DOWNEY - The Heintzelmans of Downey, consisting of dad Dennis, mom Kathy, and only daughter Sherry, have five adopted house cats named, in order of age, HR (for "Hot Rod"), Cinnamon, Spot, Chevy and Hercules.HR, about 10, got his name because when he moved, he moved fast. Cinnamon was the name given by Kathy's sister, who previously owned the cat, and Kathy doesn't remember how Cinnamon got his name; Spot was so named because he has a black nose; Chevy because as a kitten he was found under the hood of their old Chevy-all three cats are roughly the same age, about 7 to 8 years old; and Hercules, a year or two younger and thus the youngest, got his moniker because even at an early age he already looked muscular and strong. In addition, the family considers two strays they feed outside the house part of the family. They also have two dogs named Bernard and Bernice. The Heintzelmans, local residents for 65 years, are, clearly, animal lovers. During the day, all five house felines play, take naps, and do whatever else healthy cats do. At night, Hercules, HR, Chevy and Spot curl up on the bed beside Kathy, while Cinnamon sleeps with Sherry. Beginning in 2008, Sherry started submitting entries to the New York-based Cat Calendar sponsored by Workman Publishing Company, which also publishes a Bad Cat (or "mean-looking cat") calendar. One of the basic requirements was the submission of a color photo of one's favorite cat to Workman. Sherry submitted photos of Cinnamon and Chevy. To Sherry's and her family's delight, both made the Bad Cat calendar. A fun routine was born. The announcement of the winning entries is supposed to be made by Workman "no later than Sept. 15." Sherry's birthday is on Sept. 16. So, every year, as Sherry's birthday approaches, anticipation builds at the Heintzelman household, with one thought in mind: Is our entry among the winners? It helps that Sherry took up photography some time back, so she can compose her shots. Also, Workman is supposed to give special consideration to "mood studies, beautiful portraits, action shots, unusual snapshots, and photos that capture the tone of specific holidays." Of course the aim is to be included in the "365 Cats" calendar, and not the "Bad Cat" calendar, although they have accepted the fact that an honor is an honor. After a famine of four years, the piece of good news came last September. Hercules was chosen to grace the Nov. 12, 2012 "365 Cats" calendar. Hercules, photographed beside a pumpkin, is described thus: "With his snow white coat and gorgeous green eyes, Hercules is a noble-looking fellow-the king of the pumpkin patch. But he definitely has a playful side, according to Sherry Heintzelman of Downey, California. When Hercules hears the alarm go off in the morning, he eagerly waits for her to get up and entertain him with the laser pointer." Among the other superstar cats featured with Hercules are cats from Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and Germany, along with felines found across the U.S. They have exotic names like Zuma, Karate Kitty, Koko, Loki, Mufasa, Gepetto, Squeaky, or Igor, along with the usual mundane names like Smokey, Samson, Delilah, Bubby, Tigger, Oliver, Rusty, Lucy, Maestro, Scooter, Boomer, and so on. Depending on the cat registry used for reference, the number of known pedigreed breeds ranges from 41 to over 70 breeds of cat. This includes the Siamese, Burmese, Persian, Abyssinian, Calico, etc., breeds. The every-day non-pedigreed cat may be referred to as a domestic cat, which is usually sub-categorized as domestic shorthair, domestic longhair, house cat, alley cat (almost entirely extinct because these cats "are taken out of alleys and brought into loving, permanent homes"), and the so-called Hemingway cats. Sherry says Cinnamon - her "superstar" - is a ragdoll cat, "very laid back, very friendly. He is already humanized. He likes to lick your nose, and he gives kisses. I hold him until he gives me a kiss." Chevy is a Calico cat. Workman publishes every year the ubiquitous cat calendar called "365 Cats" which it claims to have so far sold 8.9 million copies and available "wherever books are sold." It is no idle claim, for the cat population in the whole wide world has been estimated at over 500 million: Western Europe accounts for some 43 million, Eastern Europe 33 million, Japan 7 million, while Australia has some 3 million, and the United States, based on some 37 million cat-owning households with an average ownership of 2.2 cats per household, tops them all with 82 million. With numbers like these, it behooves communities to control the likelihood of cat overpopulation and other associated problems. Thus the work of agencies like SEAACA and nonprofs like Fail Safe 4 Felines cannot be understated. And with numbers like these, the market for the calendar is huge. This is not all that Workman publishes. It also publishes cookbooks, parenting and pregnancy guides, fun/educational children's titles, as well as gardening, humor, self-help, and business books, etc. At one point, Kathy said categorically, "Cats are better than people. They don't lie. They let you know exactly how they feel about you." Dennis is a former engineering department employee of McDonnell-Douglas/Boeing, retiring some five years ago after forty years of service. His main passion in his retirement years is polishing his '56 Ford Thunderbird and taking part in car shows all over, frequenting car museums and such vintage car meccas as Bob's Big Boy. He belongs to the Early Birds Club. Kathy was the first to retire, five years before Dennis did, from her accounting job at Lucky's, and it was only then, she says, that they were able to start adopting cats in earnest. Sherry has been with Fry's in Fountain Valley for 20 years in the security department. Already Workman Publishing has issued a call to cat lovers like the Heintzelman family to submit their entries in the 2013 Cat Calendar contest. What can be more superfluous to a family where caring for their cats is a labor of love and "a lot of fun"?
********** Published: January 12, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 39