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.
Kristen Lindsey did something most of us would consider a disgrace to humankind. “For fun” she went hunting with a bow and arrow shooting what she claims was a “feral” cat in the back of the head, killing it. If she hadn’t been so completely arrogant, maybe she would have thought twice about bragging about it; but what makes her actions despicable was that she not only bragged about it, she posted a photo (that I will NOT share here EVER) on Facebook of her holding her arrow while the cat’s body dangled from it.
What makes my blood boil is this woman is a small animal VETERINARIAN.
What makes me want to say things that would probably get me arrested is that she didn’t do a thing when she found out the cat was named Tiger and WAS a FAMILY PET who had gone missing. She claimed she was helping rid the world of another feral cat when she probably did nothing to find out if she was in the right to take its’ life. In my opinion, even though it’s disgusting to know that in Texas feral cats can be shot, this is no way to handle feral cats ESPECIALLY because it’s often very difficult to be certain it’s feral in the first place (unless it’s been TNR’d and has an ear tip).
There was a rally in Texas yesterday to protest what Lindsey did and some groups asked for more humane education. While humane education is important for CHILDREN, this was an ADULT who treated CATS in her practice. If she didn’t have the compassion and kind-heart to want to save the life of a “feral” cat, then what would humane education change for her? What sort of sick, twisted, narcissist has been handling animals while her clients had no idea of what a sadist she was.
As someone who runs a cat rescue and has had cats for most of my life, I have to work with vets constantly. If I discovered that one of my Vets did such a heinous act, I would fire them immediately. I hope I’d be able to tell they didn’t have a beating heart far before then, but if I missed something then they’d be fired.
Maybe she should work in a meat packing plant where she can shoot cows in the back of the head 8 hours a day, then post photos of herself showing off her “good work.” Clearly this person does not deserve her license and should seek another one way to make a living. I don’t want to live in a country that turns their head the other way when something horrible is done to a housecat who was a beloved family member. She should be charged with murder.
While her act may not have been seen as a breach of any laws in Texas, she clearly broke what is a common-sense ethical and moral code: her job is to save lives and humanely end lives of companion animals under strict protocols THAT DO NOT INCLUDE SHOOTING THEM WITH ARROWS ...and humane euthanasia is done only when no other options to preserve life remain.
Contact the AVMA and tell them (nicely) that you're disgusted and you want them to consider revoking Lindsey's license as well. You can read their statement about this situation. It's not an easy-read but they do mention appropriate handling of feral and free-roaming cats and it does not say that shooting them with an arrow is okay.
There are many Facebook pages popping up that support justice for Tiger but I can’t determine which one/s are legit. Doing a search for “Justice for Tiger“ will help you decide. Bottom line-we can make anything happen if enough people write to the TBVME and complain. We CAN DO THIS.
©2015 Remembering Tiger. Tiger
And to Tiger's family: I'm so very sorry for your loss. Clearly Tiger was an adorable orange and white tabby who loved life until his tragic end. May you find comfort in knowing the firestorm his death has created. I hope you will get the justice your family deserves and that Lindsey will lose her license. She should not be allowed to be near anyone's cat or dog and I hope one day that will happen.
Fly Free, Tiger.
It was just another morning feeding routine I do twice a day with the foster cats. I carried their food and a few plates up the stairs to the second floor of my house. Their room is at the end of the hallway. As I reached the top stair I started to feel a pressure in my chest, then a stinging radiating pain from my lungs, into both sides of my neck, down into my shoulders. My head was already throbbing from a headache, but now it was worse. I felt palpitations. I knew if I didn't drop what I was carrying and sit down I was going to be in trouble. I got to my bed and sat down on the edge of it, trying to calm my nerves. Slowly I felt the pain subside enough to feel like I could stand. I could hear the cats crying and banging on the door to their room. I was already late feeding them so I had to get up. The cats always crowd around me as I enter the room, anxious to be the first to lick at their food. I shuffled my feet so I wouldn't step on any of them, then began to lower the trays to the floor. Something didn't feel right. The pressure and pain began to return. I sat down on the bed in the foster room, my chest was heaving. Something was very wrong with me.
It was just another morning feeding routine I do twice a day with the foster cats. I carried their food and a few plates up the stairs to the second floor of my house. Their room is at the end of the hallway. As I reached the top stair I started to feel a pressure in my chest, then a stinging radiating pain from my lungs, into both sides of my neck, down into my shoulders. My head was already throbbing from a headache, but now it was worse. I felt palpitations. I knew if I didn't drop what I was carrying and sit down I was going to be in trouble.
I got to my bed and sat down on the edge of it, trying to calm my nerves. Slowly I felt the pain subside enough to feel like I could stand. I could hear the cats crying and banging on the door to their room. I was already late feeding them so I had to get up.
The cats always crowd around me as I enter the room, anxious to be the first to lick at their food. I shuffled my feet so I wouldn't step on any of them, then began to lower the trays to the floor. Something didn't feel right. The pressure and pain began to return. I sat down on the bed in the foster room, my chest was heaving. Something was very wrong with me.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Just another day...or the first sign of trouble.
For the past few weeks I’ve been suffering a lot with these mysterious searing aches and pains. Hey, I’m no spring chicken any more. It’s to be expected. The thing is, with the ease of looking up symptoms on the internet it’s lead me to believe that I need to see a Doctor or two and right away, please. Am I going to have a heart attack?
So I went to the Doctor. I did the easiest thing I could. I had Sam schlep me to Urgent Care hoping that they’d agree to my assessment of the situation: that due to my sedentary life, the stress of running a cat rescue, not having a vacation in years, needing a bigger bed so there’s actually room for two adults and a few giant cats to sleep on, was the root cause of my woes.
So I left the clinic with more questions than answers. I feared I was going to have a heart attack at any moment. The signs for women are subtle and range from pain in the back, neck, chest, jaw, down the arms, pressure on the chest and more. I had most of those symptoms. I have a very tragic family history of heart issues and strokes. I have to face the fact that perhaps all this sitting around and carrying extra weight on my bones has caught up with me.
It’s amusing perhaps, that my Mother spoke to me about death. She was very matter of fact about it and got a bit terse with me if I pushed back, not wanting to have the discussion. My stomach would flip flop when she brought it up. I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it. I hoped I’d have her around as long as I was around. She didn’t smoke or drink so she had that going for her. Maybe losing her could be put off for some other day.
She wanted me to know what to do if I ever needed to make a decision for her if she was incapacitated. She wanted me to know she’d written her Last Will & Testament and where I could find it and who her lawyer was. She told me where the bank statements and investments were. She’d even quiz me about those things from time to time. She prepared me for many things, but in the end she never prepared me for what to do if she lied to me about her health problems. She died of heart failure, unexpectedly and I was the one to find her dead on the floor. At least during the worst grief of my life, I knew where the papers where and I knew what she wanted done.
©2006 Robin AF Olson. Mother.
We all want to live forever, but we won’t. Though it’s emotionally draining we have to face it and we SHOULD prepare for our inevitable demise. That way it not only ensures that how we want to spend our final days will be respected (if there’s a chance for that to happen), it also respects those who are left behind; the people we love.
That’s why I realized if something bad happened to me, not being married would mean my brother, who I have no relationship with, would make the decisions about my care. Sam couldn’t even visit me in the hospital. The thought made me feel even sicker. I don’t know what’s going on with me and as much as I hope I will have many more years to go, it’s not a certainty.
So I started the paperwork for a Living Will and other Advance Directives. The forms were very easy to find online for my state and by the way, you don’t even need a Lawyer (though you will need a Notary) for these directives. It made me think about the “what ifs” I may face one day. I didn’t want to imagine myself in a situation where I was in a coma with no chance of recovery, but I had to. I had to think about what I would want. Would I want to live if life only meant breathing while attached to a machine and maybe some sort of low brain-stem level awareness of the world? How would it be if I couldn’t care for myself, even scratch a simple itch? I couldn’t even be with cats anymore or smile at a joke. I would be a burden to Sam both financially and emotionally. So let me fly free.
I knew I could designate Sam to be the person to make that choice for me, but I also needed to assign an “alternate” if Sam could not or would not make the choice. The answer wasn’t tough to come by but it did surprise and sadden me. Most people would turn to a family member, but I have none that would be appropriate. I realized that I only have a very few friends I’ve even known long enough to trust with this responsibility. When I made my choice I asked Sam if was okay with him because it was someone I used to have a relationship with. Thankfully Sam was fine with my choice and even agreed with it. I’d known this person for a big chunk of my life and was still friends with him. I trusted him, now literally with my life. I had to call and ask his permission to include him in this paperwork and I felt like asking this of someone required having one of the most intimate and soul-opening discussions of my life.
I was scared to ask him, not knowing how he might take the request, but his answer gutted me with his simply put reply; “Thank you for this gift. Of course I will do this for you.” I guess the comedian in me was on a lunch break because I couldn’t make a joke about how now he could unplug me after all the times I caused him grief.
Without saying the words, I knew that we still loved and cared about each other, but in a way that was not disrespectful to our mates. We both were willing to talk about that thing called Death and both stick our toes into the pool of ever-shifting “what ifs.” The beautiful thing I didn’t expect was the lingering feeling that this was the right thing to do and once done I could relax. I told myself that I have to keep facing situations that are difficult. I’ve done it for all my foster cats for over a decade and now I need to do it for myself.
I saw another Doctor today. She hates cats but I told her if she didn’t go on about why I’d still like her. She listened to my description of what I think is going on and what I’m experiencing. She asked many questions about my odd (to me) symptoms. I didn’t get a diagnosis, only next steps. She wants me to get my heart checked out more thoroughly so that means an echo/stress test. It’s more sensitive and better suited to test a woman’s heart, but the insurance company may deny the request. If that happens I’m not sure what I will do. (GOOD NEWS: I just found out I don't need approval and I can have the test done after the 4th of July holiday is over).
Tomorrow morning I’m having a lot of blood tests done to rule out things that scare the crap out of me. The blood tests will be looking for diabetes (no surprise, but darn it I’m sure I don’t have symptoms), high cholesterol, and just like so many of my foster cats, they’ll check my organ function, blood issues, and a surprise—Vitamin D deficiency. I guess if it’s really bad it can effect your heart and all sorts of other things, too and lots of people have it and don’t even know. Since I live almost like a Vampire, it might not surprise me to find out I’m low in that particular tank.
©2003 Robin AF Olson. As usual, everything is a joke, even with my mother in the hospital. Notice the line up of the magazine with my mom's chest.
Since she couldn’t weigh in on what was going on with me, I asked what I should do until all these tests are done. She replied I should not exert myself to the point of feeling pain and take it easy. On the drive home, I realized that Sam’s birthday is in a few days and we’re supposed to go to see his family in New York City. I can’t go. I can’t risk having to walk too strenuously and in the city that’s a lot of what makes up every visit. With not being able to do much I haven’t been able to even plan something for Sam but this really was the pits.
This may be the last post I’m going to write before I have some answers. I don’t feel too badly right now. I’m trying not to be scared. Facing your own mortality is no picnic, but if you want to have a chance to squeeze out as many good years as you can, you have to do it.
So please, get your Last Will & Testament written, get your health proxy set up, maybe organize your paperwork and let a few people, including your doctor and lawyer know what you’re up to. Have the discussion with your family. Don’t be shy. It’s tough to talk about this, but better to have it out in the open than hidden away because when your time comes no one will know what you wanted to have done and it could lead to all sorts of legal and family issues.
And after you have your affairs in order, you can forget about it and talk about something everyone likes to talk about (except my Doctor) — cats.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Morning wakeup call with Freya.
Many years ago when I was first fostering, I’d heard about conditions cats and dogs face in the southern United States at overcrowded municipal shelters. At the time I didn’t want to know any details. I kept my eyes to the ground and just fostered a few kittens here or maybe an entire family, but never too many to feel overwhelmed. I was protecting myself from a heartbreaking truth that I was convinced I couldn’t do anything about because I was just one person. Fostering a few kittens meant giving back to my community and helping cats. I didn’t have to find them homes, my “boss” did that. I didn’t have to get too attached because I only had the kittens for a week or two.
In fact, there were times when I could have learned more about terrible conditions right here in my own state when the rescue I volunteered for helped out with a hoarder, but I couldn’t handle it. I told them not to tell me or “I’d lose it.”
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Clyde is an adult with very sad eyes who was pulled from a Georgia kill-shelter because Joan knew he was doomed. He turned out to be FIV positive, but is a sweet cat. He has been neutered and given his vaccines. This VERY lucky adult may even have a home waiting for him thanks to Joan!
Because I write this blog, invariably someone will see my words and it will effect them, which in turn will end up changing my life, too. That’s how I finally gained the courage to open my eyes to the plight of cats and kittens in the south-one person who already knew about the horrors contacted me, asking me to help. She ended up being one of our most important volunteers, our first foster home and the key to beginning to make a difference in the lives of cats from the south.
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Polly is a tuxedo polydactyl who very sweet. She is due to be spayed soon, but otherwise is fully vetted and healthy. Please contact Joan to inquire about adopting this cutie.
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. These kittens had runny eyes and were pulled in the nick of time right before the shelter killed 21 other cats and kittens. Without a foster home these kittens wouldn't have made it.
Even though my rescue is small, we’ve made a difference in more than 500 cats' lives by directly rescuing them from shelters or by networking online to help others. It’s like emptying the ocean with a spoon, but it’s something-and for those cats it means everything.
Joan is based in Chattanooga, TN and has been helping dogs and cats for as long as I’ve known her. Even though Joan is admittedly flat out exhausted and trying to step back from doing rescue so she can work on rebuilding her business (which took a big hit earlier this year), she can’t let animals die without trying to do something, anything to help.
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Happy and safe and no more sniffles, thanks to Joan.
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. This little one, her mother and the rest of her family were put down before 8AM, before Joan had a chance to beg for their lives. She had no open foster home for them. That's all it would have taken to save them. This post is dedicated to these little angels.
I realize that this scary and sad news might make you want to tuck your head under the blanket, but I’m going to ask you to try to be brave with me, with Joan, with our foster mom, Moe, with Bobby, Warren, Mary Jo, Kendra, Jame, Dorian, Katherine, Connie, Connie S., Adrienne, Amy and SO MANY MORE “just one person” who is trying to make a difference by fostering cats and kittens. If you add up all the cats each of us has fostered, you’re starting to look at some very impressive figures. Be just one, of many and join us.
Right now Joan is in DIRE need of foster homes in Chattanooga, TN area AND pretty much anywhere in central Georgia. I need foster homes HERE in Sandy Hook/Newtown, CT. It doesn’t take much to foster but it will keep those cats from dying. Will you be sad when they leave? Sure. But I would much rather be sad that they left me and went to their forever home, then left a shelter in a black plastic bag never having known love or joy.
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. The Redemption 5 These kittens were given 24 hours by a shelter (basically because they were messy eaters and they don't want to clean up after them). Thanks to Joan, they are safe but need funds to help with their care. BTW Bath tubs are the BEST place to raise kittens under 8 weeks!
Also, Joan is desperately trying to raise funds to provide surgery for a very pretty Siamese kitty named Amara, who, along with her little scruffy kitten, were destined to be put down. Thanks to Joan, they are safe, but Amara’s eye is in bad shape and she needs surgery.
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Amara and son. They tried optical ointments for Amara, but sadly her eye is too damaged to save. It's painful and she needs to have it surgically removed-after which time Amara and her kitten will be available for adoption. See Joan for details (contact info is below).
Chattanooga, TN area and Georgia friends: Please contact Joan Flores at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to know more about the kittens posted here for adoption or if you’d like to offer assistance by being a foster home.
Please contact ME if you live in Sandy Hook/Newtown, CT at email@example.com if you’re interested in fostering for us!
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Don't make them wait for a rescue. Foster today!
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Adopt us, too! Contact Joan for details.
I've spent the better (and I do mean: Better) part of my life living with cats and it wasn't until I was asked to write about their true nature when I realized why I love them so much.
If you think about it, cats should be terrifying companions. They've got razor sharp claws and piercing teeth. They can see in conditions that leave us in the dark and their sense of smell and hearing is far more acute than our own. We could never hide from them if they were hunting us (or if we were in the bathroom with the door closed). But it's how they're so willing to show us who they really are, and in the same moment treat us like part of their family, never giving us reason to fear them, that I love most. In fact, most of us sleep with these formerly wild beasts without a second thought.
©2012 Robin AF Olson. Fred, followed by brother Barney, two of our former foster kitties showing off their flying skills.
Instead of looking at your sweetly slumbering cat, marvel at how their body can flex into amazing positions as they rest, ones that give them the advantage over their prey once they awaken. Take delight when you see your cat jump off the floor, covering many more times over their own body-length, to reach a high perch. And as they show off their hunting skills, see if you notice how they grab their favorite toy with their paws, then quickly shove it into their open mouth, giving it a death-bite. Sound terrible? Not at all. It's amazing!
©2012 Robin AF Olson. Fred. Our best flyer, really knew how to capture toys in the blink of an eye.
Let's celebrate how fortunate we are to witness these magical creatures, up close, not on a safari or not as photos in a book. They're right here in our living room, each one a marvel of catness.
In honor of our fabulous felines, Purina wants you to join their Pro Plan® community here at Cats True Nature where you can check out Darren Dyk, of Beyond Slow Motion, who got some amazing footage that highlights awesome cats in slow motion. You can also find tips for capturing photos and videos of your cat (which is always handy in my book).
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Coco, another former foster kitten loved hunting feather toys.
AND DON'T MISS THE EXTRA AWESOMENESS-A SPECIAL PRIZE PACK!
If you pop over to our Facebook page (don't forget to LIKE our page) where you can enter the same photos or videos for a chance to Win a Special Prize Pack featuring a GoPro Camera and more! Deadline for entries is June 11 at 12:12 PM EST so don't delay! A winner will be chosen by me, so make it good!
And don't forget to celebrate your #CatsTrueNature.
This is a SPONSORED post for which I was compensated. It promotes a campaign and GoPro prize pack giveaway for Purina's #CatsTrueNature. This is NOT a product review about any types of cat food. This sponsored post is MY OPINION, ONLY.
continued from Part One
A year later…just about June 2015
I just re-read the posts from last year. I’m glad I sat on it for so long because the lesson I’ve learned has ripened while Blitzen has become sick again, seemingly out of the blue.
Firstly, I’m working this year. I’m very grateful that my graphic design business is staying busy and I’ve got a small handful of clients and some very interesting work ranging from designing bobblehead carton graphics to re-designing a web site for a New York State agency.
I’ve had to cut back on blogging, as you know, but the good news is I'm starting to plan a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds so Covered in Cat Hair will be published as a series of rescue stories. Our first will focus on Freya! I also have plans for taking Kitten Associates to the “next level” so our rescues won’t be forgotten and we’ll continue to do what we do going forward in bigger and better ways.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Blitzen ponders what to do about the monster-sized turkey on our deck.
Once we started combing out his fur every few days, his symptoms stopped.
The more troubling problem has returned and with that, too, I’ve begun to see it in a different light. Blitzen’s had a relapse of the horrible ulcers and rash on his head and mouth. I assumed he could not have this happen again since we already dealt with tucking away all the loose pull cords from the window blinds. Less than two weeks ago, Blitzen was getting a checkup and he looked good, aside from a tiny pinprick-sized bloody spot on his head. Dr. Mary said he really needed a dental cleaning so I told her I’d make sure that happens soon. We did some blood work on him and it looked great.
What I didn’t realize is that the tiny wound was not from playing with Freya, it was the beginning of a serious allergic reaction forming on his face, in front of his ears. One day I looked over at him and saw a circular, scabby wound. It was about the size of a pencil eraser, maybe ¼” in diameter. I more carefully examined his head and realized the fur was gone and the skin was quite pink-a sign of an allergic reaction.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Notice how pink the skin is between his eye and ear.
Yesterday we were due to go to the Vet, but I started to think about what they would do. They would give him steroids, which is a big no-no in my book or antibiotics, again another no-no when he wasn’t getting an infection. Honestly, what would they do other than those things or maybe add Benadryl, which didn’t seem to help the last time. I cancelled the appointment deciding to give it a few days.
Today I had a breakthrough, totally by accident. Our dopey cat DOOD was once again bothering our senior girl, Petunia. I got up to intervene when I saw Blitzen. He was jumping down from a table with a long gluey strand of saliva, cascading out of his mouth. I thought he was choking and called Sam to assist me with him.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Blitzen's not pouting. His lip is swollen.
He was all right. I syringed a small amount of water into Blitzen’s mouth to rinse out the over-production of spit. Sam and I returned to the scene of the grime and Sam called out that Blitzen must have been chewing on “the string.”
“The pull cord from the blind over here in the corner.”
We’d missed it. There was another pull cord that was very tough to get to, but somehow Blitzen had been chewing on it. It was brown-stained and wet. We stopped what we were doing and did another patrol around the house, tying up every low pull cord so this could NEVER happen again.
The answer was very simple. Blitzen needs his teeth cleaned. I already knew his gums were irritated and he has a funky tooth. I thought about what I’d do if I were Blitzen and sure as heck I’d find a way to soothe my gums and those thick pull cords would do the trick. Last year when I brought Blitzen to the Vet I’m pretty sure his gums were irritated but we felt it was due to the allergic reaction, not the other way around.
I called our Vet and moved his appointment up to Tuesday. I also told them that Dr. Mary should call me first. I knew if she saw him she’d possibly not want to do the sedation, but I feel very certain once we get his teeth taken care of everything else will fall into place. I bet this has been going on for over a year. Do I feel like a jerk, a bad cat-mama? YES!
As always, I hope that what I’ve learned/screwed up will help you avoid doing to your cat. Be a careful observer. If you don’t blog about your cats, then get a notepad and make some notes if it’s not an emergency situation. As Pam Johnson-Bennet taught me, “THINK LIKE A CAT.” It will make an enormous difference in your cat’s life.
DISCLAIMER: I would never assume I know more than my Vet so in the end I will respect Dr. Mary’s decision on wether or not she can go ahead with Blitzen’s dental even with sores on his lip and head. I would also remind all of you, which I’ve illustrated here, even with careful observation, you may be wrong and what you think is ailing your cat has yet to be known, diagnosed or understood. Try to stay open-minded and also, as great as the internet is, it’s not the be-all and end all for diagnosing your cat’s ailments.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. My sweet boy.
UPDATE: Since I finished writing this post Blitzen has made the trip to see Dr. Mary. She just called me. It was horrible news.
I'm going to add raw meaty bones to his diet once his mouth heals as coincidently, just today I learned how important they are to give your cat's teeth a cleaning. Currently, we only feed ground raw meat, bones and organs with some supplements. Our cats NEED to GNAW to strengthen their jaw muscles and keep those teeth strong. With Blitzen only being five years old, this is a terrible shock to me, leaving me feeling deeply ashamed he suffered for the past year and a half. If I don't right this ship he will have no teeth and that can't happen.
Fifteen months ago I wrote a piece that I never posted. I felt too much shame to dare allow anyone to read it. I’m going to share it with you now because I want to illustrate a few important points that I hope will help you if you're facing something similar in your life.
1. Things change. It’s the ONLY thing you can count on happening-ever. So. If you’re feeling bad, depressed, upset, this is not how you will feel forever. Why is this important to state? Because when you feel down, you never feel like you will ever be “up” again. Trust in this simple fact: that your feelings WILL change given some time. Perhaps you can get through dark days, as I struggle to work though this myself. (I do not mean to be glib or make light of the fact that there are people who have serious mental illness and need counseling and medical assistance to get through each day beyond simply trusting that their feelings will wax and wane over time).
2. The other point is regarding the next health crisis you have with your cat. I’ve recently experienced a very challenging health issue with my cat Blitzen, that was not possible to diagnose completely, which left me scratching my head, even today as I write this. The goal of this point is that there are times when giving it time is the best thing to do. Taking a step back is sometimes a good option (of course as long as it’s not a life threatening emergency).
From the dark corners of my heart, here is a portion of that post I didn’t want to share:
March 5, 2014
For the past 4 years I’ve worked very hard to get Kitten Associates off the ground. The first year I paid for many of the expenses out of my own pocket. I gave up opportunities to work a 9-5 job or to take on taxing freelance graphic design gigs at home because of the amount of time it takes to care for our rescue kittens 24/7/365.
©2010 Robin AF Olson. MacGruber one of the kittens we rescued the year we opened for business.
I do not regret my choice, but over the past year I’ve only made $850.00 and I’ve lived off whatever money I had put aside for a rainy day. I don’t go anywhere on vacation. I can’t remember the last one I had. I think it was a few days in Maine in 2006. I don’t drink or smoke. I stay home. I care for the cats. I write stories that I hope entertain and educate all of you. I work on ways to keep Kitten Associates afloat (and that has gone well so far). My day ends around 12:30AM or later when I finish spending time with and feeding the kittens for the last time of the day.
I help many people find rescues or homes for their cats that I don’t even post about or help them find a way to live better with their cats when there’s a behavior issue.
I don’t get paid a dime for anything I do.
I am beyond mortified. I am heartbroken, angry, frustrated and I feel hopeless. I don’t understand why someone who works as hard as I do has nothing to show for it financially.
I’ve made some changes and am working on ways to get my income stream back. I’m pitching clients for work and I’ve cut back my hours with Kitten Associates (well, I try to cut it to only 5 days a week instead of 7 but I can NEVER cut back on cat/kitten care), but finding paying work won’t happen overnight.
A few months ago, my 3 year old cat, Blitzen started doing this funny thing with his paws. He’d lift the right, then the left. Something was bothering him so I took him to the Vet. She found he had a rodent ulcer on the side of his mouth and that his middle toes on his front paws were very slightly swollen. It appeared to be due to an allergic reaction to something—what that something was, would require a lot more testing.
©2013 Robin AF Olson. First signs of trouble.
We decided to go easy and try something simple-just some Benadryl. It seemed to help and he was doing all right. We gave him antibiotics for his mouth. I thought he was fine, but it came back. This time we opted for a very low dose of steroids, but within a few days Blitzen contracted a very nasty URI since his immune system was compromised and he began urinating all over the house and was aggressive to some of the cats. It was a side effect of the steroids.
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Bad reaction to steroids brought on behavioral problems.
I took him off the drugs and went back to square one. More Benadryl…for 3 weeks, then 2 weeks of clavamox (an antibiotic) and boy was he tough to pill. It didn’t cure the problem. In the meantime I tried to figure out if we were feeding him something or if he was getting into something that would cause this, but why ONLY Blitzen and not our other cats?
There was enough reduction in his paw pain and mouth for me to try some fish oil because our vet thought it might help. It didn’t. Now both sides of his mouth are swollen and tender. He’s depressed. Tonight he was seriously limping on his left paw. It broke my heart to see it. I had a very small amount of buprenex on hand so he’s resting now, but he needs to get to the vet ASAP. I can’t let my cat be in pain like this.
June 16, 2014
The next part of my post is a fundraiser, begging for help so I can raise the funds to get Blitzen vetted. I estimated it would cost about $1100.00.
After careful consideration I decided to scrap the idea. Instead I became determined to find the cause for Blitzen’s problems on my own. It had been going on for over 6 MONTHS. The paw-raising, the rodent ulcers, waxed and waned. I’d think he was okay then he’d get worse. I decided that his mid-day snack of grain-free canned food would stop. He’d only be on raw food. I knew that it was possible he was having a reaction to his food so now his snack would be raw, too.
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Dr. Mary examining Blitzen's rodent ulcers.
The other thing Dr. Mary said was that it could be a seasonal allergy-which shocked me since he’d never had this problem before and six months had passed. She said we could do allergy testing, but something was nagging at me that this wasn’t the problem.
Since antibiotics and steroids hadn’t worked I wanted to give Blitzen time for his body to recover from the medications he’d been on. I did not want to continue doing any tests, like skin scrapings or biopsies until I gave his body a chance to heal on its own.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Rodent ulcer on Blitzen's mouth.
That’s when I did a high-speed flashback over the past few months. Blitzen often chewed on the cords of the other blinds as well. The cord would rub on the corners of his mouth, right where the rodent ulcers appeared. Some of the other cats may have been chewing on the cords, too so swapping all that bacteria around made me wonder if between the irritation and the bacteria if THAT was the culprit.
I went on a mission to tie up and move ALL the cords on all the blinds all over the house. The following day I watched Blitzen as he struggled to get to the cords. Over a few days he stopped trying to get at them and some time after that I noticed that he stopped limping and his mouth sores began to go away.
The thing that also seemed to happen was that concurrent with his sores and limping I saw behavior that was indicative of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome, the same disorder that Lux the Cat on My Cat From Hell was diagnosed with having.
In Blitzen’s case, IF he has it, it is VERY MILD. But during the worst of the limping and the sores, he’d also have these odd “fits” where seemingly out of the blue the fur over his back would ripple. Blitzen would jump up and race across the room in a frenzy. He’d stop for a moment and lick at himself quite furiously as if an imaginary creature was making his skin crawl.
Careful observation, even note taking is important when you’re trying to understand what’s going on with your cat. In Blitzen’s case, stopping his OCD chewing behavior MAY have helped lessen his other symptoms. I also made an effort to spend more time doing soothing behaviors, like gently brushing him, but not for so long that he became over-stimulated. He visits me while I’m writing and reaches up to be held. I will stop what I’m doing, pick him up and give him 5 or 10 minutes of cuddling and focused attention. It helps him relax.
Blitzen lives with 9 other cats. It’s important, especially for him that he doesn’t feel left out. I can SEE it on his face when we’re having playtime and he feels overshadowed by the DOOD or Mabel. He sits back and doesn’t take part but now that I’ve been helping him feel more important he started playing for the first time in a very long time.
©2104 Robin AF Olson. Back at the Vet with Blitzen.
We recently weighed Blitzen and the other cats so we can track if any of them need more or less to eat. He’d gained a bit of weight but was still within normal limits. The thing that was more astounding to me was his coat. It was thicker, maybe even a bit longer. Instead of being hunched over he slept stretched out with his belly up in the air. He simply looks amazing.
I’m still watching Blitzen for signs of any of these issues returning. He’s had grain-free canned food and hasn’t had a reoccurrence of the rodent ulcers (so far knock wood). The other night I saw his back fur ripple and he looked like he was going to have another mysterious attack, so I distracted him quickly, then sat with him and gently petted him, soothing his anxiety. The attack stopped and he recovered very fast. Other than that his other changes have been just shy of amazing.
Now I wouldn’t suggest ignoring your Vet, but there may be situations where taking a step back and doing detective work pays off, as it did with Blitzen. He was never in danger of dying from anything we tried or didn’t try. I felt like I could give myself time to simply observe Blitzen because he’d recovered enough where he was not in pain and not limping.
As for the depression and anxiety I wrote about earlier in this post, I too am feeling much better these days. I AM getting some paying work and I’ve made some changes in my eating habits that I believe are helping me feel more cheerful and be able to take things in stride.
While I didn’t solve world peace, I found peace in my heart. I hope this helps you find your way there, too.
You won't believe what happened next. Find out in our conclusion coming up next!
Although I’ve said this before, it floors me to discover that anyone reads my blog posts, let alone finds themselves so attached to the stars of these pieces—our little kittens and cats. Even on their darkest day, they must find out what the next chapter holds.
I feel I owe everyone an apology because I can’t write as often as I’d like to. I have to make a living and keep Kitten Associates going, which means fewer hours to write. There’s a laundry-list of updates to tell, of thoughts to share, of news to break; but I can’t always keep up and feel badly about that...
…and then comes a story that just can’t wait to be told.
I recently received a Memorial donation in honor of a lost loved one. I offered to send a letter to the family announcing the gift, but they replied nothing was needed. I was told that the donation should be used towards Freya’s care and I wrote back and said that she was due for a Vet appointment and I’d use the donation to pay for her visit.
There was nothing particularly extraordinary about what transpired, unless you factor in the following: Pat Snyder spent her final days making certain she knew how Freya was doing. Though she admittedly preferred orange tabbies, she had a special connection to Freya once she discovered Freya’s Facebook page. She loved Freya so much that she wanted a portion of her Estate to be donated to Freya after she passed away (although the legacy gift ended up not happening, just the idea of it is incredibly humbling).
In all the months I’d written about Freya, Pat never once contacted me. I would have loved to chat with her and maybe I could have helped comfort her from afar. It was heartbreaking to know that even on her deathbed her concern was for our girl, not herself. It just made me admire her all the more.
Pat’s sister Connie told me that she only knew about Freya because during her last days, Pat insisted that Connie read to her my latest post so she could keep up to date. Connie and I began to email each other and through Connie I got to know a bit more about Pat and her love and devotion for animals (in addition to a lifetime of service to the citizens of Colorado in her long career as a State Trooper).
Connie gave me the OK to share some of her thoughts about her older sister, Pat, as well as to share some old photos of her. Pat and I are alike in that we both hate being photographed, so there aren’t any recent ones to share.
“These are both older pictures of my sister Pat. They are both favorites of mine. She was a Colorado State Trooper in the ‘80s and worked for the state of Colorado for 31 years. When she retired, she worked for two animal clinics. As I said before, she thought the best kitties were orange but she loved all kitties. She was a huge animal lover.
Pat in her Colorado State Trooper's uniform. Used with Permission.
Several years ago a mountain lion killed a deer on her property and division of wildlife wanted to trap the cat. She said she would only agree if it was a live trap and it would be relocated. The next day, the trap contained the "kitty". Pat was in seventh heaven. She got to pet her and, since Pat was a scrapbooker, she took many pictures which she used to create page after page of this magnificent animal.
I’m grateful for that chance encounter that she had with the mountain lion. The big cat was just trying to survive and, Pat respected her enough to not allow her to be killed because WE were living in HER world. She didn't think she should be "punished" for her natural instincts.
Cat-mama-Pat. Used with Permission.
Pat had a huge heart when it came to God's creatures and always adopted for life. Her kitties were so spoiled that she had a custom built "catio" (a cat patio) added to her bedroom with a cat door leading outside so they could enjoy the outdoors without the danger of predators. She lived in the foothills west of Denver where there are daily wildlife visitors. The catio had grass, perches and a human door so the grass could be maintained and the kitties could sun themselves in the morning. I hope that helps paint a picture for you of who she was and what she was about...
Thank you for honoring her. She was very dear to me.”
I know if Freya could speak she would tell Pat's family how grateful she is to have Pat be part of her story. That in the telling of Freya's adventure Pat will play a part forever.
Rest in Peace, Pat.
If you’d like to read Pat’s Obituary, it's HERE.
continued from part 16
I didn’t want to take Freya to the Vet. I was sick with worry about it. If Freya was a “normal” cat I wouldn’t be so concerned, but we already know that Freya has lots of deformities so it wouldn’t be surprising that her ovaries or uterus had some issues. I knew she’d be in very good hands because Dr. Chris, our Board Certified surgeon, was going to do the procedure. He’d also be the final word on whether or not Freya still needed to have her right inner ear CT scanned and if she'd also needed surgery on her ear canal to drain any remaining infection.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Our Freya.
I love Dr. Chris, not like I want to run away and bear his children love, but I really cherish working with him. He’s always smiling even though the poor guy has often had to soothe my fears about Freya. He’s extremely smart and talented and I trust his opinion (okay and he’s really cute, too, but that has nothing to do with it. I’m just dutifully relating information as any good writer would).
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Dr. Chris last December with Freya.
So this morning I sat in the now so very familiar waiting room at NVS with Freya at my side, who was snuggled inside her Robin’s egg blue cat carrier. Dr. Chris came out from the back of the building to escort us into an exam room. Just seeing his radiant smile made me feel more relaxed. I hadn’t seen him for a few months and it was good to see him again. After we said a quick hello, I found myself focusing on the mental laundry list of things he needed to know about Freya. As I spoke I noticed he was looking at Freya as she ran around the room. He was smiling, then remarked how great she looked. After all she’d been through I didn’t see her transformation as clearly as Dr. Chris did.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya's nickname is Monkeypants, so this is a box of monkeypants.
Dr. Chris examined Freya as we spoke about what should be done today. We went over the costs which would range from $1800.00 to $5100.00, the low price being only the spay. Of course many of you who do rescue know we can get spays done for under $100 at a clinic, but Freya couldn’t go to a clinic since we didn’t know what was yet to be discovered inside her.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. At the vet yet again. At least Freya's not scared being there.
It was a tough nut to swallow, but I knew we had to do what was right for our kitten. Dr. Chris said that he didn’t feel Freya should have the CT scan yet. Clinically she was doing very well. She was playing, eating, passing stool. She no longer had a head-tilt, though she does have some deafness, which could be something she’s had since birth. Instead of spending that money on the CT now, he thought it was wise to wait and give her more time. If she relapses then we’d have to do the scan, but for now the less we do to her, the better.
All that was left to decide was when to do her spay surgery. Again, I was surprised by the answer. Dr. Chris felt that Dr. Mary or Dr. Larry could do the spay and that as a rescue it would be better for us to bank the savings so we could rescue more cats than spend it on having him do the procedure. I asked if he felt it was safe to have our G.P. Vet do the surgery and he thought they could easily handle it. He also said I could bring her back and he would still perform the procedure if our other vets didn’t feel comfortable taking her on.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya meets the raccoon.
I agreed to call Dr. Larry and to determine whether or not we could have Freya’s spay performed today since she was already fasted and ready to go. Then, what I never expected happened. In my writer’s mind I'd describe a romantic scene about being alone in the exam room with Dr. Chris; about how our eyes locked in an intense gaze across the room, the passion building between us, undeniable, magnetically drawing us ever closer, but also knowing his peers and my friends might read this; I’ll have to keep a more detailed fantasy to myself. In truth, what really happened was very straightforward, COMPLETELY professional and G-rated.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya loves Aunt Nora.
It was a bitter pill to swallow after such a long journey. After discussing the results of a million x-rays of Freya’s colon, after a hundred tears worrying about my kitten, after all this; it was over. Dr. Chris said his residency is wrapping up in Newtown and he’s accepted a position in Miami and will be leaving in July (in that heat?!).
Resigned to this disappointing news, I gave Dr. Chris a hug goodbye and told him I was sorry to see him go (along with my silly schoolgirl crush). He walked us over to the reception desk, smiling politely as he said goodbye, then turned, greeting the next couple waiting to meet with him.
Two hours later.
Freya and I were in the exam room at Dr. Larry’s office. As he entered the room I could feel the energy shift. I knew that Dr. Larry’s in-law had passed away a few days ago and that he was truly hurting. He looked visibly thinner and tired. Before we could talk about Freya I reached out and gave him a big hug and told him how sorry I was for his loss. Dr. Larry’s my brother from another mother and I hate to see him suffering. I felt badly for even asking him to spay Freya. He should be home with his family.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya's tail obsession goes into overload when she sees Spencer's tail.
I gave Dr. Larry the rundown and explained to him why I felt it was okay to at least try to spay Freya. We had a few rounds of blood work done in the past that were very clean. She’d had a 2-hour long surgery and did well. She was eating and playing normally. She went into “heat” so that meant something was working inside her. We just didn’t know how well it worked or if there were other surprises.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Yes, Freya watches TV.
In the end I agreed that he should consider this an exploratory surgery and if she was well enough to be spayed, to do so and if not I’d take her to Dr. Chris for a surgery at a later date.
He told me that he’d call me right away if there was a problem and that if she did all right he’d wait until he was done to let me know how things went. Basically if there was no news any time soon, that was good.
Three hours later.
Dr. Mary, Dr. Larry’s partner, called me. She sounded as cheerful and bubbly as ever. She said; “Well, Miss Freya is all set. We did the spay and she’s recovering now.”
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya vs. Fluff Daddy.
“Yes, she did fine. Everything was normal. She may act a bit odd for a few days since she her hormones were still elevated, but other than that she’s doing well. You can pick her up later this afternoon.”
After I hung up the phone it hit me. It’s OVER. Freya doesn’t need any more surgeries and hopefully will never need a CT scan. She’s spayed. She’s had her shots. She’s been de-wormed. She’s passed all the milestones our other foster cats have passed. It just took a lot longer and we never were sure we'd make it this far.
No more worrying about if she’s going to survive her surgeries. She did. No more worrying about her being able to pass stool. She does.
No more wondering if she’ll ever hold her head straight or have both eyes open. It’s all good.
Then I recalled something I wrote in my very first post about Freya:
“In my mind’s eye I can see Freya, sleeping on a soft bed that is bathed in sunlight. She’s comfortable and plump. She looks like she’s smiling as she sleeps away the afternoon. She is healthy and well and these dark days are over for her. She didn’t have to die, she got to live. That is my dream for Freya...”
And for once, my dream came true due in part to so MANY generous donors who offered not only financial support but sent cards and gifts to Freya, who put tires on my old car, who sent us emails and called and told us they cared so very much about our little foster kitten. To our amazing Vets: Dr. Chris, Dr. Larry, Dr. Mary, Dr. Pav, Dr. Deb and Dr. Cory--yes, it took all your expertise to bring us to this fine day and I appreciate it so much. To Chelsea and Randy, who gave up their kitten because it was the right thing to do for her, even though it meant giving her up (and it was Chelsea's birthday that day, too), thank you for your bravery and trust in letting a rescue take over when you weren't able to.
I guess there's only one thing left to do. It’s time to put Freya up for adoption.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Home from being spayed, Freya gets some much needed rest.
How did five months come and go so quickly? To say it’s been a blur is an understatement. In our last chapter about Freya, it was December 2014 and she’d just had successful surgery to create a rectum so she could finally pass stool. She was barely four months old and was at very high risk of dying if the surgery didn’t work or from complications after the procedure.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. My first days with Freya when she was just a tiny kitten.
Freya beat the odds. The first day I met her last September she weighed a pound and was far too tiny to operate on. They gave her a 10% chance to survive unless I could keep her going until she was bigger. I struggled with her-getting her nutrition, but without bulking her up more with stool. By mid-December, she was near to bursting so I had to rush her to Boston, to MSPCA-Angell Memorial, for the very delicate and rare procedure. (For more on Freya’s backstory, see the end of this post for a list of links).
©2015 Robin AF Olson. In January Freya was doing great.
By the New Year it seemed as though everything was going in Freya’s favor, finally. She began passing stool, sadly WHERE she passed it was another hurdle. I celebrated the fact that she was no longer constipated by creating the “The Poop Fairy;” a cheerful elf with a magic wand helping stool to pass (covered in fairy dust, of course) out of kitties who had elimination problems.
©2015 Robin AF Olson.
Freya's incontinence meant keeping her on a raw diet or very high protein cooked diet because I don’t want to add bulk to her output by giving her carbohydrate laden foods. At least when her stool comes out it’s not (too) smelly and it’s fairly dry. I call my daily routine with her: “Going on a brown Easter egg hunt.” It’s almost amusing where I find her little “eggs,” though on a “bad” day I have woken up to finding smears of stool all over the protective cover on the bed.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Cooking Freya's dinner with thanks to Jodi Ziskin, our Pet Nutritionist, for her marvelous recipes and her love for Freya.
But my joy was short-lived. In mid-January Freya was due for her second distemper combination vaccination (FVRCP) booster. I honestly hate giving this vaccination since I’ve had quite a few kittens have a VERY bad reaction resulting in soaring high fevers, lethargy and inappetence. Freya’s first vaccination made her sick, so there was every reason to think the second would effect her badly as well. The problem was, I had no idea just how bad it was about to become.
Disclaimer: this is MY experience with what happened to Freya, but it should in no way prevent you from vaccinating your cat. The FVRCP vaccination prevents Feline Panleukopenia (which can be FATAL), Calicivirus and Feline Rhinotracheitis virus. These are things you NEVER want you cat to have. Always speak with your vet about any concerns you have regarding vaccinations, but…
…barely four days after Freya’s vaccination I came home from a rare trip to the movies with Sam. I looked at Freya and freaked out. The third eyelid on her right eye was covering half of her eye. I had no idea what to think other than it was an injury so I took her over to our 24hr Emergency Vet (NVS) since it was a Sunday (of course) and our regular vet was closed.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya, as always, never lost her cheerful attitude. She just adjusted to not being able to see well.
We were very lucky that their ophthalmologist was available. She was able to tell us that Freya's eye was fine, but she had Horner’s Syndrome, which is a neurological disorder whose root cause could be one of many different origins. There was inflammation of the optic nerve that forced her third eyelid to rise from its otherwise normal position. There was no cure other than to wait and hope that it would resolve on its own. For now Freya was basically blind in one eye. Add that to her ever-growing list of deformities and this cat had one heck of a tough burden to bear.
Though it’s a bit of a misty memory now, we’d followed up by doing some blood tests on Freya. It showed she was positive for Bartonella, the bane of my existence. She probably got it from being born outdoors and being exposed to fleas. We began treating her for that when I started to notice she seemed to be holding her head at a weird angle.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. My lopsided foster kitten.
Was it from the vaccination? The Bartonella? A physical deformity?
All I knew was that after being on antibiotics for 3 weeks for bartonella, we had to put Freya on another, stronger antibiotic to treat the ear infection. This one could BLIND her in a higher dose and I was scared shitless about putting her on it for six WEEKS. I kept pushing back about how long she had to be on the medications. I wondered what this stuff would do to her digestion since antibiotics are notorious for causing diarrhea. We had to put her on Baytril because it can penetrate bone and that’s likely where the infection was; inside the tiny bones of her inner ear.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya is still Freya, wonky eye, head tilt and all.
I have no idea how many vet visits we did because now I had waxing and waning numbers of ALL our foster and “owned” cats getting sick, too. (see THIS post for that story).
So I focused on giving Freya Baytril, hoping to see her lovely blue eye again, hoping she could run without her head hanging to the side. It’s ironic that I was okay with her being incontinent, but thinking I’d never see her sparkling blue, silly crossed-eyes again broke my heart.
It took the full six weeks before Freya began to act more like herself. One day I realized I could see her eye again and the next her head seemed straighter. Dr. Mary continued to check her ear and report she was seeing less and less debris and infection. We discussed doing a CT scan and possible surgery on Freya to drain the area so we did a fundraiser to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Life is good.
Freya sneezes and coughs once in awhile so she could still have a polyp in her right ear (based on the sneezing that doesn't seem to be a URI), but her inner ear looks normal now. The coughing could be a heart defect or parasites that I didn’t de-worm her for yet (she’s been de-wormed many times but needs a different de-wormer for the next round). Freya’s still tiny, weighing in at just over 5.5 lbs at almost nine months of age. In comparison, her brother, Pascal is almost 9 lbs. She’s still not 100%, but getting there.
Then when it seemed Freya couldn’t get anything else, she went into “heat.” Yes, Freya was “lookin’ for luv” and it was clear, due to all the yeowling, screaming, rubbing on every one and every thing she could get near that our little girl was becoming an adult. I haven’t been around an intact kitten…ever. I’d had to repeatedly put off Freya’s spay due to her chronic illnesses and I felt terrible she was suffering yet again. Clearly time was up. It HAD to be done.
Today was the day.
Part 17 airs next where we find discover that things are about to change whether we're ready for them to or not.
Here's a lineup of all our stories about Freya in chronological order from the beginning: