Fifteen months ago I wrote a piece that I never posted. I felt too much shame to dare allow anyone to read it. I’m going to share it with you now because I want to illustrate a few important points that I hope will help you if you're facing something similar in your life.
1. Things change. It’s the ONLY thing you can count on happening-ever. So. If you’re feeling bad, depressed, upset, this is not how you will feel forever. Why is this important to state? Because when you feel down, you never feel like you will ever be “up” again. Trust in this simple fact: that your feelings WILL change given some time. Perhaps you can get through dark days, as I struggle to work though this myself. (I do not mean to be glib or make light of the fact that there are people who have serious mental illness and need counseling and medical assistance to get through each day beyond simply trusting that their feelings will wax and wane over time).
2. The other point is regarding the next health crisis you have with your cat. I’ve recently experienced a very challenging health issue with my cat Blitzen, that was not possible to diagnose completely, which left me scratching my head, even today as I write this. The goal of this point is that there are times when giving it time is the best thing to do. Taking a step back is sometimes a good option (of course as long as it’s not a life threatening emergency).
From the dark corners of my heart, here is a portion of that post I didn’t want to share:
March 5, 2014
For the past 4 years I’ve worked very hard to get Kitten Associates off the ground. The first year I paid for many of the expenses out of my own pocket. I gave up opportunities to work a 9-5 job or to take on taxing freelance graphic design gigs at home because of the amount of time it takes to care for our rescue kittens 24/7/365.
©2010 Robin AF Olson. MacGruber one of the kittens we rescued the year we opened for business.
I do not regret my choice, but over the past year I’ve only made $850.00 and I’ve lived off whatever money I had put aside for a rainy day. I don’t go anywhere on vacation. I can’t remember the last one I had. I think it was a few days in Maine in 2006. I don’t drink or smoke. I stay home. I care for the cats. I write stories that I hope entertain and educate all of you. I work on ways to keep Kitten Associates afloat (and that has gone well so far). My day ends around 12:30AM or later when I finish spending time with and feeding the kittens for the last time of the day.
I help many people find rescues or homes for their cats that I don’t even post about or help them find a way to live better with their cats when there’s a behavior issue.
I don’t get paid a dime for anything I do.
I am beyond mortified. I am heartbroken, angry, frustrated and I feel hopeless. I don’t understand why someone who works as hard as I do has nothing to show for it financially.
I’ve made some changes and am working on ways to get my income stream back. I’m pitching clients for work and I’ve cut back my hours with Kitten Associates (well, I try to cut it to only 5 days a week instead of 7 but I can NEVER cut back on cat/kitten care), but finding paying work won’t happen overnight.
A few months ago, my 3 year old cat, Blitzen started doing this funny thing with his paws. He’d lift the right, then the left. Something was bothering him so I took him to the Vet. She found he had a rodent ulcer on the side of his mouth and that his middle toes on his front paws were very slightly swollen. It appeared to be due to an allergic reaction to something—what that something was, would require a lot more testing.
©2013 Robin AF Olson. First signs of trouble.
We decided to go easy and try something simple-just some Benadryl. It seemed to help and he was doing all right. We gave him antibiotics for his mouth. I thought he was fine, but it came back. This time we opted for a very low dose of steroids, but within a few days Blitzen contracted a very nasty URI since his immune system was compromised and he began urinating all over the house and was aggressive to some of the cats. It was a side effect of the steroids.
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Bad reaction to steroids brought on behavioral problems.
I took him off the drugs and went back to square one. More Benadryl…for 3 weeks, then 2 weeks of clavamox (an antibiotic) and boy was he tough to pill. It didn’t cure the problem. In the meantime I tried to figure out if we were feeding him something or if he was getting into something that would cause this, but why ONLY Blitzen and not our other cats?
There was enough reduction in his paw pain and mouth for me to try some fish oil because our vet thought it might help. It didn’t. Now both sides of his mouth are swollen and tender. He’s depressed. Tonight he was seriously limping on his left paw. It broke my heart to see it. I had a very small amount of buprenex on hand so he’s resting now, but he needs to get to the vet ASAP. I can’t let my cat be in pain like this.
June 16, 2014
The next part of my post is a fundraiser, begging for help so I can raise the funds to get Blitzen vetted. I estimated it would cost about $1100.00.
After careful consideration I decided to scrap the idea. Instead I became determined to find the cause for Blitzen’s problems on my own. It had been going on for over 6 MONTHS. The paw-raising, the rodent ulcers, waxed and waned. I’d think he was okay then he’d get worse. I decided that his mid-day snack of grain-free canned food would stop. He’d only be on raw food. I knew that it was possible he was having a reaction to his food so now his snack would be raw, too.
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Dr. Mary examining Blitzen's rodent ulcers.
The other thing Dr. Mary said was that it could be a seasonal allergy-which shocked me since he’d never had this problem before and six months had passed. She said we could do allergy testing, but something was nagging at me that this wasn’t the problem.
Since antibiotics and steroids hadn’t worked I wanted to give Blitzen time for his body to recover from the medications he’d been on. I did not want to continue doing any tests, like skin scrapings or biopsies until I gave his body a chance to heal on its own.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Rodent ulcer on Blitzen's mouth.
That’s when I did a high-speed flashback over the past few months. Blitzen often chewed on the cords of the other blinds as well. The cord would rub on the corners of his mouth, right where the rodent ulcers appeared. Some of the other cats may have been chewing on the cords, too so swapping all that bacteria around made me wonder if between the irritation and the bacteria if THAT was the culprit.
I went on a mission to tie up and move ALL the cords on all the blinds all over the house. The following day I watched Blitzen as he struggled to get to the cords. Over a few days he stopped trying to get at them and some time after that I noticed that he stopped limping and his mouth sores began to go away.
The thing that also seemed to happen was that concurrent with his sores and limping I saw behavior that was indicative of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome, the same disorder that Lux the Cat on My Cat From Hell was diagnosed with having.
In Blitzen’s case, IF he has it, it is VERY MILD. But during the worst of the limping and the sores, he’d also have these odd “fits” where seemingly out of the blue the fur over his back would ripple. Blitzen would jump up and race across the room in a frenzy. He’d stop for a moment and lick at himself quite furiously as if an imaginary creature was making his skin crawl.
Careful observation, even note taking is important when you’re trying to understand what’s going on with your cat. In Blitzen’s case, stopping his OCD chewing behavior MAY have helped lessen his other symptoms. I also made an effort to spend more time doing soothing behaviors, like gently brushing him, but not for so long that he became over-stimulated. He visits me while I’m writing and reaches up to be held. I will stop what I’m doing, pick him up and give him 5 or 10 minutes of cuddling and focused attention. It helps him relax.
Blitzen lives with 9 other cats. It’s important, especially for him that he doesn’t feel left out. I can SEE it on his face when we’re having playtime and he feels overshadowed by the DOOD or Mabel. He sits back and doesn’t take part but now that I’ve been helping him feel more important he started playing for the first time in a very long time.
©2104 Robin AF Olson. Back at the Vet with Blitzen.
We recently weighed Blitzen and the other cats so we can track if any of them need more or less to eat. He’d gained a bit of weight but was still within normal limits. The thing that was more astounding to me was his coat. It was thicker, maybe even a bit longer. Instead of being hunched over he slept stretched out with his belly up in the air. He simply looks amazing.
I’m still watching Blitzen for signs of any of these issues returning. He’s had grain-free canned food and hasn’t had a reoccurrence of the rodent ulcers (so far knock wood). The other night I saw his back fur ripple and he looked like he was going to have another mysterious attack, so I distracted him quickly, then sat with him and gently petted him, soothing his anxiety. The attack stopped and he recovered very fast. Other than that his other changes have been just shy of amazing.
Now I wouldn’t suggest ignoring your Vet, but there may be situations where taking a step back and doing detective work pays off, as it did with Blitzen. He was never in danger of dying from anything we tried or didn’t try. I felt like I could give myself time to simply observe Blitzen because he’d recovered enough where he was not in pain and not limping.
As for the depression and anxiety I wrote about earlier in this post, I too am feeling much better these days. I AM getting some paying work and I’ve made some changes in my eating habits that I believe are helping me feel more cheerful and be able to take things in stride.
While I didn’t solve world peace, I found peace in my heart. I hope this helps you find your way there, too.
You won't believe what happened next. Find out in our conclusion coming up next!
Although I’ve said this before, it floors me to discover that anyone reads my blog posts, let alone finds themselves so attached to the stars of these pieces—our little kittens and cats. Even on their darkest day, they must find out what the next chapter holds.
I feel I owe everyone an apology because I can’t write as often as I’d like to. I have to make a living and keep Kitten Associates going, which means fewer hours to write. There’s a laundry-list of updates to tell, of thoughts to share, of news to break; but I can’t always keep up and feel badly about that...
…and then comes a story that just can’t wait to be told.
I recently received a Memorial donation in honor of a lost loved one. I offered to send a letter to the family announcing the gift, but they replied nothing was needed. I was told that the donation should be used towards Freya’s care and I wrote back and said that she was due for a Vet appointment and I’d use the donation to pay for her visit.
There was nothing particularly extraordinary about what transpired, unless you factor in the following: Pat Snyder spent her final days making certain she knew how Freya was doing. Though she admittedly preferred orange tabbies, she had a special connection to Freya once she discovered Freya’s Facebook page. She loved Freya so much that she wanted a portion of her Estate to be donated to Freya after she passed away (although the legacy gift ended up not happening, just the idea of it is incredibly humbling).
In all the months I’d written about Freya, Pat never once contacted me. I would have loved to chat with her and maybe I could have helped comfort her from afar. It was heartbreaking to know that even on her deathbed her concern was for our girl, not herself. It just made me admire her all the more.
Pat’s sister Connie told me that she only knew about Freya because during her last days, Pat insisted that Connie read to her my latest post so she could keep up to date. Connie and I began to email each other and through Connie I got to know a bit more about Pat and her love and devotion for animals (in addition to a lifetime of service to the citizens of Colorado in her long career as a State Trooper).
Connie gave me the OK to share some of her thoughts about her older sister, Pat, as well as to share some old photos of her. Pat and I are alike in that we both hate being photographed, so there aren’t any recent ones to share.
“These are both older pictures of my sister Pat. They are both favorites of mine. She was a Colorado State Trooper in the ‘80s and worked for the state of Colorado for 31 years. When she retired, she worked for two animal clinics. As I said before, she thought the best kitties were orange but she loved all kitties. She was a huge animal lover.
Pat in her Colorado State Trooper's uniform. Used with Permission.
Several years ago a mountain lion killed a deer on her property and division of wildlife wanted to trap the cat. She said she would only agree if it was a live trap and it would be relocated. The next day, the trap contained the "kitty". Pat was in seventh heaven. She got to pet her and, since Pat was a scrapbooker, she took many pictures which she used to create page after page of this magnificent animal.
I’m grateful for that chance encounter that she had with the mountain lion. The big cat was just trying to survive and, Pat respected her enough to not allow her to be killed because WE were living in HER world. She didn't think she should be "punished" for her natural instincts.
Cat-mama-Pat. Used with Permission.
Pat had a huge heart when it came to God's creatures and always adopted for life. Her kitties were so spoiled that she had a custom built "catio" (a cat patio) added to her bedroom with a cat door leading outside so they could enjoy the outdoors without the danger of predators. She lived in the foothills west of Denver where there are daily wildlife visitors. The catio had grass, perches and a human door so the grass could be maintained and the kitties could sun themselves in the morning. I hope that helps paint a picture for you of who she was and what she was about...
Thank you for honoring her. She was very dear to me.”
I know if Freya could speak she would tell Pat's family how grateful she is to have Pat be part of her story. That in the telling of Freya's adventure Pat will play a part forever.
Rest in Peace, Pat.
If you’d like to read Pat’s Obituary, it's HERE.
continued from part 16
I didn’t want to take Freya to the Vet. I was sick with worry about it. If Freya was a “normal” cat I wouldn’t be so concerned, but we already know that Freya has lots of deformities so it wouldn’t be surprising that her ovaries or uterus had some issues. I knew she’d be in very good hands because Dr. Chris, our Board Certified surgeon, was going to do the procedure. He’d also be the final word on whether or not Freya still needed to have her right inner ear CT scanned and if she'd also needed surgery on her ear canal to drain any remaining infection.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Our Freya.
I love Dr. Chris, not like I want to run away and bear his children love, but I really cherish working with him. He’s always smiling even though the poor guy has often had to soothe my fears about Freya. He’s extremely smart and talented and I trust his opinion (okay and he’s really cute, too, but that has nothing to do with it. I’m just dutifully relating information as any good writer would).
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Dr. Chris last December with Freya.
So this morning I sat in the now so very familiar waiting room at NVS with Freya at my side, who was snuggled inside her Robin’s egg blue cat carrier. Dr. Chris came out from the back of the building to escort us into an exam room. Just seeing his radiant smile made me feel more relaxed. I hadn’t seen him for a few months and it was good to see him again. After we said a quick hello, I found myself focusing on the mental laundry list of things he needed to know about Freya. As I spoke I noticed he was looking at Freya as she ran around the room. He was smiling, then remarked how great she looked. After all she’d been through I didn’t see her transformation as clearly as Dr. Chris did.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya's nickname is Monkeypants, so this is a box of monkeypants.
Dr. Chris examined Freya as we spoke about what should be done today. We went over the costs which would range from $1800.00 to $5100.00, the low price being only the spay. Of course many of you who do rescue know we can get spays done for under $100 at a clinic, but Freya couldn’t go to a clinic since we didn’t know what was yet to be discovered inside her.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. At the vet yet again. At least Freya's not scared being there.
It was a tough nut to swallow, but I knew we had to do what was right for our kitten. Dr. Chris said that he didn’t feel Freya should have the CT scan yet. Clinically she was doing very well. She was playing, eating, passing stool. She no longer had a head-tilt, though she does have some deafness, which could be something she’s had since birth. Instead of spending that money on the CT now, he thought it was wise to wait and give her more time. If she relapses then we’d have to do the scan, but for now the less we do to her, the better.
All that was left to decide was when to do her spay surgery. Again, I was surprised by the answer. Dr. Chris felt that Dr. Mary or Dr. Larry could do the spay and that as a rescue it would be better for us to bank the savings so we could rescue more cats than spend it on having him do the procedure. I asked if he felt it was safe to have our G.P. Vet do the surgery and he thought they could easily handle it. He also said I could bring her back and he would still perform the procedure if our other vets didn’t feel comfortable taking her on.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya meets the raccoon.
I agreed to call Dr. Larry and to determine whether or not we could have Freya’s spay performed today since she was already fasted and ready to go. Then, what I never expected happened. In my writer’s mind I'd describe a romantic scene about being alone in the exam room with Dr. Chris; about how our eyes locked in an intense gaze across the room, the passion building between us, undeniable, magnetically drawing us ever closer, but also knowing his peers and my friends might read this; I’ll have to keep a more detailed fantasy to myself. In truth, what really happened was very straightforward, COMPLETELY professional and G-rated.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya loves Aunt Nora.
It was a bitter pill to swallow after such a long journey. After discussing the results of a million x-rays of Freya’s colon, after a hundred tears worrying about my kitten, after all this; it was over. Dr. Chris said his residency is wrapping up in Newtown and he’s accepted a position in Miami and will be leaving in July (in that heat?!).
Resigned to this disappointing news, I gave Dr. Chris a hug goodbye and told him I was sorry to see him go (along with my silly schoolgirl crush). He walked us over to the reception desk, smiling politely as he said goodbye, then turned, greeting the next couple waiting to meet with him.
Two hours later.
Freya and I were in the exam room at Dr. Larry’s office. As he entered the room I could feel the energy shift. I knew that Dr. Larry’s in-law had passed away a few days ago and that he was truly hurting. He looked visibly thinner and tired. Before we could talk about Freya I reached out and gave him a big hug and told him how sorry I was for his loss. Dr. Larry’s my brother from another mother and I hate to see him suffering. I felt badly for even asking him to spay Freya. He should be home with his family.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya's tail obsession goes into overload when she sees Spencer's tail.
I gave Dr. Larry the rundown and explained to him why I felt it was okay to at least try to spay Freya. We had a few rounds of blood work done in the past that were very clean. She’d had a 2-hour long surgery and did well. She was eating and playing normally. She went into “heat” so that meant something was working inside her. We just didn’t know how well it worked or if there were other surprises.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Yes, Freya watches TV.
In the end I agreed that he should consider this an exploratory surgery and if she was well enough to be spayed, to do so and if not I’d take her to Dr. Chris for a surgery at a later date.
He told me that he’d call me right away if there was a problem and that if she did all right he’d wait until he was done to let me know how things went. Basically if there was no news any time soon, that was good.
Three hours later.
Dr. Mary, Dr. Larry’s partner, called me. She sounded as cheerful and bubbly as ever. She said; “Well, Miss Freya is all set. We did the spay and she’s recovering now.”
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya vs. Fluff Daddy.
“Yes, she did fine. Everything was normal. She may act a bit odd for a few days since she her hormones were still elevated, but other than that she’s doing well. You can pick her up later this afternoon.”
After I hung up the phone it hit me. It’s OVER. Freya doesn’t need any more surgeries and hopefully will never need a CT scan. She’s spayed. She’s had her shots. She’s been de-wormed. She’s passed all the milestones our other foster cats have passed. It just took a lot longer and we never were sure we'd make it this far.
No more worrying about if she’s going to survive her surgeries. She did. No more worrying about her being able to pass stool. She does.
No more wondering if she’ll ever hold her head straight or have both eyes open. It’s all good.
Then I recalled something I wrote in my very first post about Freya:
“In my mind’s eye I can see Freya, sleeping on a soft bed that is bathed in sunlight. She’s comfortable and plump. She looks like she’s smiling as she sleeps away the afternoon. She is healthy and well and these dark days are over for her. She didn’t have to die, she got to live. That is my dream for Freya...”
And for once, my dream came true due in part to so MANY generous donors who offered not only financial support but sent cards and gifts to Freya, who put tires on my old car, who sent us emails and called and told us they cared so very much about our little foster kitten. To our amazing Vets: Dr. Chris, Dr. Larry, Dr. Mary, Dr. Pav, Dr. Deb and Dr. Cory--yes, it took all your expertise to bring us to this fine day and I appreciate it so much. To Chelsea and Randy, who gave up their kitten because it was the right thing to do for her, even though it meant giving her up (and it was Chelsea's birthday that day, too), thank you for your bravery and trust in letting a rescue take over when you weren't able to.
I guess there's only one thing left to do. It’s time to put Freya up for adoption.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Home from being spayed, Freya gets some much needed rest.
How did five months come and go so quickly? To say it’s been a blur is an understatement. In our last chapter about Freya, it was December 2014 and she’d just had successful surgery to create a rectum so she could finally pass stool. She was barely four months old and was at very high risk of dying if the surgery didn’t work or from complications after the procedure.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. My first days with Freya when she was just a tiny kitten.
Freya beat the odds. The first day I met her last September she weighed a pound and was far too tiny to operate on. They gave her a 10% chance to survive unless I could keep her going until she was bigger. I struggled with her-getting her nutrition, but without bulking her up more with stool. By mid-December, she was near to bursting so I had to rush her to Boston, to MSPCA-Angell Memorial, for the very delicate and rare procedure. (For more on Freya’s backstory, see the end of this post for a list of links).
©2015 Robin AF Olson. In January Freya was doing great.
By the New Year it seemed as though everything was going in Freya’s favor, finally. She began passing stool, sadly WHERE she passed it was another hurdle. I celebrated the fact that she was no longer constipated by creating the “The Poop Fairy;” a cheerful elf with a magic wand helping stool to pass (covered in fairy dust, of course) out of kitties who had elimination problems.
©2015 Robin AF Olson.
Freya's incontinence meant keeping her on a raw diet or very high protein cooked diet because I don’t want to add bulk to her output by giving her carbohydrate laden foods. At least when her stool comes out it’s not (too) smelly and it’s fairly dry. I call my daily routine with her: “Going on a brown Easter egg hunt.” It’s almost amusing where I find her little “eggs,” though on a “bad” day I have woken up to finding smears of stool all over the protective cover on the bed.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Cooking Freya's dinner with thanks to Jodi Ziskin, our Pet Nutritionist, for her marvelous recipes and her love for Freya.
But my joy was short-lived. In mid-January Freya was due for her second distemper combination vaccination (FVRCP) booster. I honestly hate giving this vaccination since I’ve had quite a few kittens have a VERY bad reaction resulting in soaring high fevers, lethargy and inappetence. Freya’s first vaccination made her sick, so there was every reason to think the second would effect her badly as well. The problem was, I had no idea just how bad it was about to become.
Disclaimer: this is MY experience with what happened to Freya, but it should in no way prevent you from vaccinating your cat. The FVRCP vaccination prevents Feline Panleukopenia (which can be FATAL), Calicivirus and Feline Rhinotracheitis virus. These are things you NEVER want you cat to have. Always speak with your vet about any concerns you have regarding vaccinations, but…
…barely four days after Freya’s vaccination I came home from a rare trip to the movies with Sam. I looked at Freya and freaked out. The third eyelid on her right eye was covering half of her eye. I had no idea what to think other than it was an injury so I took her over to our 24hr Emergency Vet (NVS) since it was a Sunday (of course) and our regular vet was closed.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya, as always, never lost her cheerful attitude. She just adjusted to not being able to see well.
We were very lucky that their ophthalmologist was available. She was able to tell us that Freya's eye was fine, but she had Horner’s Syndrome, which is a neurological disorder whose root cause could be one of many different origins. There was inflammation of the optic nerve that forced her third eyelid to rise from its otherwise normal position. There was no cure other than to wait and hope that it would resolve on its own. For now Freya was basically blind in one eye. Add that to her ever-growing list of deformities and this cat had one heck of a tough burden to bear.
Though it’s a bit of a misty memory now, we’d followed up by doing some blood tests on Freya. It showed she was positive for Bartonella, the bane of my existence. She probably got it from being born outdoors and being exposed to fleas. We began treating her for that when I started to notice she seemed to be holding her head at a weird angle.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. My lopsided foster kitten.
Was it from the vaccination? The Bartonella? A physical deformity?
All I knew was that after being on antibiotics for 3 weeks for bartonella, we had to put Freya on another, stronger antibiotic to treat the ear infection. This one could BLIND her in a higher dose and I was scared shitless about putting her on it for six WEEKS. I kept pushing back about how long she had to be on the medications. I wondered what this stuff would do to her digestion since antibiotics are notorious for causing diarrhea. We had to put her on Baytril because it can penetrate bone and that’s likely where the infection was; inside the tiny bones of her inner ear.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya is still Freya, wonky eye, head tilt and all.
I have no idea how many vet visits we did because now I had waxing and waning numbers of ALL our foster and “owned” cats getting sick, too. (see THIS post for that story).
So I focused on giving Freya Baytril, hoping to see her lovely blue eye again, hoping she could run without her head hanging to the side. It’s ironic that I was okay with her being incontinent, but thinking I’d never see her sparkling blue, silly crossed-eyes again broke my heart.
It took the full six weeks before Freya began to act more like herself. One day I realized I could see her eye again and the next her head seemed straighter. Dr. Mary continued to check her ear and report she was seeing less and less debris and infection. We discussed doing a CT scan and possible surgery on Freya to drain the area so we did a fundraiser to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Life is good.
Freya sneezes and coughs once in awhile so she could still have a polyp in her right ear (based on the sneezing that doesn't seem to be a URI), but her inner ear looks normal now. The coughing could be a heart defect or parasites that I didn’t de-worm her for yet (she’s been de-wormed many times but needs a different de-wormer for the next round). Freya’s still tiny, weighing in at just over 5.5 lbs at almost nine months of age. In comparison, her brother, Pascal is almost 9 lbs. She’s still not 100%, but getting there.
Then when it seemed Freya couldn’t get anything else, she went into “heat.” Yes, Freya was “lookin’ for luv” and it was clear, due to all the yeowling, screaming, rubbing on every one and every thing she could get near that our little girl was becoming an adult. I haven’t been around an intact kitten…ever. I’d had to repeatedly put off Freya’s spay due to her chronic illnesses and I felt terrible she was suffering yet again. Clearly time was up. It HAD to be done.
Today was the day.
Part 17 airs next where we find discover that things are about to change whether we're ready for them to or not.
Here's a lineup of all our stories about Freya in chronological order from the beginning:
Before I could do a thing I got a call from my friends over at Animals in Distress about a kitten with a serious birth defect and could I just foster her for a weekend?
Continued from Part 1
That was the day I met Freya and you know what happened after that. Freya required round-the-clock care, specialized surgery and lots and lots of vet visits. Freya is still here 8 months later and is now part of the Kitten Associates family. Sadly, once again, Mia would have to wait to be socialized and I felt terrible about that.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya.
Mia’s offspring began to find their forever homes and so did a few of Celeste’s. Whichever cats were still waiting were moved over to the big foster room. Mia was nonplussed with newcomers. In fact I began to wonder if she had a vision problem because she didn’t react to anything. Her eyes were often dilated when I thought they shouldn’t be. She didn’t seem to look at toys if they weren’t making sounds, as if she was blind. I did a few tests but I’m not sure if she saw me or only has shadow vision. She’s too fractious to take to the vet and our vet said unless it’s pretty obvious (like cataracts) it’s tough to tell the degree of vision loss a cat has.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. The first group of Laney's kittens arrive. Jules, Jasper, Jasmine and Junipurr (are all adopted now!).
We began transporting Laney’s family north from Georgia earlier this year. The oldest four came up first and were quickly adopted because they were outstanding cats. One of them, Jules, was adopted along with Wallace, the once tiny kitten we’d taken from the Danbury Fire Department after they’d pulled him out of a concrete wall. Fernando and Astro were adopted together and so were Jasper and Jasmine.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Woody with his mama-Mia.
With Woody vying for my attention, I could only do a little bit with Mia. I’d tempt her with treats and lightly brush her paw with my finger. I was careful to be at ease with her and not tense. I wanted her to be used to me being around but she always hid in a corner if she heard me coming. She never climbed on the cat tree, which added to my suspicion about her vision. It might also make socializing her much harder if she couldn’t see me very well, if at all.
Laney and the gang have been here for about 2 months and I hopefully have a lead on ONE home for two of the kitties, but that’s it. Poor Woody, Mia’s remaining son, who has been with us over a YEAR, has never had even one application. I don’t know why we can’t find him a home because he’s amazing, but sadly he’s also keeping me from working with his mom.
During these past few months one of our adopters, who has become a good friend, came to visit the kitties. Her name is Kendra and she teaches art to children. She’s a wonderful artist in her own right and has volunteered to create torn paper portraits for many of our donors (she even did a big one for us of our dearly departed kitten, Fred that you can see on her ETSY page). Kendra is adorable and when she’s with our cats she her voice takes on a magical quality. It sounds a bit like a cross between a little girl and an elf. The cats love it. Even my shy boy Cricket will sit in her lap while she tells him how handsome he is.
©2015 KendyBo. One of Kendra's many awesome portraits. This is of Jayne Dog, who I wrote about HERE.
I spoke with Kendra about my frustrations with Mia while we were in the blue bathroom with her. Without hesitation, Kendra reached out and started petting Mia while we were talking! WHAT????!!!!
Did Mia like it? Meh; not so much.
Did Mia bite her or swat at her or growl? No.
It was shortly after that when Kendra contacted me and offered to foster Mia, hopefully unlocking the key to help socialize her. I had my hands more than full and she wanted to help. Kendra’s boyfriend, Brian, had been around feral cats all his life. She referred to him as the “feral cat whisperer.” Once we worked out the details we set a date to begin.
Saturday, Kendra came over to pick up Mia, but first I had to get Mia into a cat carrier.
I was lucky that Mia was in the bathroom because removing hiding places is the key to getting a cat into a carrier when you can’t pick them up. The first thing I did was move Woody out of the room, then move the cat tree, litter pan and anything else giving me full access to Mia. I also knew that because fearful cats feel safer in a small dark space that if I controlled where the small dark space was, then she’d go to it sooner or later.
I knew, too, that Mia had already had this happen to her before so even with a plan of action it might prove difficult.
As I moved things out of the way, Mia dashed across the floor and hid behind the toilet, which was the only thing I couldn’t move. I put the open cat carrier to her right. It was covered with a big towel so it was nice and dark inside. Mia wouldn’t budge.
I had to get the broom. I didn’t want to do it, but I couldn’t risk being bitten. I tried to keep Mia calm, but she shot between a small space between the toilet and the cat carrier and jumped into the bathtub. She was very scared but didn’t growl or try to attack me. I kept at it, coming towards her, slowly herding her back to the cat carrier.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya peeks in on Mia.
She was so afraid her bladder let go. I felt so badly when I saw the pale yellow fluid run out from under her tail. I wanted to rinse her off, but it was make or break and she needed to get into the carrier. I used the broom to carefully push her towards the open cat carrier. She wouldn’t move at first, but then suddenly made a run for it, this time into the cat carrier. I closed the door behind her and made sure it was closed properly.
Kendra had a room ready for Mia, with no places to hide. I waited for her to get home and update me on how things were going. Within a few minutes of her arriving, she sent me this video.
Later that night I got more images and videos. Brian was working on becoming Mia’s BFF. He “forgot” she was feral and picked her up. She just hissed, confused by the sudden contact. Brian and Kendra are both able to pet Mia, not just on her face, but on her back and even on her paws. Even Kendra's 8-year old son could pet her! Mia is stressed, but has moments where she closes her eyes and relaxes. It seems that it’s just a matter of time before we see even bigger changes. Maybe by tomorrow she’ll be ready to go?
Last June I asked all of you to weigh in on a question that was plaguing me; whether or not to transport our foster mom-cat, Mia from Georgia to my home in Connecticut along with her kittens or just transport the kittens. It wasn’t an easy question to answer because I knew that Mia was not friendly enough to be adopted as she was and I wasn’t sure IF she’d ever be friendly towards humans. It would cause a serious rescue-roadblock if she couldn’t be socialized. I couldn’t take on more rescues because she’d be taking up precious foster space, but I also owed it to her to find her a safe harbor and not just kick her to the curb.
©2104 Warren Royal. Pregnant, terrified, but out of danger Mia's story with us begins.
Mia’s first foster mom, Moe, was able to pet her, but they were in tight quarters and Mia had nowhere to hide. Her kittens were newborn so they didn’t get in the way of any of Moe’s attempts to socialize her. Moving Mia north, also meant she’d be in a bigger room and I’d have a tough time working with her, especially with her much bigger kittens sharing the room. Ideally I’d want to sequester her so it would be just one on one, forcing Mia to either become desensitized to humans or I’d eventually realize I couldn’t “turn her around.” The problem was; I didn’t have the space to separate her from the others.
I’d have to wait months for space to open up. The kittens would eventually be adopted but I’d end up with an adult feral cat remaining that I couldn’t allow to be with any new foster families. It was too dangerous. This HAD to work or I’d be forced to consider sending Mia back to Georgia where our good friend Warren would add her to his small feral colony.
©2104 Aunt Moe. Mia was a great mama. Here she is with baby Woody (left) and Lil' Snickers (right).
Warren originally trapped and rescued Mia when she was still pregnant, getting her away from a terribly dangerous situation. He told me I could count on him to take her back if things didn’t work out. It would be my very last option and I prayed I'd never have to go that route. It wouldn’t be fair to have Mia indoors for months, then chuck her back outside, especially to a place she’s not familiar with. Odds are, she’d run off and get killed or slowly starve to death. This situation weighed very heavily on me. I just couldn't give up on her.
Moe needed a much deserved break and after careful consideration I decided that Mia should head north with her family.
©2104 Robin AF Olson. Mia arrives and she's not the only one who's scared.
In late June, Mia and family arrived. From the moment she hissed, racing out of the carrier, I knew I was in trouble. I’d only ever worked with feral kittens, who typically socialize fairly quickly depending on their age. My own cat, Cricket was a horror when I began fostering him and he was 6 months old when I started working with him (in many books too old to try to socialize). He would have rather ripped my face off then let me pet him, but these days he’ll seek out attention, even sitting on my lap. It took years for Cricket to blossom. He’s brave now and even solicits attention from new people who visit our home. It required Sam and I had to work with him every day, but it paid off.
©2104 Robin AF Olson. The first day everyone was scared but it didn't take long for the kittens to seek out attention from me.
The problem was, I didn’t have the bandwidth to work with Mia.
Mia was never aggressive with me. She just hissed. She had no interest in toys or catnip, just food. She’d come to me, on occasion, if I held out a treat to her, but the kittens would usually snatch the morsel of chicken before I could shoo them away. I couldn’t pet Mia at all. It was just too chaotic in the room to try because she’d always back away and hiss.
I knew as soon as Celeste’s kittens were out of the blue bathroom I’d move Mia over and get to work. Then after Mia and family were adopted I would FINALLY take a break, too. It was the closest I’d gotten to thinking I could take some time off and frankly if I didn’t get it I was a bit worried about what would happen to my mental health.
©2104 Aunt Moe. The first of Laney's older kittens are rescued.
After a month off from fostering, Moe contacted me about her neighbor’s cat. She’d never been spayed and she was 3 years old and was pregnant again. There were kittens of various ages running around this family’s yard. Moe found one dead. The family flippantly told her “some just go off and never come back.” Most of the kittens were sick. There was a bowl of cheap cat food out on the porch. It was filthy and covered with flies. One of the mom-cat’s daughters was pregnant, too. Moe asked told the people if she could get help would the family would allow us to start spaying and neutering the cats or maybe let us take them into our program?
©2104 Aunt Moe. Laney (front left) with her six kittens and daughter Winnie (behind) with her sole surviving kitten (somewhere in the pile of other kittens).
While I couldn’t promise I’d bring all the cats here, I told her that we’d sort it out later. I knew we could raise the funds for their vet care but it would be costly to provide for them for the coming months. Clearly these animals were at high risk of dying and even though Moe and I were tapped out, we had to do something.
That was last August.
It’s been a blur since we took on Laney, Winnie and their 7 kittens, plus 6 other kittens that were from Laney’s previous litters. They were all in lousy shape and it was a lot of work on Moe’s part to care for so many cats and to get them back to health.
Meanwhile I was experiencing one after another calamity with my foster kittens. Twinkle-Twinkle broke her leg, Fernando ripped his eyelid in three places, Greta ate a string and had to have a barium study done all within a month.
Slowly, I started doing some adoptions. I knew I had to get the numbers down because Laney and crew would need the space in a few months. We got a great foster home with Jame and her family so they took on a few of the kittens to give me some relief.
I finally managed to free up space in the blue bathroom so I thought it would be time to move Mia there. It was early September and for the first time since I could remember, the bathroom could be used as a bathroom and I was a bit reluctant to change that.
©2104 Robin AF Olson. This tiny kitten would end up changing my life forever.
Before I could do a thing I got a call from my friends over at Animals in Distress about a kitten with a serious birth defect and could I just foster her for a weekend?
...to be continued.
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.