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Not on My Watch: My Darling Clementines

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.

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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 posted a plea for them on Facebook and waited and watched and still, no news of them getting any help. I couldn't stop thinking about them, about what I could do to help save their lives. I offered $200 sponsorship to any legitimate rescue in Kentucky that would take the kittens. I offered to ask for donations from our friends at Covered in Cat Hair to sweeten the pot. Still there was nothing. No one stepped forward.

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.

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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.

And I won't do nothing. I will save their lives because some times you just HAVE TO HELP. You can't look away. You can't make an excuse as to why you can't do something. You have to take a step forward, stand straight, raise your hand up high and say; “I'm here. I will help. I am going to make this right-whatever it takes.”

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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!

...But I also need YOUR HELP.

To be able to afford to provide for this family we have to do an emergency fundraiser. Please visit our YouCaring page to make a donation or you can also go directly to our web site (to save YouCaring's fees) at http://kittenassociates.org/donate and click on the "Donate Today" button.

You can use the widget, below to make a donation or mail us a check made out to: "Kitten Associates" and address it to: Kitten Associates, P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354.

We're a 501(c )3 non-profit so your donation is tax deductible.

Sharing is caring, so please share socially if you can't assist with a donation. THANK YOU to everyone who believes in our good work. We can't wait to meet these beautiful kittens!

Chloe, After.

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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Angi doing the unthinkable-holding Chloe in her arms without Chloe reacting viciously.

 

We knew finding an adult, still overweight cat, a home would take time so we sat back and waited…oh about a day or two! We got three applications for Chloe right away, which shocked me since I can’t get a 1-year old, friendly cat adopted. There’s something about Chloe that people are drawn to. We screened the adopters and narrowed it down to a lady named Pam. We set a date to get together. Pam could meet Chloe and we’d see how it went. If it was a match, great—if not, no problem.

 

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.

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©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?

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©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.

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©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 didn’t even flinch. I didn’t pet her for too long, but it was long enough to be shocked at how soft and clean her coat was. The grain-free canned food and grain-free dry (hey, you do what you gotta do) had worked some magic. Chloe’s coat was also no longer brown, which I see in cats that have nutrition deficiencies. She was silvery and cream. Angi mentioned that Chloe could finally groom herself now that she’d lost OVER TWO POUNDS and had gained flexibility. Chloe even jumped on the sofa and chased after toys. Her mobility was greatly improved, but the big surprise was in her eyes.

 

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.

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©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.

 

Chloe was going to her forever home. Right now.

 

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.

 

Angi asked me to take a few photos of her with Chloe so I obliged. She put her face down close to Chloe’s and looked towards the camera. I got a nice photo of them together, but wanted to take a few more, just in case. I got a bit too close and Chloe turned towards Angi, opened her mouth wide and HISSED! Angi responded by laughing. Yep, that’s our Chloe.

 

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©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.

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©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.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Go Team Chloe!

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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.

 

That’s the thing about Chloe-even though she's challenging to work with, we all love her and maybe that's enough fuel for her journey to continue along the right path, until she reaches the next sign in the road reads, “Home at Last.”

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..

 

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The Discarded Cats Diary. Ch 2

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©2013 Maria S. This is about as close to twins as I've ever seen. Meet Linzer and Nanaimo (Nah-NYE-mo)

 

Biscotti, oblivious to the potential danger, began to play with his new brothers and sister as if he had been born with them. He sniffed around his new mom. She hissed again, then laid back down. Biscotti, starved for the comfort of his mother, went to Mocha, sniffed at her belly and helped himself to a nipple. She looked at him momentarily, then went back to her nap.

 

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©2013 Maria S. I gotta mama!

 

Biscotti was home, as if it was meant to be.

 

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.

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©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.

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©2013 Maria S. Meanwhile, Linzy and Nanny go back to playing.

 

I owed it to Maria to let her know if I'd take this family into my cat rescue's Program. Even though I'm scared about taking too much on, I already love this family and couldn't imagine them going anywhere else, so I'm very glad to report that they will be our next rescued family. Welcome to Kitten Associates!

 

 

Oh wait…they're already old news. They're not our latest because today I'm picking up two more kittens whose owner is losing his home and has to give up his cats.

 

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©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!

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©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 info@kittenassociates.org.

Thank you for supporting our lifesaving programs!

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Breaking news:

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.

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©2013 Maria S. Rest in Peace, sweet Dale. You will be missed. Our deepest sympathies to your family during this heartbreaking time.

The Discarded Cats Diary. Chapter 1.

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.

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©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.

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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.

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©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.

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©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.

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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.

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©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.

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©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.

I admit I look for signs or a feeling in my heart that tells me which cats to take on. I wasn’t getting the feeling until I got an email from Betsy, who helps cats and dogs in the same Georgia hometown as Maria. Betsy sent out a photo of a tiny black and white kitten she found, tossed away like trash in a hot metal dumpster. His nose and paws were burned. He was very tiny and underweight.

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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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!

DEAR FRED WINS 2013 DOGTIME PETTIE AWARD FOR BEST BLOG POST!

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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.

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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.

I'm also overjoyed that my non-profit cat rescue, Kitten Associates will be getting the prize money-a $1000.00 donation that will go directly to our newest rescued family.

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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!

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and THANK YOU. THANK YOU VERY MUCH to my dedicated friends who made this award happen. THANK YOU!!! This award means the world to me.

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Lil Bub's Lil Book Review

What is it about a cat that would make you drive over 200 miles just so you could be in her company for a few minutes? Yesterday afternoon, I couldn't begin to answer that question. I'd been going through a wave of very deep depression and felt pretty much hopeless. Mentally, I felt impaired from feeling like a failure. While I was surfing around online, I read that the feline-phenom, Lil Bub and her “Dude” Mike Bridavsky were going to be attending a book signing for Bub's first book; Lil Bub's Lil Book. The Extraordinary Life of the Most Amazing Cat on the Planet. It meant a long drive to New Jersey later that day. I was tired of feeling lousy, so I decided I had to make the trip. Maybe getting away from home would help soothe my tangled nerves?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

As many of your know, Bub was rescued after she was born outside, the runt of the litter, to a feral mama. Bub had many severe physical deformities including dwarfism (she only weighs four pounds), a shortened lower jaw that leaves her tongue hanging out and her teeth never erupted (which ends up being a blessing since those teeth surely would have caused her a lot of mouth pain). Bub wasn't expected to live beyond a few months, but when her daddy, Mike Bridavsky met her, it was "lub" at first sight and perhaps, in that moment that bond gave Bub the will to survive.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Grateful that my tongue doesn't stick out all the time like Bub's does because this is something that maybe should not be seen on the internet. Oops.

Bridavsky was at a low point in his life when he met Bub. Inasmuch as he saved her life, she's now saving his. She's become an internet sensation and media darling, with millions of fans. She stars in an internet talk show called Lil Bub's Big Show. The episodes are set to air every Tuesday on Vice Media and the first episode has already aired. It features Whoopi Goldberg, but the star of the show is the script Bridavsky wrote. It's clear he has a talent for giving Bub a voice that is both endearing and completely charming without being overly saccharine. Bub's interview with Ms. Goldberg will leave you glowing with joy.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bub and “Dude,” Mike Bridavsky.

Bub's been very busy. She has her own movie titled “Lil Bub & Friendz”. It's available to view in four parts on Vice. Part one (all I've seen so far) is a documentary on Bub's life, but also includes an interesting discussion on just why cats are such a huge part of the internet. Some clips include interviews with the likes of Ben Huh, creator of I canhascheezburger, NYAN Cat, Keyboard Cat, Grumpy Cat and more. It's very well done and I admit, the scenes with Bub really tugged at my heartstrings. What IS IT ABOUT THIS CAT that's so appealing beyond the realm of normal?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Stubby legs with extra white toes, Bub may be the most curiously constructed cat ever.

My intentions were to buy Bub's book, get it signed, say hello, go home. On a lark, I worked up the nerve to ask for Press access to Bub, hoping that coveredincathair.com would be enough credentials to get me in the door. The owner of Book-Ends, where the signing was held, took my business card and disappeared into a back room. Thirty seconds later he came out and held up his hand, spreading his fingers apart. “Five minutes. You have five minutes.”

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Buy a Bunch of Bub's Books.

“Right now?!”

I was ushered into a small office behind the front desk with no time to clear my mind, prepare some questions, focus my camera. It wouldn't have mattered how prepared I was because as I turned the corner, my mind went blank. Before me was Bub sitting on a knitted mat on a folding table, with her “Dude,” Mike by her side. It caught me off guard and I felt a lump of emotion rise in my throat. Was I going to burst into tears? Why did I feel like I was meeting a major rock star or the President? It was a CAT! How many cats have I met in my days? Probably thousands by now. Yet meeting Bub was transformative.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Thank you for giving my blog your paw of approval, Bub.

I said hello to Mike, not wanting to be completely rude, but later I realized I forgot to say my name! I told him I wrote a blog about cats. I gave him my card and he put it right next to Bub, thinking I could take a photo of her with my card. Oh dear…then I realized that of course everyone would want to hitch their trailer to this rising star. Mike was dutifully doing what was expected, except that I didn't have any interest in plugging my own work when I was trying to be respectful of his situation. This was his cat, her success. I was just documenting my visit so I moved the card out of the way.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. BUB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I thought about this a lot last night while I was struggling to fall asleep. Bub is providing her Dude with a living. I'm sure advertisers are knocking at the door. Fans are lining up around the block. Everyone wants something from both of them, but it's Bridavsky's job to find a balance between leveraging the spotlight on Bub without it causing her harm. I got the sense that if he could be doing anything it would be to get away from all these crowds and be back home with Bub. I didn't get the sense that Bridavsky's ego was involved, nor did I get the sense he's out to make a buck off his curious cat. There's still an honesty there. He has to make a living, everyone does, and he's surrounded himself with a team of friends, not internet marketing geniuses, to create the Bub dynasty. There aren't handlers and crowds of publicists. It's still Mike and Bub sitting very quietly in an office, having a chat with a strange lady with crazy hair who seems to have forgotten how to use her camera and speak the English language.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. My anointment into the Bub clan.

I was cautious about approaching Bub and immediately whispered when I addressed her Dude, Mike. He told me it was okay to speak at a normal volume, but that she didn't like the noise level in crowds. I still kept my tone soft and I got down so I could be at eye level with Bub. I asked if I could touch her and Mike said it was okay. I offered my hand to sniff, which she did, but she didn't react like other cats. I couldn't tell if she was giving me the okay or not so I gave her a gentle pet, then as I do with my own cats, I tipped my head to her so she could sniff me better. As she sniffed me I could hear her raspy breathing. It felt like I was being blessed by a scared creature. I struggled with wanting to pet her, but not bother her, out of respect for her well being. She must be handled so much that I just couldn't treat her like that. I knew there were a lot of people waiting to see her at the signing and I felt my cat-rescuer code calling me to to protect her more than I wanted something for myself.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Lub Bub!

I took as many photos as I could, then forgot my camera in the office. I left Mike and Bub feeling completely transformed, but frustrated that I didn't get to ask half the questions I'd wanted to and wishing it could have lasted a few minutes longer. I was energized, vibrating. Why was I so happy?

I sat down with my friend, Irene to look at Bub's book. It's a colorful, whimsical, wondrous piece of art containing hundreds of color photos of Bub with a tapestry of words that weaves a magical tale of Bub's past. In it she declares that she's actually not from planet Earth, but from another planet far away. Bub crash landed here when she was looking for fishes, but now that she's met “Dude” she's here to stay. Bub is featured in imaginative sets, much like her TV Show and Film, but because this book is something you can hold in your hands and hold dear to your heart, it makes it more precious. Captured on film are the many faces of Bub. In some of the photos she's featured in hokey sets with mutant-sized props. I loved it. It left me wanting more. I couldn't stop thinking about this tiny creature on the glossy pages, with her owly eyes and tongue hanging out. She doesn't do amazing tricks. In fact, walking around is difficult for her, but lately she has gotten a bit stronger. It almost doesn't matter what sets she's in, because Bub is cuter than cute and becomes more irresistible with each turn of the page. She shares her book with some friends like Colonel Meow, but what stands out are the words. There's a tenderness and affection in the story that Bridavsky penned. I'm sure not only would adults love this book, but every kid, too. Bub's magical powers effect us all and I could read this book over and over and always reach the end with a smile on my face and a warm puddle in my heart.

 


©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bub's arrival!

 

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mike is constantly checking on Bub to make sure she's comfortable-a true doting dad.

It would be easy to take a lot of cute photos of Bub and leave it at that, but this book has soul and is filled with love, which is expressed throughout as well as in some of the images of fan art the book also includes.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I'm sure there are a lot of ladies looking at this cute gu,y who loves his cat, who are writing marriage proposals as we speak.

 

The title of this book suggests that Bub is the most amazing cat on the planet and even though I think my own cats should give her a run for the money, they can't. Bub is in a class all by herself. She truly does rank as being quite extraordinary and truly amazing. Being in her presence is a gift I will always cherish.

 

Bub and her Dude are a talented team, but they don't flaunt it. There's a great sense of generosity that goes hand in hand with their fame. They use their super-powers for good by reminding their fans to adopt from shelters, and more importantly, to not overlook special needs cats. And as someone who runs a cat rescue, part of whose mission is to encourage spay/neuter legislation, Bub is there, encouraging everyone to make sure their own cats are taken care of, too.

 

In Bridavsky's own words, Good job, Bub. Good job.

 

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I lub Bub.

 

Lil Bub's Lil Book is available TODAY via her web site or the following resellers: amazon.com barnes&noble, indie bound and more.

 

The Purr Machine. Remembering Bob Dole.

I told myself I wouldn’t write about how Bob died on the second anniversary of his passing. I wouldn’t try to remember that last year, which was filled with one Vet visit after another, one more hit on the credit card, one more wish that maybe we’d find a way back to health, but it was not meant to be. I wanted to remember just the happy moments we shared and be positive, but I struggle with being able to do that.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob's shrine, featuring the precious "BOB"blehead that was made of him by Royal Bobbles.

What I hate about death is there is no second chance. You don’t get to, at least, see the person once a year on the anniversary of the day they died. It would be so wonderful, wouldn't it? You could have that time to catch up, tell them how much you miss them, love them. As the sun set, they’d go back to the great beyond for another year, but you’d have something to keep you going. The pain of loss wouldn’t be able to carve a hole into your heart.

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©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. So many Vet visits. Bob was always such a good boy no matter what they did to him.

No. You can’t have any more time with them, as desperate as you may feel, as much as you tried to be a good person, hoping maybe the rules didn’t apply to you if you were a good girl or boy. That bottomless well of despair can never be healed. With time, perhaps it may take longer to reach that familiar place, but once arriving, that pain is still as sharp as ever, the longing just as fresh as it was when you first had to say goodbye.

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©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob by the fire.

Bob wasn’t just an ordinary cat. He was a human in an orange striped long-haired coat. He had a quality about him that was almost unsettling. When he looked at you with those brilliant green eyes, it was really into your soul. If he suddenly spoke to you, it might not even be that surprising. You just knew he understood what you were saying. He could relate to people so effortlessly. Everyone loved Bob.

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©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. Yes, this is how excited Bob got about chasing after wildlife.

Bob had a huge personality. He was “the boss” to the other cats and had a firm paw, but it was rarely used. He constantly purred, loudly. I called it “burbling.” I don’t know how to describe the sound. It was musical, bubbly, with a million tones blending into one. Even a few hours before he died, he purred. That was Bob: the purring machine.

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©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. In his full glory and on favorite place, his blankee on the deck.

Bob loved to be outside. After my mother died in 2006, I brought Bob home to live with me. It wasn’t planned to be his forever home because I thought I was at my limit with six cats, but over time I realized, Bob would never get good enough care anywhere else and his being outside (and intact for many years until I had a fight with my mother about it and got him neutered), lead to him contracting FIV. I couldn’t let him roam freely outside any more. It was dangerous when he lived with my mom, but it is far worse here because the back yard of our home is a state forest.

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©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. Incorrigible-Bob.

So Bob wouldn’t be miserable, I set up a space for him on our deck. It’s almost 17 feet off the ground and Bob, as well as Spencer and Nicky, could sleep on cushions or nibble on the plants and I didn’t have to worry about them running off. They watched the birds flit back and forth to the feeders, but they didn’t bother with them at all.

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©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob and new BFF-Nora.

Bob would go outside every day from the first warm day in spring and continue to go out every nice day until winter. As he grew sicker and weaker, I made sure he could still spend the days in the sun, some times carrying him or adding steps so he could get onto the lounge chair. I knew our days were numbered when a big crow landed on the deck, cawing excitedly at Bob. Bob barely moved and I knew this bird saw what I was trying to not see…Bob was going to be gone soon and there was no way in Hell I was going to let him become crow-food so that was the last time he went outside.

I just realized that we don’t go on the deck any more. Not the cats. Not us. I guess it doesn’t feel right without Bob.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. With Blitzen.

I’d never had an orange cat before Bob, but I admit I have a very soft spot for them now. If you know me even a little bit, you know I’ve rescued a lot of orange tabbies in his honor. It’s something I'll keep doing because in some way it’s like keeping Bob alive. They can never replace him, but I admit to looking at each one and wondering if maybe one of them will look back at me in the same way Bob did. If I can’t see him once a year, it won't stop me from looking for him every time I meet an orange cat.

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I'll remember you always.

There are some things even the best writer can’t do justice to by using words and one of them is in describing how amazing Bob was. I tried to give you an idea, at least, and maybe I’ll find the right words next year when I sit down to think about him on this sad anniversary.

I hope to see you again one day, my dear Bob.

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PRODUCT REVIEW and MYSTERY: The Case of the Neko Flies String

Your cats are bored. They get into fights. They bite your ankles or the just lay around with a glazed look in their eyes. They're little hunters with nothing to hunt (unless you let them outside, but please don't do that!). Can you imagine not having an outlet for your deepest desires? To be crass, that would really stink.

I try to have play time with my cats every night, but getting them to chase after a toy can be daunting because my cats are either 2 years old or 12 years old or older. What would I use that appeals to all of them?

Some cats are “air hunters” while others prefer to stalk prey at the ground level, so I'd need a toy that works well dragged on the floor, mimicking the movements of a bug, and something I could gently whip back and forth to get my air hunters to jump.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Stan is the consummate high-flyer when Neko Flies are around.

Usually I've solved this problem by having more than one toy in my arsenal. I still believe that you should offer options for your cats, from small balls to faux mice and catnip laden toys. That said, I can only hold so many toys in my hand at one time and I needed something that covered all the bases. At last I've found a series of interactive toys that gets cats off their big behinds and turns the lights back on in their eyes. I give you, Neko Flies!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Jellybean Mel inspects mysterious package.

Unlike many wand toys I've used in the past, Neko Flies feel well made. Their clear plastic rod has a comfortable rubber grip. At the opposite end of the grip is a clip with a charming braided green and black cord that's attached to a variety of “Lures” that resemble and move like real bugs or mice.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey grabs her Kattiepede.

Ellen, the creator of Neko Flies, underscored the importance of creating unique, carefully crafted (some elements are done by hand) toys that are as safe as possible for cats. She told me they constantly look for ways to improve their product, from finding ways to use less glue (they already only use a few drops), to finding thicker material for the wings of their Kragonfly cat toy as well as for better ways to anchor the loop into the toy so it doesn't pull free when cats tug on it. Ellen seems almost obsessed with designing toys that truly appeal to cats and are not just a collection of feathers glued to a string or that utilize materials that are so cheap they fall apart after one use.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. What IS this?!

It was tempting to write the world's shortest review by stating: I LOVE NEKO FLIES. Rather, my CATS love Neko Flies.

But then something happened…

One of the cats bit the green and black cord, severing one-third off it, along with the Kragonfly. I took the fly away so they wouldn't eat it, thinking I would just trim the end of the cord and reattach the Fly to it. In the meantime, since I was cooking dinner and trying to play with the cats at the same time, I would just have them chase after the string, without the toy attached because they seemed to like it just fine.

Ahhh…hindsight is 20-20 vision, as they say.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Love at first bite.

I'd gotten into the habit of hiding the Neko Flies where the cats couldn't get at it to keep them from destroying it. These toys are SO ENTICING you can't leave them laying around. It's just not safe. Really. If only I had READ THE BOX the Neko Flies came in because I would have seen the WARNING on it. I didn't read the WARNING on their web site, either, which I'm sharing with you here:

Some cats become so enamored and hooked on NEKO FLIES that they have been known to try and get the toy off a shelf by themselves! This is an interactive toy for a human to play with the kitty, so keep your Neko flies tucked safely tucked away in a drawer or closet until you are ready to play with your cat again!

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[Neko Flies Lure is attached to a card with this warning printing on it. See? They told me so!]

“Neko Flies are designed as a toy for you and your cat to play with together. The lures at the end are designed to move in a lifelike way which is a great part of their appeal, even to cats who usually are not interested in toys or playing. However, these toys are not intended to be left with a cat to chew or destroy (as she would actual live prey). Once your cat manages to catch a toy you should praise her and then get her to release it right back to you by offering her a really tasty treat - doing a "bait-and-switch" the way you would with a human toddler or a dog who have gotten something you don't want them to possess. Because the Neko Flies lure toys are so enticing to cats, there is a warning that they should never be left anywhere your cat can get to them without your participation. This is a wand toy, not a chew toy! Neko Flies satisfy your cat's primal instinct to hunt and chase - but it is up to you to then protect the lures from your cat's instinct to "kill!"”

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

I turned my back on my cats to check on dinner. I didn't even leave them alone for more than a minute. I looked back and the green and black cord was one-third the length it had been. Clearly, one of the cats had chewed it off and possibly EATEN IT. In decades of being a cat-mom, this was the first time I ever had to worry that a cat ingested such a large part of a toy.

I searched the living room. I knew the culprits were either my tiny foster cat, Mabel or my big bruiser, the DOOD. I had a bad feeling it was DOOD because he's, well, not the sharpest pencil in the box.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Stanley goes nuts for Neko.

I couldn't find a thing. In a panic, I called Neko Chan, home to Neko Flies. Ellen, herself, called me back right away. We talked about what materials were used in the cord (polyester).I called the ER Vet and told them about what material I believe one of the cats ingested and they suggested I bring both cats down, spend $1500.00 per cat on endoscopy-that was IF they could get an internist to come to work late on a Sunday night. They also told me to get a cat to vomit is some sort of “holy grail” treatment because the chemicals they might use to make them vomit usually kills them.They told me to watch for the cat to become listless, vomit, not eat and if that happened to RUSH them in for EMERGENCY SURGERY because the cord could twist up in the intestines and basically KILL the cat.

OR…it might pass on its own…out the “other” end.

Great.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Petey prepares to pounce.

The next few days were absolute Hell on my nerves. I ripped apart the living room the next day and checked everywhere I could, but no string was found. I hovered over the DOOD and Mabel, but they ate as usual and seemed unaffected. Then I started to worry that maybe it wasn't them, but another cat. I have 9 cats running around! This was going to end badly, I just knew it.

Ellen checked in with me, hopeful I had good news, but there was no sign of the missing string. I thought maybe I was getting Alzheimer's and this was the first sign? I was so paranoid that I carried the remaining section of cord in my purse, in case I had to take one of the cats to the ER so they would know what to look for yet still…nothing.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey and Joey enjoying their new toy..

Six WEEKS passed. I was getting breakfast ready for the kittens and I saw a GREEN ball with pale colored ball next to it on a paper towel on the counter. I asked Sam what it was and he said he found it when he was scooping the litter pan. I looked at it for a moment, then the alarms went off in my head. It was cat excrement with the STRING from the Neko Flies in it!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Woah. Green Poo (and no ham).

Being the offspring of two scientists, I HAD to get a magnifying glass out and inspect the green stool. We feed our cats a raw diet so their stool is VERY pale, hard and dry. I teased apart the green ball and saw fibers. I put the section of string I had in my purse next to the questionable object and the color matched. Whoever ate the string passed, at least some of it out. Thank God.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Six weeks later, the green string is found.

Although I'll never know if that was ALL of the string, hopefully it was enough so that it won't adversely effect the cat who ate it (most likely the DOOD). I don't know if the raw diet slowed the process down since the cats don't pass much stool or if it helped. All I care about is that my cats are fine and my pocket still has a few bucks in it.

After all this would I still tell you to go out and buy Neko Flies. Absolutely, YES I would! I want you to know about my foolishness so that you truly appreciate the warning from NekoChan. Their toys are so enticing we must be careful in how we use them and our reward for that mindfulness is that our cats will get the exercise they need and have their hunting desire sated. I'm still using the Kattipede today and hope to add more Lures to my collection soon.

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If you'd like your very own Neko Flies: Foxifur Kittenator with Rod, simply leave a comment in this post to enter. Tell me what's the weirdest thing your cat has eaten or just give me a good reason why you should win. Make it funny, entertaining, creative.

Best entry as Judged by me, Robin Olson of Covered in Cat Hair, will win ONE FOXIFUR KITTENATOR with ROD. You may only leave ONE comment for ONE CHANCE to win per person. This Giveaway ends FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2013 at 11:11 AM EST and is open to residents of the USA and CANADA (yay Canada!) only (sorry guys outside of those areas!). Rules, quantities and whatever else I forgot are subject to change without notice.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. DOOD.

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After careful consideration, from time to time I write product reviews. If you see it here, it's because, at LEAST I think it's worth you knowing about even if I have an issue with it and, at BEST, I think it's amazing and we should all have one, two or more of whatever it is I'm reviewing. I get NO reimbursement for writing these reviews, though to write a review I am supplied with the item, as I was in this case. This review is MY OPINION, ONLY. The result you experience using this product may differ (I can only hope there will not be any ER Vet visits!).

Christmas in August Thanks to 1800PetMeds

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh boy! What's in the boxes? What's in the boxes?!!!

It's one thing to order a little something special for yourself, then anxiously await its arrival. The doorbell rings and the delivery person leaves a box by your door. You have a moment of joy anticipating what's inside the box, even if you already know what it is.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. What is it?

So imagine for a moment what it's like when you open your front door and there's an enormous stack of boxes sitting there and you don't know where they came from. You start searching your mental database of what the heck you did. Did you have a late-night pity-purchase jag that's going to set you back even further into debt? You know you're credit card is in a lock box because you really can't be using it right now so where on Earth did these boxes come from?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Embarrassment of riches!

You brighten, realizing you behaved yourself, this one time. It's not some crazed shopping spree, it's a donation from 1-800-PetMeds®. Wait…THIS IS A DONATION?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. This Igloo Cat Bed is so nice I don't want to let the cats use it.

As I opened each box, they revealed eye-popping delights—a very fancy Refined Feline® Igloo Cat Bed, Omega 3 Capsules (much needed by my cat, Gracie, who suffers from skin issues), a SmartCat® Garden and Peek-a-Prize (the kittens will love this), 1800PetMeds treats, catnip, and as I opened the final package, the trumpets blared, Ta-Da!, a box containing a much desired Refined Feline Cat Clouds Cat Shelf™.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. It's not the Starship Enterprise! It's a Cat Clouds Cat Shelf!

It would be one thing if I could go out and buy all these things for myself, but I can't. Putting gas in my car is a big accomplishment, so these items mean even more to me and my cats. I'm not sure which cats will be enjoying some of these items, but with eight cats and nine fosters, I'm sure they'll all benefit in some way.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen likes the boxes, best, of course.

These days not getting bills in the mail is a good day, but finding a stack of huge boxes by your door from a well-meaning company is a humbling delight. Thank you Dana and friends at 1-800-PetMeds for really making my week, if not, month and thank you for offering up some lovely products I can use or donate to my rescue.

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BarkAid Has Gone to the Cats

A few months ago I got an email from a cat-loving friend of Covered in Cat Hair who lives in Rhode Island. She told me that she wanted to help out Kitten Associates, but didn't have a lot of resources to make a donations. Instead, she told me about a program called BarkAid and suggested I contact the Founder, Patrick Lomantini, and ask him if Kitten Associates could be part of his fundraising efforts.

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BARK. AID? Isn't that for dogs?

After visiting BarkAid's web site, I came to understand the following:

Patrick owns Lomantini the Salon in Wichita, Kansas. He loves animals even though he couldn't have one as a child AND he's somewhat allergic to cats. He wanted to make a difference helping animals in need, but didn't want to focus just on his local rescue. Sure, he could do a cut-a-thon, something he'd done in the past, but it would only help one rescue. It wasn't enough.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

Three years ago, Patrick had the crazy idea to get in his car and travel to one state per DAY, team up with a local salon, cut hair for 12 hours and charge just $20/haircut. At the end of the day he'd donate the money to a local rescue group. Yes, it's nuts, but Patrick is a physical specimen of manly hunkatude who can handle the challenge he set for himself. His 6-pack abs have abs and his biceps would make Popeye blush. Patrick has close-cropped hair and wears tight black t-shirts and jeans, with a big hunky watch. His blue eyes could charm anyone he meets. There's a bubbling energy about him that's contagious, which won him over with folks as he blazed a trail across the country.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

Patrick decided he had 50 days to accomplish his mission and somehow he pulled it off. What is more impressive is that he decided to do it again the next year and again this year, with a small team of volunteers at his side.

Patrick NEEDS a big, fat corporate sponsor for these events, but right now Patrick is paying for the trip out-of-pocket. He wants each rescue to get as much money as they can, so he donates 100% of his profits to them, only asking for tip money to go to the volunteers to pay for gas (last year was $6,000.00 alone) and food. He hopes that the rescue groups will be able to put his team up for the night, too, to help offset costs.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Zach, Patrick (Center) and Alexis.

As fate would have it, just a I was contacting Patrick to ask him if Kitten Associates might take part he happened to be looking for a rescue group to work with in Connecticut. Apparently he hadn't had the easiest time here and was hoping for a better match this time around. I told him we're a TINY rescue and that there are bigger ones in town that could do a lot more, but Patrick had faith in us and said that the smaller rescues always worked a lot harder to publicize the events and support his team.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

I figured I'd give it a try IF I could secure a salon for his team to set up shop. My first and only choice was Salon Michele, where I get my fancy-pants hairdos from time to time. I ran the idea past Maggie, who has been doing my hair for a few years now. She is a cat lover, so it wasn't tough for her to say YES. Of course we had to ask the owner, Michele and I realized it would be basically asking her to shut her salon down for the day and let me use it to raise money. Thankfully the date they chose for us was a Tuesday, so it was a slower day for business which might make it easier to give us the green light.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

I gathered all my info and presented it to her. She didn't take long to think about it and said YES! From that moment on was a whirlwind for me. I had to do a lot of planning, getting permits to put out directional signs, finding out how to get a 25-ft long banner hung over the main street in town, making list after list of what needed to be done, who needed to be told. I struggled with how to get the word out and my dear friend Mary Shafer of Word Forge Books helped me get the Press Release sorted out.

For two months I was obsessed, but my biggest challenge was HOW to explain this event and NOT have people think that it was either Haircuts for DOGS or a fundraiser for DOGS?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

I got everything sorted out and spent a lot of late nights working on this. I began to realize right away that we'd have to spend a good deal of money on advertising-YES, not just doing free ads online. Our town paper, The Newtown Bee, was the key way to get the word out to everyone in town. After all, we are the hometown cat rescue and we knew they'd help us. As luck would have it, an ad space opened up that was PRIME location and it hit the streets a few days before our event. I worried about spending $450.00 for this huge ad. It would be on the front page of The Bee Extra, The Bee's free paper, as well as inside their main paper.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Alexis with the Mascot-dog plush (a gift from Kitten Associates)

I had to take a risk. If we couldn't reach people, what was the point?

I was very glad my graphic design background came in handy. I put together designs not just for flyers, but for table top signs, HUGE window signs that would re-skin Salon Michele, directional signs and a twenty five foot long banner-the biggest piece I've ever designed.

It also dawned on me that this is something I was meant to do. When I was a kid, I put on plays for my parents, then when I was at school, I was in Student Government where I came up with events like "Bring your Camera to School Day." In High School and College I took it up a notch and planned big events. My pride and joy was a 1940's Prom with a big band for over 600 guests. Why couldn't I do a fundraiser for my own rescue group?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

Because I had to take care of RESCUES, too!

In the two weeks before our event, I helped rescue about twenty cats and kittens. All of them went to other rescues, but I did a lot of emailing, phone calls, driving around with a car full of kittens. It seemed that Minnie, too, got the message because she relapsed and got sick again and ended up having to have emergency spay surgery a few DAYS before the event!(she's recovered now and doing well)

I was having all sorts of stress dreams. The worst was the morning of the event, I dreamt I was waking up with most of my hair laying on the pillow and no way to hide that I was bald.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Beth, one of our awesome adopters with Patrick.

When the banner was hung and the ads were printed, I knew I'd spent about $1000. and that was about half of all the money we had. I started to fear we might lose money, but my friends kept reminding me that getting our name out is valuable, too (tell that to the Vet when he wants to be paid!).

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

Kathy, the super-star who works the front desk of Salon Michele contacted me and said we had 3 appointments for haircuts. My heart sank. We had one week to go and I worried not only would we lose money, but it would be embarrassing to everyone who gave up so much to support our group.

A few days later the banner was hung and more calls came in. We were up to 14 appointments, which was still far too few. We needed 50 to break even.

The Friday before the event, the big ad in the paper came out. Nothing happened for three days, then on Monday, the day before, we were up to 50 and rising. Between the banner, the ad and word of mouth, things were heating up. By Tuesday I knew we had over 60 with whispers that it might even go higher than that.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Busy Bees cutting hair and raising money for our kitties!

Tuesday morning, the BIG DAY, I drove over to Salon Michele to get set up. It really hit me that a lot of people had stopped what they were doing to help Kitten Associates and most of them I didn't even know. I fought off crying, but it was very emotional. When you work really hard and often have difficult situations to deal with, you don't have time to think about what you might get out of it. With cat rescue it's just focusing on helping the cats however you can. You know there are lots of people who love cats, but they wouldn't get their haircut because of that, would they?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. These cupcakes from the DOrazio Sisters Bakery tasted SO GOOD that I am craving one or ten right now!

So I got to work. Patrick and his team were already there even though the first appointment wasn't for 30 minutes. They'd arrived at 1am and were already back up and ready to go at 7:30am. These guys were amazing and they hadn't even started!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

While I set up, everyone got to know each other. Zach, one of the stylists graciously helped me put out the directional signs at the perimeter of the parking lot. We got chatting and he told me this was the first time he'd been east of Montana and that his home state was Idaho! I couldn't begin to imagine how amazing and exhilarating it was for him to see so much, in so little time. What a wild ride. I was tempted to offer to join them.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

Alexis, one of the other stylists, offered to do something with my hair. It was really kind of her to help me look less like a mop and more professional, plus it was just plain fun to get fussed over after all the weeks of preparations were finally over and I could (sort of) relax.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

Then, as they say, the rest is a bit of a blur. People were coming in, a few almost begging for appointments, we were filling up to the point of having to turn people away! From 50, to 60, to 70 haircuts. The day raced by. I answered a lot of questions about cats and around noon, Sam brought three of our kittens to remind everyone why we were there. They did great and had a lot of fun. Everyone wanted to take them home, but Irene, my faithful friend and volunteer, kept a watchful eye over them so none of the kitten “accidentally” left the salon.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. It's not a party unless you have tattoos!

I was really hungry. Our friends, the DOrazio Sisters from Brooklyn who opened a bakery here in Newtown, kindly and generously donated 4 dozen cupcakes. We had them set up on a lovely cupcake tower stand and it was tough not to eat them ALL. I managed to sneak one..okay two, but no more than three, when no one was looking. I still have a jones for another one!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

It was clear we were going to do okay. Somehow amidst the chaos, a lot of people were getting really nice haircuts. One lady donated her hair to Locks of Love, which really touched my heart. Another lady talked about being at the Sandy Hook Elementary on "that day" and I think it helped her with the healing process to have Patrick fuss over her and listen to her heartbreaking story.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

We had lots of kids come visit, too, who told me stories about their cats or other pets. Even though I've lived in Newtown for over 20 years, it honestly was the first time I felt like I was part of this community. Not having children, I never had need to go to any of the town events or schools. I've yearned to feel closer to the people in this town and surprisingly, that finally started to happen because of K.A. Kitten Associates is on the radar of more people in town. It was definitely a dream starting to come true.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

In total, Patrick and his team, as well as Maggie, Michele, Jackie, Mary, Kathy and others from Salon Michele helped get 84 haircuts done, which was the SECOND HIGHEST number of haircuts in BarkAid's 2 1/2 year history! I was really really REALLY thrilled! We were able to cover our expenses and the rest will go to caring for our kittens.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A donation for Locks of Love! What a wonderful woman!

By 8pm we all pitched in, packed up, cleaned up and were ready to call it a day. Patrick and team were professional, friendly, outgoing, charming, everything good. Thankfully Michele's salon wasn't trashed. It was respected by all and I think that we all parted with genuine smiles and goodwill for each other. Patrick said he was ready to do this again next year, as he hugged me goodbye. I just shook my head, wondering how he does this, because I wanted to go to bed and not get up for a few days I was so tired.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

Patrick is on Day 20 of his trip. He's doing great work for the rescues in this Country. If you'd like to help support Patrick's efforts-they REALLY need donations to, at least, cover travel expenses, please visit their web site and donate HERE

In lieu of a proper photo album, enjoy some images from our big day!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Michele, owner of Salon Michele giving a great haircut and big smile to a customer.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Patrick hones his craft.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Alexis and Ruby (who was SO adorable!)

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Ruby steals the show.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The team with Minnie's kittens: Gracey, Mellie and Joey.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

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

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. How to know it's time for the kittens to go home.

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