A new book will keep you chuckling and exclaiming, “Aw, isn’t that adorable?”
With stunning photographs by Lynn Christoffers, “Cats of Martha’s Vineyard” offers 101 felines from tiny kittens to old-olds (that’s an actual clinical category for humans, so we might as well attribute it to elderly cats), all of them living now, or in the last few years, on our island. As an added treat, the cat owners, some of whom are shown with their cats, describe their cherished pets’ foibles and fabulousness.
Ms. Christoffers, who lives on Martha’s Vineyard and in New York City, has exhibited her photography in both places since 1988. Her work has also appeared in local guidebooks, magazines, and newspapers.
Ms. Christoffers photographed the cats in their homes, which allows the reader to see interiors and gardens of many Vineyard houses, all of them veering more towards cozy than trophy.
“In my work,” she writes in her Introduction, “each cat becomes a star. Once we meet, it’s unconditional love…they shine for my camera.” And shine they do! Slender cats, fat cats, big-eyed kittens, page after page of pure delight for those of us who unabashedly love these aloof creatures. Ms. Christoffers’s own cat, Lady Diane, a beautiful rescued Siamese, graces the book’s opening pages.
I was charmed by the cats with “lion cuts” owned by the late Patricia Neal and her daughter Tessa Dahl, also by the photo of Allen Healy with his cat Ginger and her five kittens, and of course by my daughter Holly Nadler with her late cat, Beebe, and her present pet, Huxley, an exceptionally cute dog. A number of dogs appear on these pages, but only because they were, perhaps, averse to their cat siblings receiving all the attention.
My own attention was captured by the big-eyed calico cat, Daphne, a total delight owned by Cynthia Riggs and Howard Attebery of West Tisbury. All the cats in this book seemed to be chosen for their beauty and their charm, which goes to show how much the photographer’s intention to make them shine works for each and every subject.
Ms. Christoffers cleverly lists her subjects by categories. The first, “Beginnings,” reveals page after page of kittens with their mothers, with their humans, and gloriously by themselves.
“Naming Cats” is a fun category going from the fancy to the plain. Two of my favorite sobriquets are Snickers and Milky Way, a pair of lovely fluffy creatures owned by Betsy Shay of Chilmark. Tyler and Corey Vanderhoop of Aquinnah are shown with five kitties, Black Diamond, Harley, Little Mama, Mittens, and Sunny.
“Relations” features multiple cats, some members of a shared genetic pool, others who just happen to live in the same household. In the former category, Brunhilda, Brulee, Parfait, and Tofu, all beautiful Maine Coons, brighten the West Tisbury home of Richard Knabel and James Osmundsen.
“Cats with Jobs” proves that cats aren’t merely decorative: Zoe is a blue-eyed charmer owned by Juleann VanBelle and Ken Leuchtenmacher of West Tisbury. Zoe often accompanied Ms. VanBelle to her job at Hospice in Windemere where Zoe’s visits lifted the spirits of the patients. Ms. VanBelle says that Zoe “did more good than any medicine could hope to do.”
Other categories are “Cats with special talents,” “Cat Characters,” (aren’t they all?), “Companions,” “Lots of Cats,” “Survivors,” and “In Memory.” Ms. Christoffers also provides an index for felines and owners by town.
Jane McTiegue of Vineyard Haven contributed the eye-catching design. The handsome book with its luxe pages is self-published, and in the first stages of its distribution process by Jan Pogue and Vineyard Stories.
On the final page, above Acknowledgments, we see the youngster kitty Suzette, all eyes and ears, who made this reader want to rush out to the nearest animal adoption facility and acquire a brand-new kitten for myself.
“Cats of Martha’s Vineyard” will surely prove one of the Island’s best-sellers for Christmas gifts although, word to the wise: Do not present it to any friend or family member who already owns a few too many cats.
Meet Ms. Christoffers at the Thanksgiving Artisans Festival on November 29 and 30, at the Ag Hall in West Tisbury, from 10 am to 4 pm. She will also sign her books at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven, and Edgartown Books, dates and times TBD.
Trina Mascott worked for the Associated Press in the 1940s, has published novels with Dell, St. Martin’s Press, and New American Library, and now lives in Palm Desert, Calif. She recently returned home after a visit to the Vineyard to see her daughter Holly Nadler, a trip she makes annually.