Strega Nona Entertaining: Conjuring Creative Fun

From recipes to rituals, I will kindly divine the perfect celebration for you!

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A Mystical Cat Halloween

I don't know about all of you, but I have had many black cats in my life. The last one who was a furry family member lasted to the ripe old age of 22! Bootsie was a sweetheart—so gentle, so loving—a true gift to be a part of of our lives for so long. Many times when we adopt a pet, it is believed that they choose us, as much as we choose them. I believe that to be true.

Feline Friendships

That certainly has been the case for my dear longtime friend, Mary Domhan. If anyone is a cat whisperer, she's the one. She has the power to tame ferals, and cats always seem to find her. In my Halloween podcast episode (number 36) for "Women Who Howl at the Moon," I talk to her at length about her artwork and new Edgy Cat Designs website. If you are a lover of all things feline, you will delight in the cards, art prints, and stickers she has a available. If you're shopping for a cat lover friend, I have no doubt you will find it at her website!

More About Mary

I have been a close friend of Mary Domhan since I moved to Milwaukee in 2003. During the time I have gotten to know her, I have been increasingly impressed with her commitment to living green, taking on big projects on her own, and having truly discerning taste in film. One thing that has remained a focus, is her commitment to animal rights – specifically to those of feline persuasion. Domhan has always been a cat person, explaining, "I love dogs too, but cats always seemed to fit into my lifestyle and habitation."

"I have lost cats and had cats that were exactly the same in appearance and demeanor appear on my radar later on. I've also had cats mysteriously appear at my front door," says Domhan. Here she details her experiences ranging from England to Milwaukee to Dallas.  

A British Kitten

"I've been rescuing cats all my life. My first experience, where I had to go out on a limb, took place in London, England. It was in 1982 and I was an exchange student at Winchester School of Art. One day I was on my way to a museum to do research for a project. It was a rough area, littered by projects built in WW II that were designed to be temporary but were still standing. As I passed a building, I heard a tiny mew. I followed the sound and saw this kitten beneath a vent duct. It looked to be maybe a few weeks old. I looked up and found myself  surrounded by a dozen local children. One boy was so sweet and said, 'Will you help us get her miss?' Of course I said yes and had the boy poke her out with a stick from the other side of the vent so I could catch her. I managed to grab her and these children, who looked like they had nothing at all, scrambled to find food and water. As she ate they were all cooing and fussing over her. It melted my heart. They told me she had been there for a week. I had no idea what to do with her. I asked the first boy if he could keep her for two hours. I promised I would come back to get her."

"Upon returning, I was absolutely terrified. It was getting dark and I was afraid something may have happened to the kitten. I knocked on the door where the boy lived and an angry looking man answered. I told him I was there for the kitten. He said nothing, closed the door, opened it again, handed her to me and shut the door. I took the kitten on the train wrapped up in a scarf in my coat. I walked two kilometers to the village where I was staying. My landlady could not have been kinder. She fell in love with the kitten and we gave it a bath. It was flea infested. She called around to friends and the orphan found herself a home on a farm."

Rescues in the States

"In Milwaukee I was volunteering at a shelter. I thought that I would like to foster a cat and was offered a gray male who was in the special needs room. His name was Dice and he was about 8 months old. He was allegedly found in the rafters of an abandoned house all alone in the middle of winter. My first meeting with Dice found him wedged between two cages. The poor baby had to be netted and lowered into a carrier for me to take home. I took Dice and renamed this regal darling 'Mishka.' I was in love. My other two cats, Bella and Bacchus, took well to him. Judging from Mishka's fear levels, I began to suspect that he may have been abused. I could not let him go back to the shelter. I knew he was mine. Twelve years later, Mishka was still the 13-pound king of my world. He lived with me in four states. He was deeply loved and and was my designated sleeping cuddler."

"When I lived in Dallas, TX, I discovered a feral cat colony living behind the hospital where I worked. I had never done TNR before but felt compelled to at least try and get as many of these babies spayed and neutered as I could. I contacted a trapper I had met to ask her advice. I initially borrowed some traps and the first cat I rescued was Diego. He would be one of 10 cats that I trapped for feral cat control."

"Hands down I can say that Dallas, Texas is the most brutal place I have ever lived in regarding animal neglect and cruelty." The number of homeless cats in my former East Dallas neighborhood is staggering.”

Domhan adds, "Some people actually believe it is the cat's fault that they are homeless."
She does have an ultimate catvocate goal in mind: "I refer to feral cats as community cats because it is the community that puts them out there. Certain members of the community  abandon them because they are pregnant, sick, no longer a cute kitten, they shed or a host of other excuses. It is due to a lack of responsibility and compassion that these cats end up abandoned in industrial sites, along side highways, living out of dumpsters, falling prey to traffic, other animals, the cruelty of humans, dog fighting rings, disease and starvation. It is my hope that more people will take responsibility and spay/neuter their cats. I hope that more communities will adopt TNR. It is truly the most effective, humane way to deal with this problem."

"My message is if you see feral cats, try to at least provide food and water for them. If you can, get into TNR or try to contact someone who is experienced who can help you trap. It is not that difficult to do. Look up low cost spay/neuter programs. There may even be organizations that help offset the cost of spay/neuter."

Short Bio

Mary Domhan is a Capricorn born in Jamaica Queens, NY. She now resides in Virginia. Mary is a tree huggin' earth girl to the core and 99 percent of her psyche dwells in the world of animals. She currently works as a rehab therapist and in past lives has been a massage therapist, graphic designer and textile designer. She has lived in England and Australia.

Mary's first love was drawing and then music. She loves to draw her pets and enjoys creating pet portraits for friends. Her interests are aromatherapy, art, spirituality, history, photography, film and of course animal rights advocacy. Mary has been involved in heavy duty rescue with cats and dogs in East and South Dallas. Mary's mantra: “I can't say I love doing this due to the heartache that rescue brings, but it is something I feel I can't do enough of.”

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Colleen DuVall has written articles, plays, short films, and a novel. Most recently, her work has been featured in her new blog, Off The Beaten Path for the Shepherd Express online (, and the Wisconsin Life radio show for WPR. She recently adopted a little grey and white cat named Tessa, after beloved 22-year-old Bootise passed on.


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