My Furry Valentine, Sweet, comic Valentine, You make me smile with my heart!
Those are the words, right?
I love Valentine’s Day! I love love! I love celebrations of all kinds! They make me happy. However, I understand that my attitude isn’t shared by everyone out in the world. Valentine’s Day is a holiday which many people greet with cynicism. Some people only view it as a holiday designed to sell cards and overpriced candy. (In some of my darker days, I’ve felt this way, too). Even so, I always go back to what I feel is the heart of Valentine’s Day – love. And I think love is worth celebrating!
Love comes in many forms. There’s romantic love. Love can be shared between or among friends. You can love your family. You can love your favorite book or TV series or vacation spot. You can love a lot of things. Of course, you can love your pets. JT Catsby is always my furry Valentine. He never plays tricks with my heart, and we both enjoy our fair share of treats. As far as Valentines go, I think JT is purrfect! If you want to celebrate the love you share with your furry Valentine, here are a few ways you can celebrate Valentine’s Day with your cat.
Get All Dressed Up You already know that JT Catsby is one of the most dapper little dudes out there! It can be fun to get all dressed up and lean into the cheesy aspects of the day. You may feel dorky at first, but feeling dorky is worth it if you’re having fun. Embrace the cheese! You get bonus points if your outfit is pink, red, or has hearts on it! JT has bow ties for every occasion, but his Valentine’s Day tie is one of my favorites. Pink and red hearts? You can’t get much more festive than that! To match JT, I’m planning to wear my vintage-style Valentine’s Day dress which is covered with red hearts. If I want to keep things more casual (or something cozier in the winter weather), I’ll wear my favorite red sweatshirt with heart-shaped cutouts. It’s good to have options, and it’s fun to be festive with your furry friend!
Have A Special Treat For JT, this is an easy choice. Bring on the Churu treats! One of my favorite sweet treats are snickerdoodle cookies. They’re coated with cinnamon sugar and best fresh out of the oven. They’re basically the perfect wintertime cookie. The recipe I use for snickerdoodles comes from a vintage Betty Crocker cookbook printed in 1972. If you want to try out this treat for yourself, here is the recipe: “Snickerdoodles
½ cup butter or margarine, softened ½ cup shortening 1 ½ cups sugar 2 eggs 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour* 2 teaspoons cream of tartar 1 teaspoon [baking] soda ¼ teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons sugar 2 teaspoons cinnamon
Heat oven to 400°. Mix thoroughly butter, shortening, 1 ½ cups sugar and the eggs. Blend in flour, cream of tartar, [baking] soda and salt. Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into balls.
Mix 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon; roll balls in mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Immediately remove from baking sheet.
*If using self-rising flour, omit cream of tartar, soda and salt.”
Yum, right? Let us know in the comments if you try the recipe! (This recipe yields approximately six dozen cookies, so you’ll have plenty to share!)
Do Something You Love Dinner and a Mewvie (get it?)? Play all day? Take a cat nap? There are no right or wrong answers here! Fill the day with things that you love! Think about what you and your pet love to do together. JT and I love to spend time outside in the backyard, so (weather permitting) we’ll have some outdoor adventures on Valentine’s Day. Maybe we’ll have a photoshoot since JT loves to pose for the camera and I love taking his picture. And maybe we’ll snuggle up and watch a pet-themed movie. The name of the game is spending quality time with your pet. That’s the best Valentine’s Day gift they could ever receive!
Tell The Ones You Love That You Love Them I tell JT that I love him all the time. I tell my family that I love them all the time. I tell my fiancé that I love him all the time. I don’t like to throw the word “love” around, but when I mean it – I say it. Tell your pets that you love them. (Honestly, if you’re the type of person who clicked on this post, I’m guessing this is already something you do often!) Your pet may not be able to say it back, but they’ll show you that your love is returned. JT shows love by purring and giving slow blinks (kitty kisses). When he snuggles with me, I know that he cares. The world can always use a little more love. This can start with you and your pet.
I hope this post got you in the Valentine’s Day spirit and gave you a few ideas of how you can celebrate love with your pet. Still feeling cynical? If all else fails, you can cling to the thought that February 15th is Discount Candy Day. I think that’s something we can all agree on!
Love, (And I mean it!) Meowmy
PS – Rescue Spotlight! For this blog post, we want to feature Fox Foster Kittens. This nonprofit rescue based in Sarasota, Florida believes in the motto, “Save one until there are none.” We have followed @foxfosterkittens on Instagram for several years. This rescue takes on cats and kittens with severe medical cases which would otherwise be euthanized. When other rescues would have given up, Fox Foster Kittens steps up to give the cats and kittens of Sarasota, Florida another chance at life. When rescues take on intense medical cases like those seen by Fox Foster Kittens, large medical bills are a way of life. If you feel so inclined, please support Fox Foster Kittens!
To support Fox Foster Kittens – Follow them on Instagram @foxfosterkittens To donate money or supplies to further their mission, click this link - https://linktr.ee/Foxfosterkittens19
Recipe Credit – "SNICKERDOODLES." Recipe. Betty Crocker’s Cookbook. New York: Golden Press, 1972. 144. Print.
I’ve always been amazed by how some people can see things and then, putting their pen or paintbrush to paper, recreate what they saw. I’ve tried to do it. I just can’t. I wasn’t given that gift. However, one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given in my lifetime is getting to be “Meowmy” to JT Catsby. In sharing JT with all of you on Instagram, some artists have shared their gifts with us over the years, creating art inspired by JT’s photos. Some pieces are simple, some are realistic, and some are drawn in a fun, cartoonish style. Each artist leaves their individual mark on the pieces they’ve shared with us, and I love them all.
In the spirit of sharing, here are just a few of the pieces our talented Furrends have created over the years –
°irsch from @TheCovatar
You know when you’re so happy that the joy inside of you bubbles up and you just have to laugh? That’s what happened when I saw this piece by °irsch from @TheCovatar on Instagram. This portrait is based on JT’s bathtub picture, and wow! It is so incredibly cute! Y’all. His nose is a heart. A HEART. The colors! The bubbles! This is what my dream world looks like! °irsch is a member of the Covatar artist collective (and she’s a cat mom, too!). When you support °irsch and other talented artists in the Covatar group, you’re also helping give back. Covatar has donated over $12,500 to nonprofit organizations as they donate a portion of every purchase to help those in need. To see more cute art like this, follow @TheCovatar on Instagram. To book your own portrait, check out their website - https://covatar.com/
@star.manda.art created this portrait of JT in 2016, and I’ve lovingly dubbed it JT’s “Mufasa in the clouds moment.” This piece is EPIC! Honestly, I think this piece is how JT sees himself: looking like a king, surveying over his loving subjects. The celestial colors star.manda used for this portrait are beautiful. I love this piece because, even though the colors are so stylized, this piece looks so real. This is my JT in all his glory! To see more of star.manda’s art, follow @star.manda.art on Instagram. You can also support this artist on Etsy - https://www.etsy.com/shop/StarmandaArt
@chiinori (aka @benjithesfkitty )
@chiinori drew this portrait of JT as a part of her #catonmyfeed series on Instagram. This piece really made me smile! JT pops out of the screen! This portrait is based on a photo of JT trying to bite a blade of grass, but it almost looks like he’s singing. This piece really nails JT’s coloring with his orange ears and tail. If JT sees himself as the king of the jungle, then I think this piece probably sums up how I see him. He’s my wild boy, ready to stand up and create joy. To see more of Chii’s art, follow @chiinori on Instagram (DM for commission information). You can follow Chii’s cat Benji on Instagram @benjithesfkitty for some cute cat content, too. You can also support this artist at society6.com/chiinori
This piece by @_gu9u_ is C-U-T-E! So cute! This is another interpretation of JT’s bathtub picture, and it’s just adorable! Everything about this portrait is sweet. I love the small touch of changing the flower on the front of the tub to a cat outline. It makes the piece so whimsical! While this piece is minimalistic, it tells a perfect story. It almost looks like it could be plucked from a children’s book about a day in JT Catsby’s life! Follow @_gu9u_ on Instagram to see even more cute artwork! Reach out to them for commission information, too!
@sophia.lpy (aka @pumpkinsays )
This piece is very special to me and close to my heart. @sophia.lpy (Cat Mom to @pumpkinsays ) surprised us with this beautiful portrait when we were fairly new to Instagram. This portrait is based on one of my favorite pictures of JT and me. I was 19 years old, fresh off a morning theatre performance, so my hair was curled. JT wanted to play, so we headed to the backyard. My mom snapped a photo right when JT stood up on his hind legs. It’s a moment frozen in time, and @sophia.lpy captured it so perfectly. I love the lush, green colors. JT’s little shadow is precious, and the whole portrait is absolutely adorable! This piece is something I truly treasure. To support @sophia.lpy you can follow @pumpkinsays on Instagram. Pumpkin and Milky are two of the cutest munchkin cats on Instagram! We’re so lucky to have them as Furrends!
Please support these artists! A commissioned piece would be a wonderful gift for a friend, loved one, or for yourself. I’m so grateful that these artists shared their talents with us and added their own magic to so many precious memories I have with JT. If you’re a Furrend whose artwork wasn’t featured in this blog post, don’t worry! We’ll do another post with more Furrend Art very soon. We can’t keep it to ourselves! We want to share your work with the world! That’s what we like to do here at Otisandjr. We share the love and share the joy.
PS – Rescue Spotlight!
We want to introduce all of you to The Rescue Project! This organization is a nonprofit working to help Kansas City’s animals in need. In the past year alone, The Rescue Project has provided “Over 20,000 lbs of food,” “100 Dog houses,” “240 Bales of straw,” and (of course) affection and dignity to thousands of animals in need. In the heat of summer and the cold of winter, volunteers with The Rescue Project are working to provide necessities to Kansas City’s disadvantaged animals.
The Rescue Project prioritizes community education to help empower Kansas City community members to become responsible pet owners. According to their website, “The Rescue Project has an outreach program where our volunteers go to the inner city looking for these abused animals. We provide counseling to the owners, food, treats, dog houses, flea and tick treatment, and some much needed love. Afterwards, we follow up to see if conditions have improved. You would be surprised how many people respond to the counseling. You probably wouldn’t be surprised at how many don’t. If abusive conditions continue, the owner is asked to surrender the animal or face being reported to animal control and being ticketed and fined. We also offer low cost veterinary services and of course, emphasize the need to spay and neuter. Our selfless volunteers work in –5 to 105 degree weather to make sure these animals get the quality of life they deserve.” These volunteers are putting in the work to help Kansas City’s animals in need and, in doing so, making Kansas City a better place to live and work.
Please support The Rescue Project! You can donate to this organization via their website - https://therescueproject.net/ You can also follow The Rescue Project on Instagram - @therescueprojectkc
Why is our name otisandjr? This is a question I’m asked a lot and that I hope to answer today.
You don’t know Otis, but (believe it or not) you know Jr. My cat’s name is JT Catsby. JT stands for “Just Terrific.” I see a lot of confusion in our comments section on Instagram as people refer to JT as Otis. This is a really common misconception, and I completely understand why some of our followers may be confused about JT’s name. After all, why would our name be otisandjr if we’re not posting pictures of somebody named Otis? To explain where we got our name, I have to take things back to the beginning of our account.
I did not originally make the Instagram account which you know and love today. My mom did. This was originally supposed to be her Instagram account, so she came up with the name. Otis is my mom’s red eared slider. He’s an aquatic turtle who enjoys swimming in his tank and basking on his favorite rock. He likes to do arabesques while he soaks up the sunshine, sometimes stretching out three of his four legs to reach for the warmth and light. (Side note: JT is obsessed with Otis and loves to watch him. He’ll do this for hours on end. I’m not sure if he loves Otis or if he’s afraid of Otis. Regardless, Otis is a big part of JT’s life in more ways than one.) Essentially, a turtle who has only made rare appearances on the account is our namesake.
As for the “jr” part of otisandjr – that’s me. My maternal grandpa called my mom “Jr” as one of her nicknames when she was growing up. She passed that nickname down to me. I’m not technically a Jr (my name is my own) but I will answer to Jr if I hear my mom calling out that name. So – Surprise! You secretly knew Jr all along.
This explanation raises some questions of its own. Was my mom planning to have an Instagram account solely devoted to posting photos and videos of her turtle and myself? To that, I have no idea. That would have been an interesting account though! However, the big question remains: How did my mom’s turtle and daughter account turn into the “Otisandjr” that is out in the world today?
If you scroll all the way back to the beginning of our account and our very first posts on the ‘gram, you’ll see a hodgepodge of photos. (We have over 2.5k posts and counting, so if you go back that far in our account – that’s dedication.) There’s a flower, a cloudy sky with a rainbow, and (of course) pictures of JT. My mom asked me to teach her how to use Instagram, so we started posting pictures of JT regularly so she could get comfortable posting on the app. We started using hashtags and getting features from outside accounts devoted specifically to reposting cat pictures. Otisandjr – with JT at the helm – began to grow organically as other accounts found us on Instagram.
One morning, my mom decided to burst into my room to wake me up. Our conversation went something like this: Mom - “Hannah. JT went viral.” Me (half asleep) - “What?” Mom - “JT went viral.” Me – “What are you talking about?” Mom – “We got 400 followers overnight!”
I explained to my mom that having 400 followers doesn’t exactly equal “going viral,” but it was an exciting day. It became clear that there were people out in the world who loved JT as much as we did, and, by that time, the account had become JT’s account. Our feed was filled with his pictures – no turtle pictures or daughter pictures necessary. My mom handed the account over to me and – of course – JT.
And otisandjr continued to grow! We’ve been so fortunate to make “Furrends” from all over the world since the account began in 2014. I always joke that JT’s Instagram account is one of the happiest accidents of my life. I didn’t make an Instagram account intending to share daily pictures of my cat with people around the globe. Instead, my mom made her Instagram account, I tried to help her learn how to use the platform, and then something magical happened. People like you – the person reading this – are the spark that made this account grow. As long as people keep wanting to see pictures of JT, I’ll keep taking them and sharing them with all of you. There’s something sweet and magical about how Instagram has allowed so many people to connect and bond over one little cat. I want to keep living in and sharing this magic.
I hope this clears up how we got here. To summarize everything I’ve said above: Otis is a turtle, I’m Jr, JT is JT, and my mom created the name “otisandjr” before handing the account over to me. I don’t know if people will ever stop believing JT’s name is Otis, and that’s okay. I’m just glad to have them along for the ride with us, because – as you can see – you never know where life will take you. Someday you might go to bed and wake up the next morning to your mom telling you that your cat went “viral” on Instagram. And another morning, on a day like today, you might wake up in disbelief that your cat’s Instagram account has more than 155k followers and over five years of your life chronicled in one little space. And you feel thankful.
It was all started by my mom, because of a turtle, and me, and JT.
PS - Rescue Spotlight!
For our first ever Rescue Spotlight, I want to feature Little Wanderers NYC. Little Wanderers works to “[rescue] the neediest cats in the toughest neighborhoods of NYC.” We’ve followed their account on Instagram ( @littlewanderersnyc ) for several years, so I can tell you firsthand that these rescuers are living up to their promise. So many of the cats whose stories they share on their Instagram are cases which would be either ignored or rejected by other organizations for being too difficult or gruesome. Even so, Little Wanderers NYC steps up to face these challenges, giving cats of NYC dignity, love, and a new chance at life.
Little Wanderers NYC is currently running a campaign called “2021 Resolution Campaign: Every Cat Deserves a Home!” Their goal is to raise $10,000.00 to support their rescue work in 2021. In 2020 alone, Little Wanderers rescued 1,265 cats and altered an additional 300 cats through the TNR program. Little Wanderers NYC has shown again and again that they’re putting in the work, making a positive change in their community, and truly living up to their “no-cat-left-behind” mission.
I want to be more like my cat. I think you should, too.
A cat might be an unusual choice for a role model, but 2020 was an unusual year. So much still feels up in the air with the new year upon us. Even with this uncertainty, I know one thing for sure: my cat is living his best life. I think our furry friends can teach us ways to better navigate our lives. My boy – JT Catsby – is a confident, loving guy. He goes through life with his tail held high and knows exactly when a well-timed purr can turn someone’s day around. During the pandemic, I’ve spent more time at home with JT than ever before. Based on my observations (and maybe this is some pandemic-era cabin fever talking) here are a few lessons I’ve learned from JT that I plan to carry with me in 2021.
Take Time to Play Even though it pains me to admit that my baby kitty is a grown-up cat, JT still likes to race around the house just like he did as a kitten. He sprints down the hallway, shimmies up to the top of the cat tree, and then somersaults his way down onto his favorite shelf on the tree. He chases bugs. He chases ribbons. He chases treats. JT loves to run! Contrary to cats, it seems like humans get the “play” knocked out of them as they age. We learn to sit still and focus in school alongside our lessons. Misbehavior is punished. Work is prized above all. And frankly, it’s tiring. While these lessons are necessary to create model citizens, something is lost in the process. We lose our sense of play. Maybe if I had been a better disciplinarian, JT would be more settled now. But I’m glad that wasn’t the case. When JT plays, his joy is infectious. The more I laugh, the faster he goes. My laughs are his cheers! One of the best things I did for myself in 2020 was dancing along with Ryan Heffington’s Sweat Fest. In this raucous class, the focus is on play. The dance moves are optional and come with names like “pretty pony” and “happy hippie.” Lavish costumes and lip-synching are encouraged. It’s loud and silly and wonderful. I felt ridiculous prancing around the house and singing at the top of my lungs, but at the end of the class I felt good. Breaking out of the constructs of “adulting” (even in a small way like pretending to be a flailing inflatable thing at a used car lot while a Madonna song plays) is freeing. When it was time for the class, JT and I both got excited. He knew he would get to “sing” or, in his case, swing at whatever household appliance I was using as my microphone that day. He was excited to play. I want to carry that spirit with me in 2021 and remember to play.
Take Time to Rest On the other side of the coin, JT sleeps A LOT. If he isn’t playing around the house or watching birds out the window, he’s usually curled up for a catnap in a cozy spot. Unlike JT, resting isn’t my strong suit. I’ve always felt like I should be doing something, working on something. When I’m at rest, I get restless. It felt like the world slowed down in 2020 and, with the slower pace, I slowed down, too. While I still wouldn’t call myself a skilled rest aficionado like JT, I’ve been learning to listen to my mind and body and take breaks when I need them. And you know what’s crazy? I’ve found out that I genuinely like resting. I watched (and loved) The Mandalorian. I’ve been watching a lot of cheesy, made-for-tv romantic movies. (Will our heroine leave her mean, businessman boyfriend for the hometown hunk who rescues puppies? Um. Duh!) They’re super predictable, but they make me laugh. Sometimes I knit while I watch. Knitting is another restful activity for me. I twist the yarn around my loom and before I know it – POOF! I made a hat. I know that making a conscious choice to rest will always be difficult for me. Even so, I’m planning to look to JT and take time to rest in 2021.
Drink More Water JT likes to hop from the bathroom floor, to the hamper, to the counter before meowing for attention. Once a human comes to his rescue to turn on the faucet, he sticks his head under the stream for a fresh drink of water. While I’m not advocating for you to stick your head under a faucet (unless that’s what you need to do to get this done), I think most people can benefit from drinking more water. I have a big refillable water bottle that I lug around with me. I try to drink the whole thing and then refill it and keep going. Some days I do better on that than others. But I know that if my cat can stick his head under a running faucet, then I can handle upping my water intake in 2021.
Eat the Treats JT enjoys a balanced diet of dry food, wet food, and lots of treats! He loves chasing his hard treats down the hall, but Churu treats are his holy grail. They’re basically like a meat gogurt and come in different flavors. JT begs for one every night. If there’s one big life lesson to be pulled from 2020, I think it’s that life is short and unpredictable. Go ahead and eat the treats! There is so much pressure in our society look a certain way. I know I feel that pressure. It gets even harder at this time of year. So many New Year’s Resolutions focus on losing weight and changing the way our bodies look. When I tried to think of a list of resolutions JT would make, I realized that he would never make a resolution like that! He would eat the treats. And he would still be loved by his family and Furrends all over the internet no matter what. So, that’s my plan for 2021. No foods are off limits. I’m going to eat the treats. I had Funyuns before I sat down to write this. I have a stash of flavored Tootsie Rolls near my desk. Maybe I’ll have one later…
Use Your Voice For a little guy, JT is LOUD. You can hear his meow from the opposite side of the house if he wants you to hear it. He has no qualms about asking for what he wants, whether that’s attention, treats, or to go outside. He’s far from shy in that respect. It can be scary to ask for what you want or, when necessary, demand it. What if someone says no? What if they laugh at me? Whenever I feel scared, I try to ask myself, “Would it be worse to be rejected or to never have tried at all?” For me, the glimmer of hope always surpasses the fear of rejection. Rejection may hurt, but the feeling is temporary. So many moments, big and small, when I’ve used my voice have been so worth it. When I told my now-fiancé how I felt about him, my heart was going a mile a minute. It was scary then, but (fast-forward to now) I get to spend the rest of my life with the guy of my dreams. While using my voice and going after what I wanted in this instance may not have a huge impact on the way of the world, it sure had an impact on my life. I want to keep using my voice in 2021. I understand that I operate from a place of privilege and have a platform on social media. As a part of these blog posts, I want to spotlight rescues around the United States who are making a difference in their communities and in the lives of animals. If you’d like to nominate a rescue to be featured, let me know! If JT can make himself heard, then I can make myself heard and amplify other voices, too.
Those are my resolutions for 2021. From what I can tell, I think JT Catsby is resolving to keep living his best life and maybe (if I’m lucky) sleep in past the crack of dawn. I hope this list give you some inspiration if you’re crafting your own list of New Year’s Resolutions. If not, I hope it at least made you smile. 2020 was a wild and often sad ride of a year. I hope 2021 is full of health, happiness, progress, kindness, and (of course) treats!