Welcome!

These are the stories of my life, rescuing, socializing, and standing up for the rights of cats everywhere. It’s an amazing journey, one of inner and outer tribulation and triumph, of heartache and hope. As I struggle to make ends meet, get my Non-Profit cat rescue off the ground and simply find my way in the world; I extend my hand out and ask you to join me in my dream of finding a home for every cat and to stop the insanity of euthanizing adoptable animals as a way of population control.

And I do all that while caring for my own 8 cats who leave me somewhat cranky and perpetually Covered in Cat Hair.

Welcome.

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Annie with total mojo

Saving Spencer: Is it Really Cancer? Ch. 2

(continued from chapter 1)

I’m sitting back on the bed in the foster room, propped up against a few ratty old pillows. Foster kitten, Mighty Macaroon (Mac for short), is sitting high up on my chest, purring loudly, rubbing her face against my cheek. Her nose is wet. It makes me squirm. One at a time I can feel the tip of one of her claws extend, then retract, extend and retract as she flexes her toes. It hurts. I realize Mac is overdue for a claw-trim, but I can’t get to it right now. I’d rather sit here and stare at the TV while she makes tiny pinholes into my skin. Being in this room is my escape from what is in the room below me, Spencer, laying on the heated bed, wheezing ever so slightly as he sleeps. He’s doing all right, right now, but I don’t want to think about what may or may not be inside his abdomen.

It’s the night of Thanksgiving and I am not thankful for anything. I’m just tired and angry and scared. Getting lost in a TV show is my escape. A healthy, purring kitten makes me forget about the senior who is not, even if my escape only lasts a little while.

I haven’t been going for my walks. The pain in my knee is too much. I’m not eating well. I know I’m gaining weight. After all I did to drop over 50 pounds, my fear of it coming back is likely to be realized. The stress is too much. I should probably start boozing it up or taking anti-anxiety medication or running away from home and getting myself into more trouble, but I also know I can be strong. I can face these things I fear most and I can fight to protect my loved ones. Maybe I just need a break and “hiding” in the foster room is as much as I’m allowed.

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Dr. McDaniel reviewed Spencer’s case with us. As often happens, though we did have needle aspirate results, they only pointed to the likeliness of it being carcinoma, but it was not definitive by any means. There are times when you must know what you’re dealing with, but many times it’s a gray area. 

©2017 Robin AF Olson. Resting on the way home from yet another vet visit.

In Spencer’s case, it’s becoming more clear that we need to know for a variety of reasons.

Dr. McDaniel reviewed our options:

1. Surgical removal of the mass. Have it biopsied. Examine the pancreas, liver, kidneys, etc and biopsy or remove the liver lesions if appropriate. We would have to talk to the surgeon, Dr. Weisman, to get more details on how this would happen. Being that Spencer is 15 and has kidney disease and is cranky are all factors to consider. That said, it's likely that removal of the mass could extend Spencer’s life a YEAR or more if we follow up with some sort of chemo.

2. Chemotherapy administered in the hospital via an IV. This is not an option for Spencer because of how fractious he is so we didn’t discuss it much. She did add that this sort of chemo might not give us much of a different result than her third option.

3. Palladia®. It’s a relatively new therapy for dogs with mast cell tumors. Apparently it can work very well on different types of cancer and that cats can tolerate it well. It does have some scary, hopefully short-lived, side-effects.

It can possibly stop tumor growth and reduce the size of any existing tumor. The pill is given 3 times a week at home and it would require a monthly vet visit to check blood work. Dr. McDaniel has had good results with it in cats and feels like it could be beneficial for a time. We could skip the surgery and just go to Palladia, BUT ONLY IF SPENCER HAD A GOOD response to the chemo. He might get 6 months or so.

4. IF Spencer is a good candidate for surgery, the best result we could get would be surgery plus Palladia, or potentially another drug, given at home once we have biopsy results post surgery. That way we could target the medications to what sort of cancer Spencer has.

But…

Spencer has a weird cough. It started early in the autumn. I thought it was seasonally related and mentioned it to Dr. Larry. He said we’d explore that when I brought Spencer in for his 6-month recheck in December since Spencer wasn’t in distress. Since we didn’t get to do that and I mentioned it to Dr. Mary, she did see something on Spencer’s x-ray. Dr. McDaniel saw the x-ray, too and wanted to get a better angle on Spencer’s chest because she was concerned there was a mass behind Spencer’s sternum.

Dr. McDaniel explained that there’s a lymph node in the area of concern and it could be inflamed. Though odd to imagine, that lymph node is responsible for draining fluid build-up in the abdomen. So, it would make sense that this could be lymph involvement instead of cancer. Could we do another x-ray? It would mean Spencer would have to be lightly sedated again.

Knowing that a mass in Spencer’s lungs would tell us the cancer had metastasized, would also mean it wouldn’t be worth considering surgery. We’d have been too late in the game to try so I agreed it was worth getting a second look at his chest. Spencer was none too happy about it, but thankfully they were able to get a good image.

Dr. McDaniel wanted a radiologist to review the image and give us a report. It was the cusp of the holiday so she was hopefully she’d have news that afternoon, but it wasn’t a sure thing. Once again it was time to play the waiting game. Every time Spencer coughed or swallowed awkwardly, until we got the report, I wondered if it was a mass.

We brought Spencer home to recover. He was really hungry and it was comforting to see him chow down. He bounced back from the sedation very well, but meanwhile I was left to wonder where the update was and why I wasn’t getting any news.

©2017 Robin AF Olson. Snack time. I love Spencer's spots.

Of course…the holiday craziness…so I waited…Friday passed, Saturday, Sunday…I called and left a message for Dr. McDaniel to call me. I found out she didn’t return to work until Tuesday. I called to speak to Dr. Mary and found out the same thing. I was resigned to waiting another day, but it was killing me.

Monday night, Dr. Larry called. He’d gotten the report and said the radiologist felt it was not neoplasia (cancer), but normal geriatric changes. Though it seemed to be good news, he warned me that sometimes he’s pushed back on a report and got different results. He said that it still could be cancer and to talk to the oncologist about it again.

On Tuesday, Dr. McDaniel called and left me a message. She was bright and upbeat. No cancer in the lungs. All was well. I was hesitant to be happy about this news until I heard the rest of her message…she’d asked her colleague, Dr. Porter, who is the Emergency & Critical Care Specialist, as well as our surgeon, Dr. Weisman, to look over Spencer’s x-rays. They all agreed it was geriatric changes, NOT cancer. Maybe there was some light at the end of the tunnel? Our next steps, she suggested, would be to talk to Dr. Weisman about surgery if we felt that was an option for our boy.

I reached out to my friends and colleagues and asked them their opinion. Some said that Spencer’s had a good run and to not do the surgery on him, that it would be too much on him and what if:

• They open him up and find he’s full of cancer. They’d put him down right then and there. Could you live with that?

• What if he doesn’t survive the surgery?

• What if he dies shortly after the surgery?

• Why not just do the chemo at home and make your peace with it? It’s certainly more affordable and less stress on everyone.

Yesterday we met with Dr. Weisman. She’d done surgery on our boy, Bob Dole, five years ago. Last year she saved Annie’s life when we discovered she had an intussusception and needed a portion of her intestines removed and stitched back together. I trust Dr. Weisman completely. She doesn’t sugar-coat anything and is a straight shooter. I like and respect her very much. She has the skills and is Board Certified. If someone was going to cut Spencer open, I’d want her to do it.

Before we arrived at our appointment, Sam and I spoke about what to do for Spencer. One vet said not to do the surgery and just do Palladia, but what if Spencer didn’t have a good response to it? What if it wasn’t the right treatment for his type of cancer? We wouldn’t know what we were dealing with so we’d waste resources trying this and that.

Spencer’s been doing well at home. He brightened back up. He’s eating. He’s grooming himself. He even played a little bit a few days in a row. If we’re going to do this it has to be soon, while he’s strong. Also, the mass is large and it must make him feel uncomfortable.

Is it fair to Spencer to let him live out the rest of his life feeling uncomfortable with a mass inside him?

I was thinking maybe we shouldn’t do surgery, but I changed my mind once Dr. Weisman filled us in on what she was planning on doing and how she felt things might transpire. Then she blew my mind telling us something I didn’t even want to hope for.

She reviewed Spencer’s records and even with his age and kidney issues, she felt he was a good candidate for surgery. She does these mass removals, literally EVERY DAY. What a sobering fact that cancer is on the rise that a majority of her surgeries are mass removals. She says pets are living longer so it’s natural they would get cancer. I’m not sure I agree with that, but the bottom line is, she has a great deal of experience doing what she called an exploratory surgery on our boy.

Dr. Weisman would open Spencer up and assess the situation, then quickly come up with a game plan. She described some masses as being a simple blob with lots of fine tendrils hanging off it. It’s really easy to remove that type of mass and get it biopsied. It takes all of 15 minutes. The question is, in Spencer’s case, there are concerns that the mass is connected to a portion of his pancreas or his bile duct.


©2017 Robin AF Olson. You want to do WHAT to me?

Dr. Weisman explained that she could remove the ends of the pancreas but that depending on how it was connected to the mass, she might not be able to remove anything. She would, of course, biopsy the mass so we could target treatment more appropriately. We’d also know what else is going on with his intestines and the lesions that were seen on ultrasound. Whatever needed to be removed, would be removed and/or biopsied.

I asked about her putting Spencer down during surgery if he had a belly full of cancer. She said there was NO WAY she was going to do that. Even if he did have cancer all over, since he was doing well at home, he could come home and we’d still do chemo and give him more time. We’d just know we probably wouldn’t have as much time as we had hoped for.

I asked about him surviving the surgery and her assistant said 95% chance, which is pretty normal of most surgeries.

I asked about protecting his kidney function and they would do everything they needed to do to make sure his kidneys didn’t get worse, but, like anything else, we don’t know 100% how his kidneys will respond. In my mind they’d just be more fluid filled and flushed out so in theory Spencer should not feel any ill effects from that.

The bottom line was that Dr. W. felt Spencer was a good candidate if we didn’t wait too long. We could take a few days to consider our options, so we set a date for the surgery so we’d have it if we wanted to move forward. It would mean a two-week recovery time for Spencer at home, with one to two days in the hospital right after the surgery was over. I’d have to prepare myself for him not being his perky self and trying to find faith that I could not only get him back to feeling good, but maybe even help him feel better than he’s felt for a long time.

The devastating problem is, as much as I feel the surgery could give Spencer a very good year, or maybe more, there is no surgery if there is no way to pay for it.


©2017 Robin AF Olson. Even with all he faces, Spencer still gets playful and enjoys life.

I’ve begged, borrowed, drained out my 401K. There’s nothing left. I have to depend on the kindness of all of you to consider helping Spencer have that blessed bonus year. There are no guarantees, but…Dr. W. said one thing that made my jaw drop.

It might NOT be cancer. It could be a necrotic fat mass. Though the odds were about 25% that it was a benign mass, there’s still a tiny chance it’s not cancer at all. We will never know if it’s not cancer, or possibly give him chemo that he doesn’t need, if we don’t do the surgery and find out what that mass is.

To possibly gain a year or more of GOOD quality of life, Spencer MUST HAVE SURGERY on TUESDAY, 12/5/17.

I feel a lot of shame asking for help, but I need it badly for my boy. I’ve been asked to please not post a photo of the costs of each procedure or service, but I can post the total costs. I need to raise at least $4300.00 by MONDAY night (eastern time), December, 4 (a 75% deposit of the high amount is due when I drop him off before surgery). I realize it’s a breathtaking amount of money, but I have to try.

How to give Spencer a bonus year…

Don’t donate if it’s a hardship. You don’t have to tell me you wish you could, but you can’t right now. That’s ok. I totally get it so don’t worry. If you feel like it, let your friends know our mascot needs their help and maybe some of them can provide a loving gift…tell them that a lady who has spent so many years helping others, needs it now, more than ever, for her cat, not for herself.

Give a gift to Spencer HERE. Your gift is tax deductible and this is a great time to get a deduction before the end of the calendar year.

It's easy to donate a specific amount just use these links:

To donate $5: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/5

To donate $10: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/10

To donate $25: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/25

To donate whatever you wish: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/

Please note: We choose not to use fundraising web sites because they charge a fee on top of the fee PayPal charges us so we get less of a donation. Some of the fundraising sites also take a LONG time to relinquish the funds and we do not have the luxury to wait. If we reach our goal I let you know so that we can close the fundraiser.

If you need to write a check, those gifts will go to Spencer’s ongoing care since they won't arrive in time. Please make out your gift to: Kitten Associates and send it to: P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354 and add a note that it’s for Spencer.

Your gift is tax deductibleKitten Associates is a 501c3 non-profit. Our EIN Tax ID is 27-3597692.


©2017 Robin AF Olson. Konked out. I can see your pink belly!

My goal is to make the most appropriate decision for Spencer, not a rash, emotional wish. I know that only hindsight is 20/20 and the rest is well-meant, hopefully thoughtful and not selfish, good intentions based on advice from medical professionals. The rest is up to him, his body and the secrets that lie within.

Please send Love & Light to my baby boy. Let’s crush f-ing cancer together!


©2013 Robin AF Olson. Me with our Covered in Cat Hair Mascot, Spencer.

If you have any questions about this fundraiser or Spencer’s care (by the way, we also plan on working with a holistic veterinarian and I hope to have some helpful information for you regarding those treatments) you can contact me at: info@kittenassociates.org

…to be continued…

Saving Spencer: One Cat's Cancer Journey. Ch. 1.

The semi-truck appeared over the crest of a hill on a curve in the road. For a moment our vehicles faced each other as I travelled in the opposite direction. All I had to do was stay on my side of the lane and all would be well, but I couldn’t help but feel the desire to turn the wheel hard left. It would take a flick of the wrist to put me into the truck’s path. The impact would certainly destroy my little car and end my life. I was so distraught that the idea of ending it all gave me a momentary reprieve from overwhelming, gutting heartache. I was desperate to stop the pain. As that moment ticked on to the next and the next, I steadied my hands and stayed true, a thick slab of yellow dividing paint on the road the only thing keeping me from making a fatal choice.

A few days later I sit here in my office and try to write. My words have failed to come for so long. I’ve thought over and over about what I would say, how I would let you all know that my love, my friend, my little shadow is going to leave me. I didn’t even want to think about it, I was so shocked at the news. The discovery was revealed so simply, really, but perhaps it was intuition that guided me to do something out of the norm, this one time. Or, maybe my guide was something more divine?

Spencer, the 16-year old mascot of this 12-year old blog, my first “foster fail” 15 years ago, is terminally sick. There is no cure. There are treatments. There may be some things I can do to keep him comfortable for a time. How much time I may have with him has yet to be determined.

This is what I know…

A week before Thanksgiving, one of the cats threw up. Not usually a dire situation, but then Spencer vomited, so I worried there was a virus going around the cats. It was a great volume of food. Spencer has had life-long breathing problems, stemming from scar tissue in his right sinus after suffering from what must have been a terrible infection that occurred a long time before I ever fostered him.

I spent two years doing different tests and treatments thinking he had asthma or allergies, only to find out the most simple answer was the right one. As a result of the scar tissue, Spencer wheezes. I’m always very careful about when he has to be sedated and sadly, because he also can get VERY stressed out in the car (he hyperventilates) and VERY stressed at the vet, I try to limit his trips.

That’s why it was strange that when he vomited, my first reaction was to run him to the vet. He sounded quite bad. I worried he might have aspirated food into his lungs or sinus cavity. I could have opted to wait an hour or two, but my vet was going to close in less than an hour and if I rushed over they could check Spencer out. I was planning on bringing him in for his bi-annual exam in December because his kidneys have started to go downhill and we needed to update his blood work. Something in my gut to told me to go now and not wait. It’s not like I have funds to throw around, but I imagined they’d do an exam and we’d come home and all would be well.

The fates must have aligned that night because Dr. Larry couldn’t see us. His partner, Dr. Mary was the one who examined Spencer not long after we arrived at the clinic. Dr. Mary doesn’t know that examining Spencer is a difficult task. Spencer “red lines” quickly, often hissing and snapping with Dr. Larry. He has to be quick about it or Spencer can require oxygen he gets so upset.

But Dr. Mary is always upbeat and cheerful and speaks so sweetly to all of her patients. She’s very soothing for all of us to be around. She didn’t know about Spencer’s history. I even warned her not to do too much, but she cheerfully continued her exam, while Spencer’s pupils began to dilate with rage when she palpated his abdomen.

“I feel a mass!” Dr. Mary exclaimed.

Dr. Mary's cheerful veil fell for a moment. Sam and I both said that maybe it was stool she was feeling. We’d just brought our senior girl, Nora, in the week before for the same issue-raw fed cats often have very hard, crumbly stool. Dr. Mary shook her head no. She couldn’t break up the mass. Something was wrong. Very wrong. She asked if she could do blood work and an x-ray as my knees went weak with fear.

I agreed we should do the tests if Spencer would allow it, while I tried not to cry. Maybe it was just constipation? Maybe he was just fine. Maybe she was wrong.

Spencer’s blood work looked ok. His kidney function was a bit better in one area and a bit worse in another. Mostly he was doing all right, which was great, but then she showed me Spencer’s x-ray. It was very clear there was a big mass in his abdomen. She explained that it looked like it was in Spencer’s omentum-it’s like a net that holds the intestines in place. She felt it was likely some sort of cancer, but that we should get an ultrasound done right away to learn more.

All I could think was “no...no…not CANCER…not my baby!”

Dr. Mary was very kind and stayed late, even though the clinic had closed for the day. She got Dr. K on the phone to find out if she could come the next day to do the sonogram. Thankfully she could, but it would have to be first thing in the morning. I couldn’t be there. I’d injured my knee over a month ago and was starting physical therapy. Sam said he’d get Spencer to the appointment, but I wanted to skip my therapy and take him. It was a mess trying to juggle Sam’s busy schedule along with feeding all the other cats and foster kittens, while I tried to figure out how to maneuver rush-hour traffic to get to my appointment.

Somehow I managed to keep it together, thanking Dr. Mary for staying late, being polite to everyone and thanking them for helping Spencer, but the second after we left the clinic and the door closed behind us, I burst into tears, nearly howling with anguish.

The next morning, as I drove to physical therapy, I started adding up how I was going to pay for all of this, get Spencer what he needed, and hopefully find out this was all just a big scary monster and that everything was going to be okay.

Except that it wasn’t okay.

Dr. K had to sedate Spencer he was so upset. She found small lesions on his kidney and his liver. The mass in his abdomen might be connected to the “tail” on his pancreas or his bile duct. They called me during the test to ask if I wanted them to do needle biopsies of these organs and the mass and I answered yes right away. We couldn’t waste any time, even though I knew that needle aspirates don’t always provide a definitive diagnosis. We had to try.

But the needle biopsies caused Spencer to have internal bleeding. He couldn’t come home for now. He’d have to stay for the day. They would do a PCV (packed cell volume) test on him every few hours to make sure the bleeding was stopping. I thought I was going to faint from stress. After the shock of the bad news, now I had to worry that the test was going to kill Spencer before I even knew what was going on.

By closing time, Spencer was allowed to come home. The bleeding had slowed and it looked like he would be all right. We were to keep him comfortable and give him time to recover. The test results might take a day or two so there was nothing more to do for now.

©2017 Robin AF Olson. The setup in my office for Spencer.

I have a huge dog bed in my office that has a pet safe heated pad on it. I set up a litter pan not far from the bed and a water dish nearby since Spencer drinks water due to his kidney problems (he gets sub q fluids too). I didn’t want him to have to go too far for anything. He needed to rest and get the sedation drugs out of his system. He walked around like a drunk, but thankfully was very hungry after his ordeal. He ate well, then retired to his bed.

Spencer stopped coming upstairs to “tuck me in” as he has done so many nights over the years. Spencer barely left my office, though in all honesty I didn’t give him much reason to. Spencer would join us in the living room once a day for about an hour but then would wobble back to his heated bed. His appetite was okay, not great. He was still Spencer, but in those days it seemed like he aged a million years.

During those next few days I had terrible anxiety wondering when the test results would come in. I started to pace around the house during the time when Dr. Mary might call-usually either when she first got in for the day or at the end of the day. Around those times I had my phone in my hand, a pad of paper and a pen nearby so I could take notes. I knew that whatever she told me, I’d probably blank out. Better to write some things down so I could look everything up later.

But there was no call Thursday or Friday.

I felt like a zombie. I couldn’t concentrate. I did some research and talked to a few friends. I played a guessing game with Sam about when and how and why I wasn’t hearing from Dr. Mary (an asteroid hit the lab and Spencer’s samples were destroyed…she had an emergency come in and would call me tomorrow…she’d call when I was going to the bathroom).

I imagined we were probably dealing with an aggressive cancer because Spencer had a mass, not thickening of the intestines or lymph nodes, which would suggest a more treatable lymphoma of some kind. I wanted to know how the Hell this could have happened. I prayed to God that it was just some weird benign thing, not something that was slowly killing my cat. Every time I checked on Spencer my gut hitched with fear. I didn’t know if he was slowly declining…did the needle hit something bad? Was he still bleeding internally?

As Spencer slept, I could see his bubblegum pink belly where he’d been shaved. I saw the tiny round red scabs from where the needles entered his body. I wondered if the fur would grow back before Spencer died. I wished I didn’t think things like that.

©2017 Robin AF Olson. Spencer dreams while I have painful thoughts.

Saturday I took Annie, one of my foster cats, to the vet. I didn’t want to bring up Spencer’s test results. I didn’t want to talk about him. I didn’t want the staff to give me that look, the one I’ve seen too many times, the one that says “I’m so sorry I know your cat is going to die. I’m sorry I can’t do something about it. I’m not sure if I should talk to you about it or not so I’ll just not ask out of respect because I also fear that you’ll burst into tears…“

Annie checked out all right. She’d had a cough for a few weeks and I wanted to make sure it was nothing serious. I couldn’t handle any more bad news. I spoke with Super-Deb, the vet tech and my friend. She talked to me about Spencer after I asked her to review his ultrasound report. She explained that because it was a mass it was probably an aggressive cancer. I was right in my thinking, but I wished I was wrong.

She reminded me that what comes next will partly be due to how Spencer handles being at the vet. He won’t sit still for an IV full of chemo drugs. He might not be a good candidate for surgery, even. She surprised me by saying that Spencer was the top 5 angriest cats she’d ever dealt with—and she’s dealt with a lot of cats in her over 20 years as a tech.

So I went home, heartbroken, wondering when I’d get the news. The weekend passed and so did Monday. I started to get angry, wondering what was taking so long. Of course the call came when I didn’t expect it-when I was just leaving my second physical therapy appointment. When I was alone in the car.

It was Dr. Mary, sounding as cheerful as ever. Somehow the word CANCER didn’t sound so bad when she said it. Even when she said she was sorry, her voice softening ever so slightly, as she suggested I take Spencer to an oncologist I didn’t get upset. I’d already made an appointment for him with Dr. McDaniel since it was Thanksgiving week and I worried that if I didn’t move fast we’d lose another week. I didn’t cry. I already knew it was carcinoma and I was resigned to this truth. This news was just sealing Spencer’s fate.

The day before Thanksgiving, when so many other people were racing around, doing their final errands before celebrating with their family the next day, I was sitting in a waiting room with my beloved cat waiting to talk to an oncologist. I never want to be an ungrateful person, but I honestly did not feel thankful for anything this year. It’s been financially the worst year ever-with my poor fatally sick foster kittens nearly bankrupting Kitten Associates, too. I wrote a very very long blog post that I’m not sure you’ll ever read, but it talks in great detail about how very broken I am and what this year took out of me.

I’ve sacrificed the past 7 years of my life to saving lives and I’m exhausted. My family, for the most part, is gone. I’m very lonely. Holidays have lost their joy. They too often feel like just another day. It shouldn’t be like that for anyone.

And now, after all that, I discover my dear boy Spencer has a heartbreaking secret. I don’t know how I missed it because I watch my cats like a hawk. I try to keep thinking things will get better, but they don’t. I’m a rat in a maze with no way out. It’s hard not to turn the wheel and make it all stop, but I have to find a way.

Spencer needs me. I can’t let him down.

….to be continued….

next up…difficult choices and hopefully how to make good ones...

©2017 Robin AF Olson. A bit worse for wear, my precious boy.

TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat

Cats are evolving as they navigate from living in the wild, to a life spent indoors with humans. The resulting problems that inevitably follow when two species try to get along in a shared space, but don’t speak the other’s language is the core of Jackson Galaxy, the New York Times bestselling author of Catification, and host of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell’s, latest book, TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat.

Galaxy kicks off this charmingly illustrated guide with a story surrounding a phrase he coined: Cat Mojo. What is it? Why is it important that our companion cats have mojo in the first place? It’s something we all notice, but may not have a word to describe it. Each of our cats have it to varying degrees, but each cat is different. At their core is a confident creature either yearning to blossom (and who needs our compassion and support to get there) or one who is already strutting his or her stuff, but may be causing other strife in the human home.

As others have written before him, Galaxy dives deeper, underscoring that we can never truly understand our cats until we look at the world through their eyes, not our own. We cannot have a relationship, yes, relationship with our beloved cats without getting to know what makes them tick.

Galaxy hits this point home in a heartfelt, passionate way, nearly imploring all of us to get down on all fours and look around. It’s a different view of the world from under the sofa or on top of the ‘fridge, when we’re terrified of the dog, the kids, or simply being a stranger in a strange land—as cats often feel entering their “forever home” for the first time.

 

To get to know our cats, Galaxy starts at the very beginning. It’s like we’re on a date with our cat and the first question we ask is “Where are you from?” He and co-author, Mikel Delgado, Phd, go into great detail about where cats were first known to exist millions of years ago, along with a timeline of how they slowly, but surely began a journey, living closer and closer to humans until only recently (less than 100 years), they began to live indoors with us full-time. This part of the book effected me deeply. It was a reminder in ways I hadn’t considered that my fluffy, purring, sleeping-on-my-lap-cat, is still a hunter, not far removed from his wild-child ancestor.

 

Being out of touch with our cat can result in all sorts of behaviors that we humans consider unacceptable. Those “bad” behaviors can lead to a terrible ending, literally, for the cat, when they get surrendered to a shelter, kicked out on the street, or worse, and Galaxy lays down the challenge line asking us to reconsider this label.

 

Once you understand your “Raw Cat,” Galaxy provides a section he refers to as his toolkit, a little like his guitar case, filled with in-depth information about the particulars of how cats spend their day, their natural rhythms, their need for predictability in their environment and what happens when that gets disrupted.

 

TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat, at 345 pages, is a must-read for anyone who just got their first cat or who has a cat or two (or eight), but who finds themselves completely frustrated by their antics. This book is filled with “ah-ha” moments, clearly written as if you’re in the room with Jackson himself and he’s your private tutor. Galaxy includes occasional asides that remind us he’s been there, too. This is no preachy tome. It’s very accessible to any cat lover and I highly recommend it.

Where I feel this book hits a bump in the road is with the amount of catch-phrases or special lingo. That said, if we are to truly understand our cats, perhaps we need a new lexicon and if so, this is it.


©2017 Robin AF Olson. Kitten Associates foster kitty, Annie Jones, showing off her #TotalCatMojo.

What I loved about TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat was that Galaxy gave reason after reason why free-feeding kibble is bad for your cat and for a cat to be truly Raw (and therefore closer to his ancestral self) he has to be fed a raw meat diet. He also goes into depth about the often dreaded litterbox issues many people face (Galaxy refers to it as “Raising the Yellow Flag”). I have a feeling many who read “Cat Daddy’s 10 Litter Box Commandments—Quick View,” will cheer, knowing that at last they have hope of a remedy that will work for everyone, humans and cats alike.

 

TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat is the universal translator to understanding your cat’s language and why it’s vital we be willing to invest in a deeper, more compassionate relationship with our cat. Cats have been misunderstood for decades, with deadly consequences, but with Jackson Galaxy at the helm, those notions are changing, and for that I applaud his efforts.

 

TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat is available NOW!

 

If you want to SEE Jackson Galaxy LIVE and in person, he’s starting a book tour starting November 1, 2017. Pop over HERE to get details of when he’ll be in a city near you!

 

Like what we're up to? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Learn more about our rescue, Kitten Associates!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from tarcherperigee. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

#TotalCatMojo #JacksonGalaxy #TeamCatMojo #CoveredinCatHair

Home, At Last

On a crystal clear afternoon last November, Buddy and Belle lost their home. They didn’t lose it due to a natural disaster like Hurricane Irma, but instead to a human crisis. Their dad, my former flame of decades ago, called me, begging to please take his cats. I have cancer he said. It was advanced liver cancer. He was probably not going to live much longer and would I take his cats?

I’ve been contacted many times by families who have lost a loved one, who don’t know what to do when a pet is left behind. Was this going to happen to my ex? How could I say no, but how could I say yes? It would be a terrible burden on my rescue.

His cats were 6 years old. It wouldn’t be a quick placement. I don’t have a shelter, so it’s not easy for people to just come and see them. They’d have to go through the adoption process just to meet the cats and with the competition of kittens available for adoption, the odds were slim Buddy and Belle would be adopted any time soon.

Belle waiting
©2016 Robin AF Olson. My first moments with Belle where I promised her it would be okay one day. She just had to trust me (and I had to hope I could really pull this off).

What was worse was their being in our foster network meant I’d have to say No to a lot of kittens who needed our help, because I’d lose that foster space to adult cats.

I wrote about my struggles and my anger about the situation in a 3-part post (links for them are at the end). I knew my ex was going to screw me one last time by dumping his cats on me, but I also knew that I’d say yes and take the cats for their sakes, not for his. He was prone to being a drama-queen back then and was still now. That sounds cruel, but it’s not, especially when you get the part of this story about what happened recently. Bear with me.

Poor Buddy. Poor Belle. It was clear they were in shock and stressed out when they arrived. They were in terrible condition, too. They were both overweight, had never had decent food, not even one bite of the worst canned food, ever. They ate the cheapest kibble, stored in a plastic jug that sat on the floor.

 

It cost my rescue $5000.00 in surgeries, medications and vet care to get them back on their feet. Meanwhile, our 16-yr old cat, Nicky was on his last legs. We couldn’t spend much time with him the week Buddy and Belle arrived. They had to be in surgery as soon as possible.

 

There was too much going on, but but I put my head down and plowed ahead. We quickly realized Nicky needed vet care, too. In fact, Nicky, Buddy and Belle were all at the vet on the same day. It was a nightmare to try to stay on top of which cat needed what treatment or procedure next.

Belle at the Vet first time 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Belle's first vet visit in her LIFE.

 

Sadly, Nicky never came home. We had to put him down that night after he’d had a grand mal seizure while on an IV at Dr. Larry’s. I felt like we had to sacrifice our last days with our precious boy to care for someone else’s cats. I was furious. This was not right. I sacrifice SO MUCH to do rescue yet it wasn't enough.

 

Nickys last day 600
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Ten months after this photo was taken, Sam and I still cannot talk about Nicky. The pain is too much.

Belle lost half of her teeth. Buddy had a bladder full of painful crystals and a suspicious cyst (Dr Larry biopsied it and it came back benign). Buddy was withdrawn for months. Belle, began to slowly flower, but I could tell she was depressed living in my blue bathroom.

Buddy Stones 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. What cheap kibble does to the inside of a cat's bladder.

 

It took three MONTHS for me to get Belle to eat canned food and get her off kibble.

Thankfully Buddy had a better appetite. Belle slimmed down and began to eat better for me. I realized I had a brand of canned cat food that was made up of small, round shapes, similar to her kibble. I offered her one tiny piece of canned food and she ate it. She recognized the shape and would eat the food if it was broken up into tiny bits. It took a long time, but eventually she began to eat more and more brands of canned food. I could stop worrying about her losing weight too quickly, but it wasn’t good enough.

 

 

They were lonely. Pitifully lonely. I couldn’t spend enough time with them and it wasn’t fair. Now that I had them eating consistently, I could move them into a better foster space.

 

Enter Jame and family.

Jame (pronounced: Jamie) and her daughters, Grace and Frances, are my go-to foster home for kittens and friendly cats. I love this family like my own. They’re so smart and capable and eager to learn about cats. They graciously agreed to take Buddy and Belle knowing they might be in their home for months. They gave up fostering kittens for the spring and summer. I was so very grateful that Buddy and Belle would have full run of a finished basement lined with a row of big, sunny windows. They could enjoy a lot more attention than I could provide. I hoped they’d be happy.

©2017 Robin AF Olson. .

 

I worried about Buddy and Belle feeling like they lost their home with me, but it wasn’t the right place for them. I worried they would stop eating (again) or just hide for weeks on end. It was a rough go for a time, but eventually they adjusted. Having the attention of this loving family made a big difference.

 

Meanwhile, I kept trying to find them a forever home to no avail.

No one wanted adult cats, even though I lightheartedly described them as 72-month old kittens on their adoption listings.

Ten months later, my rescue, Kitten Associates, took part in the national event called Clear the Shelters (more on that another time). Part of the festivities included an adoption event at BMW of Watertown (thank you guys!). I was to bring all of our 14 foster kittens for the general public to meet and hopefully adopt, but I knew Buddy and Belle couldn’t take the stress so they remained at Jame’s house.

Final butt sniff R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Belle making sure Buddy is still Buddy.

At the last minute I decided to design and have printed two huge posters, one for each cat. There wasn’t much text on the banners, just portraits of the cats. I hoped I’d captured their essence in my images. They were goofy, loving, playful and so filled with love. They were gentle cats and had been with kids thanks to Jame. I just needed someone to believe in them and realize that kittens aren’t always the best option to adopt.

Buddy and Belle Posters copy

While we were setting up the showroom for the event, Kathleen and her son, Jace came over to me. She told me about their cat Morgan and how he’d recently died. How Jace, at only 3 ½ years old, could not truly process death. His understanding was to relate it to cars. When the car got old it went to be recycled and would come back as a new car. I asked him what he would call his new cat and he answered quickly, “Morgan, of course.” ...once it was done being recycled.

©2017 Robin AF Olson.

Normally I don’t consider it safe to adopt kittens into a home with such a young child, but Jace had already grown up with Morgan. He told me he missed his cat and was so sad. I also knew that Buddy and Belle had once lived with a little girl. Since they’re adults it was worth a try to place Buddy and Belle if Kathleen would consider adopting two slightly used cats.

 

I told Kathleen Buddy and Belle’s story. She teared up. She didn’t want kittens, especially after she heard their story. This woman is so sweet and compassionate, she completely understood their plight. Buddy and Belle’s home was long gone. They needed the love and support of a new family-one that would stick with them no matter what. Kathleen wanted to be that family if it was a good fit.

 

I was hopeful, but not sure if it would be a match. I moved forward with the adoption process and they passed with flying colors. Over a week ago Kathleen, her husband Jay and son, Jace met Buddy and Belle. I was worried the cats would run and hide with so many people wanting to interact with them.

As Jame, her daughters, and I looked on, Kathleen cautiously held her hand out towards Belle, who took a careful sniff, then leaned in to be petted. At that moment, I saw the look on Kathleen’s face. She lit up with pure joy. It made my gut hitch. She loved this cat. I could tell in that first moment, but I said nothing, afraid I might push too soon.


©2017 Robin AF Olson. The first moment Kathleen met Belle was magic.

Buddy and Belle took turns being a bit shy, then playing with Jace (which made him giggle with glee) or sitting to be petted by the family. Jame’s daughter Frances and I kept exchanging glances, our eyes wide. Without a word I knew what she was thinking.

This is it. This is the family, isn’t it?

Was it too much to wish for?

 

We had our answer barely an hour later. Kathleen shocked me by asking me if I thought it would be ok for them to make Buddy and Belle part of their family. They asked ME for my blessing? ME? Are you kidding? This was a love match if I ever saw one, so of course I said YES!

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Buddy and Belle with their new family.

Then Frances turned to me, stunned; “You mean they’re getting adopted now? As in RIGHT NOW?” I nodded somberly, yes, suddenly realizing the girls hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye to their foster friends.

I invited the family upstairs to the kitchen to do the adoption paperwork while Jame and family had time to say their goodbyes.

I didn’t want to get excited. I was scared the cats would be returned right away. I warned the family that Buddy might shut down and to give him a lot of time to adjust. He might hide a lot and to leave his cat carrier out because he liked to de-stress inside it. They promised they would go slow and were so gracious and thankful to both Jame and her family and to me for taking them on. I asked her to update me if she would be so kind. We gave them Belle’s bed, Buddy’s hidey-cat-carrier, toys, food and even their old litter pan so they’d have familiar scents in their new home.

 

With the cats safely in a big carrier, we brought them outside, as a gentle rain fell from gray skies. A wave of sadness hit me. After the resentment and anger from all those months ago faded away, I realized I loved these cats as my own. They completely charmed me, but I would probably never see them again. I could only hope that I’d get updates from time to time. It was tough not to cry. They’d had a rough journey, but now they could finally relax for the first time in nearly a year.

 

The next day I got a promising update.

Buddy and Belle were home. Really home. They didn’t have to adjust to living with Kathleen at all. They took a nap on the sofa, Buddy choosing to snuggle next to his new dad. He didn’t hide at all.

Belle climbed up on the cat tree and looked out the window. They were already eating and using their litter pan.

Belle w jace.jpg
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Belle on her new cat tree with her new friend, Jace.

I was stunned. These cats had always been fearful, but clearly they were in the wrong homes. They were good homes, but not the right home. This was right. This was it.

 

They finally had what we all yearn for-a safe place to sleep, shelter from the storm of every day life and love.

 

In just over a week since the cats have been adopted, I’ve gotten a few updates. Each one is accompanied by photos of the cats looking completely relaxed and happy.

Kathleen wrote:

 

“Nearly first full week and we have learned that Buddy enjoys his nose being gently massaged. He also fetches and retrieves the krinkle balls.

 

Belle is just plain curious and silly. She loves investigating dresser drawers but is also well versed in creating her own shenanigans. She is pretty content so long as one part of her body is touching someone....or she is playing, she's a happy girl.”

 

napping w dad.jpg
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Buddy fell asleep next to dad, Jay, within a few hours of arriving in his new home. I guess he knew he was finally home.

 

And as for my ex, well his latest Facebook post declares he’s cancer-free and already fishing again in Sheepshead Bay. In the nearly year since we’ve had his cats he never once asked me how they were doing. He never answered my emails telling him we could not afford the burden of the costs of his cat’s vet care. That was on me to solve by begging for donations. What a creep. He just wanted someone to dump his problems on and he knew I’d be a sucker. I wonder if he’s going to adopt cats again? I sure hope not.

 

I feel bitter and want to hold onto my anger, but in truth, I’m ready to wash my hands of having anything to do with him ever again. He doesn’t deserve such amazing cats, or my complete dedication to providing for them. I’m damn glad I got them away from him.

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©2017 Kitten Associates. B&B with mama. I'm betting they'll be good lap-warmers as the days grow colder.

Buddy would be dead by now without me stepping in, no joke. Belle’s mouth was so painful with broken teeth and teeth falling out of her mouth that it would have been horrific torture to stay with him. He cheated on me and was completely unrepentant all those years ago, yet as I write this I realize here’s more proof that I will do anything to help cats, even if it means dealing with someone who hurt me so badly.

But then I look at the photos of Buddy and Belle with Kathleen and her family and my anger turns into joy. Their life begins anew, filled with the promise and hope that this time, this family, is theirs forever.

Cute twosome vinci
©2016 Robin AF Olson. I will really miss these guys. Good luck and happy life!

Backstory: Of Cancer, Carbs and Cats: Return of the Ex. Part 1

http://coveredincathair.com/content/cancer-carbs-and-cats-emergencies-all-around-part-2-3

http://coveredincathair.com/content/cancer-carbs-and-cats-end-and-beginning-part-3-3

How to Prepare for Before and After Your Cat's Final Days.

This post is not filled with research data or rules you’ve seen before about determining quality of life, it’s written solely from my own experiences facing the final days of life of my cats. I hope some of these ideas might help you one day, as you have to bear witness to your cat’s last moments.

 

The thing I’ve come to embrace over the years is that when my cat is nearing the end of his or her life that euthanizing them allows their experience to literally be to go to sleep. I’ve hated the phrase “put them to sleep” because they never wake up, but now that I have witnessed euthanasia enough times, I truly respect those words. For us, the cat-mom or cat-dad, it’s a sleep they never waken from, but thankfully for them it can be VERY PEACEFUL as they experience simply going to sleep. To me, that’s the best gift I can give my cat—peace and love in those final moments.

 

But let’s take a few steps back…

How do you face it when you either know or are suspicious that your cat is nearing the end of his or her life? Personally, when it’s been a longer road, like cancer and even though treatments may help, at some point my cat will grow thinner, weaker and have other issues. The sicker my cats get, the less I can sleep, eat or function. The last month of Gracie’s life I could barely cope with getting up in the morning, fearing I’d find her dead, but also secretly hoping that would be the case. I hated witnessing her demise, knowing I could not cure the cancer that was killing her. This is something I think effects a lot of people. Sam can function better and handle the stress better so I began to depend on him to provide some of Gracie’s care (mostly giving her her medication), while I focused on preparing her food and keeping her clean. Having support made it a lot easier to face the last months. If you have a family member who you can lean on to assist in providing care, a team approach can really help. Each person takes on what they can do best and the cat will greatly benefit. If it's not possible, then reach out to friends, family or your spiritual advisor so you have someone to talk to about your feelings during this difficult time. You should never have to feel alone.

What I learned from Gracie’s passing

 

What I aspire to do is to face death with less fear and more gentleness. Our cats live in the moment. They don’t even know about death. They know they feel good or bad right now. They know they are hungry or not. They know they are loved and safe. My goal is to be more like them and live in the moment, not obsess about what is yet to come, then end up not even being emotionally present when my cat needs me the most.

 

Princess Bubbles
©2007 Robin AF Olson. My most beautiful and sweet girl, Gracie at the prime of her life.

If my cat has a terminal illness, then I need to find a way to accept it, then forget about how I feel and focus on my cat. Is she ok in this moment? Yes. Is she eating? Maybe not. Maybe I’m syringe-feeding her for a few days to see if her appetite picks up or giving her medication to increase her appetite. I’m making certain I’ve spoken with my vet (usually more times than I care to admit) to get feedback about the care I’m providing. It definitely helps to have someone who knows my cat, but is not emotionally involved, weigh in on how things are going.

But what do you do if you don’t know what’s wrong with your cat?

 

Of course, first, get the cat to the vet. Understand that many times they will not be able to give you a definitive diagnosis. It can cause a great deal of stress on the cat’s caregiver because treatments may be iffy, specialized tests, too costly to do, or your cat may be unwilling to be medicated without a great deal of fussing or even bloodshed if they fight you every time they need medication. It's a very difficult balance between providing care for your cat when your cat may be wildly uncomfortable being medicated. Then you have to ask yourself how much you really can do to help when their reaction causes them even more suffering.

 

Your vet may require a consult with a specialist, or for you to take your cat to see one. Getting a second opinion on cases that are not clear cut is a great idea. You may also find out about alternative treatments from the specialist. There are also holistic vets, too. In a way, it can complicate knowing what is the best answer for your cat and many times it’s driven me nuts-especially if you add “Dr. Google” and asking all your friends for advice on what to do. Too many choices can be distressing, but it’s also a great thing, because someone may have an answer that no one else has and that’s what may change things for your cat.

Sleeping on mama
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Gracie's final days.

So how do you handle not knowing the best route to take with your pet’s care? The answer is that you will never know the best route (rarely only in hindsight), BUT, if you come from a place of always trying to DO YOUR BEST for your cat, do research, ask a lot of questions, weigh the pros and cons, no matter how things resolve (a cure or your cat dies), then you can sleep at night because you did everything you could.

 

The most important advice I have about end-of-life care for your cat is this: No mater how things play out, this is about THEIR FINAL MOMENTS, NOT YOURS. It’s not about YOU. It’s about them. Yes, you’re going to be upset, scared, heartbroken— but think about your cat. How would they like their final days to pass? Would they like to be surrounded by people who are anxiety ridden, crying, possibly even angry or shut off from the world OR would they like their environment to be full of love and peace?

 

That’s why IF I have the chance (I realize some times the end comes very fast), I make sure my home is quiet, my cat is comfortable, has a low-sided litter pan that’s easy to access (even if it’s in an awkward place for now). We don’t run the TV or talk loud. Every mealtime is a chance for love and affection, too. After I fed Gracie and Sam medicated her, we would brush her because she loved it. You could also spend some quality time petting or just sitting with your cat. Make sure they can easily be in a sunny spot, on a soft blanket, possibly give them a box or covered space that’s in a social area of your home so they can get out of the way but not be away from the family. Hiding them in a room, alone, is not ideal if your cat was usually a social part of the family. If they tend to be fearful, that’s a different situation. Just remember “what is best for them?”

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Because Gracie was weak we set this area up for her so she wouldn't be bothered by the other cats and still enjoy being in the center of the room where we spent the most time. Gracie wanted to be with us and we made sure her space was comfortable with easy access to whatever she needed. The heated pad was always covered with a soft cloth or towel, but she had another unheated bed incase she felt too warm.

 

ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS look at the situation through your cat’s eyes. Ask yourself what would they want to make them happy, feel loved and be comfortable. They might benefit from a pet-safe heated pad or a cat bed with a thermal core to reflect body heat but not be too warm.

 

Also RESPECT this process. It is natural for our cats to grow weaker as death comes closer. They will eat less (if they are not eating then that is very serious if you’re not supplementing them with assist-feeding). They may miss the litter pan (no scolding them if that happens). They may be more vocal at night. Forgive them for anything that you may find difficult to deal with, as long as you’re clear that you understand the underlying health issue.

Do not ASSUME your cat is dying without proper vet care and consultation.

 

There have been plenty of times when I thought “This is it.” and the cat rebounds and is fine for years. This is why it’s so tough to know when is the right time to say goodbye because in many cases, with some effort, medication, dealing with messes around the house, your cat can recover.

Last summer when ALL of our 10 cats got sick, I thought we might lose Spencer and Nicky. They were both over 15 and both were quite ill. Our cat Cricket, had to be euthanized. He was only 12 and it came on very suddenly for him and after a lot of tests and treatments that didn’t work we had no other option. The fear was very real that we’d lose two more cats.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Nicky last July when we had the first bad scare we were going to lose him.

This is where that tricky word, faith, comes in to play. I had to learn to have faith, being brought up in a home with parents who were atheists. I think that folks who have religious backgrounds understand faith better than I do. It’s been a long road and I still struggle, but when your cat’s diagnosis is not clear, sometimes faith is the little bit you need to keep you going and not give up on your cat just yet.

I also want to talk about letting your cat pass away at home. I’ve witnessed it a few times and I want to say it’s okay to do this, but looking back on it it was NOT okay. One cat fell into a coma and passed away very peacefully about 20 minutes later, clearly in no pain, but another struggled and I know I waited too long. On the way to the vet she died in Sam’s arms. Not ideal.

 

It’s too risky to wait and let nature take its course to that last second. The risk being your cat WILL very likely suffer if you don’t help them pass away. That’s why this is so tough. You will never know the perfect time, you just have to do your best and come from a place of love. It will guide you, but you have to be willing to let go and that is so very difficult. The saying goes: "Better to do it one day too soon than one minute too late."

 

Goodbye Nicky 400
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Our last moments with Nicky a few months after our scare in July. We spent time holding him and helping him feel comfortable and loved.

Eight months ago when we euthanized Nicky, our 16-year old cat. We could have brought him home and hoped to have a few more days with him. It would have been very likely he’d have another seizure and die painfully, but we could have had him euthanized at home. Inasmuch as we wanted him to be home, we also loved him so much that we wanted him to have the best death possible.

Yes, I said BEST death.

That’s the “great” thing about euthanasia-you can have a say on how your cat dies. Yes, in some very rare cases maybe you can let them just fade away at home, but it’s far better to have an opportunity to create a meaningful send-off for your cat.

Some tips:

Light. I think it’s VERY important, if you can, to keep the lights low in the room. At our vet’s they had two banks of lights-one on the ceiling and one under a cabinet. We shut off the overhead lights and it was significantly more peaceful in the room. If you’re at home, you can lower the lights or maybe light a few candles if it’s safe. If needed, use the light on your phone so the vet can see the vein in your cats leg, but you don’t have to have blazing lights on in the room. Cats feel safe in the dark so this will help them.

Sound. We had it very quiet in the room and were whispering. Maybe your cat was used to music softly played or just hearing your voice. You don’t have to say a lot. Of course you will be upset, but keep focusing on the love you have for your cat and just let them know how you feel and let them know it will be okay.

Location. Wherever we are, always try to hold our cats when they pass. Be prepared because many times fluid will come out of the cat after they die so hold them gently wrapped in a towel or have a towel with a puppy pad under it, or place them on a soft cat bed that you won’t care about getting ruined.

If you can, of course be at home with your cat. There are many services that only do in-home euthanasia. Take a moment to look one up right now and put the info into your address book. You may need it right away and knowing you have the info is, in a way, a comfort.

 

Before, During and After Passing

• Preparations. I prefer to have my cat cremated. They can be cremated privately, meaning, their remains are cremated without any other animals. This is a more expensive option, but certainly worth it. You can have your cat's cremains returned to you (or not if you don't want them back) or placed in an urn. Many pet cemeteries can provide an urn or you can make your own or have one made for you on places like Etsy. Your vet will help you make the arrangements.

 

I also bring with me a photo of me and Sam and a few special items that I will have cremated with the cat. With Gracie, we sent her off with a photo of us, she was wrapped in a beautiful, colorful cat bed and with her favorite catnip toy. For Nicky, we wrapped his body in one of Sam's softest fleece shirts because he often held Nicky in his arms. You'll know what special things you can do for your cat to give him or her the proper send off.

 

• The Process. If you have your Vet help your cat pass, the process itself is usually very quick. They will have to shave a small area on one of the legs to access a vein. Then there should be two injections. The first one is a sedative (ask for this if your vet doesn't usually do it-they really should), which does not kill your cat. It just helps them relax and go to sleep. This is when you can truly say goodbye. Your cat won't feel any more pain now and will be resting. You can take a moment before the final injection. The last one is an overdose of Sodium pentobarbital which will slow their heart beat down and finally cause it to stop. It is very fast acting and often-times you won't even know your cat is gone until your vet verifies by listening to their heart for any sign of function.

I ALWAYS ask my vet to take a paw print impression from my cat after they have passed. It's a little thing I like to have. Some folks cut a small lock of fur. There's even a fibre artist who makes memorials out of your cat's fur (you can have one made while they are still alive, too).

Just After. Although I've wanted to run screaming out of the room after my cat dies, I stay put. It's very very difficult, but this is a time when you can say your goodbyes. I take time to clean any mess off my cat's body as a sign of respect and love. I will often brush them and place them on the special cloth or item of clothing I want them to be cremated with. I've written them a note and placed it with them, along with a photo of myself. I find doing these things very comforting. I stay with their body for as long as I feel I need to-some times it's been up to an hour, some times because our vet wasn't open and our cat passed away at home, we kept their body with us over night surrounded by candles in a makeshift memorial. How you choose to spend your final moments with your cat is up to you.

• Religion. Do whatever feels right either before, during and/or after your cat passes. After Gracie and Cricket died we did a Buddhist ritual for them. Perhaps if you feel it would be appropriate and if there’s time, ask for help from someone in your spiritual community to be there or prepare a special service for your cat and invite your friends and family to be there after you get your urn back. This is about you and how you want to honor your cat. Everyone is different. Some, like me, feel better having their cat’s ashes and some prefer burial. Whatever is right for you, is the right way to go.

Crickets Urn Insta Version R Olson

The Bottom Line

How each cat passes is unique. How you handle it doesn’t have to be. You can flip out, run away, not deal with it and make an excuse why you let them suffer because you were afraid, or you can use this experience to truly cherish those last days, to celebrate them both before and after your cat passes away. This is not an easy path but we all have to face it. Being prepared and resolute in your roll will go a long way to making those last days blessed and at some point you will be able to look back and feel comfortable with the choices you made.

I wish we never had to say farewell to anyone, beloved pet or human we love, ever, but knowing our time together is limited makes it all the more precious.

2005 Cricket and Me 475
©2012 Robin AF Olson. I wrote this post in honor of the One Year Anniversary of Cricket's passing. I miss you so much, Crickie!

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 8

(continued from Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.)

I’ve been writing in my Stephen Kellogg embossed journal every day since Holly arrived five weeks ago. Today I made the final entry.

Mabel and Journal
©2017 Robin AF Olson. My cat Mabel with my journal. Keeping a diary REALLY helped a lot. I was able to track how many times Holly peed, but more importantly what I was doing to change her behavior. I tried feeding her on the spot where she'd peed before. It worked for a few days, but then she still peed on the bed. That was a good data point to help me decide what to do next.

DAYS ON PROZAC 19

GOOD DAYS 14

 

It was time for Holly to be reunited with her family. There weren’t any more tests I could put her through. The next one would be to see how she does once she’s home with her family and without the companionship of other cats. I warned the Kellogg’s that Holly might need more time before she completely stopped peeing. We couldn't know how much stress she’d experience making such a big change. I felt she should not start off in a small space, but just come home with access to her usual places so things didn't seem different to her (all of which had been steam cleaned while she was gone). They'd have to monitor her carefully and remember that it takes at LEAST 4 weeks for the Prozac to take full effect-more like 6 weeks.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stephen did come to visit Holly after he returned from his Tour and she was very happy to see him again.

I wrote the Kellogg’s a letter from Holly and sealed it into an envelope, along with a personal note that I'd leave with them to read after I'd left. Here's Holly's letter:

“To My Dear Family,

My name is Holly Ivy. I may look familiar to you on the outside, but inside I’m a different kitty. While I’ve been away, I’ve been on an adventure. I met some terrible beasts, but they became my friends because of my inherent good looks and charm.

I also met some people, who, at first I wasn’t so sure about, but guess what? They became my friends, too. One of them, I call her Aunt Robin, was super nice to me and because she is so squooshy, she made a nice bed for me to sleep on.

Another new friend is Dr. Larry. He has a pretty loud voice and where is his fur? It certainly is not on his head. That is weird. Anyway, Aunt Robin and Dr. Larry said that I was a wonderful kitty, but to unlock my magical powers I needed a little bit of help so I could become the best kitty ever, a Kellogg-kitty.

 

I told them that sounded good to me, but how would these powers be unleashed? Honestly, I still don’t know, but whatever they did must be working because I don’t get scolded any more and no one is tense around me any more. In fact, everyone can finally see me for who I really am…the super-prettiest, the pom-pom-fetcher, the smile-maker, the love-bug, and fifth Kellogg daughter.

 

I missed you all so very much and I am so glad to be home. I hope I never have to leave you again, because even though everyone was really nice to me, there’s no place better than with my family. I hope we can forget the past and move forward with joy because that’s what life is all about.

Love,

Your Holly-girl

I wanted the Kelloggs to have a clean slate and start fresh with Holly. I knew it was a lot to ask, but I’d also shown them that Holly could go a few weeks without resorting to her old habits. I’d come to understand that cats can learn to outgrow their inappropriate behaviors while on Prozac. It could take six months to a year. She might always need to be medicated, but at least we have something that worked for two weeks. Now comes the true test.

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Stephen met me at the door in his loungewear (PJs?). I guess he felt comfortable enough around me to be himself. I wasn’t trying to be cool any more, no longer worried about what I was wearing, either. We were at ease as he bent down and nonchalantly opened Holly’s cat carrier. She walked into the kitchen, tail up, excited. Within seconds we could tell she knew she was home. She gently rubbed her cheeks against a toy filled basket on the floor and again on the corner of the kitchen island. She was a busy bee, refreshing her scent around the main rooms of the first floor.

Stephen was busy filling up the litter pans and sweeping up some loose grains from the floor. I kept an eye on Holly, tossing her a pom pom, which she ran after, or following her into the room where she’d often peed on the sofa. This time she was exploring and though her pupils were rather large, she still had a confident, happy air to her.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Holly-girl with her daddy.

 

Kirsten returned home from dropping the children off at school. She was clearly happy to see Holly again. I’d suggested they didn’t tell their daughters that Holly was going to come home today so they kept it a secret. Their second oldest daughter, Adeline, had asked before leaving for school if they could visit Holly this week, anxious to see her again. I was grateful there was still a connection even after all this time and wished I could see her face once she realized Holly was home.

 

I was grateful, too, that although Stephen has been clear he does not have the bandwidth to go a crazy distance with Holly (again), he is willing to give it another try. I’m guessing because of how hard I worked to solve this problem he's willing to continue…and I think, too, because he trusts me (and that is a great gift).

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Two normal and cool people with Holly and...yikes.

I showed Kirsten and Stephen how to hide Holly’s magic pill into her food. It’s a bit of a fussy thing to have to do, but it’s only once a day. We gave Holly a snack and she ate it right up. It was a good sign that she was adjusting to being home after only a few minutes. It gave me hope.

 

Holly returned to her favorite spot next to the vent under the refrigerator. The warm air was soothing and the Kellogg’s often found her there. We gathered around her in a semi-circle, all sitting on the floor. Stephen took a selfie of all of us together, but I didn’t realize I should sit up so I looked like an idiot laying on the floor while they sat up, smiling for the camera (so I sort of fixed it in photoshop!). I really wanted this last image of us together to be the one that would bring this story to a close, perfectly, but as so many things go, events unfolded in ways I never expected.

 

Group Photo w Holly RT
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Ha ha ha...photoshop!

 

Three months ago, a guy sent me an email asking for help with his cat, Holly and I never could have imagined where our paths would take us. Today my heart is full. I’m fighting back tears, but it’s a losing battle. I worked so hard to save Holly from having a terrible future. I gave up a lot of my time and resources. I asked so many of my peers for help. I pushed and begged and cajoled, and in the end, at least, so far, knock wood, it was completely worth it.

 

A few hours after I got home, Stephen texted me a photo of Adeline. Although I can’t share it (because I respect her privacy). I can tell you what it looked like. He took it the moment she realized Holly was home. She’s crying. Her expression is a mixture of pure heartbreak and joy. Kirsten is holding her tight, comforting her, but you sense that in another moment Adeline will be reaching towards Holly so she can hold her again and tell her the words she never thought she’d be able to say: “Welcome home my Holly-girl, welcome home."

…12 hours later...

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Holly peed on the eldest daughter’s bed.

 

[yep, one more part to go then...we'll see.]

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©2017 Robin AF Olson.

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