Animals have always been a part of my life from my earliest memory.  Mom was allergic to cats, so I spent the first 19 years of my life with German Shepherds - her breed of choice - and a great choice it is!  As a result, I still adore dogs - especially LARGE dogs.  However, grande-size dogs and small apartments aren't usually compatible and I've been a small apartment dweller since leaving the family nest (many, many moons ago).  So, despite never having had a cat in my life before, I chose a cat to be my first on-my-own live-in companion.  And there's never been a moment in my life without a cat or two or more sharing my home since! 

    The Orange Cats of 2006   

Catrina, Minnie Pearl, and The Raz

 Mr. Lucky

In July 2004, I adopted from the Howard County Cat Club, a no-kill rescue I am honored to be a Vice President of, a grande-size cat - Mr. Lucky, a four year old 18 pound Maine Coon - and the sweetest, most loving, playful, curious, loyal, funniest cat-guy you'd ever hope to live with!  His is a story right out of a Victorian novel.  He was left in his carrier on the doorstep of a veterinarian's office, with a bag of his cat toys next to it and a little note giving his name and statistics, saying his person had fallen on hard times and couldn't care for him any longer, but PLEASE find him a good home.  The vet assistant who found him contacted her husband, who was a co-worker of mine at the time, and aware of my involvement with the rescue group.  With a lot of great people helping out, we brought him to the cat club's group home - and a few months later, he joined my household - with everyone asking me "what took you so long??"  He has since appointed himself my home office supervisor, though his work ethic involves a lot of breaks to have his ears and chin scratched! Mr. Lucky is also fascinated with the rainbow prisms of light that reflect from the many crystals hanging in our windows when the air vents kick on and send beams of light bouncing over every surface. Even after a couple years now, he still hasn't figured out that he's never going to catch the pretty lights, and continues to chase, leap, and pounce!

The first time we met at the rescue's group home,he was a very scared, traumatized kitty.  There was a thunderstorm, and he was on a high perch in our outdoor enclosure - and too afraid of the other strange cats to come down and get inside out of the rain.  I stayed out there getting soaked with him, petting and talking to him, and a bond was formed then and there.  It was only a matter of time....Fate had spoken. 

While residing in the group home, Mr. Lucky never "spoke".  No meows, nothing.  So when he came home with me and I heard him "speak" for the first time, I thought the poor guy had a speech impediment.  That's when I found out he's a Maine Coon cat, and not simply a long-haired tuxedo guy.  The breed does NOT make the traditional "meow" sound.  It's a voice unique unto the breed, as is the Siamese voice unique unto that breed.  It's a sort of guttural chirp/warble sound - and once Lucky found his voice, he hasn't stopped chatting!  My Big Guy loves to talk!!  I look forward to many, many years of conversations!

View Mr. Lucky's Photo Gallery

 Ms. Melody

The Divine Ms. M entered our lives quite unexpectedly in December 2004. My cat club was asked for assistance in finding her a home from her current people and we posted her to our website and she made a couple appearances at our weekly adoption shows. That's where I met her and what a little sweetheart she was! Her time frame was limited, though - if we couldn't find something SOON, she was destined for a county shelter. Not the worse scenario on the block, but her resume included a history of urinary tract infections, litter box "issues", and "trashing" the house (and she's front-declawed!) making her a less than appealing adoption prospect - translating to a short life expectancy in the county home.

Soooo - I had a human-to-cat talk with Mr. Lucky about fostering her with us - letting her live here and take her to adoption shows until she found the right home. My easy-going guy agreed to give it a try and for my part, I decided to give it a month before I'd start showing her again, to give the little lady time to settle down and be comfortable with us - and to give the three of us time to decide where we wanted this to go. I'd been giving thought anyway to finding a feline friend for my Lucky Guy - he's a sociable fellow and I felt he needed one of his own kind to be friends with. I'd had several prospects in mind from the cat club, but then Melody's situation became critical and took precedence.

Well, it didn't take long for my Big Guy to fall in love with this little lady and make it clear to me that he wanted to keep her! For her part, Ms. Melody made it equally clear that this is where she wanted to call home. There's been no sign of ANY litter box/urinary problems since she's been with us. Mel is a beautiful grey/peach-tinted Torbi with all the wonderful independent tabby traits and a great sense of adventure and playfulness. It's taken time and patience, but she eventually regained her self confidence and trust in her human friends. Ms. Mel enjoys spending time on our balcony and exploring all three levels of our 3rd floor apartment's stairwell. She considers it her "job" to eliminate any flying or crawling insect she encounters on her stairwell strolls and to greet any fellow early risers we might encounter leaving their apartments at 6 a.m.! On the other paw, Mr. Lucky refuses to have any closer contact with the great outdoors than his balcony outings.

View Ms. Melody's Photo Gallery



I feel very blessed to have shared 17 years of my life with this wonderful cat.  Miss Arian passed away in August of 2004 at approximately 20 years of age, after a long bout with renal/kidney failure (all too common in older cats).  A friend, confidante, and companion, she considered it her "job" to look after me.  I never needed an alarm clock - she faithfully woke me up every morning at the same (ridiculously early) hour with sonic meows in my ear that could be heard from the parking lot!  I still miss that meow.  Lucky's working on taking over as "alarm clock" but his method is somewhat different (a paw to the face) and needs some adjustment (no claws buddy!)

Arian and I met along a deserted beach at a resort in St. Michaels, MD in the early spring of 1987.  It was chilly and windy and I think she and I were the only guests there.  Strolling the cold sands, contemplating where I wanted my life to go next, I became aware I had a kitty shadow.  This jet-black cat was following me, stopping when I stopped, moving when I did.  Ever so gradually, she shortened the distance between us and when I finally sat down on the sand to rest, she calmly sat down beside me.  We talked (okay, I talked, she listened - or at least had the good manners to pretend to).  Eventually, I thanked her for the company and started walking back to my room.  She followed and slipped right in when I unlocked the door, jumped right on the bed and proceeded to curl up and go to sleep!  I stayed for two days and nights and she never left my side. We went for walks on the beach during the day and she slept with me every night. No doubt about it - I'd been "chosen"!  Having called the resort's front desk shortly after she decided to enter my room to see if anyone was missing their cat, I was informed she'd been hanging out around there for a year or two and the restaurant staff had been feeding her scraps. 

Okay, time to pack up the car and return to Reality.  When I opened the back door of the car, Arian jumped right in the backseat, curled up, and blinked up at me with gorgeous green eyes as if to say "okay, let's go home now".  I was already living with two cats at the time, one who was ill, but there was no denying that this cat was meant to be with me - and for a very long time.  In her latter years, Miss Ari developed some pretty exotic tastes - Brie cheese (but ONLY if served from my finger), smoked kippers, and pizza crust (no pepperonis, thank you)! 

Arian left this world a month and a half after Lucky joined our household.  Much to my surprise, she accepted him easily, despite having had only one cat companion before in her life - Scorpio, who passed unexpectedly in January 2004.  Lucky showed her all due respect towards a senior cat-izen and I don't doubt she laid down the law and he said "yes ma'am" to all her dictates.  I like to think Ari waited to leave until she was sure I had another cat companion she approved of to look after me.  Arian taught me a lot about cats throughout the years, and living with a geriatric cat taught me a great deal about patience and understanding of our senior friends.

At age 20, Ari liked to go for strolls in our backyard with me.  We started out using a walking jacket and leash, but she soon graduated from that and was content to walk beside me on her own - as she did when we first met on the beach.  She tired easily and would let me know when she wanted to be picked up and carried back inside.

Arian in younger, healthier years 


Little Scorpio joined the family in November of 1990 - a sickly, 4-week old kitten found in a dumpster in an area my ex-husband was working at.  I'll never forget the night he came home with a small cardboard box and said "You'll never guess what's in this box".  Inside was this palm-sized little multi-colored ball of fur - and the remains of the McDonald's hamburger he'd bought for her on the way home!  The very next morning I whisked her off to the vet, who said she was suffering from hypothermia, ringworm, malnutrition, and a host of other things and predicted even with medication, she wasn't likely to live.  I bought the medication anyway - and contracted the ringworm! - and this proved to be one little kitten with a very strong will to survive. At the time, we were living with Arian and Gemini - a 15 year old cat with cancer who'd been with me since kittenhood - in a closet sized apartment and minimal income.  There was no way we could keep this new kitty.  I put my foot down.  As soon as she was well, I'd find a home for her.  Yeah, right.  Long after the marriage ended, Scorpio was still with me.  A sweet, shy cat, she was my baby and eventually she and Arian became as close as sisters.  Scorp loved those plastic rings on milk cartons and would happily chase and retrieve them over and over again as a youngster. The little Scorp-monster (I'm fond of nicknames) taught my all too solemn Arian, who probably never had much of a normal kittenhood, how to play!  Scorpio was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in the Fall of 2003 - a very treatable condition - and was doing well on the medication.  On a snowy night in January of 2004, her heart simply gave out without warning.  The little cat who wasn't expected to survive kittenhood lived to be 13 years old and will remain in my heart forever as one of the sweetest cats I ever had the privilege of living with.

 Gemini and Moonchild

It was July of 1978 and I was sharing an apartment with a woman who had two wonderful male kitties. Seeing how much I loved her cats, she surprised me with an 8-9 week old kitten of my own. Gemini was a tiny dilute calico and my friend told me the kitten was a male. Now, I'd never had a cat of my own before and was extremely ignorant on feline facts, anatomy, behavior, etc. - you name it, I didn't know it! Gemini was my first Cat Teacher - and I learned a very important lesson in April 1979 when the vet who examined my suddenly overweight, lethargic young cat informed me that "he" was pregnant! DUH! Not even a year old herself, Gemini presented us with 5 adorable kittens. Four found homes very quickly, and I kept the "runt" of the litter - Gem's daughter, Moonchild (aka Moonie), a pretty little black and white. Mother and daughter were then spayed as soon as possible!

Gemini and Moonchild were inseparable and best of friends all their lives. It was rare to see one without the other, curled up together watching t.v., sleeping, sharing my lap...Unfortunately, Moonie passed away at the young age of 10 from what was at the time - and may still be for all I know - a very rare disease (the vet even showed me the one paragraph devoted to it in a medical journal which basically said "we know nothing about this"). Her mother would mourn the rest of her life and never did more than tolerate future family cat members. At age 15, Gemini crossed the bridge after a long bout with cancer, not long after the kitten Scorpio came into our lives.

I'll always be grateful to my first two feline companions who started me on a lifelong love and appreciation for cats. Thanks ladies, for putting up with this ignorant human and teaching me so much!

All photographs copyrighted Diana O. Hanshaw 2007

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