Catification. The Review & Interview with Jackson Galaxy & Kate Benjamin

In May 2011 the first episode of My Cat From Hell aired on Animal Planet. That moment heralded a new age for cats. It created a paradigm shift from calling people “cat owners” to “cat guardians”— where behavior issues of cats no longer fell solely with the cat but more often with their human's misconceptions. What had been explored brilliantly in print years before by other cat behaviorists failed to reach the ever-growing audience of frustrated cat parents, who were giving up their cats to shelters in record numbers. Nothing made an impact on cat guardians the way a television program could-if it was done well.

Enter the eye-poppingly tattooed Jackson Galaxy. When he took the stage we were mesmerized. He was charismatic, a colorful peacock with a disarming understanding of how cats tick. He showed the world just how deeply misunderstood cats really were and it broke our hearts to realize how wrong we’d been to vilify our cats.

In each episode we witnessed one cat after another emerge from of the confines of their chrysalis into a beautiful, confident creature. It touched anyone who shared their home with cats. We learned that if we were to truly love our cats then we must understand their needs. This is the season of the Cat and a new book, Catification is just what they’ve been waiting for us to read.


Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!)

teams up the savvy cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy with his My Cat From Hell design-darling Kate Benjamin, (who is also the guru of the deliciously cat-centric product mecca, to create the must-read book for every cat lover.

KateBenjamin PhotoCredit JohnBurchamPhotography DO NOT CROP

© John Burcham Photography. Used with permission from the author. Kate Benjamin in her studio.

Catification goes far beyond a simple well-designed full-color book of clever ways to enrich your cat’s environment. It’s also a concise guide to cat behavior. The reader will learn how to both identify what type of personality their cat has and how to create a space appropriate for that cat. Using clever, easy-to-remember terms Galaxy makes it simple for us to decode how our cat sees the world. Is she a Mojito or a Napoleon? Is another cat in the home a Wallflower? As we begin to answer these questions (there's even a worksheet starting on pg 38 to guide you) we learn how to create positive changes appropriate for any cat.

The most significant message in this book is that it’s important to see the world through a cat’s eyes to create a harmonious environment that the cat guardian would enjoy adding to their home. Through Galaxy’s skilled descriptions and Benjamin’s tasteful design choices we begin to see how empowering our cats through an enriched environment is the only way to go.

Catification is not about hanging shelves on the wall, and to fans of MCFH, building a “super highway” for your cat. It’s about helping your cat find their Mojo, a term Galaxy coined that refers to helping cats find their confidence in their space and being able to be their best selves. Do you really want your cat to be the cat that always hides under the bed?


©Kate Benjamin. Used with permission from the author. One of Kate's kitties enjoying her catio.

What was apparent right away from the clean and elegant design is that this book was going to be a breeze to read and understand regardless of whether you just adopted your first cat or if you’re like me and have more cats than you care to reveal in a blog post.

I was fortunate to be able to spend a few minutes with Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy (whose comments I’ve included, but paraphrased in some instances) and later with Kate Benjamin (who wrote direct replies to my questions and are shared verbatim) where we discussed where the term “Catification” came from along with a few other surprises. I asked each author many of the same questions for a point of comparison.


CICH: Where did the term “Catifcation” come from?

KB: Catification is the term that Jackson started using on his show when discussing aspects of cat behavior that have to do with environmental enrichment. As you know, Jackson’s expertise is in understanding what the cats need and mine is in understanding how to meet those needs in a way that pleases the cat guardians. Catification is where our worlds overlap. We now define Catification as “The art of designing your home to meet the needs of your cat without sacrificing your own sense of style.”

JG: “I made it up.” Galaxy chuckles. That said, the word, inspired by years of working the cat behavior clients, was what became the key term to developing the book project.

Galaxy doesn’t feel comfortable making generalizations about cats. His analogy that cats come “from the same cloud, but all are catflakes” rang true. They all have different needs and those needs change over the course of their life, making one of the underlying themes of Catfication to recognize each cat’s unique needs and partner that with a flexible and scalable environment.

Galaxy asked me if I recalled that Moen faucet commercial where the couple comes to the office of their designer and places an elegant faucet on his desk then says, “Build our home around this.” It’s the same sort of Designer/Client approach with cats, only this time you're the designer and your cats are the clients.

2. CICH: Describe the “ah ha” moment when you realized that cats needed more than a carpeted “kitty condo” or corrugated scratching pad to enhance their environment.

KB: A long time ago, even before I started writing about cat products, I began experimenting in my own home, building wall-climbing structures for my cats to expand their territory and keep them active. I think it was just a natural instinct for me to build things for my cats, maybe because of my background in interior design. I always felt that it was important to create in environment that is interesting for my cats but also attractive to me.

JG: Jackson Galaxy understood early on that cats needed more than just a cat bed by a sunny window to help them become the “best version of themselves they can be.” He admits for somewhat selfish reasons that he’s tired of hearing excuses about why some cat guardians can’t be more understanding of what their cats need. Case in point, when he has to give “homework” to one of his clients and the first request is to add a litter pan to a socially significant part of the home. “People would rather have their cat pee on their drapes than put a litter pan into their living room.”

That frustration gave birth to the idea of catification. It asked a simple question. How would he find a common ground that allowed for a litter pan to be placed wherever it was best for the cat while balancing the aesthetic and practical needs of the family? Galaxy wants to hold cat lovers “feet to the fire” he’s so passionate about this topic. He urges us to remove barriers that leave their cat unable to blossom and be their best cat-self.


Used with permission from the author. Example of a simple way to catify a space.

3. CICH: Why not just let cats go outside to get enrichment?

KB: I’m an advocate for keeping cats indoors simply because there are too many dangers for them outside. A lot of people think it’s unnatural to keep a cat inside, but with some simple changes to your home, cats can live full, rich lives indoors and you won’t have to worry about what they may encounter if they go outside.

JG: Whether cats are allowed outdoors is a hot-button topic. Galaxy plainly replied that “It’s your call, but you gotta know the risks because you don’t want to compromise.” In essence, though most people understand the inherent risks to cats living outdoors they simply make excuses to not make changes so their cat can be just as happy indoors as outdoors. One of the goals of Catification is to show everyone that “catifying” a space can be painless and there’s no reason not to do it since it doesn’t mean a costly change if someone is on a limited budget.

4. CICH:“Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!)” contains a number of real-world examples of how to enrich your cat’s environment. How many people submitted their stories and photos to you, hoping to earn a place in your book and which one stood out the most to you and why.

KB: Jackson and I have received hundreds of submissions from cat guardians all around the world, and we love seeing every one of them! We chose examples for this book that we felt would inspire others to see the possibilities for their own homes, even if they don’t have a lot of money or advanced skills. Simple projects like the table leg scratcher from Lucio Castro in Brooklyn (page 168) stand out to me just because it is so functional and elegant. It shows that anyone cat do this and do it in a way that doesn’t look like a crazy cat lady!


Used with permission from the author. Page 168. Table leg scratcher.


Used with permission from the author. Page 168. Table leg scratcher in use.

5. CICH: Would you say one of the goals of your book is to change people’s perspective to better understand how their cat views the world? If so, are there any other goals you set for yourself and which one was the most important.

KB: Absolutely, Catification seeks to help cat guardians see the world through the eyes of their cat. We want people to understand that they are the interior designer and their cat is the client. The designer needs to know the client’s preferences and come up with a plan to accommodate those preferences. We also want to get cat guardians excited about the possibilities of Catification and what it can do for their cats. It’s really a lot of fun to come up with a plan, implement it, and then watch the cats as they explore and use their new feature. We hope people will be inspired to do more and more.

JG: Galaxy wants to empower cat guardians so they can embrace the possibility of deepening the bond they share with their cats. It’s extremely gratifying to make changes to a cat’s environment and see him/her come out of their shell for the first time. The love people have for their cats is never in question, but through catification those cats can experience a dramatic shift in their day to day life.

His hopes are that readers “get it.” That they don’t suffer from “paralysis by analysis.” In other words, they don’t get mired down by feeling like they have to create a perfect space then get overwhelmed by options. In truth, they should focus on building a flexible “skeleton” where their design can change over time because their cats needs will change over time, too.

6. CICH: You’ve curated examples of catification from around the world on your web site, but was there one that just blew you away because of its creative solution, regardless of cost or time spent in creating it?

KB: I think the most impressive examples of fully integrated Catification come from Japan, where architects have built entire houses with the cat features designed in from the beginning. The end result is a seamless and elegant environment that appears to work beautifully for both the resident cats and humans.

7. CICH: What would you do to your own home to make it a masterpiece of Catification or have you already achieved it?

KB: I don’t think that Catification is ever complete; it’s an ongoing process. I’ve added some great features to my home including a large enclosed catio with climbing shelves and perches (featured on page 228), but now that I’ve watched the cats use the space, I see where I can expand their superhighway and add other features. The same goes for inside, I’ve added pieces here and there, like the shelves over my desk featured on page 128, but now I have some bigger projects I’d like to tackle that connect everything together. Wait until you see what I have planned for the bedroom!


Used with permission from the author. Detail of Kate's office from page 128.

8. CICH: What would you suggest to people who have handicapped or senior cats and who want to catify their home but are concerned about their cats falling off shelves?

KB: Senior cats or cats with mobility issues do require special consideration. Definitely make sure that any surface they are climbing on has a non-slip covering, like a sisal rug remnant or rubber-backed floor mat, to give them better traction. Make sure that climbing shelves are nice and wide and you can even add a little railing on the edge. Ramps are very useful in households with senior cats or cats with mobility issues. We show you how to make a simple cat ramp on page 183 using just a board and some sisal rope. This ramp can be used to help cats climb up to places where they can no longer jump. The sisal rope gives them plenty of traction and serves double duty as a scratcher.


Used with permission from the author. Lovely, clear photography enhances the “how to” section of the book.

9. CICH (Only asked KB): How many cats do you have and how has catifying their space changed their inter-relationships or relationship with you?
KB: I live with my boyfriend and 11 cats in our 1,100 sq ft condo. The features we’ve added, like the catio and the climbing areas, really expand the space and give everyone a way to spread out so they’re not all fighting over the same spot. It’s interesting how some of them have their favorite spots, while others just want to be wherever we are. I can’t imagine living without cats, it would be very lonely and boring!

10. (Only asked JG): You combined homes when you married your wife Minoo. How did catification come in to play to help ease cat to cat and cat to dog introductions and did you do any planning before joining homes to how you’d set up cat superhighways?

JG: Galaxy related that it’s an ongoing process for everyone and that just because he’s the Cat Daddy doesn’t mean things are all “rainbows and unicorns.” He mentioned the recent loss of his cat, Chuppy and described him as being the “corrections officer” keeping the others in line. He wasn’t necessarily the “alpha cat,” but he made sure things ran smoothly. After his passing Galaxy describes the chaos that ensued and that he and Minoo are still adjusting and adding routes throughout their home and removing any dead ends near litter pans. Right now he doesn’t feel he has the luxury of imagining what it could be, but is focused on “building by necessity.”

I asked him about special needs and senior cats and how to catify for them. Galaxy hinted about there being more focus on that coming up in another project, but was hesitant to tell me more. He did offer that things like rails for shelves, or ramps that gently rise have to be factored in for some cats. Seniors need more horizontal catification, but he added his 23-yr old cat Velouria still wants to get on the table and he made sure there was a way for her to do that safely.



is 304 pages in paperback and other formats and is available NOW. You can find ordering options HERE. List price is about $12.90 depending on format.

You can catch Jackson and Kate in person on their Book Tour, too! There are still a few stops left.


ONE LUCKY PERSON will WIN A FREE COPY OF CATIFICATION (and MAYBE it will even be autographed if I can get it done when I see the authors in a few days). At least you’ll get a book. Open to residents of USA only. To enter simply LIKE our FACEBOOK PAGE, then LEAVE a comment HERE. One comment per person. Duplicates will be eliminated. Tell me WHY you need Catification and best, funniest, most clever, subject to my choice will win a copy of the book. DEADLINE IS OCTOBER 24, 2014 2:22PM EST.

Not a Moment too Soon. Saturday's Story.

One of my friends texted me Friday night. His wife found a cat wandering, thin, weak in the middle of the road. They are big animal lovers so it wasn't a surprise she ran to the cat's aide.

They hadn't seen the cat before, unlike many others who have come and gone through their yard this summer. They asked their friends and neighbors if anyone was missing their cat, meanwhile they were wondering what to do for her until they could find her family. I stepped in to offer help and guidance not realizing what that would mean until later.

Walking 475
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. You can't really see it but she is VERY thin. You can easily feel all her bones, yet she still manages to purr for us.

I had planned to bring them some food and take photos of the kitty, but they told me she had a cough. I didn't want to chance it with her being sick so I offered to pay for the vet exam if they took her down the road to my vet, Dr. Larry's office. I didn't think it would be a big issue, but little did I know the kitty would be in far worse condition than I expected.


The kitty is a female. Betty, who runs the front desk at Dr. Larry's named her Saturday since we had to have a name for her records. We joked about what an odd choice it was for a name, but the laughs didn't last long. Once I got a good look at the cat my heart sank. She was thin, dirty. You could tell she felt cold from the effects of starving for who knows how long. My friends said she hadn't eaten over the night and only slept. She had a frailness about her I'd seen before in older cats that gave me pause.


Full body 475
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Saturday.

We ended up doing blood work and it surprised us that she was in better shape than we feared. Clearly she had issues from being seriously dehydrated but most of her functions were ok and she did not have Feline Leukemia or FIV, which is great news. Dr. Larry's partner, Dr. Mary, did the exam. She thought the kitty might be 10 years old or possibly even older. Her teeth are a mess but intact. She had a crust over her nostrils which we assumed to be an upper respiratory tract infection and along with it an odd snort/cough. These were things we could treat so I started to feel more hopeful as my friend and his wife bantered about talking about how they could not keep this cat, but yet she matched their dogs (my joke) and was sweet and was a girl in an otherwise all male household (the wife's reason to keep her).

Dr. Mary felt maybe she could go after getting SubQ fluids but ideally she should be on an IV. We talked about what was best for the sweet old kitty and I said we should do what's right, not what is the cheapest solution so we opted to transfer Saturday over to Newtown Veterinary Specialists (where I feel I should have my own room I've been there so often over the past few months).


We got Saturday settled at NVS and I got the estimate for her treatment. It was $1700.00 for about 36 hours of care. Dr. Mary had said we didn't need that much time so I pushed back and asked for a revised estimate. Here I was with a cat I knew nothing about, an older cat when I run a mostly kitten rescue. I was in over my head and I knew it wouldn't take much to drain our accounts for a cat that wasn't really ours. She might have a family out there looking for her. She might have been cruelly dumped. I guess it didn't really matter because Saturday needed help and my rescue was the only one who could provide the funds to make that happen if we used what I'd set aside to finally fix our foster room to help her.


This estimate of a bit over $1000. will be low. It was for only one day of care and Saturday is going to need 2 at least.

Saturday's been at NVS for a full day. She's still not eating. Her blood work is about the same, though in some areas she is a bit better. The red flag in her case is the fact that she won't eat. The Vets fear there is an underlying problem, like a cancer in her sinuses or cancer elsewhere. We'd have to do a very expensive CT scan to find it and then we have to look at how do we pay for these things and in the end does it make any difference for Saturday?

If any of you have read my stories before you know I am not one to give up on a cat. Right now we're giving her more time to be on the IV and I hope and pray she will eat on her own. They don't think she has an upper respiratory tract infection and that the crust we saw yesterday was not related to that, but something worse.

All I know is I want to continue to provide for this sweet girl. It's not right that she was cold, alone and starving when she should have a warm, love-filled life.

Face 475
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. In good hands.

Ways you can help Saturday

Call NVS and make a donation directly to Saturday's Fund at 203-270-8387. Please note: you will need a PayPal account to donate. They can’t take credit cards over the phone for security reasons.

We get more of your donation if you donate directly using our PayPal address: or if you go through our DONATE page on our web site.

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 Saturday, too.

Your donation is Tax Deductible. K.A. is a non-profit rescue and our IRS EIN is 27-3 597692.

Any funds we don’t use for Saturday we will set aside for other kitties who need help.

Pray or send good thoughts to Saturday. She needs all of our love.

Sleeping 475 b
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. She was so tired she fell asleep while we waited for her blood test results to come back.

You Are My Everything

Dear Friends of Covered in Cat Hair,

The past two months have been grueling, as you have seen from my blog posts. If it wasn’t Twinkle-Twinkle breaking her leg or Fernando ripping his eyelid in three places, it was the death of a colleague or the passing of beloved foster cat.

Over that time, too, I had to ask and ask again for donations, gifts of cat food and towels for our little Freya, the kitten with the rare birth defect or funds to help Laney and Winnie's kittens-especially sweet Piglet. You NEVER let me down no matter how many times I regretfully had to “go to the well again” and ask for a few dollars or few cans of cat food more. If I could, I’d call each one of you or visit your home and give all of you a hug and tell you how very grateful I am for your never-wavering support.

Attending to her Kittens R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Celeste tends to her kittens while they wait for their checkup at the Vet last May.

Most people have a family they turn to when times get tough. My parents are long gone and I don’t have much family left, certainly not any who frets about me or who I can turn to (other than Sam). I’m very lucky to have a new family made up of a few close friends and I have a family in all of you.

At first, writing stories about my life doing cat rescue was something I needed to do for myself, but over the nearly nine years of writing, it has become much more than that. It's a two-way street. You share with me as much as I share with you. I’ve read all your comments and taken joy in all the photos you share with us on Facebook of all your dear cats. It really makes me happy to know we’re all in this together and we all care about each other.

Freya mid Bath R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya.

Thank you, everyone for caring about my little rescue kitties and for caring about me and Sam and our resident cats, too. Thank you for reminding me I’m not alone in my grief, that you have lost dear friends, too and that you may struggle as much or far more than I do. You remind me that my lessons have helped you, helped your cat maybe live a better life. It's my way of giving back for all that I receive from all of you.

I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll have some more cheerful news for you soon and I’m planning a few fun giveaways coming up as yet another way to show my appreciation for sticking with me on this rollercoaster journey doing cat rescue.

You are my everything and without all of you, I just don’t know how I’d survive.

With sincere appreciation & love,


Piggie 10 5 14 650
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Piglet's growing fast into a lovely young lady.

Calling All Angels. The Passing of Celeste.

It’s hard to hold your head up high as a cat rescuer when you feel like you completely failed and in that error, an animal died because of it. It’s one thing to make a mistake on your taxes—sure it sucks, you might pay a fine or owe more than you should, but it’s not life or death.

Cleaning Kitten R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Celeste giving birth May 13, 2014. Twinkle-Twinkle and Little Star were her first two born to a live audience on our web cam.

I’ve already had one experience this year feeling like I failed when Celeste’s kitten, Fiorello died. He only lived a day and though I tried, I’m not an experienced bottle-feeder. There was no time to even FIND someone to help me and because I wasn’t completely prepared and I didn’t even have all the tools that might have helped him. After he died, I took my starfish pendant off. Prior to that day I’d rarely been without it. It’s my rescue totem. I thought perhaps I could put it back on one day, but that day has not come. With what happened a few days ago I wonder if I ever WILL be able to wear it again.

Celeste is dead. My sweet foster mama of 5 is gone. Forever. When she died, between the shock and grief all I could think about was how I must have made a mistake and SHE paid for it with her life. I didn’t feel I deserved to do rescue any more. I thought it was time to stop. I was getting a sign that I just didn’t have the chops and I should LISTEN to that and not be arrogant by pointing a finger at the Vet who did the spay surgery or the foster home who didn’t realize she was in bad shape after the surgery was over. I missed something and now I’d have the rest of my life to reflect on how stupid I am.

Celeste R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. The ever-lovely Celeste.

Celeste went in for a routine spay surgery. In fact I had to put off her appointment over and over again because some of our foster kittens were having accidents and I was finding myself at NVS (our emergency Vet) at least once or twice a week. I also needed to separate Celeste from her kittens so her mammary glands could dry out before spay and that took two weeks. From my goal of July, here it was the end of September and I finally had everything ready so she could not only get her surgery, but finally GO TO HER FOREVER HOME.

The woman who first took Celeste off the streets after she was dumped and pregnant had wanted Celeste to return to her one day. I’d kept in touch with her all summer and she was very understanding about the constant delays. The latest plan was to do the spay, give Celeste a few days to recover and by the end of the week, Celeste would go home.

But things didn't go as planned.

Celeste survived the surgery and there was nothing to suggest she was in any trouble after the procedure was completed. Before I picked her up the morning after her spay to bring her to her foster home they tried to give her a shot for pain, but she was so fractious they couldn’t do it and decided they could only release her as is. When I dropped her off at her foster home I was concerned when I saw her leave her cat carrier. She wobbled badly as if she was STILL sedated. I called the vet and the tech said she was just in pain and I could come back and get the painkiller if needed. I thought I’d wait the night to see how she was doing and go back. I’d just driven 50 miles to pick her up and deliver her and it was only 10 AM and I wasn’t up for driving any more. I’d been taking care of little Freya around-the-clock for 2 weeks at that time and I was grossly sleep deprived. Looking back I wish I had taken Celeste right back to the vet, but I didn’t. I told the foster family to let me know if anything was off and to call me right away if they thought something was wrong. They checked in that night and said she was sore but seemed okay.

Hugging no 3 R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Celeste holds Fiorello who lived only a day.

At 7 AM I got a call. They were worried about Celeste. I was there by 7:15 AM. When I saw Celeste I thought she was dead. When I ran my hand along her side as she laid so very still on the floor. She was cold. She was cold in a way that told me she was dying.

She lifted her head and cried softly. I gently lifted her and quickly put her into the cat carrier on a thick warm towel. I raced to NVS, calling them on the way, telling them Celeste was critical so they would be ready when I arrived. I talked to Celeste. She was so limp she slid along inside the carrier as if all her strength had run out. I told her she was a great mama. I told her I loved her and her kittens were doing really well. I told her to hang on that I was going to get her help and I prayed I was right.

It was a cold, slate gray, rainy morning. I parked in the handicapped parking space, grabbed the carrier and was in the building a few seconds later, not caring that I was breaking the law. A tech ran out and took Celeste from me. That was the last time I saw her alive.

Celeste Before James R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. The last good photo of Celeste after her kittens were weaned. She looked so radiant.

I’ve been to NVS so many times in the past month that just about everyone there knows me. The ladies at the front desk were very comforting as they handed me tissue after tissue. I knew Celeste was dying and I was pretty sure I was too late. I paced back and forth, waiting for Dr. Berube, the Critical Care specialist, to let me know what was going on. I’d told the tech to spare no expense, to not bother to give me an estimate and to focus on helping Celeste. Time was running out.

About 30 minutes later Dr. B. came out to talk to me. She was very calm and matter-of-fact, but told me that Celeste’s blood couldn’t clot and that they could try a blood transfusion, but that also her temp was critically low and they were having a hard time getting blood for a CBC because she was so cold. A tech interrupted us and I knew it was bad news. Dr. B left and returned a few minutes later. She told me that Celeste’s heart had stopped. That they were doing CPR. She told me some options of what they could do. I felt all the blood leave my face. My legs felt weak. I asked her to help me because I couldn’t think any more. I told her that money wasn’t a worry and that IF there was something heroic to do it because she was a young cat, but the tech returned only moments later and I could tell from the look on her face that our options had run out.

Lunch on Mom R Olson copy
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Giving life on so many levels.

I asked Dr. B. to take me to Celeste. She was surrounded by the staff. One was squeezing a pump to breathe for Celeste and the other was rubbing her chest. I told them thank you but it was okay to stop. They stopped, bowing their heads in unison as we all knew that Celeste was already long gone. Some moved away and went about other tasks. I asked them to extubate Celeste. She didn’t need a tube down her throat any more. They detached all the equipment, only her back leg still had a blue bandage wrapped around it. Beth, one of the techs, and Dr. B talked to me. I’m not sure what Dr. B said. I was in shock. I heard words like “clotting disorder” and “internal bleeding,” but I can’t even be sure. All I knew was the once playful, silly, sometimes cranky, always beautiful Celeste was dead and it was my fault.

Farewell Celeste R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Farewell beloved girl.

I held Celeste’s paw and said goodbye. I petted her as I told her how sorry I was for letting her down. I said I loved her again and many other things as I looked at her lifeless body, secretly praying that like on a TV show maybe her heart would miraculously start beating again and she would really be just fine after all. We’d all hug and smile and laugh, relieved that the nightmare was over. How I wish that had been the case.

Beth kept me company, handing me tissues. She talked to me about her cat and I told her about how great Celeste was as a mom and how I never rescued a seal point Siamese before. Everyone was very kind to me as I waited for Sam to arrive. I called Celeste’s foster mom and told her the bad news, sick to my stomach with fear that maybe they missed something and if we’d had more time maybe Celeste would still be alive. Maybe I didn’t tell them enough things to look for—again it was my fault. Maybe the vet killed her with a bad spay surgery so I called them and yelled, then hung up on them after screaming “She’s DEAD! What the F_ did you do to my cat?”

After weeks of sleep deprivation, not eating well, rushed design projects to complete so I could make something of a living, I had no gas in the tank. I was completely destroyed by this loss and what made matters worse was I could not forgive myself.

Getting bath from mom R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Little Star gets a bath from mama.

For the next two days I cried. I tried to sleep. I tried to understand what I did wrong and how I would never do it again. I focused on work, on caring for Freya and the other fosters. I couldn’t even talk to the Vet because Dr. Mille’s office was closed until Friday so I had to wait another day to talk to him. I didn’t even want to make the call because I felt so let down. Why let a cat leave the clinic when she might have not been doing so well in the first place? Maybe it WAS their fault?

It was my fault. Kitten Associates is MY rescue. It’s my mistake no matter what the truth turns out to be. I can’t describe how ashamed and angry I felt.

I finally got up the nerve to call to Dr. M.. I knew he was waiting for me to put blame on him so before I could do that he thoroughly went over the surgery and what he found. I learned a lot of things that shocked me deeply.

What I didn’t know was that Celeste was fractious at the Vet. So fractious they listened to her heart but that was all they could do before her surgery. It wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker.

Celeste Playing R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Celeste went crazy over her organic wool pom-poms. She went nuts over catnip, too.

Celeste’s surgery was more time consuming than normal because she was in heat. It’s not a life or death procedure if a cat’s in heat, but it takes longer and is more invasive. While Dr. Mille was doing the surgery he noticed a few things that surprised him. Celeste’s uterus showed clear signs of NOT being that of a young cat. I’d been told Celeste was 2 years old and never questioned it and since Dr. M. couldn’t do a careful exam, he didn’t see her worn teeth and yellowed build up of tartar. Opened up Dr. M. could see Celeste’s ovaries were full of cysts. This would cause Celeste to be in heat 24/7/365. The hormones would be coursing through her body. She’d have emotional issues. It could cause a whole host of problems which lead Dr. M to change the estimate of Celeste’s age to closer to 10 years old.

Celeste was nearly 10 years of age, but no one told me when I picked Celeste up after her spay.

The other shocker was the report from NVS and Dr. B. It said that they pulled some blood from Celeste’s abdomen. Her blood would not clot. If blood doesn’t clot, it’s fatal. You can do a blood transfusion and it buys time, but it’s not a cure. The root causes of the clotting disorder are many. Celeste could have had an underlying heart or liver condition. She could have had a very rare disorder called D.I.C. caused by her being so fractious and being spayed shortly afterwards or from having cancer or other issues or any combination of issues.

Or the clotting disorder could be genetic.

Then my heart truly sank. Celeste could have been a ticking time bomb all her life. If she’d been spayed at any other point, by any other Vet she still would have died. If the clotting disorder was more recently an issue, there still wasn’t a cure. Celeste’s death wasn’t anyone’s fault, not even mine, though if I’d known she was 10 I would have done pre-op blood work, but if we discovered she couldn’t be spayed, what would her life have been like being in heat forever?

Dr. M. was very gracious. He offered to help me develop a protocol for pre-screening cats when it’s time to spay them. He told me about a 6-month old kitten who was at a very big vet hospital getting neutered, where they had Board Certified surgeons who could have done something. They sedated the kitten and he died. He had a serious heart problem and the sedation killed him. Not even the brilliant surgeons could save him. He said things like this, though rare, can happen and that he was very sorry about Celeste. I realized he was not at fault and I finally had some peace knowing I could let some of my pain go.

©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. First catnip after kittens were weaned.

But then something occurred to me that made me feel sicker. I asked him about Celeste’s kittens. They’d been spayed and neutered and were fine, but could they have the clotting disorder, too? Dr. M. said they could and that they all need to be tested. I told him I’d set up an appointment later, but I’d heard enough. I needed to process this shocking news. After I hung up the phone I had another long crying jag.

It wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t a total loser. We’d lost a great cat and that would never change. Hopefully if, God-forbid, her kittens have this disorder we will know and maybe they can still have a good life. I don’t know if that’s even possible, but we’ll do our best.

Celeste outside
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Our first look at Celeste, pregnant and on her own, dumped by her family who didn't have use for her any longer.

I thought about Celeste, dumped, pregnant, with what I always assumed was her first or second litter. How many kittens had she delivered over her lifetime? Easily she could have had well over 100. Maybe they were out there somewhere with that same time bomb ticking away inside them? I would never know, but Celeste must have had a very difficult and pain-filled life.

Lessons Learned

Our two remaining mama-cats in Georgia will benefit from what I’ve learned. We’re going to be doing full CBCs, a PT/PTT blood coagulation test and x-rays to make certain that due to them having multiple litters of kittens that they, too, don’t have issues that would make their spay surgeries high-risk or fatal.

Sam said to me that as bad as this loss is that maybe it would save 1000 cat’s lives because of this painful lesson and that I would share this news with others. I would tell them that if they have purebred cats, to screen them for clotting ability before surgery. If they rescue, make sure they check the cat and do their own age assessment and for adult cats, talk to their Vet about if they should run a PT/PTT before spay surgeries. For myself, I need to do a much better job communicating to my foster home what the signs are if a cat is not doing well beyond “anything that seems odd.”

This morning I was in my car listening to my iPod through the car speakers. I was playing songs in alphabetical order and “Calling All Angels” started to play. I sang along as tears raced down my cheeks. Knowing I couldn’t have saved Celeste was a minor comfort, but the pain of her loss will always be with me.

Calling All Angels

Oh, a man is placed upon the steps, a baby cries
High above, you can hear the church bells start to ring
And as the heaviness, oh the heaviness, the body settles in
Somewhere you could hear, a mother sing

Then it's one foot then the other as you step out on the road
Step out on the road, how much weight, how much weight?
Then it's how long and how far and how many times
Oh, before it's too late?

Calling all Angels, calling all Angels
Walk me through this one, don't leave me alone
Calling all Angels, calling all Angels
We're trying, we're hoping, but we're not sure how

Oh, and every day you gaze upon the sunset
With such love and intensity
Why, it's ah, it's almost as if you crack the code
You'd finally understand what this all means

Oh, but if you could, do you think you would
Trade it all, all the pain and suffering?
Oh, but then you would've missed the beauty of
The light upon this earth and the sweetness of the leaving

Calling all Angels, calling all Angels
Walk me through this one, don't leave me alone
Calling all Angels, calling all Angels
We're trying, we're hoping, but we're not sure why

Calling all Angels, calling all Angels
Calling all Angels, calling all Angels
Walk me through this one, walk me through this one
Don't leave me alone

Calling all Angels, calling all Angels
We're trying, we're hoping, we're hurting, we're loving
We're crying, we're calling
'Cause we're not sure how this goes*


*Published by Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Fly Free Celeste R Olson copy
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Fly Free, sweet Celeste.

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WINNER BEST CAUSE BLOG. Kitten Associates!


I'm completely shocked, honored and delighted to win the 2014 DogTime Media Pettie Award for Best Cause Blog! Thank you Dogtime Media and all our friends who voted for our little rescue Kitten Associates and who believe and support what we do.

We'd also like to Congratulate and Thank Ingrid King, who writes The Conscious Cat and Angie Holland Bailey, who writes Texts from Mittens, who also won in their categories. Part of their award is a $1000.00 donation to any rescue or shelter and they both chose Kitten Associates. This means that we will soon have $3000.00 in award donations we can put towards our rescue efforts.

More than any amount of money or trophy, this award means we're on the right track—that our efforts have meaning to all of you, even more than simply (though it is never really simple) saving lives. We work very hard at what we do and are devoted to the cats in our care. I love sharing stories of how rescue works and how although it's not always a happy ending, it is one filled with love.

Thank you to everyone who tirelessly voted for us. We can feel your love, big time!

For Freya. Bonus Part 3.

(continued from Part 1 and part 2)

I took Freya back to NVS for a checkup 48 hours ago. She had a new set of x-rays done, but sadly they didn’t show any improvement. The good news is she didn’t get worse, so at least she was considered to be in stable condition. Dr. Andrews and I discussed next steps. Once again we agreed that we should wait to do the surgery, instead of doing it that day. I asked about a goal weight or age for her and he said really that it was most likely too risky to wait long. Freya could get an infection in her urethra that could go into her bladder, then kidneys. Of course there was the constant concern about how much stool was inside her and the effect that had on her intestines. He told me he’d reached out to Dr. P. but hadn’t heard back yet so it was wait and see as to when the surgery would occur. I figured it would be a few more days, tops.

I was faced with going home and wondering how I could keep my schedule clear for the next week? weeks? When? Could I keep Freya comfortable? Could I find a way to exist and not lose my mind from the stress of worrying about her and from flat out being exhausted.

Freya mid Bath R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya, mid-bath.

That night Sam made us dinner. Rice pasta and sauce. I was grateful I didn’t have to cook. I was so hungry and tired. I just wanted to sit down and eat in peace, maybe watch a little bit of television to settle my nerves. I had about two bites of dinner, as I sat on the sofa holding my plate in my lap as we watched the truly moronic and cringe-worthy show, “Love Prison.” I was contemplating changing the channel when I saw my cat, DOOD, appear at my feet. He looked up at me and right away I knew what that look that meant —“I’m going to jump in your lap.” I couldn’t react fast enough to stop my stupid cat from jumping into my plate of pasta. I screamed as he slid across the plate, then jumped over my shoulder, running for his life. I let lose a psychotic rant about how I was SO F’ING SICK OF THE F’ING CATS! My legs were scratched. I felt two fingertips on my right hand begin to sting as if bees had just attacked me, then looked down to find he’d somehow sliced them open. But the worst sight was in my plate. Two big paw prints smashed into the food leaving some cat hair behind. Most days it wouldn’t be a big deal, but right then and there, my world had stopped spinning. I’m surprised I didn’t start foaming at the mouth I was so ANGRY and UPSET. If I had any wine I would have run to the liquor cabinet and slammed it down or better yet grabbed a bottle of vodka to quell my rage, but all I could do was cry and somehow try to pull myself together long enough to clean myself up.

DOOD in the Box R Olson 475
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Trouble, thy name is DOOD.

Sam put something together for me to eat on a clean plate, but it wasn’t much of anything. I lost my appetite as a monster of a headache crept between my temples. It was already almost 9pm. Why was I eating anyway? I knew it was too late to eat, but most days it seems that’s when we finally had time to take a break.

I finished my nightly rounds, getting the foster kittens fed and Fernando's eye medicated in a very sour mood. When I got to Freya's room I told her that I had to get some sleep. I was going to set the alarm for 6:30 AM instead of 4:30 AM. It was nearly midnight and though I’d worry about her, I had to sleep or it could be bad for me. She looked up at me with her periwinkle blue eyes and meowed. She understood. I gave her a kiss and said good night.

It was the first real sleep of longer than 4 hours I’ve had in weeks. Even after I got up at 6:30 AM, after 2 hours of feeding and playing with Freya, I went back to bed for a few more hours. I felt like a greedy bear on a winter’s day.

Changes need to be made. Freya would only be here a few more days. I could push through this difficult time, then re-focus on getting my fosters adopted and getting work done. I had to have faith I could keep Freya going and if not I felt I could spot when she was in trouble and get her help quickly. I needed to CALM DOWN and give myself more time to rest if needed. It would be all right.

Then Connie & Katherine called me and it changed everything.

The plan for Freya’s surgery was finally settled. Connie and Katherine were practically giddy when they spoke. Katherine urged Connie to tell me the GOOD NEWS. She asked me if I was sitting down. I told her I was, wondering what she was going to tell me. There is no way I saw this coming…

Freya is to stay in foster care for SIX MORE WEEKS. At that time Dr. Andrews and another surgeon are going to take Freya to Boston where Dr. P. will do the surgery at Angell Memorial. There will be THREE surgeries in total. The first two may occur relatively closely together. The third will happen some time later. The last surgery will be to remove what they expect to be some of Freya’s colon which will have become a megacolon.

After she recovers Freya will still be incontinent, but only with stool. Since she’ll be able to pass stool from a newly created opening, that means she won’t be leaking any more. She won’t be in pain. She will only drop a poo here and there, instead of leak and drip all over the floor and herself. She won't need to be bathed all the time. I know if we eventually put her on a raw diet, her poo won’t smell and she'll hardly go poo at all and when it comes out, it’s dry as dust. It won’t even leave a stain. But there’s a very long time between today and that “some day” and a lot of risky and difficult procedures she has to survive.

©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya washes her face and we all swoon.

It’s going to be a VERY LONG ROAD for Freya. I don’t know how long she’ll be in Boston or how many trips she’ll have to make. I know that Angell Memorial is living up to its name. They’re providing sanctuary and hope for Freya and they’re going to work with us on costs. The fine details are as yet to be revealed. One day I may ask all of you to help us with donations for her. Right now, in addition prayers and good wishes, I could really use some MORE towels! I also need some cat food and another little hut for Freya to sleep in (so I can get my laundry basket back). I’ll post those things on our Wishlist if you’d like to send Freya a little gift. Other than that, I'm going to ask that you think good thoughts for me, too. I’m 100% dedicated to Freya, but I need to do a better job finding balance. I’ve got 10 kittens and 2 adult cats to find homes for as soon as I can and another 14 in Georgia with Moe who need to get here soon to find their homes, too. I keep promising myself I’m going to take a break. I just hope this challenge doesn’t break me first.

Beautiful Freya R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Need a mountain to move? Freya knows just how to do it with that sweet face.

As for Freya, she hit the jackpot of all time. From a tiny, flea-covered kitten with a once hopelessly incurable birth defect who was born outdoors to a wild mother, to being the focus of many highly-skilled surgeons, a few very devoted rescuers and a worldwide group of fans, I’d say it doesn’t get much better than that. Freya is a magnet for love and compassion. She’s a great teacher and for that I’m truly grateful.

Of course this story will continue but for right now we can exhale until the next chapter arrives.

For Freya. Part 2 of 2

continued from Part 1.

Some stories benefit from stretching the facts a bit here and there, but in telling Freya’s story I’m so stunned by the latest events that I can barely put the words down. Would anyone believe me if I told the truth? I barely believe me and I’m living this story.

Since I last wrote Freya gave me a bad scare one night. She wasn’t eating much and seemed a bit limp. I wrapped her up and brought her downstairs. Feeling too worked up with fear to hold her I gave her to Sam. He’s a very gentle, compassionate person and I thought maybe Freya would perk up getting some TLC from him.

9 23 14 curled up r olson rt
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Something must be going right. Freya normally could not sleep curled up due to all the stool inside her. Surely she must be feeling better.

It took some time but it worked. Freya began to purr, then alerted by the sound of one of the many cats in the room she looked around. Her eyes got wide as she took in our monster-sized cats. Sam comforted her and she settled back down. He got her to play with a toy as he continued to cradle her in his arms. Our cats took little interest in her because hey, they see so many foster cats another cat won’t even get a second look.

I eventually brought her upstairs to her room where she finally ate. I got her cleaned up and tucked into her little strawberry hut cat bed. I hated to leave her even for a few hours, but I needed some sleep. It was another fitful night, though, as I worried I missed something and that she’d crash while I was passed out.

But Freya perked up. Her black tarry stool smears were turning a more healthy brown. She didn’t seem quite as drippy as before, but also seemed to be moving more “material” out of her. I began to formulate a routine, one of picking up all the soiled towels on the cat beds and the base of the cat tree, putting out fresh ones, scrubbing off soiled spots on the floor, putting down food and water, getting the dirty towels into the washer then set for “sanitize,” but I couldn’t quite sort out what Freya’s routine was quite as easily.

Freya in strawberry r olson copy

©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya in her strawberry shack, with her SnuggleKittie and a nice heated pad to keep her toasty on these cool autumn evenings.

Freya eats well, then doesn’t, but it could be that she’s just not hungry or that she feels uncomfortable from being dirty. Now I wash her before she eats and that works. I also mimic what Freya’s mother would do to her as she eats and after she eats-I rub her gently but vigorously to get her blood flowing. It seems to help her appetite and gets her purr-motor going.

Freya is slowly gaining weight, but I can feel her bones around her spine and shoulders. I don’t know how much nutrition she’s getting and I fear the gain is just stool. That said I swear her belly does not feel has hard to me or as big as it did before, but I could be wrong. She’s at 1 lb 7 oz. If I had my way I’d get her to 2 lbs, which is the smallest size we ever get kittens spayed. I have to be happy with what she achieves and hope it will be enough. It’s Friday September 19th and we have 4 ½ days to get her weight up a bit more before her scheduled surgery.

This is where Freya's story begins to take a very crazy turn.

Laurie, one of our adopters, offered to check out Angell Memorial, one of the big Veterinary Specialty hospitals in the Northeast for a surgeon to get a second opinion for us and I agreed. Laurie talked to her Vet to get some suggestions and through her found “The Guy,” Dr. Michael Pavletic. This Surgeon specializes in soft tissue reconstruction of small animals. He takes on unusual cases and comes up with creative solutions to repair the toughest ones. She reached out to his assistant to ask about whether Freya’s case would be one he’d be able to work on or at least be able to consult with our surgeons.

His assistant’s reply was rather terse, but I understood that we’d only sent x-rays and some medical notes and he really needed to SEE Freya.

Meanwhile Laurie was pushing me to bring Freya to Boston, to Angell. The more she pushed, the more I got upset. It was one thing to get an opinion and another to move Freya to Boston where I’d have to stay in a hotel and hope she survived the trip and the surgery. Once there, then what? How long would her recovery be? What would happen if she needed follow-up care? I can’t drive nearly 3 hours each way when I don’t even have bandwidth to get to the grocery store.

My head started spinning. What would he charge? Newtown Veterinary Specialists was being SO GOOD to us that I felt like I was cheating on them. What if we went to Boston and Freya lived, but then crashed here? Do I drive her to Boston or 15 minutes down the road to NVS? The logistics just wouldn’t work, but I saw the reasoning that if this surgeon was the top in his field and we could get his help, we had to try. I couldn’t stomach doing it by stepping on NVS’s toes or by being dismissive or rude to them. I had to find a way.

I talked to Sam about it. I thought we were OK going to NVS. The surgeons are Board Certified. NVS is a Level II Certified Emergency & Medical Care Center and the only one to get this certification in New England! This is not some backwater Specialty Vet, but now my confidence was shaken. I didn’t know what to do. In truth, Connie and Katherine, who run Animals in Distress had to choose because Freya was THEIR cat. I was just fostering her.

Forelorn Freya
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Waiting for playtime.

Laurie kept urging me to do something. She contacted Dr. P.’s assistant a few times, asking for more information. Exhausted to the point of not being able to think clearly, upset, maybe a bit angry for feeling like I wasn’t doing enough for Freya but didn't have the bandwidth to do more, I emailed Connie and Katherine and told them about this Vet. I said it was their choice what to do. I thought they’d say just to stay the course, but Connie wrote and said we should have Dr. P. do a consult.

Connie got on the phone and began making arrangements, but somewhere in between all the calls to Dr. P., to NVS and some of the Vets there, she got a bit confused about what the game plan was. I reached out to Bernadette, an affable woman who has been working behind the scenes to help Freya. She’s the Office Manager at NVS. She’d been in touch with Connie and had been working on a game plan after speaking with our awesome, deliciously green-eyed surgeon Dr. Andrews and his boss, the super-talented Dr. Weisman. Bernadette wanted the best for Freya and it turns out she was not alone.

When Bernadette told Dr. Weisman about Dr. P, everything changed. Freya’s case, as I’ve said before is rare, but I had no idea HOW rare it was. It’s so rare that Dr. Weisman decided to invite Dr. P. to come to Newtown to do the surgery HERE. That Freya’s is a teaching case and that MANY Vets would be in attendance to observe and learn from Dr. P.

If Dr. P. couldn't make the trip, then there was some discussion of sending two Vets with Freya to Boston to do the surgery THERE.

I’m not kidding. This is the real deal.

I spoke with Bernadette and tried not to cry as I heard the news. I was so stunned I repeated what she said to me because she called me from her car and I wasn’t sure I could believe what I was hearing.

She told me that the staff only cared that Freya would get the BEST care possible. They weren’t concerned about who would do the surgery, they wanted the best outcome. No one had an ego about taking this on. All they wanted was for her to have what she needed and if that meant asking a revered surgeon to travel to our town, then so be it. It also helped that one of the surgeons at NVS studied with Dr. P. when he was at Tufts and when she heard his name spoken, she bowed with respect.

Freya in the basket R Olson 500
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya's new favorite hangout, my laundry basket tricked out with a new heated bed and fleece cover.

In all my years having cats-including doing rescue, I have NEVER EVER witnessed such support for the positive outcome for a tiny kitten. It gave me something inasmuch as it gave Freya. I had hope. I was so sure I was sending Freya to her death last week that I couldn’t see any chance of the surgery working.

With Dr. P., at least being able to do a consult, I also knew that we didn’t have to worry we were making the wrong choice. The surgeons would work out their plan and I knew that it would be more than we could have dreamed of no matter what they decided (as long as they decide that she CAN have surgery). I could rest in knowing that however this turns out, Freya got the BEST care-period. There is no “grass is greener” or better Vet. We’ve got him. Freya’s got him. Now it’s just a matter of time.

I have to focus on doing my job keeping her stable and helping her grow. Everything else has fallen to the wayside (other than the care of the cats of course). I’ll pick up the pieces when I can.

For now Freya is all that matters and I’m so glad to be part of an ever-growing team who feels that way.

Until this afternoon when something happened none of us saw coming…Yes, this 2-part story has a bonus third part.

[Hey, it's not my fault! I'm just the writer. Blame the surgeons for throwing a curveball that left me speechless.]

Surprising Freya R Olson copy
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. When will I know about my surgery?

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For Freya. Part 1 of 2.

Ten days ago when I began to foster Freya, a tiny kitten who has a birth defect called a RectoVaginal Fistula, I knew I’d be in for a challenge. I also knew it would possibly be incredibly painful to spend time with her because this past weekend might be her last.

Freya’s birth defect means that although her bladder is properly connected to her urethra, there’s a fistula (an abnormal connection) that goes from her rectum to her vagina. In crude terms, she poops from where she pees. This is not good. It’s life-threatening and it’s RARE. It’s so rare most Vets never see a case like this and IF they do, due to costs, the risky surgery and the high chance of post-operative complications, they often humanely euthanize the animal.

Peek a boo R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Hello Freya.

It was discussed that due to the 10% chance of surviving the surgery the only kind thing to do for Freya was to let her go. I was mortified and horrified. With all the technology and medical achievements surely they could so something for her. Because she’s so sweet and cute, the kind-hearted Vets decided to chance it and give her a few more days to gain some strength. Being 5 weeks old and weighing 1 pound, 2 ounces, meant she wouldn’t do well under anesthesia. Her little body would have a tough time keeping her temperature up and her other organs, not fully developed, would be under great strain, too. The stress on her would be so great that it wouldn’t take much for her to expire during the procedure. In a last-ditch change-of-heart, we all agreed that Freya should get those extra days.

This also meant that I needed to give her the best few days I could. I needed to drop everything else to focus on her. I’d still provide the basics for the other fosters and try to put off my ever-growing “To Do” list. I had to feed her every 5 hours, repeatedly bathe her very sore behind and do continuous loads of laundry to sanitize her bedding. It also drove me to finally buy an inflatable twin mattress so I had a place to rest during the late and early feedings. It barely fits in front of my washer/dryer which shares a space with my now infamous blue bathroom where so many other foster kittens have lived. With all that’s required it’s not a surprise that I sleep when I can. Some times it’s at 6 PM and other times it’s 5 AM. I’m very drained but I can’t complain. This is Freya’s time. She needs me. She needs loving care, not to be shut in a cage at the Vet until surgery day.

Freya on the Scratcher R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya with her luminous eyes.

I managed to arrange for Freya’s brother, Pascal to visit. The hope was that Pascal could stay with us until Freya’s surgery. She was so happy when she saw him. She perked up and ran over to him. He chased her and she chased him, but it didn’t last long.

Pascal, in good health and bored by not having another kitten to play with, repeatedly jumped on Freya and furiously “bunny-kicked” her back, making her shriek.

He didn’t show any signs of backing off no matter how many times we took him off her and distracted him with a toy. It was clear this reunion was to be short lived and Pascal left with his family, leaving me to give Freya the comfort she so needed.


I’ve never had to care for an incontinent kitten. Certainly my senior cats as their life comes to an end needed special care, but this is different. Freya pees in the litter pan perfectly, but her rear end always has a smear of stool on it. Sometimes her legs get dirty. I describe how she behaves as if she’s a rubber stamp. When she sits she leaves a little print of poo on the floor. It’s good to see this because it means she’s passing something. It’s NOT enough. You can feel her intestines and her belly is badly swollen. Some of her intestines are HARD. Dr. Andrews called it an Obstipation, which is more severe than constipation-it’s basically a chunk of very hard stool that’s stuck in her intestines. This buildup is due to her inability to pass stool as nature intended AND due to her diet.

Dirty Back End R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Someone is ready for another quick bath.


This is yet another example of why grained food and kibble are SO BAD. If I fed those things to Freya it would bulk her up and kill her a lot faster. Interestingly enough I also can’t feed her a raw diet because her stool would be much less in volume, but VERY dry and hard, impossible to pass. I decided (and Dr. A., Freya's surgeon, agreed) that her best diet is high protein, no grain, low-carb. canned food with some water added. This will keep her hydrated and maybe soften the stool. She seems to be passing more, but it’s not enough to reduce her abnormally huge abdomen.


And that’s the problem.

We can’t give her laxatives because she has a tiny opening for stool. We can’t give her a stool softener because it won’t help the obstipation she has.

We’re playing a VERY VERY difficult game and if I make a mistake, Freya dies.


Over the weekend Freya ate well. She did her thing. She played. She was much more vivacious than I expected. She gained 2.5 oz. She was a kitten in every way but one. I had an idea that I ran past our Vets. We discussed it last week when Freya returned to NVS. We decided to NOT do the surgery yet and that it was worth giving her a little more time in the hopes that she will grow a bit and better handle what is to come.

Sleep with Freya r olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Another morning getting a bit of rest next while Freya sees her reflection in the washing machine door.


The risks are serious. If we wait too long, Freya’s intestinal wall gets thinner and more stretched to the point where she may get megacolon from it. If we wait too long Freya may go downhill and be too weak for surgery. If we DON’T WAIT and do the surgery NOW she is too little to have a good outcome. She’s stable, but I was told that the smallest change in her behavior means she MUST come right back to NVS.


We agreed to give it another week—a week I will be on pins and needles. A week where I will continue to work hard to give Freya the best I can. I’ll give her morning and evening cuddles. She’ll sleep under my chin with her head on my face. She’ll purr her loud purr and I’ll fight off the knot in my back from seizing up from sitting awkwardly for long periods of time.

Fun with Ribbon R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya comes to life when she gets her ribbon to play with. Of course she's always carefully supervised since ribbons can be an ingestion hazard for cats.

Freya is a darling creature. With her wide back end and wobbly back legs she looks a lot like a hamster when she runs. She “talks” to me when she’s hungry or when she needs me to give her a bath (if I haven’t already figured that out). She has periwinkle blue eyes and tiniest little paws. I want to give her the world. I want to KNOW that we’re making the right choices for her, but we won’t know until after it’s all said and done and we can look back on this choice with pride or regret.

Ribbon Robin olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.


It’s embarrassing to admit that I watched a few minutes of Couples Therapy on VH-1 this weekend. The staff Psychologist said that if you don’t experience pain, you can’t have any opportunity to grow. Through Freya I am learning that a life, short or long, should be celebrated every day. I've heard it said a million times but now it means something to me. It reminds me that every day could be our last, especially in Freya’s case. If she does pass away, I will certainly experience a great deal of pain, but I will have learned more ways how to provide care for kittens and how to do it without so much fear attached to the outcome.


As I sit here late at night wondering about what is yet to come, I have to remember to say how grateful I am to the staff at NVS for cheering Freya on. Some of the staff came out to see her when they heard she was in the building. That wasn't enough. One of the ladies took her around the entire facility to say hello to everyone after our appointment was over.

I’m grateful to all of YOU for your donations and caring messages. I’m grateful to my friends at Animals in Distress who were able to take responsibility of Freya so she wouldn’t be euthanized when her family couldn’t afford her care. It really takes a village and in this case it couldn’t be more true.

End of Part 1. Part 2-where we meet “The Guy” who could change everything for Freya.

Sleeping R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Peace fills my heart when I watch Freya sleep.

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Kittens, Cats & Calamities Part 2 of 2

Continued from Part 1

Mia & Family

With zippidy-doo-dah for adoptions this summer I still have Mia and her 5 kittens AND Wallace in my big foster room. They're all getting quite big and I'm very worried they'll be here for eternity.

Greta and Wallace R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Wallace (left) with Greta (right).

Wallace has come around a lot since he entered “Kitten Bootcamp,” where he began to learn his manners basically by being beaten up by Mia’s kittens. Wallace had rage and frustration from being an orphan, but once with Mia’s kittens he had an outlet for his desire to wrestle and let off steam. There were some fears early on that one of the kittens might hurt him, but in the end it went well and Wallace learned a lot.

Wallace Grabs It Robin Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. That's "Mr. Troublemaker" to you.

Wallace is still nippy when he's bored, but nowhere near as bad as he once was. He has become very affectionate and he loves to lay on me purring away as he rubs his wet nose against my cheek. He’s grown into a young adult and no longer has that goofy looking face with googly eyes, big ears and awkwardly long legs. I thought we had an adopter for him but sadly my messages to them about him went unanswered and I later found out they took in a badly injured cat and decided to adopt her instead.

But what about Fernando? Didn't something happen to him?

I’m still recovering from the shock of what happened to Mia’s son Fernando on Friday. I was working at my computer when I heard loud banging over my head. The foster room is above my office so I ran upstairs to find the metal divider from a dog crate out of it’s storage place behind a table in the middle of the room. All the kittens were cowering, terrified from the commotion. One by one I looked at each kitten, fearful one had been injured.

Fernando Dummy
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. This was taken a week AFTER the event at the follow-up visit. Due to the graphic nature of Fernando's injury I chose not to show his left eye socket full of blood. You can see the eyelid looks weird over the left pupil. That's part of the tear. It's in 3 pieces.

I found Wallace and he was ok. I found Woody and Snickers. They were scared but fine. Then I saw Fernando and I screamed.

Where Fernando’s left eye was all I saw was BLOOD.

I didn’t even try to look at it. I called Newtown Veterinary Specialists, where I’d just taken Twinkle just over a week before and let them know I was bringing him in. I thought that Fernando had somehow gouged his eye out at the end of the damn metal divider. I didn’t have time to think, I had to act.

Mia is not friendly. Fernando was crouched next to her inside a cat condo. I had to reach in to scruff Fernando to get him out but Mia gave me a warning-hiss. I couldn’t even worry about her biting me. I grabbed ‘Nanny and put him into a cat carrier. He was screaming and I didn’t blame him.

I made it to the vet in about 15 minutes. In some ways we were lucky because not only were they not busy, the ophthalmologist Vet didn’t have any appointments so she could see him right away. We didn’t even have to wait. A tech came out and took him into the back to be examined while I tried not to burst into tears.

The moment
A video grab of the moment poor Fernando had his accident. You can see he's belly up (see the white paws top center of the photo).

Shaking, I knew I had to check our Dropcam to see if the incident had been captured. As I watched the footage, two of the ladies who work the front desk joined me.

We watched Fernando wrestling with Wallace. He turned towards where the divider was stored. We couldn’t see how he did it but his eyelid got hooked on the metal “fingers” that run along side the edges of the divider that I thought I'd stored out of the way of the kittens. Frightened, he pulled back, setting the metal hook into his lid. Terrified, he pull hard, the divider popped out of storage into the room. It stayed attached to his eyelid as he writhed fitfully to free himself. After a few nightmarish seconds he was free, but what damage had he done?

I started to cry and the ladies were really nice to me as I rambled on and on about how they must think I run a bad rescue if I let things like this happen. As the footage continued I saw myself enter the room, then tilt the web cam down so all you can do is hear my words and my screams. It's far too upsetting for me to share this with all of you. Writing about it is difficult enough. Knowing you can see Fernando possibly blind himself and not be able to do a thing to stop him was unbearable.

The ladies said they wished they could bring me a Tequila and frankly I would have taken a shot if they had some. I was a wreck. What had I done? All these years those grates were in the room and nothing ever happened. Now Fernando was badly injured. Those things HAD to go. (and as of this post they are in the pile to be taken to the recycling place in town).

It wasn’t long before a tech returned with news. Nanny hadn’t ruptured his eye! He HAD torn his eyelid and he needed stitches. They’d have to sedate him to do it and he’d need “a lot of follow up care.” They didn’t feel his eyesight was compromised. His cornea was not scratched. I was so grateful at that moment that I didn’t even care that the estimate for his care was nearly $1000.00.

We'd been lucky. Fernando should be all right and we had enough in the bank to cover his care, which after our discount was reduced to just over $700.00.

The poor kitten has to wear the “cone of shame” for the next week. It’s been a trial to keep it on him and his eyelid is swollen as a result. I’m determined to get this week to pass and have him be looking great again without that cone. After all that has been going on with Twinkle's broken leg and before that Greta needed emergency care after eating part of a cat toy and Wallace needing emergency care for hurting his legs it just felt like too much.

But after all was said and done, we made it. We’re all still here and everyone should be okay.

Junebug and Maggie Mae

Junie and Maggie have been living with foster-mom Jame and her family since MARCH! No one has wanted to adopt the kitties and fairly soon they'll be celebrating their first birthday. I was feeling like giving up when I got an email from Kendra who adopted 2 kittens from us 3 years ago. She’d had a crush on Maggie all this time, but I’d written “No dogs” on her petfinder page because she and Junie had been terrorized by feral dogs when they were living outside on their own in Georgia. Kendra asked me if it was even remotely possible to adopt Maggie. I didn’t know if it would work but I agreed we could give it a try.

Junie Perky Robin Olson copy
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. When oh when is Junebug going to find her home? She's a fantastic kitty! Here's her Petfinder page if you'd like to know more about her.

I knew Kendra would go slowly. Maggie hadn’t been very friendly with any of us and we were worried this change would set her back and make her even more fearful. Kendra, however had it in her mind that this was a great idea and her love for Maggie was all that was needed.

I’ll be dammed but Kendra was right.

Maggie and doggies
©2014 Kendra Friedman. Used with permission. Maggie, totally bored by the fact two giant dogs are in the room with her. Nothing bugs Maggie.

Maggie has been in her new home for about two weeks and every day I get photos or videos of a cat I do not recognize. There is Maggie, the pretty calico, but she is happy. She’s purring. She’s not cowering in a corner. She’s sleeping on one of the dog’s beds. She’s with the other cats. She’s relaxed and I swear she’s smiling. Kendra is over-the-moon happy and writes to me of how much she loves Maggie. I’m left to shake my head and be reminded I don’t always know what is best for our foster cats.

It was a great lesson to learn and I’m ever so grateful our dry-spell of no adoptions has come to an end.

Maggie mess 650
©2014 Kendra Friedman. Used with permission. She must be adored because even when Maggie was naughty her mom thought it was adorable.

Now I just have to find homes for the 12 cats I have here so I can open up more space to bring up the kittens from Georgia soon.

It’s going to be a long autumn.

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Kittens, Cats & Calamities Part 1 of 2

Here’s a quick recap of what the HECK has been going on with our kitties since there have been so many calamities lately that I haven't had adequate time to write it all down.

Laney and Winnie

Laney had her six, fat, healthy, HUGE kittens just four weeks ago. They’re all about to hit the 1 pound mark in weight (a few are over already), proving just how fat and sassy they are. Most kittens their age are about 25% smaller. Initially Moe, our foster mom, sexed the kittens and we went about the task of naming them. Then just a few days ago I got a “whoopsie” text from Moe saying that no, we did not have the number of girls we thought we did. In fact, most of the kittens are boys.

2014 09 01 12 10 26 all together
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Laney, her daughter Winnie (behind her) and their combined family are all doing well.

We had to do a quick name adjustment and in one case we were very surprised because the one boy we were certain of turned out to be a GIRL. That GIRL is Piglet, Winnie’s sole surviving kitten. Piglet, who has also surprised us by not being a white kitten, but rather a flame point Siamese in the making!

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Piglet with her mom, Winnie.

We worried a lot about Piglet, who had a tough start in life. Being grossly underweight we didn’t think she’d make it, but with having her devoted mother AND her grandmother, Laney at her side, Piglet began to thrive and is slowly catching up with her Aunt and Uncle-kittens even though she’s a week older than they are. [update: Piglet weighs a pound!]

2014 08 31 07 19 16 Louie
©2014 Foster Mom Moe.

We had a terrible scare with Laney, too. The night after she gave birth Moe noticed her abdomen was quite huge. She was rushed to the ER Vet where they took a number of x-rays and had a radiologist weigh in on the findings. They felt she had a great deal of fluid build-up inside her but were not sure what the root cause was. They threw around horrible terms like FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) and doing a fluid study, because she was so full her intestines were pushed way out of place.

Laneys Xray
©2014 Kitten Associates. Laney's Belly full of fluid and stool.

After staying up almost all night at the ER Vet, Moe let me know that they were going to watch and wait. I agreed. We needed to find out if Laney just needed to literally pee this problem away or if she indeed was really sick. We’d ruled out she was carrying a 7th kitten so the rest was up to her.

It’s easy to look back and realize we should have just given her some time, but she had newborn kittens to tend to and if she was sick we needed to know right away-or worse if she’d retained a kitten she’d need help getting it out or she could die, too.

Within a few days we got our answer. Laney passed a ginormous stool and peed a great deal. After that her belly began to reduce in size and she did not require further vet care. Now we could focus on the good stuff, watching the kittens grow, get love from their moms and get their names locked down.

2014 09 02 22 00 57
©2014 Foster Mom Moe.

The J’s

Jasper, Julep, Josh, Junipurr, Jules, and Jasmine, some of Laney’s older kittens from a previous litter and some who were from even older kitten’s of Laney’s (can you do that math?) are doing well. Jasper and Julep were chronically sick to the point of us fearing they might not survive their severe flea infestation and upper respiratory tract infection.

2014 09 09 20 56 29 jasp jul jasmin
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Jasper (bottom), Julep (middle), Jules (top) look so healthy and vibrant. No more fleas for them!

Now that everyone has been bathed, vetted and fed really good food for over a month, I’m glad to say they are thriving. Moe reports that they are some of the friendliest kittens we’ve ever had and were so rambunctious that Moe ended up opening up her guest room to give the kittens more space to play. They LOVE being out of the confines of a small bathroom and we’re really happy to see their amazing transformations.

Celeste’s & Family

Many of you know that Twinkle-Twinkle, Celeste’s daughter, had an accident two weeks ago [update now 3 weeks ago and the cast just came off!] and broke the “heel” bone of her back right leg. Twinks is confined to a big dog crate for another few weeks as her leg heals. She’s in a cast, but doesn’t let that stop her. Though her first few days were tough, she’s back to her old cheerful self.

Laundry Basket Nuttiness
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Happier times just a few days before Twinkle broke her leg.

Her cage is in my living room so she can be in an area where we all gather and where our cats hang out so she won’t be so lonely. Fluff Daddy is fascinated by her and often reaches into her cage to play pattycake with her.

We’re getting used to the new routine of caring for her and she’s finally settling down. She can get into an outrageously long crying jag if she’s bored, lonely or hungry so we do our best to keep her entertained and happy. That’s not to say I won’t miss it when that cast is off. I can’t wait!

Get Well Card R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Get Well Twinkle!

Meanwhile, her mom Celeste should have been spayed months ago, but for one reason or another had to have the surgery date changed. Our foster family in a nearby town offered to take Celeste so she can “dry out” her mammary glands and have a safe spay surgery. This also meant I had to take her from her kittens which I did not want to do. I hate when it’s time for our mama-cats to be taken from their offspring, but I know it has to be done.

Celeste Before James R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Celeste looks so much better now. Her fur is soft. She looks a bit plump but in reality she's very sleek. This is a far cry from the pregnant cat who came to into the Kitten Associates rescue program.

In nature the family would go their separate ways to keep their genes stronger and in rescue it’s just how it goes. Rarely do people want to adopt a mother and offspring and in truth some times it’s not such a great Hallmark-card ending anyway. Celeste has gone through being in heat already and she’s been short-tempered with the kittens. She lashes out and growls at them from being so frustrated. She’s also gotten to a point where instead of guarding them she plays with them. They’ll run past her and she’ll grab them, give them a few licks here and there and basically send them on their way. I love to see this but I also know it has to come to an end. I know she'll be all right and they will be, too, but I feel reluctant to do it.

Perfect Hubbs R Olson copy
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Handsome Hubble.

It’s not fair to the other three kittens, Little Star, Hubble and Astro, to remain in the blue bathroom. It’s just too small and now that they are 14 weeks old, they need more room to spread their wings, but I can’t move them out until Celeste is gone.

Astro and Star R Olson copy
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Astro and Little Star, growing fast.

So I’ve “done the deed” and the kittens are adjusting to their life with Mia’s kittens and Wallace. There’s some growling here and there but mostly they're all settling in together. Their room is CROWDED, more than I’d like but I added an extra cat tree so they’d have more escape routes. It seems to be helping and so far there haven’t been any fights. I’ve even seen Celeste’s kittens interacting with some of Mia’s. It’s never ideal to put so many kittens together but so far so good.

Next up----whatever happened to Wallace? The kitten rescued out of a wall? What about Junebug, Maggie Mae, our almost 1-year old fosters? Will they ever find a home? And now there's even more news!...stay tuned for part two next.

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