Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Interview with Liza Sandanam, self-proclaimed crazy cat lady and feline fashionista

Gold Hat Photography
Liza's feline-themed wedding dress. (Image courtesy of Mark from Gold Hat Photography).

I met Liza at a blogging workshop. I had themed my outfit dogs, she was head to toe in cats. Its fair to say we connected. Her energy, enthusiasm and passion for all things feline is infectious. Her blog is awesome, but when I found out about her wedding I had to take a look at the photos. I go weak at the knees for a themed event, and themed weddings just rock. Liza was kind enough to allow me to share some insights about her blogging, her bond with the non-humans in her life, and her awesome wedding snaps. 

What’s your day job?

I run my own HR Consulting and Executive Coaching business called Small Solutions.  It’s another part of my “Small” empire!

What is your blog, thesmallworld, about?

My blog is about “All Things Feline”.  The focus is on fashion and unique finds, art, gifts and collectables and a few anecdotes about our own cats and living in a house that is entirely dominated by its felines.

Who is Archibald and how did you meet?

I find it quite hard to put my relationship with Archibald into words.  He’s the love of my life and my soul mate (and luckily my husband is OK with that).  He’s a beautiful ginger and white Cornish rex who is now 15 years old.  I’m not especially romantic about my human relationships but I feel like Archie and I were destined to meet.

Liza and Archibald.
As a child I started collecting artwork containing ginger cats and always called them Archibald.  I felt I would meet the real life Archibald one day - and then in my early 20s I found him - in a pet shop called Heavy Petting in Sydney. I generally never shop at pet shops (although it’s not your average pet shop - he was bred by a very reputable Cornish Rex breeder and housed in luxury) - but that particular day I walked in and there he was! He has been everything I ever dreamed of and more and has truly inspired my creative pursuits as an adult. He is always by my side when I am working at home or putting my blog together.

Who are the other non-humans in your life?

We have 3 other gorgeous cats - Soho is a 15 year old Devon Rex, and Atticus and Sam are both 2 year old Cornish Rexes. Unfortunately we had integration issues when we adopted our kittens, so we run two separate households - we are part retirement village and part kindergarten! Luckily we have a big house and both my husband and I run home offices in different parts of the house so it all works quite well. I feature their many adventures on my blog and via my instagram feed.

What is the appeal of cats in particular?

I have loved cats and always had a cat since I was 3 years old - and as an only child they have always been my siblings, best friends and confidantes.  I love all animals and have lived with other species, but I find kittens through to big cats so visually beautiful, and also so complex and interesting.  Cats can have such a diverse range of personalities and traits but I love their independence and intelligence.  If a cat truly befriends and respects you, then you have definitely earned it!  Plus they are hilariously funny.

We've been invited to a peak at Liza and Dean's wedding...
You are world famous for your feline-themed wedding. How did you feline-ify the day?

I’m not sure I am quite world famous!  But yes our wedding did have a very strong feline theme and we were honoured to have it featured in Rock’n’Roll Bride

Most of the wedding decorations and accessories had feline touches - from invitations and place cards to our wishing-well (a cat piƱata) - right through to my dress by Sandie Bizys. We really wanted to make sure our pets were front and centre on the day so we had framed “quotes” from them at the entry.

Liza's mum handmade this stunning robe for the day. (Image courtesy of Mark from Gold Hat Photography).
My mum hand made the robe I wore getting ready and a beautiful pillow for our rings. Possibly my favourite thing was our beautiful cake-topper, which featured our whole family of 8.  We had 2 dogs at the time - 14 year old cardigan corgis who sadly both passed away later in 2014 - and they were featured too.  They were such beautiful, loving members of our household and are very sorely missed every single day.

All of the little details featured cats. I love the card-eating cat! (Image courtesy of Mark from Gold Hat Photography)

Feline-themed place settings. (Image courtesy of Mark from Gold Hat Photography).
Is this the best cake ever? (Image courtesy of Mark from Gold Hat Photography).
The term “crazy cat lady” is often used in jest or even disparagingly. But you apply the term to yourself. How come?

Yes it’s definitely a term that I claim and am quite proud of! On one hand I recognise that living a life so obsessively focussed on one “thing” is outside the norm.  My house and wardrobe are literally filled with feline inspired things and I am covered in cattoos.

But my own quirks aside, I think the things that make us “crazy” or unusual are in fact the things that make us unique and interesting and should be celebrated.  I spent a very long time feeling like an outsider for all the things that made me “different”, but now I think that one person’s “crazy” is another person’s “fascinating”! I wish more people would be open about their quirks, obsessions, craziness or their challenges to “fit in”. I’m pretty sure every human will experience those feelings at some point in their lives.

Oh yes, Liza bagged the man of her dreams. (Image courtesy of Mark from Gold Hat Photography).
I feel like I was there on the day! Thank you Liza! (Image courtesy of Mark from Gold Hat Photography).
What could we do to make the world better for non-human animals?

It makes me sad that there isn’t more compassion (or more resources) for animals - and that we live in a world where battery farming, live exports, habitat destruction and animal exploitation (circuses, racing, fighting, etc) still exist.  Similar to my comments about humans, I wish more people would see animals as different but equal and worthy of the same respect and dignity that we afford ourselves. 

Educating adults and children about animal welfare is a great place to start.  There are lots of advocacy and rescue groups that do amazing work and I am really proud to do my very, very tiny bit for the Mini Kitty Commune in Sydney - a really wonderful community-based organisation who are setting a new standard in cat welfare.

As the owner of senior pets, you’ve spent plenty of time at the vet. Is there any advice you’d like to share with veterinarians and future veterinarians?

Genuinely I can’t imagine improving any of the vets I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with! In my experience vets are wonderful, compassionate people as are vet nurses and administrators.  I think working with sick animals and their guardians would be incredibly challenging and heartbreaking at times and I have such admiration for people who enter into careers in these fields. 

If I’m allowed a shout out, I’d love to acknowledge all the staff at Animal Tracks Vet Clinic and the Animal Referral Hospital who have provided us and our family with so much care and support over many, many years. Dr Kath Briscoe at ARH in particular does so much for Archie and Soho - she is genuinely one of our favourite people on the planet!  So my only advice - keep up the good work gorgeous vets and know that you are well loved and appreciated!

Thanks Liza! And thank you also to Mark from Gold Hat Photography ( who took the photos (except invitations). You can plug into Liza’s social media channels here: