The Discarded Cats Diary. Ch 4.

continued from Chapter 3

I had a code phrase for Sam so he knew to go get Pizzelle. The mom was about to jump out of her skin and almost blew the surprise. Hanna was focused on Mocha we could have screamed there was a second cat coming and she would not have heard us. We finally got her to turn around as Sam uncovered the second cat carrier. Pizzelle jumped out and Hanna just looked at him. No jumping up and down. No screaming. Nothing.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Linzy flies for her fans.

Her mom and dad tried to get Hanna to understand what was going on. Hanna was chasing after Pizzelle as he was racing around the room. Mocha saw him and growled, then slunk off into a corner. The mom got upset and I told them this was normal and explained why, while in my head I was saying a prayer that both Mocha and the mom would calm down.

Hanna finally realized both cats were hers, but I think she was so overwhelmed and distracted it hadn't really sunk in enough for her to react to it. She loved being able to pet the cats and play with them, talking to them and clearly thrilled that the cats liked her as much as she liked them. Pizzelle had her attention and she was playing with him and petting him as he checked out his new home.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Stand up if you're adopted!

We talked about feeding the cats, then Hanna asked when the cats could come out of the basement and sleep with her. Her mom quickly shut her down, saying no, that no way would the cats sleep with her. They were dirty, carried disease, etc. I just about grabbed the cats and took them out of there when I heard her say that. I did my best to let her know that one of the most wonderful things about having cats is sleeping with them and that they would make more noise and keep Hanna awake if she DIDN’T allow them to sleep with her. Hanna was happy to have me on her side, but I had to tread lightly.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Such comedians! I posted this photo on Facebook last week, just for fun. It got over 37,000 views! Who knew our foster kittens would be so famous?

Mom came up with all sorts of reasons why it was bad, but in the end I got her to agree to at least giving it a chance or maybe letting them sleep with her a few nights a week. I couldn’t imagine this little girl having her first cats and not be able to cuddle with them at night. The problem was her mom feared they’d scratch her face or hurt her while she slept. Steven seemed more relaxed about it. I hoped that they would let them some day. I had to have faith that in time it wouldn’t be a problem, especially as Hanna got older.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. No! I'll get the toy. You stay put!

Meanwhile, Mocha was angry and upset. Hanna was playing with Pizzelle, who was completely at ease. I kept close to Mocha, fearing she’d lash out. I suggested that we do the paperwork and let them decompress for a few minutes. The mom stayed behind, which gave me pause. She was already uptight and fearful. I hoped it wouldn’t affect Mocha and amplify her distress.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mocha. I hoped she would stop lashing out and go back to her sweet self soon.

Things began to calm down between the cats, who were busy getting petted or running over to the big sliding glass door to the back yard. A few dried leaves scattered across the grass and the cats were dazzled by the movement. I knew they'd be spending hours looking out the window watching the birds and squirrels. They were calming down and Mocha's tail went back up and she stopped growling.

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©2013 Maria S. Looking back to last summer. Mocha not long after rescue. Exhausted from being trapped inside a cat carrier with her 3 kittens, she finally gets some rest in the safety of Maria's home. Read more about their backstory right HERE and HERE.

It was time to leave the cats. I did so with a heavy heart, but with a hopeful heart, too. Mocha and Pizzelle would want for nothing and little Hanna had two new best friends who would be a big part of her life. It was hard to believe, looking back, that this was the same cat and kitten (along with two others) who were discarded,-trapped in a cat carrier and dumped in a cul-de-sac. No note to where they came from or any information about them. They were left to die in the August heat in Georgia without food, water or shade. Their future as black cats in the south, was bleak.

I guess it goes to prove that black cats can be lucky after all.

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The Discarded Cats Diary. Ch 3.

It’s been a long dry spell between adoptions. I got to the point last year where I considered opening up our policies just so I could approve an application. It goes against my grain to even consider for a moment that I wouldn’t get every foster cat the best home possible, that I’d just give up and let them go “wherever.”

To understand me, you have to know The Pretzel Story.

When I was 10, my Mother took me and my brother on an outing. The goal was to pack a picnic lunch, then go somewhere scenic. We lived in a small town in Minnesota, so it had to be somewhere local, but new to us. She chose the Elk River Nuclear Power Plant, right next to the Elk River so we could have a view of the river and see the big fancy power plant. Just thinking about it now gives me the chills. It also may explain the funny mole on my thigh.

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©1972 J. Feminella. Me, my brother and Mother the same year we did the trip to Elk River. Sadly, I have no access to the 140 photo albums my Mother left after she died. This is one of the few photos I have of my childhood from about that time.

Just as she was pulling out of the driveway, my mother stopped the car and turned to me. My brother had the prime seat up front and had also turned to me, but he was sporting his all too familiar holier-than-thou look on his face while I was left to sulk in the back. She said; “Robin, I packed a bag of pretzels. It’s with our lunch right next to you. Whatever I do, whatever I say, do NOT give us any pretzels until we get to Elk River.”

Honestly, you’d think my own mother knew what she was getting herself into by saying that to me. Did she forget that I lived to please her? That I was an obedient child? As the oldest kid I was the responsible one while my brother got away with murder.

I nodded, then replied, okay, in my sullen-relegated-to-the-back-seat voice and off we went.

About 20 minutes later, my mother asked me for a pretzel. I said no. She laughed then said; “Robin, really, it’s okay, give me a pretzel.”

I thought it was a test. Based on her orders, my somewhat scientific mind urged me to deny her request.

“Robin. Ignore what I said before. Open the bag of pretzels.”

I parroted back to her her own words about not doing it, no matter what she said or did, which of course infuriated her.

Meanwhile, my jerky brother jumped in to further ruffle my feathers: “Yeah, MOTHER SAID! Give us the pretzels!”

My brother and I were always at odds with each other so I battled back with: “NO! You told me NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO OR SAY. No pretzels! So NO!”

“Robin. I’m going to stop the car if you don’t give me the pretzels.”

Dizzy with power, I called her on it. She was bluffing. “YOU told me not to. No.”
She was fuming mad, but in the end, no pretzels.

I also NEVER heard the end of it. NEVER. Even years later. Okay, after my mother died, yes, I heard the end of it, but you know what I mean.

This is why I don’t do more adoptions. Pretzels.

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Right around Christmas I started to get application after application. Some folks wanted kittens as gifts, which is a big no-no for me, but what I did is come up with something to appease their needs. I offered a plush cat toy and a gift certificate. This won over a few people, but some adopted elsewhere or dropped off the map. I kept at it until I met Steven, who lives here in Sandy Hook.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Pizzelle, Nanny & Mocha want to know WHO will be adopted next.

Steven is an engineer for IBM. This guy is smart, focused, serious. He also loves cats. His daughter Hanna has been begging for a cat for two years. Hanna is 7. Steven provided me with a very detailed application. He said his wife travelled a lot so that we’d have to work partly around her schedule. Steven would oversee the adoption and she would visit the kittens and approve his selection if they passed muster and were approved. Steven included an article celebrating him as the Employee of the Month. I read it.

Then it didn’t matter what else happened because I was going to give him whatever cat or cats he wanted.

Little Hanna went to Sandy Hook Elementary and was in First Grade. Steven heard the shots that fateful morning and ran into the building to protect a classroom full of students. He’s one of the unsung heroes of a national tragedy. Out of respect, I did not ask him about this, but I DID decide fork over as many “pretzels” as he wanted.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Biscotti is amazed at Pizzelle's high-flying chops.

His application was excellent. The home visit was great, but they lacked in having anything for the cats. Since it was a surprise (this one time I agreed it was okay to give a cat as a gift) for Hanna, everything had to be bought and hidden away. I gave Steven loads of links, told him what to buy and he responded by getting everything you can imagine-and the BEST of the BEST for his new cats.

Steven came to visit the kittens. I had a feeling he would like Nanaimo and Linzer, the tuxedo twins. They showed well and he played with them to no end. He was charmed by Pizzelle who had MANY pending applications already. I was reluctant to let him go, but then again, due to the circumstances I agreed he could be adopted, but…who would go with him? Steven was open to having two cats. That left either Biscotti or splitting up the twins, which I was loathe to do.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Linzer, Biscotti and Nanny (right). But really who can tell the twins apart. Good thing Biscotti has white on his face.

What I hadn’t noticed was that Steven was drawn to Mocha. After visiting with the kitties for about 30 minutes I asked him if he felt any bond to the cats. He caught me off guard by choosing the cat I thought would be the last one adopted. He chose Mocha and Pizzelle to go together!

I was shocked, but it was a fine match. Mother and son, together always. How lovely…but…mom had to approve, too.

That’s when I got my hackles up and I wanted to get my bag of pretzels back.

Mom wanted black cats to match her outfits so she wouldn’t have cat hair showing on her clothes or the furniture. Mom is a busy executive and does not want to have anything to do with feeding the cats or cleaning the litter pan. Mom is scared of being scratched.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mocha, a truly adorable, sweet, playful kitty…and her fur matches the furniture?

Normally every red flag I’ve got in my gut would be waving furiously, but Steven was so grand and his daughter so sweet, that I simply had to do this adoption. My hope was that with time and education, mom would come around. She couldn’t believe me that our cats really don’t shed. One of the benefits of the raw diet is that cats don’t get hairballs or shed much at all. The coat length-long or short haired-doesn’t matter. I literally tried to pull some fur off one of the cats and it just doesn’t come out.

The big day arrived. I was honored to be able to bring Pizzelle and Mocha to their new home and witness this little girl’s dream come true. The night before, Steven sent me a photo of Hanna next to the gigantic cat tree they got for her new cats. I was bummed they told her she was getting cats, but found out they only told her she was getting Mocha. She was really happy about that, so much so that she said she HAD to keep Mocha's name and would not change it. The surprise was that Pizzelle would be joining her, so we worked out a plan to bring him out after Mocha had already come into the house.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. 'Zellie poses for the camera.

We got Mocha settled. Hanna was delighted. She was more subdued than I expected but was following Mocha around the room as she sniffed and inspected everything in her new home. At my suggestion, Mocha and Pizzelle would be in a big finished basement for the first week as to not overwhelm them with having free reign of the house.

Mocha did GREAT. She was happy, interested in everyone, tail up, but I was worried. Just after we loaded Mocha into her carrier, before we left our house for Steven's, she started growling. It reminded me of how she behaved shortly after she arrived off the transport. For the first week she was furious with the kittens-hissing, growling, lashing out at them. I was faced with the realization that it could happen again with Pizzelle in their new home. The short drive was enough to make her forget her own offspring and she’d be fighting and angry in front of her new family. I had to diffuse the situation. The mom might not understand and want us to take Mocha back, but first we had to surprise Hanna with her second cat. I hoped Mocha wouldn't charge Pizzelle the second she saw him.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mocha was just as playful as the kittens. She's just a big kitten, herself.

Is this adoption going to stick or is it all going to fall apart if Mocha can't calm down fast? Stay tuned for the conclusion in Chapter 4 airing in a few hours.

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Tennesse Hoarding Case Great News and Why We Kicked Ass

Last week I wrote a post about dozens of cats and dogs discovered at an abandoned home in Tennessee. I asked for your help, not only to raise funds but to spread the word so we had a chance to find rescues, especially for these cats who really were in dire need. Marion Animal Resource Connection, a small, 5013c located in the rural Marion county, TN area was the only group to respond at first. They coordinated efforts as other rescues stepped in to help out after we posted the news about this situation.

With YOUR HELP, this is what the friends of Covered in Cat Hair were able to accomplish:

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MARC raised about $1000.00. 60% of that came from Covered in Cat Hair friends!

Because we helped raise the money, MARC could pay for 31 cats to be vetted. This made it VERY EASY for other rescues like Catoosa Citizens for Animal Care to take MANY of the cats. Since they didn't have to cover the vet costs, all they have to do is provide food and love until those cats get adopted. They wouldn't have KNOWN about this situation if it wasn't for all of you sharing our blog post!

Because April, the Founder of MARC placed 2 cats who need socializing into a barn placement (where they will be confined for a few months while their new mom works with them and they'll have a home even if they don't become friendly) and a few others found homes right away that leaves only 5 CATS LEFT at the home, that still need to be trapped, vetted and put into rescue or be adopted.

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Considering 50 plus animals have been rescued, vetted and found safe haven for in the past few weeks, this is really amazing news.

And YOU GUYS, KICKED ASS. This story would NOT have had such a happy ending if you hadn't made a donation or shared a blog post. This part of TN is very rural with limited resources. So THANK YOU EVERYONE for helping make this tragedy turn into something we can all feel proud of being part of.

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MARC needs about $200.00 to finish up vetting the last 5 cats. If you'd like to help them there's still time to be part of this happy story. GO HERE TO DONATE.

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The Shocking Case of What Ails Minnie

I sat in my car, in the dark, cold night and started up the engine. It rumbled to life as I grabbed the gear shift and slowly put the car into reverse. Shifting into first gear, I eased the car down the steep driveway of Susan and Barry's home. I'd just left Minnie in their bedroom and my mind was in playback mode, going over the last few hours and imagining what would yet come to pass.

I was fit to be tied.

Minnie is the mom to our most miraculous, stunning, kittens, Lil' Gracey, Confetti Joe, Jellybean Mel, Yukon Stan and Precious Pete. Minnie, who'd starved on the streets in Bridgeport, CT, then given birth, then got such a bad infection she almost died, had struggled enough in her short life. My only goals for her once in my care were to fatten her up and get her a wonderful home as she recovered from her difficult life.

As most of her kittens found their forever homes, Minnie found a new foster home right down the street from my house. I was thrilled to let Minnie go because it meant she'd have more space to live and the love of a family and their two children, one of whom, a young girl, had a gentle and affectionate regard for Minnie right away.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Minnie.

While Minnie passed the days in her foster home, I searched for her forever family. Months passed. I checked in on Minnie once in awhile, but didn't worry about anything, figuring if there was a problem, I'd find out.

At first it was little things, like I'd heard Minnie had some fights with one of the family's two cats, but they seemed to be working it out. Minnie had long tired of the small bathroom that was her initial home, so she was allowed full run of the house. Since she was going to be there, potentially, a long time I thought it was fine.

Last week I got an email saying Minnie had a cut over her eye that didn't seem to be healing. I went over and took a look, brought some calendula cream (a plant-based antibiotic cream) and treated her. I assumed she'd been scratched. Clearly she was not the aggressor. Minnie was also behaving fearfully. I assumed, again, it was due to the cats, but I also knew that the 12 yr old boy in the home did NOT like Minnie and told me she'd scratched him. I asked him what he did to provoke her, but all I got was an innocent shrug as he repeatedly told me how much he hated her.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Dr. Mary examines the injuries on Minnie's face.

As fate would have it, I got another email about the same time Minnie's problems were starting. This one was from a woman named Susan. She'd seen some news about Kitten Associates and wanted to let me know how proud she was of our work and she also told me about her boy, Duke, her beloved kitty who had died after struggling with heart issues for years, not long ago. Devastated by his death, she and her husband felt having another cat wasn't in the cards. I could tell her heart was broken, so I told her to come over and visit the kittens, just to cheer her up, no strings. No bothering her to adopt from us. That was all.

You can guess what happened next. They came over and fell in love with Buttercup, one of the "Clementines" orange foster kittens. Further surprises came shortly after that. Susan was pregnant. When they asked about possibly adopting Buttercup I had to say no. I couldn't let her go to a home with no other pets. Buttercup NEEDS that emotional support from her siblings and with a baby on the way, would little Buttercup be mature enough to handle this life-change?

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Injuries all over her face. What happened to you, Minnie?

Normally I would have just tabled the conversation, but I REALLY LIKED this couple. They were truly devoted to their last cat. They were respectful to my wishes about finding them a good match based on the cat and their life, not just picking a cute kitten. I thought about it a lot, then I realized that Minnie might be a good choice. She was grown, cute, and was able to get out of the way of any child and had a very mellow vibe about her. At the same time I was discovering that Minnie might be getting beaten up, so I told Susan about her story. Susan read some of my blog posts about Minnie's tough life and fell in love. We decided to take it slowly. Susan and Barry had never met Minnie and they didn't want to go to her foster home and meet her while she was scared. I agreed to do a home visit and bring Minnie to them. They'd foster her for a few weeks, then either they'd adopt or we'd take Minnie back. It felt right, so that's what we did.

I picked up Minnie last night, but first she had to be cajoled out from her finding place-inside the box spring of a bed. This is not a good sign, when there were plenty of places to relax all over the house. Why was this cat away from all the other rooms and hiding in a box spring? I didn't have time to ponder it since I had to get to Susan's.

When I arrived, we talked about Minnie possibly being attacked by other cats and probably having spent the past few months being afraid. That she HAD to give Minnie some time, maybe longer than we thought, to blossom again.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. A startling discovery-eosinophilic plaque.

I let Minnie out of her crate and she began exploring the bedroom where we were going to let Minnie start her new life. Her tail was up. She didn't run and hide. She came over to Susan and rubbed up on her. She did the same to me as she energetically moved around the room exploring all the furniture and rugs. I took out a catnip banana and she went crazy over it. The fearful cat I'd seen not even an hour ago was gone.

As Susan and I sat on the floor, petting Minnie, Susan felt something odd. I took a look and in the low light of the room I could see an open, bloody wound on Minnie's left shoulder. I couldn't get a great look at it, but the more I looked at her, the more scratches I saw on her face and neck. I was really pissed. What kind of foster home lets a cat get THIS bad and doesn't NOTICE IT? How MUCH had Minnie been suffering these past months when I was foolishly thinking she was doing just fine-even hoping her foster family would adopt her.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Wondering what all this means and how it happened.

It was clear Minnie needed to see a Vet. I called right then and there and got an appointment for this morning. There is no way I was prepared for what we were about to find out. I spent a good part of the drive home guessing at what the vet bill was going to be, especially if we had to stitch up that wound or if we found more problems, like an abscess.

This morning, I got an email from Susan saying Minnie was scratching a lot. This had to mean she had fleas! Minnie was cleared of them months ago…in fact she never HAD THEM but we treated her just in case. Now what was I going to do? Susan is pregnant. Minnie had been in her bedroom! Fleas? Chemical agents to remove them? What was Susan going to say about this? Was I going to have to take Minnie home with me? Where in the world would I put her?

Frankly, I was pretty miserable this morning. I was angry and worried and scared we couldn't cover the vet bill. Fundraising over the holidays was a total bust. The account is scary-low, but if I'm careful we can limp a long.

Susan was right on time. She reported that Minnie wasn't hiding, she was playing eating, using her litter pan, happy to hang out, but itchy. Indeed, Minnie was quite calm in the exam room, too with her tail up, curious, happy, not stressed at all.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Minnie while she was here with us this past summer.

I told Susan my fears about fleas and she took it well. I'd packed up every flea treatment I had and was ready to give Minnie some topical flea treatment, but the exam had to confirm it first. Good thing I waited.

Dr. Mary did the exam. As always she was sweet with Minnie and ever so careful with her. Minnie responded in kind, keeping calm and letting Dr. Mary do her thing. As Dr. Mary turned Minnie, I saw the wound on her side. As Dr. Mary spoke, in unison we said the same thing. "Eosinophilic plaque!"

This was likely a LESION caused by stress that lowered her immune system, followed by an allergic reaction to something. It all became clear. Minnie was having a reaction to being fed DRY CAT FOOD!

I'd seen it the week before but was told Minnie didn't eat it, even though the bowl of kibble probably sat there all day long. Even though I provided her food. Even though I checked to make sure they didn't need more and was told she was getting it…there is it..she's so itchy from the junk that she's scratching herself raw.

She hadn't been fighting. She didn't have fleas or mites. Susan said she'd been drinking a lot of water, another indicator to me she was given dry food. If I see my cats drink water, I know they are likely SICK. Raw food has enough moisture-and, in the wild, cats get moisture from their prey, not by drinking.

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©2014 Susan W. Minnie the first night in her new foster home.

Poor Minnie. If this had kept going, she really would have been a mess. As it is, it will take awhile for her to recover. Not being stressed out will REALLY help and so will a belly full of good, appropriate food. Susan understands what has to be done, but other than good food and love, there's nothing more to do other than keep an eye on it and make sure she's getting better.

While at the Vet, Susan remarked many times over how cute and sweet Minnie was, how easy going, how different she was than their old cat, Duke, who fussed and hated being at the Vet. Susan had a gleam in her eye when she spoke about Minnie, even though she's not making any declarations about her future. I have a sneaking suspicion that Minnie may not be in foster care much longer. I like this couple. I like their home. I like seeing Minnie with them. It feels right and in the end, that's all that matters.

I hope it's a match for life, but right now baby steps...

…speaking of baby steps…I have a new foster kitten coming. Some of you may already know him, but for months, behind-the-scenes, since I first saw his face, a little cutie pie is coming to Connecticut.

Wait! Isn't my home already stuffed to the gills with foster cats? Actually, no.

In the past week, FIVE CATS HAVE BEEN ADOPTED! And that story, my friends, will be the focus of my next blog post.

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Tennessee Hoarding Case and How You Can Help Save Lives

An anonymous tip to the Marion Animal Resource Connection, a small, new 5013c located in the rural Marion county, TN area, alerted April Bowden, MARC's Founder, to the possibility of a hoarding situation. While the sheriff's department can respond, there is no animal shelter or animal control in the county, therefore no one to take animals and humanely house them. MARC does not have a facility and is solely foster based. (April started MARC when she moved to Marion county from Knoxville, TN and was upset by the conditions of the animals in the county.)

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One of the sweet survivors hoping to be freed from filthy conditions soon.

April enlisted the help of Sgt. Cox with the Marion county Sheriff's department and they went to the property where they found 17 dogs on short chains and in wire dogs crates outside and 30+/- cats. Two of the dogs had died inside their crates. The weather was about to turn very cold, with an expected low of 5 degrees.

The local fire department offered temporary space for the dogs overnight and then Humane Educational Society out of Chattanooga, TN was able to take the 15 dogs but has not been able to assist with the cats.

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Volunteers have gone back to the property and were able to get cats in carriers and also trap cats yesterday. There were 23 cats taken and about 10 remain on the property that will be trapped later this week.

They must get them all out before the bank secures the house and removes the cats.

The cats are friendly but shy and scared due to all the activity. They are young cats, most appear to be between 8-12 months of age. There are all different colors, dilute calico, half face torti, torti with orange bib, two Russian blue grey males, white with blue eyes, tabbies, including a marble tabby with orange eyes, a tuxedo, grey/white, solid black, a fluffy orange tabby, etc.

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MARC needs help with funding the vetting for these cats. The cats are being vetted for $40 (which is really inexpensive!) per cat - FVCRP, rabies, spay/neuter, and combo tests.

They also need adopters who are willing to give these sweet cats a home. AND THEY STILL NEED Placement/Rescue for approximately 20 more cats.

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How You Can Help

Like MARC on Facebook and help them Share messages as this urgent situation unfolds.

DONATE. For $40 you just helped save the life of one cat! Bargain! GO HERE TO DONATE.

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RESCUE. If you're with a cat rescue or humane society and would like to help. Transport can be provided and cats will be vetted prior to you getting them! How easy is that? TENNESSEE AND SURROUNDING STATES please step up! If you're further away, no worries. We CAN get the cats to you!

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Freshly trapped, very hungry, friendly but scared, these kitties are going to get vetted so they'll be ready for their new homes or rescue placements soon!

ADOPT. I've provided some photos of some of the cats. There are plenty more. Fill out an Adoption application and someone from MARC will be in touch with you. You can pretty much get any cat in any color you want.

HELP DRIVE CATS TO THE VET or SHUTTLE THEM TO RESCUES IF YOU LIVE IN THE AREA.

TEXT APRIL BOWDEN: 423 240 3915 if you'd like to help or donate supplies or A SPACE TO TEMPORARILY HOUSE THE CATS or HOUSE even SOME OF THE CATS. THEY HAVE FEW RESOURCES. ALL HELP IS APPRECIATED.

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Together we have done MANY amazing things, helping cats down the road or thousands of miles away. Sharing is Caring. Please help me get the word out about this sad situation.

Let's WIN ONE for the Cats!

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The Clementines. Now We are Five.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. This is how I start my morning kitten feeding ritual with the Clementines, the ½ dozen orange cuties I rescued from a kill shelter in Kentucky last October. I count heads. I have to count them because for the life of me, I can barely tell them apart. Okay, one is buff color, so she is easy to spot, but the others, my GOD, other than all black cats, these are the toughest cats to tell apart. If you look carefully they ALL have the same “ring” of darker orange around their chests. They have the same number of rings around their legs, in the same place. Their faces are VERY similar, too, with only slight variations. Now that Mandarin, Blossom and Bert have popped their ID collars off, it’s definitely a challenge. The only one I know for certain is Bert because the poor kitten is chronically SICK.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the very few photos of ALL the kittens together.

So I count heads. If I have 6, then that means Mango didn’t bust out of the room, which he often does. That cat FLIES over the barrier on the staircase, down the stairs, across the living room, then down the spiral staircase into Sam’s office in less than 3 seconds. He finds it very amusing. He has no fear of the other cats. They all follow him trying to sort out if he’s a threat. He just swings his rear end from left to right, his tail swishing back and forth with big boy pride. Yes, Mango is HUGE. He's the biggest of the litter, the chattiest, and has quite the personality. I admit I have a mad crush on him and just this evening, as I was retouching photos of the kittens, I realized he looks a lot like my boy, Bob, the cat we lost a few years ago to cancer.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Woe is Mango.

What’s curious to me is that I had initially named the kitten Bud-almost Bob. I wonder if on some level I had a sense that Bob had returned, but surely he wouldn’t look at all like his former self. What are the rules of reincarnation? I have no idea. I just know that the name Bud wasn’t quite right so I chose the name Mango. Though it still takes me a moment, I can tell Mango from the others because of his size and because he often stands on his hind legs on the bathroom counter and reaches up for me, asking to be held. I wish he wouldn't do that. I just makes me love him all the more.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Bert and Mandy, the two sickest of the litter.

It’s been over 3 months since the Clementines arrived. They should have been long since adopted by now, but their eye infection and upper respiratory infections continue to wax and wane (you can read more about their struggles HERE and HERE. Many of the kittens are doing really well and some of them are FINALLY ready to be adopted. Mandarin, the smallest of the litter, still struggles with the sneezes and poor, poor Bert. He almost lost his right eye, then we saved it, then the infection went into the left eye. Now it goes back and forth with no end in sight (pardon the pun).

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Bert, still smilin' even though his eye infection has gone on for months.

I finally was able to do a more sensitive test on his tears to find out what the heck Bert’s got. After a week-long wait there were NO RESULTS. This tells us whatever is going on is not too bad, but it could be chronic. It also means its time to bite the bullet and put him on antibiotics, which I have been fighting to do for a long time. If his issue was viral, then what’s the point? Luckily, Dr. Mary is fascinated with eye issues and has done research and chatted with many other vets about Bert’s situation. Instead of going to a specialist right now, she got a rather good number of vets to agree that we need to try the dreaded Doxycycline for 3 weeks and see how it goes. For those of you who have never used it, Doxy is VERY acidic. It can literally burn the esophagus and cause something called strictures-basically a swelling that makes it VERY TOUGH for cats to swallow food and it's very painful. To “cure” the problem it costs about $6000.00 in repeated endoscopic treatments. How do I know this?

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Buttercup.

Because we did it to a kitten named CaraMelle, by accident, and it took about 6 MONTHS to find out what was wrong, then treat it. Meanwhile her growth was severely stunted and she spent weeks vomiting and miserable while I tended to her round-the-clock.

If you have to give Doxy, make sure you get it compounded into a liquid AND make certain you follow that with a syringe of water-a few mLs should work fine.

We’re going to treat Bert and one other kitten, whichever seems to need it. We’re also going to move the most healthy kittens into a new foster home (or different room in my house) so they can’t repeatedly infect each other. Do I like doing this? No. One of the pleasures of my day is spending time with the Clementines and I hate to break them apart, but as always, it's not about ME. It's about what is best for them (especially after their application checks out and it turns out that they are friends with Dr. Larry).

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mandy, Mango & Bert.

I know from doing this hundreds of times over the past few years that I have to continue to let these foster cats go when I find a great home. I can’t always have 22 cats in my house. It’s very stressful on both myself, Sam and our cats (who have also gotten sick from the Clementines). When that right home comes along, I owe it to the kittens to jump on it.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. The fairest one of all…

On Wednesday I made the first “jump.” One of the kittens found her forever home and though I was sad to start separating the kittens, it was time. When someone says to me; “HELL, YES THAT’S MY KITTEN” after seeing the kitten for the first time, I know I’d be a fool to say no to them.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mango.

What was curious was that they came over twice to find their kitten. The first time, the family, a great mom and dad and their daughters, didn’t connect to any of Mochachino’s kittens. They had hoped to adopt one of them, but something was missing. I could tell while they were here, but they weren’t ready to say it wasn’t a match. I urged them to go home and think about it and a day later they said they were going to go back to the drawing board. In my heart, I realized I knew which kitten would be a better choice. It would either be Marigold or Mandarin. There was just something about those 2 girls that felt right.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mango is clearly offended by his cat toy.

When the family came to visit again, I put Mandy and Mari into a pen without the other Clementines so the family wouldn’t be overloaded by all 6 kittens racing around. I lifted Marigold out of the pen and the mom looked at her and swooned. Marigold sat calmly in her arms and purred while Mandy played with a toy. I didn’t have to ask if they wanted Mari, because it was clear that this was their kitten. I eventually brought ALL the Clementines out of their room and even though it’s tough to tell them apart, the family KNEW their girl. Over and over they picked her out of the crowd. There was no question that Mari would be the first kitten adopted. Little Marigold, who never got very sick, who never caused any trouble, was going home. The quiet little kitten who watched play time more than she took part, would be heading off to a loving home where she’d meet her new kitty and human friends.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Thanks to the folks at Tiger Teasers for sending us a donation of their toys. The kittens LOVE them so much they growl during playtime-a sure sign they are guarding their coveted "resource!"

I ended up bringing Mari to her family and spent a few hours with them, going over every tip I could think of, getting her set up, then making sure she was settling in well. The other cats in the home knew she was in the room and were frantically scratching at the door, demanding to know who was in there. Her new family understood to take the introduction slowly and Mari’s new mom already told me that Mari would be moved out of the office at night and would sleep in her room so she wouldn’t be alone.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. They never tire of their Teaser!

Later that night, I got a few text messages from the family, along with a few photos and a very funny video of Mari sitting on her new dad’s shoulder. She was purring and licking his ear. He was almost giggling. I can tell Mari is going to have a great life and continue to know lots of love. It’s what I hope for for all my foster cats.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mari and her mama, Suzy.

The next morning I counted heads: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…then realized there was no 6. The kittens realized it, too. For once Mango didn’t bust out the door and run down the stairs. He was very chatty. The others were very subdued. They ate their food quickly as they always do, but something was different with them. They knew their sister was gone and perhaps they were wondering who would be next.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. The little orange family starts to find their forever homes.

I wondered that, too as I started to imagine the day when I have to say goodbye to the next Clementine. They are dear, dear kittens, so very affectionate and joyful. To spend time with them is a gift I cherish and greedily I wish it would last and last, but as always there are more kittens waiting in the wings and I have to make room for them soon.

It’s time to do more rescues.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mari finds comfort in the arms of her new sister.

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5 Cat Blogs to Read in 2014.

Holy moley! Did you see the news? Covered in Cat Hair was chosen as one of the 5 Cat Blogs to read in 2014 on Answers.com!

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I'm so thrilled to start the year off with good news AND to be included with such a fine group of writers. It's truly an honor and I'm so grateful. The only problems is…now I have to live up to this acknowledgment! Oops. I better get to writing.

Speaking of stories..stay tuned. We have some more good news. One of our kittens has been adopted and is already in her new home, but which one is it? Find out, along with some awesome photos of the kitten with her siblings enjoying their last afternoon together.

And if you're in the mood to read right away, make sure you visit the other Cat Blogs listed in Ingrid King's post:

Vox Felina

The Tiniest Tiger

The Creative Cat

The Conscious Cat

Don't forget, too, that Ingrid's Answer posts also cover all sorts of cat-related questions, so it's definitely another great resource!

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2013 in the Rear View Mirror

Grab a cup of coffee and kick back for a few minutes. Let's take a look back on 2013.

January

Without a doubt Jackson Galaxy, our charming, pain in the ass, dearly beloved foster cat getting adopted was the surprise of the dawning of 2013. Jackson, who suffers from HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy), was never expected to find a forever home with anyone other than Sam and myself and when Mickey and Offie offered to bring him to northern Vermont to join them in “retirement” we knew it was the right thing to do.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Jackson.

Inasmuch as we love Jackson, living with so many cats here was too much stress on his heart. He would be the solo cat, get all the attention and his new protector might just be his lady-Vet, a good friend of his new family, who is overseeing his care.

Jackson did great with his new family and he often sent us notes. A few months ago we got a very sad update that Jackson’s heart was getting worse and that his lady-Vet was concerned that his life will now be measured in months instead of years. We were very busted up about it, but I’m glad to report that so far, with new medication, Jackson is still doing all right and celebrated his first Christmas with his family.

February

As February arrived so did a little fireball named Tansy. She was our first adoption and our worst adoption. We foolishly trusted someone from far away and she turned out to be a hoarder. Tansy was taken into animal control in North Carolina and sat in a cage for the better part of TWO YEARS, while a few of her companions sickened from upper respiratory and had to be euthanized. After monthly calls and emails, begging to get our cat back, I got the news that Tansy was ours again. To celebrate her new life, we gave her a new name: Mabel-Baby. Mabel arrived, immediately ready to explore, make new friends and live her life to the fullest.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mabel-Baby.

Mabel’s had a few chances to be adopted since she arrived, but we’re being extremely picky about her new home. She’s also charmed us so much that perhaps we’re dragging our feet a bit more than we should, but we aren’t going to make any more mistakes about where she lives or who she lives with.

March

Our Kitties for Kids program was slowing down, but news of it had reached the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association. They contacted us to say they were going to award our kittens the “Pet of the Year” award for their service to the people of Newtown after the heartbreaking tragedy here in 2012. Not only that, but U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal was going to give us a Certificate of Special Recognition by the State of Connecticut for our efforts, as well.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

April

In early April we attended the CVMA ceremony. It was one of the crowning achievements of our non-profit’s work, but sadly our joy was short-lived. Something had been “off” with foster kitten, Fred. We’d been running him back and forth to the Vet. We’d rule in, then rule out FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis). We begged for donations, which thank goodness, we were able to get. We saw more and more Vets and did more and more tests, while Fred slowly, cruelly lost the use of his back legs, then front…after trying every treatment and doing every test we were left with the heartbreak that Fred did have FIP after all.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson & Katherine Reid. Chloe before and after the first week in foster care-learning to trust.

Chloe is a senior Siamese mix whose owner wanted her euthanized for being a bite risk. As a last resort I was contacted about taking her on. I knew I couldn’t take her into our program but I offered to observe her and see if we could find a way to help her. That cat hated me, to this day she still hisses and growls at me, but Chloe, declawed, fat, neglected and very likely abused, still earned my affection. I cut a deal with Katherine from Animals in Distress. We’d partner to help Chloe and thanks to this blog and Dee D., one of our readers, she pointed us to Angi our uber-foster-mom who said she could give Chloe a long-term foster home and help her find her confidence and learn to trust under her care. None of us would have believed how this story would end if we hadn’t seen it ourselves.

May

We had to let Fred go on May 9, 2013. He was held by Sam as we talked to him while his passed away. It was the first time I’ve ever had to put one of our fosters down. He was only 10-months old. I wrote about Fred’s last days many times. In one post, titled: Dear Fred, I wrote him a letter, giving myself an outlet to share all the love I had for him. I wrote it the day before he died. I told him that he was no longer a foster kitten and that Sam and I had formally done the paperwork and we were adopting him as our own, even though his time with us would be short.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Fred.

After Fred died, his brother Barney went into mourning. We knew he needed new friends in his life and that’s when he got to meet Bongo, Bunny Boo-Boo and George, who we’d rescued from Georgia in late 2012. It took a week or so but it was pretty clear that Barney, who’d been licking some of his fur off, had known his brother was ill far before we did. Barney’s issues started months before we knew about Fred and his hyper-grooming stopped not long after Fred passed away.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bongo (left) with George. Not related these two cuties got adopted together.

I decided that the foster cats I had would be our last. I couldn’t rescue any more cats. I just couldn’t face any more death. I needed time to heal. I even thought about closing Kitten Associates for good.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Celebrating Ingrid King's birthday at BlogPaws with all our super-awesome cat lady friends.

Near the end of the month, I travelled to Virginia to attend BlogPaws. I was one of the first Presenters and I did a 90 minute talk about our Kitties for Kids program. I didn’t know if I had the courage to do the talk, knowing full well that Fred had been our mascot and that the last slide was in dedication to him. As happens so often in my blog posts, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. We all cried, but being with my friends renewed my passion for saving more lives. I couldn't give up. The cats needed me.

June

The rains came in a deluge and so did the calls to help cats. A cat, from a terrible part of another town, gave birth to 5 kittens on the sidewalk, then moved them to a window well to hide them. I got the call to help and at first I said I wasn’t sure I could do it…okay maybe for a few weeks I’d foster, but that was it. Then I was told that if we didn’t get them they might drown and by the way, all the kittens were orange and white..just like Fred.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A few days after rescue, Lil' Gracey has some lunch.

I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Minnie and her kittens came to live with us just as we got our new Dropcam set up that I nicknamed: SqueeTV. The kittens were a great joy to me. One of them, in particular, looked a lot like Fred. I couldn’t help but wonder if somehow he had sent this family to me.

The Dogtime Pettie Awards nominations came out. Though I was sad not to be nominated for Best Cat Blog, I was stunned to find out that “Dear Fred” had been nominated for Best Blog Post. Now Fred’s legacy would live on. I couldn’t have been more honored.

July

Minnie was a great mom, but she never had a good appetite. Something was wrong with her and it became clear one morning when I entered the foster room to find it covered with vomit. Minnie was growling, trying to attack her kittens. Shocked, I raced her to the vet. It was touch and go for a few weeks. She had a massive infection, bordering on septic. My heart sank as I feared we’d lose another cat…and what would it mean for her 5 week old kittens?

It meant I was going to be their new mom.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Minnie's kittens growing fast.

Minnie had to be separated from her kittens after that day. Although I tried to reintroduce her to them, she wanted nothing to do with them. The shocking change from loving, protective Mother, to harpy was heartbreaking. The kittens, confused, lost, scared, turned to me and though I was worried I’d do something wrong, we all began to find a new rhythm to our time together.

And then there was BarkAid.

August

Bongo and George had found a great forever home. Bunny and Barney kept each other company while I got to work preparing for a big fundraiser called BarkAid. In the history of names, I think BarkAid was one of the hardest to promote. We do CAT rescue, it’s called BarkAid. They take over a salon and do haircuts for PEOPLE, not DOGS, then donate what they make to a local rescue. I had my hands full trying to scramble to get the 26 ft long banner produced to hang over our town’s main drag, while I was writing press releases, cleaning up kitten vomit, worrying about Minnie, trying to find homes for Barney and Bunny and wondering if any of this was going to work.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

I was wiped out, but BarkAid was a success for us. After spending about $1300.00 in advertising and fees related to BarkAid, we still came up with another $1000.00 to put in the bank. We had the second highest number of haircuts of the past two years of the program!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mama-Mochachino, exhausted after rescue and two cans of food, finally takes a break in the safety of her foster home with Maria.

A black mama cat and her 3 kittens were zipped up into a cat carrier and dumped in a cul-de-sac on a very hot summer day. Trapped, screaming, clawing to get out, after more than a day, a good Samaritan contacted our mama-Maria to help rescue the family. With nowhere but the kill shelter to go to, I told Maria if she could foster, we’d take them on. The kittens were twin tuxedoes and a little gray and white sibling. Not long after they got settled, we got contacted by another rescuer in the area about helping with one little tuxedo kitten she found in a DUMPSTER, burned on the paws and nose. We had the resources to help him but it meant risking putting him with this mama and her kittens. Would they accept him? Would they sicken him or vice versa? We took a few days to think about it, but in the end, little Biscotti entered our program and our hearts. The family accepted him and no one got sick.

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©2013 Betsy Merchant. Our first glimpse of Biscotti after being rescued.

September

I hit a fairly shocking low point in early September. I was so depressed I scared even myself. The grind of the past 9 months had taken a toll on me. On a lark, moments after I found out that Lil’ Bub, the internet’s alien-cat, was going to be in New Jersey at a book signing, I called the book store and asked if I could get a press pass. They gave me the green light. I grabbed my friend Irene and we went to the store. This may sound overly dramatic, but in that moment it truly WAS amazing what happened next.

Meeting Lil’ Bub saved my life.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I lub Bub.

That cat has magical powers, I swear. Being with her makes you want to cry with joy. The low I’d had in my heart broke apart. I was reminded of the love have for cats, for my friends and I was going to be able to face another day.

Then, the Dogtime Petties are announced via video online. When my category came up, I held my breath. When they announced Covered in Cat Hair as the winner, I started screaming. Sam thought I was being murdered. I ran into the living room and started jumping up and down. I pulled something in my leg and could barely walk for 3 days afterwards, but…I won…FRED WON. Fred had the memorial I had wished and wished for and it meant $1000.00 for Kitten Associates.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Selfie with mah-Pettie.

As I watched the rest of the ceremony, my dear friend, Ingrid King won for Best Overall Pet Blog. This woman is a force to be reckoned with and though I wasn’t surprised she won, it suddenly hit me that her donation of $1000.00 was ALSO coming to Kitten Associates! AT LAST I could stop worrying so much about keeping our doors open…for awhile…

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Best photo of 2013. Chloe let's Angi have it because I got too close with the camera.

The good news didn’t stop there. After months of rehabilitation, Chloe lost a few pounds and was deemed ready to be adopted. Within a few short weeks, we found Pam, who ended up being Chloe’s new mom. They had a tough first few days. Chloe bit Pam badly, but after some time, Chloe began to trust and quickly started a love-fest with Pam’s husband, sleeping next to him and clearly favoring him over Pam. But Pam wasn’t bothered. She kept at it and last I heard Chloe is doing great, meets new people and doesn’t bite any more and loves everyone-except me.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Lolly.

Since we had money in the bank, I rescued two flea-covered, skinny siblings, Lolly & Clark. I didn’t stop there when 6 orange tabby kittens, nicknamed “the Clementines” landed on death row in a Kentucky municipal pound. They were at risk of being killed. I offered money, whatever I could think of, to get a local rescue to take these cuties on. No one stepped forward. I got worried. Someone in KY offered to foster the cats for us, so with great trepidation, I said YES. We’d just gotten a brand new foster home so I thought we’d have the space.

October

What was I thinking?

The Clementines were sick right off the transport and they were COVERED in FLEAS. Not one or two but hundreds. It was a huge mess. Our new foster mom, Jeannie, kicked butt. She HATES fleas and knows how to get rid of them. We bathed all the kittens and got them set up, but with their chronic health problems, I ended up taking them back from her and taking on the roll of their caretaker just days after Lolly & Clark found their forever home. It meant my house was loaded with cats and I was terrified about a flea outbreak. Whatever free time I had was gone.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The Clementines before we rescued them. The little dilute was not part of their litter and WAS rescued by another group.

My cat Blitzen got sick with a mysterious allergic reaction and rodent ulcer on his mouth. I had to put him on steroids which kicked back his immune system and he caught the upper respiratory that the Clementine’s were fighting. I basically had a house full of sick cats. The days were a blur of Vet runs, medicating, worrying. Little Sherbert’s left eye was so bad we couldn’t even SEE his eye any more. We worked tirelessly to get these cats back on their paws while some of my own cats started to get the sniffles.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Robin and Grumpy Cat.

I took one evening off to travel to NYC to attend the Friskies where I met Grumpy Cat. Of course my camera crapped out on me while I was holding her but my iPhone worked well enough to capture the moment. Did meeting Grumpy Cat change my life? No. I felt bad for her, in truth. Everyone was handling her. No one seemed to be looking out for her the way Mike Bridavsky does with Lil’ Bub.

I also got to meet Will Braden, filmmaker and cat-daddy who creates the Henri le Chat Noir videos. Will is a sweetheart. We had a great conversation about how he does his videos (you can’t direct a cat, you have to go with their natural instincts) and we talked about art school (since we both went to one) and just about how weird it is for him to have a slice of fame and fortune. He is clearly humbled by it and somewhat amused. I hope celebrity doesn’t get to his head. So far, so good.

November

I was stunned when our former foster, Willow got returned. She’d had flea bite dermatitis, her fur looked terrible, she was thin. She was stress-peeing in the new home and her owner was getting divorced. It was just too much for him and I was glad to have her back. Willow was reunited with Barney, who’d been with us over a year by then. They went right back to being best friends and when David, a police officer from Danbury, saw Willow on Petfinder, then met Barney, he realized he wanted them both to be part of his family.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney & Willow reunited at last.

Willow blossomed again and Barney had a new mom. David sent me a video of Willow grooming Barney as he sat there, clearly loved, clearly happy, after losing his brother, his other siblings at birth, and his own mom, he had family again and I couldn’t be happier with how it worked out.

Minnie was still waiting for her forever home, but we found a lovely foster home with Barbara and her family, so Minnie was doing well, getting chubby and loving life. She's gained about SIX POUNDS since we rescued her.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Minnie, still waiting for her forever home.

Bunny Boo-Boo finally found her home, too, with one of our friends who lives in the Boston area. They’d been looking for a very long time to add a cat to their family, which included a shy orange tabby named Sunny. Sunny & Bunny. Who didn’t see this coming?

December

The Clementines still battle being sick. Mocha and family arrived and Confetti Joe & Lil’ Gracey, two of Minnie’s kittens were still here. Their siblings had found great homes months ago. I added it up. I had 22 cats in my house. I tried not to be freaked out. I have the space, but the resources and the time are another thing all together. I kept wondering..where are the adopters and WHEN can I put the Clementines on Petfinder? They’d had a bad reaction to a vaccination. I had to wait weeks longer than normal to get them spayed/neutered. They still had a runny eye here and there and in the meantime they were blowing out of their room they were so BIG.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor Sherbert. These kittens wax and wane with their upper respiratory infections.

In addition to the usual holiday “to do’s” we had to plan what we’d do to honor the first year anniversary of the Shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We decided to re-open our Kitties for Kids program for a few weeks. Even though Sam and I were both exhausted, we knew we had to give back and offer to help those in need. If we lost another Christmas, so be it.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Downtown Sandy Hook, CT on December 14, 2013.

The day came on soft paws. It snowed. The press stayed away. No one needed Kitties for Kids. We shed some tears and lit a candle. We knew life is too short as it is and to remember to cherish whatever we have for as long as we have it.

As 2013 draws to a close, I can take some pride in announcing that although there was great heartbreak, there were also some great milestones. The most important is in the numbers. How many lives did we save this year?

Last year we saved 60 lives.

I count saved lives as: literally rescued and brought into our program and cats we’ve found other rescue placements for by networking. We can’t track every “save” we’ve done by networking, but this year we’ve help at least: 94 CATS!

And what’s in store for 2014?

Here are some hints…

Big Changes for Covered in Cat Hair.

New Rescues will be Announced (VERY SOON)

A Few Lucky Kittens FINALLY Get Their Forever Home! (EVEN SOONER)

Thank you to everyone who has been on this journey with me, who cries with me and laughs with and sometimes AT me! I couldn’t do this without all of you by my side. Look what we’ve done. Let’s drink a toast to the good stuff of 2013 and say a gentle farewell to the difficult days.

Happy 2014 to Us All!

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A Christmas Miracle.

I lost my joy of celebrating Christmas the year my father died. What was left of my family struggled along trying to celebrate it, but it was never the same. Over the years as my family faded away and I’ve dedicated my life to rescuing cats, I don’t have much reason to feel festive. It’s just another day, but at least one that doesn’t come with phone calls about cats who need rescue (knock wood).

This year has been very very bad for me financially speaking. Right now I can’t even think about what will happen next year. I may end up like so many others, losing my home, but I’ll try as hard as I can to turn things around. It’s just another reason why Christmas gives me the blues. I’d love to buy gifts and fill the pantry with special treats, but we can’t do that yet again…yet another Christmas where we sit around and shrug our shoulders.

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©2011 Nicky in better days-in his favorite position-belly up.

Yesterday I noticed our 13 year old cat, Nicky, hunched over, looking depressed. Later that day he coughed. It sounded bad. He vomited some mucus and kept coughing. It sounded wet, bubbly. The first thing I thought was the upper respiratory tract infection the orange foster kittens have been battling for months, has hit our cat, too. But Nicky didn’t have similar symptoms. This “cold” effected the cat’s eyes more than anything else and Nicky looked otherwise healthy.

I felt the usual sense of panic build in my gut. I talked to Sam, who is Nicky’s “daddy” and who is in charge of making the health care choices for his cat. We tried to take Nicky’s temp, but that was NOT going to happen he fussed so much. We listened to him as best we could, but Nicky purrs a lot so it was tough to make out if he had trouble breathing.

I wanted to get him to Dr. Larry right away, but Sam wanted to wait. Dr. Larry had a number of emergencies and if Nicky was stable-even if he WAS open-mouth breathing-that we had to wait. I kept imagining having to run Nicky to the ER Vet because they have an oxygen cage and Dr. Larry doesn’t. I started adding up the vet bill in my mind if we had to go to the ER. The sense of panic began to rise.

We continued to observe Nicky. When he meowed it sounded bubbly and he couldn’t get much of a meow out. It was muffled, at best. Nicky was still eating, but he struggled to eat because he couldn’t breathe when he had food in his mouth. I spent a fitful night wondering what the day would bring. It’s Christmas Eve, of course here we are on the cusp of a health crisis that will surely break us for good.

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©2013 Nicky waiting for Dr. Larry.

This morning, Nicky seemed no worse but no better. We packed him up and got him to Dr. Larry’s office. The waiting room was crowded and the phones were ringing. I guessed we weren’t the only ones having a problem right before a major holiday.

We finally got to see Dr. Larry. I was so worried by then that I thought I was going to burst into tears as Dr. Larry listened to Nicky’s chest. Dr. Larry asked us what we had noticed wrong, then weighed Nicky and took his temperature (it was normal). Dr. Larry makes this face. He purses his lips together, frowning and draws his eyebrows down. I know it means bad, but not how bad.

He said he didn’t hear anything terrible in Nicky’s chest. His heart sounded good. His organs didn’t feel swollen. His lungs sounded maybe a bit wet but nothing serious. He wanted to do blood work to rule out infection or virus and maybe he’d snap an x-ray. I told him to do his best to keep the costs down. As it was I knew that this was about the end of what we could spend on pretty much anything and it was going to our cat.

Dr. Larry told us to come back in about an hour so we left to run errands and worry about the results. You see, Nicky has Chronic Kidney Disease. He’s not in renal failure yet, but he’s a senior cat with ever worsening kidney function values which are expressed in BUN and Creatinine. Two years ago we caught Nicky’s kidney problem and Sam has been giving Nicky sub-q fluids every other day since the diagnosis. Of course what is going on with Nicky’s kidneys could affect everything else. Where we going to find out that Nicky was nearing the end of his disease and that was the reason he couldn't fight off the upper respiratory infection?

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Nicky's blood work from a year ago showing his renal values are very high.

What seemed an eternity later, Dr. Larry called us into the exam room. That expression I fear was on his face. Tears welled up in my eyes. Then Larry’s expression opened up. He smiled as he said:

“It’s a Christmas miracle.”

I couldn’t even imagine what he’d tell us next.

Nicky did not have pneumonia, but he does have an upper respiratory tract infection of some sort. It’s not too bad and we should keep a close eye on him to make sure it doesn’t get worse. No antibiotics right now.

Wow. Well that was great news, but not really a miracle per se.

Then Dr. Larry pointed at Nicky’s blood work. He was gushing with glee as his finger landed on the BUN and Creatinine figures. Nicky’s BUN had dropped by more than HALF and his Creatinine was now a high-NORMAL. In other words, Nicky’s chronic kidney disease was what? Gone? Is there such as thing as remission? I don't even have time to ask anyone about this because I wanted to share the news with all of you right away. This sort of thing doesn’t really happen. Once the kidneys go you can buy time, but that’s about it.

With the raw diet, the sub-q fluids and possibly that we are now giving Nicky RenAvast, (a nutritional supplement), his values are pretty much NORMAL.

Now THAT is a miracle.

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Today's blood work-WOW.

I held back the tears as best I could. I looked over at Sam. He was doing the same thing. I asked if that meant we should back off on the fluids and Larry was adamant that we enjoy this moment and NOT mess with what is working for Nicky.

So no trip to the ER Vet. No spending our last dime on a beloved cat. Dr. Larry told us that maybe now we could have a Merry Christmas after all and I had to agree, for the first time in years, it was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…and not a moment too soon.

The Re-Birth of Mid-Hudson Animal Aid

September 14, 2013 was a Saturday and like most weekends, the volunteers at Mid Hudson Animal Aid were busy tending to the care of their 150+ cats or taking part in fundraisers in the community. Running a shelter of this size takes a great effort by a dedicated team of people and the daily routine in this shelter was no different.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The exterior of MHAA.

This particular Saturday, most of the staff happened to be away at a tag sale hoping to raise some money for MHAA’s many rescue programs. Audrey, the Shelter Manager, remarked at how unusual it was for the building to be so devoid of staff on a normally busy weekend. She was there early tending to some business when she smelled smoke. Not sure where it was coming from she started to check the small building doing a room by room search for the source. At the end of the Great Room is the Isolation Ward where incoming cats are separated from the residents of the facility to prevent the spread of disease.

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©2012 Mid Hudson Animal Aid. The Great Room before the fire, filled with happy cats waiting for their forever homes.

Audrey opened the door and was knocked over by a cloud of black, noxious smoke. There was a fire ravaging the inside of the room and Audrey only had seconds do decide what to do next.

Fearing the fire would spread to the rest of the building, and potentially kill a majority of cats who were only feet away, Audrey quickly shut the door and began calling for help. The comfort of her daily routine was replace with abject terror. What would she do with the cats? They had to evacuate the building immediately.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The same room after Sept. 14, 2013. The water damage was so bad the floors were ruined and so was the lower 2 feet of sheet rock throughout the facility.

After a quick call to 9-1-1, they got to work. Within 5 minutes the Beacon, NY fire department arrived. In many rural areas there aren’t any fire plugs to access water, so often times it has to be brought in by a tanker truck, which can make putting out a fire a much more difficult task. Fortunately, MHAA sits next to the Fishkill Creek so the trucks could immediately access enough water to put out the blaze that was now roaring inside the small room. The problem was, after they broke through a window to access the Isolation room and turned on the hose, the blast from the water blew the door off across the room and let water escape flooding much of the building and terrifying the cats still trapped inside.

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©2013 Mid Hudson Animal Aid. The charred remains of the Isolation Ward.

As volunteers poured in, they filled as many cat carriers as they could with traumatized cats. Audrey made certain that everyone was safe. As soon as she could she returned to the Isolation room…or the charred wreck of what was left of it. What she saw next is every rescuers worst nightmare.

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©2013 Mid Hudson Animal Aid. They aren't sure what caused the blaze, but it could have been something with the wiring.

8 of their cats had perished.

4 cats went missing during the confusion. (to date 2 have been found)

2 kittens were abandoned at MHAA during the commotion while their building was on fire.

With a great deal of support, Audrey and her volunteers handled the logistics and were able to crate and find foster homes for ALL their cats.

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©2013 Mid Hudson Animal Aid. Volunteers scrambling to account for all the cats.

In the 4 months since the fire, I had the honor of going to visit Audrey and meet many of their Board members, while I toured their facility and learned more about their programs.

The bottom line for them is the due to the fire, smoke and flooding they have to rebuild the interior of the facility, put in a new HVAC system and even though insurance won’t pay for it, they want to add a sprinkler system so this will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. The latest tally on costs is $80,000.00 to get the job done…

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

…and we know it will probably end up costing more than that. Thankfully, through the help of people like Mike Bridavsky who is the daddy to Lil’ Bub, to the Cat Daddy-Jackson Galaxy, companies like World’s Best Cat Litter and so many others, over $57,000.00 has been raised. There’s still a long way to go and at the end of this post I’ll share some ways you can help.

What amazed me about MHAA, as I walked through what was left of their facility, was that they accept all cats. It is rare to find a rescue that accepts cats that are positive for Feline Leukemia. Most don’t want to risk spreading the disease to non-infected cats and there is so much fear about it that they just won’t take them on.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The Feline Leukemia Room.

Cats that have FIV can also have a very tough time finding a home due to the stigma and fear that it is also contagious to other cats, but MHAA has an FIV Room. While FIV IS contagious it’s only through sexual contact or a DEEP puncture bite. If the cats are not fractious and basically are okay with other cats it’s not a concern. My own dear cat, Bob had FIV and it was never a worry.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

Audrey talked to me about how they are very careful to set up protocols for keeping the cats healthy. They could rush cats out of Isolation and risk a ringworm outbreak or worse, but they don’t. They do the right thing for each and every cat’s health and I was pleased to know that.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Keeping track of their Feral Friends.

I asked her if they did TNR (trap, neuter, return) of feral cats and she said no. They do the “T” and the “N” part, but not the “R” and I asked what that meant. I’ve never heard of a rescue doing this, but I LOVE IT. MHAA has a huge foster program so every single cat they trap, goes into a home to be socialized even if it takes a YEAR OR MORE to get them ready to be adopted! I thought she was pulling my leg. In my dreams I would set up a shelter and do this, but not in reality. I don’t know how they manage it, but somehow they make it happen.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Thanks, notes of love and updates from adopters-one of the few cheerful reminders of the good work these people do.

MHAA’s building sits on an idyllic parcel of land, shaded by trees. The building is empty of its furry tenants. The rooms are silent, save for the occasional sound of a worker hammering sheet rock into place or the muffled tones of the staff having another planning meeting, trying to keep things going until they can move back into their facility.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The Isolation Ward stripped bare and now being rebuilt.

The hope was that move-in would be 8 weeks after the devastating fire, but that was 4 weeks ago. Now they’re aiming to re-open early next year. I truly believe that due to their supportive community and with cat lovers like all of you, we can help make this happen.

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©2013 Mid Hudson Animal Aid. The Great Room may not live up to its name, but with any luck it will again, soon.

If you’d like to be part of MHAA's transformation, you can visit their PetCaring Fundraiser page or if you’d prefer to get some holiday shopping done AND help MHAA, they are Jackson Galaxy’s Shelter of the Month and for every item you purchase from ResQthreads Don't You Dare Shop T-Shirt, they will make a donation of $10.00. Use the code: JACKSON to get free shipping.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Placed by an unknown hand, these flowers mark the now sealed entrance to MHAA.

You can LIKE Mid Hudson Animal Aid's Facebook Page to get updates on their rebuilding progress.

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A moving tribute about the heartbreaking loss at MHAA, that also honors the kitties who didn't survive. TISSUE WARNING.
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