Picasso Pussycats Put Paws Forward for Fundraiser


If you’re an art collector or a cat lover (or better yet, both), check out this story about a central California shelter that is leveraging the creativity of their resident feline fauves to create art that will in turn be sold to raise money for the shelter.

For the past few months, inside a small visiting room lined with plastic tarps at Woods Humane Society, the cats and kittens that call the shelter home have been creating unique Christmas gifts.

About 10 of the shelters more than 40 homeless felines have been using their padded paws to produce one-of-a-kind paintings that will be debuted and sold to the public Saturday, Dec. 5, during an open house at the facility.

How many people can say they have a painting by a cat in their home? three-year Woods volunteer Linda Beatson said about the cat painting project she and other volunteers started in August.

The long-term project aims to increase awareness about companion pet overpopulation, especially felines, in San Luis Obispo County and raise money for Woods vital spay and neuter program, all in a fun way.

Its always fun to watch (the cats paint), said Woods volunteer Mimi Ditchie. You just have to laugh when you watch it.

All proceeds from the paintings which are framed and matted and cost between $40 and $8, depending on the size will go toward the shelters spay and neuter program.

The No. 1 overpopulation issue in the county is cats, said Steve Kragenbrink, Woods Humane Society community programs director.

Statistics show that an unspayed female, her mate and all of their offspring, producing two litters a year, can total a whopping 67,000 cats in just six years.

Since starting its spay and neuter program in September 2006, Woods has performed 6,660 alterations on homeless cats and dogs. The surgeries cost the shelter exactly $40.

One of the things that I love about this project is that (Woods) cats are helping their fellow cats, Kragenbrink added. We have been sitting on a pot of boiling water with this. It will make an impact. I really think it will take off.


In the 1994 book Why Cats Paint, authors Heather Busch and Burton Silver conclude felines paint to communicate their unique, undiluted view of the world and perhaps provide us with the clues we need to ensure the survival and future well-being of all species … .

At Woods, volunteers like Beatson and Sharyn Sugarman believe the real reason cats paint, at least the ones at the rural San Luis Obispo-based shelter, is because the felines paws are dipped in paint and theres not much else they can do but walk around on paper and make pretty designs.

The cats are never forced to paint, and if a feline doesnt like having its paws dipped in hues chosen by the volunteers, the animal is taken back to the cattery and another is picked to try its paw at becoming the next Picasso.

We wont use them if they are scared, but some of them just love the attention, and they will pose, Sugarman said. Some of them are just like people; they are meant to be artists, and some doctors and nurses.

Once the paint is applied to their front paws, the feline is let loose on a large sheet of paper that serves as their canvas, where they can smear and spatter their way to a one-of-a-kind painting.

There will never be another one of these, Beatson said with a big smile about the 60 individual paintings created since August by cats like Tulip one of the best feline painters at the shelter and Rosalie and Orange, who both purr and lick the volunteers hands when they are painting.

The women use nontoxic, washable, acrylic paint and have found that younger felines tend to prefer painting more than the older cats, in part, because young cats and kittens dont usually mind having their feet cleaned after they paint, Beatson said.

The whole process has evolved, she said. We are trying all the techniques that we can, and we have definitely learned what not to do when cats paint.


When Beatson suggested the idea of having cats at Woods paint works of art that could be sold to raise money for pet overpopulation, everyone laughed.

The Arroyo Grande resident got the idea from the coffee-table book Why Cats Paint, which she owns.

When they stopped laughing, Steve (Kragenbrink) said to go for it, Beatson said.

One of the most famous cat paintings, Wonglu, created by Lu Lu, a seal lynx that lived in Italy, and painter Wong Wong sold for $19,000 at an auction in 1993, and another feline artist earned $75,000 over a five-year span for its one-of-a-kind artwork.

Kragenbrink, along with shelter volunteers like Beatson and Sugarman, who are part of Woods Special Feline Team, hope to work with local art galleries and wineries in the future to get the cats paintings shown.

The whole idea is to raise money for the spay/neuter program, Sugarman said about having the cats paint.

Beatson added, Hopefully, it will take off.

Woods Humane Society is located at 875 Oklahoma Ave, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405. Phone: (805) 543-9316.

[LINK: Times Press Recorder]

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