[While I try to stay clear of all the juicy details there IS a spoiler alert in this post so be forewarned if you haven't seen My Cat From Hell: 911, My Cat’s Holding Me Hostage!]
I cried during the fledgling episode of My Cat From Hell. It was the first time I ever saw a cat behaviorist work with a cat on television and get seemingly magical results. I’ve worked with cats on an informal basis for years, but the show’s star and self-proclaimed “Cat Daddy,” Jackson Galaxy helped a whole new audience learn to see the world through a cat’s eyes. I knew his work was going to save countless lives of cats who had previously been misunderstood. For that, I am forever in his debt.
Over the past 5 seasons, MCFH has become, I dread to say, a bit formulaic. As we watch each show unfold with the threat of the cat losing its home if it “doesn’t behave” or if “Jackson can’t fix the cat,” we find ourselves feeling a bit like the boy who cried wolf. We know that in the end, the cat will be okay and the family will learn a valuable lesson. The cat always stays in his or her home. What's becomes clear over the years is that often the cat guardians need the training more than the cat does.
In My Cat From Hell: 911, My Cat’s Holding Me Hostage!, Jackson moves us over our “challenge line” into a new realm that feels unsafe. I wasn’t sure I wanted to cross into this uncharted territory. Would the show have a happy conclusion? I watched because I trust Jackson's instincts and unlike some naysayers online, I never thought for a second that Jackson's motives were anything other than sincere. He's not out to grab onto Lux's media magnetism. He convinced Animal Planet to go back into production after the fifth season shooting had wrapped, hoping that documenting his time with Lux would mean a better life for the cat and his guardians and allow the public to see beyond the media firestorm. There was no turning away with such sincere motives.
©2014 Animal Planet. Used with permission. Jackson meets Lux.
The goals of this hour-long episode focusing on Lux the cat, were many, with the main objective being to end the vilification of Lux’s family by the media (not me!) and of Lux, himself. In my interview with Jackson Galaxy, we discussed this episode and went into the details of why 911 was called by Lee Palmer after Lux went berserk after his 7-month old baby pulled Lux’s tail.
Without giving away all the details, I can say that how the show unfolded left me breathless. The story of Lux, his family and how they're coping with being vilified in the media, how they're trying to right their ship, is what I want to see. The editing in of the 911 call clips repeatedly played over and over as the show evolved, were a distraction to the gut-wrenching truth being revealed. I don’t get a buzz from seeing the attempt to re-sensationalize the story by the production company. We KNOW why Jackson is with Lux, let’s focus on moving forward after we get the gist of the past problems.
How Jackson handled this cat’s problems and managed his family’s expectations once he realized he could be over his head were what made this show great. He gave Lee Palmer and Teresa Barker a fair shake, while I remained suspicious about their motives after hearing their description of Lux going on the attack. By the show’s conclusion I realized like so many others, that indeed the family had been terrorized, but now they knew most likely why.
In my interview with Jackson, before the airing of this groundbreaking episode, I asked him if Lux being a bottle baby affected his current condition, to which he agreed. But what didn’t come into play was something that dawned on by watching the show. Lux was REJECTED by his mother, which is different than finding him as an orphan. If you’ve ever fostered a mama cat and kittens, it’s very likely one or more of them don’t make it. It’s Mother Nature. Mama-cats KNOW there is something wrong with their offspring. They won’t feed them and they won’t clean them. They basically ignore them and let them die. Unless humans intervene, these kittens have no chance to live and even if they do try to help, as I learned a few weeks ago, the kittens still often die.
Does that mean Lux should be euthanized? Hell, no!
Regardless of how Lux acquired the issues he has, seeing Jackson go the distance for this cat is a shout out, loud and clear, about how imperative it is to GET YOUR CAT TO A VET whenever they display behaviors that are outside the norm. While I don’t know if this is the case, I was shocked that Palmer and Barker didn’t get this cat checked out FIRST. Perhaps they did, but not thoroughly. It’s too late to throw stones, but again it underscores why, especially in cases like Lux’s, that you can’t just do a physical exam and call it a day. You have to dig as deep as you need to go to get to the answer. Anything less than that is not humane because the cat will end up needlessly suffering, possibly for a lifetime.
©2014 Animal Planet. Used with permission. No longer a villain, Lux has the world rooting for him.
I hope that in future episodes of MCFH, Jackson takes on more difficult cases as we've seen with Lux. We’ve grown in our understanding of cats with Jackson's guidance and have learned so much, but if I’m like most viewers I’m hungry to know more even if that means no guarantee of a happy ending.
A special shout out to the Oregon Humane Society for helping Lux and for a 98% save rate. Well done!
That said, I also saw something in Sam’s expression that told me that Wally had already captured his heart. Sam was so tender with this little kitten it was clear he was smitten. I, too, felt not only great fondness for this baby but utter devotion to getting him stablized. I shocked myself at feeling anger with Celeste for not accepting a new ward. This kitten, who could have died a few hours ago, needed all the loving care we could give him and she should have joined us in our efforts. I also knew that wasn’t fair. I had to get over my own disappointment in her behavior and in truth, maybe it was for the best for now.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. This fragile life.
At 5AM I got up to prepare Wallace’s next meal. He was konked out in his carrier, but quickly woke up when I opened the carrier door. He wobbled over wanting to get out. Crying his little mute cry..just open mouth, no sound. I hoped he'd be squeaking after he had something to eat and got recharged. I felt bad waking Sam up too, but it seemed to work much better if he held Wally while I carefully syringed the formula into him. I’d weighed him earlier and he was only 8oz while my other foster kittens were at 15oz or more and they were the same age. We’d calculated how much to feed him so we began counting syringefuls of formula.
Wally was eager to eat, one, two, three…ten, eleven, twelve..finally thirteen ccs of formula. He was voided and gave us a big surprise. I barely touched his bottom when a very large stool slid right out into my hand (which had a paper towel over it, thankfully). I can’t believe how happy I was to see that, but it was proof that his bodily functions were working properly. The stool looked okay-not the runs-no blood. Another good sign.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Wallace survived the night and already had us under his spell.
We went back upstairs to get a few hours rest. Wally was too fussy to sleep, so I sat up in bed, holding him. His sharp claws raked against my skin as he frantically searched up and down my chest for his mother, for her nourishing nipples. He would bury his face into the soft flesh of my upper arm, but would as quickly move away, not finding his prize. I had to keep turning him or lifting and moving him so he didn't fall. My eyelids were growing heavy, but I didn’t care. He was alive. He was doing well. I didn’t screw it up. Maybe in some small way, I helped right the wrong of losing Fiorello.
After an hour, Wally got tired so I put him back with his stuffed friend. He fell asleep and so did I.
©2014 Christine Cassavechia. Used with permission. First night with Christine.
Christine called a few hours later and told me she could come get Wallace in the afternoon. As glad as I was to have help, I found myself feeling quite sad that he was leaving. As always, I knew I’d done my part, now Christine would care for him for a few weeks and when he was bigger and stronger, he would come back and I’d figure out a way to put him with one of our two litters. He needed socialization with kittens as much as he needed loving care from us. I am determined to provide that for him and will do so when the time is right.
©2014 Christine Cassavechia. Used with permission. Christine scores, getting Wallace to take the bottle.
Sam and I fed Wallace a few more times before Christine arrived. He ate well, we even burped him (yes, you SHOULD do that after feeding the little guys---VERY GENTLY) and he continued to charm us to no end. When it was time for us to part, I can say without reservation that we both were reluctant to let him go. Even with feedings every few hours, we didn’t care about being tired. In such a short amount of time, Sam and I were both in love with this little kitten.
What I also realized was that I’d just had a glimpse of what it might have been like if Sam and I had ever had children of our own. We’d been very good “parents” to Wally and that sense of teamwork made me feel proud that we could do this again and maybe next time with more confidence.
©2014 Christine Cassavechia. Used with permission. Full belly & sweet dreams.
We went over Wally’s care with Christine. She impressed me to no end. It was clear she knew what to do and when so I gave her all the supplies she’d need. She even has heated seats in her car so she said she’d turn them on so the warmth would keep the cat carrier toasty as she drove Wally to her home. I barely knew this woman, but from our short meeting and few interactions at her work, I felt completely at ease. There's just something about certain people who you know you can count on without having to worry they will back out on you. Also, Christine is so upbeat and cheerful, you just have to adore her.
©2014 Christine Cassavechia. Used with permission. Sleeping with his SnuggleKittie.™
Tired, achy, but happy, after we said our goodbyes to Wallace and Christine, I walked into the living room and noticed that one of the cats, had peed on the sofa, right where Sam had just been sitting cuddling with Wally. It was a huge mess, but just goes to show that my own cats were not as happy with the newcomer as we were, and helped remind me that for now I should just love Wallace from afar if I value having a clean place to sit.
Update: In the week since Wallace was rescued, Christine has given us one great update after another. Wallace has DOUBLED his weight, which is unheard of, but also lets us know how much of a crisis he was in when we first brought him home.
Although Christine's home is full of cats, dogs, fish, and a few other tiny creatures, until recently Wallace has been separated from all of them. He'll continue to be separated from the cats, but there's one lady who demanded to be part of Wallace's caretakers. She's a Great Dane named Nina and she LOVES Wallace as if he were her own puppy. Wallace gets daily cleaning from his doggie foster mom and he gets to snuggle with her (under supervision of course) and enjoy having the warmth and love of another creature. I'm sure between Christine, her loving family and Nina, it's keeping Wallace not only alive, but happy and for an orphan, being depressed is something we want to avoid. We're VERY lucky and so is Wallace. His rescue just fell into place, as simple as that.
©2014 Christine Cassavechia. Used with permission. Nina gets "attacked" by tiny Wallace.
Cat behaviors are often misunderstood, but rarely, if ever, do they make national headlines as it did with a cat named Lux last March.
For Lux, the 4-year old, 11 lb (not 22 lb as reported elsewhere) black and white domestic medium haired cat, the question everyone wants answered is who's at fault for the cat going berserk after his tail was pulled by a 7-month old baby? The incident started an escalating chain reaction. Lux clawed the baby and the baby's father, Lee Palmer kicked Lux in the rear end, then grabbed his kid, his girlfriend Teresa Barker, and their dog as they fled into a back room, terrified at Lux's violent reaction after being struck. Instead of running away from Palmer, he flew sky-high into the red zone, screaming and charging at his family who were cowering on the other side of a locked door.
The result was a call to the Portland, Oregon 911 where they dispatched the Police to rescue the family from the now crazed cat.
©2014 Animal Planet. Used with permission. Jackson Galaxy.
Once the news hit everyone had an opinion about Lux. Some said to put him down for striking a baby. Others said to put the family down for kicking the cat. In stories like this I like to believe that somewhere in the middle lies the truth, but there's only one person uniquely qualified to shed light on this situation.
From ABCNEWS the 911 audio tapes are heard.
I had the pleasure of speaking the Jackson about his experiences with Lux. What surprised me when I chatted with Jackson about this episode was that Jackson, who says it often takes him about 5 minutes to sort out a behavior problem, had a different experience with Lux. Jackson has never worked a case like this. It surprised him, stumped him, frustrated him to no end, but also Jackson discovered he had a great deal of love for this cat—the kind of love he has reserved for his own cats (which he hinted at offhandedly that perhaps Lux might be one day…or at least be a part of Lux's life going forward).
©2014 Animal Planet. Used with permission. Jackson Galaxy meets Lux.
What is unprecedented about the episode: “911, My Cat’s Holding Me Hostage!” is that since it was after season five had finished shooting it took the combined efforts of Animal Planet, the MCFH production staff, local Vets, the Multnomah County Animal Shelter (where Lux had briefly been surrendered) and Jackson to work together to get this story on the air. It's important because “this episode will challenge everyone.” Which was why a full hour was dedicated to Lux. It may very well be My Cat From Hell's coming of age show, something Jackson is very proud of.
©2014 Animal Planet. Used with permission. Jackson making a new friend in Lux.
When asked, Jackson couldn't say what the odds are that Lux will keep his home, even knowing that his family did their homework over the few weeks Jackson worked with them.
©2014 Animal Planet. Used with permission. Aww..really? Does this look like a cat who would cause trouble? Okay…a lot of trouble? Sweet Lux.
Lux's story doesn't have a resolution yet, but his journey is what makes this episode of My Cat From Hell so groundbreaking because it unfolds in ways other shows have never been able to. We discover Lux as Jackson does.
Jackson reminds us that Lux was a bottle baby. Although there haven't been any studies about how the unbreakable bond with the human who cares for orphan kittens effects them as adults, many in rescue already know there's something different about them. Those cats tend to be cats, but “not quite cats.” Without other cats to learn from, these bottle babies have a confused perception of their world. Are they cats? Are they humans? Are they something in between? In Lux's case he has that bond with Teresa, but he also struggles with many behavior issues that Jackson is determined to get to the bottom of.
My final question stumped Jackson and gave our interview a moment of levity. I asked: “Where did the name Lux come from?” Jackson, who had been so focused and passionate about helping the cat overcome his behavior issues never thought to ask. He promised that if the show goes into a sixth season he'd be sure to find out.
My Cat From Hell: 911, My Cat’s Holding Me Hostage! airs Saturday, June 14th at 8pm EST on Animal Planet.
If you're like me, you spend a lot of time trying to sort out what to feed your cat. Do you believe marketing hype? Do you do research about what ingredients to stay clear of? Do you find yourself going crazy with all the options out there only to come home, thinking you did the right thing, then find out after all your time, effort, and money wasted, YOUR CAT WON'T EAT IT!
This is why, for years, one of my "go to" choices is Weruva. Their tagline shouldn't be "Because Weluvya." It should be, "Because they Luv to Eat It."
I believe good nutrition is the cornerstone for every cat’s health and that includes feeding them a variety of proteins, too. It’s clear that the folks at Weruva, makers of “People food for Pets,” understand that since they've created four lines of canned or pouched cat food, all with a different focus on proteins. Their lines are: B.F.F. (Best Feline Friend), Weruva Cans, Cats in the Kitchen & their new line, Weruva TruLuxe.
What to feed your cat becomes a much more important question to ask when you discover that your cat is sick. Forgetting your cat is an obligate carnivore, and not feeding him or her based on that fact, can causes a worsening of their symptoms. Feeding delicious high-protein food, however, can make a big difference. Case in point, my friend and fellow cat rescuer, Warren Royal's foster cat, Big Daddy.
Big Daddy lived behind a DIY store in northern Georgia. He'd been dumped, was injured and starving. He literally was so hungry, that when Warren set the trap to capture him, Big Daddy pushed Warren away so he could get at the food! This was NO feral cat and sure enough, Warren discovered Big Daddy was a Big Love Bug.
Over the past 4 months, Big Daddy's had quite an adventure and sadly some of it wasn't what we'd ever want to see happen to a cat. Big Daddy, who is FIV+, became so ill he went blind temporarily and almost died. After many tests it was determined that Big Daddy has Large T-Cell Lymphoma. He's just 4 years old.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. A clip from a video of Big Daddy lapping up some Funk in the Trunk.
I asked Warren about his experience with Weruva's Cats in the Kitchen and TruLuxe lines.
CiCH: You've mentioned your frustration in trying to find a cat food that Big Daddy will eat since his sense of smell is effected by being sick. How many other brands/types of foods did you try before finding something he would enjoy that YOU also felt was good for him?
Warren: I wasn't keeping great records in the beginning (I am now), but I think I had tried 10-12 other brands and types of food for him, and he turned his nose up on all of them but 2 - and those two were not healthy for him, so I continued searching for something else.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Big Daddy with rescuer, Warren.
CiCH: What role does diet play in Big Daddy's life, now that he's been diagnosed with lymphoma?
Warren: Having a proper diet is extremely important to him - he has to maintain his health and his immune system, through all the tests and treatments, so we are very careful to make sure he eats the best diet possible. His FIV status makes it even more important that we give him every nutritional benefit that we can. We can't have him eating junk. But because he needs to maintain his weight and strength, it also has to be something that he LIKES, to encourage him to eat. So finding a good, healthy food that he really likes is wonderful.
CiCH: With so many other brands of cat food available, how do you feel the Weruva, Cats in the Kitchen line compares?
Warren: So far, the "Cats in the Kitchen" line has been very successful with him. He loves the flavors, and it's nutritious, so it's the best of both worlds for us. A great and healthy food is no good to us if he won't eat it! This line, for him, was a godsend. I'm so happy that we found it (through a recommendation by a dear friend!)
To be clear, there's no cat food out there that will cure Big Daddy's cancer, but feeding him grain-free canned food, with 80% water (a MUST to keep cats hydrated) and in some lines with NO GMO, Novel Proteins, NO MSG, CARRAGEENAN FREE, is a great way to keep him in the best health possible as he begins chemotherapy.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Big Daddy just ate almost 2, 3-oz cans of Funk in the Trunk. I find it hilarious that he always leaves one bite of food-maybe to eat later?
If you’d like to learn more about Weruva, Cats in the Kitchen or their other lines of cat and dog food, please visit their web site or LIKE them on Facebook and Twitter. Let them know Covered in Cat Hair sent you!
If you'd like to follow Big Daddy's adventure, he has his own Facebook page.
This post is sponsored by Weruva. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Weruva as a part of the BlogPaws Blogger Network, but CoveredinCatHair.com only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Weruva is not responsible for the content of this article.
We're well into what my fellow pet-bloggers and I like to refer to as “Petties Season.” It begins each June as Dogtime Media announces that nominations are being accepted for the 2014 Dogtime Pettie Awards. These awards, which started a few years ago, have garnered them the nickname of the “Oscars of Pet Blogging.”
The nominations last the month of June. In early July, if you're loved by your friends and have enough votes, you get one of four slots to be a Finalist. After yet another long voting period of about a month, winning blogs are announced in early September. Winners receive an awesome lucite trophy and $1000.00 donation they can give to their favorite non-profit animal shelter or rescue. In the past few years, some of my friends have graciously donated their award money to my rescue, Kitten Associates and I've even won twice, to add to the pot.
For me, winning means a great deal. Last year, winning Best Blog Post for my letter to my dying foster kitten Fred, helped the world know what a special kitten he was and in some way it gave added meaning to his short life. This is a prestigious award and frankly, since I don't get paid to write my blog, winning is a big THANK YOU from all the people who are kind enough to believe in me, who enjoy my stories and who want me to continue my efforts rescuing cats and telling their tale.
And in truth, the first years Kitten Associates was in operation, we would have had to close our doors if it had not been for the Petties donations from our friends. We're a small rescue and we operate with less funds than I'd like, but we never cut costs on quality care for every cat and kitten. These donations CAN mean a BIG difference when you're a small rescue.
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Mia's kittens, just some of the many kittens we've rescued over the years.
This year there are three cat-bloggers, who are also dear friends of mine and who sadly, I am also in competition with to win a Pettie in certain categories. In a perfect world we would ALL win, but the reality is we can't.
The Conscious Cat-Best Overall Pet Blog
Texts from Mittens-Funniest Blog or Blogger
We've got about 2 more weeks SO PLEASE KEEP VOTING! Don't forget you can vote every day so make sure you bookmark the page so you can return to it when needed. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE for seeing a value in what we pet bloggers do and THANK YOU ALL for your friendship and support. I deeply appreciate it!
Continued from Chapter 1.
Instead of freaking out, I sat for a moment and thought about it. What did I need to bring with me? Maybe there was someone who could also help and advise me. I called our vet at the Cat Clinic and asked if there was anyone on staff who could possibly bottle-feed a kitten if my mama-cat rejected him. They put me on hold for a few minutes then told me to call Christine. She would be glad to help. GLAD TO HELP? Really? I didn’t have to make 100 phone calls? I didn’t have to beg for favors? All I had to do was keep the kitten alive for 24 hours and she could pick him up the following day. Even though I was woefully stiff, I got up and started to put together a kit of things for the kitten, energized by knowing that a Vet tech, no less, had my back. This was going to work!
Sam drove us to the Fire Station, while I went over in my head what I’d do once I saw the kitten. First, see if it was warm enough then give it a small amount of warmed goat milk. I had some in a baby bottle and in a syringe, covered by a portable heating pad so it would stay warm. I had a cat carrier with a warm blanket. I brought a flea comb but then realized he would be too young to treat with any flea products so he’d have to get a bath-which I still fear doing to little guys.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Our first look at Wallace.
Once we arrived at the Station we were greeted by the Dispatcher who called for Lt. K. to bring us the kitten. She arrived moments later carrying an old blue milk crate with a towel inside it. I couldn’t see anything more than that at first, but as she placed the crate down, I saw a little kitten's head covered by a towel. The kitten started to cry. I saw stripes. It was a little silver tabby.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. After giving Wallace some goat milk he was so hungry he licked some of the drops off Sam's hand.
I lifted the kitten from the towel. I could feel dirt on his coat from being inside the wall. He was crying, very thin, but definitely about 3 weeks old-the same age as the kittens I was fostering, but half the weight. I checked him quickly for fleas while Sam held him. I didn’t even realize it but four other firemen had joined us and were watching my every move. As I continued to examine the kitten, one of them asked if it was a boy or girl. I took a look and I was certain it was a boy. They were delighted by that and amazed how I could tell the difference. Sexing kittens is not too difficult at that age, but they had never done it before. I realized how odd it was to be rescuing a kitten from people who spend their life doing rescue. We were giving back to our community and were honoring what they did every day by assisting them when they needed us. I felt really proud at that moment.
Wallace had a runny eye and continued to cry. I fumbled around and got a syringe of milk ready. Not even caring that I was the center of attention, I focused on being gentle, carefully urging the kitten to drink. I’d failed completely with Fio. He never took any nourishment no matter how much we tried. Wallace was quite different. He greedily slurped at the formula to everyone’s amazement. I quickly got two cc’s into him, which is not nearly enough, but I didn’t want to drop his body temperature and put him into shock since I didn’t know when he’d last had food. Clearly it had been a long time. I wanted to get him home, warmed up and fed again, but then I remembered…had he been voided?
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mabel heard Wally's cries and ran over to be near him. How I wish I could have put them together, but I couldn't risk anyone getting sick or harmed.
I asked if they had helped void the kitten and they hadn’t, not clear on what I was asking. Panicked I asked for warm, wet paper towels ASAP. Of course they responded like lightning, and moments later I was gently stimulating Wallace’s genitals and rear end to get him to void. Sure enough we got some pale yellow urine out of him. The color was a good sign. Darker urine would have indicated dehydration or possible other problems. With at least some urine out of him and some food in him, he was stable enough for us to get him home.
The firemen thanked us and I promised to give them updates. It was such a strange situation. There I was, possibly seen as a true cat rescuer for maybe the first time in my life. I knew what to do. I got the job done. I asked, in parting, if I provided them with a kit of information and supplies on how to care for kittens would they make use of if and they eagerly agreed. They’d even share it with their other stations so in the future perhaps any kittens discovered would get better care until a rescue could be called upon. I felt like the seed of an idea was born at that moment that would allow Kitten Associates to be more involved with our community and would help save more lives. I’d even make up a kit for our Newtown Fire Dept, too, but first we had to get Wallace home.
As Sam was reaching the car, I realized I forgot my purse and turned to get it. Lt. Katherine was there holding it in her outstretched hand. I thanked her and smiled awkwardly, then turned back to the car. I almost ran into who I assumed was the Captain as I turned. He asked me a few questions about the kitten and if I thought he would be all right. The Captain was clean cut, muscular, with richly toned skin. His uniform was pressed and spotless. Seeing him made me realize I rarely ever see men doing rescue, let alone one who was so handsome. I'd been so wrapped up in Wallace, it never occurred to me to take a moment to enjoy the thrill of being near so much testosterone (excluding Lt. K, of course!).
I told the Captain I'd keep them updated and he thanked me for helping them. I looked up and one of the fire trucks was pulling out of the bay. Some of the folks who had been with us moments earlier were on the rig. I raised my hand to wave, feeling a tickle of delight when they waved back. For those few seconds, I was part of the team.
Wallace cried as Sam drove along the highway. I took the tiny kitten out of his carrier and held him. He squirmed and wriggled, then got very quiet. I flashed back to Fio, how he would be so vibrant, then nearly dead after he was fed. I knew Wallace had a very big day and had just been fed so I tried not to be upset when he seemed to pass out in my arms. He was just tired. Let him be.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. The little guy purred for us right away.
We got home and checked Wallace for fleas. I didn’t find any or any flea dirt. His ears looked good. I opened his mouth. He had a few baby teeth and no visible sores. Another good sign that he might be fairly healthy, other than very thin.
Sam and I discussed putting him with Celeste. I was still very fearful of being the sole caregiver for this kitten after just losing Fio, so we decided to try. We brought Wally to Celeste. He was crying. She saw him, sniffed then backed off, growling. I tried to pet her and pet Wally but she was far too angry to give it a chance. Even if with a scent swap she accepted him, I’d have to stay up all night out of fear she could turn on him and kill him. We decided to not risk it, but instead pull an all-nighter to make sure he was fed when he needed it.
One of our Facebook friends shared a link with me to Kitten-Rescue (thank you JodiAnn!). This web site is not fancy but wow they have great, simply prepared info on kitten care. I’d read other books about it and frankly they fell very short. This one gave me the info that I couldn’t find elsewhere-a clear cut amount of formula to give the kitten and WHEN. It’s 8cc per ounce of kitten. Since we could only guess at Wally’s age, it looked like some time around every 4 to 5 hours we should feed him. Void him first, then feed, then wait 15 minutes then void again, then a warm place to sleep.
Thanks to one of our donors we had a big case of evaporated goat milk. Another donor sent us special nipples for the baby bottle and our friend Joanne McGonagle sent us a SnuggleKittie,™ a plush cat toy that comes with a battery operated heart beat. I’d had it on hand for months and now I could put it to use.
Sam held Wallace while I tried to bottle feed him. It just didn’t work well at all. I used the syringe and that was a bit messy but it got the job done. I gave him 7cc of milk and he seemed full. He was so thin I didn’t want to push it. I’d give him a few hours before feeding him more, but for now it was time to pee and get some sleep.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. I honestly believe that without his SnuggleKittie™ Wallace never would have had any sort of comfortable time sleeping. He got as close as he could to the artificial heartbeat and fell fast asleep.
After we got Wallace cleaned up we put him back into the small cat carrier with his new plush buddy. I slipped a heated pad under the blanket in the carrier, but placed it so only half the space was warm in case he wanted to get off it. He didn’t want to have anything to do with it. He wanted OUT of the carrier and weakly stood up, crying with all his might. Sometimes he only opened his mouth, but no sound came out. I found it unnerving. Maybe he was getting weaker? I hoped to God I hadn’t messed it up and that he was too cold to be fed and was going to die.
Mabel ran over, jumped on the garbage can next to the counter where we had placed the cat carrier. She pawed at the cat carrier door, wanting to get at Wallace. Her mothering instincts were in high gear. Wallace saw her and tried to get at her, too. I so wanted to let her soothe little Wallace, but I had also just discovered that Mabel has ear mites so I couldn’t risk it-also if Wallace was sick, then Mabel would get sick or vice versa and all our other cats could get sick, too. I felt terrible so Sam and I took turns holding little Wallace and soothing him the best we could.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Feeding time was a bit messier than I imagined, but together Sam and I got the job done.
It was almost 10pm. Sam and I talked about what we’d do for the rest of the night. We worked out a plan then grabbed a quick bite to eat. I kept checking on Wallace. I had to make sure he was breathing-he was.
I slept fitfully between feedings and had bad dreams about Sam’s clients chasing us down and forcing us to hide in the bathroom to get away from them. I was holding Wally in my dream and we were hiding in the shower stall. When would these people leave us alone? In truth, Sam has been so busy with work it was a small miracle that he was willing to help with Wally. I hated to ask for more but between my back problems and this kitten in crisis I had no options.
Chapter 3 is next…where we find out how Wallace fared after his first night and what lies ahead for our latest foster kitten.
I’ve come to the understanding that doing cat rescue is more often based on gut instinct than rational thought. Is one better than the other; one more appropriate to doing rescue? I suppose being rational would leave less to chance, but I also think that something gets lost in being so very careful. Mistakes are made, but lessons follow. Perhaps that’s how I make sense of this next story about a fearless little kitten whose accidental separation from his mother may have also been his saving grace.
My back has been killing me over the past week. So much so that the pain flares up to the point where I have to catch my breath and to sit down after standing for a short time. I blame it on no exercise, sitting here at the computer for hours without getting up, and having too small of a bed with too many cats vying for the same small space. Waking up with pretzeled limbs is okay some days, but after chronic repetition, my body had to revolt.
After lots of ice, heat, ice came some small relief. I had a bad health scare two weeks ago, heading to Urgent Care, certain I was having a heart attack. Fortunately, it was a confluence of issues, one being a possible ulcer from taking too much naproxen to counteract constant headaches-again from sitting down at the computer, eye strain, poor position at the keys. The other was from lifting too many heavy objects (aka taking cats to the vet) which pulled on the joints on either side of my sternum. The resulting double-whammy caused severe chest pain.
Something had to give.
I made big sweeping changes. I quit gluten and sugar. I don’t sit at the keyboard for long periods of time. I had to stop pain killers, for now, to let my gut heal. When my back started to go out, I decided to treat it with ice and heat, no meds…some rest…go easy…hope for the best.
With all that I did start to feel quite a bit better, other than missing having cake or a big fat croissant.
My back was improving. I figured another day or two and I’d be okay. That’s when the phone rang. It was after 6pm and usually I don’t pick up calls on the Kitten Associates line that late in the day. I need to have time for myself and I have to make boundaries, but I did look at the Google Voice transcript of the call. Even though the transcription leaves a lot to be desired (e.g.,“police station” is transcribed to “please state one”), I did see three words that caught my eye: Kitten and Fire Department.
There were two messages one right after the other. I listened to them both. One was from an associate who does wildlife rehabilitation. She told me that I’d be getting a call from the local 24/7 Vet hospital about a kitten that had been trapped in a wall and needed help.
I’ve had a problem with this Vet hospital for a long time. They’ve taken advantage of us before, having people call us when they can’t afford care, putting the burden of the life or death of that animal on whether or not we can pay the bill. I’ve had words with them about this. We’re a small rescue. We paid $1200.00 for one cat that did not even belong to us AND they called us at 10 PM the night of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting to put that life or death burden on us! What would we say-especially on THAT night? It wiped us out.
Here they are calling yet again, but this time for a tiny kitten they easily could have helped. At least they could have shown the Firemen how to feed and void the kitten. What would that have cost? The Fireman didn’t have to save the kitten. They did what they felt was the right thing to do. They pitched in. They didn’t charge anyone for their efforts. Why couldn’t this Vet give this kitten some support? No. They sent it away. Now it was on my rescue, with few resources, to take care of this fragile creature. Who know how many hours had passed since the kitten had been found? When did it eat last? Little ones need to be fed every few hours or even more often if they are neonatal. Every second wasted put the kitten at higher risk of dying.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Little Star looks on as her mom, Celeste feeds the rest of the family. Would Celeste accept a fifth kitten?
Did I really want to try bottle-feeding again so close to just losing and failing another? What if this one died, too? Could I stand the heartbreak; the shame of failure?
I called Lieutenant Katherine and spoke to her about the kitten. My heart was racing. What was I getting myself into? Time was of the essence. I couldn’t back out. My instincts told me to hurry along and not worry about the consequences.
Lt. K. told me the shift before hers had been on a call to a property where there were people living illegally. They reported hearing cries coming out of the inside of a wall. Since calling for help also meant they would be kicked out of their illegal squat, they weren’t particularly happy about calling the Fire Department. I’m not sure why they called. They could have opened up the wall on their own, but then what would they do? They might not have realized it was a tiny kitten crying. Perhaps they thought it was something wilder?
What I know is that the mother and siblings were nowhere to be seen. The firemen looked for them but were told she had probably left the crawl space she’d been hiding the kittens. One kitten was left behind-the one that was in the wall. He was very thin and crying for his mother. They discussed leaving him there to be found by his mother, but they felt the people living at the location could possibly harm the kitten. It was decided to remove the kitten and find him some help. They had no idea what to do for the kitten, other than keep it warm. They weren’t sure they should give it cow’s milk, which was all they had, so they opted not to give him anything.
I asked Lt. K. to tell me how big the kitten was. Was it’s umbilical cord still attached? From what I was told, that’s what I expected. Her reply surprised me. She said, no, that he was walking a little bit, that his eyes were open, but were blue. I asked if his ears were straight up and down and she replied no. From what she told me I figured we had a 2 to 3 week old kitten. Okay. I can do this. Bottle-feeding an older kitten isn’t so tough. I thought I could manage his care.
Chapter 2 is up next, where we finally meet the little kitten and try not to drool on the sexy firefighters.
You could describe him as just a big brown tabby cat with a white bib, cheeks and paws. You could assume that because he lost his home or simply got dumped and was found in the back of a Home Depot in northern Georgia, that he’s just another cat who needs a new home.
You’d be wrong.
©2014 William Mahone. Used with permission. www.WilliamMahonePhotography.com. The face that launched 1000 sighs…Big Daddy.
Big Daddy has a magnetic, certain-something that draws people to him. Maybe it’s his big head (from being neutered late in life) or maybe it’s the forlorn expression on his face. Maybe it’s that nothing seems to bother him (okay, other than dogs), but you can take this boy out on a leash and let him go for a walk.
Big Daddy’s been on TV and sat pretty as a picture on the Interviewer’s lap (okay, for most of the interview). Big Daddy has Presence, with a capital P—a BIG personality, too, and all who know him, as well as those who have only seen images of him or read his story have fallen for this big lug, including me.
In some ways, since my friend Warren Royal first trapped Big D., I’ve felt like a co-parent to this cat. I’ve advised Warren from day one on vet care, tests to run, and when Big Daddy got sick with a seemingly incurable upper respiratory tract infection, I was right there to help in any way I could. From afar I’ve come to love this cat as any of my own and I’ve been honored that I could help Big Daddy eventually find Angels of Assisi, a no-kill shelter in Virginia, to help Big Daddy find his forever home.
©2014 Megan Greer. Used with permission. Big Daddy, blind, back at the Vet.
It’s been a rough go. I wrote a post called Big Daddy's Next Journey is to the Angels. Even when I wrote it my fear of jinxing things flared up, but I ignored my urge to change the title. Never joke at death or maybe you’ll bring it on yourself. I thought it was a clever title since Big D was simply going to Angels of Assisi, but today those thoughts come back to haunt me as I hang my head and cry.
©2014 Megan Greer. Used with permission. Megan visits as Big Daddy recovers from his first bad scare at the Vet.
After Big D survived his initial challenge, Megan realized he wasn’t getting back to normal. During a test to check the fluid in his lungs for bacteria, the Vets at Virginia Tech discovered a mass. It was unexpected since no other tests had determined there was such a problem. The 4cm fleshly colored nasal mass had been what was causing Big Daddy’s breathing problems and inability to smell (resulting in a lack of appetite and a great deal of weight loss). The mass was removed, under sedation of course, using a strong jet of water that pushed the mass out, clearing Big Daddy’s passages.
Initially, we were all relieved, thinking perhaps Big Daddy’s worst days were behind him, but there was a lingering fear that this mass could also be cancerous. For some reason I didn’t think something like this in a 4-year old cat would be cancer, but if it was a polyp I seemed to recall they did grow back so at least this was going to be an ongoing issue for the cat.
©2014 Megan Greer. Used with permission. After the mass was removed, Big Daddy felt good enough to go for a walk and roll around on the warm concrete. You can see how much thinner he is here.
The good news was we knew the culprit so we could all take a moment and be happy that Big D didn’t need to be on any more antibiotics for a growth in his head. Now that he could breathe, Big D was right back to having a great appetite again and his vision has returned, too.
©2014 Megan Greer. Used with permission. Big Daddy, after being hospitalized in ICU.
I sent a care package of fun things to Big Daddy: some cat food, probiotics and a few toys including his favorite, a catnip banana. I imagined Big Daddy in his new home, which was going to be Warren’s office at Royal Bobbles. It’s a great space and Big Daddy would be the office kitty. Everyone was busy making preparations and getting more and more excited that Big Daddy would be there soon.
A few days ago, I got a call from Warren. When he calls me I know it’s trouble of some kind. My gut squeezed and I felt sick, but I was driving so I waited until I could stop to call him back. When I heard his voice I knew something was terribly wrong. I realized that the test on the mass from Big Daddy was due about now and I knew it was bad news before Warren even spoke.
“We’ve got Lymphoma.” was all Warren could say.
It was windy outside as I stood by my car. I wasn’t sure I was hearing him correctly so I asked again to be certain.
I did my best to hold back the tears. I was in a public place. I focused on helping give Warren advice about what to do next, knowing he needed me to be strong. I told him that cats can do very well on chemo and that even with FIV, Big Daddy could still have quality of life. I didn’t know how long, but I did know we shouldn’t give up on him right now.
Of course Warren agreed so we continued to speak for some time going over what we should do next. I offered to contact Dr. Gerald Post, who is one of the top Vet Oncologists in the country and who just happened to have seen our kitten, Fred last year. His 8000 sq ft facility, The Veterinary Cancer Center, was here in Connecticut. I told Warren that maybe I should bring Big D here for care, but there was no way Warren was going to part with him again. We decided to focus on finding out more about Big Daddy’s diagnosis. There are many kinds of lymphoma so we had to hope it was small T-cell and not large, which is typically more aggressive. We had to hope that perhaps with the removal of the mass that it meant with chemo we could buy some time for our boy.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you hear the word “cancer,” but you have to look at how the cat is doing clinically. Clinically speaking, Big Daddy is doing well. He went for a walk outside on a lead and got some sunshine. He’s eating well. He’s playing and purring. This is good.
Warren and I got to work finding resources and information. I spoke with Dr. Post who agreed to consult on Big Daddy’s case with the Vets at Virginia Tech, who first found the mass. We stayed hopeful that we could continue to provide top notch care for Big Daddy, as we do for all cats, but in truth that certain “something” about Big Daddy motivates us to go the distance.
We all wished for Big Daddy to get lots of love and have a great life, however long that may be but then...
This lymphoma can be treated with radiation and chemo. It can give Big Daddy more days and GOOD days, which we want to focus on, but no matter what we do, Big Daddy’s days are numbered.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Best Friends Forever. Warren & Big Daddy.
What we know is this: Warren is packing his car and driving from his home in northern Georgia to Roanoke, VA TODAY to pick up Big Daddy. On Friday, Big Daddy has an appointment with Dr Terrance Hamilton, DVM, DACVIM-Oncology at Blue Pearl/Georgia Veterinary Services, the top vet hospital in the state. They have all the equipment and supportive services Big Daddy will need.
What we don’t know is how much his care will cost. We DO know Big D will need a consultation, most likely ultrasound, to find out where ELSE he may have cancer. They may need to do blood work or another x-ray or two. My rescue, Kitten Associates, is taking over the costs for Big Daddy's care as we have for so many other cats. That way we can provide for him so Warren, who has already spent thousands of his own money, can focus on providing loving care and not have to worry about being able to afford to pay for all of this. What it means to all of you, who gather to support Big Daddy, is that you can make a donation that is tax deductible.
1. Make sure your cats are spayed or neutered and that your friends and family do the same for their pets. If Big Daddy had been neutered at an appropriate time, he never would have gotten FIV, which put him into an extremely high-risk group for getting lymphoma.
2. Please share your love of this gentle giant with a donation towards his care. We’ve set up a special petcaring.com fundraiser and we hope that you’ll donate in honor of a big kitty you’ve loved or love, or donate the price of a good meal or cup of coffee to Big Daddy. He’s had a very tough life and he deserves the best we can give him.
If you'd like to mail us a check, checks can be made out to: Kitten Associates and mailed to: P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354. Please add a note on your check: “Big Daddy.” Our Tax ID number is: 27-3597652.
Our dreams for Big Daddy will never come to pass. His precious life will never be as long as any of us would want, but we have to focus on being happy. Happy that Big Daddy jumped into the trap, surprising Warren and starting a journey to his salvation. We have to be happy that Big Daddy is safe and loved and will get the care he needs.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Days after being trapped, we come to realize that this is not a feral cat at all, but a cat who just wants to be loved.
Big Daddy, you didn’t deserve this. You deserved a happy ending and with our best efforts you will get that. It won’t be the ending we had dreamed of and for that we are all deeply heartbroken.
We all get notices about cats and dogs needing rescue. Many of them are marked as “urgent.” It's great that we can get together and help spread the word, BUT there are millions of animals out there who are "safe" in a rescue and who still go unnoticed. Many of them are older, or not a fancy breed. They don't have a group of folks trying to help them get a forever home. What happens to them? They wait and wait and wait and the longer they wait, the more animals that same rescue has to turn away because their spaces are filled.
I came up with a fun way to help animals who are not in crisis (so your friends won't be upset hearing about them-which is a bonus) but who need help. It's totally free, just takes a minute of your time and could potentially save more animal's lives. Don't just do it today. Do it EVERY DAY and see how YOU can change the world for animals in need.
I call it:
Step One: Visit Petfinder
Petfinder's home page.
Step Two: “Search for a Pet.”
Do you want to help a dog, cat, bunny, goat, what? Choose Location (City & State) Animal Type, Breed, Age and Gender. It's even more effective if you choose a town in your state, since most of your friends will be able to share with their friends and be able to act on a local level! Hit the “FIND PETS” button.
I chose Chicago, IL, Cat, Maine Coon, Any Age and Male in my search.
Step Three: Review Search Results.
Which animal would you like to save. Pick one! I chose CHANDLER. He's 10 years old, a total cutie and needs to find his forever home.
Search results page. Notice there are over 1000 cats MATCHING MY CHOICE in the Chicago area alone who need homes. That means there are LOTS more than that who fit other descriptions!
Step Four: Tweet & Facebook-Share
Chose the Tweet and the Facebook icons to share with your friends!
The share buttons to choose to let your friends know about the cat you want to help.
Tweet & have fun with it. I added a few words to this Tweet before it went out.
Chandler shared on Facebook. I hope it helps him find his forever home soon!
This post is sponsored by BlogPaws. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Adopt-a-Cat month, but Covered in Cat Hair only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. BlogPaws is not responsible for the content of this article.
continued from part one…
Mabel will seemingly materialize out of nowhere onto my lap when I watch TV. She does the same thing to Sam. She just appears, makes herself comfy and sits, purring her very subtle purr, with what looks like a smile on her face as she makes herself at home. Even if we adjust our position on the sofa she remains glued to us.
Mabel’s coloring is amazing. She’s almost split right down the back, brilliant orange tabby on the left and classic black tabby on the right. Her eyes are vivid green. Her toes are pink and black. Her paws are white with little freckles of color here and there. Every time I look at her I notice different colors and shapes. I find myself getting mesmerized as I pet her, the colors seem to ripple as my hand runs along her back.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Pretty patchwork.
Mabel has started to spoon with me at night and if she’s not doing that, she sleeps wedged between my pillow and Sam’s.
It’s not all perfect. Mabel some times causes issues and has peed here and there. I notice those things happening less and less as she secures her place in the cat-hierarchy of my home, but it may always be an issue. I ask myself if she would be happier in a home of her own, as I’ve done so many times over the past year.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Meowing as she carries her precious pom-pom for all to see.
A few weeks ago I got an application from a very nice lady I will call Grace. She’s retired and lives in a spotless home with her husband who is fine with cats but not a fan the way she is. Grace has been mourning the loss of her cat for 2 years and is finally ready to adopt again. I asked Grace for a co-adopter because I could not risk Mabel losing her home for any reason and she agreed. Everything checked out, but I also knew that Mabel did not show very well. She always hid when strangers arrived so I suggested we consider fostering-to-adopt Mabel where she could give Mabel a proper “test drive” with the option of returning her if it didn’t work out.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen (left) with Mabel (right).
During this process I told Grace I wasn’t sure I could part with Mabel. I was honest with her. I need to make room for more cats. Keeping her isn’t an option. Grace and her adult daughter came over. Their energy was very calm. As they walked into the room, they saw Mabel. She didn’t race off, but allowed them to pet her and say hello. The daughter and I backed away and watched from afar because Mabel got nervous while Grace spent a few minutes getting to know her.
We were all very surprised that Mabel was so welcoming to these new people. Normally that would seal the deal for me. I begged a delay starting the foster period by letting them know Mabel was due for a Vet visit before she went anywhere. Her Rabies vaccine was expired and I had a slight concern Mabel had a heart problem I wanted to get checked out so we waited another few days while I kept thinking about if I could really do this or not.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. To scone or not to scone?
The vet visit surprised me. They did an x-ray and EKG, then had everything reviewed by a radiologist. They reported back that Mabel’s heart and lungs looked good, but…they found what was described as a genetic deformity of some of her vertebrae. I’d noticed she didn’t jump very high and that was the reason. She might have some arthritis in her spine as she ages, but other than that she was cleared to go into foster care, then be adopted. I wondered if her spine damage was not from genetics but from sitting in a cage for two years with little space to move around.
I still wasn’t sure I could do the adoption, so once again I dragged my feet, coming up with all sorts of stupid reasons why I couldn’t get back to Grace. I thought about it and talked to Sam about it repeatedly…so much so that I could not think straight any longer. I thought, YES! I need to do this. It’s a good home. Mabel likes her, but will Mabel be lonely all by herself?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Getting bored with her early days of confinement in the blue bathroom, Mabel lets me know she needs OUT of quarantine (which happened shortly thereafter).
Grace. Grace was the BIG DEAL. I didn’t want to hurt her and I was well on my way to doing that, but do I give up Mabel to not hurt Grace?
I spent a good part of that day crying. Grace had emailed me and called me. I needed to get back to her. I could not let this go any longer. I would have rather done pretty much anything else, like walk on hot coals or do my taxes over and over again, but I had to decide.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweetly dreaming, Mabel's clearly found her home.
Except it wasn’t fine.
I couldn’t do it.
The thought of leaving her there made me cry. Something inside me was screaming; “Noooooooooooooo!”
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mabel, Nora, Blitzen (tail), Gracie, Fluffy Daddy and the DOOD enjoy the morning sun.
Come Hell or high water I had to call Grace and beg her forgiveness. I contacted a few rescue friends and I found a terrific cat for Grace to consider adopting. I offered to reimburse Grace for any out-of-pocket expenses she had. I repeatedly told her I’d let her have any cat she wanted in our program except for Mabel. She was so gracious and understanding. She told me not to get upset about it, that in truth she worried that Mabel would miss her kitty-friends and maybe it was for the best. She'd become attached to Mabel and really wanted to give her a home, but only Mabel, no other cat. She didn’t want my help or to know about other cats. I told her I’d go to the ends of the Earth for her, whatever she wanted. She thanked me and said again not to worry about it, but that right now she needed time to sort out her feelings. She’d let me know if she wanted to look at another cat. Between many tears I told her how very sorry I was and I apologized for taking so long to get back to her.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Making a place for herself in bed, right between me and Sam.
After I hung up the phone I cried again. I felt so badly about all of this. I wish Grace could have let me make it up to her. Maybe some day she will. I’m surprised she didn’t let me “have it” with a volley of nasty comments. I deserved it, but at least I’d been honest, telling her I wasn’t sure I could do the adoption when I first met her. In my heart I wanted to do the right thing, but I had no idea what that was because I had been over-thinking it for months.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Zzzzzz.
I sat with Sam on the sofa and cried until I had no tears left, telling him what happened with the call to Grace. He nodded his head and gave me a hug. He’d told me to take Mabel off Petfinder earlier in the day and now he was smiling at me with that “I told you so” look on his face.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mabel sleeps in HER bed on my Mother's recliner.
A few feet away from us in HER bed that sits on my Mother’s old recliner was Mabel. She was fast asleep with her belly half-turned upwards and her front paws curled delicately by her cheeks. There was a sweet smile playing across her mouth. Mabel had no idea how important this afternoon had been and what it meant to her remaining days. From being dumped at a kill shelter in Georgia, to a rescue, to a hoarder, to another kill shelter in North Carolina, imprisoned for 2 years, and finally after 4 years Mabel landed where she should have been all along.
Welcome Home, Mabel. We love you.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the first photos of Mabel after she arrived. One look at her face and I knew I as a goner.
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