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.
I don’t know about a lot of things. You see I was just born a few weeks ago. My mom told me we were living in a, well, not-so-nice place before we came here. She said there were a lot of other cats and a lot of other things all over where we used to live. There was so much human stuff she couldn’t move around too well, but I guess that was okay. With so many cats in this place, my mom was scared to leave her hidey-spot. I know she was scared because she was going to have me and my brothers soon and she didn’t want to give birth in this place like the other cats did. She said that it seemed as though there were more and more cats being born, some of them went to Heaven right away and we should feel lucky that we didn’t go there yet. She said that she counted how many cats there were and she counted one cat for every one of her toes, then she ran out of toes! So she said there were must be more than 18. I guess her sister had a kitten that went right to Heaven and then another sister got really really sick from being full of babies and she almost went to Heaven, too.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Little Zoe with her Mama and brothers.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. #06, Sweet Peaches, about a year old, who's looking for her forever home or a rescue organization to take her on and help her find one.
I don’t know why there are places like this—full of cats and full of dirty cat droppings and dirty human piles of things, because it doesn’t seem like the place where a little kitten like me would want to grow up.
I don’t know about a lot of things. You see I was just born a few weeks ago. My mom told me we were living in a, well, not-so-nice place before we came here. She said there were a lot of other cats and a lot of other things all over where we used to live. There was so much human stuff she couldn’t move around too well, but I guess that was okay.
With so many cats in this place, my mom was scared to leave her hidey-spot. I know she was scared because she was going to have me and my brothers soon and she didn’t want to give birth in this place like the other cats did. She said that it seemed as though there were more and more cats being born, some of them went to Heaven right away and we should feel lucky that we didn’t go there yet.
She said that she counted how many cats there were and she counted one cat for every one of her toes, then she ran out of toes! So she said there were must be more than 18. I guess her sister had a kitten that went right to Heaven and then another sister got really really sick from being full of babies and she almost went to Heaven, too.
My mother told me that before I was old enough to tell my own stories, some human-ladies came to our place. They carefully lifted us up and put us into a nice clean box with a handle on the top. Inside it there was a soft bed. It was nice and clean, too. They told us not to worry and that they would take care of us. I think one of the ladies had wet sparkles covering her eyes that she had to wipe away with a soft cloth. She seemed sad when she looked at us, but I think that’s because I look kinda funny.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. #07, Terrance, about a year old male, who's looking for his forever home or a rescue organization to take him on and help him find one.
The ladies that brought us to the new place gave us a huge metal box to live in so we can all stay together. It’s nicer than our old place and clean, too.
My brothers are small, but I am the smallest. The ladies said I am…I dunno. Something about bread, being in-bread? They say I should be more developed by now, but geez, I’m doing the best I can.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. #05 & #09, Silly 7-month old siblings looking for their forever home or a rescue organization to take them on and help them find one.
The ladies are feeding me extra milk and they are getting me some medicine. I hope it will help me feel better really soon. I know they are worried about me going to Heaven and I’m a bit worried, too. I don’t know much about anything, like I said before, but I do know these ladies are really good people. They helped us when no one else could help, and they will take care of us so we can get big like my mom someday.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. #04, Phillip, a sweet boy barely a year old.
The problem is there are so many other kitty-cats who came from the not-so-nice-place and they need something called a Rescue Group to help them go to a nice place to live. The kitties don’t need much, just somewhere clean and with good food, whatever food is. I only drink milk right now, but I hope you know what I mean.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. #10 Very friendly female tabby, about a year old.
The ladies told me that to keep helping all of us they need donations so they can make sure we’ll get more good food, some of the kitties get special treatments called spay and some get neuter, and they all get vaccinations…and the donation-thing is something they really need help with.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. A Mother's Love can't heal everything, but hopefully we got to this family in time so that none of the kittens will be lost.
Well, I have to rest again. I get tired easily since I’m only 3 weeks old. I hope you can help me and my family and all our other kitty friends somehow. I’d like to have a chance to grow up and see the world, but I just don’t know if that will happen.
I’ll write again if I can.
Thank you for reading my story.
This is a true story that began two weeks ago with a phone call from a person asking me for help to get a C-section for his cat. When I explained how dangerous that procedure was to the mom and babies and asked about the mother cat’s condition, he began to reveal what was really going on: He had more than 18 cats and none were spayed or neutered. Far more than I could take on myself, I reached out for help and my fellow rescuers answered the call.
PAWS in Norwalk sent a representative over to the home to begin the process of sorting out what needed to be done. This liaison was terrific, keeping us abreast of what was going on, but the true heroes are the staff at Nutmeg Spay/Neuter Clinic, who offered to not only vet each and every cat, but they would travel an hour to get ALL the cats and have ALL the cats recover from their procedures on site, then stay on in their facility until legitimate rescue organizations could step in to help.
PAWS and our rescue, Kitten Associates granted funds to provide 8 of the cats spay/neuter surgery and vaccines, and the former owner of the cats provided funds to get 7 more cared for.
...(a couple needed emergency spay surgery and had additional health challenges, plus all the cats were tested for FIV and Feline Leukemia, dewormed, de-fleaed and some needed special grooming). Nutmeg is in dire need of assistance from the local rescue community to help them place each and every one of these cats into a loving home.
Please visit NUTMEG CLINIC to share your love for kittens like Zoe. Simply use their PayPal donation widget (DONATE BUTTON on left side of page) or mail a check to: Nutmeg Spay/Neuter Clinic, 25 Charles Street, Stratford, CT 06615 and note on the check “For Zoe & the Kitties.” Any unused portion of donations will go directly to the other cats in Nutmeg’s care. Nutmeg Clinic is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization so your donation is tax deductible as the law allows.
If you'd like to inquire about any of the cats, please contact Gilda at email@example.com
I’d like to personally thank Nutmeg for stepping up to a difficult situation and for being willing to house such a large number of cats. They aren’t a shelter so this is tough on them.
Lastly, to the kitten I nicknamed Zoe, I hope you make it, Little One! I look forward to reading your next letter.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Come on, Zoe! You can do it!
Imagine what your life would be like if your cat not only had his own phone, but was able to send you text messages from it. What do you think he might say? Would you enjoy the conversation or realize you've created a monster?
This was the impetus for cat-writer & humorist Angie Bailey's sophomore book, “Texts from Mittens.”
TFM is a full-color, beautifully bound hardcover with page after page of screen shots of text message conversations between Mittens, a slightly neurotic, cat-liver-treat-obsessed, dog-hating, cat and his human-Mom, named, well, Mom.
There's an additional cast of characters ranging from under-sexed and over-boozed-up neighbor, Drunk Patty; to Phil, the annoying-dog, to Stumpy, Mitty's BFF (Best Feline Friend) and lastly, Grandma who always serves up the best goodies while Mom is away.
TFM is a quick read, but I discovered I was wishing for more as I came to the last page. Bailey takes us on a journey that is thoroughly enjoying and entertaining and I would heartily recommend this book to readers of any age.
CICH: What inspired you to write your first Texts From Mittens post?
AB: I've always loved thinking about cats doing human things. In my first book, whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, cats used a craigslist-type site to find dates, sell their stuff and join clubs. My imagination is more than a little vivid, and the idea of kitties sitting at a laptop, wheeling and dealing completely cracked me up. That led into Texts from Mittens. I tested it on Catster.com, and it became a bi-weekly column.
CICH: If someone developed an app so cats could text their guardians would you buy it for your cats?
AB: Yes, but it'd be silenced a lot of the time. I feel like Cosmo would be relentless with the texts.
CICH: How many cats do you currently share your life with? What are their names and tell us a little bit about each one.
AB: I share my life with three cats.
Saffy is nearly 14 years old and is a totally laid-back Daddy lover. She gives him the ol' goo-goo eyes -- it's adorable. Also, she has about three good teeth and floofy gray fur.
Cosmo is my 13-year-old tuxie man. He follows me everywhere and would love nothing more than my carrying him around in a Snugli baby carrier.
Phoebe is nearly 10 years old and is the queen of the castle. She's barely seven pounds, but has more attitude and sass than the other two cats put together.
CICH: Mittens has been a wildly successful character. What’s next for Mitty?
AB: Right now he's focusing on the book launch and making sure I give him enough publicity -- he's so demanding. He's still posting texts every day and hanging out with his girlfriend Fiona and best friend Stumpy. He's like me to produce little stuffed Mittens toys. We probably will, but not right now. He also has a lot of Judge Judy to catch up with on the DVR.
CICH: Are Mom and Drunk Patty ever going on a double date?
AB: Maybe. Drunk Patty dates Rusty, a competitive eater, and Mom just can't seem to find the right guy. Mittens hijacks her dating site and tries to help, but he only pushes prospective dates further away. One day she'll find the perfect guy, and hopefully Mittens will approve.
CICH: How’s Phil doing?
AB: Phil is doing great! He's 13 years old and is enjoying a life of retirement. Mittens wishes he'd retire to Florida.
CICH: Who’s one of your favorite Cat Bloggers? :-D
AB: Um ... there's this weird one named Robin. I think her blog's called Covered in Bat Hair or something. I hear she's kind of a nut, but I'd probably like her.
And our Exclusive Interview with Mittens
CICH: What’s your take on being an indoor-only cat? Do you feel your principals are being violated?
MITTY: Have you seen the evil squirrels and chipmunks that lurk outdoors? My only violation is getting breathed on by Drunk Patty.
CICH: You seem to have a lot of emergencies. Have you considered getting one of those pendants that allow you to get help with the push of a button?
MITTY: Is there such a thing?? Are you offering to send me one? #yesplease
CICH: Do you hope your Mom finds you a new Dad some day?
MITTY: Only if it doesn't take away from Mittens time. I would look past some of his imperfections if he were heir to a liver treat company.
CICH: Where’s the most exotic place you’ve ever barfed?
MITTY: On Mom's World Market receipt. Then she wasn't able to return that Moroccan pillow sham. Too bad because it was ugly.
CICH: How do you feel about Judge Judy’s contract being renewed until 2020?
MITTY: It's just wrong. It should have been extended until 2021. She was ripped off.
If you can't get enough Mitty, you can follow his exploits below.
Texts From Mittens Web Site
TFM on Facebook
TFM on Twitter
If you'd like to win your very own copy of Texts From Mittens simply leave a comment below (ONLY ONE COMMENT PER PERSON). Your comment should be a message you think your cat would text you. Funniest entry (as chosen by me) wins! There will be only ONE book given away so make it your most clever and crazy message ever. Winner must be a resident of the United States of America due to insane costs of shipping oversees. DEADLINE: APRIL 3, 2015 (my birthday) 2:22 PM EST.
I’m not even sure when it started. In some ways it seems as though it’s been going on forever, a never-ending cycle of bad to worse. I don’t even know what triggered it in the first place. Was it a visit to the Vet? Was it stress-related?
©2015 Robin AF Olson. DOOD sleeping it off, feeling lousy and stuffed up.
It began over a month ago, before Laney, Winnie and their 7 kittens arrived from Georgia. A few of my cats had a mild case of the sneezes. DOOD, Blitzen, Nicky were a bit quieter than usual with DOOD leading the charge with violent head-whipping sneezes. There's no way I can separate the cats from each other so I had to hope that as it spread from one cat to the other, it wouldn't be too bad.
But Fluff Daddy, with his shortened nose was hit the worst. Because it was likely a virus, the treatment is not to treat; to give supportive care, rest, and monitor him to make certain it wasn’t turning into a secondary infection or pneumonia. Fluff had already battled pneumonia last year and we couldn’t risk that happening again. This meant vet visits for Fluff-lots of them. Because he never had a fever, Dr. Mary felt we should let it ride and that eventually, being self-limiting, the virus would die off and Fluff would feel better.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Poor Fluff on his "spa towel."
Throughout the day I would bring Fluff or DOOD into the bathroom and run the shower. The warm moist air would help their breathing. Fluff particularly enjoyed these sessions and would sit on a thick towel on top of the bathroom counter without fussing around as DOOD often would. I’d sit on the closed toilet and play solitaire on my old iPad. It wasn’t much, but it was something I could do to help them recover.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Fluff Daddy, finally on the med but still a bit worse for wear.
It wasn’t too much to support the cats, but then things took a turn that anyone who does rescue fears.
Laney, Winnie and their 7 kittens arrived. They’d been vetted prior to being transported to Connecticut from their home in Georgia. They were on a transport with other cats who supposedly were also vetted. I will never know for sure the actual cause, but within ONE HOUR of them arriving to my home, a few of the adults began sneezing. At first I thought perhaps the stress of the trip had pushed them over the edge and that maybe in a few days they’d be feeling better. They'd never been sick all the months they'd lived in Georgia.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Piglet, Jelly-Belly, Lollipop, Lex and Lucy arrive. So much excitement to finally meet them after all these months.
The long winter kept me from opening the windows, which would be one of the first things I’d want to do when the cats get sick. Nice, fresh air keeps sickness at bay, but with a closed in room and nine large cats in a small space, of course they would all get sick in time. What I feared was that my foster cats got sick from another rescue’s cats on the transport. They could have been shelter cats and those guys can pick up a whole host of horrible diseases. My guys had never been in a shelter and now what would become of them? What had they been exposed to?
©2015 Robin AF Olson. All 9 cats to the vet at once-a record number for me.
I had to bring all NINE cats to the Vet to get their CT Health Certificates issued on Monday. The Vet supposedly looked at each cat, but I wasn’t privy to seeing the exams as her techs brought the cats into the back of the clinic a few at a time to see the vet. I didn’t know if she was checking them well or barely looking at them. I’d given her information that said some of the cats had URIs and she was to check the cats for signs of it.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Louie, Larry and Lucy arrive from Georgia.
After waiting for about 90 minutes the vet finally came into the exam room. She talked about Piglet’s ear having an infection inside it. She mentioned Jelly Belly has a stage two heart murmur. She did not mention one thing about the URI only what to do to treat Piglet’s ear.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Lucy and Lex (right) before the virus hit.
The cats were supposed to get their claws trimmed, for which we were charged a lot of money, when some of our vets don’t charge for this. I got scratched. I started to look at the cat’s paws. The few I looked at hadn’t have their back claws trimmed completely. Nice.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Just before everything turned bad for Piglet.
So I was left feeling like the cats got a lousy exam and I didn’t know what to do about the URI. If their lungs sounded clear that was one thing, but if not I'd need to consider antibiotics.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Super-Deb comforting Jelly.
Dr. Larry examined Jelly. He had a temperature of over 103°F. He listened to Jelly’s heart and agreed he had a heart murmur, but that many cats did fine with a murmur like his and that right now we didn’t have to do anything about it. The real shocker was when Dr. Larry looked at Jelly’s gums. They were RED and irritated. It was a sign to us that Jelly might have bartonella and if you’ve read any of my posts you’ll know that bartonella is the bane of my existence. It's often mis-diagnosed as something else because it has a wide range of symptoms ranging from IBD-like digestion issues to upper respiratory to no symptoms.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Sneeze-attack.
Jelly was meowing and sneezing while poor Piglet hid under a chair. When Dr. Larry examined her, he saw the very nasty ear infection and again discovered that she, too, has the irritated gums. Her temperature was over 104°F which was getting dangerous. They gave her and Jelly sub-q fluids and we decided to test both cats for bartonella and because all 9 cats were sick, to spend the extra on doing a DNA test called a PCR, on Piglet’s secretions. It would help us treat her better to know exactly what virus she has. Because she only weighs 4 lbs 14 oz, roughly half what Jelly weighs, we’re starting her on azithromycin, which would be a treatment for bartonella. Even though we don’t know she has it, it may help her feel better. The test takes 10 DAYS to get back results and considering how frail she is we can’t risk waiting to treat her.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Jelly Belly feeling lousy, too.
With the possibility that we’ll have to test ALL the cats for bartonella or just if we treat them, we can’t treat unless Dr. Larry examines them first so that means 7 times exam fees + 8 times more azithromycin costs. This medication is compounded and EXPENSIVE. It’s $46/cat for just 10 days of treatment and the full course is 21 days.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Going down hill fast. Piglet and Lex are both sick.
Then add this to the fact that I have my 12-year old cat Petunia in a big dog crate recovering from serious surgery on her bladder and she’s not eating well, either. I can’t get antibiotics in her any longer and frankly she deserves more one on one time while she’s recovering. Sam has to take over that duty, besides I shouldn't be handling her. She can't get sick on top of everything else.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Poor Piglet!
And that's the thing. No amount of hand-washing, clothes changes, step baths of bleach are going to stop this mess. I've been as careful as I can be but when Fluff and Freya like to hang out near the door to the foster cat room and the air from the room goes under the door, into the hallway, what am I to expect? It hasn't stopped me from being as careful as I can but in the end there's nothing I could have done to stop this.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya still playful with Aunt Nora at her side.
You may think I run a bad rescue and that I’m sloppy about keeping foster cats quarantined, but I assure you I’m neither of those things. This is a horrible confluence of events that I didn’t cause and I’m struggling to do what’s best for each cat even though it’s meant I was at the vet 5 out of 6 days this week. Even if it’s meant I’m going to drive through the latest snowstorm to get medication for Piglet.
With a virus you often have to let it ride until it runs its course, but the difficulty lies in knowing when to stop and hit it with antibiotics that often cause digestive issues and open the cat up to more problems. The challenge for me is to find a way to survive the stress this is causing. Seeing cats so sick and not being able to fix it is heartbreaking. Worrying about the most fragile cats and worrying that I’ll miss something because there are just too many cats to oversee is terrifying.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. :-(
In all the years I’ve done rescue this is the worst it’s ever been and hopefully, like a virus, these tough days will run their course and we’ll have happy healthy cats once again.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Sneezing and sneezing and...what??!
You can mail a check to Kitten Associates, P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354.
Just SHARE this with your friends who have kind hearts and love cats. That helps Piglet and her family, too.
Your donation is Tax Deductible. K.A. is a non-profit rescue and our IRS EIN is 27-3 597692.
We will stop our fundraiser as soon as we’ve raised $1750.00, which we hope will cover some of our costs and allow some funds to be banked for the medications we’re going to have to purchase. Any funds we don’t use for Piglet's family, Fluff Daddy or Freya we will set aside for other kitties who need help.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. I hope we'll see Piglet looking beautiful and healthy again soon.
I wondered if I was seeing Petunia for the last time when I dropped her off early yesterday morning at Dr. Larry’s office. It had been barely a week since I’d found out she had a bladder full of stones, causing her incredible pain that resulted in a flood of inappropriate urination all over my house.
Petunia was quiet in the car as I drove along the river, choosing to take the slow route to the Vet. The brilliant sunshine of early morning began to warm us through the windows, keeping the harsh late winter cold at bay. The winds of March were raging outside the car, but inside it was peaceful.
©2015 Robin AF Olson.
I thought about Celeste and about how she died; very possibly because she was so stressed from being at the vet her body shut down on her. I knew that I had to do everything I could to keep Petunia from following the same path. Petunia could be just as fearful as Celeste so I drove slowly and carefully, talking in soft tones to Petunia. I told her it would be all right. I tried to make myself believe that, too.
Once we arrived and before I let one of the techs take her, I told her to NOT do the surgery if Petunia was too upset and to give her another day to calm down if needed. Petunia is 12 years old. We have to respect her if she is just not ready.
In the end, Dr. Larry performed the surgery while I waited for news.
Meanwhile, I’d gotten word that a very special, cat-mama had fallen ill. Her name is Jodi Ziskin and she’s a pet nutritionist. She contacted me, asking if she could help formulate a diet for our foster kitten Freya. She'd been following Freya’s story and was charmed by her and also concerned that without proper nutrition, Freya would have a difficult time passing stool since Freya had just had surgery to create her rectum.
Jodi and I emailed often and spoke a few times on the phone. We discovered we both went to the same high school in Connecticut, but somehow missed meeting each other back then. She told me about her cats and her husband, Zach. She was training for a marathon she was going to run in LA to help raise funds for a cat rescue. She just amazed me by all she could do and by how well she cared for herself as well as her family.
I got news that at some point after she ran the marathon, Jodi collapsed. She missed her flight home and that’s when people started looking for her. She had been unconscious for a day once she was located. She was not in good shape and was taken to the California Hospital in Los Angeles while her husband dropped everything to leave their home in Florida to be with her.
I should have been thinking about Petunia, but all I could do was worry about Jodi. She wasn’t able to remember much about her life. She knew her husband, but not the names of her beloved cats. We started to fear that Jodi would have a very long road to recovery—if she would ever recover at all.
They began doing tests. Apparently from the extreme exertion of the marathon, Jodi may not have hydrated properly afterwards. Her muscle tissue was shredding, going into her kidneys. It made her collapse. In some people it can kill them.
After a few days Jodi began to recover. She was remembering things 25 years ago. Her kidney values were normal. She messed up her teeth very badly from falling. She hadn’t lost all the memories of her 17 year marriage. She remembered Obi and her other cats, but there are still some scary memory issues going on that are mysterious in origin. More tests are being done to find the root cause. It's a very scary time for Jodi's family and friends.
This is a BIG reminder to all of us NOT to take ANYTHING or ANYONE for granted. Jodi, stay strong. We love you!
It was 4 PM. Where was my call telling me to pick up Petunia at 5 PM? I started to wonder if that meant she was dead. Dr. Larry always takes a very long time to tell me bad news. I can’t say I blame him. Maybe he was busy and she was fine? I decided to call and find out.
Petunia did well. She was ready to go home, but I didn’t get any more information than that.
I raced over to Dr. Larry’s and waited to speak with him. It was the end of the day and the clinic was quiet. I wondered what he was going to tell me. Was it really bad? Did he find something else? Would Petunia be all right?
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Clean, plump bladder with little white dashes below. Those are surgical staples.
We looked at a new set of x-rays. He was clearly pleased with what he was showing me. Her bladder had a plump look to it, indicating it was already filling with urine. I could see a carefully placed line of surgical staples along the underside of her belly, glowing on the screen. Her incision was rather serious in size, which meant there would be at least a week or two of recovery time.
I’d asked Dr. Larry to take photos of the stones before he sent them out to be tested. When I saw them my jaw dropped and I got shivers down my spine. It’s clear she needed that surgery and I’m glad I made the financial sacrifice to provide this for her instead of hoping to dissolve them with a diet change.
©2015 Dr. Mary O'Donnell. The painful stones.
It was time to bring Petunia home and get her settled into her big dog crate so she’d have a quieter place to recover. I didn’t know what would come of this and if Petunia 2.0 would be better or worse off now that she was feeling well. Would the other cats begin peeing around the house if she stood up for herself? Would there be worse fighting? Would Petunia expand her living space now that she was no longer in pain? Would she still need to be on anti-anxiety medication to keep her from erupting in more bladder stones?
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Resting comfortably and on pain medication, now we wait to see Petunia 2.0 emerge.
Part 2 of 2. Read part 1 HERE.
An hour later Dr Larry came into the waiting room to escort me into the back to look at the x-rays. Before he could even point them out, I saw them. Petunia has a mass of stones inside her. One looked fairly large. While we could try a diet change to acidify her urine and dissolve the stones, the most humane thing to do is to surgically remove them as soon as possible. The diet change would take months and it might not work depending on what kind of stones she has. It must be incredibly painful, yet Petunia never acted like she was in pain. She always was ready for a pet or snuggle. She never licked at herself or squatted and left small pools of bloody urine, but she was very sick.
Dr. Larry asked me what I wanted to do-do the surgery or wait? He told me he'd do whatever needed to help, but all I could do was cry. I asked him the cost of the surgery and he told me it would be about $1500.00. He does these surgeries all the time (which is fodder for another post because WHY are so many animals getting stones in the first place?). Normally I wouldn't bat an eye and just say let's do it, but this time I was lost and scared. I HAD TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN and by God I would no matter what.
Bladder stones. Lots of them.
Dr. Larry patted me on the back and said not to cry. I didn't have the nuts to beg for a big discount. I had to be a grown up and figure it out. I would find a way, but some times it's just tough to struggle and struggle, then feel like you're starting to make positive changes, then WHAM!, another big bill. I know I'm not the only one who feels like that, but it's hard to keep your head up some times.
A few minutes after we got home I called Dr Larry's office and made the appointment for Petunia's surgery. There would be no waiting on this. It had gone on far too long already.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Petunia was in so much pain and desperate to drain her bladder she ends up urinating on her own mother, who is in the spot where Petunia has been peeing the past few weeks.
Though I arrogantly thought we’d checked Petunia for everything last year, we hadn’t and she’s been suffering in silence, been called names and shunned because of her behavior. All it made me want to do was hold her and tell her how sorry I was for being such a moron. I recalled that when Petunia was very young she had struvite crystals in her bladder. We treated them with a special diet and within a year we started transitioning our cats off kibble, to canned food without grains, and finally to a raw diet. It never occurred to me that she could even GET stones again since she gets appropriate nutrition. It’s clear this may have been going on far before the transition and is only getting to a point of severity where we’re noticing it.
I am so ashamed. The only thing I can do to make it better is to get this surgery done ASAP and help Petunia get on the road to recovery. Perhaps she’ll never need to be on anti-anxiety medication but it’s also possible that her anxiety is the root cause. There’s something called FLUTD (Feline Urinary Tract Disease) that could be part of the problem and it's also VERY LIKELY related to a whole-host of issues Petunia may have called Pandora Syndrome.
Pandora Syndrome can be a combination of many factors—genetics, environment, stress and diet. The result can be IBD, dermatitis, cystitis and more. Once I read this article, I realized that because this might have genetic aspect we may never be able to “cure” Petunia entirely. Then the light bulb moment: Petunia’s mother Gracie must ALSO have it! It would answer the question as to why we have never found a treatment for Gracie’s mysterious miliary dermatitis.
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Gracie at one of her MANY vet visits.
I spent two years searching for and trying treatments on Gracie. I sought out different specialists, did tests and biopsies. Gracie's a lot like her daughter and tends to be high strung. We've been working with her every day and over the past year Gracie's become less and less fearful, but now is more clingy and demanding. Her skin is improving slightly. We got her to stop vomiting clumps of fur every day and she no longer “barbers” her fur. She needs more work to help her mojo return, but I think the fog is lifting off these mysteries. I'm not happy about what might be going on because it means these cats are just not able to handle the stress they feel and how to reduce that will continue to be one of the biggest challenges of my life.
While I have failed these cats, I also feel hopeful that we may finally have some light at the end of the tunnel. I know that someone out there will read this and will say “hey, that’s my cat!” too. Perhaps they’ll take their cat to the vet and discover there was more going on than imagined. Perhaps it will save a cat from being given up or let outside to fend for itself. I can only hope that baring my soul will help others, because I really hate myself right now.
Get your cat vetted again, if needed, or get a second opinion. Yes, it may be costly, but this is YOUR cat, YOUR responsibility. Your cat may be in a lot of pain and I can promise that your cat is not trying to get revenge or ruin your life. They’re not “BAD” cats. They’re communicating in the only language they know and it’s up to us to be better at translating their message.
I’m so sorry, Petunia, but I will make it right. I promise.
Your surgery is tomorrow.
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Petunia suffered in silence for a long time, but I truly think I've learned an important lesson.
Part 1 of 2
Four years ago I wrote about my cat Petunia. It was a guilt-ridden confession about how I’d missed the signals that she wasn’t just a high-strung, territory-aggressive cat who urinated all over my house. Something else was causing her issues. I foolishly thought I discovered the root cause of her behavioral problems so I stopped looking for a health issue as the trigger. Up until that point I’d never given Petunia a fair shake because she drove me crazy, ruining everything in her path. She was urinating, marking and defecating everywhere. [If you want to read this post it’s HERE].
I thought her issues were due to having impacted anal glands and that her bad scent caused some of my other cats to go after her. She’d flip out, then I’d find something soiled. The cats never fought. They just charged her, but it was enough stress to cause her to inappropriately eliminate.
Once her glands were cleaned the attacks slowed, but never really stopped. Petunia saw Dr Larry, had her teeth cleaned and had some blood work done as recently as last summer. I was under the impression she was in good health and that her behavior issues were genetic and/or stress-based. I was very wrong.
When Petunia was young she had Struvite crystals in her urine. I knew this because her urine was pink, indicating blood. When we tested it we knew she had crystals so the simple answer was to feed her a prescription diet that would acidify her urine, dissolving the crystals (something I would never feed now).
©2011 Robin AF Olson. Petunia in a long-ago relaxed moment.
Petunia resolved her peeing issues for a time, but then I did more rescue and our cat-population began to increase. With each cat we adopted, Petunia lost a little bit more of her territory. First it was just that she stopped coming upstairs to bed. In a way I was relieved because it also meant I stopped finding urine on my 80-year old bedroom furniture.
But then her space, got even smaller. Though she stopped peeing on the banquette cushions in the kitchen (I finally had to remove them because they were so destroyed), she rarely ever entered the space to look out the window at the birds who were dancing around the feeders hung over the deck. The other cats enjoyed the view and one or two marked in this area most likely due to her marking first. Petunia made a huge mess and having that stop was yet another relief.
©2012 Robin AF Olson. The best spot in the house is also the bone of contention between the cats over who rules it.
With her space dwindling down to the living room, mostly all points behind the sofa, we knew we had to do more to help her. We’d tried all along, but with 10 cats it’s very difficult to single one out and only play with that cat and only spend time with that cat. The others were curious if we gave her attention; some took over play time, some attacked Petunia if we tried to play with her.
©2010 Robin AF Olson. Before we added Blitzen, Mabel and DOOD, Gracie and Petunia often snuggled in our bedroom. They no longer feel safe doing that.
There also was the complication that Petunia’s mother, Gracie lives here and from time to time Petunia still goes to her mother for comfort, so how am I to find a home for a 14-year old and a 12-year old cat?
I was certain this was the answer, but just as much sure that I’d never find a home for both cats. Gracie has an incurable skin condition.
Over the past year Petunia earned the nickname: PEE-tunia because she began peeing on the SOFA. No matter what we did she kept doing it until I finally got a static mat and that stopped the behavior. Well, really it just encouraged her to pee somewhere else, but it was on a cat bed I could cover with a wee-wee pad and that was something I could deal with.
Sam and I decided to make a concentrated effort to re-catify our living room, to help Petunia find her confidence, which Jackson Galaxy refers to as “cat mojo” (a term I quite like). I realized that with the addition of Blitzen, DOOD and Mabel into our family came the reduction in Petunia’s living space. I hadn’t seen Petunia come upstairs to bed in years. Her living area was getting smaller and smaller to just the few feet behind the sofa. She was too fearful to go far because the others would charge at her. We HAD to find a solution.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. BEFORE: Look for the towel to see the most prized spot in the house. There's a heated pad under the towel and it's next to the sunniest window in the house. SO how could we provide more optimal locations for more cats to enjoy this area? Also the cat trees on either side of the towel are perfect for sneak attacks so they had to be moved.
One night a few weeks ago we ripped apart the areas where the cats hang out the most. We moved cat trees, did a deep cleaning and set up one of our web cams to monitor the area when we weren’t around. We hoped we’d find out what was causing Petunia to avoid the litter pan when there were a few with in feet of where she was sleeping.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. You can see the static mat on the sofa where Petunia used to urinate. We added a litter pan right near the heated cat carrier where Petunia often hid but we don't believe she ever used it. The cat trees are in front of the favorite window. There aren't any where the ficus tree is because we had a cat tree there that went unused. It was moved to the favorite window area to increase vertical space.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. AFTER: The day after re-arranging the space there's a lineup of cats who want to use it. Notice, the three alpha cats are on it while Cricket, a lower cat doesn't get access right now. Petunia is in the cat carrier just off screen.
Sam and I also focused on spending more time talking to, sitting with, petting and grooming Petunia and that helped soothe her to a degree, but she was still anxious around the other cats. It also didn't stop her from defecating on the table just near the sofa.
I decided that after all these years, the last remaining option was to put her on anti-anxiety meds. I thought if she could better handle stress and the cats charging her, she’d stop acting like prey, racing off, which made some of the cats go crazy and chase after her. Poor Petunia would hide on the seat cushion on a chair under a table not far from her “safe zone” every time that happened. It happened so often I was afraid her life would be spent huddled on that chair.
What a terrible life.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. A few days after we moved all the cat beds, I saw this. It was the first time more than one cat was on any of the beds. The far left bed is where Gracie sleeps and when Petunia most often pees (yes, even one time ON Gracie).
It’s hard to describe how hopeless I’ve been feeling. I couldn’t re-home her. It was too late. I blame myself for adding so many cats to our home, but I thought it would be all right. The other cats are fine. It’s just Petunia who is so stressed by them.
Petunia had to see our vet before she was put on any medication. Dr. Larry insisted on doing a full CBC, a stool test and urinalysis before giving her anything. When I got the results my heart sank.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. We lower the lights during exams so Petunia will be more relaxed. On this visit it did not help at all.
Last week I took Petunia back to Dr. Larry’s for x-rays that might show us if she had stones. It was a lovely day, lots of bright sunshine, but I was struggling to hold back tears. I knew that if Petunia had stones, it would mean surgery and I asked myself how I was going to make that happen when I’m already struggling. It wasn’t a good feeling. I didn’t have an answer.
What do the x-rays show? Is there any hope for Petunia? Find out in part 2.
She was short and muscular with bowed legs and a wiggle-waddle rhythm to her walk. She had long hair kept carefully groomed so it wouldn’t fall across her googly-shaped eyes. Every time someone saw her for the first time they’d remark: “Did you know she has one blue eye and one brown?” In fact yes, we DID know that and we even noticed that the brown eye was a bit bigger than the pale blue one. Some times I wondered if her vision was a bit different in each eye, though if she had any vision issues it never stopped her from chasing foolish birds who skittled across her path.
©2012 Robin AF Olson. Jayne Dog.
She was named Jayne Dog, but her friends called her, Jaynie. She was a tawny-cow patterned and cream Shih Tzu who was rescued from a dog pound by our intrepid friend, Super-Deb (my friend and the Vet tech who has taught me so much over the years). Deb is bi-petual, having not only Jayne but a small clutter of mostly Maine Coon cats (and a recently adopted, American Wirehair named Tsunami).
Deb’s life is focused around working with, caring for and loving animals, though if you asked her she might deny that. Deb is a private person, which makes writing this a bit awkward for me. I hope she'll forgive me as I’m driven to say a few words in honor of Jayne and I can’t write about Jayne and not write about Deb, too.
Deb took Jayne to work at Maple Ridge Animal Clinic where she spent the day lounging with her BFF (Best Furry Friend), a lovely redhead named Fern (who happens to be a Poodle, but what can you do). The two would have sleep-overs when Fern’s dad, Dr. Larry, needed a dog-sitter. Jayne also met many of the clients and certainly many of the dogs and cats who were cared for at the clinic. Jayne, being so mild mannered and well-trained always got along with everyone even if they weren’t too sure about her.
©2012 Robin AF Olson. Jaynie was a party animal, but you probably already figured that out.
I adored Jayne and was lucky enough to be trusted to take her out for walks and even for a drive in my car to the local pet food shop. I never had a dog and my experience with them is pretty limited. I’d love to have one be part of my family, but Sam is allergic and I think my life is insane enough without having a dog, too so I love them from afar.
Jayne was the only dog I ever really got a chance to know. Deb would let me borrow her and we’d walk to the edge of the grounds of a small shopping center near the clinic. It was a a park-like setting with a concrete path encircling a grassy lawn. Right in the center of the lawn was a gazebo where local bands would play on weekends.
We’d do a lap or two which gave Jayne time to “do her business,” for which I was instructed to keep track of.
“Let me know how many pee-mails she sends and if she passes stool.” Deb would say.
“It’s not really urinating, but marking in areas where other dogs have been so she can let them know she’s been there…so a pee-mail because it’s a dog’s way of sending a message.”
On nice days we’d see other people walking their dogs. Jayne was always interested in saying hello and if the other dog was okay with it they’d take turns sniffing each other’s behind. I’d say a shy-hello to the dog’s guardian (but refrain from sniffing their behind) and they’d always remark about Jayne’s odd eye color and how surprising it was. I was never gutsy enough to come up with a snappy comeback about why her eyes were like that. I should have acted surprised and said; “Oh! One of her contacts must have fallen out.”
©2012 Robin AF Olson. A treat after walks.
As we walked along, Jayne would sniff, sniff, sniff, stopping every so often to send a pee-mail. I had plastic bags with me because I was paranoid someone would see Jayne pooping, then see me not clean it up. I had to be prepared. I didn’t want to be a poop-pariah, but I do admit that woah…I am glad my cats use a litter pan and can’t come close to matching what Jayne could produce. The second she was done, I’d grab the poo through the bag, then turn it inside out so I wouldn’t get it on my hands. Before the smell would knock me out I ran Jayne over to the trash bin so I didn’t have to carry it during the rest of the walk. How do dog parents do this every day?
When we returned to the Clinic I’d report in detail what Jayne did. Deb would nod and say thanks and I was left feeling a bit relieved that I didn’t mess up. I’m not used to controlling anyone else when I go for a walk and I often worried I would put Jayne in front of a car by accident when we were crossing the street.
With me, Jayne was often very mellow and sometimes close to inert. I didn’t expect her to love me as she did Deb. Deb never needed to put Jayne on a leash except on a rare occasion. Jayne obeyed Deb’s every command (until she was quite old and couldn’t hear so well). Deb felt that leashing Jayne would be cruel and often took her for long walks off-leash in the local parks so Jayne could enjoy just being a dog.
©2012 Robin AF Olson.
A few times I had the special privilege of taking Jayne for a ride in the car. I was always extra careful with her because I couldn’t screw up and end up having something bad happen to Jayne while she was in my care. I knew Deb trusted me but I didn’t want to face her if I hurt her baby.
Jayne couldn’t jump into my car but the minute I opened the door she tried to. I’d lift her up, noticing how sturdy she felt in my hands. I placed her on the passenger seat and closed the door. As I entered the Driver’s side, within a second Jayne had moved off her seat into my lap. That’s how Deb and Jayne travelled, so it was only right that she sat in my lap, too…even if there WAS a perfectly empty seat next to her.
The big difference between me and Deb is Deb doesn’t have a gut. I do. Add being short to the mix, which forces me to sit rather close to the steering wheel and all of a sudden it’s a bit of a tight squeeze for Jayne.
But Jayne didn’t care.
I thought it was hilarious trying to drive with Jayne glued to my lap. At first I tried to move her back to the passenger seat when I stopped at a light but she always came right back. I realized that the only way I could turn the steering wheel was to do it one-handed because I didn't want to catch Jayne up in the wheel. Let’s just say it’s a good thing there weren’t any Police following us or I would have been pulled over for drunk driving or DSZYL (Driving with a Shih Zhu in Your Lap). Jayne wanted to sniff the air and snuggle so that's what she got. No matter the temperature outside I always had the window open, just enough so she could catch the scents as the warmth of body radiated into mine.
I loved having a chance to pretend I owned a dog and even moreso that she was such a COOL dog. I also liked that strangers would talk to me when we were together whereas if I was on my own they’d just ignore me.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Just before Fluff grabs Jayne's leash and takes off
One day Super-Deb came over. I can’t even remember exactly why, but I remember she had Jayne with her. She thought my cats would be scared and said she'd leave Jayne in her car. I thought they needed a little shakeup so I invited Jayne to meet everyone. I wish I had it on video because Jayne met Fluff Daddy. Fluff used to live with a small dog and of course Jayne had lived with cats most of her life. Jayne and Fluff locked eyes as Jayne suddenly sprang to life. Excited, she pressed her front legs flat against the floor, then lifted her hind end up, urging Fluff to play with her. I never saw Jayne quite so lively and Fluff surprised us by grabbing Jayne’s leash in his mouth. He tugged hard pulling Jayne around the room. She thought it was a hilarious game while Deb and I stood there dumbfounded. I think the two would have been BFFs had they been able to meet more often than that one magical time. Of course my other cats couldn’t wait for Jayne to leave.
©2012 Robin AF Olson. With mama.
Jayne only seemed to get excited around Deb, but she honored me once when I entered the clinic by perking up when I called her. She ran over to me and stood on her hind legs reaching up for me, wagging her tail with everything she had. I almost cried. Even though I’d known Jayne for many years and had lots of good times with her I wasn’t part of her pack. In that moment I was. It meant a lot to me to be accepted by her. She didn’t do that to just anyone.
Jayne got certified so she could travel with Deb to hospitals and nursing homes, where I’m sure she charmed everyone she met. I wonder what she thought about all the fuss.
©2012 Robin AF Olson. I have a home, indeed.
Though Super-Deb and Dr. Larry, Dr. Mary and everyone at Maple Ridge tried to help there was nothing more that could be done. Over the years Jayne had become much more than just Deb’s dog. She was their dog, too. In a way, if death could be considered a “good death,” Jayne was lucky because she had one. She was surrounded by love when she needed it most. Everyone who was with her knew her and loved her. Together they helped Jayne find peace as her family began to mourn.
©2013 Robin AF Olson.
I hope that from the Rainbow Bridge your one brown eye and one blue eye can see all the people who’s lives you've touched and who are so grateful to have known you.
©2012 Robin AF Olson.
The Cat’s Trapeze offers kittens and active cats the perfect place to play and rest. The unique suspended design is attractive to active cats, challenging them to climb and play while drawing their attention away from curtains and furniture. The large soft cushions also provide a cozy place for a catnap.
The Cat’s Trapeze is made of sturdy cotton fabric and comes without the inner pillows. The trapeze can be stuffed with throw pillows, or for a more eco-friendly approach, use old towels, recycled clothes or crumpled newspapers placed inside a pillowcase. Inner pillows made especially for filling the trapeze can be purchased separately at catstrapeze.us.
Used with Permission
The Cat’s Trapeze includes a bonus cotton hammock that attaches under the bottom pillow, creating an extra napping spot. The trapeze also comes with a small piece of sisal rope that is used to bind the trapeze straps together and attach to mounting hardware. (Mounting hardware not included.) More info about how to hang the Cat’s Trapeze is HERE.
The Cat's Trapeze is available in two styles: the 2-pillow trapeze and the 3-pillow trapeze. The 2-pillow trapeze measures approximately 3.5 feet, not including the hammock. The larger bottom cushion measures approximately 24 inches in diameter and the upper cushion measures approximately 20 inches. The 3-pillow trapeze measures approximately 4.5 feet, not including the hammock, with the two bottom cushions each measuring approximately 24 inches in diameter and the upper cushion measuring approximately 20 inches.
Used with Permission
The Cat's Trapeze and hammock can be machine washed at 104° F (40° C) after removing the inner pillows or stuffing. We recommend air drying and warm iron as needed. The trapeze cover will shrink slightly after washing. Do not machine dry, this will cause the trapeze cover to shrink considerably. (CICH: Because it's made of COTTON not some petro-chemical man-made fabric)
See The Original Cat's Trapeze in Action with these cute videos if you'd like to see just how much kitties enjoy it.
Used with Permission
The Cat's Trapeze, sold under the label 'Cat's Naturals', is designed by Esther Van der Wurff and manufactured by Van der Wurff Produkties, The Netherlands.
There are so many stories to tell, but the will to tell them has diminished over the past few months. I’ve been writing this blog for nine years. Doing so has changed my life in ways I never could have imagined. I never expected that writing, in the hopes a publisher would magically find me, would turn into a labor of love that spawned the creation of a non-profit cat rescue called Kitten Associates . Though the publisher never found me, my rescue has helped over 350 cats since KA opened in 2010 and through this blog I’ve given life-saving advice to many of you across the globe.
But there was a cost.
These stories take hours, into days, to write, photograph, edit. I don’t get paid for these tales, though the community I’ve built is priceless. Because you have been there for us, we can keep the rescue-kitties of Kitten Associates fed and cared for, but it doesn’t allow me to pay my bills. In the end, something has to give, which is why I haven’t posted anything for nearly 6 weeks, so I can focus on my graphic design work.
These 12 cats could have died in 2013 if I didn't have the ability to get the word out on their plight.
The other reason I’ve lost my passion to write is Facebook. Facebook giveth and tooketh (yeah, great grammar here) away. Being on Facebook watered my seedling blog, Covered in Cat Hair, so it could blossom. It helped us find homes and rescues for so many cats, too. But the ever-starving beast of greed propels FB to make more and more changes to the mystical-algorithm that continues to whittle away any chance that what I write will ever be seen by people who want to see it. It's that little code that determines what content is seen and what is not.
So is it worth it for me to keep writing when you won’t see it, it takes too much of my time and I’m broke because of it?
I love you guys, even if you aren’t seeing this right now. I love our community and I NEED to write. I have so many stories to tell you, but I have to find a better solution. One of them is that I’m working on a major overhaul of this web site to provide a chat feature and some other fun ways for us to get to know each other and retain our community. It will mean you’ll have to come visit us here, but I hope that if I can create a nice enough destination it will be worth the effort to stop by. It will take some time to get this accomplished but that is my goal. I will build my new house on MY land so no one can take it away or decide who can or won’t be allowed to view my efforts.
I also fear that what Facebook has done will seriously hurt other rescue groups, as it is my own. There’s a petition going around asking FB to reconsider and change the algorithm so that non-profits will still be able to reach their fans without the penalty of having to pay for it. They can’t afford to “play” at the level of the heavy-hitters so FB will continue to turn into one big promotion/advertising machine. Is this what we want?
I want a place to go to hang out with my friends and make new friends. FB did an amazing job with that, but now they’ve taken it away if you run a small blog or non-profit. Those folks provided a great deal of fresh, fabulous content that is going to waste and eventually they are going to leave, too.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya never would have had a chance if we didn't have such a good support system, ready to donate for her surgery. All I had to do was post a request for help on Facebook. It didn't have to cost our rescue money to do a mailing or pay a PR person to help. Freya has her own FB page called For Freya, which I now realize may be a mistake because again this "house" is not built on our land.
How much money does Facebook need? Where is the space to give back, to be fair, to be reasonable? I’m not saying don’t make a living, but I am saying greed is an ugly thing and it’s hurting a lot of innocent people and animals who NEED a venue like this to get the word out about what it is that’s important to them and their friends/fans.
Facebook could be a beautiful golden palace instead of yet another place for the 1% to decide what the rest of us get to see. Why not just charge a subscription fee? Even if they charge a $1 per person they have what...a billion dollars a year? They can drop the advertising and open up the news feed so we can REALLY see what our friends and interests have to share.
I know. Fat chance.
Note: I see the irony that I'm going to have to pay to "boost" this post on FB in the hopes you'll read it.