Celeste's Journey. Chapter 3. The Darkest Day.

(Cont. from chapter 1 and chapter 2)

I didn’t give up on #3, but I noticed an alarming new trend. While trying to feed him, he would fuss and fight, then after a very little bit of formula he would totally collapse. I was afraid that feeding him was killing him, but how could that be? I’m sure someone out there knows what I did wrong. He wasn’t swallowing much but I didn’t see anything come out of his nose. I cursed myself for not getting that bulb syringe. I had to make due with what I had. I tried to clear his nose, his mouth. I tried to tell him not to give up, choking back the words. He was so weak and frail. We backed off on how much to feed him and thought maybe just a few drops more often would work.

That afternoon I brought #3 to his mom. Something was wrong with her. I’d put a space heater on to keep everyone warm and she was panting. I turned off the heater and opened the windows. I offered her water. She was breathing VERY fast. She growled a bit. I called the vet and made an appointment. I was scared she’d retained a kitten or something else was going on. I imagined having to feed ALL the kittens if she died and thought I would lose my mind at that point. With my lack of confidence about bottle feeding they would likely die along with her.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Although it looks like he's nursing, #3 was resting his head on Celeste's abdomen.

The vet said it could be her being stressed out so I thought it was a good time for me to take a break. I was so stressed out myself that I was about to fall apart if I didn’t get some sleep.

It was 5pm. #3 had lived a day. I was exhausted. I told Sam I needed to rest-just for an hour or so. #3 was with Celeste. If he wasn’t going to make it I wanted him to be with his family. He’d already nearly died on me three times that day already.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. So small compared to his siblings, #3 rests.

I didn’t sleep. I was too worried. I lay in bed going over in my mind about how much to feed him next, how to make it better for him. I got up at a bit after 6pm. I was woozy and scared. What I would see when I opened the door to the blue bathroom where Celeste was caring for her family? I tried to brace myself, hoping I'd see him finally nursing.

I called out to Celeste before I opened the door to let her know it was me. The first thing I noticed when I entered the room was she’d dumped out about half the litter pan across the room. She was rather messy but this was much worse that normal. I took a deep breath and looked down into the tub searching for the kitten. There was #3 snuggled up against the blanket near Celeste’s tail. At first he looked so peaceful, but then my stomach did a flip flop. As I sank to my knees, I knew it before I touched him. He was still; the kind of still that means all life is gone. I touched him. His body was hard.

#3 was dead.

Celeste’s panting and high respirations had resolved. I then realized that she had to know her kitten was going to die and that’s why she was so upset. I told her I was sorry as I lifted #3’s body and placed him away from her and the others, not sure what to do next…where to put him or what to put him into? I had to tell Sam but he was on the stupid phone with a stupid client. I wept hard, my chest heaving with raking sobs. #3 was as dear to me as any of my own cats. I paced around the house not sure what to do. I had to let everyone know what happened so I sat down and wrote emails and posts while trying to make sense of something so senseless.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. .

I felt I had failed #3. He showed me a few signs that maybe he could make it. I probably didn’t keep something warm or cool enough. Maybe his head was too far back when I tried to feed him. Maybe it was Mother Nature reminding me I can’t fix everything by working hard. That she had other plans for #3. We can tell ourselves whatever we like as we search for a reason for this wretched unfairness, but in the end it doesn’t change the outcome.

Sam got off the phone and joined me upstairs. He was as devastated as I was. We sat with #3 and I said he needs a name. Sam suggested Tre since the kitten was #3, but I said I wanted something special. The name Fiorello popped into my head. In Italian it means, Little Flower. As I said the name, Sam nodded solemnly in agreement.

We both petted and kissed Fiorello goodbye. He laid on his side, his front legs pressed together as in prayer. His fur was so soft. I marveled as his sweet face. I carefully placed him in the pink blanket that featured happy green frogs on it. I’d used it to cover him when he was under my shirt. The vet was closed so I brought him to the room where we do our mediation and placed him in front of our Shambhala shrine. I lit a candle for him then closed the door behind me. I’d bring him to the vet in the morning to be cremated, garnering me another little tin box for my sad collection. For now I needed to sob, to rant, to hate, to mourn.

I never want to take on a pregnant cat again. I know there are things everyone is good at and things they are not so great at. Maybe this is a “thing” I am not good at and it would be safer for everyone if I didn’t take on more situations like this one.

I gave myself a few hours to attend to other matters. I was too upset to sleep, but I realized I hadn’t eaten in two days so Sam and I got take out. It was a good meal. We've been eating too much rice pasta for too long so we splurged. It helped revive me somewhat, but my heart was broken.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Fiorello and mama.

What surprised me was what I did next. I could have gone to bed, but it occurred to me that I hadn’t paid our Georgia Peaches kittens or Bert a visit since this all happened. They’d been fed, of course, but had no interaction with me since Sam had taken that on.

I entered the room and they raced over to the bed, next to where I was standing. They were all meowing furiously at me. Maybe they wondered where I'd been. I sat down and they rubbed up on me, then excitedly ran around the room, energized by my appearance. Bert stood on my belly and rubbed his face onto my cheek. I felt joy seeing them and some relief. They had long since grown past a fragile age and were now healthy, vigorous and happy. In that moment, I realized the same thing that broke my heart would also help heal it.

Cats. Cats would break me and in the next moment, the love for and from cats would be my salvation.

Although my starfish necklace remains where I left it, I know one day I'll be ready to wear it again and along with it the mantle of resilience and determination all rescuers require to continue saving more lives.

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Celeste's Journey. Chapter 2. The Longest Day.

Continued from Chapter 1…

Another hour passed. Celeste tried to rest a bit and kept fussing with and licking the kittens. She was clearly going to care for them, which was a great relief. There was always the chance she’d abandon them if I scared her or if she was a young, new mom. I didn’t know if she had delivered the last kitten or not so I paid close attention to the time.

It didn’t take very long before the fifth kitten arrived. At first glance I though the kitten was black, too, but as it was cleaned and dried I saw stripes-a little tabby. Since cats can have multiple partners, it explained the different colors of kittens. I made a joke about her being a slutty.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. The fifth kitten is born.

I so wanted to take delight in this magical experience but I soon realized my fears that something was wrong with #3. He just wasn’t nursing. He was trying but he couldn’t sort it out. I feared I’d have to intervene but I’d never cared for a neonatal kitten. I’d only fed 2-3 week olds and that is much different.

That’s as much detail as I can remember about the births because after that began a 24-hr fight to save #3’s life. Between exhaustion, fear and anger I’m not sure how much I want to remember about what happened next.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. While the first two kittens are dry and looking for a nipple, #3 is still wet and needing care.

#3 was half the size of his siblings. I had to try to feed him, keep him warm but not too warm. To not feed him when he was cold because that would kill him. To make sure the formula wasn’t too cold or too hot. How the HELL does anyone achieve this? On top of it, the little guy wasn’t too keen on being fed and was so tiny it would be easy to harm him.

I reached out to everyone I could. I asked a lot of questions. I took advice. I tried this and that, but I knew I was in over my head. I felt like a moron. Why take this on? Why not just rescue kittens that are already born and not have to go through this. I got some formula into the kitten but I wasn’t sure how much or how often to feed. Every person I asked gave me a different answer. It was infuriating.

A few hours later I had a moment of success. #3 latched onto a nipple. I was so happy. I thought maybe we were out of the woods. I got it on video, but he only latched on for a few seconds. After numerous attempts to get him to latch on throughout the next day, he never did it again.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Screen capture from the vide of #3 nursing. Sadly it was only for a few seconds.

I stayed up with him all night. I put him into my shirt. I’d heard if you put him between “the girls” he would be warmer. It seemed to soothe him. Maybe it was my heartbeat. As I sat in the bathroom with him under my shirt and a blanket over us. I tried to keep the faith as I sat on a cushion leaning my head against the wall, resting my eyes, trying to hang on for his sake. I was so sleepy, but I couldn’t leave him alone. I imagined how he'd look as a full grown cat, white with gray polka dots. Running up to me, his tail held high. I would say to him “Remember when you were born, how sick you were? I can't believe how big you are now.” More than anything, I wanted that day to come. He squirmed and squeaked, then raked his tiny claws against my flesh. Even in such poor condition this newborn still had sharp claws. Maybe it meant he was a fighter?

He would perk up after spending time resting on my chest, then become so limp after being fed his head would flop around. I couldn’t get him stabilized and felt ill equipped to do so. Seeing him so energetic in one moment, fighting me because he couldn't tolerate the phony nipple on the baby bottle, then crash like that set me on edge.

By 3AM I felt it would be ok to take a nap for an hour. I put #3 back with his family, then reached down and took off my necklace. It was a gift from my friend Connie, who also does cat rescue. It’s a cotton thread chain with some beads and a tiny starfish, a symbol rescuers relate to due to the story that goes along with it. The story has taken many forms but is basically that of a person throwing starfish stranded on a beach back into the ocean. The beach is covered with them and this one person can't possibly get them all into the water before they die. Another person asks the rescuer why bother if you can't save them all. What difference would it make? The rescuer replied; “Because it makes a difference to that one I can rescue.”

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. While the other kittens nurse, #3 does not. Though I tried over and over again, he wouldn't take to any of the nipples.

I didn’t feel I deserved the necklace. I wasn’t doing a good enough job. I hung the necklace over the edge of a picture frame in Celeste’s room and turned off the light. I had a bag of dirty litter to bring to the trash so I headed downstairs. I realized I hadn’t eaten and really had to pee. I was half-awake until I took one step into the bathroom into a BIG puddle of cat urine. Nicky had peed on the floor. I wanted to SCREAM, but all I could do was wash my foot and clean up the mess. After all this, my own cats couldn’t cut me some slack. They knew what was going on. I’d discovered three other areas where they’d peed within that single day. It was not normal behavior and I was resigned to just clean it up. I was too tired to care beyond that.

Sam stepped in to help out as he could. He asked me what to do and I replied I didn’t know. I was so brain-dead and scared and angry. I’d asked, pleaded for the vet to come...to just show me I’m feeding the kitten the right away or to let me come there, but they just said to keep him warm and fed. I felt abandoned. I asked so many people for help, offered to pay them to come help, but no one could do a thing. I was on my own and for all the things I do to help to not be able to count on anyone was something that I don’t know I can forgive.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Celeste never gave up on her son.

Around 6 AM I tried to feed #3, but he went limp on me afterwards. Limp like dead limp...no breathing...nothing. I furiously rubbed him, as his mother might do with her tongue. I turned him upside down foolishly thinking he’d aspirated the formula. I sat there and cried. I looked at Celeste with her other kittens and said “now we are four.”

I looked down and #3 moved. He was still alive. I put him back into my shirt and after a time he recovered and was wiggling around. I probably did something wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. I put him with his mom. She licked the formula off him. I got her away from the other kittens and put #3 with her all by himself. This is it. No competition. Celeste seemed to understand and sat with him, touching him with her paw, giving him a lick. He wouldn’t latch on. I hoped maybe after a day or two he would get the hang of it, IF he had the time. At that point I was very worried he had any chance to survive.

This story concludes with a final chapter, coming up next.

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Celeste's Journey. Chapter 1. The First Day.

A blanket of fog settles in the yard causing the newly blossoming leaves to almost glow-green. It’s early. I can’t hear any birds singing. The only sound is the hum of my computer and my cat Spencer who sits beside me, grooming himself. Lick. Lick. Lick.

I’m glad the sun isn’t out today. This is the perfect gloom to match my sad heart. It would have been unfair if the sun shone brightly because Mother Nature owes us something back for taking a precious life away…but when things like this happen, there is NO fairness.

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©2014 Maryann Chiomak. My first look at Celeste.

Celeste was someone’s cat. She got dumped in an affluent neighborhood at least a few weeks ago. Maybe the person who did it thought she’d get help or maybe they just wanted to abandon their cat where someone wouldn't know them. Celeste is a seal point Siamese with crystal blue eyes and dainty little paws. How was she supposed to survive on her own? Being friendly with strangers told us she’d known love from humans, but why would a usually easy to place cat be left to fend for herself?

Maryann is the neighborhood cat lady. She traps the feral cats and gets them vetted. She does what she can while working a full time job far from her home. When Celeste showed up at her door, Maryann was right there to help, leaving her food, then doing some detective work to find out if this was a lost cat or one who lost her home with a family searching for her.

 

Celeste was a bit chubby, but also seemed thin. Maryann realized Celeste was pregnant on top of being on her own. Her fur was dirty and patchy. After offering her some food, Celeste quickly ate every bite and wanted more. How long Celeste was on her own we’ll never know. There are many aspects of her story that will be only hers to tell and for us to imagine.

 

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Lovely Celeste two days before giving birth.

Meanwhile, I’d been thinking about taking on a pregnant cat. Our foster mom, Moe already had Mia and her five kittens. My friend Katherine took in 5 cats to her rescue, discovering later that 4 were pregnant (and have since given birth). Maybe it was my own (very) delayed need for motherhood or the fact that Mother’s Day was coming soon, but I felt ready to take on the responsibility of fostering a pregnant cat and experiencing the birth of her kittens.

I’d taken a number of neonatal kitten classes. I’d fostered kittens (with their mom) who were a few days old. I thought I could handle what might come.

I knew it was a risk. I knew the fact that 30-40% of the kittens in a litter won’t live, but out of all the cats I’d known who recently gave birth, only one kitten didn’t make it. I could do this. Part of doing rescue is challenging yourself to take on more difficult cases.

Years ago the idea of fostering six kittens was more than I could fathom. These days I’m responsible for four times that many.

 

When I had to medicate nine very sick kittens multiple times a day with multiple medications I thought I would lose my mind. I made Sam crazy. I couldn’t manage my own fears that I’d kill the kittens by taking on too much, but they lived.

Even with all that I did for Fred last year. I never gave up. I never fought so hard to save a cat’s life and I would do it all again. I just didn’t expect it to be so soon.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Our first kitten is born.

Celeste arrived on Mother’s Day. The timing was perfect. Maryann had the vet x-ray Celeste and said he’d seen 4-5 kitten spines. I was so excited I began doing research online about genetics. Could I hope for a litter of Siamese kittens? It was unlikely since their genes are recessive so unless Celeste was bred with another Siamese we’d most likely be getting a mixed colored litter. I joked to some of my rescue friends that they’d probably all be black because we still find adopting out black cats to be more difficult. If she did have all black kittens, they wouldn’t be loved any less by me, but it was enjoyable to imagine what was to come next.

The vet felt she would deliver in about a week. I was glad because it would give me time to get a few extra supplies and to get some good food into Celeste. I couldn’t find a bulb syringe, which vexed me very much. I thought I had more time, but I was wrong.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. First two kittens arrive.

Two days later I happened to look at my phone. I was running our SqueeTV Dropcam application on it and could watch Celeste while I was working in my office downstairs. I thought I saw her belly contract. I couldn’t believe it. She’d eaten breakfast, sat in my lap just hours before, wasn’t “restless” as I’d read. She’d eaten some lunch, but not a lot. I thought she didn’t like the food.

 

I continued to watch and I saw another contraction. THIS WAS IT!

 

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Two black and white kittens. Okay, what is going on here.

I furiously posted the news online, called out to Sam, then headed upstairs. I tried to calm my breathing so Celeste wouldn’t be frightened. She’d only just started to get to know me and I wanted her to trust me. As I entered the room I smelled a somewhat dank odor. I found her furiously licking at her behind, but she was turned away so I couldn’t see what it was, then I heard it, the sharp cry of a kitten. I moved to get a better look and sure enough was a little black and white kitten still wet from being born.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. #3 is born.

I got down on my knees to lean on the edge of the bathtub where Celeste was giving birth.

I felt like crying. It was magical to see this new life arrive. I whispered, “Happy Birthday” through tear-filled eyes.

I knew Celeste should handle things on her own, but I stayed close by partly out of the need to be there for her and to jump in if she needed help. Help? What could I do? I called Katherine. I asked her what to expect. She told me not to worry, so I tried to pay attention to how long it took before each kitten arrived. Two hours between births was a sign of trouble. One was here, 3 or 4 more to go.

 

The second kitten was born shortly afterwards. Celeste let out a loud cry. Stood up. Walked around. Cried again and again, then…a contraction and again another black and white kitten was born. From what I could tell the markings on both kittens were quite curious. I couldn’t wait to get a better look at them. I glanced down at my phone to see the time, making a mental note that the next kitten would be here soon. It was mid-afternoon. The newborns were wiggling and squeaking. Celeste was furiously licking at them, cutting the umbilical cord, followed by delivering the placenta then eating that right up. It was a bit disturbing to see, but I knew she needed the fuel to keep going.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. First two kittens are drying off, but mama isn't doing a great job getting #3 cleaned and I start to worry.

Seemingly no time later kitten number three was born, but I quickly realized something was wrong. Celeste wasn’t attending to this kitten as much as she had the first two. I thought maybe she was tired. She cleaned the kitten a little bit. It was alive but still very wet. I urged her to clean the poor thing off. I wore gloves so I could safely touch the newborn. I gave it a tug and realized the cord was still attached inside of Celeste. It made Celeste fuss with the kitten but she was very slow to pass the placenta or get the kitten as clean and dry as she had the others. I was very worried but it was moving around and crying. At first he looked black and white, like his siblings, but quickly realized he was white with grey spots that I found charming. I thought he just needed a bit more time. I didn’t realize that the runt of the litter doesn’t mean it’s delivered last. Delivery order isn’t something I understood or thought mattered. It’s another thing to learn about later, but maybe this one was the runt.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. The little guy with his Siamese-skinny-long tail, just like mama.

The first two kittens looked good and were starting to search for a nipple but #3 didn’t. Again I thought it was too early and to give it more time. Another cry arrived, then a scream and big push and just like that a big black kitten was born. Celeste quickly cleaned him off, cut the cord and got him ready to go. That kitten was so big I couldn’t imagine he’d have any trouble. I had a sinking feeling #3 wasn’t going to be as lucky.

This is a 3-part post. Next up: Chapter 2. The Longest Day.

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Dear Fred. A Year Later.

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When I saw the news the other night, they were talking about the one-year anniversary of the bombing at the Boston Marathon. A few minutes after it happened, I was sitting in a waiting room at an Emergency Vet watching the TV news in the lobby, shaken by the upsetting news. I was waiting to take you to meet a Vet—a cold-hearted Ophthalmologist. It was the day I learned it was very likely you had Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) and that you’d have a few weeks to live or you had lymphoma. Either way it didn’t look good for your future. The news was delivered without one ounce of compassion. It was delivered by a beast. I will never go back to that Vet again. You were just 9 months old. I couldn’t understand why she’d be so uncaring, but the photos of dogs and horses in her office hinted that maybe she didn’t care for cats at all.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The strange coloration in Fred's eyes was one of the first signs of FIP. It's called Uveitis.

You could still walk then, but it had been weeks since you last jumped after a toy. If I had known what lay ahead for you in all honesty I think I would have just killed myself to avoid seeing you fade away like that. I’ve never witnessed something so completely devastating other than the one secret I could never share here until now.

My father killed himself with a shotgun in 1999. My mother offered to tell me what happened, but I was too distraught to know the details at the time. She never asked me again. We didn’t talk about it.

After she died in 2006, very unexpectedly, in going through her things, I discovered a photo album near her bed. My mother took photos of everything. I guess it was her way to control us because we always had to “form a group” or “stand by that flower” or she’d do weird things like photograph us when we were crying…even my cat after she died (she didn’t tell me she took my camera and photographed my DEAD cat! I found out when I picked up my photos from the drug store).

She photographed my father after he shot himself in the head. Maybe it was her way of processing what happened. I can't fathom or forgive her for doing that. The photos were in that bedside photo album…there was a story added to it about what really happened…how she saw him do it and could have stopped him, but didn’t. I was horrified in ways words cannot describe. I almost threw up when I saw the images of my dear father with his brains blown out, slumped down on the floor of my brother’s old bedroom. I had to call Sam to leave work right then and there, to drive an hour to come get me. All I could do was curl up in a ball on the floor and cry.

I only reveal this because seeing you die, Fred, die so very slowly, losing the ability to use your hind legs, then your front, then you couldn’t even sit up…and on the last day I know you had a hard time swallowing was heartbreaking…seeing that happen to a little innocent, once joyful kitten, who I loved dearly, cut through my heart as badly as seeing the aftermath of my father’s suicide. It made me question whether I had the strength to continue to do cat rescue any longer.

Seeing a kitten die from the dry form of FIP is horror I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I’m so sorry it happened to you Fred.

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On this, the anniversary of your passing, I’d like everyone to know that I created The Fred Fund in your honor; where we can set aside assets to only go to cats who need more than routine Vet care. That way, should we have another kitten in dire straights, we’ll be able to provide for him or her.

I’d also like to tell you about two special people who gave from their hearts well after you passed away. I commissioned a custom piece of art to remember you by from a crook (paper sculptor) named Matt Ross. We paid him $200.00 and he never did the art. He never did the art for another reader of this blog and took $300.00 from her. It wasn’t so much about losing the money, it was about him lying over and over again for months on end about how he promised he’d do the work, but then never did.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred's shrine. The red ball is his last “boo-boo” bandage. I found it in my bag one day and couldn't bear to part with it.

Two artists heard about what happened and offered to do tributes to you for no charge. Jodie Penn asked me to send her a photo of Fred and she used the image to create a custom pillow. It was almost the same size as you were, a bit bigger and better to hug. When it arrived Sam and I cried. It was like holding you in my arms again.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Jodie told me she's stopped making pillows for now, but is revamping her web site and will have them again this summer. So stay tuned for info on how you can get a pillow should you want one, too.

Alysia Prosser offered to create a watercolor portrait of you. In the end she graciously created one of both you and your brother Barney so we could have a matched set. Her style captured your sweetness and her talent is clear. We will be framing the portraits and hanging them side by side so they will be together always.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Joey, part of a litter of kittens I rescued after Fred's passing.

In the year since you’ve been gone your brother found a wonderful home with his new dad, David and Willow. You remember her. She was a friend to both of you for a long time. Everyone in your group got adopted into good homes. We rescued a mama cat we named Minnie a few weeks after we lost you. I wasn’t sure I could do rescue any more until I saw one of her kittens. He looked so much like you I felt it was a sign from you to keep going.

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Alysia Prosser does do commissions if you're interested in a portrait of your cat.

Cat Fancy magazine wrote a story about Kitten Associates and they did a special photo memorial of you. I couldn’t have been more proud of you at that moment for being the star of Kitties for Kids and for bringing joy to the children of Sandy Hook after the tragedy here in 2012.

Last September, the blog post I wrote called “Dear Fred,” one a prestigious award from Dogtime Media for the Best Blog Post. Of all the awards I’ve ever gotten, that was one I will truly cherish because it helped so many people know what a wonderful kitten you were.

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December 2013 Cat Fancy with Fred highlighted as the Mascot for our award-winning Kitties for Kids program

Though your life was far too short, I hope it was filled with more love then you could have ever hoped for. Sam and I miss you so much. Tears come far too easily when we think of you.

Each day I look at your photo and the small box of your ashes that lie next to another box of ashes of your siblings, Bam Bam and Pebbles, who died a few days after being born. I will forever be sad when I think of how this story ended and I will always look over my shoulder wondering if there was just one more thing I could have done that would have saved your life.

A few months after you passed away I learned that Dr. Gary Whittaker had made a discovery that would finally open the doorway for testing for FIP and possibly a vaccine.

I cried so hard, knowing that some day maybe no cat would have to suffer the way you and so many others did. I wrote to Dr. Whittaker and asked him some questions. I’ll let you know what he said in my next letter.

I may have rescued 100’s of cats over the years, but I will never forget you for as long as I live. I hope we’ll see each other again one day.

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Your mama, Robin

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For the Love of Cheese.

Four years ago it was rare to see an online plea to help a pet find a home. I’d been cranking away at my blog, wondering if anyone read it when a woman contacted me about her dire situation. She had an 18 pound orange maine coon and she was losing her home in a week. She’d tried asking friends and family to help, but no one stepped forward. She didn’t want to turn him into a shelter because in her heart she hoped her financial situation would improve enough so she could take her cat back. She just needed a long-term foster home.

Could I help her find a placement in Virginia for her beloved Cheese?

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Our first glimpse of Cheese.

I’m in Connecticut. What could I do? I wrote a blog post and hoped for the best. What shocked all of us is that the very next day, Amy Sikes stepped up to take Cheese as a foster with the hope of returning him to his mom one day. It was a joyous time, knowing even from afar, a few words inspired someone enough to help save a cat’s life.

Cheese had a safe, loving home, but as the months passed it was clear that his mom could not take him back. Her hopes of her situation improving were dashed. She asked Amy to find a new forever home for the big sweetheart.

Amy contacted me for help and again I wrote another post. Kelly saw the story and reached out to me. Kelly understood that 10 year old cats just don’t magically find a home. She loved maine coons and felt she could give the kitty what he needed.

Kelly lives in New Hampshire, a far drive from Virginia. If the adoption didn't work out it would make a big mess. We had to hope for the best.

Amy and Kelly worked out the details and in good time Cheese found himself in a new forever home with growing boys and 2 squeaky papillons. It wasn’t a love match at first with the dogs, but Kelly knew to give it time and sure enough Cheese found his place. He even began to “chat” with everyone and quickly become the center of attention.

Kelly wasn’t done adding to her family. She ended up adopting our foster kitten, Buttons, then a year later a friend for Buttons named Penelope Possum because the youngsters vexed the big orange senior (it wasn’t a bad situation, but out of respect Kelly felt Cheese needed more chill time and less chasing-kitten time).

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©Kelly Keating. Used with permission. Sweet Cheese.

I’ve become friends with Kelly over this time and she’s kept me posted about Cheese. It was always comforting to know he’d escaped being euthanized at a shelter and had been so loved and cared for.

Yesterday afternoon while Kelly was at the gym, her son called her and said he thought that Cheese had just died. Kelly raced home. Cheese was only 12 and had been recently vetted. He’d been doing just fine, seemingly not in any distress. How could this have happened?

When she got home she found Cheese laying still on the floor, that horrible kind of stillness that alerts one to the fact that there is no life left. Her son relayed that Cheese had stood up, cried out loudly, then died. Shocked and horrified, Kelly called me with the heartbreaking news.

We tried to make sense of what had happened. I knew from experience that cats with heart conditions, which are common in Maine Coons, can cause them to throw a clot and very quickly die. HCM, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy had claimed the life of my cat Stanley and our dear cat, Jackson Galaxy just a few months ago. HCM is very tough to detect without doing an echocardiogram. An x-ray or EKG can only tell so much and Kelly’s vet hadn’t had any suspicions.

We’ll never really know what happened to Cheese. We will try to find comfort knowing his passing was quick, but he was still so young and beautiful, with seemingly so many more years to look forward to, that it just feels grossly unfair that he’s gone.

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©Kelly Keating. Used with permission. The most handsome boy, Cheese.

To Kelly and her son, Liam, who I am told is devastated, to Kelly’s other sons and partner Dana, we join you in mourning the loss of a kitty who just wanted a forever home and was lucky enough to find it with all of you. I wish it had been for 10 more years.

To all of you who read this post, please visit our Facebook page and leave a message for Kelly and her family. She needs our support so very much.

Fly free sweet Cheese. You will be missed always.

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The Accidental Feral. Big Daddy’s Near Death Scare.

Saturday morning I got a text message from Warren that made me burst into tears. It was bad news about a cat named Big Daddy, a hunk of man-cat Warren had trapped behind Home Depot near his house in northern Georgia a few months ago. At the time, we assumed the cat was feral, but within hours after being trapped it was clear this cat was the exact opposite. He was SO charming we ALL fell in love with him. I wrote about Big D’s adventure in the post: The Accidental Feral, Big Daddy.

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©2014 William Mahone. Used with permission. www.WilliamMahonePhotography.com. The face that launched 1000 sighs…Big Daddy.

Soon after my post went up asking for a shelter to take on Big Daddy we were delighted that Angels of Assisi, of Roanoke, VA, offered to provide a placement for him until he was adopted. [You can check out that story here The Accidental Feral's Next Journey is with the Angels]

After only a few weeks of being with A of A, Big Daddy was adopted, but sadly, was returned due to his serious fear of dogs. We knew he'd find his home so he returned to the shelter to wait. As far as we knew, Big D was fine until the shocking news on Saturday.

Big Daddy who has FIV, was in critical condition from a serious upper respiratory tract infection that had gotten so bad one of his lungs collapsed. The lack of oxygen in his system caused him to go blind.

My own vet, Dr. Larry, had never even heard of anything like that happening before and neither had I. Though technically it could be possible, it was not something that happened with any regularity and also proved how seriously ill Big Daddy was…

…and explained why there was little hope he’d make it through the night.

I posted a PawCircle for Big Daddy right away on our Facebook page and so began the flood of good wishes, prayers and loving messages from over 30,000 people from as far away as Australia and the UK.

If love alone could cure Big Daddy, then he should be fine, but I knew better.

It was up to Big Daddy’s compromised immune system as to whether or not he would survive once he was getting IV antibiotics and other supportive care.

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©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Before Big Daddy got sick

I wanted to bargain with God to spare Big Daddy’s life. I promised I’d rescue more cats or be a better person…I was so busted up I couldn’t stop crying. For the next 24 hours I felt sick to my stomach with worry, hoping Warren wouldn’t update me or that he would, but only with good news.

Megan, Big Daddy’s foster mom at A of A relayed the story of how things unfolded. With her permission I’m sharing her words here with some minor edits:

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Big Daddy first got sick last weekend, Chelsea and I saw him on Saturday April 26th and he had the typical URI symptoms - runny nose, sneezy, congested, a little lethargic. He was still in good spirits at that time, while he wasn’t coming to the front of his cage demanding love he was accepting when we reached in. He had been started on antibiotics at that point. Put a bowl of wet food in front of him and he chowed down. By Monday (April 28) he was getting worse – very congested, blowing snot, not eating. The vets changed up his meds at this point to guifasen cough tabs, clavamox, and some nasal drops to help with the congestion.

On Wednesday (April 30) I brought him home to foster and help him recover, I have a very good track record with sick kittens and thought I’d give Big Daddy a try here. I was aware that because of his FIV he would have a harder time fighting this infection, but I had no idea what was in store for us over the next few days. … I was syringe feeding him (he was not eating on his own at all at this point), giving him his meds, nebulizing him twice a day, and keeping a humidifier running in his room all the time.

He seemed stable Wednesday and Thursday, but Friday evening he began going downhill very quickly. He was wheezing and gasping for breath most of the night. As I was trying to syringe feed him Friday night he had started clenching his jaw so tight I was not able to wiggle the syringe in to feed him at all. At that point I started panicking, unsure what to do for him. I tried giving him subcutaneous fluids, but he was fighting so much that the needle wouldn’t stay in.

After another attempt at syringe feeding he got very agitated and started walking away from me… He got to the edge of the bed and walked off, not jumped, walked off the bed right into the floor. This is when I REALLY panicked and started to think maybe he couldn’t see, I had also noticed that he would sit with his face against a wall and paw at the wall.

I slept in my guest bedroom with him Friday night, unsure if he would even make it through the night. Saturday morning I got him to the vet at Angels of Assisi with tears in my eyes because I was afraid there was nothing else we could do for our sweet boy, our fabulous veterinarian Dr. Raeann Foster immediately started working on Big Daddy in between paying clients.

He was started on oxygen via facemask; she gave him some steroids, and was planning on starting an IV to give him fluids. After describing how he walked off the bed and was staring at walls she tested his vision and confirmed that he was blind.

She believed that his brain had been oxygen deprived for so long and that’s what had led to the blindness. Obviously, with the blindness everything we tried to do was absolutely terrifying to him and he became very stressed and started lashing out at everyone who would touch him. Raeann (with the help of two great vet assistants!) was finally able to start an IV catheter so we could give him fluids.

We got him back on the oxygen, but he became very stressed and thrashed until he ripped out the IV. At this point Chelsea spoke with Warren to update him on Big Daddy’s status and let him know that we may lose him…Warren generously offered to sponsor Big Daddy’s care if we could/would get him to a full service clinic.

I high tailed it to Emergency Veterinary Services of Roanoke and they quickly took him from me to begin examining and working on him. The vet there updated me quickly and warned me that his prognosis was not good and that he could crash and go downhill very quickly. She told me the plan was to place him in an oxygen chamber where he would be able to get continuous oxygen to help him breathe better. When he was more relaxed they would start running blood work and get chest x-rays. They had to take everything very slowly as it didn’t take much to stress Big Daddy out and cause him to lash out at the staff. I left him in their very capable hands at this point. I called later that evening to check on him and was told that they’d been able to start an IV to give him fluids and antibiotics, had drawn some blood, and he was resting comfortably.

I called again late that night to check on him again and they’d been able to do all his blood work and x-rays, but did not have results yet. I tried to get some sleep Saturday night wondering if Big Daddy would make it. I called first thing Sunday morning for an update on him and was shocked to hear that he’d eaten a little on his own! The oxygen and fluids and antibiotics were working wonders! He seemed to be regaining some vision; he was more relaxed and very friendly with the staff taking care of him. She even told me that he was purring!

She told me that he was not out of the woods just yet, but that she was very happy with the progress he’d made over night. His blood work results were in – his WBC count was very elevated (Which was expected with an infection); his kidney enzymes were slightly elevated (possibly due to dehydration). His x-rays showed the he had a possible collapsed lung, which explained his difficulty breathing. She said they would begin trying to wean him off the oxygen then. So while he was not out of the woods, we became cautiously optimistic for a full recovery!

I went to visit BD that evening at the Emergency Vet clinic and he was looking amazing, I could not believe this was the same cat I’d dropped off just 24 hours prior when he couldn’t breathe or see! He was now completely off oxygen, his vision was returning, he was eating on his own, he was purring and loving on the staff…

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©2014 Megan Greer. Used with Permission. Big Daddy, down 3 pounds from being sick, got a visit from Megan at the ER Vet.

As the hours ticked by it seemed that Big Daddy was responding to treatment enough to leave the ER. By Monday he was back home with Megan, who would provide him with continued care and monitoring. With the good news spreading that Big D. was going to make it I think we all shared a sigh of relief and plenty of tears, but it also left us with more questions.

What was next for Big Daddy? How could he go back to A of A’s shelter after being so very sick and be exposed to other cats? If he couldn't be in the shelter where would he go? Could he stay in foster care for the time being…but how long could he stay there if it prevented the shelter from saving more lives?

The answer was starting to take shape, but right now we have to focus on getting Big Daddy stable and off his meds, then see how he does.

Angels of Assisi has an Amazon WishList that includes some food for Big Daddy. If you'd like to send him a Get Well gift please visit THIS LINK. MAKE SURE YOU LEAVE A GIFT MESSAGE THAT YOUR GIFT IS FOR BIG DADDY (he likes Blue Buffalo and Spot's Stew and others).

A of A would also like to THANK everyone for their support and words of encouragement and to Warren for covering 100% of Big Daddy's vet care costs.

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Stay tuned for Part Two…“The Accidental Feral. There's No Place Like Home.”

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The Eyes Have It. Ch 7. A Fond Farewell.

Rescue is an exercise in loving, then letting go, whether the cat leaves to be adopted or passes away while in foster care. It’s a challenge we face and have to find a way to accept, but many times instead of finding peace with the loss, we’re left with scars on our heart. I think a cat rescuer’s heart must look pretty ratty between the effects of sadness and stress on it. It’s a wonder it functions at all and miraculous that we find a way to love again and again.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mandy a few days after rescue, already brewing the URI that would plague the kittens for months.

In the case of “the Clementines,” our six, once skin-and-bones, flea-covered kittens from Kentucky, my heart was truly tested. At first it was stressed from worry. The kittens arrived covered in fleas, then got sick over and over again with an eye infection that wouldn’t quit. Then I fell in love with their silly antics as they began to blossom from little squirts to young adults. I dreaded the time when they would be adopted. They'd been here far too long.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mango and sister, Mandy, together always.

Our original six kittens, after many many months, were finally well enough to be find their homes. Quickly after being posted on Petfinder first Marigold, then her sisters Blossom and Buttercup were adopted. I was happy to see them find their place in the world, but secretly feared the day when their big brother Mango would find his place, too.

Mango is the biggest of the litter. He’s dopey, friendly, a bit too nippy when he’s bored. He’s always been courageous and ready to bust out of his foster room and dash down the stairs. In seconds he makes it all the way to the basement, tail up, ready for adventure, driving me crazy in the process.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. A world full of adventures awaits Biscotti and buddy, Mango.

I couldn’t open the door to the foster room unless he was eating, but to feed them I had to open the door. I used a big flat cardboard box as a “kitten plow” to push the cats back as I entered the room. It stopped being effective about six weeks ago. Mango was too big and my hands were too full to stop his escape.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Late night laptime.

It wasn’t so bad that he got out, but it was a pain in the neck to have to retrieve him all the time. He got into a little game with me where he’d run out of the room, dash down the hallway into my bedroom. He’d run over to a plant and chew on the leaves. I’d get him off the plant and he’d sit comfortably in my arms with his front paws crossed over each other as I carried him back to the foster room.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Fluff and Mango's game time.

Once Fluff Daddy was here, they developed a new game. Fluff would wait outside the door and as Mango made his escape, Fluff would trill and call out, chasing after him. They’d head into the master bathroom and Mango would run into the shower stall, even if it was wet from recently being used. He’d wait a minute or two while Fluff burbled after him, then he’d race out, right into my arms and I’d carry him back to his room once again.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet and silly Mandy.

After some time I decide to just let him out, get the food put down, then go get him. My favorite part of the game was watching him run down the hallway. His little butt would wiggle back and forth as he so proudly pranced along, enjoying his little game, waiting for me to come get him. He never struggled to get out of my arms, even at nine pounds he was never too big to be held.

Mango definitely was a “keeper” in my book, but I knew I just couldn’t do that. He deserved a home. At least that’s what I kept telling myself.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. The final sniff.

A few days ago, a very nice lady named Ann Marie came over with her mom, Dotty. These two ladies love cats. Ann Marie has an apartment in her parent’s home so when Ann Marie had to go to work, her mom and dad would be with the kittens. I loved the idea of Mango having that much attention, but I also knew he needed a buddy. Mango is a real cat-cat.

Ann Marie agreed saying she’d often had two cats and would welcome the chance to adopt one of Mango’s siblings. As she and her mother played with the kittens, I could tell her choice would be Mandarin.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh Mango!

Mandy was the smallest of the litter, the most dainty, the polar opposite to big thug Mango. Her eyes are almond shaped, not as round as her brother’s, which gives her a very sweet, girly-girl look (and was one of the few ways I could tell the cats apart when they were little kittens). Mandy is often rather quiet, but loveable. She surprised me by fetching one particular, ratty toy. If I threw it she would either return it to me or she would leap high into the air, catching the toy with her front paws. She looked like an outfielder at a baseball game. I’d never seen anything like it.

I knew Ann Marie and her mom (who is so gentle with my own cats that when she sat with the two most skittish cats, they didn’t run off.) were falling for the two kittens. It was not long before we were doing the paperwork and I was kissing each kitten and loading them into their cat carriers.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mr. Handsome.

Then the all-too familiar feeling…rip, rip, rip goes my heart.

After the kittens left for their new home and I returned to the foster room it felt completely empty even though two cats remained. Biscotti and Bert, the last of the Clementines, looked up at me clearly confused about what was going on. Mango, the master of mayhem, was gone. His story with me had reached the final chapter. I wouldn’t need a “kitten plow” to enter the room any more, nor would I see his little round butt shake its way down the hall ever again.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Baby Mango hit with URI, didn't stop him from being adorable.

At that moment I felt the familiar sting of tears building up in my eyes. My heart bore fresh scars from lost love, but I knew too that the very same love I'll always have for Mango is what also fuels my ability to go on.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. With their new mama, Ann Marie and her mama, Dotty.

Goodbye babies. Have a wonderful life.

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When Your Cat Asks, "What's for Dinner?" #WeruvaPets

I’m often asked the question: “What should I feed my cat?”

Species appropriate nutrition for cats is a passion of mine and I take it so seriously that when I opened my non-profit cat rescue, Kitten Associates, I created a “no kibble” policy for all our foster cats. After years of studying nutrition, understanding that cats are obligate carnivores (they get their energy from PROTEIN not carbohydrates), it just made sense to not feed them anything that was over-processed, heated beyond recognition, utilizing source proteins that weren’t up to snuff.

Enter Weruva...

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I’ve seen the change good nutrition makes in my own cat’s health and my dream is to help people make better choices so their cats will benefit. It’s clear that the folks at Weruva, makers of “People food for Pets,” also shares my passion. All you have to do is pop open a 3.2 oz. or 6.0 oz. can or rip open a 3 oz. pouch to see what good cat food looks like.

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There are recognizable pieces of meat or fish. It’s 80% water. Why? Because cat’s origins are traced back to the deserts of Iran where water was not readily available. It’s not natural for a cat to drink water from a bowl because their thirst drive is so low. In fact, cats evolved to obtain their hydration through the prey they consume so the modern cat of today must get moisture from their food or they can have kidney issues and a whole host of other problems. Weruva’s mid-priced line of cat food, great for cats young and old, is called Cats in the Kitchen and provides appropriate moisture along with tasty morsels of meat or sustainable fish. It’s a go-to cat food in my home.

Cats in the Kitchen utilizes novel proteins like lamb or turkey and the flavors have some of the most creative names I’ve ever heard, like “Funk in the Trunk” or “Double Dip.” What I like best is that I don’t have to worry about there being extra ingredients that may cause health issues in many cats. This food is Grain-free, GMO, Carrageenan, Starch and MSG free and looks so delicious you’d be tempted to put it on a cracker and try it yourself.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Kitten Associates foster kittens Junebug, Purrcee & Maggie Mae gobble up Weruva's Fowl Ball-turkey and chicken recipe. Feeding hint: elevate your cat's dish and make sure it's flat. That way your cat will have a more comfortable time eating. Whiskers rubbing on the side of a bowl can be uncomfortable.

Weruva uses the same cuts of meat humans can eat, some in interesting combinations like Turkey and Pumpkin (great choice to soothe your cat’s digestive issues) or chicken and beef. These combinations help satisfy the most picky eaters, though my cats love the simple “Chicken Frick ‘A Zee,” which is shredded chicken in broth. [helpful hint: I like to microwave the food for a few seconds because it helps release the aroma which will make the most finicky cat eat heartily.]

We feed Cats in the Kitchen to all our cats and foster cats and kittens. I have yet to find a flavor a cat will turn away from. I highly recommend the Cats in the Kitchen line for anyone transitioning their cats off kibble because it’s so well accepted.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Maggie shows me how much she liked her dinner.

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 let them know Covered in Cat Hair sent you!

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.

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Discarded Cats Diary Ch 7. Bravery Isn't Enough.

It’s been a week since Biscotti arrived in his new foster-to-adopt home. There were plenty of bumps in the road between his foster mom, Mary Lou, fretting she had cat allergies and her not being sure he would come out of his shell and have a happy life.

As the days passed I got updates that Biscotti truly was a brave little lion. He was hiding less, and snuggling more. He loved his new dad, Greg and Graham the 17 yr old high school student with movie star looks. I got a few photos of Biscotti as he began to blossom. I could see the sweet but slightly scared look on his face, the one I knew so well. I could see him struggling, but overcoming his fears. I was so proud of him.

In a few days, Mary Lou is supposed to go to see her allergist and there I had hoped she would be able to put her fears of allergies to rest or be able to find a way to enjoy living with Biscotti without any discomfort. She’d even mentioned that perhaps it had nothing to do with the cat, but perhaps something else, especially this time of year with all the pollens coming out, that were causing her eyes to feel dried out and itchy.

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Biscotti hoping this is his forever home.

Then an email this afternoon telling me how beautiful Biscotti is and in the next breath how he needs to come back tonight, if possible. That Mary Lou’s reaction to him prevents her from even going in the room where he’s staying. She won't even wait until Monday or try any product I suggested that will neutralize his dander. I even suggested to wait a bit longer because some times you can get used to a cat, but…I didn’t know how badly she was doing. I imagine sniffles and for all I know she’s having an anaphylactic reaction.

But she does want a cat. Just not Biscotti.

She wants a hypoallergenic cat, though I told her there really is no such thing, at least not 100% hypoallergenic, and that even with those cats there can be an issue. She’d have to get a purebred cat, but she feels the costs (over $1000) are too high and wanted me to help her find another cat for less money.

As always I try to find answers and be helpful but I was also suspicious that something else was going on. I gave her some options for some breed-specific rescues and now I’m sitting here waiting for her to get home so I can go get our cat back.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

I’m sad Biscotti lost his home, but I’m glad to have him come back. I know he’s had a good challenge and it will help me understand what sort of home would be good for him going forward and I’m PROUD of him for being such a brave boy.

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Something just didn’t feel right once we arrived at the house. Mary Lou was rather stiff and made a quick frowny-face at me as if she was pretending to feel badly. Her son greeted us and gave us the same uncomfortable look as if there was more going on to this than we could know. Sam and I entered the room where I’d last seen Biscotti. He was sitting on the floor, looking a bit confused, but didn’t run off.

The room was rather a surprising mess compared to the utter perfection I'd seen a few days before and right away something bothered my throat. I don’t know what was causing it, but there was something in the room that was really irritating me. As Mary Lou gave us her feedback about how Biscotti was doing, telling us of his charming antics, while I politely nodded, I really just wanted to get the Hell out of there. My throat was really bothering me, but Mary Lou seemed fine. I think she was trying to be nice about giving Biscotti back but I couldn’t help but feel that something else was going on.

Mary Lou is still going to her Doctor on Monday. I don’t know why she couldn’t wait a few days, but she can’t. She gave me back the food I bought and Biscotti’s cat bed along with a few toys. Biscotti had hidden under a table. I scooped him out. He felt a lot heavier and was clearly afraid. I gently put him back in the cat carrier and he began to cry. Mary Lou seemed unfazed.

Sam and I made a beeline out of the house. Mary Lou said she was sorry to which I replied it was fine. I’d rather bring him back and my gut told me not to try to fix the situation-just get out.

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©2014Robin A.F. Olson.

The second I got into the car I said to Sam that my throat was bothering me. He shocked me by saying his was irritated, too. I knew right then and there that it probably wasn’t Biscotti Mary Lou was allergic to, but either the perfume of the cat litter (since the room was closed off from the rest of the house and the litter pan was with Biscotti) or there was something else in the room causing the issue.

It took a few hours for my throat to feel better. I decided to email Mary Lou and let her know, in case it would help her going forward. I told her I was not trying to get her to take Biscotti back, but that she should be aware something is going on in that room if two other people had allergic reactions. Her one word reply left me feeling flat: “WOW!”

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©2014Robin A.F. Olson.

I brought Biscotti back to his old buddies, the Clementine-kittens. There was a lot of sniffing and Biscotti hid right away. I checked in on him a bit later and he came out of hiding, but he definitely had a setback. He was not as friendly as he was just last week and he was clearly confused and upset. He didn’t eat well, but I know that will change. He felt a lot heavier so he must have had some good meals.

As the Clementines ran around the room playing, Biscotti sat on the bookcase away from the activity as he did before. He watches the world go by and wishes he could take part, but something in his heart hasn’t ripened enough yet where he feels like he can.

I know my little lion-heart will get there. It’s just a bump in the road.

Back to the drawing board for you Biscotti. We’ll find you the home you were really meant to have, not the one that gave up on you at the drop of a hat.

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Discarded Cats Diary. Ch 6. Biscotti the Lionhearted.

Some cats are born with a special sweetness about them. They don’t hiss, fight or bite. They don’t spitefully urinate on the wall. They're often overlooked because they might be shy or reserved, but it doesn’t mean there doesn’t beat the heart of a lion within their chest.

Biscotti, who was literally thrown into a hot metal dumpster, burned and left to die when he was barely 3 weeks old, is one of those specially sweet creatures. Though painfully shy, since Biscotti arrived with his surrogate mother Mocha and her kittens Pizzelle, Lyndsay and Nanny last fall, he has slowly undergone a transformation.

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©2013 Betsy Merchant. First glimpse of Biscotti right after rescue out of a dumpster.

Biscotti tries to overcome his fear. I don’t know what sort of Hell he suffered before he was thrown away, but it must have been very bad. The little tuxedo is not shy of being petted, in fact he enjoys it. Since he’s not “head shy” I don’t think he was hit, but something caused him to turn inward and retreat any time he is stressed. He hides away and only after a long time will he come out and explore the strangers in his room. If I pick him up around strangers, he’ll tighten himself into a ball. I can put him on anyone’s lap and he will stay in his little ball shape with a very sad look on his face.

His fragile nature is a magnet for compassionate people. Everyone feels badly for him and they all feel the desire to help him overcome his fear, but in the end they always opt for the more social cat to adopt. I don’t blame them, but I see what they don’t. He’s a little lion.

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©2013 Foster Mama. Biscotti with his new mom, Mocha and step-brother Pizzelle.

When it’s just me in the room, Biscotti will come over to me, tail up in the air, ready to sit on my chest and get petted. If the Clementines weren’t so demanding of my lap-space, he’d be right there, too, but he’s too shy to push the others away to get what he wants. I try to give all of them some of my time and sooner or later Biscotti makes his way up on my lap where he’ll get as much love as he wants.

Over the months he’s really come out of his shell. I know he’ll be a great companion, but whoever adopts him will have to have faith that what I’ve seen, they will see, too. It’s just there’s no guarantee WHEN it will happen and the home has to be the right one. It has to be a CALM home. No little screaming kids. No late night parties. He needs a stable environment with people who understand cats and understand they have a diamond in the rough. The payoff won’t be instant gratification, it will be in knowing they had a hand in helping this poor creature find his confidence and in doing so, he’ll find his happiness and they will have an amazing companion in return.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Biscotti at 8 months old looking out into the woods of western Connecticut, a million miles away from the dumpster in Georgia where he was abandoned.

Just a few days after Blossom and Buttercup were adopted, I got a call from Mary Lou. She was in love with Biscotti’s photos on Petfinder and wanted to meet him right away. We had a long chat and she sounded great, but hadn’t even filled out an adoption application. I had a very good feeling about her, but was a bit worried there would be something in the application that would prevent me from moving forward.

I’m usually very slow processing applications. I HATE to deal with them. I am very sorry to anyone who has adopted from us or tried to. I do the best I can but having to have confrontations and talk to strangers is not my idea of a good time. One day I’ll have volunteers help me with this but right now I’m on my own.

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©2013 Betsy Merchant (inset) and ©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. A fragile kitten grows into a handsome, loving young adult.

In this case, because I had a good feeling and the application was good, the very next day Sam and I did the home visit and right after that they came over here to meet Biscotti. It went well, but as expected, the Clementines were all over the couple and I knew it would be hard to overlook them for the shy, motionless cat who was sitting under the cat tree.

I put Biscotti in Mary Lou’s lap. He looked very forlorn but sat there quietly as Mary Lou cooed over him. Her husband smiled at him but couldn’t help but be charmed by Mango. I didn’t push the subject, giving them plenty of time to consider their options. I was told that there was another rescue pressuring them to take THEIR cat. I’d heard of those tactics before, saying someone else wanted the cat and if they didn’t act fast they’d lose out. I never do that. If it’s meant to be, it is. I am not in the “business” of moving cats into okay homes. This is non-negotiable for me and I was rather disgusted that another rescue was pushing by constantly calling and texting Mary Lou.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Biscotti often poses for the camera making getting a good photo of him rather easy.

They had to think about it and I thought maybe it wasn’t going to happen but the next day I got a call that surprised me. Mary Lou had an allergic reaction while she was here. Her mom is allergic but she didn’t think she was. She was concerned about adopting ANY cat if it meant falling in love with it, then having to give it back. I was, too. She didn’t know what to do about it so I suggested she foster Biscotti for two weeks. If he made her sick, then I’d take him right back. If he didn’t and it was a match, then we’d do the adoption. She liked the idea so a few days later I brought Biscotti to her home.

I knew Biscotti would be terrified so I brought a hooded cat bed that smelled like him with me. Mary Lou and I got everything set up in his new room, which was a very sunny living room with large windows and so very well appointed. I looked for hiding places and was glad to see we only really had to change one thing and the rest of the space was clear. My hope was that I’d guide Biscotti into the cat bed and he’d use that for his safe place until he felt he could explore his new home.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Who wants to kiss that face? I do!

I’m really glad I brought the bed because that’s right where he went when I took him out of his cat carrier. He curled up in the bed, glad to be in the dark. I petted him and he loosened up a bit, but I knew he was very scared. I didn’t know if being the only pet in the family would be good or bad for him. My hope was that with the attention of a loving family focused on him that he would shine, but there was a long way to go before that happened.

With Biscotti, I do admit to feeling sad to let him go. I was happy for him because I liked his family very much, but he is the kind of cat you just love because he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and he's simply a joy to be around.

I anxiously waited for news on how he was doing and feared he’d stop eating and completely fall apart. But Biscotti’s lion-heart rose to the challenge. He ate that first night and used his litter pan. After a few days he was coming out of his hiding places to get pets and get to know his new family. I heard they are all madly in love with him and look forward to him coming out of his shell more, but he’s already playing and I take that as a very good sign.

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©2014 Mary Lou H. Biscotti under cover in his new foster home.

With adoptions, nothing is ever certain. It’ll be another 10 days before the foster agreement comes to an end and Mary Lou and her family have to decide. Even if Biscotti has to come back, he will be that much stronger and ready to take on more. He’s a brave little fellow and no matter what, I will always have his back.

He will never be treated like garbage again.

…and then the phone rang again. It was Mary Lou. “I think I'm allergic to Biscotti.”

…to be continued…

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