This Precious Life. Chapstick the Kitten.

Life is precious and should be revered in all its forms, whether it be a plant, or bug, a whale or amoeba. It’s also natural and expected that all forms of life draw to an end at some point, whether it be after only a few moments or many years. Death must occur to make way for new life to emerge in an endless cycle.

When a life comes to an end we may not even notice. We might step on a bug on a walk to the bus, while the end of another life form might break our hearts, making living our own life difficult, if not impossible.

When faced with losing our own precious life, we fight, we take medication, we have a surgery, we ask for prayers. We may also do the same thing in honor of a life we want to protect that’s in the balance. It might be our child or our friend or in this case that of a tiny newborn kitten who was found inside a dumpster with his sibling.

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Someone who did not consider life to be precious had a pregnant cat. The cat gave birth far too soon. Perhaps she was highly stressed or sick. She may have even died due to complications from the delivery. Her kittens were smaller than normal by more than an ounce, when a birth weight of a newborn kitten should be at least 3 1/2 ounces. Being down 1/3 of normal weight meant those kittens had a high probability that they would be robbed of having a normal life span.

The person, for whatever reason, chose to take the kittens away from their mother and put the two of them into a small box. The person then brought the box to a dumpster near a gas station and hide it under more trash knowing full well that the unusually cold early spring weather in Connecticut would end the life of these kittens very soon. The person left them there to die on purpose.

I want to know what sort of monster would do such a thing. Why was throwing away a precious life was the answer to their problem. What other things was this person capable of? What excuses did this person give himself or herself so that person could feel like their choice was acceptable and they would remain blameless for their heartless actions?

But what the person didn’t expect was that a man named Sal went to the gas station some time later. While he was getting gas he heard crying. He thought the high-pitched sound was made by birds at first. He went to investigate, and to his surprise, he unearthed the box of kittens, who were so small their umbilical cords were still attached.

He has a dog and cat at home. Life is precious to him. He brought the kittens home and called a Vet who gave him some idea of what to do and what to feed the kittens, not understanding that these kittens were newborns, called neonates, and that they needed more care than a kind-hearted soul could give them.

I got a call about Sal needing help so I called him, concerned about what I’d heard. I had no idea how serious the situation was either, but I asked, truly urged Sal to let my rescue, Kitten Associates, have the kittens. I’d called Jeannie, one of our foster moms who has a lot of experience with kittens, far more than I do, and she was on standby to take them.

Sal wanted to try to provide care. His girlfriend was home all day and would stay up and watch over the kittens. Less than a day later, I got a call that the kittens weren’t doing so well. I rushed to reach Jeannie and she changed plans to take the kittens as soon as possible. I worried we were too late.

Within an hour of Jeannie getting the kittens, one of them died in her arms. A little black and white kitten who didn’t have a name, who didn’t live more than a day. That life was over before it began and we were all heartbroken.

The prognosis for the other kitten wasn’t so good either. This little black kitten was very thin and not very lively. Jeannie took a photo of him for me. She put a Chapstick next to the kitten to show me just how tiny he was. It was a shocking sight.

Jeannie stayed up all night with him, trying to get him to take nourishment, trying to get him to warm up, but he wasn’t responding very well and seemed depressed. We all knew about Failure to Thrive or Fading Kitten Syndrome-when due to illness, gestational issues (born too soon or developmental issues) or some times it’s not even known why, some kittens just don’t make it. They are too weak, too fragile and once that process starts they usually die very quickly.

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©2014 Jeannie G. The lone survivor moments after entering our rescue.

By morning I got the call that the second kitten was dying, too. I fell into a long crying jag. I’d never even met the kittens, yet my anguish in losing them was not diminished. I was told the kitten was struggling to breathe and that it was just a matter of time.

I wanted to hurt someone, specifically I wanted to hurt whoever robbed these innocents of their life. They didn’t ask to be born, but they were here, so let us respect that. Ask for help from a local rescue. Reach out to SOMEONE. There are many resources where you can get help. Why would anyone THROW THESE KITTENS AWAY? I don’t understand. I don’t understand how cruel this person could be and I worried about the mom cat. What became of her? But I could do nothing other than sob for what will never be–two kittens having a chance to grow and thrive and live a wonderful life. Now it would not happen and as bad as this was, I worried about what this heartache would do to Jeannie, too.

Early that afternoon I texted Jeannie. I hadn’t heard from her that the kitten had died so I wanted to check in. I asked if he was gone and she answered, “no.” I asked; “is that good?” and she replied, “no.” I knew it meant the end was near. I hung my head and cried some more. That was all I heard for a few more hours, until my phone rang. It was Jeannie.

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©2014 Jeannie G. First look at Midnight after surviving the second night.

“Well you’re never going to believe this.” she said. “The guy who found the kittens, well he put an ad on craigslist looking for a mom-cat to put the kittens with and he found one. He gave me their info so I called them and I brought the kitten over to them. This couple really knows about kitten care and the guy is like some sort of crazy cat whisperer. He’s got the kitten and he is going to do everything he can to keep him going.”

“Wait…so the kitten is not DEAD?”

“Right. He’s alive, but I have to tell you I don’t think he’s going to make it.”

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©2014 Jeannie G. Little Man.

I didn’t want to shoot off fireworks and proclaim all was well with the world, but I had a glimmer of hope that somehow he would make it. Jeannie told me that she had stayed up all night and tried to get the little kitten to eat every hour or so. By morning he was doing so poorly and she was so tired, she finally gave up. She let herself sleep for a few hours, leaving the kitten in a warmed up blanket in a box next to her bed. She knew when she woke up that he would be gone, but when she woke up and touched him he cried. He was hungry. She fed him, but he was still very weak and probably fading away.

With nothing to lose, Jeannie brought the kitten to Jonathan and his wife Christal. Over that night we heard no updates. In fact I was wondering if it was some crazy tall tale and that this guy didn’t even exist. I couldn’t get his contact info, but I knew Jeannie was exhausted so I didn’t bother her to get it. I called Sal and asked for the info but he never called me back. Almost a day later I got the number from Jeannie, but she said the number was disconnected. I called it and sure enough, the phone was off! What happened to the kitten? I had to know.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Unable to right himself, Midnight wobbles. I assure you we quickly helped him adjust his position (see below), but I include it so you can see how TINY his legs and paws are.

Jeannie said she was going to go back to the home. I asked to go with her but she said it wasn’t necessary and that these folks were very private. I was jumping out of my skin, but there was nothing I could do. I had to keep waiting and wondering what I’d find out.

Not long after I got another message and a new phone number. The couple had recently moved here and had coincidently just gotten a new phone number. Not only that, but Jeannie had just been to the home and believe it or not, the kitten was STILL ALIVE. She said in 15 years of being a nurse, of working with little kittens, she was impressed with what this guy did to keep the kitten going. She said the kitten looked a little better, still very week, still far too tiny; that he was put with a mama-cat who accepted him and 4 new sisters who crowded around him to keep him warm. I was thrilled and anxious to offer support. I couldn’t let this good deed go unrewarded.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

I was finally able to get in touch with Christal while Jonathan tended to the kitten. I offered them food, goat’s milk, whatever they needed. I offered to help them with placing and vetting the kittens and getting mom spayed one day. I couldn’t do enough to help them, but they were probably shocked that a stranger would want to do so much, so it took a few emails and calls and finally we set it up so that the next day I could bring them supplies as a gesture of thanks and of support.

Thanks to some donations we already received, I was able to buy a few cases of cat food, some hybrid grain-free dry/raw food and some goat’s milk with probiotics in it. I bought the kitten and his family a very soft, flat bed, no sides for him to get hung up on. I had some toys that were donated to us so I grabbed a bunch for the adult cats and the kittens for when they got bigger. I knew the couple had children so I packed up a donation of plush cats so the kids weren’t left out.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. My trunk loaded with goodies.

My rescue has been very lucky to be on the receiving end of many acts of generosity, but it was nice to be able to pay it forward. It had only been 2 days since the kittens were found and here I was in a part of a nearby town I’d never been to, hoping what I’d heard was really true and that this kitten was still with us.

I expected that when I met Jonathan he’d be tired, but this poor guy was loopy from being exhausted. He came out and met me after Christal had welcomed me into their home. He’s a young man, wearing a t-shirt and jeans, barefoot, with his hair askew. He apologized for just waking up even though it was mid-afternoon. I told him not to be sorry and that I truly appreciated what he was doing. I couldn’t wait to find out how the kitten was doing when he quickly left the room and returned, holding the little guy out to me in his hands.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Literally and figuratively-Midnight is in good hands now.

What I saw didn’t make sense. I’ve seen plenty of little kittens in my day, but this one was so tiny I didn’t know how it was alive. This little guy was born VERY EARLY. He had to be premature. He was weak, but feisty. We put him on the cat bed and he wobbled around. His paw was maybe ¼ the width of my finger, but he had tiny claws just like a grown up. I couldn’t make out much of his face because he was all black. Then I saw it-a white locket of fur on his chest. It was barely the size of a pencil tip but it was there. It made me gasp as my own cat, Cricket, bears the same mark. I had only a moment to see him before he was put back with his mom to keep warm, but in that moment I was completely in awe.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Fussy feeding time while Cupcake looks on.

Jonathan spoke at a rapid fire pace. I asked him how he got this far and he told me so much that it made my head spin. He said he’d lived on a farm and had raised hundreds of kittens over the years. He knew about fading kitten syndrome but he was not about to let that beat him. He told me how he slowly but carefully got the kitten’s core temp to rise, how he made up some homemade Karyo syrup to get his blood sugar up. He gave the kitten, who he calls Midnight, an extremely minute dose of amoxycylin and something that helped perk up his electrolytes. I was aghast. Whatever he was doing resulted in this little guy latching on to his new mom for a moment. It caused this little guy to allow being syringe fed a tiny amount of milk. This kitten was reacting to the world around him even though he was far too weak to do much more than wiggle against sensations like being held or being syringe fed that he didn't understand yet.

Jonathan felt the kitten had been depressed from being alone, but now had become more energized now that he was with his new family. The fight was back in his heart. This little kitten wanted to live again and Jonathan was going to do whatever it took to keep him going.

I wished I could take Jonathan home with me so we could write everything down-so this information would not be lost, but I also had to wonder if there was just something about him and his wife, too, that was something more than just knowledge—maybe it was their faith? I told them that I’d posted the photo of the kitten on Facebook and asked for good wishes and prayers and that almost 30,000 people had been rooting for this little guy to live, but the news didn’t effect them. They were so focused on this one fragile life that that was all that mattered. I also knew they were both exhausted.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. So very tiny!

I thanked them again. I didn’t stay long. Jonathan needed rest and the kitten needed more meals. I promised to help them cover the costs of the vetting, spay/neutering of their current litter of cats AND the second litter (yes there’s a second pregnant cat in the home-they assumed the cat was a boy because it was an orange tabby and it’s less common for the orangies to be female). I will help them find good homes. I offered to take some of the kittens into our program but right now they want to see the kittens placed themselves. I honestly am so indebted to them I would move mountains for what they’ve done. I know it may not last. I know this kitten is far from being out of the woods, but I am trying to have faith that he will be okay.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Ready for more nourishment.

Day four, I get news. The kitten is still with us. Not only that, but they sent me a photo that says it all-there is little Midnight, front legs stretched out, attached with all he’s got on his new mom’s nipple, drinking in mouthfuls of life. In his joy, I was told he purred. I can’t believe it was possible, but after what has transpired over the past few days, I better learn to believe that at this point, anything can happen.

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©2014 Christal P. Midnight surrounded by his new siblings.

Day six. Guess who is still with us? Midnight eats more from his new mama now and is a little bit bigger. Christal estimates he’s the size of a 2-day old kitten. She feels he can go the distance and frankly nothing would make me happier if that truly came to be.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. I was honored to have a moment to be able to meet Midnight's sisters who are all adorable torties. They are almost the same age as Midnight, but so much bigger.

Midnight, his new mom, his 4 new sisters, a dad and another mom and her as-yet-to-be-born kittens will all need to be spayed or neutered, vetted and have proper food and care. I would like to be able to provide that care for these families, which I estimate to cost over $1000.00 as long as no one gets sick or needs critical care. I’m passing around the hat in the hopes that in honor of this precious life we all are blessed to have, that you will consider sharing your love with this family.

And as for little “Chapstick,” you go boy. You get big and strong and have a wonderful, precious life.

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©2014 Christal P. I love this photo. Midnight stretching out on his mom while her sister (who is also going to give birth soon) reaches out to comfort the little guy .

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March 26, 2014 UPDATE

A GENEROUS FRIEND OF KITTEN ASSOCIATES IS OFFERING TO MATCH YOUR DONATION DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR UP TO $500.00! So far we've raised $200.00 so our target is just $300.00 more!

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March 27, 2014 UPDATE

WE MADE OUR GOAL!!! THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR HELPING LITTLE MIDNIGHT and his new family!

Fundraising services either ask for a donation towards their service to direct your funds to PayPal or they take a percentage of your funds before it goes to PayPal. PayPal also takes a cut.

To maximize every contribution, we’re asking you simply go to our web site and press the Donate button which will take you directly to PayPal. Once we reach our target, I will update this post and end the fundraiser.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. One of Midnight's sisters.

March 26 UPDATE ON MIDNIGHT, “Chapstick”

HAPPY ONE WEEK BIRTHDAY little one! Midnight has lived a week, is growing and eating much better. He also doesn't sit still for photos.

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©2014 Christal P. I will never stop being amazed to know that Midnight lived another day. Look at how much bigger he is today!

The Accidental Feral Makes His Television Debut

Chelsea Ellis, of Angels of Assisi in Roanoke, VA didn't waste a minute after Big Daddy arrived at their shelter barely a week ago. This morning Big D. made his first television appearance on the Fox 21 27 Morning News segment called Furry Friends.

What amazes me is Big Daddy has only been off the streets for about a month all told. First Warren trapped him by Home Depot, thinking he was an injured feral, but he quickly discovered his first thoughts were wrong. Big Daddy's story took another turn that once again left us in awe shortly after I covered his tale and Chelsea Ellis read about him.

With all the love and fuss over Big Daddy, I feel very hopeful his forever family will find him soon. Whoever they are are very lucky folks. I can't imagine anyone meeting him and not falling in love.

I hope the next chapter in his story is about just that—finding home.

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Big Daddy Makes the Morning News on Fox 21/27

Read the entire The Accidental Feral Series

Part One Warren traps an injured feral, who ends up surprising everyone

Part Two Big Daddy's Trip to the Angels

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Stage IV Cancer Forces Rescuer to Seek Help Placing Cats

Last night I got an email from Tina Buechner, a rescuer in Georgia, that made my heart sink. You may remember me writing about Tina’s (and mine) nightmare thinking we’d saved some cats from kill shelters only to send them to a rescue in New York State that turned out to be a hoarder. You can read the full story HERE.

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Tina’s email read: “I have to ask if maybe you could help me or give me advise what to do. I have been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer and will be starting chemo next week. I really need to try to place 5 of my fosters to lighten the load on my husband and me so I can concentrate on my treatment. It breaks my heart as I have grown attached to them. I just don't know where to turn or what to do as I want them to get good homes so I can rest my mind… I am not able to go to Petsmart adoptions anymore and will probably close down my rescue.”

Even though I may have never met Tina in person, she’s a sister to me. That’s how I feel about all the folks I network with who do animal rescue. It’s a special sort of person who can put their heart (and usually a lot more) on the line to save the life of an animal. They give up so much and now here was Tina, forced to give up her life's passion in the hopes she can save her own life.

My sister has cancer. I am going to do whatever I can to help her.

The five cats listed below need a great HOME or great RESCUE or great SHELTER placement. After what Tina has seen with the hoarder, anyone interested in taking one or more of these cats MUST be prepared to be carefully screened. We may ask for photos of your home, your facility. We may ask for references from adopters or friends or family or Vets or all of the above. We MUST be 100% certain that all cats will be safe. The last thing Tina needs is to have something else to worry about. She needs to be able to focus on taking care of herself, but she can't live without cats, so she plans on keeping a few cats not listed here.

CONTACT ME: Robin Olson

EMAIL: info@kittenassociates.org

PRE-ADOPTION APPLICATION (for adopters only)

This application goes to my rescue group, Kitten Associates, which is located in CT. I’m going to screen all applications for Tina.

RESCUES/SHELTERS email me at above address to discuss

TRANSPORT: from Georgia can be arranged to points in the northeastern USA. Beyond those areas, email me to discuss. Transport to the northeast will be an added fee of $75.

KITTIES THAT NEED HOME/RESCUE PLACEMENT


Purrl

5 Years old, Female

White DSH with green eyes.

Weight 12 lbs, big kitty. Microchipped.

Adoption fee $60.00

UPDATE: Purrl is very bonded with Checkers (see below). We hope to find them a placement together.

Purrl is a very sweet but shy girl. She loves playing with running water, other young kitties and playing fetch with her mouse. She sits quietly on her favorite lap or snuggles under the covers.

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©2014 Tina B. Used with permission. Purrl.

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©2014 Tina B. Used with permission. Purrl with water.

Arby (Checker's Brother)

5 Years Old, Male

DSH Classic Tabby with swirls

Microchipped

Adoption fee: $60.00

I am a happy little guy who gives great head-butts and leg-huggers and will flop on my side for tummy rubs. Plus, I've been called a gorgeous hunk with my silky bullseye silver/black tabby pattern and have been mistaken as a Bengal (shhh, I didn't correct them)! I am the 'managerial' type and like to supervise all the house happenings, like vacuum cleaning, bird watching, and will help with supper to sample and make sure all is fit for eating! If you forget to give me samples, I will remind you with leg-taps, and then will loudly let you know if you ignore me. I always make sure you know when feeding time is as I like to keep a strict household routine. I love to play and chase my brother, Checkers, or other kitty friends to make sure they are getting their exercise. I am a young adult at only 5 years old so have many managing years ahead of me. I'm looking for my furever home where I can help with the household duties and will never have to be living on the street again. I do startle easily so would like a quieter home without young children. I only need a patient person who understands my traumatic start in life to give me time to adjust. After I adjust, I will become your best buddy!

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©2014 Tina B. Used with permission. Arby.

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©2014 Tina B. Used with permission. Lovely swirls on Arby.

Checkers (Arby’s Brother)

DMH/Maine Coon mix Orange Tabby

5 Years old

Microchipped

Adoption fee: $60.00

Let me tell you a little about my great qualities, as there are many, if I must say so myself. I am as cute as a button with all the wonderful Maine Coon qualities - ear and toe tufts, leather-colored nose, bushy tail with long britches, big size, great head-butts and a 'Redhead' as my foster mom calls me, and my gold eyes match my silky long coat. I am a great bug-catcher and can spot a bug a mile away and catch it, just so you know what I am doing under that carpet! And, you better not leave feather toys out as I will catch and tear them apart, feather by feather. I love watching TV - especially dog agility as I think it's funny seeing those dogs following everything a human tells them to do - how funny is that?? My motor is loud if you give me some pets, especially along with some tasty chicken! I am still a young adult of 5 years. I would like to be with my brother Arby or would make a good companion for another kitty. I am listed as 'special' because I will need a quiet home and patient person to give me adjustment time after my traumatic start in life. Once I've adjusted, I will bond very closely with 'my' person and would love a lap to myself.

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©2014 Tina B. Used with permission. Checkers.

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©2014 Tina B. Used with permission. Checkers-loaf.

Teensy Weensy (Peppy’s Sister)

DSH/Burmese (has Siamese kink in her tail) Black with white tummy spots

2 Years old, Small cat.

Adoption Fee $85 (less if you adopt her AND her brother together)

Teensy is a sweet little girl that has had a rough start in life. As her name implies, she is a very small girl with a big spirit at only 6.5 pounds. She is such a little lover girl once she knows you. She has had one eye removed due to a virus and neglect from a hoarder but it doesn't stop her. She is looking for a great family to enjoy her sweet, playful nature. Teensy loves to sit on shoulders too. She likes playing with her big brother and gets along well with other cats so would be a great addition to a family who has kitty friends. She is very unassuming and will sit and keep you company. All she needs is companionship, play and special food for her skin. Lower adoption fee if adopted with her brother, Peppy.

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©2014 Tina B. Used with permission. Teensy.

Peppy (Teensy's Brother)

DSH/Burmese Black with white tummy spot

2 Years old

Medium sized cat

Adoption Fee $85 (less if you adopt him AND his sister together)

Peppy is a big beautiful boy at about 11 pounds. He has a shiny, slick coat with a little white on his belly. He has a very sweet, gentle nature and loves to lie on your lap. He has endured a lot in his short life but still loves people. His left eye has had 2 surgeries to repair some damage caused by a virus but he doesn't let it bother him. He is looking for a quieter family who likes to lounge around but has some time to play with him. He loves playing with cat teasers and soft balls he will bat around the house. He does great with other kitties and would love to have a kitty friend. Lower adoption fees if adopted with his sister, Teensy.

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©2014 Tina B. Used with permission. Peppy.

If you can't adopt or if you don't work with a rescue or shelter, you can still help Tina and her cats by sharing this post socially on Facebook, Twitter, or email a link to this post to your cat-loving friends.

For all that Tina has done, it’s time for her to be the one who gets rescued. Thank you everyone. Let's make this happen!

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CritterZone Winner Announced!

It was VERY TOUGH to choose a single winner for our CritterZone giveaway so I asked the folks at CZ if they'd be able to ramp up our awards to include 5 Honorable Mentions. They obliged and we've emailed those folks a top secret code to save $39 off their CritterZone instead of $10.

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Our Winner is Sharon Lee who does cat rescue and has a rather unique issue. Here's her entry:

You are singing my song Robin! I too am the main foster for our rescue and I have devoted two large rooms in my home to the fosters. (Much to the dismay of my family that loves the fosters and despises the odors). Many of our kittens are anonymously and mysteriously left at my doorstep. (Who else do we know that literally gets their kittens delivered??) these are the typical baby barn kittens, complete with infections and more parasites than I can pronounce. These special little babies also come to us fully soaked in "Eau de Manure" too! It gives a whole new meaning to the question, "Were you born in a barn?". We can safely say Yes!! Even after a bath and days of litter box training (oh yeah) they still bring the smells of being down on the farm to the great indoors. After many attempts to locate the culprits (none of my neighbors will fess up so I could stop the trek) and since the mother cats don't seem to be rushing to my place desperately trying to recover their missing kits, we face a unique and added essence to the already natural odors these babies bring of their own accord. It would be a blessing to my family to have our very own Critter Zone. So, if you are re-homing one? Come on down my road and leave it on my front porch. Anonymously, of course.

I asked Sharon to send us a few photos of her "stinky" kittens. Here are two litters from last year AFTER they had a nice warm bath.

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©2014 Sharon Lee. Used with permission.

Keep up the good work helping save lives, Sharon, and I hope your home smells more like a palace, than a barn from now on!

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©2014 Sharon Lee. Used with permission.

The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee: Book Review, Interview & Giveaway

Author Laurie Cinotto’s book, “The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee,” based on her award-winning blog of the same name, is not only a colorful pictorial history sharing oodles of adorable images of the many kittens she’s fostered, but it’s also a guide to help young readers (ages Grade 3 to Grade 6) learn how to care for their own cats.

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IBKC is beautifully laid out. As a Graphic Designer, I especially appreciate the lovely typography and design of the book. It’s an easy read for an adult, as would be expected, but I still found myself getting carried away as each story reminded me of many of the cats I've fostered over the years. It's impossible to read this book without having a smile on your face.

There are also special sections highlighting different aspects of kitten care, without going into too much detail for a child to absorb. The photos are real show-stoppers, making it difficult to choose a favorite—probably like picking a favorite kitten from a litter, you just can’t do it.

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I shared an advance copy of the book with Hanna, an 8-yr old whose family had just adopted their first cats from my rescue, Kitten Associates. Although she was a bit too young to understand the information completely, she was delighted and giggled at some of the photos. Her father helped her go through the book and was thrilled to have something on hand that he could refer to to help Hanna understand the basics of kitten care. He mentioned he planned on reading the book to Hanna as part of their bedtime ritual and that she would be taking it to “sharing day” at school.

Based on Hanna’s reaction to IBKC it was clear that shelters and rescues could also benefit from selling copies of this book to new adopters with young kids.

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I had the good fortune to be able to ask Ms. Cinotto a few questions about her book and about life as a foster mom:

CiCH: What was your inspiration to begin fostering kittens and did you foster for more than one place before you found a good fit?

LC: We moved into a new neighborhood and met our neighbors, Kim and Sarah, who were fostering our now permanent resident cat, Charlene Butterbean. Prior to that, I didn’t even know that foster programs for animals existed. We got see a few litters come and go at their house, and eventually we decided to try our hand at it too.

CICH: What do you tell people who ask you: "how you can let those foster kittens go? Doesn't it break your heart? Do you want to keep them all?"

LC: It is hard to say goodbye, but that’s just part of the process. It has gotten a little bit easier over the years, but still, it’s never easy and sometimes there are tears.

We’ve been lucky to find some really amazing families to adopt our kittens, and knowing the kittens are going to be loved and well cared for by these fine folks, makes it all bearable.

There are been a few extra-special ones that we could have easily kept, but we just can’t do that. We need to keep our cat population at a reasonable number if we want to continue to foster.

CICH: I see it says your book is for middle grade readers. Would you also suggest it for younger kids or adults? If so, why? Why did you choose this level of reader? Was that on purpose?

LC: I think it’s appropriate for kitten lovers of all ages! I’ve shared it with adults and young children too, and they all seem to enjoy it. It’s packed with lots of photos of adorable kittens, which works for any age group!

I had many conversations with my editor about what this book could be. We knew it would be for kids – Roaring Brook Press publishes children’s books – but it took some time before the full idea took shape. Once it did, we decided on what the age of the audience should be and tailored the content for that.

CICH: Do you mostly take on whatever fosters your shelter gives you or do you find kittens who need help?

LC: Once our kittens leave our nest, I’ll let the shelter know that we’re ready to receive more, and they let us know who is available. Sometimes we get kittens that need a little more help than others – they have medical issues, or need help transitioning from bottle to solid food. Sometimes they need help with socialization.. Sometimes they just need a little bit of time to get bigger.

We’re happy to take on whatever or whomever they send our way. Each batch is different when they arrive, but all leave happy, healthy, social and trusting.

CICH: Do you often face having to medicate sick or injured cats? Were any of them remarkable in how much care they needed? Perhaps more so than you could include in a book for kids? Can you give an example of one or two of those kitties?

LC: With each litter, there’s usually a medical issue or two to deal with. We’ve seen a lot of diarrhea, vomiting, fleas, ear mites and upper-respiratory infections. We’ve had to give many rounds of antibiotics and lots of sub q fluids over the years.

The transition from wherever they were before, to the shelter, and then to our home can be stressful on their little bodies. We are fortunate to have great vet staff at our shelter to guide us through any issues we have.

The biggest challenge we have ever faced was with the last litter we fostered. One of the kittens, Filbert, came to us with the Panleukopenia virus, which sadly took his life. It’s a highly contagious, so after his passing, we were quite worried it would take his sisters down too. They survived, thank goodness, but later we discovered that his sister Wylla had a condition called Megaesophagus. With this condition, she didn’t have the muscle tone in her esophagus to push food into her stomach, and she regurgitated nearly everything she ate. It took many trips to the vet to diagnose her condition, and a lot of work to learn to manage it.

Eventually, we decided we would keep her. After all we went through with Wylla, we just couldn’t say goodbye.

CICH: How did you get your book idea sold? Did the publishers come to you or did you have an agent?

LC: My editor had been following the blog, and when I mentioned on Twitter that I had dreams of publishing a book, she contacted me.

CICH: What is the one thing you hope results from kids reading your book?

LC: I hope it makes them happy. This parade of kittens that has passed through our home has brought a tremendous amount of joy into our lives. I want others to experience that same joy.

I also hope they’ll take a way some good practical information and become responsible and respectful pet owners.

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If you’d like to win a copy of The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee simply leave a comment in this post to enter and make sure you LIKE our Facebook Page

ONE entry will be CHOSEN AT RANDOM to WIN. You may only leave ONE comment for ONE CHANCE to win per person. This Giveaway ends Wednesday, MARCH 26, 2014 at 11:11 PM EST and is open to residents of the USA, only (sorry guys!). Rules, quantities and whatever else I forgot are subject to change without notice. WINNER will be notified via email. If you do not respond within 48hrs another winner will be chosen.

UPDATE: Due to the great response to this post I will be awarding a book to TWO LUCKY WINNERS-NOT ONE!

The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee is available for purchase for $12.99 (list price) for a softcover version or less for Kindle and other e-readers at Amazon and other outlets.

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The Accidental Feral. Big Daddy's Next Journey is to the Angels

Big Daddy needed to find a needle in a haystack. That needle was a rescue or adoption. Being FIV positive made Big D's chances of finding a placement any time soon a long shot, but what Big Daddy had going for him was all of you—his angels. Angels who read my blog post THE ACCIDENTAL FERAL and didn't sit on their hands, they did something about it. They shared his story. The talked about him. The news spread..and then…

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©2014 Warren Royal. Big Daddy doing what he does best.

Within a few days an email arrived from a woman named Chelsea. I could tell from her words she was very upbeat and interested in Big Daddy, not just pie in the sky dreams of wishing she could adopt him. She'd known other cats like Big D and knew she could take him into her shelter. She and her peers love difficult to place cats and they work very hard to find them great homes. They aren't spooked by FIV. They know Big Daddy can be with other cats and people. They can find him a home.

Chelsea's the Foster Coordinator for Angels of Assisi and it's in Roanoke, Virginia, about a 6 hour drive from northern Georgia, where Warren and his wife, Terri are currently fostering Big Daddy. Since I've had a few unfortunate experiences transporting cats to rescue groups I'm not familiar with, I began to ask around to find out more about A of A and make CERTAIN they were legitimate. Why? Here is just one reason.

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©2014 Lori D'Angelo. I just realized the origins of Lori's last name most likely described a person who was "angelic." Come on...tell me you don't believe in fate now!

One of our readers named Lori, offered to go to A of A and, just like a spy, took lots of photos covertly so she could report back to us. Okay, she didn't have to do that as I'm sure no one would have minded. She let us know that the place looked good to her and she'd been there years back and found it to be a good place back then, as well. Another friend of Covered in Cat Hair named Tori, told me they had a good reputation and she gave me more info about what good community outreach they have and how she felt it would be a good place for Big Daddy, too.

Angels has the best animal photos I've seen in a long time. Their Blog and Facebook pages are well done and active. I asked Warren to do some checking, too and by total coincidence he discovered a new client of his has a BIG location in Roanoke AND they'd love to meet Warren if he was in the area…then he finds out his client adopted a cat from Angels!

I was relieved Chelsea was understanding and helpful about all our questions and concerns, because I think she understands what dangers lie out there if you are not careful about where you place a cat.

The decision was made. Big Daddy will be leaving Warren and family this weekend. Warren is personally driving him to Angels to make absolutely certain it's a good placement for him.

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©2014 Warren Royal. Best friends forever.

Big D has blossomed since he was first trapped. Almost daily Warren has sent me a photo of Big Daddy looking more and more relaxed and content. I almost begged Warren to keep this big boy, but after many long conversations with his wife, he couldn't sort out how to make it happen with the cats he already has. I know Warren's saved so many cats over the years…

…but I have a feeling that saying goodbye to Big Daddy will be his toughest. I hope you'll join me in telling Warren how proud you are of him and thanking everyone at Angels of Assisi for their offer to help.

I'll cross my fingers that in the coming days we'll get the best news-that Big Daddy has found his forever home, but for now I'll be happy that Big Daddy is with the Angels.

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The David of Air Naturalizing Takes on the Goliath of Stank. CritterZone Review & Giveaway.

I learned about CritterZone, the air naturalizer about a year ago. I’d heard good things about it and wanted to give it a try. Frankly, I was sure it wouldn’t work. It’s TINY! Who can believe a little doohickey like that could clean the smell out of a small space, let alone a room? With much trepidation I took on the task of testing out two units because baby, I have a lot of foul odor issues in my house and one wouldn’t cover it.

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Running my cat rescue, Kitten Associates, and using my home as the main foster location can be a lot of fun. I get to play with the kittens, watch them grow, enjoy their warm purring bodies fall asleep in my lap, but the one thing a lot of folks don’t know is very young kittens, often with parasite-laden bellies, produce a special sort of foul-smelling stool that the U.S. Government should use as a toxic agent in chemical warfare. Yes. It smells THAT BAD and on top of it, the smell isn’t from ONE kitten, it’s usually from FOUR OR MORE. Combine that smell with what their moms unload, (who have eaten God knows what before they come to us and got good food) and it's a nose-hair-melting blast.


©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Does this happen in your house? If ONLY I had a CritterZone running when I shot this video!

Although I scoop the litter pan MANY times a day and refresh the litter often, it does no good. In the winter, I can’t open the windows and the door to the foster room is kept closed, so smells are pretty much sealed in. I can’t use a candle or plug-in cover up because a) they don’t work and b) I don’t want chemicals in a room with 4-week old kittens who would inhale the fumes. It’s too dangerous.

The added problem is that we have people coming over all the time to meet the kittens and they can’t be grossed out by the smell or we’d lose out on adoptions. I was growing tired of making excuses to adopters about forgiving me for the smelly room, but I was not sure what I could do about it.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Buttercup checks out the CritterZone.

Enter CritterZone. I plugged it in, set it on high, and left the foster room for an hour. I returned to the room and the smell was GONE. I thought I lost my mind or that my sense of smell had been destroyed by smelling one too many cat “bombs.” I asked our visitors (they had kids who have an even more sensitive sense of smell) about the odor in the room and they could not detect anything other than a fresh scent. This is in addition to the fact that I knew one of the kittens had recently used the pan for “evil”.

I could have stopped my test there, but this is not a mamby-pamby review. I told you I have stink-issues, so the test continued.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Our foster kittens can be friends with the CritterZone because it doesn't use harmful chemicals.

I have 9 cats who occasionally urinate beyond the confines of their litter pan in places that break my heart. I’ve had little resource in how to get rid of the smell even though I’ve used a lake full of odor “removers.” Some do an okay job, but when Pee-Tunia peed on the sofa, that was it. It was a first and I wanted it to be a last, but the only way to stop the others from peeing in the same place was to get the smell OUT.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Can you see the crystals? This shows the unit really did the job, but it also means it needs to be cleaned. (photobomb by Fluff Daddy).

I read that I could place the Critterzone face down directly onto the soiled area. It wouldn’t clean the stain, but it would remove the smell. In my case, it would take a long time because there was a large area involved. I’d have to place the unit at one end of the stain, then move it every 45 minutes along the length of the stain. If the area dried, I had to re-wet it with water. I did spray the area and the fabric was stained (my fault), but the smell started to go away. I could even hear the unit sizzle when it was first placed on the soiled area. It took a good day, but by the end of it, I carefully sniffed the cushion and the smell was gone. The unit, however, had grown small white salt-like crystals on it which meant it had done its job and it needed to be cleaned. I found easy directions on how to do that on the CritterZone web site.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. I'm sure the folks at CritterZone are not happy to see this. You're SUPPOSED to clean the unit every two weeks. Oops. I didn't. My bad..but heck, it's STILL WORKING (and now clean).

The good news is that it only takes a few minutes to clean the unit. I do NOT have to buy filters, which always ends up being a pain in the neck. There are NO mystery chemicals to add to get it to do its magic. CritterZone provides indoor air with the natural charge it needs to virtually eliminate odors, allergens, dust and bacteria in an area up to 800 sq ft.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Time for a clean up! The cover comes off easily for cleaning.

There have been a lot of reviews of CritterZone and many tests, but I doubt anyone has put the CritterZone into their car and hauled 15, 30-gallon bags of garbage including lots of bags of soiled cat litter across town to the local dump.

This winter was so bad, we didn’t have garbage pick up for MONTH, so we had to move our own garbage by car. This was definitely something I did not EVER want to do...be trapped in a car with the stench of rotting food and cat excrement even for a few minutes. It was too cold here in Connecticut to open the car windows during our trip, but I figured that’s what we’d have to do. I feared this sort of smell was going to “stick” in my nose for hours after exposure, too.

I hooked up the CritterZone and placed it between my partner Sam and I as he drove us to the dump. As the heat kicked in and the car warmed, I expected to get knocked over by the smell of the garbage. I heard the unit buzzing away, cleaning the air. I expected to smell something terrible, but in fact there was no bad smell.

That's when I knew without a doubt, CritterZone is your first line of defense in preventing stench-offense.

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The only caveat I will add is that I had mild respiratory irritation, which I discovered when I left the unit on overnight in the foster room. It had cleaned the air, but since I left it running after it had done its job was when it caused the issue. I wanted to sleep with the kittens, but not have the smell of a litter box visit wake me up. Turning off the unit stopped the irritation. Because it works so well I only run it from time to time. You may have a completely different experience with how long or under what circumstances you should turn off the unit. I did a test, leaving a unit running 24/7 in a room that was open to the rest of the house and it worked really well and I had no issues.

CritterZone can also help folks with ALLERGIES, too! I just fret about stinky air, but if you have the sniffles you might want to try a CritterZone for that as well. Here’s more information about their technology and the MANY WAYS it can help make your life better.

CritterZones come as a wall mounted unit for near the litter pan or other locations that need naturalization or a corded unit with an optional adapter (you can purchase separately or it comes with their Travel Pack) for your car for added flexibility.

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Thanks to Mary at CritterZone I can do a giveaway of ONE CritterZone (a $99.00 value) to a VERY LUCKY reader. For everyone else, I can offer a Coupon Code so you can SAVE $10.00 on as many units as you want. USE the Code: CICH

To purchase a CritterZone, simply visit their web site http://www.critterzoneusa.com/ Products

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If you'd like to WIN a CritterZone, simply leave a comment in this post to enter. Tell us about your worst stench and why you need help. Make it funny, creative, compelling-whatever you think you need to say to convince me that you should WIN!

Best entry as Judged by me, Robin Olson of Covered in Cat Hair, will win ONE CritterZone. You may only leave ONE comment for ONE CHANCE to win per person. This Giveaway ends Friday, MARCH 14, 2014 at 11:11 PM EST and is open to residents of the USA, only (sorry guys!). Rules, quantities and whatever else I forgot are subject to change without notice.

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After careful consideration, from time to time I write product reviews. If you see it here, it's because, at LEAST I think it's worth you knowing about even if I have an issue with it and, at BEST, I think it's amazing and we should all have one, two or more of whatever it is I'm reviewing. I get NO reimbursement for writing these reviews, though to write a review I am supplied with the item, as I was in this case. This review is MY OPINION, ONLY. The result you experience using this product may differ.

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The Accidental Feral. Big Daddy.

Northern Georgia’s had a rough winter. With snow, ice and freezing cold temperatures that vastly skew from what’s considered normal, the feral cat population has had an even tougher time surviving.

These cats are not accustomed to the colder temps and may not be as successful as their northern counterparts in finding adequate shelter. Their coats may not be as thick and their struggle to have a full belly leaves them even more vulnerable.

For a lucky few cats there’s Warren and his wife, Terri, who I’ve written about in the past. They get out there and trap, neuter, and some times return the feral cats they trap. They help the pregnant cats and the kittens find homes. They are very passionate about their rescues and have even hoped to open their own sanctuary one day.

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©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Big Daddy the day after being trapped.

It’s not unusual for Warren to stay up late at night, watching a trap, hoping the cat will enter it so he can get it properly taken care of. Most of the time the process is straightforward. The cats are vetted, spayed or neutered, given some time to recover, then he brings them back to their colony where he and his wife will make sure they get fed.

That’s why when Warren noticed a big tabby, limping, clearly injured, who also looked a heck of a lot like one of the kittens Warren rescued (read about Dexter’s amazing and scary journey HERE), he knew he had to trap him and get him to a vet. The problem was, what could he do for this kitty, AFTER getting vetted? Surely it would be difficult to treat a fractious cat, which could mean Warren could get hurt or the cat might not recover from his injury if he couldn’t get him medicated or change bandages.

First things first…get the cat trapped.

Warren got his supplies ready and opened up the trap. He saw the cat who he called, Big Daddy, not far away, watching him. As soon as Warren opened a can of food, in a flash, there was Big Daddy by his side, pushing Warren away so he could get at the tempting morsels. Shocked, Warren carefully, lured the cat into the trap, fearful he could be harmed at any moment if the cat was separated from his food for too long. Clearly the cat was starving and didn’t care if he was in a cage or not.

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©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Getting fueled up (again!).

Warren quietly closed the trap door and rushed Big Daddy to the Vet. Big Daddy wasn’t thrilled to be in the car but there was something odd about him. For a feral cat, he wasn’t crouched into a tight ball. He wasn’t hissing. He wasn’t struggling to break free from the trap. He was just eating.

The plan was to leave Big Daddy with the Vet for a few days while Warren was here in New York City at a trade show. I was with Warren when the call came in on the cat. He had an abscess from a bite wound, but they felt it would heal. Against Warren’s orders they gave him Convenia, assuming that since the cat was feral it was the best they could do, [even though Convenia is NOT for bite wounds but because it’s injectable and there are no pills, people tend to use it so they don’t have to pill their cat. The problem is-once injected it stays in the body for MONTHS. If there’s an allergic reaction you can’t get it out of the body. It’s really only good for certain bacterial issues regarding the SKIN. Using it after a dental or for some other reason is not safe and contra-indicated.]

They went ahead an ear-tipped him even though Warren said not to because he wasn’t sure the cat might not be feral. When we found that out we were both very angry. If Big Daddy ended up being a cat we could socialize, then ear-tipping him could further reduce his chances for adoption.

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©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. What a face!

They neutered him and vaccinated him. They snap tested him and discovered he was positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV. We weren’t surprised, but it meant that letting him back outside was not an option, but now what would we do with him? Warren feared he might have to euthanize the cat if he couldn’t go back to the colony or if he was too fractious to find a forever home.

Warren came home and discovered his hunch was right. Big Daddy wasn’t feral, but how friendly was he? Did he have behavior problems? If so, how severe were they? When Warren approached Big D’s crate, Big Daddy stepped forward and seemed interested in sniffing Warren’s hand. Worried he would get bitten, Warren cautiously offered the back of his hand. Big Daddy head-butted it.

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©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Waiting for the next part of his journey to begin.

Warren slowly petted the cat. He seemed to like it and immediately began to purr. This poor cat, who Warren knew had to have been outside for a year or more, hadn’t forgotten the love he’d known from humans. He was willing to trust again, right away, which surprised us all.


©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission.

Over the past few weeks, Warren and Terri have been working with Big Daddy, assessing his behavior to see if he’d qualify to be adopted. Big D nipped at Warren a few times, but Terri said he never nipped her. Why? Turns out Warren needed to learn that Big Daddy didn’t care for being petted like he was a dog—oops! (Warren admitted to not realizing that right away since he’d known dogs most of his life). Once Warren made a slight change in how he petted Big D the nipping stopped.

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©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Loves that brush.

Big Daddy’s met a few other cats. He’s interested, but neutral. A further test revealed another surprise-Big Daddy LOVES to be brushed!



©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission.

Big D’s leg is healing nicely and he’s relatively content in his big crate in the garage, but yearns to be out of it and in Warren’s house. Sadly, Warren’s other cats won’t welcome a newcomer and ultimately Big Daddy needs a home of his own.

This very sweet, affectionate, gentle giant weighs 15 pounds and is about 4 years old. He's physically he’s a large kitty. Aside from having FIV, his health is good. He does not have issues with his gums, teeth or digestion, which can happen to FIV cats. With a GOOD DIET and I mean NO DRY FOOD, low carb, grain-free canned food or better yet, dehydrated raw or really any raw diet, he will do well.



©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission.

There are Vets who vilify cats with FIV and say they can’t be with non-FIV cats, but in my own experience with my cat, Bob, he was with not only my 7 cats, but countless kittens and none of them ever got sick. Bob would have had to BITE them so seriously his teeth would have had to sink into flesh to transmit the disease. Yet, there is a vet who just said she felt it was passed through a litter pan, which defies logic.

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©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Meeting Murphy.

The bottom line is Big Daddy is no feral cat. He's a big, sweet, super-cute, kitty who just wants to give and get love—who can be a friend to other cats. He's a cat who got dealt a tough hand now that he has FIV, but that doesn't mean he can't have a forever home. This accidental feral needs a forever home and we’re hoping that maybe it’s yours.

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©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. What a cutie pie!

Warren definitely has Big Daddy’s back. Because he cares for him so much Warren will cover transportation costs to an approved home or non-profit, no-kill rescue group or shelter. He will also TAKE BIG DADDY BACK, should the adoption or rescue placement not work out. Ideally this home will be in northern Georgia, but if it’s anywhere along the east coast of the USA, we can get Big Daddy to your door. If you live outside the east coast, let’s talk.

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©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Big Daddy with our Rescuer-Daddy, Warren.

If you’re a non-profit, no kill rescue and would like to take Big Daddy on and find him a forever home, Big Daddy will come with a $250.00 sponsorship and he’s already completely vetted.

If you’d like to adopt Big Daddy, go to our rescue group, Kitten Associates, and fill out a Pre Adoption Application and I will forward them to Warren.

If you have any questions or are with a rescue and can help Big Daddy find his home, just email me at info@kittenassociates.org.

Please share this socially if you believe, as I do, that Big Daddy deserves a great home. Thank you!

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The Squee Diaries Chapter 12. All Good Things.

There are times I don’t realize something profound just occurred. Looking back on the situation I see what I missed was truly amazing. A milestone was reached, a torch passed, leaving me feeling sad that I didn’t honor that moment the way it deserved, so perhaps these words will serve as a testament.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey (left) with brother, Joey (right) watching the squirrels.

Lil' Gracey and Confetti Joe have been with us since they were 4 days old. Their brothers, Yukon Stan, Jellybean Mel and Precious Pete have long since found their forever homes and as of last week, the final papers were signed as their mom, Minnie, found her place, too (with a couple I truly LOVE..and where Minnie is blossoming by leaps and bounds every day).

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Joey (inset) just 11 days old and again recently.

The remaining two kittens had been living in my home up until 3 weeks ago when I was fortunate enough to meet with Jame, who offered to foster kittens for our group. Jame and her family don’t currently have any pets which greatly simplifies whether or not I can have them foster. They impressed me by bending over backwards to clean and prepare their entire basement for us to use for our kittens. It’s a large, bright, sunny space with windows along one side of the room. Jame’s daughters, Grace and Frances were sweet-natured and had a very calm energy. When they came over to meet our cats and fosters, they were affectionate and gentle, clearly enamored with all the cats they met. I had no concerns that any cat we placed with them wouldn’t be completely happy in their care.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Sleepy time boy.

Jame had never fostered before, but she wanted to give back to her community and she wanted to show her daughters the importance of helping others in a real way. Since this was their first time, I wanted to give them kittens I considered to be healthy, stable and friendly. Ones that only needed food, a warm bed and love so that meant Joey and Gracey would be the best choice for them.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey chill in' with the DOOD.

As much as I loved every second with the kittens, they were big enough to be part of the general population, instead of housed in a separate room. With full run of our home it opened up new adventures for them, but our cats were not too thrilled. We had some issues, like inappropriate urinating and a brief spat or two. I knew Joey and Gracey would be better off with Jame’s family, not to mention reducing the stress on my own cats, but I was very sad to see them go.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Time to wrestle in 3…2…

Because we had an unpleasant situation with Minnie’s last foster home, I was more careful about who fosters for us going forward. I wrote up an agreement for fostering and had Jame sign it. The time with the kittens would be limited and monitored. I'd let it go too long with Minnie, only to find out she was getting injured by the other cats in the home and exposed to food that ended up giving her a bad allergic reaction. I was determined to check in on the cats more often to make sure they would continue to be well cared for, but Mother Nature had a different plan.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. In their new foster home, Gracey makes sure the other cat she sees really IS her brother.

The one-week agreement was extended another week and another. The weather was so poor and we got so much snow that I could not get out of my driveway. When I could escape, it was to get cat food or do a vet run. I just didn’t have time to visit the kittens, though I did communicate with Jame often.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Joey's always had the goofiest tail. He walks around with it over his back like a carrying handle of some sort.

Jame did a great job reporting every little thing, sending photos, updating me on progress. Her daughters were having a great time getting to know the kittens and they were thrilled with each success (“Joey sat on my lap! I made Gracey jump after the toy!”). I realized with a sinking feeling that what happens to all fosters was happening to them. They were getting attached. Too much time had passed. Now I was worried that I would hurt them because I’d found an adopter named Dana and it was very likely that Joey and Gracey would be leaving them soon.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Joey with heart on his rump.

When I told Jame the news, she emailed me asking me if we could talk. I had a feeling she was going to tell me she wanted to adopt the kittens. I had mixed feelings about it because if they did, I might lose a great foster home. I knew they’d be a great home for the kittens, so I was curious to know what she wanted to talk about. Since she needed more cat food I asked her to meet me at the pet food store so I could get her more, then we ended up walking over to the little café inside our local grocery store to talk.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. With foster mom, Grace.

As Jame spoke, tears welled up in her eyes. It was hard not to cry along with her. She told me that she and her family had fallen in love with the kittens and were miserable at the idea of them leaving and wanted to adopt them, but…there was a problem. She didn’t feel they could afford to provide for them if something happened to them and she knew that wasn’t right. Jame continued to tell me that things would be changing later in the year when she expected to be able to find work, but for now they lived on her husband’s salary. The problem was how could I have her wait months to make Joey and Gracey's adoption formal when the situation was in such flux? Jame was being very responsible by not letting her emotions cause her to make a choice that could end badly. I knew how she felt. I probably shouldn’t have half the cats I have, but we find a way (but I don't have two children to provide for, either). I didn’t want her to be miserable about letting the kittens go. She was doing the right thing. I had to find a way to make this better.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. With foster mom, Frances.

I gave her as many options as I could, but in the end, this is not the time for them to adopt. In a flash of clarity, I blurted out that she hadn't even had the joy of fostering little kittens yet and to focus on knowing that by letting Joey and Gracey go, she was making space to take more kittens on. I talked to her about the pain of letting go and...

I added that although I feel sadness and heartache, that after many years of doing this, there are times I look at a photo of a foster and I can’t remember that kitten’s name right away. It’s not that they didn’t matter to me. It’s that my heart is full from their love, but there isn’t always room to remember their name, too.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Checking out the view from their new foster room.

I hoped she realized that the sharpness of letting go would soften into sweet memories. She barely knew me and I was asking her to trust me; that all she had to do was let us bring her more cats to foster and the love and happiness that gave them so much joy, would return. She had to have faith, too.

Of course, getting her children to understand and prepare for this was going to be the tricky part and I offered to do whatever I could to help them transition.

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©2014 Frances R. Frances is quite the artist and drew his adorable scene featuring her foster kittens.

When the day came for Dana and her young sons to meet Joey & Gracey, I took one look at the girls and at Jame and knew they had all been crying. They were being brave, but their struggle to remain cheerful was percolating just beneath the surface. They were doing what needed to be done. They watched the young boys learn how to play with the kittens, how to pick them up. They gave them pointers on what the kittens liked and which toys were their favorites. We talked with Dana about how beautiful and sweet the kittens were. At one point I asked her if these were her cats. I wasn’t feeling “it” from her—that glimmer I often see of love’s seed taking root in an adopter's heart. I told her about our other kittens, just in case she would prefer them. They had better energy to match that of her little boys. I could see Jame and her daughters holding their breath, hoping the woman would not want Joey and Gracey.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. A hug from Frances.

Her boys looked at photos of the other kittens we have, but they only had eyes for Joey and Gracey. Dana added that Joey and Gracey were even more beautiful than she imagined from their photos and said she would love to give them a good home. I knew Jame and the girls were disappointed but the choice was made. This would be a good home. The kittens would have the boys to play with and a mom and dad to snuggle with inside a lovely home that overlooks a lake.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Lil' Gracey at 11 days old and again recently.

I gave the kittens a kiss goodbye. I thought about how they used to fit in my hand. They didn't even look like cats, more like hamsters. I'd worried, fussed, and after they were weaned, took great joy in watching them grow and thrive. The familiar pang of heartbreak and reluctance to let go returned. My eyes burned as I held back my tears. Joey and Gracey were two of our brightest stars. They’d grown into magnificent cats. It was a privilege to be part of their journey. Their little family, who so easily could have drowned in a window well during the torrential rains last June, have only happy days ahead thanks to our generous donors and skilled Vets. Now they had their forever homes. My job was done.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey with her mom, Minnie, who is very happy in her new home.

As Dana and her sons placed Joey and Gracey into their car and drove away, I stood in the kitchen with Jame and her daughters. I started to cry, but managed to not burst into tears. They offered me a tissue. Their eyes got watery and their faces pinked up. I gave them each a hug. I was SO PROUD of them-especially Frances and Grace. These girls did something tough for an adult to do and they handled themselves VERY WELL. In that moment something happened between the four of us. I’d passed the baton of fostering over to them. They had survived the first heartbreak and were ready to do it again. They were part of a sisterhood of cat rescuers now and between the tears my heart swelled with joy.

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If you'd like to see lots more photos of Gracey, Joey and their family from the first days in foster care, you can read these posts:

The Squee Diaries

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Eleven part 2

Chapter Eleven part 3

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P.S. If you've gotten this far, Jame and her family are getting 3 kittens on Saturday that were part of a bigger rescue in Georgia. Their story begins next...

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What to Name the Cat

Okay, that's it. I've been trying to come up with a name for our latest foster kitty. None of them are good enough. He's a young adult, flame point, Himalayan. I've never had a cat like this EVER---Not in over 10 years of doing cat rescue and certainly never have we had a purebred cat in Kitten Associates.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

We've come up with a list of names. The one we use now, just to call him SOMETHING is…FLUFF DADDY. I like it as a nickname, but his "forever" name?

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

Here's The List:

Fluff Daddy

Sherlocks

HR Fluff-n-stuff

Rhed Buttler

Bumble Snow Monster

Mr. Bumble

Bumble

Cookie Puss

George Clooney

Muffin Man

Cashmere

Jampa Tashi
Tibetan: Jampa JAHM-pah - Loving-kindness
Tashi TAH-shee - Auspicious, Fortunate

Cosmo

Jabba

Brad

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

All seriously chosen, thoughtful, imaginative, clever, funny names considered. Thank you for your help!

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