Bunny Boo Boo's 14 Month-Long Road Home

Once in awhile you get a foster cat who doesn’t cause any trouble, who doesn’t have serious behavioral issues, who gets a bit…meh-sick…but not really ill. They might not stand out from the crowd. Sometimes it takes more than simply spending time with them to see how they stand apart, but in this case I didn't see this cat's magnificence until I saw her through other people's eyes.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bright-eyed Bunny.

I’m referring to Bunny Boo-Boo, the now full-grown brown tabby who started her story with us as a little 4-month old kitten, dumped in the parking lot of Target in McDonough, Georgia. Bunny’s family, for whatever reason, thought that dumping their cat was the answer for whatever issues they had with her. Was it that they couldn’t afford to take care of her? Couldn’t keep her in their apartment due to regulations? Were they just cold-hearted fiends?

What I do know is in September of 2012, our intrepid foster mama, Maria, was shopping at Target when she saw Bunny, just moments after she got dumped. Seeing cats running loose in her town is not uncommon. It’s a sad fact that there is rampant cat overpopulation in the south and Maria has helped as many as she can (most end up coming to our rescue, Kitten Associates). I don’t know how Maria does it, but she jumped into action, even though she was already fostering other cats for us—even though she has more than enough on her plate.

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Bunny's Adoption Flyer featuring photos of her when she was a kitten. What a cutie!

Maria called me to ask if I could take the kitten and at the time I had to say no, but I did say I would help her find a home for Bunny. Maria got Bunny vetted and I designed a flyer she could hang out at work and share around town. Bunny did very well in Maria’s home. In fact, Maria became very fond of her little tabby sweetheart. A few months passed and Maria felt hopeless about finding Bunny a home. She asked me again if I could help and since I had space I told her I would take her on, knowing I might have a hard time finding Bunny a placement. She was much bigger now and as you know, the bigger they are, the harder to find cats a home.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sleepytime.

Bunny arrived in Connecticut in February of this year, along with her new buddies, George and Bongo. They were all adult cats, but I wanted to see if we could make a go of adopting out cats that were older than kittens. It took a few months, but Bongo and George found a great home together. By then we’d had some changes in our foster spaces and with poor Barney alone, after his brother Fred died, we put him with Bunny and they got along great.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny and buddy, George.

During all these months since Bunny arrived, a friend of mine in Boston named Michelle, had told me she was looking to add a kitty to her family. She and her husband, Pat had a sweet cat named Sunny. Sunny was submissive and shy so when they brought a new kitty into their home, Sunny stopped eating. The new kitty was marvelous on her own, but she was too much for Sunny and they began to worry about his health.

Though they tried everything they could, they realized it wasn’t a good match. They had no other choice but to return the cat to the shelter, but the good news was the kitty was not at any risk and the couple gave the rescue a huge donation and returned their adoption fee. The kitty was adopted again shortly thereafter.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny has a "necklace" of black fur that encircles her neck, then runs down her back, all the way down her tail.

The couple truly suffered after that unfortunate experience and decided to take a very careful, long look for another cat. After they shared their story with me, I suggested a few different cats for them and we talked at great length about each cat’s personality and how it might work with Sunny’s. At the time, Bunny was still in Georgia, so I offered other cats we had as options. Then, nothing came of it.

I didn’t hear much from Michelle for months. I didn’t pester her. I figured she adopted from another place. What I didn’t know was that Michelle had a death in her family and there were a lot of expected issues surrounding that so she stepped back from thinking about adopting a cat for a long time. Meanwhile, Bunny continued to be overlooked as many of our other foster cats got adopted. After the first year passed, I wondered if we'd ever find Bunny a home.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny with new buddy, Confetti Joe.

A few weeks ago, I heard from Michelle. It had been about 10 months since we first started talking about finding her a good match. I told her about Bunny and sent her photos. She used our web cam to observe Bunny’s interaction with her new foster friends, Gracey and Joey.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny snoozing with Minnie's kittens.

Michelle and Pat thought that maybe it was a sign that this was their new cat because they already called their current cat, Sunny-Bunny and they loved how sweet Bunny was with the kittens. She often groomed them and slept with them. If she was so friendly with Minnie's 5 kittens, Barney, George and Bongo, certainly there was a good chance that Sunny would someday be her new best friend.

We set up a time to meet and I thought it might be Bunny’s adoption day, but the couple wanted to drive down from Boston just to meet this kitty and to really, truly make sure that this was the kitty of their dreams.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I oftener watched the kitties sleeping together via our Dropcam.

I liked that they wanted to meet her without the pressure of deciding. They know what a commitment it is to adopt a cat and they take it very seriously. I had a good feeling about it when within the first few moments of entering the room, Bunny walked over to Pat and rubbed up against him! Bunny had been quite a shy kitty when she first arrived in Connecticut and as the months passed she’d become more friendly and outgoing. I was delighted to see her out of her shell, but I also knew that she had to win Michelle over, too.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny is very good at making funny faces.

I left the couple with Bunny to have some private time with her. I thought about how she’d been in our program for over a year and that in all those months she’d only had ONE adoption application that fell through right away. Bunny has beautiful coloring, a deliciously soft coat and is in prime health. She’s also very charming and has a high-pitched me-ow that I find amusing. I don’t know why she never had a line out the door of potential adopters, but in truth, all she needed was one good one.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Licking Gracey's tail.

Michelle called for me to join her and her husband in the foster room. I asked them how it went and they were very pleased. I asked them “Is this your cat?” and they said YES! Though they weren’t ready to take Bunny home with them that day, we did sign the contract, sealing the deal.

Bunny had her forever home, at last.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey and Bunny.

Michelle and Pat wanted time to get their home ready, buy a few things for Bunny and arrange to take a few days off to help ease her transition. I was very impressed and thrilled when they talked about how they plan on spoiling her, too. Clearly, there was something about Bunny that stood out from all the other cats they could have adopted. Maybe I didn’t see how special she was until I saw her through their eyes as they began their lives together. I hope it works out for both Bunny and her new friend, Sunny, but only time and careful introductions will tell.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny the spy.

I’m off to drive Bunny to Massachusetts to start the next chapter in her life. Though it took a very long time for Bunny to find the right place, I’m happy about how things worked out for her. Bunny will have lots and lots of love and the companionship of both humans and a new kitty friend that will bring her great joy.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny often sat on a shelf on the bookcase near the door. She liked to greet me when I entered the room.

From dumped in a parking lot in Georgia to a loving home in Boston—not a bad end for this cat’s rescue tale.

Update: Bunny was delivered to her new mama last night and I've already heard that Bunny was ready for pets and play time not long after she arrived in her new home. I feared she would begin her new life by hiding under the bed, but she just enjoyed getting to know her new family. Go, Bunny! Hurray!

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The Clementines Battle One Thing After Another Part 3

(Continued from Part 1 and Part 2)

Blossom was up on her paws, walking. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Just hours ago she’d appeared to be near death and now she was looking up at me like I had a bad dream because certainly everything was right as rain.

Of course, being that Blossom is part of a litter of 6, I knew that the odds were good that another kitten might fall ill. At least if they did, I knew what to do for them and that with supportive care, they should be fine in day or two.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Puttin' some meat on their bones.

I checked in with one of our Vets, asking him if it was okay to get the kittens their second, in a series of three, Distemper combination vaccinations called FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia) He felt it was safe to vaccinate because it was rare to have a complication after the injection and since Blossom seemed well again that we should go ahead.

On Wednesday, October 16th I took the cats to the Vet for their shot. They had a grand time exploring Dr. Chris’ office, though he did not particularly care for them ripping his furniture with their claws. Each kitten got their vaccination in their right front leg. I packed them up into their carriers and brought them home. It was a quick visit.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Little Mandy gets weighed in.

I knew the kittens might feel a bit off, a bit more tired than usual, or picky about their food, so I didn’t worry about checking on them right away after I got them home. I waited about ninety minutes before I checked our web cam, Squee-TV Channel 2, to see how they were doing. They were all huddled onto one cat bed. They looked unusually flat. Concerned, I turned off the camera remotely and went into their room.

Something was terribly wrong.

All the kittens were flat. I tried to get a few to walk and they limped on the leg that got the shot, then laid down in place. They felt hot to the touch. They were crying. I knew there was a chance of an allergic reaction to the vaccination and Dr. Chris had closed for the day. I grabbed a kitten and took her temperature. It was 105.2°F. I called the Cat Clinic and Dr. Feldman spoke to me directly. He said he’d make time for them and to bring the kittens in right away. If they were having an anaphylactic reaction they could die.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sherbert feels awful and Mandy can't even get up (background) they are feeling so poorly.

I raced over to the Clinic, swearing under my breath that if this vaccine killed any of my kittens there was going to be Hell to pay. The kittens cried the entire trip to the Vet. At least I knew they were alive.

Dr. Feldman and his assistant examined each kitten. They all had very high temperatures of over 105°F. High normal for a cat is over 102°F. They were all lame in their front leg. I worried that the vaccination trigged Calici, which is what might have made Blossom lame a few days before or if the needle used for the shot was too big. I didn’t know if the vaccination had expired or was otherwise hurting my kittens. All I knew is seeing them all suffering was heartbreaking.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mango and Meri are miserable.

Though rare to have such a bad reaction, Dr. Feldman suggested we give each kitten a shot of Dextramethasone, a steroid, to combat the high fever and comfort the lameness. He said I might read that it would invalidate the effects of their vaccination, but at this point we had no other options. The kittens might overcome their fevers on their own, but at what cost? I knew steroids were NOT what I’d ever want my kittens to be given, but I had to hurry to make the decision. They were suffering so severely and were affected so quickly after their vaccination that I felt our hands were tied. We gave them the steroids.

Dr. Feldman is very compassionate. He made sure they used the tiniest needle possible on the kittens. It looked like the width of a single human hair. The kittens cried getting another shot. I felt so badly about causing them any more pain, but we had to do it. I was told to observe the kittens and report back the next day unless they got worse. The thought was that we’d have to repeat the FVRCP vaccination again anyway, so we would just move on, give them time to recover and in a few weeks try it again.

We could also pre-treat them with antihistamines before they got the next shot. To be safe, we recorded the lot number and date of the vaccination they got and compared it to what the Cat Clinic would be using when we did the next one. The date of expiration on the vaccination that made them sick is December 2014. Cat Clinic’s expires December 2015. I had to wonder if the vaccination had already gone bad and that’s what made the kittens so sick. It's on my "to do" list to contact the manufacturer and report this problem.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Since they've arrived a month ago there hasn't been one day when ALL the kittens were well. Here's Blossom, Buttercup and Mandy in better days before the vaccination.

By the next day, the kittens had bounced back. They were eating and wobbling around. Clearly they were still sore, but doing much better. My goal now was to focus on fattening them up, since they were still looking like furry skeletons, and get them ready to be spayed and neutered. I wanted them up for adoption soon while they’re still small.

Little did I know that this little upset in their lives was nothing compared to what was about to occur…

Part 4 coming up next where I face the real possibility that one or more of the kittens will lose an eye due to illness.

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The Clementines Arrive with Unwelcome Guests Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)

We got home around 1 A.M.

The kittens were ready to explode out of their carrier and I felt badly confining them to a large dog crate for the night, but I had to contain the fleas, as well as the kittens. I got them settled and brought them food, wondering if they would even eat. I knew they’d been fed all sorts of dry food and that transitioning them over to grain-free canned might be tough.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Our first look at Buttercup, the sole buff colored kitten.

The kittens went crazy for the food and ate so much I had to keep bringing them more. For six little guys they ate three, 6-oz cans of food. If nothing else, they would be able to rest now that they had a full belly and a soft bed.

The kittens had been removed from the shelter in two groups. The first one to get out was a solo kitten named Blossom, along with a dilute calico who was on her own and not part of Blossom’s family. They left the shelter and entered rescue days before I even knew about the Clementines.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Out of the cage and ready for fun.

Because Blossom got out earlier she had advantages over the others-access to better food and more of it, a less stressful environment and a lot more love. As a result, Blossom grew much larger than her siblings as they continued to wait in hopes of rescue. It meant, at least, Blossom should do better than the others, but I was wrong.

Blossom was the first to get really sick.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

The next morning all I had to do was feed the kittens and load them into the carrier, but I needed a few minutes with them before we left. I wanted to have a chance to at least get a good look at the little guys, maybe grab a few photos. Even knowing about the fleas, the poor kittens wanted to run around so I let them out of the crate. They raced around the room, exploring every nook and cranny. Each one came over to check me out, too. A few were purring at the slightest touch. The energy in the room was one of joy and I couldn’t help but feel charged up by it.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The littlest, Mandarin (Mandy).

My joy was short-lived when I saw Mango. His left eye was runny and swollen. The folks in Kentucky had mentioned eye issues in two of the kittens and that the Vet had put “salve” on them. I cringed wondering if it was vasaline or if it actually was medicated and I wondered why they didn’t include the meds along with the kittens. Due to the laws in Connecticut the kittens had an appointment to see one of our Vets in a few days to be issued a health certificate, but looking at Mango’s eye, I knew it couldn’t wait. I called for an appointment to see Dr. Mary and asked our new foster mom if I could delay getting to her.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. This can't wait a few days. Off to the Vet with Mango and gang.

The kittens had fun at with Dr. Mary. She examined a few of the kittens and we discussed treatment plans. I asked about treating them for fleas but she said there was no way we could do anything more than bathe them at this point. I was to treat everyone with eye drops and hope that would do the trick. She said she wished we could get terramycin because it’s the “go to” medication for this sort of conjunctivitis, but it’s on some sort of universal outage for vets. They can get it for newborn babies, but that’s about it. In fact there’s a program in Philadelphia where a hospital donates their one time used tubes of terramycin to animal shelters so they can get access to the drug. I don’t know why this is going on. Is Pfizer causing a shortage on purpose to make a buck? I didn’t understand. All I knew is that Dr. Mary had just met another vet who said they could get it but it was very tough and if they didn’t respond to the current treatment we’d get the medication.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Spring fling.

The plan was to take the kittens to their new foster home and see how the meds worked. I was very relieved they were out of my house because the cat population was up to 22 cats and that just didn’t sit well with me. Every spare room was loaded and I was grateful that Jeannie offered to help. Without her home I would increase the risk of illness racing through the other cats. The more cats, the more stress, the better the chances that things will go downhill fast.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Buttercup gets a bath.

Jeannie is great. She’s got a big smile and friendly, chatty demeanor. She’s fostered all sorts of kittens in all sorts of situations. Nothing fazes her. She actually wanted to bathe the kittens and has a routine all set up. I knew I could learn from her and was eager to get these kittens cleaned up.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Yikes.

We set up an assembly line. Jeannie bathed the kittens and picked off the fleas. I dried the kittens and placed them into a big cat carrier that was lined with a thick blanket and had a small space heater blowing warm air into the space. Jeannie cooed over each kitten, talking to them about how we’d get those nasty fleas off them, and saying how cute each one was. It wasn’t until we bathed the kittens that I realized how very underweight they were. They were basically skeletons with fur, made more extreme by seeing them wet. One of them, a tiny little girl, seemed so fragile I worried if she got sick we’d lose her.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh the humiliation!

One by one the kittens got bathed. They were either relaxed by the warm water and got sleepy, or being so malnourished they went limp in my arms since many struggled against being in the water. It was rather unnerving to see them like that. It took them awhile, but with the warm air and being clean they slowly began to groom themselves and show signs of life.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Did you ever have “one of those days?”

Jeannie was ready to take over the helm and I had to race off. Why? To help another family of kittens who were arriving on a transport from Georgia get to a temporary foster home for another rescue group. It meant having a chance to see our dear friend Bobby and I couldn’t pass it up.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

A few days later I had to bring the kittens to another Vet for their health certificates. I told Jeannie I was going to bring them back to my house after the vet visit because we’d been fortunate enough to adopt Lolly and Clark and their room was now open and it would give me a chance to get a few photos of the kittens and see how they were doing. I’d bring the kittens back in a few days or we’d take on other kittens for her.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Wet and flea-free.

The vet visit was unremarkable in nature. What we’d already started doing based on Dr. Mary’s orders was fine to continue doing. I went home thinking things would be all right.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Having fun wherever they go.

On Friday, Blossom seemed picky about her food. On Saturday, clearly she wasn’t feeling well. Jeannie and her friend stopped over to see the kittens and we examined Blossom. We took her temperature and it was 105.2° F but then her friend reminded us that Blossom had been laying on a heated bed. Relieved it probably wasn’t a fever, we still noticed she seemed lethargic and depressed. Jeannie has a medical background and suggested taking Blossom home with her where she could give her round-the-clock care for the next day or two. We went back and forth about what would be the best thing for Blossom. Would it be safer on the others if she was separated from them?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. What? We're not doing anything!

I was ready to let Blossom go with Jeannie, but then we got her to eat a little bit. I knew if Blossom got worse I’d have to run her to the Vet anyway so I told Jeannie I’d take care of her.

The next morning, Blossom didn’t want to walk at all. She was like a limp rag in my arms. She wouldn’t get up to eat and she was crying. I tried to get her to walk but her back right leg was tender and she favored it. I’d read about kittens limping being a possible sign of Calici virus and I started to panic. Dr. Mary and Dr. Larry were off, being that it was Sunday, so I took her to their associate, Dr H. I have to admit I’m not a big fan of Dr. H, but she is the only game in town, unless I wanted to spend $1000.00 or more going to the ER Vet.

Dr. H. barely looked at Blossom and talked to me about what she wanted to do. I had to ask her to watch Blossom try to walk and talked to her about my concerns about it being calici. What sort of exam is it if she’s not even looking at the kitten walk or checking out why she is lame?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Trying to get Blossom to eat.

I felt like she was ignoring me and talked about levels of care and their costs. She wanted to do full blood work, x-rays, repeat the snap test, and a PCR test and pain meds. I told her it was very clear to me it was calici and I didn’t want to do all these tests. Yes, Blossom could have fallen but there was no obvious sign of injury and she was painful all over her body, not just her leg.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Blossom's x-ray shows good growth plates but no issues.

Dr. H. wouldn’t let up so I said to go ahead with the blood work and x-ray. Both were normal. Now I was out $500.00. I was really pissed. I was to take Blossom home and give her sub-q fluids a few times over the next two days. If it was a virus, giving her antibiotics wouldn’t help, but the fear is secondary infection. I said no to the antibiotics, but got pushed into getting pain meds. She wanted Blossom on Buprenex because letting her suffer wasn’t fair. Again, I felt it was off base. When I get a bad cold, I feel like crap, but I don’t want to load myself up with drugs that give me more problems than help and this was a little kitten. I thought supportive care was what she needed, not more drugs that really only make her loopy and possibly lose her appetite…which again..does not make sense. Why make it harder for Blossom to recover by taking away her appetite? It was the only thing she had going for her. At least if she couldn’t get up I could feed her if I held the plate next to her mouth as she laid on the heated cat bed.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. My poor sweetie. Blossom was wiped out from the virus.

I feared that Blossom was going to die she was so weak and then I started to wonder if this was going to become my worst fear—some sort of terrible virus wiping out the whole litter and Blossom was only the first to go.

I thought to myself; “Baby steps. Just breathe. Keep her comfortable and fed. Give her fluids and hope she can beat this on her own. Don’t freak out. Just focus on keeping her comfortable.”

The next day I didn’t believe what I saw when I entered the foster room. When I looked at Blossom all I could do was shake my head in disbelief.

Part three next…

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The Clementines Arrive with Lots of Unwelcome Friends Part 1

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.

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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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.”

“What?!”

“It won’t be perfect but it will be something. I’m seeing a lot of fleas.”

“Great.”

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.

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©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.

Due to having limited space for fosters, I had planned to crate the kittens in the one room we NEVER allow cats. It’s the room that has the expensive family heirloom rugs and precious family items I can’t risk cats destroying. I didn’t want the kittens in the room, but thought for just one night it would be okay since they had been vetted. Now I had to worry about the kittens dropping fleas all over the rugs and them getting into the nearby linen closet. I just didn’t have much experience with fleas. You’d think I had after over ten years of doing rescue, but most often the cats have been quarantined before I get them.

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©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.

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©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.

Izzy got out of the car. She was holding a plastic bottle that at one time held a beverage. She showed it to me. It was the wastewater from bathing the kittens. It took me a minute to make sense of why the water was MOVING. There were probably over 100 fleas wiggling around in the fluid. I felt sick.

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©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.

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©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…

Thanks to All of You.

It's hard to believe a month has already passed since the winners of the Dogtime Pettie Awards were announced. I was deeply honored and thrilled to win Best Blog Post for my story, “Dear Fred.”

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I wish I had filmed my reaction to winning the award, but it went something like this: I screamed REALLY LOUD, so LOUD that Sam thought I was being murdered. Then I ran into the living room, where Sam intercepted me and I yelled; “Oh my GOD I WON I WON I WON!” I started jumping up and down, a lot, quickly, as high as I could until I felt a stab race down my left left. I ripped the tendons in my old lady limbs and I crumpled to the floor in pain. I spent the next four days wondering if I should go to the "Limp in" clinic. I did't sleep because the pain was too severe. I'm doing great now, but really, I need to start exercising or something before these award shows.

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.

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©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.

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©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.

Love,

Robin

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The Squee Diaries Ch 11. The Lonely Room Part 3

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.

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©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.

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©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).

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©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.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Stan (left), now named Oliver, with his new family-doing great!

Although I knew his departure meant the beginning of the end of my time with all the kittens, I knew it HAD to be done before the kittens were so big they’d be tougher to adopt.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. How to hold a cat, oops, or not.

An hour before the couple arrived I spent time with the kittens. As always, Mel came over to me and lay against my leg, stretched out, belly up. I thought about how this was the last time he’d do that with me and the last time we’d share this sweet time together. I petted him gently. He turned to look into my eyes. We held the connection for a moment as I struggled not to cry. He purred contentedly. We just sat there together with no need to do something more. I didn’t want to move, ever again, for the rest of my life.

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©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.

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©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.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. As always, Gracey leads the way.

I thought I’d prepared myself for the boys leaving, but then started to realize that Gracey might be going and what would I do without her? I love her and Joey, too! I knew no matter how it turned out, two kittens were leaving. I just didn’t know which ones.

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.

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©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.

After the couple left, anxious to get home with their new family members, I knew I had to feed the kittens and straighten up their room for the night. As I put my hand on the doorknob, I took a deep breath, trying desperately to hold back my tears. I opened the door and Gracey, Joey and Bunny looked up at me questioningly. I did what I needed to do without falling apart. I wished them a goodnight, giving each one an affectionate pet on the way out. I knew it before I’d even taken a step inside the room that things were different now.

The magic room was no more.

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The Squee Diaries Ch 11. The Blue Room Part 2

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.

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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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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…

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The Squee Diaries Ch 11. The Magic Room Part 1

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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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…

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After 15 Months, a Surprise for Barney. Part Two of Two.

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).

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©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.

He told me about a bulldog he rescued who had a broken back, whose teeth had been knocked out and who had been used as a bait dog for fighting pit bulls. He went above and beyond for that dog, not only providing medical care for him, but emotional care. To hear him talk about that dog sealed the deal. He would have gone to the ends of the earth for a dog who only lived another two years. He could live in a cave and I knew he'd give Willow the best home.

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©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.

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©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?

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

Barney went right over to Willow and they both began sniffing each other with great interest. Willow’s nose went right to Barney’s behind. He didn’t mind at all. He turned to her and rubbed up against her, adding his scent to hers. He licked her head; she sniffed and licked his in return. Neither hissed or growled.

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.

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©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.

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©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.

After about an hour I coyly asked; “Are these your cats?” They quickly answered YES!

If Willow hadn’t been returned, Barney never would have found his forever home. I told the couple that if it didn’t work out I would always take them back. Michelle jumped in and said there was no way I’d ever get the cats back. “We adopt for life, that’s it, no matter what.”

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©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.

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©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.

Barney’s spot on the bed, the corner by the door, was empty, yet the feeling of his spirit still filled the room. I thought about Fred and how he should have been adopted with Barney and how unfair it was that his story ended the way it did. I had to remind myself that Barney may have lost his blood-family, but he gained a new one, made up of people who will love him and a cat who will look after him. It couldn't end any better than that.

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©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.

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After 15 Months, a Surprise for Barney. Part One of Two.

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.

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©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.

What never made sense to me was that why did it take this long to find a perfectly friendly, cute, orange and white cat a home? I yearn to search for meaning in all of this when perhaps it was just events unraveling as they will. There was no twist of fate or string theory or whatever you believe in that made a difference in this cat’s life—or is there?

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

Of course this would cause peeing and he couldn’t say for certain if it was only Willow doing it or one of the other cats. I went to his house to assess the situation and discovered that Willow had fleas, flea-bite dermatitis and a reoccurrence of a nasty upper respiratory. She had lost a pound, her fur was ratty and looked terrible. I was heartbroken.

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©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.

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©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.

What I didn’t expect was a call the day before our Vet visit from her adopter asking me to take Willow back. I'd just been to his home a few days before and he assured me he wanted to keep her. I was shocked by his change of heart, but he felt he was over his head and even though he “liked her very much” he had to give her up.

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©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?

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