an appreciation day, black cats appreciate the chance to be placed in a loving home. Please don’t overlook them when considering a new companion for your family.


To Annie, with Love

She wasn’t the cutest kitten I’ve ever seen. In fact, she was quite plain. It was when a little brown tabby ran across the floor did I realize my fiancé had no idea what I meant by a calico cat. I expressed interest in a male calico which I found out doesn’t exist. All calicos are female and I wanted a male, so I got neither. What I got was a female brown tabby.

Annie - 1998

Annie – 1998

It was 1998 when we moved into our apartment. We knew animals were prohibited in our lease, but I couldn’t stand being without a pet. My cat Mitzi stayed with my parents and I missed her. My fiancé and I agreed to get a cat with the caveat that if it were discovered and posed a problem, we would move (cat included) to more animal-friendly lodgings.

How would we acquire a kitten? I wanted to adopt, but that would require telling a falsehood on the application, something I didn’t want to do. Our landlord had a no-pet clause in the lease and there was no way around that.

My fiancé was quite pleased with himself, as he never had a cat before. Someone he knew from work’s cat had a litter of kittens. When he went to see them, there was only one left. If he didn’t take her for free, they would have kept her, but she would have been an indoor/outdoor cat in Philadelphia. That thought is alarming. We keep our cats strictly inside. Not wanting that to happen, my husband-to-be brought home the little brown ball.

She was cute for a brown cat, but not what I had in mind. We named her Annie, but we had no way of knowing that would be short for Annie Christ, a moniker later given to her by my brother.

We had her vetted to discover that she had ear mites. Have you ever given ear drops to a mountain lion? I think administering them to a feisty, biting, clawing kitten is a close second. We could have used falconer’s gloves for the task, she was such a bad patient.

Finally mite free, Annie was spayed and declawed. (Did you know that declawing is akin to amputating up to and including the first joint of human fingers? It’s a surgery we no longer put our cats through).

Annie enjoyed biting our ankles, hiding inside our recliner, and stealing food. She ate strawberry shortcake, Doritos, and once made off with a ham slice as big as her body. You would think we never fed her, but she enjoyed her cat food, weighing 14 pounds in her heyday.

Any paranoia we had about her discovery was unfounded. The no-pet policy was more of a suggestion. It turned out that many people in the complex had cats, management included. As long as kitty wasn’t seen, heard, or smelled, a blind eye was turned to the animal.

Annie was with us the three years we lived there, even tagging along with us to my parents’ house for a long 4th of July weekend when our air conditioner broke, leaving our upstairs unit sweltering. Annie repaid her grandparents’ kindness by peeing on their bathroom floor. I think they were glad to see us go.

Our girl was the last and most precious item we moved from the apartment to our house. Annie is the original grumpy cat. Not only does she look miserable, she is miserable. She cares for us in her own way, but she was never warm and fuzzy. You can pet her for about two seconds before she tries to bite you. We say we coexist and feed her to keep her from killing us in our sleep.

We have been in our house 15 years and during that time Annie hasn’t exactly welcomed 2 dogs and 3 more cats. She tolerates them, but that’s about it. The others know she is the boss, even the cats with claws are afraid of her. If it’s true that only the good die young, she should live forever, and I hope she does. I love you, Annie.

Annie - 2015

Annie – 2015

Two Little Pigs

As long as I am physically able to care for them, I think I will always have pocket pets. I currently have a French Lop bunny named Rambo, and in the last two weeks I have acquired two guinea pigs (also known as cavies).

Piggies make fun pets. I was first introduced to them by way of my third grade classroom pet. A brown Abyssinian pig, Whiskers was well loved by everyone. Abyssinians have rosettes all over their bodies, giving them a perpetual bad hair day. I brought him home over summer breaks until one day my teacher said I could keep him. I was thrilled. Whiskers lived to age eight, which is geriatric for a guinea pig.

An example of an Abyssinian

An example of an Abyssinian

At some point after Whiskers passed, I acquired a pig named Lucy. She was a sweet piggy, and one day I discovered another piggy mysteriously appeared in her cage. The baby was a female, so we kept her and named her Suzy.

The sad fact about guinea pigs is that they don’t live long, the average life span is around four years old. That’s why I gave up on guinea pigs and switched to rabbits. Bunnies can live upwards of 10 years, which is far less depressing.

I had two piggies recently, both passing before last Christmas. My last guinea pig Bob lived to four, and I miss him. He lived in our basement and would greet me whenever I went downstairs. Guinea pigs are cute, friendly, and entertaining. They make some interesting sounds compared to silent bunnies. My guys already know the sound of the rustling of the plastic bag containing their parsley.

Cavies are social animals who do best in pairs. Meet Bert and Ernie, our cute little brothers. They are best friends, they snuggle together and enjoy each other’s company. Welcome to our zoo, kids!


Bert and Ernie

Spotlight on Marie Gilbert


I recently had the pleasure of interviewing South Jersey author Marie Gilbert. A steampunk and zombie enthusiast, Marie has written a book called Roof Oasis.

 Loretta:  You have a blog with quite a following. How did you get started blogging?

 Marie:  While working at the Academy of Natural Sciences, I had never blogged, but I was following blogs. After I joined the South Jersey Writers’ Group, Amy Hollinger, president of the group, and Krista Magrowski, vice president of the group had suggested that I put all my funny family stories on a blog. Amy helped me set it up and over time, Glenn Walker, helped me maneuver my way through all the blog functions on  I began to write about my road trips with family and friends, about attending Steampunk events, and of course, my ghost investigations.

I learned through the comments that were posted on my blog that people were very interested in what I was doing on these weekly adventures. I had people following me from England, China and Canada following some of my blogs depending on what my posts covered in that particular blog.

When I began to blog about my becoming a member of the Zombie Squad, I think I really hit on something that was important to people; zombies and survival. I noticed that the posts where I talked about my love for Steampunk and ghost investigations brought in the most visitors to my site. But, it wasn’t until I began my weekly episodes of Life with Fred & Lucy that the number of followers to my site grew the most. I try to do a bit of everything on my blog including interviews of local entrepreneurs and Independent Film directors, producers and actors. I love interviewing people. You can learn so much about a person and their dreams by just asking, “Tell me a little bit about you and what you do.”

I have made many good friends over the years through my blogs and I hope to make many more.

 Loretta: Your many interests include steampunk and zombies. How did that come about?

 Marie: My love of Steampunk was due to my granddaughter Allie Gilbert. She was attending Moore College of Art and Design at the same time that I was working at the Academy of Natural Sciences. One day after work, she asked me to accompany her to a big event in Center City. She dressed me up in one of her Victorian outfits and off we went to Dorian’s Parlor with me looking like Jane Eyre. It was love at first sight. I loved the people, the outfits, the entertainment that Dorian’s offered and I was hooked. This blog post for Biff Bam Pop, explains it best.


As for zombies, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the shuffling dead ever since I watched “Night of the Living Dead” at a drive-in theatre in 1968. I, the lover of everything horror, was hooked. Scared to death, but hooked into learning everything I could about the walking dead. I posted how I became a member of the Zombie Squad for Biff Bam Pop  and this leads to your next question.

 Loretta:  What inspired you to write Roof Oasis?

Marie:  Roof Oasis happened because of events that were and or going on now. I mentioned this on Kevin’s interview but I’ll share it here, too. There are things being put in our food and no one is stopping this. We don’t know the long term damages that hormones, antibiotics and the use of GMO’s have on us. There is an old saying, “You are what you eat.” I believe in this. We are only as healthy as the food we eat.  What also bothered me was how easily people are willing to let others think for them. They believe what the news tells them even when they know it’s a lie. We should do our own investigation of stories to make sure we’re not being fed an unhealthy dose of bullshit. Excuse my language. So that was my mind set a few months after retiring. I began working on and completed a novel called Beware the Harvesters, but something happened on the way to getting this novel published. The secondary characters began to take over the story, fighting for their rightful place in my imagination and on the page. Roof Oasis was my way of satisfying one of my character’s demands to tell her story her way. Alas, this character still holds reign over my story. Book two of my apocalyptic series, Saving Solanda, will be out this summer, followed by two more books.

 Loretta: What can we look forward to from Marie Gilbert in the future?

Marie:  What are my plans for the future? Well, I’ve been sending NASA notes telling them that I would like to volunteer for the first manned mission to mars, but they haven’t replied as of yet. I hope to have book two of the Roof Oasis series done this summer. My editor, Patti O’Brien loved the first part that I had sent her. I’ll be working on book three after Saving Solanda is published. I have my Life with Fred & Lucy that I hope to also get published the next year. Right now, I’m doing something brand new and that is screen writing. I was asked by an Independent Film Director, Christopher Eilenstine, to be one of his writers for a new film called Shadows of the Forest. You can find the information here:

I’m also looking forward to doing more private ghost investigations, so if anyone out there thinks they have a ghost, contact me.

Marie 2

First and most important, I’m a grandmother to nine talented and amazing grandchildren. I want to spend my life taking them on all kinds of adventures. I’m very proud of all of them and I’d like to think I’ve influenced them somewhat. My advice to them has always been: think outside the box, live your dream, be a person of honor, and last but most important, don’t ever let anyone clip your wings. I guess this advice would also be useful for any upcoming authors out there.

 Loretta: Thank you, Marie, for taking the time to chat.

You can follow Marie’s adventures on her blog Gilbert Curiosities

For more interviews with Marie Gilbert, please see:

Marvelous Marie Gilbert by Dawn Byrne

In the Hot Seat:  Marie Gilbert by Kevin Stephany

Rabbit in the Hat

We lost our last bunny right before Easter this year, a Flemish Giant named Jack.  Looking to add another to our home, I incorrectly assumed that our county shelter would have a surplus of rabbits after the holiday.  Instead I reconnected with someone I had gotten a bunny from in the past, a local magician who raises French Lops for his shows.  My previous French Lop, Cleo, was one of the best rabbits I ever had the privilege to love.

On June 22 we brought home a two month old fawn Frenchie male.  His parents were huge in size, and anticipating that our little guy may grow as big, we named him Rambo.  His mother, Winnie, looked just like our Cleo, only a larger version, but the same chinchilla color.  Rambo’s father, Joe, was equally huge, with broken fawn colored fur.

Rambo is relatively small for now, but his body will eventually catch up to his large ears.  It won’t be long before he is big enough to fill a magician’s top hat.Image