The Kitten Awards

by admin on December 25, 2016

Hi everybody! My chess blog is not really back yet — I’m still working on my book — but I thought that on Christmas I could take a little time out for a Kitten Awards Show.

As long-time readers of this blog know, my wife and I take care of foster kittens for the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter. These are kitties that are basically healthy but still too small to be adopted (generally speaking, they need to be at least 8-10 weeks old and 2 pounds). At the Mackenzie Finishing School for Felines, we feed them, give them lots of toys and affection, and teach them the finer points of kitten etiquette if necessary.

This year we fostered 25 kittens in 9 batches. The last three (Muffin, Josie, and Pepper) are still with us, so we had the extra-special privilege of giving them their first Christmas.

And now, here are the awards. The envelopes, please:

Glow-in-the-Dark Eyes Award

This award goes to Abby, hands down.

The Lurker


The “I’ve Had Too Much Coffee” Look

abby bugeye small

Best Haircut

This award goes to Ace, who was, shall we say, a mess when he first came to us. (But he got cleaned up very nicely after a few days.)


ace 1 small


After… Stylin’!

ace 3 small


Best Power Nap

Anyone who knows kittens knows that the competition in this category was intense, because kittens sleep about 20 hours a day. The winner is Emmy… by an eyelash.

exhaustion small

Dog’s Best Friend

We had several good candidates for this award, but it has to go to Eddie. He came to us as a single kitty, with no brothers and sisters, so for three weeks Daisy, the dog, was his only companion. Basically he was sure that Daisy was just a large kitten.

eddie daisy bed small

daisy eddie 3 small

eddie and pillow small

Best Chess Kitty

Of course I need this category, right? This year’s winner is Jasper.

jasper 1 small

Most Convincing “I Didn’t Do It” Award

… goes to Jinjur, who swears that she had nothing to do with the hole in the garden.

dig small

Best Halloween Kitty

Although black cats have a great advantage in this category, Josie impressed me with her classic form. Note the inflatable tail.

halloween josie small

I think an honorable mention for this category has to go to Winifred, Moo, and Tab Hunter, who look like a posse coming after Max. Or maybe the Attack of the Zombie Kitties.

approaching small

Best Photobomb

Honest, I was just taking a picture of these pretty flowers, when this cat appeared out of nowhere. (Natasha plays the jester in this photo.)

photobomb small

Special “I Growz Up to Be Big Kitteh Someday” Award

Kip was the smallest kitten that we have ever successfully fostered. She came in at 14.5 ounces and dropped to 13.5 ounces before rallying. While I don’t want to be overly dramatic, I think we saved her life. With an assist from Kip herself, who didn’t want to give up. Here she looks up to big kitteh Max, in more ways than one.

someday small

And finally, the coveted

Best Photo of the Year Award

… goes to Natasha’s brother Nikolai, who did this little peekaboo from the door of the “hobbit house.”

peekaboo nikolai small

I hope you enjoyed these pictures as much as we enjoyed having such entertaining company all year long! For people who just can’t get enough kitten photos, Kay has written a more traditional chronological account in her annual Cavalcade of Kittens post at her blog, “All About Applique.”

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

paul B. December 25, 2016 at 5:04 pm

I adore cats. Living in New York’s Greenwich Village, you’d think that finding a cat to adopt would be easy. NOT. Cat shelters go out of their way to be rude; my latest attempt failed because the shelter woman said I was too old to have a kitten – I would die of old age before the cat because cats live fifteen years or more. I remarked that my last three cats died of cancer well before their tenth year.

The rumor about pet shelters is that they are rolling in money – millions of dollars that are bequeath to them in the wills of billionaire deceased wives – and so can afford to be arrogant. I can get an older cat, but I have to pay nearly $150 for shots and neutering AND they require that I submit to a home inspection to insure that I’m not a psychopath.


admin December 25, 2016 at 9:09 pm

Hi Paul,

I’m very dismayed to hear about your experience. I can’t imagine the Santa Cruz shelter denying someone for that reason. I hope you won’t let your bad experience with that shelter affect your expectations of all shelters.

The Santa Cruz shelter received a donation this year of $90,000 from a deceased woman’s will. That’s a fact, not a rumor; see I’m not aware of anything else like it since I’ve been volunteering. On that basis, I would say that the rumors are off by a couple of decimal places. 😉


Mary Kuhner January 6, 2017 at 9:37 am

The no-kill shelter where we got our four cats, many years ago, has trouble making rent from month to month; we have helped bail them out twice.


paul B. December 26, 2016 at 4:48 pm

from the NY Times:

Helmsley Left Dogs Billions in Her Will


Sure, the hotelier and real estate magnate Leona Helmsley left $12 million in her will to her dog, Trouble. But that, it turns out, is nothing much compared with what other dogs may receive from the charitable trust of Mrs. Helmsley, who died last August.

Her instructions, specified in a two-page “mission statement,” are that the entire trust, valued at $5 billion to $8 billion and amounting to virtually all her estate, be used for the care and welfare of dogs, according to two people who have seen the document and who described it on condition of anonymity.


admin December 27, 2016 at 8:54 am

I’m not an expert on Leona Helmsley, but I found this article (from 2015, i.e., more up-to-date than the NYT piece) that says how her money is really being distributed — as the title says, “Not to the Dogs.”

Actually, it’s somewhat interesting. She left $12 million to her dog (later reduced to $2 million) and everything else to the Leona Helmsley Trust with no specific instructions on how to spend it. According to the article:

“Sixty percent of the trust’s annual giving goes to health programs targeting Crohn’s disease research, diabetes treatment, rural health care and medical research. A quarter is dedicated to education and help for children in need, and the rest goes to local programs in New York and Israel and to local environmental programs around the world.”

The only part that could conceivably go to dog shelters would be the “local programs in New York.” But a visit to the Helmsley Trust website shows that there are only two local initiatives currently supported by the foundation: a project to improve civic data (DATA2GO.NYC) and an emergency food assistance project (the New York City Food Assistance Collaborative). See

So I would venture to say that the amount of money going to animal shelters today from Leona Helmsley’s trust fund is a big fat zero.

This is in no way intended as a criticism of the trust fund, which, in spite of its … mmm, “interesting” beginnings, seems to be doing some very useful and beneficial things.


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