Suffering for Years. The Shocking Truth about Petunia. Part 2

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.

Petunia Olson stones copy
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.

I told Dr. Larry that I needed some time to gather my thoughts. As I drove home, I flashed back over the decade of peeing issues we've dealt with. I was fed up. I can't list how many things were ruined by her because there were so many. I was sick and tired of trying to find a way to get the cycle to stop. I thought about how many times I wished Petunia would die so the rest of us could live in peace. I know it's wrong to think that way but that's how far I'd been pushed. But all that ill-will vanished, quickly replaced with shame when I looked over to Petunia as she sat in her carrier on the passenger seat. I stuck my index finger into one of the holes on the side so I could touch her face. She rubbed her cheek against my finger a few times, desperate for some love. I realized that Petunia must have been in pain for YEARS and even through all of that she still loved me. How could I be so heartless to her in return?

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.

Gracie in 2013 at Vet
©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.

So, to all of you who feel like they’re suffering with inappropriate elimination problems with their own cats, don’t make the same mistake I did. Even if you already took your cat to the vet and they found nothing, KEEP SEARCHING if you can't solve the problem. Do research online, talk to your friends who have cats, try to see the world through your cat's eyes and if you feel they are subjected to a lot of stress, there's a big clue to how to help them feel better.

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 Sweet Petunia R Olson 475
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Petunia suffered in silence for a long time, but I truly think I've learned an important lesson.

Suffering for Years. The Shocking Truth about Petunia.

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).

Tunie
©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.

Four Cats on Tree 2012
©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.

I tearfully confessed to one of my friends that I needed help. I had re-visit the idea of re-homing Petunia. It wasn’t fair to her, but with her issues and age, it would be VERY difficult to find a new family who was willing to believe that she wouldn’t soil their home, too.

2010 napping girls r olson
©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.

I had to find a solution here, so it was back to the drawing board.

----------------

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.

Before Clean up
©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.

Living Room 3500 R Olson
©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.

Every day we patrolled the area, particularly behind the sofa. This is the only place where Petunia pees-and when she does it’s A LOT of urine and it really smells bad. I should have known by that smell that something was wrong, but no alarm bells went off. I just grumbled, cleaned it up and looked around to see if I should move a litter pan closer or make another change that would help Petunia feel safer.

AFter on Cat Trees R Olson
©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.

Lineup R Olson 650
©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.

While Petunia’s blood work was “Fantastic” (chalk it up to years of being on a raw diet) and her anal glands were fine as is and did not need to be expressed, her urinalysis was another issue altogether. Her urine had blood in it. Keep in mind that doing urinalysis with a needle (cystocentesis) often causes a small amount of blood in the urine, but she had far more than normal. She also had VERY elevated phosphorous and ammonia levels (remember how BAD her urine smelled?). It was an indicator that Petunia might have stones in her bladder.

At Vet 3 15 15 R Olson
©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.

A Far Better Than Good Dog

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.

Jayne Dawg Cutie 475
©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.

HB Jayne R Olson copy
©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.

“Pee-mail?”

“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.”

“Okay then.”

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.”

Jayne and Stick 475
©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.

Licky Sticky R Olson copy
©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.

Fluff and Jayne Meeting R Olson copy
©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.

Deb and Jayne cropped 400
©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.

I Have a Home 400 R Olson
©2012 Robin AF Olson. I have a home, indeed.

A few days ago, after a very long, loved, life, Jayne’s heart started to give out. Super-Deb knew it was coming. Jayne had been to the cardiologist last autumn and Deb got the news about Jayne’s dire prognosis. With treatment Jayne had a few more good months, but after spending the day at the groomer with her friend Fern, Jayne was cranky in a way Deb had never seen. Her breathing was labored. Something was very wrong.

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.

Deb and Jayne Go for a Walk 400
©2013 Robin AF Olson.

Here’s to you Jaynie. You were a great, far better than good, dog.

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.

Just Jayne 475 R Olson
©2012 Robin AF Olson.

Vertical Catification Solution: The Original Cat's Trapeze

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.

CatsTrapeze2
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.

CatsTrapezeLogo

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.

CatsTrapeze 3pillow
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)

 

If you'd like to add a well-crafted, unique vertical solution to your certification project you can Place Your Pre-Sale Order HERE and make sure to use the DISCOUNT CODE: COVERED10 to Save $10! (Offer Expires at 11:59pm MST on March 15, 2015.)

 

See The Original Cat's Trapeze in Action with these cute videos if you'd like to see just how much kitties enjoy it.

CatsTrapeze1
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.

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How Facebook is Killing the Little Guy

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.

12 cats at Iredelle rescue safe copy
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.

I read somewhere a wonderful summation of why being on Facebook is a mistake: “You don’t build your home on someone else’s land.” Well that’s what I did and so many other mom and pop shops did, too. Now it’s biting us in the ass because if we don’t “pay to play,” there’s only about a 2-5% chance any of our fans will read what we’re posting.

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?

No.

But.

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.

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©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.

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

Squee-Overload. Felted Kitty Artistry from Japan.

I honestly think the Japanese have a handle on all things cute, especially cats, that always takes my breath away. I just discovered Watakushi Campanella, a amazingly talented felting artist from Japan who grabbed a lot of attention recently over a felted cat headband she created. It was meant to be "for fun" for her and was not something she intended to be for sale which seems to be whipping up frustration around the net with cat-lovers trying to find out how they can get one like it.

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Hiyorimi museum/ Campanella. The headband the started the buzz.

What makes me frustrated is: I can't read/write in Japanese, but I can see from her trade show booth photos and the photos on her blog Hiyorimimuseum that she DOES sell these magnificent felted cats! Headband, Schmedband! Look at the images below of her felted cat masterpieces and you'll forget about the headband! Oh, if someone could only translate for me. I'd love to get one of these amazing kitties.

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2014: The Year in Review

January

The year began with our litter of chronically sick orange kittens nicknamed The Clementines. They’d arrived from Kentucky, months before, supposedly after being in quarantine, they arrived to my home covered in fleas and with bad eye infections. A kitten named Sherbert got so sick we thought he’d lose his eye. What I couldn’t have known then was that 2014 ended up being “The Year of the Vet Visit” with so many sick and injured cats. What I thought was a lot of vet runs in January was nothing compared to what happened throughout the year.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. The Clementines.

Our black, white and gray foster cats, Mochachino and her son, Pizzelle fond their forever home together with an outstanding family here in Newtown. Soon after that, Mocha’s other sons, Nanny and Linzer found their home together, too.

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Mocha finally getting some rest now that her kittens are safe after being rescued from being sealed up inside a tiny cat carrier, left in the street in the hot summer sun of Atlanta for a few days. It's a miracle they survived.

It left Biscotti on his own so I let the Clementines share his room. Of course Biscotti got the eye infection from the Clems so it was back to the vet and weeks of terramycin eye ointment (it was on national shortage so the only way to get it was to have it compounded at a pharmacy for $60 a tube-we went through over half a dozen of them).

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Biscotti, rescued out of a hot metal dumpster, burned, to this gorgeous, friendly creature.

By the end of the month, after many discussions and visits, Minnie, our lovely mama-kitty got the chance to move out of her former foster home where she was being frightened by other members of the household and other cats in the home. I couldn’t move her fast enough and luckily I found a quiet place with Susan and her hubby, Barry. The challenge for me was that Susan was pregnant and would it be a wise choice to have Minnie be part of a family with their first baby on the way? Susan wasn’t sure that Minnie was her forever-kitty, too, after still mourning the loss of her previous cat a few years prior, so the plan was to foster Minnie for a few weeks and see how it would go. The first goal was that Minnie had gotten a bad allergic reaction to something in her former foster home and if she couldn’t heal from it, then Susan would have a harder time if Minnie needed a great deal of care. It wasn’t because Susan wouldn’t provide the care, it was just really bad timing and I didn't think it was fair for her to have a sick cat and be pregnant. I worried that Minnie would become unhappy with a new baby, but there was something really special about this couple and they were determined that it would work out well so I gave it a chance.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Minnie, with scratches from other cats and sores on her face from some sort of allergic or stress reaction.

February

If February is the month of Love then it was no surprise when I got a call about a cat named Popcorn who would make me gush. He was listed on Craigslist-which is a dangerous way to find a cat a new home. A rescuer offered to take him from his family who had not provided care for him and as a purebred Himalayan Flame Point, not being groomed is not an option.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Two hours of grooming and this cat just let us do what we had to do.

I had a potential adopter for Popcorn so I worked it out for the cat to go straight to this woman’s home, do the adoption and call it a day.

But the cat’s coat was in horrific shape. The rescuer called me asking if I had clippers and that could she stop by and trim the cat before she took him to his home. I had clippers so she came to my home first.

The end.

Okay, maybe not the end. Popcorn was in such bad shape the matted fur had trapped urine from escaping very far so his behind was always wet and his skin was literally melting off his back end. It must have hurt SO BADLY and also been the reason why his former jerk-owners sprayed Axe body spray on him because he smelled terrible.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Mr. Cranky just after being groomed.

Two hours later, after a miserable time trimming him, this cat never hissed or bit me. After he was shaved he looked so adorable that between his china-blue eyes and silly expression I fell in love. I knew Popcorn would need serious vet care and though we did bring him to his new home, I told the woman to bring him to the vet the next day so she could use our discount. When she balked at being able to afford ANY charges, I realized I had to get this cat back. At the vet I made her realize he was better off with me until he was healthy. She couldn’t lift him to get him cleaned and every day his rear end needed to be medicated. It was just “for now,” right?

March

We renamed the cat, Fluff Daddy, even though it was only supposed to be his nickname, the name stuck. Fluff had lots of health issues, but nothing severe. He was so easy-going I let him leave confinement to hang out with my cats. Even though he’s half the size of my guys, he doesn’t take crap from any of them. I’d never had a purebred cat in my life, ever, and it seemed everything he did was unusual and fascinating. He also loved the foster kittens so I started to think that maybe he should be our rescue mascot.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Fluffzilla.

The Clementines were still sick. I started to wonder if they’d be with us for eternity. They were all so lovely, I wasn’t sad they were still here, but it also wasn’t fair to them to be here for so long. Biscotti also struggled with the repeating eye infection, too. It was endlessly frustrating.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. I will never forget you, Jackson.

On March 27, 2014 I got the call I’d been dreading. Mickey, the devoted and loving mama to Jackson Galaxy, a cat I’d rescued from Georgia, called. Jackson almost died a few times from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and Mickey had been the needle-in-the-haystack adopter who wasn’t phased to adopt a cat she knew wouldn’t live for many years. After a year and a few months together, Jackson cried out in pain. He was rushed to the vet, but there was nothing more to be done and he was released from this world surrounded by love, even his Vet cried. Jackson who had always been fussy at our vet, loved his new vet and had charmed everyone there and they were all so saddened by his passing. Jackson was one of the most special cats I’d ever known and to this day I get a lump in my throat when I think about him.

April

Biscotti got adopted twice in April, once to the WRONG family and at last to the perfect family, a super-smart-talented-writer named Amanda, came all the way to Newtown from Massachusetts and fell in love. Biscotti was smitten, too. It was one of the most perfect adoptions we’d ever done.

Then the call from Susan, they wanted to make it official. Minnie was adopted, too!

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©2014 Warren Royal. Maggie (grooming) and Junie (center orange) were part of a 5-cat rescue. Two of the cats went to another group and my rescue, Kitten Associates, took the remaining three cats.

The Clementines started to find their families, Maggie, Junie and Purrcee, from Georgia arrived and began finding their homes, too.
We took in a semi-feral mom named Mia and she gave birth to five kittens, Mickey named one of them Woody Jackson in honor of her sweet boy Jackson.

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Mia and family.

May

Our first pregnant rescue was a gorgeous chocolate point Siamese named Celeste. She was dumped outside and a good Samaritan found her and asked for help. She was willing to cover the cat’s vet care and would even adopt the mom after she was done weaning her kittens. I felt it was a great fit and I was eager to see kittens being born.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Pregnant and dumped by her family, Celeste needed rescue right away.

On May 13th, just days after Celeste arrived, she gave birth to five kittens. I could tell right away that something was wrong with one of the kittens. I also realized I was in way over my head when I tried to get that kitten to nurse on Celeste, who never ignored her kitten, so I thought if I could get him to latch on he’d be okay. I tried to feed the little guy, but he was much smaller than the others. I named him Fiorello and I stayed with him all night, keeping him warm and urging him to eat, but he would not. I think we all knew he wasn’t going to make it and by the next morning he was gone. In grief, Celeste reacted by furiously scratching all the litter out of her pan. She growled and hissed at me and for a few days I knew she was mourning the loss.

Thankfully the other kittens, Twinkle-Twinkle, Little Star, Astro and Hubble were doing well.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Celeste with Fiorello.

June

When the Danbury Fire Department got a call about a weird sound in a wall, they responded. They had to break a hole into a concrete basement wall where they discovered a tiny kitten. With no mother or siblings to be found they took the cat to a vet for help. They vet wouldn’t help unless the care was paid for so they called me.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Wallace.

Enter Wallace, the tiny tabby who needed to be bottle fed. After losing Fiorello, I didn’t want to bottle feed again. Lucky for all of us Chris, a Vet tech offered to help. She and her Great Dane, Nina became Wallace’s new family until he was weaned.

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©2014 Christine C. Wallace with surrogate mom, Nina, the Great Dane.

July

A crazy month. Our foster mom, Moe told me about neighbors who had a cat that never got spayed. She’d had at LEAST 4 litters in three years, probably more than that. Kittens were dead in their yard or sick. None were getting vet care. I told Moe I didn’t want to add more cats to our program but I couldn’t say no. One by one, Moe got the cats. Six of them were older kittens, covered in fleas, really sick. There was the first mama, Laney and her daughter, Winnie and they were both pregnant. We had a few other of the older cats vetted, then began the arduous task of vetting everyone else while we waited for the kittens to be born.

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©2014 Foster mom Moe. The J's, the first group of 15 cats we took from ONE family's yard just because they didn't spay their female cat.

Meanwhile Celeste’s kittens were weaned and were spayed/neutered. I had to cancel Celeste’s appointment because she was in heat, which ended up being a temporary blessing.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Hubble (far left), Twinkle, Astro and Star (far right).

August

Winnie has her first litter. Two kittens-one was stillborn, one was very tiny and pale. She was named Piglet but we didn’t think she’d survive because Winnie wasn’t interested in caring for her offspring. Being so young herself, we understood her reluctance to nurse her baby. We also knew she was mourning, too.

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Laney and Piglet.

Thankfully for Piglet, his grandmother, Laney, began to care for him. As she did, Winnie took interest. Both cats mothered Piglet and a week later when Laney had six healthy fat kittens, her first concern remained that little Piglet got the best care.

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Laney (left) and her daughter Winnie (right) with all their kittens.

Minnie’s mom, Susan gave birth to a son, Henry. I held my breath, waiting for bad news that Minnie would have to go, but it never came.
Instead I got photos of Minnie, sitting next to the baby, seemingly protecting him while he laid in his mother’s arms. Susan reported that Minnie was fantastic with the baby and that she was already telling her newborn son that he should be gentle with Minnie and love her like a sister.

Susan Henry Minnie
©2014 Susan Whalen. With son Henry at her side, Minnie, completely relaxed keeps her family company.

September

If I knew then what I know now I would have moved to the North Pole.

In late August, kitten Twinkle got her leg stuck in such a way that she panicked, then ended up breaking a tiny bone in her leg to get free. She caused everything I’d stacked on top of the washer and dryer to fall to the floor as we heard one of the kittens screaming. I didn’t know which kitten it was until I looked at her and she cried, trying to stand, but fell over. It was late at night and I rushed her to our Emergency Vet. They wanted $5000 to fix it with 75% up front. I didn’t have it.

Before surgery
©2014 Robin AF Olson.

At 3AM, after I got home from the Vet, asking them to get her stable until the next morning and give her pain meds, I started a fundraiser hoping we’d get enough to get us half way there. I honestly didn’t know what I would do if we couldn’t raise the funds.

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In less than 24 hrs we had the full amount. I’d never raised that sort of money, ever. I made a tearful, kind of embarrassing video thanking everyone for knocking one out of the park for Twink. She made a full recovery after being on cage rest and in a cast for over a month.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. With daddy Sam.

Ten days later, more screaming, but from a different foster room. I am sick to say our web cam captured what happened. At the time all I knew was to run upstairs and find out who got hurt. It took all of a second to know it was Fernando because all I saw when I looked at his face was that one of his eyes was covered in blood.

Another Emergency Visit, another few thousand dollars later, Fernando’s eyelid was ripped in three. When I viewed the footage of the accident I cried. He had been upside down, wrestling with Wallace. Somehow his eyelid caught on the metal “finger” of a dog crate divider I had stored out of harm’s way. At least that’s what I had thought. It’s in the dump now.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. At the Vet for his final checkup after ripping his eyelid in three.

So now I had a cat with stitches and cone-of-shame and another in a cage with a cast. What’s next? I shouldn’t have thought about it, but then came the call that changed my life. A little kitten was at the Emergency Vet. She was messed up but the family couldn’t afford care for her. My friends at Animals in Distress had already told the Vet the couple could sign the kitten over to them, but then where would it go? I offered to go there since I live nearby to take photos and help do yet another fundraiser. They asked me if I’d foster the cat and I said no way I had too much going on.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. The first look at Freya. She was too tired to even worry that she was almost euthanized due to the rareness of and difficulty to repair her birth defects.

When I got to the vet the couple told me the Vet said the kitten had a 10% chance to live. That she had a rare birth defect called Atresia Ani and that only surgery would save her life, but it would be $5000.00. I asked the cat’s name. They said “Freya.” She was so tiny, almost pure white with an odd thumbprint of tabby on her forehead. The vets decided to give the kitten a few days to get bigger before they tried the surgery. She weighed just over a pound. Since it was “only a few days” sucker-me said yes, I would take her, not knowing her care would end up almost shutting down my rescue for the rest of the year.

October

Though the month got off to a happy start, with Kitten Associates winning the Dogtime Pettie Award for Best Cause Blog, things turned dark quickly.

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Celeste needed to be spayed, but I was overwhelmed with caring for Freya. I got an air mattress and basically slept on the floor with Freya every night. Celeste was at another foster home so I had room for Freya. I was so tired from all the cats who needed extra vet runs and care that I was having a breakdown. One of my friends said she’d take Celeste to be spayed so I could get a bit of rest.

Celeste got spayed, but no one at the vet told me they had a very hard time with her. They never told me she was 10 years old, not 2. They didn’t tell me her uterus was full of cysts and that those cysts would have caused her to be in heat 365/7/24. I only learned all that after the early morning call from her foster home saying something was wrong.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson.

Although I got Celeste to the vet within the hour, she died. I was devastated. Celeste’s blood wouldn’t clot. It might have been caused by severe stress, it might be hereditary, it might be from being so much older than we thought. We’d never know the real reason, but the kittens all had to be tested to make sure their blood clotted normally (all did).

After that day we made changes so that all our mama-cats get pre-op bloodwork and any other tests they might need. If they are fractious then our vets know to give them a day to relax and to call us if there are problems. As we all grieved this loss, I also continued to worry about Freya because it was a challenge to get her good nutrition without it adding to the stool that was slowly filling up her abdomen. Would a foolish mistake about her diet end up killing her?

Having Freya for a few days turned into two weeks, which turned into six weeks, which made it impossible for me to deal with finding adopters for our cats, work to make a living and write a blog post or two. I was making up my own idea of what a good diet would be for a kitten who could only pass less then a pea-sized stool out of her vagina. Every two weeks we did x-rays to see how Freya was doing and her intestines were getting more and more filled with dangerous stool.

Then just as October was coming to a close, worse news. Big Daddy, the charming, dearly loved cat had died due to complications from lymphoma. I’d been part of Big Daddy’s team, first finding him a rescue to take him after his daddy Warren trapped him and got him ready to be adopted. Having FIV meant it would be tough to find Big Daddy a home, but after reading my blog, Angels of Assisi in Virginia offered to foster him and find him a forever home.

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In the end, Big Daddy returned to Warren after it was discovered that Big Daddy had lymphoma. Warren had been missing his big buddy and with such a serious health issue it was decided it would be best for him to return to Georgia. Warren took Big Daddy to oncologists and researched treatments to get Big Daddy the best care possible. For a time Big Daddy did well, but other days were very tough. As with most cancers, it’s hard to know where it spreads until it’s too late.

Big Daddy’s life was not lived in vain. He still has a fan club and mission, through his devoted dad, Warren, to help remove the stigma of cats with FIV and provide education and awareness about this disease.

November

I was certain I was going to have a breakdown from nonstop stress, I somehow manage to pack up Freya and all our things and head to Boston where Freya would finally get her surgery. I felt like it was very possible these were her last days because even at three pounds, she was still small. The surgery was VERY RARE and had many risks. What I never expected was that Dr. Pavletic knew after a few minutes that she was still too small and he wanted to wait until January. After a hair-raising 4 hour drive to Boston, I had to turn around and go back home barely after I’d arrived. Part of me was wrecked by the news and the other part was relieved. I wanted Freya to have the best chance to survive, but I also knew the longer we waited, the more likely the stool build up would get worse.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Dr. Pavletic decides it's too soon to do surgery after examining Freya.

Sometimes I think I should never answer the phone. A friend contacted me about a cat his wife had found near the side of the road the night before. They asked me if I could help them with it since they weren’t sure what to do. I told them we could take the cat to my vet and we’d do an exam. I didn’t think it would cost more than $200. What I didn’t know was that the cat was very old, emaciated and VERY SICK.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. A very sick, skinny lady in ICU/Isolation.

So began the next rescue-odyssey. We needed a name for the cat right away so Betsy, who works for my Vet, blurted out “Saturday?!” At that point I didn’t even know if the cat would live so I said okay.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Erich, Saturday's foster dad, holding Saturday after she'd survived three weeks in intensive care and was finally stable.

For the next week, every day I expected the Vet to call and tell me the cat had died. I’ve rarely seen a cat in such poor shape live. She was a bag of bones, hunched over, snorting and coughing. Not eating. Three weeks passed and somehow, some way, Saturday got better and again, a bit better. She needed a tremendous amount of care and it cost over $3500.00. She still needs a dental to clean her teeth now that she’s stable and has gained a few pounds. The hope is to raise the funds for her teeth, then find her a sweet place to retire. We call her “Lady Saturday” now as she’s so regal and fine and sweet-tempered. She was one of our best transformations-a work in progress.

December

I honestly don’t know how I made it to December. I didn’t have a day off, certainly no vacation of any kind, really no break from anything. All the foster cats were huge because I hadn’t been quickly processing applications. Frankly, I just gave up. The kitties were safe and well fed and loved, but I just didn’t have the bandwidth to do everything. I knew that 2015 would have to be the year of saying NO and creating a better space to take time for my life and to just have some peace, but before I could do that, Freya’s bi-weekly x-rays told us that it was time to go to surgery. We wouldn't make it to January after all. With the holidays upon us we had to act quickly.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Our last night before the big surgery.

On December 9th Freya and I left once again for Boston, this time through a Nor’easter that pounded New England and made the drive a dangerous nightmare. All I wanted was to rest the night we arrived, but I was so worried about surgery the next day, rest never came.

On December 10th, Dr. Pavletic proved once again that he is a genius. He performed Freya’s surgery in just under two hours. She did well and was coming out of her sedation. He was ready to release Freya that night but I insisted she stay, shocked that she could go home so soon. It was the first of up to three more surgeries, but it would be months before we knew how Freya would really do. Would she be incontinent for the rest of her life? Would she handle more surgeries? It was wait and see. At least now, finally, she had a chance to pass the stool that had been trapped inside her for months.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Just after surgery, Freya is already back on her paws.

So here we are on the evening of the last day of 2014. It was a very tough, draining year. I won’t label it a “bad” year because I learned a lot and I’m very proud of all we’ve accomplished. Though due to chronic illnesses of the kittens and lack of adoptions we only helped 64 cats this year, but we also created awareness about Atresia Ani, which is helping to save the lives of other cats with this very rare birth defect. We’ve also just been awarded one of the Top 50 Pet Rescues of 2014 by Entirely Pets, which is pretty darn cool considering we’re a tiny rescue.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Jasmine, Junipurr (upper cat tree) with Josh (center) and Jules (below) just a day before three of them broke with bad eye infections and a URI.

Midnight, December 31, 2014 arrives and what am I doing? I’m putting terramycin in the eyes of a sick orange tabby bringing the year to some sort of strange perfect closure.

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If you'd like to read more about any of these cats, simply use the SEARCH box to the right and enter the name of the cat. You should find a list of posts related to each one.

Angels Walk Among Us.

I’m not even sure what words to write to form the perfect telling of recent events, but I must try with shaky fingers as they clumsily tap out another few words. I just finished crying and suppose I will do it again soon. My tears aren’t inspired by loss, rather by gain; but this kind of gain can’t be seen, only felt in one’s heart.

Last week I wrote about my nail-biter road trip to Boston with little foster kitten, Freya. Though the arc of the story revolved around her surgery and whether or not she’d survive, there was a minor player who would later play a larger role. It was my car. My 14-year old BMW 328ci coupe; the one I bought used from a dear friend when it already had 99,000 miles on it. I love cars and although I’ve only had four in my life, I truly appreciated how sturdy and solid this car handled and hoped I would have it for many years to come.

I’ve done my best to take excellent care of the car, but over the past two years, with finances in an ever deepening hole, I haven’t been able to repair every little thing when I’d like. As I drove Freya to Boston, I knew that my tires were not very good, that there was a burning smell coming from the engine (my friend Erich looked at the engine and thought it was leaking transmission fluid) and that something was rattling in the right rear of the car. I thought that perhaps there must be a cap to the top of the shock absorber and maybe it was loose. I’d get everything looked at next year, as soon as I could. I had to hope it wasn’t a big mistake to wait. I usually don’t drive very far so maybe I’d luck out.

We’d barely returned from our trip when I got a message via Facebook. It was from Tammie and her husband, Stephen. They said they didn’t like the idea of me driving kitties around in a car with bad tires and that their cats had discussed it and each one of them wanted to buy me a tire. They have four cats, so that meant a new set.

Beyond stunned I sat at my computer re-reading their message to make sure I didn't misunderstand it. I couldn’t imagine anyone giving a total stranger such a huge gift. I wrote back and thanked them, giving them every out I could. I knew it would be around $500.00 to get new tires and I didn’t want to put them into financial difficulty. I told them I’d get them a proper estimate from my car repair guys and if they still felt it was all right that they could call the repair shop and pay them directly. I didn’t want to think something like this could really happen to me so I didn’t tell anyone about it until it really happened.

Me with Police
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Help arrives!

Within 30 minutes of emailing them the estimate, Steve called and paid for the tires. Holy moley! Now I just had to wait a few days until they arrived. Since I didn’t have to cover that cost, I could have the shop check out the other issues with my car sooner. It really felt like Christmas came early and I was deeply touched that these people, who don’t know me, literally took care of me and are making my car safe for every kitty I take to the vet.

Two days later, I was running some errands and one of the roads has “speed humps” along it. They really annoy me and I foolishly didn’t slow down exactly as much as I should have. I think this was the death knell to my car because a less than a mile later, while I was driving, my car bucked and stopped hard even though the engine was still running.

I quickly shut the car off and on again but the “check engine light” and the traction control lights came on. I tried to move forward but it was as if someone threw a spike between the wheels and they would not budge. I was able to pull over a few feet onto the shoulder, but it was a very busy road and cars were flying past me. I put the hazard lights on and started to shake. I called Sam, but what could he do? Of course the battery was dying on my phone so I had to make it quick. I called AAA (with an old car I will never be without it) and tried to calmly tell them where I was, but they were having trouble sorting it out and kept talking, while I started to fear the phone going to die on me.

Officer John and Dave
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Officer John & Dave.

Never wanting to make a fuss, but realizing I was in danger, I called the Police and asked for help. I called the non-emergency number and explained what was going on, not even sure if they would come. Within 5 long minutes Officer McDermott appeared. It was the first time seeing flashing blue and red lights didn’t make my stomach flip. The second he arrived, the passing cars slowed way down. They even pulled away from my car so I didn’t feel my car shiver every time one zipped by.

I told Officer John how grateful I was for his help. He had someone at the P.D. call AAA and give them not only my location but told them to put my call up higher on their list due to the dangerous location of the car. He said they should arrive in about 15-20 minutes but he had gotten another call and had to leave. He’d only been with me a few minutes and I was sad to see him go. He directed me to stay in the car and since the engine still worked, to keep it running and stay warm and be safe.

As I waited it dawned on me that this could have happened last week, on the Mass Pike, in the nor’easter, on the way to Boston or in the snow on the way home to Connecticut. As bad as this might be, I was grateful I was okay and Freya was home. We could have died on that trip, between almost hitting the semi-truck fender that was in the middle of my lane and the slick roads that my crappy tires couldn't get adequate traction on. I was really lucky.

Officer John returned after barely a few minutes. The other call ended up not being an emergency so he parked his car behind mine, leaving the flashing twin-sonics running. He was going to sit right behind me, keeping me safe. He didn’t know me, I just lived in the same town he worked in as a Police Officer. I thought about how he put himself in danger to help others and I wished I could do something nice for him in return, but I’d have to think about how to thank him later.

Bye Bye Car
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. See you after Christmas!

Dave, the tow truck operator came up the hill going the opposite direction then passed my car. I held my breath and said a few dirty words. Did he not see me or did he assume the car with the Police car behind it had gotten pulled over and was going to get a ticket, instead of needing a tow?

It took a few minutes, but Dave turned around and slowly steered by our cars and positioned the truck so it could hoist my car onto the rear platform. I wasn’t even sure the car would roll but some how it did. As Dave finished locking down my car, I went over to Officer John and shook his hand again, thanking him and telling him I would ask our First Selectwoman, Pat Llodra, to give him a raise. He laughed, but I told him I saw her once a month at our Animal Control Advisory Board meeting. Heck, it doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

I got to ride to the auto shop in a tow truck with Dave. I really enjoyed the view from so high up. Dave and I talked about my car. I presented my theory that perhaps the rear shock had fallen out of position and wedge something in the axel, preventing me from driving forward. He thought it was a decent idea. He made me laugh and the further we got from where I’d been stuck, the happier I felt. Now to drop off the car, then get a ride home. I didn’t want to think about how much the repair was going to cost. I could only hope I didn’t screw something up so badly that it meant my car was unsalvageable.

I also didn’t want to think about how I was going to pay for it. This was the fifth year I wasn’t having Christmas. Even by skipping gift giving my finances are very tight. Sam is covering my half of the utility bills until I can get back on my feet and my goal is to not buy anything and to try not to make my financial woes worse if I can help it. I started to wonder about what would happen if I can’t pay for my car to be fixed? Do they tow it back to my house? I only have one credit card and they don’t take that one. Maybe they’d let me pay it off over time? I hated feeling like a total loser. It made me more determined to do a better job making a living in 2015, but for now what was I going to do?

With less than a week until Christmas, even though I’ve been a customer for 20 years, Gary, one of the owners of the shop, apologized, telling me they couldn’t even look at my car that day or the next, that maybe after the weekend off on Monday they could figure out what was going on. They'd also put on the new tires which had just arrived. It was fine by me. I knew Sam could let me borrow his car if I needed to get out. We’d be okay without a second car for a few days and I really didn’t want to know what they were going to tell me about my car anyway.

What I didn’t know was that I have a few additional Angels looking out for me. My family is long gone and the Holidays often leave me feeling very sad. I’m okay doing my thing, helping kitties as I can, but I admit to feeling a bit lonely and heartsick during this time of year, too. Christmas is in four days and to me it’s just another day.

Christmas 2000
©2000 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the last times I had a family-Christmas.

But I was wrong. I got another present that I could never have expected. My friend Holly who has been an ardent supporter of my rescue, Kitten Associates, took it upon herself to do a fundraiser to buy me new tires, not knowing I’d already gotten them. She corralled some other friends, Angie, Coleen, and Diane, passing around the hat, hoping to collect enough to make it happen. When she found out I had the tires she still wanted to give me the money she raised. She didn’t know my car had died.

She raised was $350.00. It wasn’t a donation for the kittens, it was for my car. Another kind lady, Karen, also pitched in $100.00 saying it was because of what I do for others that she wanted to help me. While I have no idea what the cost to repair my car will be, I know that this will help make it more likely that when the time comes, I'll be able to pay the bill. It’s a feeling I don’t often have and one that I will never take for granted.

I’ve already thanked the ladies for coming to my rescue, but I wanted to thank them here because you should know that Angels exist right here on Earth, that they are all around us. In fact I’d bet that everyone could be an Angel to someone else. When I help a family with their cat or help a cat out of a dangerous situation I don’t think about what I’m going to get out of it. It just makes me happy to be of service. That's exactly the same attitude that inspired Holly and my other friends to help me.

I’ve been blessed so many times, over and over again, by so many cat-loving people who have run to my side when I needed funds for one of our cats. Now, when I’m in the dumps of despair, they still come, without me asking, this time to help me. I am so grateful, honored, humbled and sadly a bit embarrassed and maybe ashamed that I even need help in the first place. But I’d rather feel like this and be able to get my car fixed, then be proud and struggle even more.

In this season of giving, I got the best gifts ever. I got to know that I have friends who care and who are looking out for me. Their warmth reminds me of my long-lost family and how they made me feel protected and safe. They hold me tight when I feel like all is lost. They are Angels who walk among us and they are real.

Insta Portrait of Freya R Olson Xmas copy
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

Give for the Holidays without Breaking the Bank

Nothing makes me happier than when I can help others, especially cats. During this season of giving, of cherishing your family and friends, it’s the perfect time to think about giving to the cats and kittens who are still in shelters, dreaming of their forever home.

While giving during the month of December can provide a big lift to small rescues who depend on donations to make ends meet, I’d like to ask you to consider a longer-term way to help your favorite animal charity, but it won't break your bank account.

Go Beyond One Gift

Rescues and shelters always need financial support, but instead of giving one gift, sign up to do a monthly donation. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money, even $10 a month ends up to be a nice donation over the course of a year. This way the organization knows they can depend on funds coming in during times when donations are at a low.

In the shop
©2011 Robin AF Olson. Adoption event set up takes a lot of heavy lifting and someone to set it up so it looks nice. If you have a flair for design, decor, or have six-pack abs you can help your local rescue (even if you don't have six-pack abs, that was just wishful thinking on my part).

Networking is Free

If you’re like me and are cash-strapped, I bet you have a talent that a rescue would really appreciate. Do you do PR, Advertising? are you an Artist, Graphic Designer, Videographer? Are you a good Writer? Photographer? Maybe you’re great at organizing files, or helping plan adoption events. Do you like to talk; meet new people? Rescues always need someone to talk to potential adopters and do community outreach.

My rescue, Kitten Associates, needs someone to do something as simple as data entry. Bottom line: the odds are very good that you can do something that a rescue needs, even bake cookies for a bake sale.

You also probably have friends and family who love animals. One of them might be cajoled into helping volunteer with you or perhaps provide goods or services (maybe they have a store and they can donate items for a gift basket or they provide a service and they can give you a certificate that can be used as a raffle item or a Ebay auction item).

Become an Advocate on Social Media

If you’re on Facebook and Twitter a lot, make use of those great connections you already have and corral all of them to share a post from your favorite rescue when they ask for donations. Just doing that can substantially increase the odds of good donations coming in just when that rescue needs it most. This goes far beyond the holiday season. Being an advocate takes dedication and compassion and the ability to urge your friends to help without heavy-handed tactics. Maybe you can have fun with it or even challenge your friends to match any donation you make or to see if they can get more shares of a post than you can? Perhaps the winner gets taken out for coffee by you? This shouldn’t be a chore. It’s a labor of love-and when it’s fun you’ll be more willing to keep helping throughout the year.

You can also join the BlogPaws Community where like-minded pet lovers are joining together to build a group with goal of giving back to pets.

Everyone but ButterC R Olson
©2013 Robin AF Olson. The Clementines were such wonderful foster kittens, but the costs for their care was no joke. With multiple boughts of illness our rescue spent thousands of dollars providing for them. Most rescues have the same challenges-how to stretch available funds to cover unpredictable health issues.

Don’t Forget the Humans

The truth of it is pretty much every animal rescue organization is struggling with possibly the exception of the biggest ones. The little guys do more directly for their animals with the donations they receive simply because they have no paid staff and don’t pay someone to do fundraising. Whatever you offer, know it will be appreciated and it may make a huge difference.

It’s also a lot easier to see your gift in action when you have a one on one relationship with a rescue. Let them know you believe in their work. Tell the folks that volunteer that they’re doing a great job. The folks who do rescue pay a very big emotional price to care for animals 365/7/24. They don’t get a day off and they rarely get thanked. A simple thing like feeling appreciated is a great gift you can give a rescue, too, so don’t forget to send them a card or email and let them know you love what they’re doing.

Happy Holidays!

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This post is sponsored by BlogPaws. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about #BlogPawsGives, but Covered in Cat Hair only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. BlogPaws is not responsible for the content of this article.

Freya 2.0 The Price and the Curse of the Pink Underpants Part 12

continued from part 8 and part 9 and part 10 and part 11.

At 10 AM, barely 24-hours after Freya’s surgery, I was back at Angell ready to bring her home. I walked into the building as the automatic doors parted. The place was filled with people and their pets. It was controlled cacophony so I made my way over to Reception, checked in, paid the remainder of Freya’s invoice and waited to be called.

A young woman came out, calling Freya’s name. She talked to me about the discharge instructions, then took my empty cat carrier to fetch Freya. Another woman approached me. It was M.J. who was a friend of Freya’s on Facebook. She was there with her lovely cat, Tabbittha who very sadly was there to see an oncologist because she has a growth on her mouth and had stopped eating. M.J. was thrilled to see Freya, but it was bittersweet. She had tears sparkling in her pale blue eyes, as she talked to me about Tabbs. I told her how sorry I was and that I hoped it was just a cyst and nothing more. It went unsaid, but I think we both knew that something like this had the potential to be bad news and her cat was 15. I so wanted to cheer her up, but sometimes all you can really do is be present for that person and be ready to comfort them as you can.

Discharge Bag
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

M.J. said she had some toys she wanted to get for the cat. I didn’t realize she meant she made some toys for Freya. When I saw what she’d created it really touched me. There were many different kinds of wand toys, each with a small toy at the end. The size was just right for Freya and with all this woman was going through, that she had the thoughtfulness to do something for my kitten, just shows you what sort of person she is.

Tabbs1
©2014 M.J. Towler. Darling Tabbs.

With Freya at my side and rumors of more bad weather ahead. I bade my farewells to M.J. and Tabbs, giving this new friend a hug and a wish for good luck. I wondered what price she would pay for her cat's care. From what I could tell she would do whatever it took, even if it meant she would go without. Leaving her was not easy. I wish I could have kept her company longer. I know what it's like to be alone during such an unsettling time. It’s too bad there’s no buddy system at Angell where if you needed someone to just hold your hand and tell you it’s going to be okay you could get that support.

On way home after surgery
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Less than 24 hrs after surgery, Freya is ready to come back home.

--------------------------

Freya 2.0 and I began our trip home. At first she meowed and meowed as we made our way west, out of the heavy Boston traffic, but soon enough she was sleeping soundly even with the cone-of-shame on her head. The nor’easter was still effecting the weather but now it was a mix of rain, snow and sleet. My friend Connie, who lives near me in Connecticut said it had snowed a few inches but had stopped in Newtown. In Boston it was a rain/sleet mix. Resigned to having yet another lousy drive home, I hit the road.

First Morning before Pickup 12 11 14
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. From Jen, my wake-up text along with a photo of Freya looking much perkier.

I didn’t know what to expect with Freya. Would she mess up her carrier as she did on the way to Boston? She was on pain killers so I expected a quiet trip home. I didn’t dare check on her because once again the roads were dreadful and I had to pay attention. I kept feeling like I was about to lose control of the car. The winds were stronger and the temp hovered at freezing. The strange lack of traction I felt from time to time was probably patches of black ice.

As it happened on the journey to Boston, leaving was just as miserable with just as many idiotic drivers going too fast on roads that were not in great shape. I tried to just get through it. I told myself to focus, in 3 more hours I’d be home. I was going to spend the rest of the day doing nothing once we arrived. I might not even unpack the car, other than Freya. I was going to sleep, dammit!

Eating
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. First meal at home. Thank you, Weruva!

At least the last hour of the drive was blissfully easy. The snow in northern Connecticut had painted every branch and outlined the stone walls that dotted the landscape along I-84. The sky was a bluish gray with more defined clouds and the sun even struggled to break through from time to time. It was a very pretty scene and since the road was drying out, compared to the snow squall and rain showers that blasted us during the first two-thirds of the trip, I could relax.

Seeing the snow reminded me of a dream I had about being at a Vet with Freya, (which I'm not sure I should write about because I fear I may never hear the end of it). I was wearing my pink undies; the ones that have a pattern of snowflakes on them. I knew if I wore them it would be very bad for Freya; that she would die. I also knew that I couldn't simply throw the undies away, I had to remember NEVER to wear them. That was the test. If I failed, catastrophe! That was two months ago and I can tell you I don't even want to TOUCH those panties! (Yes, pink with snowflakes; my mom bought them for me, sheesh.)

Freya remained quiet; no straining or groaning trying to pass stool. I asked her if she was okay and she replied with a chirp. I didn’t know how things would go once we got home, but perhaps I’d paid the price and maybe things would go well.

I don’t know why I wasn’t happier. I got what I hoped for. Perhaps exhaustion colored my mood or knowing I was starting from scratch once again left me feeling frustrated and impatient. I wanted this done-the Vet runs, the anxiety-ridden, confused, what-the-heck-do-I-feed-this-cat woes. Clearly Freya's health issues were something that were going to take a very long time to sort out. I wanted my purring, lovey-dovey, lap-loving kitten back. I thought about how much more money this was going to cost and how many more surgeries we were going to have to do; maybe three more. I didn’t want to feel petty. I should have been happy, but I just wanted to sleep.

Home after Surgery
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Home at last in her crate. Rest for the next week at least.

And then it dawned on my why I was so glum. I was protecting my heart from utter collapse. When I saw Freya in the cage after the surgery, I had to hold back my true feelings. I wanted to sob, seeing her little body scrunched up in pain. It was too much to see her like that, but I had to be brave for her. I couldn't hold her and comfort her as I did just the night before and I didn't know when I'd be able to hold and comfort her again. I couldn't be happy because it wasn't over and there were still too many obstacles to overcome. How could I be joyful when if she did something as minor and run around the house during the first week it could blow a stitch and kill her? She was a fragile vessel for now and I didn't feel like this was the time to rejoice.

Yes, a BIG hurdle had been surpassed, probably THE hurdle of her life, but I just couldn't feel happy until I knew she was healed and functioning properly.

For Freya, I did everything required and then some and for Freya I knew I would do it again and again and again. I would find a way to swim back to shore. I would learn how to care for my newly minted kitten’s behind. I would never give up on her, ever. The price will be paid-whatever it takes.

Sweet Slumber R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Looking back on the first time I met Freya, having no idea offering to foster her for a few days would end up changing my life.

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