Friday, November 8, 2013

Cat Women Claw their Way to Dallas

Deb Barnes, Angie Bailey, Janiss Garza, Christine Michaels
(photo by  Glogirly)

Hissing, back stabbing, cat fights...Those are the sights and sounds of the every day Housewives of New Jersey, Miami, Atlanta. Not in Dallas, TX! The cat women I'm referring to clawed their way to the top of their talent--the Cat Writer's Association (CWA). But not in the literal sense.  The members of CWA have filed those fingernails to type away on the keyboard and honed their writing and marketing skills to educate the world about all things cats.  Many of them are pioneers in this field--Joan Miller, Amy Shojai, Marion Lane to name a few. I know the level of difficulty today, as I walk, talk and write about cats attempting to trigger a conversation, to open that door, in hopes people will listen and learn and care. I can only imagine the challenges, the closed minds, the odd looks that long-time CWA members faced 10, 20 years ago. They have my utmost respect.

However the CWA is not open to any Tom, Dick and furry Harry.  Membership is exclusive and in order to join, an applicant must demonstrate published writing works and at least one third of the content should cover cats*. My sponsor, Karen Payne, approached me four years ago when I was a fledgling member of the Cat Network. I was determined to find a solution to help homeless cats and writing/blogging was my weapon of choice. So much has happened since 2009.

I started trapping and feeding one neighborhood cat, then 3.
Now I manage 21 neighborhood cats and write about it!

So I know you are wondering if there were any cats at the conference. Of course there were! Silly goose.

My heart leapt with glee at the first sight of a cat--a blind gray tabby.  This is Spirit. She's only two years old  and Spirit is also a service pet for her owner who suffers from PTSD. I'll be sharing her story in an upcoming feature story. 
Spirit a Blind Cat sits on lifeguard chair by outdoor hotel pool

There can never be too many cats and within minutes I came across Zeki.

Zeki is a stunning Turkish Van, her fur like angora, and the only cat in the country certified for assistance in pet first aid. Her story is remarkable. She was found as an older kitten, her fur knifed away on the lower half. Luckily Zeki escaped and a good Samaritan found her help.  Today she travels around the country and serves as a model during presentations. Zeki sits calmly on a table and allows her guardian Arden Moore to wrap her in a towel, check her pulse, assess her gums, and attach a safety muzzle. Despite a traumatic beginning, Zeki is a fighter, a survivor and now a teacher! Follow her on Facebook

Deb Barnes petting Zeki

The cats attended seminars along with their human guardians but you would not see them or hear them. They are purrfectly trained cats. Who said cats are hard to train? If only kids today behaved as well-mannered. Back to our program...

On Saturday night, the conference culminated into the Award ceremony. Several of my friends and colleagues won Muse Medallions including Debbie Glovatsky, JaneA Kelley and Angie Bailey for various categories including photography and blog posts. As the evening progressed, the coveted Purina Cat Writer of the Year Award was presented to  Deb Barnes, Board member for our nonprofit Pawsitively Humane, Inc.! Deb's reaction said it all. She did not expect it. Deb is so deserving of this pinnacle award and we are so proud of her.  Deb has a genuine heart and has developed her skills and devoted her energy and talent to creating awareness about the unique essence of cats. Dedication and perseverance. No clawing required!

Angie Bailey, Dusty Rainbolt, Deb Barnes, Christine Michaels

Deb Barnes beaming with her Friskies Writer of the Year Award
(Photo by Glogirly)

As I nestled in bed that night, I reflected on a smaller achievement. My  CWA "Certificate of Excellence"  arrived in the mail a couple of weeks prior.  It was unexpected which made the acknowledgement all the more special. It was for the blog post about the decision to end the suffering and say goodbye to a Riverfront Cat, Lion King. Entitled "The Circle of Love", the posting was symbolic on many levels. By leading by example and giving selflessly, we succeed and are loved in return.  That love may come from humans or a former scared cat. The latter, that unconditional love is the greatest of all.

To lead, I must continue learning. I'm grateful the yellow brick road has led me to CWA --a fountain of knowledge and wisdom and the support of like-minded cat advocates and writers.  No clawing required.

* At the time of this posting, the CWA launched a new website. The CWA membership requirements are not yet posted to the new website.  However, please visit my personal blog by clicking here and scrolling to the end of the posting to learn more about the guidelines for joining.


  1. Many concats on your certificate of excellence award! You do some great work there xx

  2. we are so proud of you and of Deb....keep up the good work!!

  3. Dang, some of my most favorite cat women all in one place!

  4. what a fantastic recap! Wish I had been there. Well, they can't be THAT exclusive, I'm a member LOL!

  5. What a fun write up! It makes me miss you all the more and I am so happy that we were roommates! It was such a wonderful time - and the collective talent of all the members is just amazing!

    I am already looking forward to next year and congratulations on your well deserved Certificate of Excellence.

  6. It's good to know so many talented women have been recognized for their work relating to cats and their rescue. Anytime I start to doubt humanity, I just need to click on one of the great blogs I follow and my faith is restored.

  7. What a wonderful post, Christine!!!
    I'm so happy we had a chance to see each other at the conference. Congrats to ALL the winners...and especially to Deb for her well-deserved honor. It was the highlight of the conference!

  8. Thanks for the review of the event! You all looked furry beautiful!