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.
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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...
©2013 Maria S. Mochachino with her kittens after rescue.
What makes up a family? Is it simply based on who a mother is…who the father is or is there more to it than that? Over the years I've come to think that family is what you make of it. I don't have parents any more and I'm pretty much on my own when it comes to blood ties. I have a small circle of close friends who I consider to be my self-made family and I don't see any difference in how much I care for them than I did my blood relatives.
©2013 Maria S. Meet our new kittens, Linzer, Pizzelle & Nanaimo.
Perhaps that's what happened to Biscotti? After being literally thrown away in a hot metal dumpster like a piece of trash, Biscotti found himself alone in the world. If Betsy hadn't rescued him and I hadn't offered to help him, he would have perished. Because he's so young, Biscotti desperately needed a family to accept him if he was going to have a chance to thrive. Alone, he might live, but he'd never do as well as he would with a family to call his own.
©2013 Maria S. Little Pizzelle.
Maria had a few days to observe our new mama, Mochachino and her kittens, Linzer, Pizzelle and Nanaiamo before Biscotti joined them. They were eating well, using the litter pan, grooming themselves, playing-doing everything a normal, healthy cat would do. Mocha is friendly and so are the kittens. Hopefully the fact that they don't have to compete for food and have a safe place to live in means they will be more accepting of a newcomer.
©2013 Maria S. Biscotti, with the burns on his nose starting to heal.
Maria and I talked about how to introduce Biscotti to the mix. We knew that scent would play an important role so Maria rubbed Mocha and her kittens with a soft cloth, then rubbed it onto Biscotti, then vice versa. Knowing that Mocha could reject and possibly hurt Biscotti, Maria was very careful with putting him too close to her to start. She put Biscotti near the kittens, hoping their scent would rub off on him. Macha gave a warning hiss, but didn't growl.
©2013 Maria S. This is about as close to twins as I've ever seen. Meet Linzer and Nanaimo (Nah-NYE-mo)
©2013 Maria S. I gotta mama!
Maria didn't leave Biscotti alone with his family the next day. She chose one kitten and put her with Biscotti in a cat carrier, along with a litter pan and food and water. They were safe from Mocha, but she could see them and they could see her. Maria went to work and hoped nothing terrible would happen while she was gone. I told her we needed to get another Dropcam so we could watch the family remotely, at least. She agreed we needed to add another channel of our very popular SqueeTV.
©2013 Maria S. Biscotti and friends.
Maria got home in a panic, but found that everything was fine. She let Biscotti and his sister out of the carrier and no one seemed bothered. Still keeping a close eye on the family we waited through the weekend. Everything was still fine. It seemed Biscotti was going to be all right.
©2013 Maria S. Meanwhile, Linzy and Nanny go back to playing.
©2013 Maria S. Biscotti with his new brother.
Maybe it's a good thing I don't have a “traditional” family because I have a feeling they'd be giving me a lot of grief about taking on more cats. See? There's a bonus to making your own family. I know my new family will love me for taking on more cats because they're all enablers!
©2013 Maria S. Biscotti looks like he was meant to be with this family.
We've rescued seven cats in a week. We need funds to fill their bellies, to get them vetted and all that good stuff. We'd also REALLY like to get another DropcCam + 1 yr service. It costs $149.00 plus $99.00 for the service. I put the dropcam onto our Amazon Wishlist if you want to check it out.
We'd be grateful if you can help with a small donation to our families. If you can't right now, no worries! Share our message socially and that can help us, too. Every dollar counts so don't think donating the price of a good cup of coffee isn't enough. That's fine!
Kitten Associates is a 501©3 Non-profit corporation. Our IRS EIN IS: 27-3597692
Checks can be made out to: Kitten Associates and mailed to P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354. If you have any questions about this fundraiser, just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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We just got the sad news that Dale, pictured here with Biscotti just a few days ago, passed away yesterday unexpectedly. His family is devastated to lose their 13 year old friend and we are very sad to know a great dog has gone over the rainbow bridge.
©2013 Maria S. Rest in Peace, sweet Dale. You will be missed. Our deepest sympathies to your family during this heartbreaking time.
A cat carrier sits on the pavement of a cul-de-sac in the blazing hot Georgia sun. Inside it’s cheerful pink polka-dot patterned shell, holds a terrible secret. Struggling inside the case were three tiny kittens and their mama, who were suffering not only from the heat, but from being in such cramped quarters. With no cool air to circulate between them, their bodies raised the temperature inside the carrier to a dangerous level. The mother, a short-haired black cat, furiously ripped at the mesh ends of the carrier, breaking off her claws with each panicked attempt. She was desperate to create an opening in the material so she could save her family and escape to the cool shade. Time was running out.
©2013 Maria S. First glimpse of the family and the brand new carrier they were abandoned in.
The mama was in a terrible state. She didn’t know why she was in this carrier, in the middle of the street. She could hear dogs barking, which concerned her even more. She was hungry. Her kittens were taking all the nourishment they could from her, but she had nothing for herself.
Exhausted, she laid down, panting. Her kittens squirmed over her to get at a nipple. They were oblivious to the danger they were in, but it wouldn’t take long for all of them to perish if they didn’t get out soon.
A day passed inside the carrier. The mama hadn’t been able to rip a hole into the mesh. She began to howl, not caring what predator heard her. After her voice was sore from crying, in a nearby house, the door opened and a woman emerged. She walked over to the cat carrier and peered inside. The mama cat heard her sigh. She asked the mama if she was okay. She asked her what in the world she was doing in the middle of the road and didn't she realize how dangerous it was. The mama wished she could answer, but all she could do was pant.
©2013 Maria S. Oblivious to the dangers nearby, the kittens explore their new world.
The woman lifted the carrier and brought it over to the side of her house near some shrubs. She unzipped the mesh door and let the cats go free. She couldn't take the family inside. As the kittens scattered out into the lawn, she walked into her home and after a few minutes came back outside with some food and water, which the mama ate greedily. The kittens were unfazed by their brush with death and not fearful of the woman. They got to work playing in the grass, oblivious to the fact that there was a dog in the back yard who had just mauled another dog to death the day before. Their freedom may have just put them into a more dangerous situation than they were in before and something had to be done.
©2013 Maria S. Mama is standing by the boy, so close to a very dangerous dog. It wouldn't have taken much for any or all of the kittens to wander too far in the wrong direction.
This family was lucky because the woman who found the cats, knew our Maria, intrepid foster mama for our rescue. Maria came over to her friend’s house, even though she was reluctant to get involved in yet another rescue right now. Maria has been taking a break from fostering (though she still does have 2 foster cats who are looking for a home) so she could focus on caring for some of her own, ailing cats. She knew she’d have to start making calls and sending emails asking for help to rescue groups that are already overloaded with animals. This year seems worse than ever for dumped/abandoned animals and it’s tough to be in rescue and have to ask the same people, the same question, and face the same answer—“no,” over and over again.
But she had to try-for the cats.
Maria let me know what was going on and I told her right away that Kitten Associates would, at least pay for the initial vet care of the cats, but I also had to be honest and say that taking on an all black adult cat would be really tough for us. I have a growing number of adult cats that no one wants: Barney, Bunny Boo-Boo, Mabel and Minnie. I have nowhere to put another adult. I thought I could take the kittens, but even that might be a stretch if the ones we have now don’t get adopted soon. It’s always a juggle between space and resources. At least we had some funds to get the family vetted if Maria could foster them for a time.
©2013 Maria S.
What I’ve come to learn about rescue is that trying to see too far down the road is a waste of time. First things first. You have to look at the moment and get the basics taken care of. We had a space for the family to live. We had funds to provide for their first Vet visit. We had at least four to six weeks before we’d need to put them up for adoption, so maybe we would have time to work out everything else. I had to be realistic and remember how it went with Minnie and how one day she had her family and the next was the last time she saw her kittens and had to be separated from them. Anything can happen and it’s usually not what you imagine. As my friend Katherine often says; “We’ll deal with it when the time comes.”
For the next few days, I struggled with what to do with this family, while they began to recuperate in Maria's home. Maria found a placement for them, but she felt more comfortable working with me because of our long history together. She asked me if I would take the family on and I told her I needed more time to think about it.
©2013 Maria S. Mama-cat was so tired that after Maria got her fed, she passed out cold. She must have been exhausted after her ordeal.
He looked like he belonged with the family Maria had so I contacted Betsy to find out where she got him. It wasn’t near the same area, so they couldn’t be related. I emailed Maria and asked her if we were idiots to take this kitten on, knowing that we risked the health of the ENTIRE FAMILY if this kitten sickened them or vice versa.
©2013 Maria S. Safe and resting comfortably at Aunt Maria's house.
I asked my friends on Facebook about how safe or stupid it was to put a sole kitten in with a new family. I asked a few Vets. I kept getting the same answer-you weigh the options. Without the nurturing and friendship of his new mama and siblings, he would not thrive. The mama might not accept him because Betsy had put him with another family she had and they beat him to a pulp.
©2013 Betsy Merchant. Our first glimpse of Biscotti. His paws and nose are burned from being trapped in a hot metal dumpster.
Maria and I felt like we had to risk it, so Maria made arrangements to take the family and the new kitten to the Vet. Her first stop was to pick up the lone kitten and go to her sister’s house to drop off the car she borrowed. She let the kitten meet her sister’s dogs and the kitten enjoyed being around them. When Maria sent me the photos I thought; This is one tough cookie. He can survive being in a dumpster. He survived being beat up by other cats. He likes dogs. What would I name a tough cookie? Biscotti. Of course.
©2013 Betsy Merchant. The little fella is only 3-4 weeks old. What a rough start to his life, but he's a fighter.
The Vet determined that the kittens are about 4 weeks of age, even Biscotti. The mama is about a year old. She was negative for FIV and Feline Leukemia, so that meant odds are the kittens were okay. They were too young to be tested, so we have to hope for the best and will test them when they get older.
The mama and kittens were very friendly, so they’d been around people, which was both good and bad for obvious reasons. Someone loved them for a few weeks, but then decided it was better to cowardly dumped them in the middle of a road, on a hot late summer day, than it was to ask for help. I had to stop imagining what I'd like to do to that person and focus on worrying about how Biscotti was going to get along with the others.
©2013 Maria S. Fearless Biscotti with Dale.
Will Biscotti like his new family? Will they like him? Will it be safe for them to be left alone or is Biscotti’s life still in danger if his step mom wants to harm him? Will I ever decide if I can take on five more foster cats in my home?
Stay tuned for the next chapter in the Discarded Cats Diary!
I'm absolutely shocked and thrilled to share our good news that thanks to ALL OF YOUR SUPPORT and VOTES we've WON the Dogtime Pettie Award for Best Blog Post for “Dear Fred,” which honored the last day of Fred's life before he passed away.
If you'd like to see a rebroadcast of the Awards Show, go HERE
More than anything I'm so grateful that now Fred will live on. His short life was truly precious and knowing that in some way his story will be heard by so many is a humbling gift.
Not only are we celebrating our win, but our dear friend Ingrid King of The Conscious Cat won Best Overall Pet Blog (for a second time!) and Ingrid has generously offered her prize money/donation to Kitten Associates, as well! This will make it very easy to tell our super-foster mama, Maria that YES, we can afford to take the abandoned kitty-family she found and be able to provide care for them without worry.
Rescue never sleeps-awards or not. Meet Biscotti & Pizzelle. Two of a family of four just rescued. Stay tuned for more about these sweet 4-week old kittens, their two siblings and their mama!