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A historic event occurred recently when the 19th century painting “My Wife's Lovers' was auctioned at Sotheby's for $826,000. Weighing approximately 227 pounds, the painting features a massive depiction of well over 40 different cats. Painted by Carl Kahler, this particular cat-centric scene was commissioned by Kate Birdsall, a San Franciso-based philanthropist who wished to commemorate the all-important felines in her life before she passed away. The painting was completed only two years before Birdsall passed away. As part of her will, Birdsall left $500,000 to ensure that her cats were properly tended to after her passing.

General Cat Care #1: Before You Bring Your Cat Home
You will need food, food dish, water bowl, interactive toys, brush, comb, safety cat collar, scratching post, litter and litter box.
General Cat Care #2: Feeding
An adult cat should be fed one large or two smaller meals each day. Kittens from 6 to 12 weeks need to be fed four times a day. Kittens from three to six months need to be fed three times a day. You can either feed specific meals, throwing away any leftover canned food after 30 minutes or free-feed dry food (keeping food out all the time).

Feed your cat a high-quality, brand-name kitten or cat food (avoid generic brands) two to three times a day. Kittens can be fed human baby food for a short time if they won’t eat kitten food softened by soaking in warm water. Use turkey or chicken baby food made for children six months and older. Gradually mix with cat food. Cow’s milk is not necessary and can cause diarrhea in kittens and cats. Provide fresh, clean water at all times. Wash and refill water bowls daily.

According to the auctioneers at Sotheby's, the painting was originally expected to sell for a price between $200,000 – $300,000. Therefore, when the final bid came in at well over four times the value of their lowest estimate, Sotheby's auctioneers were shocked. The painting had captivated Sotheby's employees, many of whom had taken photographs of themselves standing in front of the portrait. Obviously, the unique nature of this painting had struck a chord with a wide spectrum of individuals.

The name of the painting, “My Wife's Lovers”, was coined by Birdsall's husband, who found his wife's fascination of cats to be both endearing and humorous. According to rumours, Birdsall was said to have possessed up to 350 cats at any given time. The felines were given their own floor in the Birdsall's mansion in Sonoma County. Those familiar with the family have also stated that Kate Birdsall hired servants specifically to tend to her cats. When creating the painting, Kahler spent nearly three years observing Birdsall's cats, taking note of their various personality traits and behaviours. Ultimately, this “research period” helped the painter create an authentic representation of each of Birdsall's beloved animals. Featuring such love and dedication on the part of both the commissioner and the artist, it should come as no surprise that “My Wife's Lovers” became the central attraction during the auction.

General Cat Care #3: Grooming
Most cats stay relatively clean and rarely need a bath, but they do need to be brushed or combed. Frequent brushing helps keep your cat’s coat clean, reduces the amount of shedding and cuts down on the incidence of hairballs
General Cat Care #4: Handling
To pick up your cat, place one hand behind the front legs and another under the hindquarters. Lift gently. Never pick up a cat by the scruff of the neck (behind the ears) or by the front legs without supporting the rear end.
General Cat Care #5: Housing
Cats should have a clean, dry place of their own in the house. Line your cat’s bed with a soft, warm blanket or towel. Be sure to wash the bedding often. Please keep your cat indoors. If your companion animal is allowed outside, he can contract diseases, get ticks or parasites, become lost or get hit by a car, hurt in a fight or poisoned. Also, cats prey on wildlife.

The immense weight of “My Wife's Lovers” has made the painting somewhat notorious in professional art circles. According to the staffers at Sotheby's, the painting pulled the nails out of the wall when hung for the first time. The physical dimensions of the painting measure in at six feet tall by 8.5 feet wide.

If anything, the auctioning of this painting further reinforces the notion that animals have become indispensable and cherished elements of our daily lives. Although it is quite unlikely that most individuals will have the opportunity to commission a full-scale portrait of their cats, it is not uncommon for animal owners to snap pictures of their pets using their smartphones. Perhaps, this contemporary trend is a direct derivation from Kahler's work over a century before.

Humans have long had a tendency to prescribe sophisticated emotions and thoughts to their pets. This type of association can be used to help explain why so many of us form such lasting attachments to our pets. Although Birdsall owned a myriad of cats in her lifetime, it is quite interesting to observe the small collection of animals presented in this painting, if only due to the fact that their portrait so clearly manifests their distinct personalities and character traits. Far from being an emotionally vacant still life, “My Wife's Lovers” is full of personality, character and, most importantly, human emotion. Viewers cannot help but to connect on some level with the various personality types demonstrated by each of the cats in the painting. This is, perhaps, what has made this painting become such an unforgettable landmark within the history of 19th century visual art.

General Cat Care #6: Identification
If allowed outdoors (again, we caution against it!), your cat needs to wear a safety collar and an ID tag. A safety collar with an elastic panel will allow your cat to break loose if the collar gets caught on something. An ID tag or an implanted microchip can help insure that your cat is returned if he or she becomes lost.
General Cat Care #7: Litter Box
All indoor cats need a litter box, which should be placed in a quiet, accessible location. A bathroom or utility room is a good place for your cat’s box. In a multi-level home, one box per floor is recommended. Avoid moving the box unless absolutely necessary. Then do so slowly, a few inches a day. Cats won’t use a messy, SMELLY litter box. Scoop solids out of the box at least once a day. Dump everything, wash with a mild detergent (don’t use ammonia) and refill at least once a week, less frequently if using clumping litter. Don’t use deodorants or scents in the litter or litter box (especially avoid lemon scent).
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