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.

REVIEW: The Cutest Book in the World?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Harper Design. 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.”

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The Japanese are the masters of the cutie-verse like no other culture in the world. My lust for all things kitty-san started with Hello Kitty back in the 1980s (yes, according to die-hard fans, I know she was "born" in England, but Sanrio, the parent company touted with creating HK is a Japanese company). For many years I've been putting together a small collection of Japanese books, collectibles and toys featuring cute-ific felines, so you can imagine my delight when a certain book arrived in my mailbox. They had me at the title: AMI AMI KITTENS: Seriously Cute Crochet!

What IS Ami Ami? Using crochet, a new craft form called Amigurumi; which translated means knitted stuffed toy, was born...but what crafty artists do with this form is what makes it so special.

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In her latest book AMI AMI KITTENS: Seriously Cute Crochet!, Mitsuki Hoshi not only creates amazingly detailed crocheted kitten figures, she places them in perfect miniature scenes, each with delightful details that make the Amigurumi seemingly come to life.

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Excerpt from Ami Ami Kittens by Mitsuki Hoshi. Copyright © 2016 Mitsuki Koshi. A HarperDesign book, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Used with permission.

I barely opened the book before I was swept away by the sweetness of each image, which spans the full width of every page. These may be the cutest photos I've ever seen. The tiny kitten figures are photographed as if they're real kittens; being mischievous, acting curious and carefree, only they're made out of yarn. They're so completely adorable that I immediately wanted to learn how to crochet OR beg Ms Hoshi to create some kitten toys for me.

Even if you're not crafty, just looking at the photos is enough reason to add this book to your collection because you'll smile every time you turn the page, whether it be the first time or the hundredth time. If you're a cat-loving crafter, there are complete instructions and patterns in the book so you can make your own tiny crocheted kittens.

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Excerpt from Ami Ami Kittens by Mitsuki Hoshi. Copyright © 2016 Mitsuki Koshi. A HarperDesign book, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Used with permission.

TINY. KNITTED. KITTENS!

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Excerpt from Ami Ami Kittens by Mitsuki Hoshi. Copyright © 2016 Mitsuki Koshi. A HarperDesign book, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Used with permission.

Details from the Publisher

AMI AMI KITTENS: Seriously Cute Crochet! (Harper Design; Trade Paperback; On Sale: March 1st, 2016; $14.99) is a craft book following on the heels of the great success of AMI AMI DOGS and AMI AMI DOGS 2, but now for cat lovers!

In AMI AMI KITTENS, crocheters will learn:

- Basic crocheting techniques (perfect for beginners!)

- Spiral techniques to ensure stuffing will not come out

- Patterns and detailed directions for many different types of kittens! Including: Tabby, Pointed, Black/White Solid, Calico, Black and White, Scottish Fold, Siamese, Russian Blue, Munchkin, Maine Coon, British Shorthair, and American Shorthair!

GIVEAWAY

If you'd like to WIN a copy of AMI AMI KITTENS: Seriously Cute Crochet! simply leave a comment here about something cute. Enter by 2/14/16 at 11:11PM EST. Winner, as chosen by me, will get one copy of the book. Entrant's mailing address must be in the United States for a chance to win. One comment PER person, please. Comments are moderated to prevent SPAM so it may take a few hours for your entry to appear. BOOK MAY NOT SHIP UNTIL AFTER THE PUBLICATION DATE of March 1, 2016.

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In a Perfect World. The Way Station.

I didn't have much time to mourn Laney, Winnie and Piglet leaving to go to their forever home because the day after their adoption a family contacted me, interested in Louie and Larry. I'd had a few applications on the boys over the past year they've been here, but none of them were a good fit. This one sounded promising, but I never assume anything until the cats leave in a carrier.

Louie Larry right copy
©2014 Kitten Associates. Just a few months old, Louie (left) and brother Larry (right).

Louie and Larry were two cats I never really got to know well. The girls were so much more affectionate that even though I tried to handle the boys, the girls were always in the way. Originally there were nine cats in the room who all needed attention. Sadly, the ones who didn't get as much, ended up being a bit more shy. I knew as the cats got adopted I'd be able to spend more time with whoever was left, but I was already concerned because if the boys didn't warm up, it could mean they'd be here a lot longer.

2014 09 01 12 10 26 all together
©2014 Kitten Associates. Laney with her last litter, including Louie and Larry.

It was unsettling, entering the foster room and only seeing the four boys. The room felt empty without the girls buzzing around my ankles, purring and chirping their greeting to me. I longed for the familiar routine, but I also appreciated the fact that I had a lot less food to give out and less in the litter pan to scoop. After five and a half years of having a room constantly filled with cats, it was nice to have the numbers go down a bit. I wondered if it would ever be empty again.

Baby Louie or Larry copy
©2014 Kitten Associates. A little over a week old.

The boys really missed their mom. They were more shy with me than before. But fairly soon they were taking over her routine of chirping and meowing at me when I brought them their meals. Larry, especially, became more outgoing and even came over to me to be petted. He and Louie are such handsome boys. I felt badly for not admiring them more sooner. I always enjoyed play time with them because Louie, especially, would go crazy after the toys, growling to the others to stay back when he had his mouth on the prize. He'd fly after a toy and run until he was panting. If I kept on he'd chase the toy until he fell over.

Kittens Born with Piglet
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Laney's kittens with Piglet.

 

Yesterday, I spent some time with the boys before Renee and her family came to meet them. They seemed a bit more relaxed around me and Larry even enjoyed being petted, instead of running away when I approached him. As my fingers rubbed behind his ear, he began to purr. It was the first time I'd heard it since he arrived here from Georgia last March. I imagined it being a sweet parting gift IF he and Louie were to be adopted. I really wasn't sure if the boys were going to go. They never showed well, always hiding when strangers entered the room. I'd told Renee about that when I did the home visit, but she and her husband have had cats "forever" and their two boys were raised with cats. Maybe it would be a good fit in time.

 

Lovely Larry R Olson 475
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. A very grown up, Larry.

The family arrived and all the cats hid. The room was noisy and filled with Renee, her husband and two sons. I tried to get everyone to settle down, grabbing some cat toys to help the cats forget to be scared. Distraction with play time is a great way to help cats gain confidence in stressful situations and this was certainly one of them.

Jumping Down R Olson 475
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. What always happens when I try to take a photo.

Louie and Larry began to play right away while Jelly Belly and Lolli seemed to evaporate into a parallel universe. Everyone was chatting and asking questions about the cats. They'd come to see all four cats, but I knew that Jelly and Lolli wouldn't be a good fit. They're just too fearful, especially Lolli, to be with a family of four who live in a very big house. It would be too much for them to handle and they'd only hide even more. My hope was that if they started the boys off in their own room for a week or two, that they'd be able to manage. But would they be adopted?

Lawwy R Olson 400
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Larry. Named after our vet, Dr. Larry.

 

Mournful Louie R Olson 475
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Louie, in his spot overlooking the front yard.

They boys began to tire. Renee's husband reached out and was able to pet Larry. Once that happened I had hope this adoption would go through. The boys are truly sweet cats, but they also need time to blossom and maybe this family would give them that chance.

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©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Silly Louie.

I left the room so the family could decide what they wanted to do. They could go anywhere and adopt any cats they wanted. My boys were over 10 pounds now, a far cry from the kittens they once were. Part of me didn't want to see them go since I'd just said goodbye to their mom, but part of me yearns for foster kittens and the emptier the room, the sooner I can fill it up again.

The Boys Alt R Olson 400
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Louie (above) while brother Larry (below) is not far away.

 

A little while later, the decision: Louie and Larry were going to their new home. Laney and Winnie's family was broken up for good. The co-parenting they did, the way they all slept in a big pile together every night was really over now. I'd have Jelly and Lolli left while the others went off to live their new life with their forever families. It's how it's meant to be. It's my job. As happy as I was to know they were on their way, part of me longed for the way things used to be and my heart ached over having to separate any of the cats from each other.

 

The Boys 450 R Olson
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. The most handsome of handsome.

I can only do this if I believe the cats are going to a good home. I remind myself that I can't give them the love and time they deserve. I can't give them the space to run around and explore. I can't even sleep with them each night. My home is just the way station. Now they can begin their life without restrictions (other than staying indoors!).

Happy life, boys. May you only know love and joy in your new home. Congratulations to you and your family.

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In a Perfect World.

When I think about Laney and look into her owly-shaped pale-lime colored eyes, I feel relief. She weighs a bit over 10 pounds now. Her fur is sleek and silky, her expression sparkles with vitality. The fleas and parasites that plagued her body over a year and a half ago, are long gone. Her womb is no longer filled with a rag tag mix of kittens. Her fourth known litter was her last because we had her spayed. Instead of trying to scrape together a meal, living outdoors with filthy pest-covered kibble to sustain her, her meals are nutritious and brought to her twice a day. Recovered from many miserable years of ill-treatment, Laney now plays with a vigor that surprises me. She’s reverted to kittenhood in these moments, racing along after the red dot of a laser pointer or furiously chasing after a feather toy. She has blossomed into a magnificent, loving creature. In a perfect world she’d have her forever home by now, too.

Laney on the Bed
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Laney, our divine lady.

More than 6-months ago, I had a home for Laney. It was the only application I’ve ever gotten for her and it was a good one. The adopting couple had a perfect home and were going to give her everything she needed except one thing-she’d be alone. For some cats it’s fine to be the one and only, but Laney had at least 16 offspring that we know of, who survived long enough for us to rescue. She’s never alone. She's so bonded with her kittens (who are now young adults), I couldn’t imagine her not being around another animal while her new family worked away from home for 8 to 10 hours a day.

PHoto of Laney s previous litter
Photographer unknown. The first photo we have of Laney, showing her with baby-Winnie nursing on her (center of litter on the right), alongside another cat with kittens. We'll never know just how many kittens were a result of Laney not being spayed but our lowest guess is at least 20.

In the end, I had to pass on the application and the adopters got themselves a Bengal. I hope they know what they’re getting themselves in for because it won’t be as mellow and sweet as Laney and hopefully it won’t destroy their house while they’re gone all day.

It’s very difficult to choose to turn down a good adopter and wait for another that's a better fit, but I don’t run a mega-rescue. We don’t do a lot of adoptions. I can keep the cats for as long as I feel necessary. I struggled a lot because Laney, being a few years old, is not as easy to find a home for. I took a risk and hoped it would work out. I knew Laney was special because the few folks who did come to see the other cats, always were impressed by how outgoing and affectionate she was, even though she lost points for her age.

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The foster room’s occupants haven’t changed in almost a year. It’s a record for me-one I’m not proud of. I’ve written about my troubles last year with my health and how I was so desperate for a break, that in a way I took one by not jumping on every adoption application I got. If the room stayed full, I couldn’t take more and if I couldn’t take on any more, I wouldn’t have to go through all the de-worming, the spay/neutering, the fussing with upper respiratory infections. These cats didn’t need much other than food, a clean pan and some affection. I couldn’t handle doing any more. I needed rest, too.

Co parenting funny Kitten Associates
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Used with permission. Winnie and Laney co-parent their offspring and begin our hopes that they will never have to be separated.

As the months passed, only Lex & Lucy got adopted while the others got bigger and bigger. Lolli and Jelly Belly are SO BIG they look like panthers and Louie and Larry aren’t much smaller. The foster room is just a bedroom. With seven adult cats it’s not very spacious for them. I knew I had to do better for them and as a result, I became anxious about getting them on their way.

Then November arrived and along with it an application for Piglet and Winnie. I was glad to see that someone could take them together because I’d been pushing for that or for Piglet to go with her grandmother, Laney. Either way I’d be happy because Piglet had such a bad adoption last April. It truly traumatized her. After she was returned, barely a week passed since her adoption and return, I decided I couldn’t let her be adopted again without her mom or grandma. As a result, I denied a lot of applications that were just for her.

2014 09 01 12 10 26 all together
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Used with permission. Winnie and Laney about a month after their kittens were born.

The woman who sent in her application is named Christine and she lives alone. Her last cat died about 6 months ago and she was looking for two to fill her home and heart. I told her the story about Laney and how Laney had litter after litter of kittens because her family never bothered to spay her. How she and her older daughter, Winnie, both got pregnant at the same time and gave birth within a week of each other. How Winnie lost two of her kittens and Piglet was the sole survivor, but because Winnie was so brokenhearted by the death of the others that she did not care for Piglet at all in those first vital days.

Laney stepped in and kept Piglet fed. Even while Laney was giving birth, she had her front legs wrapped around Piglet keeping her safe.

Laney with Piggie Kitten Associates
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Used with permission. Love is...

Exhausted from giving birth to five kittens, with a sixth on the way, we feared Laney would lose that last kitten. Winnie went to her mother and began cleaning off the sixth kitten as it was being born, saving it’s life. Winnie began to find her desire for motherhood that day, and eventually began to care for all the kittens, including Piglet. In a perfect world Laney, Winnie and Piglet would never be parted, but this wasn’t a perfect world and it was a lot to ask anyone to take three cats.

Moved by their story, Christine asked to meet the girls. In early December, she drove over two hours from her home south of Boston to see them. I thought that was a good sign. The meeting couldn’t have gone better. The second she saw Laney, and vice versa, it was a love match. Eventually Winnie and finally the ever-shy-Piglet came over to say hello. Christine was clearly smitten with all three, but she could only take two. I couldn't imagine who she'd choose.

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©2014 Kitten Associates. Winnie and Piglet.

I never pressure anyone to adopt. It’s a serious decision to make. Christine felt stirred up, excited, and maybe a bit scared about what she was thinking. Maybe she COULD take all three girls? I told her to think about it and let me know.

She called a few days later and explained that some things had happened in her life and now was not a good time to take on the cats. She was very sorry and was scared I’d be upset with her, but I wasn’t. I told her the truth; I’d rather she tell me this now than feel pressured to do something she really didn’t want to do. I told her the door was always open if she wanted to discuss it some other time and that there were no hard feelings. We ended the call on a good note. I was really sad that this story wasn’t going to end the way I wanted, really dreamed it could end, but I knew they would find their home some day.

Piglet playing on Laney 4 2015
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Piglet gets comforted by grandma-Laney and Louie while she recovers from having bartonella.

Then the holidays arrived and I scheduled Dr. Larry and Super-Deb do a house call. All the cats needed an exam and booster vaccination and they were too big for me to bring to him. I was shocked to find out that Winnie and Piglet had terrible teeth and needed a dental cleaning right away. Laney needed one, too, but it wasn’t an emergency as it was for the others.

Dr. Larry feared that Winnie and Piglet had stomatitis, which could mean an underlying auto-immune disease that would plague them for the rest of their lives. It might mean they’d have to have all their teeth removed, which was not only terrible news, but could mean they’d never be adopted. I was very upset because we’d done a test for Feline Leukemia and FIV so long ago that I wasn’t sure if we’d done it on Winnie. Then I began to imagine the “what ifs” she did have something and had it passed to the others? Did I have seven terminally sick cats on my hands?

Scared Louie at House Call
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Dr. Larry and Super-Deb make a house call while Louie looks on hoping he's not next.

Reluctantly I made the appointments for the girls to have their teeth cleaned. Winnie lost 2 teeth and Piglet lost 1. We ran Bartonella tests on them because some times bad gums can be a sign of the parasite. Ten days later we got our answer. Low and behold, Winnie was a +4 positive so she had to be treated with antibiotics. Piglet had bartonella a year ago and her re-test showed it was still gone after treatment.

Laney and Winnie at Vet 1 2016
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Laney and Winnie nervously wait for Dr. Larry.

I decided to email Christine, because she’d felt so guilty about changing her mind regarding the adoption. I figured I’d gently close the door on her adopting since the girls were going to have issues. I told her that maybe it was for the best that she didn’t adopt because I just had to spend over $1000.00 on the dentals and that the girls might need extra vet care for the rest of their lives.

Christine’s reply shocked me. She’d had cats with bad teeth in the past and her vet was very good about dental cleanings. Christine offered to have Laney’s teeth cleaned by her vet if I was still okay with her adopting Laney, Winnie AND Piglet. It seemed that after our last conversation she couldn’t stop thinking about the girls and that she really wanted to give them a home. She wasn’t bothered that they needed extra TLC. I think in her mind they were already hers, so whatever troubled them, she was ready to take on.

Winnie looking out R Olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. It's only now that I look at older photos of Winnie compared the this recent one that I see just how much she's blossomed in a year. Her ratty, short coat is long and luxurious and her coloring has intensified into a glorious orange (she was originally much lighter in tone).

Then even better news: Dr. Larry realized that since Winnie had bartonella that it was also likely she did not have stomatitis after all. He felt the same way about Piglet, too. This was terrific news for everyone and only made Christine even more anxious to do the adoption.

I had to finish giving Winnie her course of antibiotics to kill the bartonella before she could travel to Christine’s home in Massachusetts. So we waited 3 weeks, while I silently prayed Christine wouldn’t change her mind or that something wouldn’t happen to the girls that would be a deal-breaker.

Pig and Louie R Olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Piglet's not sure she wants to leave her brother Louie.

Last weekend, we were supposed to do the adoption, but yet again had to delay because the northeast got hit by big snow storm. Thankfully, Christine was willing to wait, but how much longer?

We decided that we’d try again in another week if the weather held out. I emailed Christine the adoption contract so she could review it ahead of time. Again, I found myself worrying that she’d see something in our contract that would put a stop to it, but once again she was perfectly fine with our requirements and was looking forward to getting the girls.

Piglet Sick with Friends R Olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Piglet says goodbye to big brother Jelly Belly while Laney and Louie look on.

The weather has been mild the past week, so here I sit on the eve of the big day. I know that tomorrow morning Laney, Winnie and Piglet will leave me forever. They’ll start their life anew and never have to be parted. I will miss them, very very much. They’ve been part of the Kitten Associates family for over 18 months. They’ve been part of my life for nearly a year and I love them as much as I love my own cats. Winnie is my special buddy. She’s been transformed into a stunning long haired orange tabby. Every day she comes over to me to sit on my lap and trade purrs for pets. I’m such a sucker for orange kitties. I wish she could stay with me, but if I kept every foster cat I’d have 500 cats. That’s not going to happen so I’m doing the next best thing-finding her a great forever home.

Winnie Relaxing R Olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Winnie in all her glory.

I’ll also miss watching all seven cats interact. Each night Laney would sit on her spot on the corner of the bed nearest the door. She’d purr loudly and all the others would come to her side. Jelly would dip his head towards his mother’s. She’d lick his forehead or if he tried to nurse on her she’d give him a quick smack. Eventually they’d all sit cuddled up in an endless furry mass, purring and grooming each other until they fell asleep. I feel badly for Jelly. He loves his mama so much, but there’s a point at which their separation has to happen. Jelly, Louie, Larry, Lolli, will lose their mom and their sisters, but hopefully their time will come when they can find their home, too. I dream of keeping Louie and Larry together and Jelly and Lolli together. Maybe it’s a lot to hope for, but in a perfect world anything can happen.

And so we've come to our final moments together. I lean over and kiss Laney on her head and wish her what I wish all my fosters: a happy, loved life. I do the same to Winnie, and as usual, Piglet runs off when I try to say goodbye to her. Her predictable reaction makes me smile as tears begin to fall down my cheeks.

Lovely Laney 1 2016
©2016 Robin AF Olson. I'm going to miss you, sweet Laney.

If you'd like to read more about Laney's backstory you can read THIS story and THIS story as well as a special look back on Piglet's life HERE.

Christine and the Girls
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Winnie and Laney meet their mom, Christine.

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Tortitude: The BIG Book of Cats with a BIG Attitude Review and Giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Passion Fruit Press. 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.”

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Years ago, when I first started Kitten Associates, some of my colleagues jokingly warned me about rescuing Tortoiseshell cats. I couldn’t imagine why, having never lived with one, but that soon changed. As fate would have it, my first litter of foster kittens included a “tortie.”

She was named Cinnaminnie and boy was she a pip! It is said that torties have big personalities, which can sometimes translate into being high-strung and more sensitive to their surroundings. A recent study done by UC Davis suggests there is scientific evidence to prove torties and their 3-colored, calico cousins can be “challenging” to live with.

The one thing they don’t mention is how devoted these cats can be to one person in their human family. I wonder if torties live big and love big, too?

Tortitude FC

Exploring that proposition is Ingrid King, author of the multi-award-winning blog, The Conscious Cat. In her latest book, Tortitude, the BIG Book of Cats with a BIG Attitude, King explores the mystique of these confetti-colored creatures. King is a long time tortie-devotee, stemming from her first tortie, Virginia, over a decade ago, to her girls Allegra and Ruby, who share their home with her today.

Tortitude is a love story, as told by King and championed in the forward by Catification expert, Kate Benjamin. In addition to their personal tortie-tales are fun facts about tortie-DNA and tortie-folklore. What makes up the majority of the book are carefully curated images of torties paired with charming quotes about cats.

[Full disclosure, three of my own photos are in the book. One is below.]

Periwinkle
“Excerpted from: Tortitude: The BIG Book About Cats With a BIG Attitude by Ingrid King ©2015, used with permission.”

Ingrid King clearly adores torties (there are no crazy cats here) and to anyone else who also shares her passion, this is THE book to choose if you want to celebrate the wonder of these multi-colored marvels. The only thing lacking is I wish there were even more photos (can’t get enough) and a picky request that I wish the paper was glossy, to bring out the full glory of the images. But even with that minor issue it’s clear that if you love these sassy beauties, you’ll love this book.

I had a chance to ask Ms. King a few questions about her passion and her dreams for Tortitude.

CICH: What was it about Tortoiseshell cats that won you over or was it just fate that you would meet and fall in love with one?

IK: Torties just sort of grew on me. My first encounters with tortoiseshell cats were in a veterinary clinic setting. During my training, I was often warned to approach these cats with a healthy dose of caution, so it's actually kind of surprising to me how much I came to love these cats. But it wasn’t until I met Virginia, my office cat at the animal hospital I managed, that I totally fell in love with these special cats.

CICH: What are your top 5 favorite things about torties that you think makes them stand apart from other breeds or coat color of cats?

IK: I love cats of every breed and color, but there's just something about torties... I love everything about them! I love the uniqueness of their fur and coat pattern. I love their strong personalities. Maybe it’s because I can identify with their strong sense of independence. Maybe it’s because they seem to live by their own rules. Whatever it is, I’m a tortie lover for life.

Tortitude interior Gigi quote
“Excerpted from: Tortitude: The BIG Book About Cats With a BIG Attitude by Ingrid King ©2015, used with permission.”

CICH: Do you imagine you’ll ever open your home to a non-tortie?

IK: When I was looking for a companion for Allegra after Amber passed away, I wasn't specifically looking for another tortie, but I just kept being drawn to them, and when I met Ruby, I knew that we were going to be a two-tortie houshold. It's hard for me to imagine not sharing my life with a tortie, but you just never know with these things, do you?

CICH: Do you feel that having two torties is two-times the trouble?

IK: At times, it's tortitude squared, but it's also two-times the love!

CICH: What was the inspiration for your book beyond your love for multi-colored cats? Were there any myths you wanted to dispel?

IK: The book was inspired primarily by my love for torties, but I also wanted to show that even though all torties have tortitude, they're also all individuals. I'm all about learning from our cats, and I think torties teach us that you should never judge anyone or anything based on appearance alone.

CICH: If you had to do it all over again is there anything you’d change about your book?

IK: I wish I could have included more photos. I received almost 1,000 photos from my followers, and it was really hard to narrow it down to only the ones used in the book. Of course, it also meant that for about two months, I had the best job in the world: I got to sort through hundreds of photos of torties!

CICH: If there’s one thing you could tell my readers about torties what would you want them to know?

IK: Life will never be boring when you share it with a tortie.

CICH: Any plans for a sequel?

IK: You never know...

CICH: I’m starting to ask this of all my interviewees: What is your favorite cat body part?

IK: How could I possibly answer that! I love everything about cats - I think they're the most beautiful creatures on the planet. But if I absolutely had to pick one body part, I'd have to say the eyes, because, as cliched as it sounds, they're the window to a cat's soul.

Tortitude interior Jackson quote
“Excerpted from: Tortitude: The BIG Book About Cats With a BIG Attitude by Ingrid King ©2015, used with permission.”

Tortitude, the BIG book of Cats with a BIG Attitude is available NOW on Amazon (and can be pre-ordered from all other online retailers and will be available in stores after February 5th). Ms. King will donate $1 for every copy ordered before February 5 to the Jackson Galaxy Foundation to help at-risk cats.

If you'd like to WIN a copy of Tortitude, the BIG book of Cats with a BIG Attitude simply leave a comment here about something that shows your cat has tortitude (even if it's not exactly a tortie). Enter by 1/29/16 at 11:11PM EST. Winner, as chosen by me, will get one copy of the book. Entrant's mailing address must be in the United States for a chance to win. One comment PER person, please. Comments are moderated to prevent SPAM so it may take a few hours for your entry to appear.

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1.5 Billion Dreams

I can’t help but fantasize, along with the rest of the people in this country, about what I’d do if I won the 1.5 billion dollar Powerball jackpot tonight. I wonder if that is part of the allure? The dream that for minimum effort, just shell out a few bucks for a ticket, and a magical windfall appears. You’d go from being the 99% to the 1% in a heartbeat.

You’d quit your job, tell your boss off, buy a fleet of new cars, a new house, pay off your debt and maybe help out a few family members and friends, but then what?

Here’s where things get really interesting. For a jackpot of that size, here are some BIG IDEAS, things I would do and some things you might do, too:

1. Create a Foundation that serves people who do rescue. We’d offer programs to help offset compassion fatigue, have conferences where they can increase their skills but also, network and get the support of new friends, it would also be a vacation for them, where they could get some spa time or special events to give them something back for their hard work. All costs would be covered AND there would be grants to those who need it to cover some of their living expenses or help them get a new car or whatever other support they need.

2. Build a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital that provides low-cost care and free spay/neuter. Rescues would get the most benefit, then low-income families could apply for membership and be able to come in and get care for their pets. We’d have oncology, cardiology, internal medicine and more. No pet would have to be put down because the owner couldn’t afford it.

3. Team up with other non-profits and help them provide more arts and music programs in schools and build tiny homes for homeless people. No one should have to be without shelter.

4. Help the bees. Support programs that encourage appropriate methods to keep the bee population from failing. I’d build a huge organic garden and keep bees.

5. You could buy yourself a Lobbyist and make some big changes in regards to animal welfare or whatever you want to have change.

6. You could run for Congress.

7. You could buy up all the licenses to go trophy hunting in Africa so no one could kill any more animals and also hire a lot more people to protect those animals instead of help them get killed.

8. You could personally fund research into curing whatever you want.

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But…

You’d also have to face the fact that everyone would be after you for a handout for the rest of your life so there are things that would really suck about winning Powerball.

1. You’d have to hire body guards right away. I can’t even imagine how you’d get from your home to the Powerball HQ to claim your prize without someone trying to hurt you to get it. After that you’d still have to have protection and so would your family members. Can you spell kidnapping?

2. You’d have to change your phone number, protect your social media and email accounts because hackers might go after you (it happened to a friend of mine who was part of the Sandy Hook tragedy and he got his phone and email accounts hacked into).

3. You’d have to see a lawyer and financial advisor right away to make sure you have an updated Will and that you have a place to put all that money. What banks hold that sort of load? Remember those signs you see at the bank that say your deposit is only insured for what...$100,000.?

4. You’d always wonder who your real friends are after you win and you’d always be expected to pay for everything (which is probably not a big deal, but you’d feel like you were being used).

5. It might cause you to lose your relationships with your partner, friends and family. After all if you can do whatever you want, buy whatever you want, maybe you don’t need those people in your life any more or you don’t want to feel like you’re being taken advantage of. Would you end up being a recluse?

6. You might get sued by crazy people who want a piece of your fortune and have no other way to get it so any slight by you or nothing at all could cause a firestorm response.

7. Your life as you know it would be over and maybe there’s a lot of it that you truly love. Maybe you couldn’t volunteer any more because your presence would be too much of a distraction or it’s just not safe for you to be out and about? You could lose a lot of your freedom even though you’re free from having to worry about money issues.

8. You’d probably never stop being bothered by people who want something from you.

Now I’m wondering if I should have bought a Powerball ticket after all.

Did you buy a Powerball ticket? Did you spend a crazy amount of money on extra tickets? What would you do if you won the jackpot? Hey, don’t forget the little people—and in little I mean ME, if you win!

Tags Click a link below to find more articles on that topic.

2015: Year in Review. 2 of 2

(continued from part 1)

August

After a month of tests, I continued on, but this time weighing about 20 pounds less. The pain wasn’t as severe and I was a pro at checking my blood glucose every day. I never saw it go beyond a normal reading, but I was also terrified to go out to eat (so I didn’t). I cooked more than I cared to, but if I controlled what went into the food, I was “safe.”

I was lost trying to sort out what to eat, what not to eat. I hadn’t had sugar or much white flour. No more pasta, no more nuttin’. I had terrible cravings, but I knew that if worked very hard, it would go away and I’d make new routines eventually…yeah, right. We’re talking about me, a self-confessed “foodie” who felt like her whole life was over.

At least I got to rescue a kitten we named, Tink. She came flea-infested from Animal Care & Control in NYC. It was our first rescue-pull from them and it was a proud moment for me because if you’re going to rescue a cat from a tough place, NYACC is it. They do a great job partnering with an organization called HOPE, to get the animals OUT of their facilities, but you can imagine they are overloaded day and night.

Tink went to foster care and her foster mom fell in love so Tink’s adoption was sealed.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Think, a mini-Freya, bright light in an otherwise dreary world.

Meanwhile, I wasn’t too sick to notice that my cat, Gracie wasn’t eating well. No matter what we did or tried to feed her she was clearly off her food. I took her to the vet and they said she needed a dental cleaning right away. Other than the fact I hadn’t been working and was low on funds, there was nothing to be particularly concerned about as it was a routine procedure.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Minus most of her teeth after a dental, now Gracie was facing something much more dire.

September

Something was wrong with Gracie after her dental. She wouldn’t eat, was depressed and after going back to the vet a half dozen times in two weeks, they noticed she had a very enlarged liver. I might as well have let her go the second I saw the look on Dr. Larry’s face as he examined her. He shook his head. “I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all.” he said.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. At one of a million vet visits, each one giving us hope that we'd find the answer of what was ailing our girl.

And so began a torturous two months of trying to save Gracie’s life. It was so hard on me that I couldn’t eat or sleep. I had such bad anxiety because we couldn’t find what was going on, but could only guess it was neoplasia (cancer), somewhere. If we didn't know what was slowly killing my sweet cat, we couldn't TREAT it. The clock was ticking. I’m not a loser when it comes to my cats. I will fight and fight for them but nothing I did helped Gracie get any better.

I cared for her around-the-clock. Sam and I took turns medicating and feeding her. Every morning I wondered if I would come down the stairs and see Gracie had passed away over night. Every morning I hated myself for partly wishing it would be the case and it would be over, but I also had to work hard to find joy in our last days together because this was all we were going to get.

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2015 used with permission. Woody on his mom's lap. He's where he was supposed to be all along.

There was a moment of joy. Woody, the last of Mia’s kittens, finally got adopted after a 18 months. Woody’s siblings, Greta and Lil’ Snickers had been in their forever home for 6 months, but their mom, Nicole and been aching over the fact that Woody was left behind. She and her family agreed that Woody needed to join them. I couldn’t believe it when she called, but indeed that’s what she really wanted all along.

It was a shaky two weeks because Woody had to leave his mother, Mia. I hated separating them, but truth be told, Mia is not friendly enough to be adopted and this was Woody’s best chance.

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2015 used with permission. Wood (on recliner) reunited with Lil Snickers (front) and sister, Greta (sofa).

Woody is doing great and his siblings remembered him after a few days. Mia is showing signs of coming around, too, so maybe one day she’ll find her family, too.

October

Lex & Lucy got adopted even though I was pretty much checked out of running Kitten Associates. I was glad for them because the couple was great and I’ve heard the kitties are doing well, but it also meant the remaining foster cats were well beyond being cute kittens. They were all over 8 pounds and too big for their prime adoptable time.

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Used with permission. Lex & Lucy together always, in their forever home.

I began taking an online class with the Humane Society of the United States. It was 10-weeks long plus 5 hours of course week, at least, every week. At the end of it I’d be certified as a Cat Behavior Counselor. The question was, could I do it when my heart was breaking and my mind was numb from stress?

Our sole remaining feral cat, Bronte showed up looking frail and sickly. We put out a trap so we could get her to the vet, but instead of trapping Bronte, we got this big tom cat who had been hanging around our house for months. I was able to learn he was being fed down the street, but the person at that home said he wasn’t her cat. Since we had the cat and to get back at him for ripping my screen window open a few days before, I took him to be neutered (okay I wasn’t getting revenge, but…).

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry sat outside my office window (before he ripped it open) and cried. Meanwhile DOOD and Blitzen egg him on.

I named the cat, Barry.

I figured I’d let him go back outside after he recovered from surgery. What I didn’t expect was that Barry was friendly, so then I was faced with what to do with him.

Bronte after Vet
©2008 Robin AF Olson. Bronte, the last time we were able to trap her and get her vetted.

Sadly, we never saw Bronte again. She’d been with us for seven years. We had heated cabins for her in our screen porch and heated water dishes. We fed her every single day and now she was gone. We couldn’t even say goodbye. I still find myself looking for her when I go outside.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Cricket with frankenbutt.

One night I looked over at our cat Cricket. I saw blood all over his rear end. It was bad enough we were doing vet runs and fussing over Gracie, but now Cricket was in big trouble. It was clear he blew out one of his anal glands and needed surgery to repair the wound. We had him stitched up the next morning. He needed 17 stitches and was just in time for Halloween.

And two days later, as October became November, Gracie died in Sam’s arms as I was driving us to the vet to have them release her from this life.

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©2006 Robin AF Olson. The most beautiful, sweet-natured cat I've ever known. I miss you, Gracie, so much.

November

I suppose the best news of the year was that after repeating my blood work it was determined I didn’t have diabetes after all. I didn’t even know I could hope for that outcome. I'd lost about 45 pounds and still need to lose more, but the change in my body was starting to be pretty clear since none of my clothes fit me any more.

I knew I still had to be very careful because I can become diabetic due to my family history, so I can’t go back to eating things I used to like, but at least I can have a cookie or some such thing once in awhile.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Is this my future?

On the flip side, the bad news is there is trouble with my heart, a lack of blood flow that is either a small or moderate in area in the lower part of the muscle. My cardiologist wanted me to take a fist full of medications, but after careful consideration I decided not to take his advice. As of this writing, I’m still on this journey trying to find out what this pain is from. It’s mostly gone these days, but not entirely. I’m getting out for walks more, but not enough. I’m still eating well, too, but I don’t know what is really going on. Hopefully some day I will. I’m getting a second opinion.

Poor Petunia was getting picked on too often, even after the surgery. I decided to create a penned off space for her near the living room. She has her own litter pan, water, cat tree, scratcher, heated bed, cozy hut to hide in. Pretty much the second she realized the other cats couldn’t bother her, she calmed down and never missed the litter pan once. Though it’s not a perfect solution, it stopped the insanity. I don’t feel stressed out because seeing the cats go after Petunia upset me a lot. Now I can relate to Petunia differently, too. She’s not soiling anything and I’m not unfairly vilifying her. I learned I can start over and re-introduce her to the other cats. It’s going to take a long time, but in the meantime she’s calm and content and that’s what matters.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Petunia watches DOOD from a safe distance. After I took this photo, I covered the pen with towels to give her more separation from the other cats.

As for the other cats, I had to suck it up and take my beloved boy Spencer in for a dental. I had put it off after the disaster following Gracie's final cleaning. Spencer HATES to go to the vet and is very tough to handle. They got the job done, but I have to say I was very upset until he came back home. Even then I noticed he's showing his age. He's 14 going on 15 and I just can't "go there" when I think about how we lost Gracie and she was younger. Spencer has the early signs of kidney issues so he'll be going back to the vet for blood work again soon.

December

I got the flu for Thanksgiving. Not a surprise, really. After all the stress with caring for Gracie, no wonder I got sick. I lucked out and was just well enough a week later to meet Mike Bridavsky and see Lil Bub again. I’d designed Bub’s BUBblehead box and was really proud to be part of her world, even in some small way.

I got home and went back to bed. Sam joined me. He had just been hit by the flu, too.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. The bright spot to an otherwise sad year-seeing Mike & Bub again.

Somehow I managed to graduate my class! I got a 98! I’m a Certified Cat Behavior Counselor. Now I can help people keep their cats instead of giving them up when times get tough.

The results of not working much and a lot of sick cats hit my bank account really hard. Christmas ended up being mostly just another day. I was grateful that at least I could keep things going with Kitten Associates. I had some folks interested in wanting one or two of the cats. I’m hoping it will pan out in the new year.

Laney and family had been here so long they needed their vaccinations boostered. I had Dr. Larry and Super-Deb do a house call. I figured it would be a routine visit. No big deal.

I was wrong.

Laney needed a dental. Winnie and Piglet had severe stomatitis and needed not only dental cleanings ASAP, but they both were going to lose teeth. Just how many teeth would be taken was to be determined. There went $2200.00 in vet care I hadn’t figured on.

Barry sounds “bad.” He’s getting x-rays of his lungs done in a few days.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry, no longer the "feral" cat, is making his home in my bathroom until we complete his vet care (and he quits biting me!).

The “good” news I found out today is that Winnie has raging bartonella. It’s good because it means she probably does NOT have an immune disorder that will effect the rest of her life. We’re going to re-test Piglet because she was a +1, when Winnie was a +4 (+4 is the highest level of infection). Since the protocol is to not treat for a +1 and it’s been 9 months since we tested Piglet, it’s possible Piglet had it, but we caught it early and that now she, too may be a +4 (which would explain her bad mouth).

If it means neither cat will have to lose all their teeth one day, I’m all for it.

Moving Onward

It was a really tough year. I miss having kittens so much, but I needed a break without being able to really take one. I helped about 45 cats, mostly behind-the-scenes. I was going to end the year by rescuing this super cute ginger boy in South Carolina but happily for him he got adopted before they found out we’d take him.

I faced my mortality in a way I never did before. I made many difficult choices and ended up deciding to give myself the respect I never could before. I'm trying to treasure this body I have, faults, extra padding and all. It's been the toughest thing I've ever done and I have a long way to go, but for the first time I think that maybe, just maybe I'll get there and end up being the girl who really liked herself instead of loathing the face in the mirror.

My dreams for 2016 are a mixed bag. Firstly, I want to get as healthy as I can and get to the bottom of the chest pain. Second, I hope 2016 will be a re-birth of sorts. This humble blog has been far overdue for a re-design and Kitten Associates' web site needs a facelift, too. I'd also like to take my writing to the next level-which means a book project. Will you read a book if I write it? I've got to do this. If I can't make this one dream come true I never will.

And I'm still dedicated to making lives better for cats, for rescuing them and giving them safe harbor, for helping their humans understand them better so they can be happier and so those cats don't lose their home. I may not run the biggest rescue with the highest number of adoptions, but as the story of the starfish goes...

...The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

adapted from The Star Thrower

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Necklace from my friend, Adria.

2015: The Year in Review. 1 of 2.

This might as well be the shortest blog post ever. I could sum up 2015 as the year that, well, as the saying goes; “Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.”

2015 sucked.

January

The theme for 2015 was “the Year of the Vet Visit.” Laney’s older kittens, the “J-kitties” arrived from Georgia in mid-December 2014 and were acting a bit off so I took them to the vet a few times. Eventually we decided to test them for Bartonella. Sure enough they tested strong positive. Freya came up strong positive for Bartonella, too, so they were on antibiotics for 3 WEEKS.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. The J-kitties all got adopted in less than a month after arriving from Georgia.

Lil Snickers, Ivy, Greta, Junipurr, Jasmine and Jasper got adopted so that was the good news, but it didn’t last long. Something was wrong with Freya’s eye so I rushed her to the ER where she was diagnosed with Horner’s Syndrome. The cause? No one really knew.

February

The month for Groundhogs and love…for me, love of taking cats to the vet. Not! Freya continued to struggle. It was bad enough to know that Freya could barely see with her third eyelids exposed as a result of the Horner’s Syndrome, but I began to think she was walking with her head tilted to one side. Back to the vet we went and sure enough Freya had a terrible infection inside her ear that had to be frequently monitored. Was it due to all the antibiotics she’d been on? It was only her right ear causing trouble. Dr. Mary was concerned about how much fluid was building up and that we HAD to put Freya on another type of very strong antibiotics to push this infection back. The problem is, Baytril can cause some very scary side effects. I did not want to give Freya the medication, especially for six WEEKS, but it was the only hope we had, other than doing a CT scan, then risky surgery to drain her ear canal.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. When Freya got Horner's Syndrome I thought I could handle any of her health challenges, but never seeing her turquoise blue eyes again felt like too much to bear.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. My poor baby. Head-tilt, vision problems, lovely.

At least Wallace, the tiny kitten who was rescued by the Danbury Fire Department from inside a wall, was now a big grown boy. He got adopted with the remaining “J-kitty”, Jules. They looked like brother and sister and ended up getting along very well. Jules is madly in love with one of her new family’s other pets—a dog named Coco. They spend too much time together, if you ask Wallace.

Wallace and Jules
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Jules (left) and Wallace (right) in their forever home.

March

Laney, Winnie and their offspring arrived from Georgia. ALL of them broke with a nasty upper respiratory tract infection the day after they arrived. If that wasn’t bad enough, I was terribly worried about Piglet because she was doing the worst of all the cats. Most of her family members got better over the next few weeks, but she didn’t.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Piglet takes comfort with her grandma-Laney and Louie.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Fluff sick again.

Of course you can’t have sick foster cats, then expect your own cats will miraculously not get sick at some point, too. Fluff Daddy was hit the worst and required a few vet visits and many trips to the bathroom where I ran a steamy shower for him. With his smooshy-face, Fluff was having a tough time breathing. He’d had pneumonia a few months earlier so I couldn’t risk waiting it out that he’d get better on his own.

Freya’s ear did not improve enough so we had to continue giving her Baytril.

Meanwhile my 11 year old cat, Petunia, who I have struggled to love all these years, was just not peeing in the litter pan any more. It was a horrible mess. Petunia gets bullied and try as we might, Sam and I have spent a lot of money and effort adding cat trees, barriers, adding litter pans, adding litter additives to attract Petunia to the pan, but nothing worked.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. What can happen to your cat inside her bladder when she experiences long-term stress.

I took Petunia to see Dr. Larry and found out something terrible. Petunia had stress-induced cystitis called, FLUTD. Her bladder was FULL of barbed, painful cysts and she needed surgery right away. Every time she urinated it must have hurt like HELL. If I couldn’t get the other cats to stop bullying Petunia it would continue on, but at least I could help her feel better and maybe that would help her in other ways.

Poor Piglet. She was just not getting better. We ran a DNA test called a PCR on her mucus and found out she had a triple-threat viral infection of calici, herpes and mycoplasma! No wonder she was so sick.

April

Petunia’s surgery was a success. I could tell she was feeling a lot better. The cats who picked on her backed off a little bit, but ultimately we had to do more to help her so we went back to the drawing board to figure out what we could do.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Piglet's struggles continue.

Now Piglet had an ear infection so we began treating her for that. It was odd because it seemed like she had weird-gummy-dirt-stuff (not ear mites) in one ear and that one ear was susceptible to getting infected. She did NOT like being medicated and for a little cat, she sure is strong.

May

May arrives along with a sad realization. Where are my kittens? I usually have rescued a pregnant cat or a mom-cat and kittens by now. I had no space for kittens. Even if I did open up my nearby foster home, I couldn’t oversee their care remotely. I had a full house and most of my cats were either sick or just getting over it. My home was no place for any kitten. It was simply too dangerous. It was the first time since we opened Kitten Associates in 2010 that we didn’t have any foster kittens.

Upside Freya R Olson
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Finally, Freya is doing well.

At least Freya was improving. I could see her beautiful eyes again and she was no longer walking with her head to one side. Her final check with Dr. Potanas went really well. He didn’t feel she needed surgery and he added that she didn’t need ANY more surgeries related to her atresa-ani repair, too. It meant that Freya could be spayed and be put up for adoption. The news hit me like a brick and considering the intense backlash I got for suggestion she ever be adopted, I realized that maybe we needed to consider making Freya part of our family.

June

Although we had no foster kittens, I was helping behind the scenes. By pure accident I discovered that a gentleman who called me about getting a c-section for his cat (no, I’m not kidding), ended up telling me he had 22 cats that were INTACT. He was in his 70’s and was overwhelmed. I put out the call to help and thankfully my friends at Nutmeg Spay/Neuter Clinic and PAWS jumped in to help out. You can read more about that HERE.

July

And then everything stopped and my life came to an end as I knew it.

In late June, I was experiencing severe chest pains so Sam took me to the walk-in clinic right after they opened at 8AM. I was positive I was having a heart attack. I was so upset I almost passed out from worry. I explained to the doctor my weird, radiating pains. I’d read that women present heart attack symptoms differently than men do and I was sure I was in trouble.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Is this my new best friend?

The doctor said the strangest thing to me. He said he believed me but he couldn’t sort out what was going on. They did an ECG and said it was pretty normal but there was something about a q-wave abnormality that might be worth checking into. He said I should follow up with my GP (I didn’t have one) and that if I felt worse to get to the ER.

On July 1 I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. My new doctor suspected angina, too, but didn’t tell me as much. The full story is HERE, but the bottom line is I had a choice to make; change my life or have a very bleak future.

For the rest of the month I didn’t do much of anything. I was already exhausted from doing rescue and never taking any time off. I let adoption applications go down the drain. The cats got the care they needed, but Sam had to help me because I couldn’t lift ANYTHING. I could barely climb the stairs without the pain returning. I felt lost, broken, angry. How was I going to go on?

the rest of this craptastic year in review coming up next...

Simon Tofield's Latest Book Might Make You Wet...Your Pants

How do you define artistic genius? For a painter, perhaps it’s through tiny details carefully mastered at the tip of a brush. For a writer, it's via a rainbow of words woven into a tapestry of memorable characters, effortlessly transporting us into another world. Then there’s another kind of genius, too, one that can distill an otherwise mundane or even distressing experience and turn it into a handful of hilarious, simply drawn images. That is the gift of animator-cartoonist Simon Tofield.

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Simon’s Cat: Off to the Vet …and Other Cat-astrophes is the fifth offering in the series of Simon’s Cat books; featuring cartoons of none other than the rascally-catbit Simon’s Cat. For those not familiar, Simon’s cat® is eternally hungry and oh-so-obsessed about how he might get himself an extra snack. Birds are his favorite target, yet he reminds us of Wile E. Coyote, who as brilliant as he thinks he is, he never quite outwits his prey. Meanwhile, it is his outlandish failures that are what keeps readers coming back for more.

What’s hooked fans since 2008 when Simon’s Cat first appeared in a YouTube video entitled, Cat man Do, (which has had over 56 MILLION views to date) is how on one level he’s relatable and very much like every-cat, but on another, he goes to far more outrageous lengths to get what he wants. Because he’s so adorable we hope he’ll get it (even if it means a broken lamp or ruined sofa in the process).

Simon’s Cat: Off to the Vet…is an energetic romp Tofield renders artfully in pen and ink. He captures the humor in a task cat-parents find completely dreadful—taking their cat to the Vet. With Tofield’s genius as a cartoonist, each page turned is another reason to snicker, especially in scenes where Simon’s Cat wrestles with wearing the dreaded cone-of-shame. Because Tofield is able to find the punchline in these moments, perhaps we can as well, the next time we’re faced with wrestling our cat into the carrier for that dreaded trip to you-know-where in the car.

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Simon's cat, forever hungry, in his iconic pose. Photo from original drawing donated to our rescue, Kitten Associates.

Simon’s Cat: Off to the Vet…includes a return of our favorite characters like the Hedgehog, the Garden Gnome and the Kitten, as well as inviting a few new ones to join in the adventure. While after four previous books it would be easy to assume we’d see the same thing over and over again, Tofield finds a way to keep the antics fresh and laugh-out-loud funny. I found myself gleefully anticipating what the next page turn would reveal.

I particularly enjoyed the surprise at the center of the book. It reminded me of the point in the film, The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy arrives in Oz and the film goes from monotone to full-color. Tofield’s simple black and white line drawings are transformed by the addition of dazzling watercolors, creating a dimension not only to the look, but to the effect of the storytelling that was quite appealing.

In 2016, a full-color, fully funded (record breaking), Indiegogo campaign sponsored, feature animation based on this book will debut and I can’t wait to see it.

I had a chance to ask Simon Tofield a few questions about his life, the loss of one of his cats, as well as his aspirations and inspirations:

CiCH: I’m very sorry to hear of Hugh’s passing at the age of 10. How did that effect your work and do you feel there might be some changes to Simon’s Cat in the future as a result?

ST: Hugh was very dear to me and so his passing was very sad. I still find myself calling his name at the cat’s feeding time by accident. When it rains and my other black cat Teddy’s fur gets wet he looks like the spitting image of Hugh, which often catches me off guard when he comes through the cat flap. In relation to Simon’s Cat, I draw upon all cats I have ever owned for inspiration past and present, so even though he has passed away, its nice to know that Hugh will live on in my work.

CiCH: Do you still have three cats and are you considering adding to your cat-family any time soon? If so, what sort of cat would be ideal?

ST: Yes, I still have three cats, Old jess, big Maisy and fluffy Teddy. I would love to get another cat after Hugh's passing but I also have a little nineteen-month-old boy. So the idea of having new kittens and a toddler running around the house is maybe not a good one. Although saying that, my wife and I have already agreed that when my little boy is old enough we will get another cat or two.

My favourite sort of cat is the giant Maine Coon. I love the fact they grow so big and are so gentle and friendly. Although when the time finally does come to get a new cat I think it will have to be another rescue cat from the centre.

CiCH: If Simon’s Cat was a specific breed of cat what kind would he be?

ST: If Simon's cat were a breed he would probably be a British short hair. A moggie of no real breeding but with buckets of character and charm. He would also have a white coat and be slightly over weight, he would be lazy but have a very clever, calculating little mind.

CiCH: Was it after “Cat-man Do” went viral when you decided to focus your career on doing Simon’s Cat or did something else occur that made you realise this was your life’s calling?

ST: When I saw how much people seemed to enjoy Cat-man-Do, I really wanted to do another one. I had always loved animation and cats, so combining the two seemed like an ideal job. However, It was only when someone came up to me and offered me a book deal that I could start concentrating solely on Simon's Cat.

CiCH: How has fame changed your life beyond improving your finances?

ST: I have to say that my life is kind of the same as it has always been; I wouldn't really call myself Famous. I look at it as the cat is the famous one I'm just his owner who has to look after him. My life has been completely turned upside down recently though but It's due to a baby in the house, something my real cats are still coming to terms with.

CiCH: What dreams do you have for Simon’s Cat going forward?

ST: Well I'm delighted that people still enjoy watching my cat and his antics and in that sense my dreams have already been realised. If I had wish for more, it would probably be for a TV series, I think that would be great to see him on Television.

CiCH: It’s been said you get inspiration for your art from your cats, but are there people who inspire you? Other cartoonists? Other artists?

ST: As a boy growing up in the 80's I fell in love with the Transformers cartoon series and would often video it and watch it back to learn how to animate. I would go through each frame at a time trying to figure out how many drawings it took to do a certain movement. I used this knowledge a few years later when I discovered the magic of making flipbooks at college. So from quite an early age I was hooked on animation. Having dyslexia I found reading quite a struggle as a child so tended to draw everything instead, this of course has helped me greatly in later life. I tended not really to look at other peoples work as I was too busy scribbling my own stuff but in my twenties I discovered Gary Larson and his Far Side cartoons. It always amazed me how he could create so many funny situations with HILARIOUS CHARACTERS. I certainly looked up to him as an Artist for sure. Another Artist who I greatly admired was Bill Watterson and his charming Calvin and Hobbes series, pure genius.

CiCH: You have a great gift for being able to take an uncomfortable subject, like the struggle most cat-parents have, to get their cat to the Vet and show the humour in it in just a few images. Are there any aspects of living with cats that you don’t feel you’d want to explore in Simon’s Cat?

ST: Well there are certain aspects of living with cats that probably wouldn't make great topics to draw. A few years ago I would have said the whole litter tray scenario but I have found myself going there and it's actually quite funny. I have always had a great love of wildlife and birds in particular. I have a little rule that Simon's cat although he tries very hard never actually catches or kills a bird. I would like to say the same about mice but He has eaten a mouse in the past and showed the remains to Simon. I try to base Simon's Cat as much as I can in real life and this is just one of those things cats do.

CiCH: When will the animation be airing of “Simon’s Cat Off to the Vet” ?

ST: We plan to realise the 'Off to the Vet' in 2016.

CiCH: What is your favorite body part on a cat? (I love big fluffy cat bums)

ST: My favorite cat body part has to be the tail; I think it’s a window into the mind of the cat. Every emotion can be picked up by the subtle little movements and shape of the tail. I use this a lot in my animations and illustrations. Cats are really great for cartoons because they can say so much with their body language; they are all visual in their feelings, perfect for drawing. You can draw a cat and let everyone know how that cat is feeling with out writing a single word. This is probably the reason why there are so many cartoon felines.

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Simon’s Cat: Off to the Vet…and Other Cat-astrophes is available NOW from your favorite bookseller. It lists for $27.95 (hardcover) and $16.95 (paperback).

If you’d like to WIN a copy (paperback) of Simon’s Cat: Off to the Vet…and Other Cat-astrophes simply leave a comment here and tell us what your cat does when you try to take him, her or all of them to the vet. Funniest comment judged by me wins. I have TWO copies to giveaway so there will be two winners. Deadline to enter is December 31, 2015 at 11:11 PM Eastern Standard Time. Please only one comment/entry per person. All comments are MODERATED to prevent SPAM so it may take some time for your comment to appear, but since they are time stamped I’ll know if your entry is within the deadline once you send it in.

FTC DISCLAIMER: I was given a copy of this book to review, but I was not paid for this post in any way. These are my sentiments and opinions only (other than where Mr. Tofiled is quoted). Your mileage may vary.

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BIG NEWS FOR SIMON’S CAT FANS. We’re going to be auctioning off an ORIGINAL SIMON’S CAT drawing, done in-person by Simon Tofield. Proceeds will go to our rescue, Kitten Associates. Special thanks to Simon Tofield and Ingrid King for their generosity in giving us this fabulous drawing of Simon’s cats (featuring Hugh!).

STAY TUNED for INFO ON HOW TO BID ON THIS MASTERPIECE! If you'd like to get on our mailing list to find out when it will be available for bidding, sign up for our Newsletter through the Kitten Associates web site. or email us at info @ kittenassociates.org (remove spaces after "info" and before "kitten" for proper address.

KA Mailing List Signup

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We are beyond thrilled to be able to offer this drawing for sale to raise funds for our rescue efforts. Sadly we could not get our auction going by the time this review posted due to Holiday insanity but it should be up just after the New Year.

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Freya 2.0. Freya and Friends

There are things I never planned for when I first opened my non-profit cat rescue, Kitten Associates. One of them was what to do when I encountered a cat that for some reason, finding a forever home would be difficult, if not impossible. I assumed that because we’re a small rescue we’d never have to put a cat down (boy, was I wrong about that) or encounter horrible illness (wrong, again) or cats I’d be scratching my head about who I can't put up for adoption (yep, wrong).

All sweetness and light King
©2012 Robin AF Olson. King, the day before leaving for his forever home. King had some health issues after his adoption, but I'm glad to report he is doing great now.

Along the way we’ve had cats like King, who was born with no back paws. He was barely getting by on the grounds of a palette factory in Georgia, where he dodged fork lifts and ate scraps. I wasn’t confident we’d ever find him a placement, but in the end King found the most perfect home with his mom, Judy who lives 1300 miles away in New Hampshire. I’ve come to see that there IS a home for EVERY cat no matter what. It just might take a great deal of time to find that home.

It’s relatively straightforward to provide care for kittens. Yes, often times it can be touch and go. During those early days the odds are greater for loss to occur and sadly we have lost more than I’d care to recall. What surprises me is that those cats who are the most difficult and emotionally draining to care for are the ones I love the most, even if it meant a lot of tough times as I witnessed their struggles, riding wave after wave of joy and anguish.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Lady Saturday after she was released from ICU and only needed day to day monitoring at Dr. Larry's.

Last year I innocently offered to help my friends with a senior cat they found on the side of the road who was nearly starved to death and seriously ill. I had no idea that 14 months and MANY thousands of dollars later, that cat would still be with us. Lady Saturday’s recovery was a miracle, but it also left us with a dilemma. Saturday is over 10 years old. She’s deaf. She doesn’t do much more than eat and sleep and purr during petting-time. She’s been available for adoption for most of this year but it’s very unlikely we will EVER get an adoption application for her. Her foster family loves her very dearly, but they cannot afford her care so we’ve picked up the tab and will continue to do so. We’ll need a way to keep our commitment to this deserving tuxedo cutie, but in truth, fundraising for a senior cat isn’t usually very successful.

First Photo of Freya
©2014 Randy Szendy. Used with permission. First known photo of Freya before rescue.

 

Then there’s Freya. Who knew that my last blog post about her (HERE), which revealed the surprise that Freya no longer needed additional surgery and was stable enough to be adopted, would cause such a passionate firestorm of comments. Every one said the same thing; “You’ve GOT to KEEP FREYA. She loves you and you love her. How can you let her go? Who would provide the right care for her because she’ll always be a special needs cat?”

 

Some of you even cried at the news, as I did when I wrote that final line. I walked around like a Zombie the day I realized that all the hard work was probably over and that Freya really didn’t need me as she once did. I looked at the first photos of her the day I met her and I cried again. What a journey we’ve had.

Forelorn Freya
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Little Freya the first day she was with me.

What I do as a cat rescuer occurs in phases that repeat over and over again. I come to the aid of cats and kittens who face dire situations or health crises. Then we all work together to support those animals until their time comes to find their forever home. Along the way I help the cat learn to trust and love humans, be comfortable getting claws trimmed, treat their parasitic infections, their upper respiratory tract infections, keep their belly full.

I teach them to be confident and emotionally balanced and when I feel they’ve accomplished these things and are in good health, then it’s time for them to be adopted. I’ve fostered close to 500 cats by now and you all know that I can’t keep every one.

 

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Weighing just over 7 pounds, Freya has grown into a lovely little lady. She will always be very small, but her big personality makes up for it.

Over the years a few kittens have gotten under my skin and I’ve had to keep them here, but we’re already beyond the limit of what we can provide for. There’s also the issue of the stress it causes on some of our cats and the resulting inappropriate elimination nightmare that follows. Our cat Petunia can get so stressed she gets struvite crystals in her bladder (which we had surgically removed earlier this year). Is it fair to her for us to keep Freya? Is it responsible to keep Freya even though we cannot afford her care? Will Freya get enough attention from us? These are things I must consider. Ultimately, I will always aim for what is best for our foster cat, not me.


©2015 Robin AF Olson. Something to giggle about...

I agree that there aren’t going to be a lot of people in our area who can provide care for Freya, unless they already do rescue work or are very experienced cat guardians. They would have to monitor her diet and track her output. She’ll have more problems as she ages because of her spinal deformity and bowed legs. She’s already hearing and probably vision impaired, though she doesn’t let anything get her down. One day she may need acupuncture, medications and/or surgery to keep her comfortable as she grows older.

I love Freya very much and our journey has been one of the most meaningful of my life.

Without being arrogant, I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to do for her and it inspires me to perhaps change course from rescuing more kittens, to focusing on only one or two who need a lot of care to get them back on their paws. Freya’s story has helped other kittens like her and even some young children who have atresia ani. It’s an honor to know that she serves as an inspiration to others to not give up even when the Vet says “she’s got a 10% chance to survive.”

 

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Spring!

As I sit at my desk writing, I hear Freya’s familiar me-ow. She wants my attention so of course I turn to see what she wants. She can’t reach up very comfortably so I bend over and carefully lift her. I place her on my chest and sit back so she doesn’t slide down to the floor. She walks on me purring away, not caring her butt is in my face. She turns and rubs her wet nose onto my cheek. I give her a few pets while being careful not to let her slip. Although I have to stop writing, I enjoy taking a moment to interact with her.

Freya often makes me smile and this time is no different. I put her gently back down on the floor and she runs off looking for her favorite spring toy. I ask myself how I can let her go. How I can be okay with never seeing her funny little wiggle-butt-action or how silly she looks when she suddenly stops, mid-step, then stretches out her back legs perfectly flat and straight, before going back to racing off just for the fun of it.

 

Rational “I should do this or that” thoughts aside, Freya is part of our family and I think I’ve found a solution that will make it possible for her to stay with us.

 

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Adorable as always.

I’ve created the Freya & Friends Fund. It’s a special fund that will only be used for cats like Freya, who cannot be adopted, and who need long-term care. Lady Saturday will also benefit from this program because she WILL need a lot of support since she’s already a senior cat (and she needs fluids at least once a week for the rest of her life). It will also help us provide for Mia, who has not improved in over a year and is clearly not going to be social enough to find her forever home any time soon. In fact, she may never be adoptable as she’s still too fearful of humans. We need funds to cover her care, too, but these are things that are not easy to fundraise for and that is my fear.

We need about $15/day to cover the basics of food, litter and a tiny bit towards regular vet care for these cats. We’ll have to do special fundraising as our cats age or as infirmity or unforeseen health issues occur.

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If I didn’t have to worry about how we were going to afford to provide for Freya, then keeping her here would be possible, but if I can’t be certain we can always provide for her then it will be more difficult.

 

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Please keep me with you always!

The bonus, of course, if we keep Freya, means you’ll always be able to stay in touch with her and watch her journey as it continues to unfold. She has a lot of growing to do and new friends to make.

Knowing she’s been an inspiration to others makes it even more important to keep her with us. She could eventually visit our local schools to help children not only learn about compassion for animals but to see that just because a cat is different doesn’t make her any less lovable—perhaps it makes her more lovable.

 

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. A few nights ago with her family, the DOOD and Spencer.

 

I guess that’s what it comes down to in the end-love. Love trumps reason. Love overrules “should.” I love Monkeypants and now I hope you’ll help me keep her where she belongs by joining Freya & Friends as a supporter.

 

 


FRIENDSHIP OPTIONS

 

If you'd like more information about this program visit our web site HERE. Kitten Associates is a 501c3 non-profit so your gift is tax deductible. Our IRS EIN is 27-3597692.

Robin and Freya R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. The night before Freya's surgery I knew I could never let her go.

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