Three weeks ago Sam and I drove to Philadelphia. With miserable traffic on a Friday night and rainy roads it took 5 hours instead of 3, but we were determined to get there. Our goal was simple, eat a big sandwich at Tony Luke’s and pick up 6 orange kittens who were scheduled to arrive via a legged transport. They were nicknamed the Clementines, but some might have called them the Lucky Ones because we had rescued them from a small rural animal control in eastern Kentucky just hours before their lives were scheduled to end.
There were six kittens from one litter and one kitten (the dilute calico pictured here) from another litter. The dilute was “pulled” from the shelter by a rescue group right away, leaving the orange kittens behind.
I’d never done a rescue from Kentucky before and I had to trust people I didn’t know who promised me they would make sure the kittens were quarantined properly and vetted before they arrived. It left me feeling very uneasy because I had no choice but to hope that the kittens were really cleared of fleas, de-wormed, given their first vaccination and checked before leaving for Connecticut. I feared that coming out of a shelter they would be sick, but was assured they were healthy. The last thing I wanted to do was put my other foster cats or my own cats at risk of getting a disease or parasite.
Before we even started our trip, I got a call from my friend, Izzy. She and her hubby, Mark, will frankly drive just about anywhere to help cats in need get to their home and on this day they’d offered to drive from Pennsylvania to West Virginia and back to Philly to rendezvous with us. I’ve depended on them many times as my link to make some of these rescues happen. Izzy’s voice sounded a bit funny as she started to speak. I knew something was wrong.
©2013 Friends of Powell County. Not a life for such lovely creatures. I'm so grateful we could get them out thanks to the efforts of people in Powell County.
“Did these kittens get treated for fleas, by any chance?”
I told her they had been bathed only and a vet had seen them just the day before to give them a clean bill of health.
“Well I just killed a little bugger coming off one of the kittens and now I’m seeing another one.”
My heart sank.
©2013 Foster Home in KY. Just for the record, this is NOT QUARANTINE.
During the supposed two week quarantine, I learned that the kittens had been brought outside, Vet’s orders. He said they needed 15 minutes of fresh air every day. When I learned that I just about popped. What kind of foolishness is this? I sent my contact a number of emails, furious that they kept breaking quarantine by going outside. She wouldn’t understand why that was wrong. I saw photos of them in a cage outside in someone’s yard, but when I saw photos of then running around in the grass that just infuriated me. You can’t have quarantine if the cats go outside! Am I crazy? I felt like I was losing my mind. They just didn’t get it and I knew they were exposing the cats to who knows what. So much for having “clean” kittens arrive. It also made me very worried-did they REALLY get ANY vetting? How could a vet see them the day before, say they were ready to travel, when they were crawling with fleas? You might get a stray flea after seeing the vet, but a lot of them? No way.
©2013 Foster Home in KY. Blossom enjoying "quarantine."
“What do you want to do?” I asked.
“Well, we can stop at Walmart and I can get some supplies and bathe them while we’re driving.” Izzy said without skipping a beat.”
“It won’t be perfect but it will be something. I’m seeing a lot of fleas.”
So Izzy rigged up a small container with apple cider vinegar and a drop or two of dish soap and water. She soaked the kittens up to their necks as Mark drove 65 mph towards Philly. She picked off and killed as many fleas as she could while I sent off an angry email to the folks in Kentucky.
©2013 Izzy. Fleas anyone?
Once I had time to let the news settle I became fearful I was now going to have to deal with an explosion of fleas throughout my house.
I made a few calls and talked to some of my rescue friends. They assured me it’s not that big of a deal, but to not take it lightly, either. There would be a great deal of vacuuming in my future and washing all the linens that the kittens were exposed to.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The photo is not great, but the dark blobs in the photo are clumps of dead fleas. The bottle was full of them
I had a big tub of diotamaceous earth. It’s fossilized algae and it gets onto the exoskeleton of the flea and basically dries them out and they die. It’s very safe for pets so I sprinkled it liberally all over the room, the bedding where the kittens would sleep, anywhere that made sense. The plan was to re-bathe them at their new foster home that would open up the following morning. I just had to keep the fleas at bay for one night.
This foolishness cost me. I had to buy 16 doses of Revolution® to cover my cats and the foster cats. I could not risk letting one flea start a nightmare throughout my cats. I had to buy another 12 doses (for now) to cover the kittens (a 2-month supply) once they were big enough to be treated. I didn’t dare do it right away because I was told they were all very underweight and probably a bit too young for much more than a bath.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. After three tries I finally named all the kittens. We have: Mango (top left), Sherbert (below Mango), Marigold (center), Mandarin/Mandy (lower right), Buttercup (top right) and Blossom (not in photo) .
I couldn’t give them Capstar, which kills fleas in 45 minutes, because they were too fragile. It was very frustrating.
We arrived in Philly around 8:30pm and had a few minutes to eat before Izzy and Mark arrived. The sandwiches we’d been looking forward to were VERY spicy, not at all what we remembered. Just as we gave up on finishing them our friends arrived.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sherbert before things got really bad for him.
“I didn’t get them all, but I got a lot of them, nasty buggers.” Izzy said as she shook her head.
I bent down and looked into the cat carrier. It was dark and tough to see the kittens. I could barely make out their faces, but I could see their coats were ratty and they were anxious, unsure of what had been happening. I told them it would be okay and that they were almost home, but I feared this was just the tip of the iceberg with having problems with the kittens and sadly I was right. Having fleas would be nothing compared to what was to happen next.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The first sign of problems to come. Blossom's eye is infected. Will this happen times 6 kittens?
Part two next up…
It's been a blur of kitten rescues, vet runs and celebucat sightings since the award. In that time I tried to figure out how in the world I was going to shoot an acceptance speech without a video camera or anyone to be my cameraman, but the folks at Dogtime asked and I just couldn't say no.
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Selfie with my award. Oooo! It's real!
Yesterday I decided to make room on my iPhone (since it's already loaded with cat photos) and just shoot a "selfie" acceptance speech. I thought it would be amusing to just shoot clips without reading off a script and shoot it in various areas of my house (including my bathroom!). I hope you like the end result.
©2013 Robin AF Olson. I need to put this down. I can't just walk around carrying it, can I?
There's a special message for all of you, so DO give the video a spin!
As ever, you guys are the wind beneath my wings and I deeply appreciate your love and support. I hope to keep doing good work and sharing interesting tales of a life spent with cats with all of you.
Minnie’s kittens have been with me since they were 4 days old. I knew that our journey together was temporary and I took refuge in knowing that the day was a long way off. I would focus on my job—to help them grow strong and sure and be ready to be adopted one day. It’s a fairly straightforward process and there are always blips (or weeks of diarrhea to contend with), but with any luck it works out fine.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Baby Petey.
Minnie’s were the first kittens I didn’t feed ANY grain to whatsoever. I didn’t give them milk replacer, which is full of sugar and rice. I took a chance on using goat’s milk and chicken baby food to wean them, then quickly started them on a simple grain-free canned food, then on to raw. The kittens took to it well and had great appetites. What stunned me was how BIG they got and how effortless it seemed. They were a pound bigger than Lolly and Clark, who are a month older. They FEEL robust and vibrate with good health. From handling them every day, even if it was only to weigh them in those first precious weeks, they are accustomed to being touched. If I have to clean a face or trim claws, they just sit there limply and wait until I’m done. In some ways I feel like I’m creating a new breed of kitten. Certainly NONE of my own cats are this relaxed or had such a good start in life.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Afternoon nap—something I was honored to witness.
I wasn’t in a hurry to find the kittens homes. I’ll admit it. Every time I was with them, my heart sang. They gave me a great deal of joy. All that I did for them, they gave back to me tenfold. Though I got many adoption applications, especially for Jellybean Mel, I kept finding fault or put off getting back to them and they adopted elsewhere. Honestly, I hate processing adoption applications because I have to talk to people I don’t know and possibly have a confrontation with them because they may not agree with our policies (no going outdoors except on a lead or in a “catio” for example).
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
As the kittens grew into young adults I began to fret I’d waited too long, so I got more serious about the applications and found a great fit for Jellybean Mel. The family had come to adopt him, but he hid while they were in the room and Yukon Stan surprised me by stealing their hearts. It was completely unexpected and only just now am I realizing I never wrote about it. I just posted the news on our Facebook page while I returned to searching for good matches for the other kittens.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Stan (left), now named Oliver, with his new family-doing great!
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mel gives himself and Petey a bath while Petey gets ready to push him away with a “bunny kick” to the head!
All within the same week, I got good applications for Barney, Willow, Jellybean Mel, Precious Pete, Lolly, Clark and Mabel. We did a flurry of home visits resulting in many of the cats being adopted with one exception. I put a stop to Mabel’s adoption because my gut instincts said NO. The family was nice. The home was spotless and large. Mabel would have been the only pet in the home, but the wife seemed angry and uninterested. The husband, who I had been dealing with, was nice but I didn’t think anyone would actually PLAY with Mabel and she needs that every day. They have a teenager who is close to being off to college soon. It left me feeling like Mabel would be loved but maybe not get much attention. After what she suffered through, being stuck in a cage for TWO YEARS at a Kill Shelter (READ ABOUT THAT HERE), I owed it to her to give her the best home I could—one where I had no doubts.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mabel has not a care in the world, for which I am very happy.
I wrote the man the nicest, most apologetic email I could. I started second-guessing myself that I was wrong and should go ahead with the adoption. On paper it was all good, but in my heart it wasn’t. The man hadn’t even met Mabel so I thought he would accept me suggesting another cat we have here OR I told him I’d send him to one of our other rescue friends if he didn’t like that option. He took offense and I didn’t hear from him again. It left me feeling badly and worried I’d made a mistake, but I have to do what’s right for the cats.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Must look nice. Adopters are coming!
Next we did a home visit of a young professional couple who hadn’t had cats since they were kids. They’d recently found a friendly stray and had enjoyed his company so much it inspired them to adopt their own cat. They found us through one of our Vets because they just so happened to bring the stray cat to the place where the cat had been vetted before so they knew his owner. They reunited the cat with his family and while they were at my vet’s office they asked where they could adopt two kittens and a match was made with our organization, Kitten Associates.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Petey looking divine.
The home is HUGE, new and almost empty as the couple just moved in not long ago. They showed me where they would put the kittens and we discussed things like cat trees and scratchers and why these things were important. They wanted to know everything I could tell them because they are determined to provide the best for their new family members.
They showed me a room off their family room. It had lots of windows and was very cozy. They talked about how they were going to get everything set up, order cat trees, toys, everything, so the kittens would have their own room until they were comfortable exploring the rest of the house. Even though they didn’t have a vet reference, it was clear they would do what it takes for whichever cats they adopt. They told me they’d been watching our SqueeTV Ch 1 and had their hearts set on adopting Jellybean Mel and Precious Pete. I wasn't surprised, but I didn't want to show any reaction either. This was getting real and I had to accept the fact that two of my boys might be leaving soon.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Mellie.
I knew if I had to let those two kittens go, that they’d have to have the best and I thought there was a good chance that this was IT. I didn’t want to think about how deeply I loved both kittens or that Mellie had really gotten under my skin a very long time ago. I had to think about their future, what they deserve, not my own feelings.
I don’t care to have “favorites” in each litter of kittens, because that status often changes over time anyway. I have a bond with all of the kittens in this litter, but Mellie loved to sit on me. He’d drape himself over my arm, or lay against my leg, purring loudly and fall asleep. He gave me that lovey-dovey look. You know the one, the one that melts your heart.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mel and Petey, not even fully grown, are going to be big boys one day.
I tried to think of ways to keep him, but I already have too many cats. I also wanted to keep Petey because he’s just as amazing as Mel and oh so adorable. Thinking about not seeing them every day made me feel ill. When the day came for the couple to meet the kittens, I literally felt like I was going to faint I dreaded it so much.
I had no doubts about the couple at all, but I didn’t want to see the little family torn apart. Stan was already adopted but now the little clutter would be down two more and I knew things would be a lot different with them gone.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. How to hold a cat, oops, or not.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Traci and Paul are getting the hang of it…almost.
Petey came over to us and spread out across my chest. Petey is a charmer and his fur is like silk. I stroked his tiger stripes and tickled his little niblet toes that he spread apart as my finger traced the outline of each one. His purr joined Mel’s, then Joey, Bunny and Gracey came over and all snuggled up together. It doesn’t get any better than this. I wanted to record this moment forever so I could play it back over and over, but there is no device to capture something this wonderful.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. What's this?
The hour flew by quickly. There were only a few minutes left. Our time together was over. I had to get ready. I told Mel and Petey to have a wonderful life and that I loved them very much. As I left the room I heard a chorus of purrs, the sound softening as I gently closed the door. My heart was pounding. Could I really do this? Could I let my babies go?
The couple arrived with a huge cat carrier. It made me laugh. They’d lined it with a very soft cat bed. I was impressed. They spent almost three HOURS here in the foster room. They played with the kittens, talked to me about everything from what do they do when they have kids some day to best treats, toys, how to hold the kittens properly. Surprisingly, it was Gracey who charmed them and so did Joey. I started to think I’d get to keep the boys awhile longer. I kept urging Mellie and Petey to go play with their new family. They would run past them or rub their leg and dash back to me while Gracey stretched out with them on the bed and let them rub her tummy.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. As always, Gracey leads the way.
It was after 8 PM. I took a deep breath and asked the couple if they felt ready to make a decision, part of me hoping they’d take them all. They looked at each other and asked each other if they wanted to choose Mel and Petey even though Joey and Gracey had been very sweet, too. They realized that they loved Mel and Petey before they even stepped in the room and they knew, too, that in time both cats would be as affectionate with them as they had been with me so they were ready to choose.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Joey says goodbye to his brothers.
We did the paperwork and I didn’t feel sick. It felt right. I realized I’d been like a kid with a favorite toy that accidentaly got put in the washing machine and was ruined. I wanted things to be the same as ever, but I knew they never could be again. I loaded Mel and Petey into their new carrier, while Gracey made us laugh by trying to join them, too. The boys found their forever home. It was time to say our goodbyes.
The magic room was no more.
The email was from a young man in a neighboring town. He’d been evicted from his home and needed to place his two, 5-month old kittens. They’d been bottle fed, which meant they were bonded well to humans. All I could see from the photo he included was that they were tabbies. One was medium haired and one short haired. I had the space to take them on, but if I didn’t adopt them out quickly, it would cause a jam with Mochachino’s kittens coming up here in a few weeks from Georgia. Going with my gut, I decided to help them out.
All I saw of the kittens before I agreed to take them on.
That’s the thing about doing rescue—it’s a constant juggling act between space and resources that’s very fragile. One little thing, like a cat suddenly getting sick, can derail the whole works. For someone like me, who likes their routine and predictability, this was a stupid career move. Can you spell S-T-R-E-S-S?
Sam and I met Josh, the cat’s owner. He was very nice and told me all about the cats. I asked if they went outdoors and he said no. I asked about fleas, ticks, any sneezing and he again replied, no. In my mind I made a checklist for what needed to be done since they'd never been to the vet: snap test, FVRCP vaccination, Rabies vaccination, de-worm, check for fleas, mites, treat, if needed, spay/netuer, done. Easy-peasy.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Lolly the explorer while Clark prefers to observe from the safety of the cat carrier.
I never bring cats into my house unless they’re vetted first, so off we went to our friends at the Cat Clinic for a visit where the cats would get a full workup. Once we were directed into an exam room I finally had a chance to meet the cats. The little female, who I named Lolly, was vocal and outgoing, while her brother, Clark was a bit more reserved. Though they were a month older than my own foster kittens, they were a POUND lighter in weight, really just skin and bones and their coats felt rough under my fingertips-a sign of poor diet.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Well Hello, Lolly.
The cats stayed overnight since they were getting spayed/neutered while I got their room ready back at my house. The Blue Bathroom was the first home Minnie’s family had known, but her kittens were too big for the small space and had been moved into the main foster room. I thought the bathroom would suit the kittens well since it was just the two cats. I didn’t figure I was going to have any problems with them.
Ha ha ha…famous last words.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Clark with his charming ear tufts.
Both cats had fleas AND ear mites (bad case) and I had to drive 80 miles to get medication for the ear mites or face using something else twice a day for four WEEKS instead of ONE TREATMENT, ONE TIME. I was panicked by finding out there were fleas because I don’t often have to deal with them. Since many of our cats come from out of state, the foster homes in those states treat the fleas, then I get nice clean cats. This time I had to deal with it and let’s just say I did a lot of extra cleaning with the hopes I wouldn’t have an outbreak on my hands. I STILL feel itchy thinking about it.
Lolly and Clark were very nice cats, but one of them kept pooping in the bathtub so I had to sort out the underlying cause (parasites and loose stool can make for litterbox aversion). They were both charming and sweet and loved jumping impressively high after toys. Lolly fixated on nursing on my sweater sleeves, leaving my arms damp any time I held her. I don’t know if they had much play time in their former home, but they gained confidence every time we did it.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Hee hee.
After less than a week, as their coats began to fill in and smooth out and there were no signs of fleas, I got an application from a family who were interested in the kittens. Everything went smoothly and the home visit sealed the deal. Sam and I both thought this was the right home. The family has two young boys, who I took an immediate liking to, and the parents seem devoted to their animals as much as they are to each other.
They came over to visit the kittens, but since we don’t have a big space they had to hang out in our hallway to meet the cats. They crammed into the small space and the kittens had a blast. They ran around after the toys I put out. They let the boys pick them up without a fuss. The mom and dad were smiling ear to ear and even though I knew to be polite to ask if these were their cats, I already knew.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Little flirt.
Unlike so many of our other fosters, Lolly and Clark found their home in less than two weeks. I hadn’t even had a chance to get to know these cats very well so our parting wasn’t painful. They were so sweet I knew the longer they stayed, the harder it would be to let them go. In the end I was quite happy that it worked out so quickly. It was best for all of us.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The happy family and the sad photographer who experienced flash-fail taking this picture.
A few days ago I got an update that the boys had played with the kittens for three hours after they got home from school and that their mom had been cuddling with them most of the day. Apparently they have taken over the entire condo without any reservations and were well behaved (no stray poops) and having a great time.
Fostering isn’t always heartbreaking when the fosters find their homes, but the next two cats who got adopted just hours later…well, that’s another story…
A room can be described as having four walls, a window or two, some furnishings, a door, but when it’s the foster room, there’s an additional something contained in the space that only kittens can create.
The door opens, but with effort because the kittens are HUNGRY and anxiously pushing their way OUT of the door as you try to open it inwards. They explode in a flood of fur and frantic limbs, while a few tiny cries punctuate the silence. Once freed, they turn around to scramble right back IN to the room because that’s where the food has magically appeared. They gulp, lick and maybe growl a bit, as they take in the nutrients that give them their robust physique. The energy they draw inside, radiates outwardly, refilling the room with a “buzz” that’s palpable.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mellie, Petey and the gang.
Any humans in the room may not consciously be aware, but they too are being energized by the kittens as they enjoy their meal. The energy amps up as the kittens wash their faces and ready themselves for playtime. They race around the room, increasing the sensation. They leap and we might laugh, surprised at how high they fly. They fall off the bed and get right back up. They fight over a toy until it’s shredded to bits. Meanwhile the room reflects all this energy to those in it making the space become somehow alive itself.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. How high can you fly?
Then quiet. It’s time for rest. The kittens sleep in huddled puddles, purring on a heated blanket. We might rest with them, too. Our energy, abated. The room exhales, but still vibrates from the life inside it.
The foster room is like no other. I may have other cats in my home, but this space is sacred. It’s magical. I always feel refreshed after being around these precious lives in this special place.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. After breakfast Mel washes up before getting ready for playtime.
But one by one I know the kittens will have to leave, to be adopted and go to their “forever homes.” The magical room will fall silent until it is filled again. I dread entering the foster room when it’s empty. It feels sad and lost without its infant inhabitants. I’ve begun to notice that the kittens realize it, too. As a few kittens leave, the remaining ones fall silent, play a bit less, are a bit more tentative. They know something happened, but maybe aren’t sure what. Will their siblings return? Did something bad befall them? The routine has changed, too. Everything feels so confusing. The energy is less. Perhaps we’re all dreading what will come—the empty room.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Our nightly ritual-the kittens on their human cat bed.
Last week Barney and Willow were adopted. Then, on Sunday, four more kittens left us for their homes. It was like ripping off a bandage and this one hurt more than most others. Perhaps I’m greedy for the love I got from them and just wanted more. Perhaps I was addicted to the joy I could depend on no matter how bad my day was.
All I know is the magic room is changing again and this time I dread opening the door.
…to be continued…
Read Part One HERE
I hoped that I could move Willow into the main foster room, once she was clear of any health issues, so she could be with Barney again. You see, last October Willow had had made fast friends with Barney. She'd become like a surrogate mother to some of the other foster cats, particularly Barney, who often went to her for a comforting lick on the head or to just rub up against her. Barney dwarfed Willow even in those early days, but clearly she hadn’t been intimidated by him at all. When Willow was adopted, I was sad that Barney hadn’t gone with her, but my hands were tied. I thought she would have a great home partly do to an odd coincidence that because she was found in a tree and her new dad was an arborist that this was a match (along with a good vet reference and good home visit).
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney with Confetti Joe, Precious Pete and Lil' Gracey.
Willow’s introduction to Lolly and Clark wasn’t done correctly, I admit, but they managed to work it out without anything serious happening. I began to treat Willow’s upper respiratory infection and the flea treatments quickly helped resolve the crusty scabs that covered her head and base of her tail. Willow’s coat began to improve within the a few days and her breathing was easier, allowing her to smell her food and regain her appetite. Willow hadn’t even been here for a week when I got an application for her. It was from a cop who’d just been divorced and who loved animals. He shared custody of his two dogs with his ex-wife (who also had their two cats). His vet reference was impeccable. He is the kind of person who loves his pets as much as he could love a human family member.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Lolly gets in her licks.
I asked him why adopt cats and he told me that he felt it would be unfair to his dogs to get more dogs. He said that they would come visit from time to time and he didn’t want them to feel like they weren’t important or that they’d been replaced. He was on very good terms with his ex so the dogs would still see him, but he couldn’t live without any animals and he loved cats, too.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Clark loves his toys.
I really liked this guy. He didn’t balk when I talked about raw diet. He jumped at the chance to set up cat trees and scratchers and told me they had to be by the window-he even knew that. He told me he just saw Willow’s photo and it called to him. She’d been on his list of favorites on Petfinder and he told me how he goes by his gut instincts when he looks for a new cat. I asked him if he would consider two cats since Willow needs to be with other cats and he quickly agreed telling me that was his goal to get two but he wasn’t even sure he’d be approved to adopt one cat! How could I NOT approve him?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Typical Barney expression.
I told him about Barney, about his sad life, about his deep friendship with Willow. I hadn’t put them together since Willow had returned, but I told him if they had been friends, it was possible they could be again. He saw Barney’s photo and agreed he’d love to meet them both.
So last night David and his girlfriend, Michelle came to meet the cats. Before they arrived I took all the kittens out of the main foster room so they wouldn’t be a distraction and also because I feared they would ruin the adult cats chance to be adopted. I also worked it out so that Willow would be in the small space where I do my laundry so Lolly and Clark wouldn’t interfere, too.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow being camera shy.
The first meeting was with Willow. I opened the door and both David and Michelle began to ooh and aah over the cat. Willow came right over to them, tail up. They petted her, held her, talked about how pretty she was. Michelle talked about her two cats, maine coons, and how much she loved cats. I’d asked David privately if they were going to combine households and he remarked jokingly “not until I retire.” Even if that happened sooner, I think they’d be able to handle it because clearly these folks were passionate about animals and would always do the right thing for them.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney and Joey were particularly close. They look like father and son.
It was time to bring Barney out. I warned the couple that there might be hissing, which would be expected, since the two cats hadn’t seen each other for six months. I opened the door to the main foster room and Barney stuck his head out of the opening. The couple started cooing over Barney, which scared him at first, but then he saw Willow and he came out to investigate.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Getting ready for the adopters to arrive.
I stood ready to break up a fight, hoping no one would be hurt.
Their ears stayed up and their tails were held high. They continued some very “heavy duty” butt-sniffing which we all giggled about. The cats took turns coming over to David and Michelle where they eagerly held them and talked to them, saying what nice kitties they were.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Don't miss an inch!
Barney got a little cranky and I suggested we let him go back into “his room” where he might feel more comfortable. Sure enough, once inside the room, with Willow joining him, they both relaxed. Barney stretched out on the bed and Willow ran around the room, reacquainting herself with her old home. Bunny stayed in the shadows, which made me feel sad but I know we'll help her gain more confidence and find her home one day, too.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny makes a brief appearance before dashing behind the cat tree.
The couple remarked at how handsome Barney was, how charming. He laid down and allowed them to pet his belly. He rubbed up against them. I did not push the subject, but it was obvious they were in love with both cats.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. David & Michelle with their new kitties.
They’d brought a woefully tiny cat carrier so I let them borrow one of mine. I used it as an excuse to go visit in a few days to get the carrier back and to see how everyone was doing. Though I’d said my goodbyes to both cats before the adopters arrived, seeing Barney leave was both miraculous and bittersweet.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Meanwhile Mellie is hoping his adoption day will be coming soon, too.
Last night after Barney and Willow had left I sat with Bunny and the kittens. They seemed to be wondering why there was so much extra space on the heated blanket.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. This was the only shot I could get of Barney & Willow's reunion. I just wish Willow didn't look so suspicious!
As this story comes to a close I will continue my search to make sense of all of this and to find a reason why all these things lined up so perfectly for these two cats. It never ceases to amaze me how things work out. I should trust in that more often.
I've been writing for hours. I'm tired enough to head back upstairs to my bed. I’ll try to go back to sleep as memories of Barney fade into my dreams.
Happy life, my dear Barney and sweet Willow. Happy life.
The sun’s not even up yet. I was woken up by wild animals fighting somewhere outside in my yard. The cries lasted for a moment, my half-asleep brain ticking off a checklist of what it could have been. I couldn’t replay the sound so I left my warm bed and went downstairs, turned on the flood lights that illuminated a sliver of the yard and searched for answers. Finding nothing, I returned to bed. There weren’t cats taking up the space on my side, which was odd. I stretched out, then as I struggled to get comfortable I realized I had a bad headache. I laid there, hoping to return to my dreams, but I couldn’t get Barney out of my mind.
©2012 Cyndie Tweedy (inset). ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney then and now.
Barney got adopted barely 8 hours ago. I can’t believe I’m writing those words. Though the road to this moment took over a year (15 months to be exact), the actual event of his adoption took a little over an hour. One moment I was holding Barney in my arms, giving him a kiss goodbye and in the next, he was in a cat carrier in the car of his new dad and on his way to his forever home.
©2012 Cyndie Tweedy. Baby Fred comforting Barney as they sleep.
The more I do adoptions, the more I believe I DO see connections. Perhaps I’m training myself to be more aware of the interconnectedness of these events and that’s what motivates me to follow through on an application instead of let it sit open on my computer screen for days on end.
Barney didn’t even have an application on him, not one. Last year a woman came to meet Barney and his brother, Fred. For some reason they were shy with the newcomers and the woman realized she didn’t feel ready to take on the responsibility of having two cats. Barney and Fred were overlooked as the six other cats that shared the foster room with them got adopted. Tater Tot, Chi Chi, Choco, Coco, Latte and Barney's best friend Willow. Not long after that, Barney began to lick the fur off his sides and his belly. The vet couldn’t find anything wrong.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney was badly effected by Fred's passing.
Two months later, it was clear that Fred was sick, not Barney. Two months after that, Fred died from the dry form of FIP, leaving Barney as the sole survivor of the litter of four kittens. I found myself reluctant to let Barney go after that. Barney had lost his entire family. His mother, Opal was semi-feral and through our friend Bobby, we were able to place her in a sanctuary of sorts. We were assured that they would work with her and if she could be socialized, they’d find her a good home in time. What surprised all of us was that over these many months, Opal has turned into a very friendly cat and the owner of the sanctuary has decided to keep her as her own. Now if only I could find a happy ending for Barney.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney and George were fast friends.
Barney’s alopecia began to resolve and his fur grew back nicely. All the other cats he’d been sharing the foster room with had been adopted, so he got to meet our new fosters Bongo, George and Bunny Boo-Boo. They made fast friends and everyone seemed quite happy, but still there was no interest in Barney while George and Bongo found their forever home together.
After a period of grieving, I decided I needed to rescue orange kitties in honor of Fred. I took on Minnie, who looked like Barney's sister, and her kittens. When the kittens were big enough, they got to meet Barney and Bunny. It didn’t go well at first. Barney was irritated by the energy of the five kittens and I worried he would harm them, but his anger soon subsided and he became their big brother, fussing after them if they didn’t feel well or playfully chasing them around the room. Each night I’d sit with all of them on a heated blanket and they’d all purr and groom each other. Inasmuch as I knew I had to get these cats homes, I was reluctant for this newly formed family to be broken apart.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney watches Confetti Joe get crazy.
I got a call from the fellow who adopted Willow in March. She was urinating around the house and he needed my help to resolve the issue. As we talked, I learned that one of his two other cats wasn’t happy to have Willow around and that he had rushed their introduction.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney with his newly made family of foster kittens and Bunny Boo-Boo.
After more discussions I learned that Willow and another cat had been killing mice, which would explain the fleas. Stress would cause her illness to return and even though he’d been to the vet, I’d warned him to go easy on antibiotics so he opted to wait thinking she was doing better on her own, but clearly she was struggling to breathe. I wanted her out of there, but I could only remind him I’d take her back if it wasn’t working out and if the things I suggested didn’t help the situation.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow returns, a pound lighter and in much worse shape than when she left us in March.
He said he wanted to see it through even though he reluctantly told me he was getting divorced and his wife had already moved away. We made a date to get Willow back to the Vet in a few days. I’d go over her care with Dr. Mary and get everything sorted out. I even offered to pay for some of the visit since I wanted to do a more sensitive test on Willow to see if we could sort out what was causing the upper respiratory issues.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Lolly, one of Willow's new roommates. Would they get along or would it be a blood bath? I had no choice. These cats had to be housed together, like it or not.
I was glad to have Willow back, but the truth is I didn't have room for her. I scrambled to figure out where I’d put her and knew I’d have to add her to a room with two newly rescued kittens, Lolly and Clark because they had fleas, too and I didn’t want to expose Barney, Bunny and the kittens to them.
It just had to work out.
Stay tuned for final chapter of this two-part post! Is Willow going to do well back in foster care with Lolly and Clark? How will Barney react to seeing his old friend again?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
For many people their day-to-day life may not hold many challenges. There’s a routine of waking up, feeding kids, pets, yourself, of washing a few dishes (or ignoring the mess), of getting dressed, working, playing, resting. Perhaps the challenges are in the in-between moments, how we get to work, if we can fit into our clothes, if we’ve run out of cereal and have to start the day with an empty belly; but more often than not, we can manage those little bumps in the road. But there are also some of us who have suffered a great loss; a loved one dies, a flood sweeps our home off its foundation and crushes it into bits, our town is ravaged by a hurricane and the power goes out for weeks. For those people, even the simple tasks require herculean efforts to accomplish. For those people it is our duty to stop worrying about our own challenges and help them.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Kitty in quarantine.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson (inset). ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The Infirmary with large airy cages. Inset: Doorway to surgery suite. The doorway was reduced in size and moved to the right where you now see a yellow door.
On May 1st 2012 in Hudson, New York, a small fire broke out in the top floor of a 3-story Victorian building. It was put out fairly quickly, but not fast enough before it set off the building-wide sprinkler system. The water, which should have saved the building from the flames, destroyed it from top to bottom, leaving many inches of water covering the floors. The building was mostly empty of people, but it was filled with terrified and wet cats. The building was the home to Animalkind, a cat-centric shelter.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sick kitty in the Infirmary.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the lovely new cat lounges.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Artwork plays a strong role in creating an inviting space for humans and cats alike.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson (inset). ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Dreary ruined space turned into a catio/cat lounge.
Some people might curl up on their bed and just not get up for a few months after such a tragic loss. Running a cat rescue is difficult enough, but to lose a life’s work overnight is unthinkable.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Senior kitty enjoying sunshine and some love.
Animalkind could have shut their doors and moved all their cats to other rescues, but they didn’t. They’re the only cat rescue in the area and Katrin Hecker, the Founder and Director of Animalkind couldn’t close the doors, knowing what a negative impact it would have on the community. The community of Hudson, knew what they’d lost, too and many pitched in right away to help Animalkind rebuild.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the cats available for adoption completely oblivious to the crowds surrounding his space because folks were not allowed in the lounges during the open house (good call if you ask me).
I covered the story of those early days in a few blog posts (listed at the end of this post), as well as doing my bit to help the rebuilding process by procuring large donations of food and litter and encouraging monetary donations from all of you. Even though my own cat rescue group was suffering at the time, I knew I needed to help them. It was too big of a loss to turn away.
©2012 AnimalKind (inset). ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The adoption room after the sprinkler system ruined the floors and sheet rock. This was taken just before the cats were removed from the room.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson (inset). ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Part of the Surgery Suite showing the HVAC system back in place, cleaned up and ready to go.
I was delighted to make the two hour drive north to attend Animalkind’s Open House. The last time I’d seen the facility, everything was removed, down to the studs. The spaces were dark and scary and empty of life. In my mind’s eye I could imagine what it might look like with new sheet rock in place and new furnishings and painted walls, but what I imagined was nothing in comparison to what greeted me as I arrived at 721 Warren Street.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Panorama showing the main floor cat adoption suites.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Happy cats.
I loved what Katrin, her Board, her volunteers and donors were able to create. Here was a place that also included art, along with rescuing cats. Animalkind appears to be like a hybrid between an art gallery and cat shelter. There are paintings embellishing large areas on each floor. The walls are painted a patchwork of cheerful colors. There are photos of cats, sculptures of cats, everything cats, everywhere you look. This was a place where you couldn’t be sad, even in the Senior Cat room, where many cats were blissfully resting on soft beds kissed by the sun.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The Senior Room.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the youngest cats looking for a forever home.
We visited the Infirmary where volunteers made certain that each and every cat had cuddle time to help encourage them to overcome what ailed them. They understood that pills or procedures only go so far and that love helps the cats make it back to health.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Lovely senior calico.
We didn’t get to see the Quarantine room, but with a house full of cats, I wasn’t too eager to risk bringing something home. The new surgical suite was also closed off but I got to see a bit of it through the window in the doorway. The room had new equipment and cabinets and with their Vet they would be able to do spays/neuters which would not only save the shelter money, but they also extend services to the public. They provide low cost Spay/Neuter services for socialized cats as well as FREE Spay/Neuter for feral cats! What a dream come true for the people who live in the area. I’m sure that now that they’re back on their feet, Animalkind can seriously impact cat overpopulation with their programs.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The Senior room gets strong sunlight, perfect for those achey joints. Here two kitties enjoy an afternoon respite.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Art and AnimalKind go hand in hand. This lovely kitty adorns the front desk.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A sweet senior kitty playing with a visitors loose shoelace.
The Open House was crowded, full of cheerful people buzzing about what they were seeing. From across the room, I saw Katrin. I didn’t even think she’d remember me, but she shouted my name and came over to me. We embraced—a big bear hug. I almost burst into tears when I told her how happy I was for her. There were too many people around for us to have a conversation so I excused myself so she could greet other visitors, but my heart was light as a feather as I looked on with admiration for what she was able to accomplish.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Outside on the street level looking down into what was once a flooded mess and is now a multi-suite cat adoption facility.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. This is what all the hard work is for-to know each cat is safe, relaxed and content in their temporary home until their forever homes are found.
Animalkind is a 501c3 non-profit so your donation is tax deductible.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
If you'd like to read more about the fire at AnimalKind and their rebuilding you can visit these links:
I get a lot of requests to rescue cats every single day. I probably get about 50 or more emails. Some times I can't even bring myself to look at the photos of the cats who need help because I can't stop and save every single cat that needs it. There's just not enough time or resources or space, so I find myself not looking at every request because it just hurts too much to look and know you can't do a thing.
In the past nine months I've helped nearly 80 cats-which is a record for me. Either I got cats into a rescue, helped raise funds for their care or took them on into my rescue, Kitten Associates. This month we've been lucky enough to add TWO MORE foster homes, so we can do even more, as funds allow, and I'm anxious and thrilled we can start to expand our efforts.
Two days ago I saw this photo (below) of five gorgeous fluffy orange kittens in a cage in a municipal animal control in Stanton, Kentucky. I thought to myself there is no way they will be there for another day. Someone on the local level will get them out. They're ORANGE! So adoptable!
But they were marked “URGENT”. Overcrowded conditions at the pound meant these kittens could be put down at any moment. I still thought someone would help them and I tried not to think about how I was going to sort out the logistics of doing a rescue from a state that was 800 miles away, where I didn't know a soul.
Marked “Urgent” these five orange kittens are facing their last days in a municipal animal control facility in Stanton, Kentucky. One sibling, a female and the sixth kitten in the litter, was pulled by a rescue group while the others face death.
I had to accept that perhaps, like so many countless others, these adorable kittens were going to be put down for no good reason other than they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is what I face every single day-knowing that if I don't rescue these cats maybe no one else will, either. Somehow I have to sleep at night knowing I can't save them all. I'll make some excuse as to why this is okay. I'll tell myself I'll save others in their honor so I don't lose my mind crying myself to sleep.
This is no place for a kitten.
I thought about it for another few hours. I thought about how our adoptions are down, funds are limited, space is at a premium and I didn't care. I know it's a risk to take on this family for a hundred reasons. I don't know where we will get them vetted. I don't know if I can find a foster home. I don't know if they will test out positive for feline leukemia or FIV but I can't f'ing sit here and do nothing. I can't. I just can't.
We have a plan in place to pull these kittens tomorrow, Sept 23. The sixth kitten is going to be reunited with this litter and we will take her into our program, too. Stay tuned for updates on their rescue!
To be able to afford to provide for this family we have to do an emergency fundraiser. Please visit our YouCaring page to make a donation or you can also go directly to our web site (to save YouCaring's fees) at http://kittenassociates.org/donate and click on the "Donate Today" button.
You can use the widget, below to make a donation or mail us a check made out to: "Kitten Associates" and address it to: Kitten Associates, P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354.
We're a 501(c )3 non-profit so your donation is tax deductible.
Sharing is caring, so please share socially if you can't assist with a donation. THANK YOU to everyone who believes in our good work. We can't wait to meet these beautiful kittens!
Each rescue story begins with hope and fear. There’s hope that this cat you’ve taken into your care will thrive, perhaps grow, perhaps blossom into something better than the poor creature who arrived at your door. There’s fear that they won’t do well, that you chose the wrong cat to save. It has behavior issues that will tax your every nerve. It’s older than you expected-so old you’re not sure you’ll ever find it a home. The cat has underlying health issues that will bankrupt you or worse-that will mean the cat has used up most of its nine lives and now it’s in your hands to make the choice to take its last one.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Chloe last March (inset) and last week. Though still big, you can see definition in her face and her coat is lighter and healthier.
Six months ago, my journey with Chloe began. It was her “before,” the baseline for what would later come to pass. She was aggressive, fearful and severely overweight. Her guardian wanted her dead, even though he reported to me that she was very friendly with him. He said his caretaker was allergic to her, but not his other cat—that he was worried that if Chloe bit his caretaker, he’d get sued. This 10-year old cat had to die.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Chloe much more relaxed than that last time I'd seen her.
You may know that I stepped in to change the course of this cat’s life. Chloe’s been in long-term foster care for six months, instead of being euthanized. Her guardian angel, Angi, has been working with Chloe, helping her gain confidence and lose weight. It’s been quite a ride, which I’ve chronicled here and here and here. But today we’re at the point of our story where things take another turn in the road that’s marked with a little sign that reads; “Chloe After.”
Chloe did very well in foster care, so well we all agreed it was time to put Chloe on Petfinder and work on getting her a forever home.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Angi doing the unthinkable-holding Chloe in her arms without Chloe reacting viciously.
It’d been a few months since I’d last seen Chloe in person and I was anxious to witness her transformation. I couldn’t wait to finally pet her without fear of being bitten, since as a front-declawed cat, it was how Chloe protected herself when she was afraid.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Lovely Chloe.
When I got to Angi’s house and took a seat in her living room, she left to fetch Chloe. A few moments later, Angi entered the room HOLDING Chloe in her arms. Chloe looked smaller, lighter in color and had a bemused expression on her face. Angi put Chloe down on the floor and I said hello, extending my hand, fingers pointed down, for her to sniff. I was ready for her to give me a nod of approval or allow me that much-desired stroke, but she reacted as she had the day I first met her-with an angry HISS.
Angi was shocked. Chloe had been getting along with everyone she met. Even Angi’s mom, who is adorable, by the way, had been sleeping with Chloe every night! Worried it was the scent of other cats on my hands; I went to the bathroom and washed up. I came back out and tried again. Again, Chloe hissed at me with great vigor. I retreated to my spot on the sofa and sighed. What would this mean for Pam? What would this mean for Chloe?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Angi + Chloe.
Pam arrived a few minutes later and Chloe’s reaction to her was pretty much the same as it was to me. Pam is a very caring person and wasn’t bothered that Chloe didn’t come over to her. She knew Chloe’s story and didn’t expect a lot from her right away. She knew it would take time and was willing to give that to her. She talked about how she felt seeing Chloe’s photo on Petfinder and why she wanted to give her a home. From the tone of her voice I could tell it was a love-connection right then and there.
We sat in a circle around Chloe and talked. Angi played with her for a time, then we decided to try giving Chloe treats. Pam began to carefully offer Chloe a treat, praising her softly and making her come to her to get the treats. Chloe got closer and soon Pam was giving Chloe gentle pets. At one point, Angi had distracted Chloe, and with her back to me. I reached down and petted Chloe at last.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Chloe had changed so much she was willing to show us her belly-those tiny feet, in comparison to her relative size always make me smile.
Chloe had always been so fearful her pupils were dilated to the point of not being able to see her iris. Now that she was calmer, her blue eyes were dazzling. They looked crystalline. I’ve never seen that before and found myself caught up in their beauty. I sighed, as I admired her from afar, still forlorn that she just didn’t dig me.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Getting to know Pam. Chloe allows some one on one.
We had a long visit. No one wanted to rush Pam, but it was clear she was going to adopt Chloe, issues and all, warnings to go slow and all, and then the reality hit Angi and me.
I’m glad I’ve had hundreds of adoptions under my belt because I would have been a wreck when I realized I was witnessing a miracle. This cat, who was slated to die, now had the door open to her to have a wonderful life.
Poor Angi had been through the wringer with Chloe. Chloe charged her, bit her, scared her, made her life very difficult, but in the end Chloe had loved her, trusted her and even allowed her to rub her belly as they snuggled on the sofa to watch TV late at night. Katherine, Connie and I had been hoping maybe Angi would keep Chloe, but this wasn’t a good time for her to add to her family. In truth, as I said to Angi, trying to comfort her as tears welled up in her eyes, that her job was done. Chloe needed Angi to help her learn to love and trust again and that job had been done for a while now. It was time for Chloe to continue to blossom, but she could only do that in her forever home.
It was a testament to how much Chloe was loved by how broken up Angi was about her going, but being ever-thoughtful, Angi kept her tears at bay in front of Pam as much as she could. I jumped in and suggested that maybe Pam should invite Angi to visit some day, to which she cheerfully agreed. We all promised to keep in touch and help Pam as she begins her life with Chloe. Chloe was going home, but we didn’t have to lose the connection to her entirely.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Maybe the best photo I've ever taken...
Pam signed the contract and we packed up Chloe’s things. I fought back the tears and made jokes to try to keep things light. It came time to put Chloe into the cat carrier and Angi didn’t want it to be the last thing she did to Chloe, so she asked me to do it. Me, the person Chloe has hated from day one; me, the person whose role in her life was now going to be as Chloe’s nemesis, probably forever.
I put the carrier on the sofa in front of Chloe’s face so she was aimed in the right direction. I took a deep breath, scruffed Chloe quickly and gave her a great shove. She protested. She cried. It was such a pitiful sound, but I got her into the carrier and shut the door. I looked down at my hands and saw 10 fingers…yep…still there.
Chloe was upset, which made Angi upset, which made me hurry to get her outside and into Pam’s car. I said that this was the worst time for Chloe and I reminded her it would get better soon. Angi told Chloe she loved her and was welcome back any time. I wished Pam well and told Chloe I was sorry for putting her into the carrier as a lump grew in my throat. Angi asked me to stay behind as Pam drove away. I took a deep breath to steady my nerves and followed her inside.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Goodbye and good luck, Chloe!
I sat with Angi and gave her a hug. I felt awful that she felt so sad. I did everything I could to let her know that Pam really was “the one.” I had no doubts. There are times when I just know an adoption is right and this was one of those times. Pam knows not to expect too much right away and she’s willing to give it time and she knows Chloe has a place to go if things just don’t work out and Chloe reverts back to the way she once was. When you foster, there will be tears, but I’d much rather cry because Chloe went home than because Chloe was put down.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Go Team Chloe!
The next day we got an email from Pam. Chloe had lunged at her. She hadn’t eaten or left her cat carrier. Instead of flipping out, Pam said it was all right. We gave her suggestions and she said she’d go slowly and give it more time. Chloe had reverted back to her fearful ways, but we hoped that perhaps she hadn’t gone back to square one.
The following day Pam reported that Chloe had eaten and used the litter pan. She was not venturing out of her cat carrier, but it was a start and it was an improvement compared to how she behaved at Angi’s in those first days.
Though it’s far too soon to know if Chloe has found her final home, she has every opportunity to prove she can love again and enjoy being loved again by a new friend. If it doesn’t work out, Angi, Katherine and I will be there for her.
Nov 2013 Update: I'm thrilled to report that even though Chloe bit Pam very badly, Pam knew to give Chloe more time to settle down. Chloe acclimated quickly to her new home. Not only that, but Chloe LOVES her new daddy (maybe even more than mom, Pam!). Chloe's met lots of Pam's friends and family, even kids. She's been friendly and affectionate to everyone she meets. This is a HUGE triumph for Chloe. I hope to see this very special kitty again one day soon. If she FINALLY likes me I'm going to file this rescue under: "MIRACLE." If not, well, that's our Chloe...