Images on this website have been digitally watermarked with ownership and usage information. Digimarc and the Digimarc logo are registered trademarks of Digimarc Corporation. The "Digimarc-Enabled" Web Button is a trademark of Digimarc Corporation, used with permission.
Contact the Author
Comments? Questions? Fan Mail? Having Trouble Registering for a Free Account or Posting? Contact Robin Here
I didn’t want to take Freya to the Vet. I was sick with worry about it. If Freya was a “normal” cat I wouldn’t be so concerned, but we already know that Freya has lots of deformities so it wouldn’t be surprising that her ovaries or uterus had some issues. I knew she’d be in very good hands because Dr. Chris, our Board Certified surgeon, was going to do the procedure. He’d also be the final word on whether or not Freya still needed to have her right inner ear CT scanned and if she'd also needed surgery on her ear canal to drain any remaining infection.
I love Dr. Chris, not like I want to run away and bear his children love, but I really cherish working with him. He’s always smiling even though the poor guy has often had to soothe my fears about Freya. He’s extremely smart and talented and I trust his opinion (okay and he’s really cute, too, but that has nothing to do with it. I’m just dutifully relating information as any good writer would).
So this morning I sat in the now so very familiar waiting room at NVS with Freya at my side, who was snuggled inside her Robin’s egg blue cat carrier. Dr. Chris came out from the back of the building to escort us into an exam room. Just seeing his radiant smile made me feel more relaxed. I hadn’t seen him for a few months and it was good to see him again. After we said a quick hello, I found myself focusing on the mental laundry list of things he needed to know about Freya. As I spoke I noticed he was looking at Freya as she ran around the room. He was smiling, then remarked how great she looked. After all she’d been through I didn’t see her transformation as clearly as Dr. Chris did.
Dr. Chris examined Freya as we spoke about what should be done today. We went over the costs which would range from $1800.00 to $5100.00, the low price being only the spay. Of course many of you who do rescue know we can get spays done for under $100 at a clinic, but Freya couldn’t go to a clinic since we didn’t know what was yet to be discovered inside her.
It was a tough nut to swallow, but I knew we had to do what was right for our kitten. Dr. Chris said that he didn’t feel Freya should have the CT scan yet. Clinically she was doing very well. She was playing, eating, passing stool. She no longer had a head-tilt, though she does have some deafness, which could be something she’s had since birth. Instead of spending that money on the CT now, he thought it was wise to wait and give her more time. If she relapses then we’d have to do the scan, but for now the less we do to her, the better.
All that was left to decide was when to do her spay surgery. Again, I was surprised by the answer. Dr. Chris felt that Dr. Mary or Dr. Larry could do the spay and that as a rescue it would be better for us to bank the savings so we could rescue more cats than spend it on having him do the procedure. I asked if he felt it was safe to have our G.P. Vet do the surgery and he thought they could easily handle it. He also said I could bring her back and he would still perform the procedure if our other vets didn’t feel comfortable taking her on.
He added that it was very unlikely Freya would ever need the “twist” surgery that Dr. Pavletic pioneered to aid her rectum function. The plan was for it to be her final surgery when she reached her first birthday. Since she never ended up developing megacolon, which would have been corrected during her spay, there’s no need to do that either. So instead of needing three surgeries for her colon/rectum, she was done after just the one we did last year. Wow!
I agreed to call Dr. Larry and to determine whether or not we could have Freya’s spay performed today since she was already fasted and ready to go. Then, what I never expected happened. In my writer’s mind I'd describe a romantic scene about being alone in the exam room with Dr. Chris; about how our eyes locked in an intense gaze across the room, the passion building between us, undeniable, magnetically drawing us ever closer, but also knowing his peers and my friends might read this; I’ll have to keep a more detailed fantasy to myself. In truth, what really happened was very straightforward, COMPLETELY professional and G-rated.
Dr. Chris is leaving NVS. I will never see his smiling face again.
It was a bitter pill to swallow after such a long journey. After discussing the results of a million x-rays of Freya’s colon, after a hundred tears worrying about my kitten, after all this; it was over. Dr. Chris said his residency is wrapping up in Newtown and he’s accepted a position in Miami and will be leaving in July (in that heat?!).
Resigned to this disappointing news, I gave Dr. Chris a hug goodbye and told him I was sorry to see him go(along with my silly schoolgirl crush). He walked us over to the reception desk, smiling politely as he said goodbye, then turned, greeting the next couple waiting to meet with him.
Two hours later.
Freya and I were in the exam room at Dr. Larry’s office. As he entered the room I could feel the energy shift. I knew that Dr. Larry’s in-law had passed away a few days ago and that he was truly hurting. He looked visibly thinner and tired. Before we could talk about Freya I reached out and gave him a big hug and told him how sorry I was for his loss. Dr. Larry’s my brother from another mother and I hate to see him suffering. I felt badly for even asking him to spay Freya. He should be home with his family.
I gave Dr. Larry the rundown and explained to him why I felt it was okay to at least try to spay Freya. We had a few rounds of blood work done in the past that were very clean. She’d had a 2-hour long surgery and did well. She was eating and playing normally. She went into “heat” so that meant something was working inside her. We just didn’t know how well it worked or if there were other surprises.
Dr. Larry listed his concerns, which all made sense. He told me she could have part of her reproductive organs fused to other organs or her digestive tract or a whole host of other issues that could kill her.
In the end I agreed that he should consider this an exploratory surgery and if she was well enough to be spayed, to do so and if not I’d take her to Dr. Chris for a surgery at a later date.
He told me that he’d call me right away if there was a problem and that if she did all right he’d wait until he was done to let me know how things went. Basically if there was no news any time soon, that was good.
Three hours later.
Dr. Mary, Dr. Larry’s partner, called me. She sounded as cheerful and bubbly as ever. She said; “Well, Miss Freya is all set. We did the spay and she’s recovering now.”
“Yes, she did fine. Everything was normal. She may act a bit odd for a few days since she her hormones were still elevated, but other than that she’s doing well. You can pick her up later this afternoon.”
After I hung up the phone it hit me. It’s OVER. Freya doesn’t need any more surgeries and hopefully will never need a CT scan. She’s spayed. She’s had her shots. She’s been de-wormed. She’s passed all the milestones our other foster cats have passed. It just took a lot longer and we never were sure we'd make it this far.
No more worrying about if she’s going to survive her surgeries. She did. No more worrying about her being able to pass stool. She does.
No more wondering if she’ll ever hold her head straight or have both eyes open. It’s all good.
“In my mind’s eye I can see Freya, sleeping on a soft bed that is bathed in sunlight. She’s comfortable and plump. She looks like she’s smiling as she sleeps away the afternoon. She is healthy and well and these dark days are over for her. She didn’t have to die, she got to live. That is my dream for Freya...”
And for once, my dream came true due in part to so MANY generous donors who offered not only financial support but sent cards and gifts to Freya, who put tires on my old car, who sent us emails and called and told us they cared so very much about our little foster kitten. To our amazing Vets: Dr. Chris, Dr. Larry, Dr. Mary, Dr. Pav, Dr. Deb and Dr. Cory--yes, it took all your expertise to bring us to this fine day and I appreciate it so much. To Chelsea and Randy, who gave up their kitten because it was the right thing to do for her, even though it meant giving her up (and it was Chelsea's birthday that day, too), thank you for your bravery and trust in letting a rescue take over when you weren't able to.
I guess there's only one thing left to do. It’s time to put Freya up for adoption.
How did five months come and go so quickly? To say it’s been a blur is an understatement. In our last chapter about Freya, it was December 2014 and she’d just had successful surgery to create a rectum so she could finally pass stool. She was barely four months old and was at very high risk of dying if the surgery didn’t work or from complications after the procedure.
Freya beat the odds. The first day I met her last September she weighed a pound and was far too tiny to operate on. They gave her a 10% chance to survive unless I could keep her going until she was bigger. I struggled with her-getting her nutrition, but without bulking her up more with stool. By mid-December, she was near to bursting so I had to rush her to Boston, to MSPCA-Angell Memorial, for the very delicate and rare procedure. (For more on Freya’s backstory, see the end of this post for a list of links).
By the New Year it seemed as though everything was going in Freya’s favor, finally. She began passing stool, sadly WHERE she passed it was another hurdle. I celebrated the fact that she was no longer constipated by creating the “The Poop Fairy;” a cheerful elf with a magic wand helping stool to pass (covered in fairy dust, of course) out of kitties who had elimination problems.
Freya's incontinence meant keeping her on a raw diet or very high protein cooked diet because I don’t want to add bulk to her output by giving her carbohydrate laden foods. At least when her stool comes out it’s not (too) smelly and it’s fairly dry. I call my daily routine with her: “Going on a brown Easter egg hunt.” It’s almost amusing where I find her little “eggs,” though on a “bad” day I have woken up to finding smears of stool all over the protective cover on the bed.
But my joy was short-lived. In mid-January Freya was due for her second distemper combination vaccination (FVRCP) booster. I honestly hate giving this vaccination since I’ve had quite a few kittens have a VERY bad reaction resulting in soaring high fevers, lethargy and inappetence. Freya’s first vaccination made her sick, so there was every reason to think the second would effect her badly as well. The problem was, I had no idea just how bad it was about to become.
Disclaimer: this is MY experience with what happened to Freya, but it should in no way prevent you from vaccinating your cat. The FVRCP vaccination prevents Feline Panleukopenia (which can be FATAL), Calicivirus and Feline Rhinotracheitis virus. These are things you NEVER want you cat to have. Always speak with your vet about any concerns you have regarding vaccinations, but…
…barely four days after Freya’s vaccination I came home from a rare trip to the movies with Sam. I looked at Freya and freaked out. The third eyelid on her right eye was covering half of her eye. I had no idea what to think other than it was an injury so I took her over to our 24hr Emergency Vet (NVS) since it was a Sunday (of course) and our regular vet was closed.
We were very lucky that their ophthalmologist was available. She was able to tell us that Freya's eye was fine, but she had Horner’s Syndrome, which is a neurological disorder whose root cause could be one of many different origins. There was inflammation of the optic nerve that forced her third eyelid to rise from its otherwise normal position. There was no cure other than to wait and hope that it would resolve on its own. For now Freya was basically blind in one eye. Add that to her ever-growing list of deformities and this cat had one heck of a tough burden to bear.
Though it’s a bit of a misty memory now, we’d followed up by doing some blood tests on Freya. It showed she was positive for Bartonella, the bane of my existence. She probably got it from being born outdoors and being exposed to fleas. We began treating her for that when I started to notice she seemed to be holding her head at a weird angle.
Freya’s head was tilted over on the same side as her wonky eye. Back to the Vet again and that resulted in finding out she had a very serious ear infection (from what??!!). Did that cause the eye problem/nerve inflammation? Did she have a physical deformity with her inner ear that caused her to retain fluid, which then got infected, causing the head tilt? Had the ear infection begun first, causing the Horner's syndrome, but we only discovered the ear infection when it was serious enough to cause the head-tilt?
Was it from the vaccination? The Bartonella? A physical deformity?
All I knew was that after being on antibiotics for 3 weeks for bartonella, we had to put Freya on another, stronger antibiotic to treat the ear infection. This one could BLIND her in a higher dose and I was scared shitless about putting her on it for six WEEKS. I kept pushing back about how long she had to be on the medications. I wondered what this stuff would do to her digestion since antibiotics are notorious for causing diarrhea. We had to put her on Baytril because it can penetrate bone and that’s likely where the infection was; inside the tiny bones of her inner ear.
I have no idea how many vet visits we did because now I had waxing and waning numbers of ALL our foster and “owned” cats getting sick, too. (see THIS post for that story).
So I focused on giving Freya Baytril, hoping to see her lovely blue eye again, hoping she could run without her head hanging to the side. It’s ironic that I was okay with her being incontinent, but thinking I’d never see her sparkling blue, silly crossed-eyes again broke my heart.
It took the full six weeks before Freya began to act more like herself. One day I realized I could see her eye again and the next her head seemed straighter. Dr. Mary continued to check her ear and report she was seeing less and less debris and infection. We discussed doing a CT scan and possible surgery on Freya to drain the area so we did a fundraiser to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Between the Horner’s syndrome, head-tilt, Bartonella, then being hit by at least two URIs and a stomach virus it was only as recently as FRIDAY of last week when Dr. Mary felt like Freya was almost out of the woods. That was four MONTHS after something set off a firestorm of health woes.
Freya sneezes and coughs once in awhile so she could still have a polyp in her right ear (based on the sneezing that doesn't seem to be a URI), but her inner ear looks normal now. The coughing could be a heart defect or parasites that I didn’t de-worm her for yet (she’s been de-wormed many times but needs a different de-wormer for the next round). Freya’s still tiny, weighing in at just over 5.5 lbs at almost nine months of age. In comparison, her brother, Pascal is almost 9 lbs. She’s still not 100%, but getting there.
Then when it seemed Freya couldn’t get anything else, she went into “heat.”Yes, Freya was “lookin’ for luv” and it was clear, due to all the yeowling, screaming, rubbing on every one and every thing she could get near that our little girl was becoming an adult. I haven’t been around an intact kitten…ever. I’d had to repeatedly put off Freya’s spay due to her chronic illnesses and I felt terrible she was suffering yet again. Clearly time was up. It HAD to be done.
Today was the day.
Part 17 airs next where we find discover that things are about to change whether we're ready for them to or not.
Here's a lineup of all our stories about Freya in chronological order from the beginning:
That was the day I met Freya and you know what happened after that. Freya required round-the-clock care, specialized surgery and lots and lots of vet visits. Freya is still here 8 months later and is now part of the Kitten Associates family. Sadly, once again, Mia would have to wait to be socialized and I felt terrible about that.
Mia’s offspring began to find their forever homes and so did a few of Celeste’s. Whichever cats were still waiting were moved over to the big foster room. Mia was nonplussed with newcomers. In fact I began to wonder if she had a vision problem because she didn’t react to anything. Her eyes were often dilated when I thought they shouldn’t be. She didn’t seem to look at toys if they weren’t making sounds, as if she was blind. I did a few tests but I’m not sure if she saw me or only has shadow vision. She’s too fractious to take to the vet and our vet said unless it’s pretty obvious (like cataracts) it’s tough to tell the degree of vision loss a cat has.
We began transporting Laney’s family north from Georgia earlier this year. The oldest four came up first and were quickly adopted because they were outstanding cats. One of them, Jules, was adopted along with Wallace, the once tiny kitten we’d taken from the Danbury Fire Department after they’d pulled him out of a concrete wall. Fernando and Astro were adopted together and so were Jasper and Jasmine.
That left Mia and Woody, the kitten no one seemed to want. Because Laney and gang were set to arrive I knew I’d have to move Mia and son into the blue bathroom so Laney’s group could have the bigger space. It meant no sunshine for Mia and Woody since the room faces north. It’s one of the reasons I wish I had more foster homes because this really isn’t an ideal room for a cat.
With Woody vying for my attention, I could only do a little bit with Mia. I’d tempt her with treats and lightly brush her paw with my finger. I was careful to be at ease with her and not tense. I wanted her to be used to me being around but she always hid in a corner if she heard me coming. She never climbed on the cat tree, which added to my suspicion about her vision. It might also make socializing her much harder if she couldn’t see me very well, if at all.
Laney and the gang have been here for about 2 months and I hopefully have a lead on ONE home for two of the kitties, but that’s it. Poor Woody, Mia’s remaining son, who has been with us over a YEAR, has never had even one application. I don’t know why we can’t find him a home because he’s amazing, but sadly he’s also keeping me from working with his mom.
During these past few months one of our adopters, who has become a good friend, came to visit the kitties. Her name is Kendra and she teaches art to children. She’s a wonderful artist in her own right and has volunteered to create torn paper portraits for many of our donors (she even did a big one for us of our dearly departed kitten, Fred that you can see on her ETSY page). Kendra is adorable and when she’s with our cats she her voice takes on a magical quality. It sounds a bit like a cross between a little girl and an elf. The cats love it. Even my shy boy Cricket will sit in her lap while she tells him how handsome he is.
I spoke with Kendra about my frustrations with Mia while we were in the blue bathroom with her. Without hesitation, Kendra reached out and started petting Mia while we were talking! WHAT????!!!!
Yeah. She was petting Mia. Mia who had been in our program for over a year and in one second Kendra is petting her.
Did Mia like it? Meh; not so much.
Did Mia bite her or swat at her or growl? No.
It was shortly after that when Kendra contacted me and offered to foster Mia, hopefully unlocking the key to help socialize her. I had my hands more than full and she wanted to help. Kendra’s boyfriend, Brian, had been around feral cats all his life. She referred to him as the “feral cat whisperer.” Once we worked out the details we set a date to begin.
Saturday, Kendra came over to pick up Mia, but first I had to get Mia into a cat carrier.
I was lucky that Mia was in the bathroom because removing hiding places is the key to getting a cat into a carrier when you can’t pick them up. The first thing I did was move Woody out of the room, then move the cat tree, litter pan and anything else giving me full access to Mia. I also knew that because fearful cats feel safer in a small dark space that if I controlled where the small dark space was, then she’d go to it sooner or later.
I knew, too, that Mia had already had this happen to her before so even with a plan of action it might prove difficult.
As I moved things out of the way, Mia dashed across the floor and hid behind the toilet, which was the only thing I couldn’t move. I put the open cat carrier to her right. It was covered with a big towel so it was nice and dark inside. Mia wouldn’t budge.
I had to get the broom. I didn’t want to do it, but I couldn’t risk being bitten. I tried to keep Mia calm, but she shot between a small space between the toilet and the cat carrier and jumped into the bathtub. She was very scared but didn’t growl or try to attack me. I kept at it, coming towards her, slowly herding her back to the cat carrier.
She was so afraid her bladder let go. I felt so badly when I saw the pale yellow fluid run out from under her tail. I wanted to rinse her off, but it was make or break and she needed to get into the carrier. I used the broom to carefully push her towards the open cat carrier. She wouldn’t move at first, but then suddenly made a run for it, this time into the cat carrier. I closed the door behind her and made sure it was closed properly.
I told her I was very sorry and I truly was. I opened the door to the bathroom and Woody entered. He was distressed, too. He knew his mom was leaving him, but this was her only chance to blossom and to finally enjoy the loving touch of a human. With Woody left in the room it was time for him to leave, too. I’d begin to transition him to meeting my cats since he was so easy-going and it was far less crowded than adding him to the room with Laney and family.
Kendra had a room ready for Mia, with no places to hide. I waited for her to get home and update me on how things were going. Within a few minutes of her arriving, she sent me this video.
Later that night I got more images and videos. Brian was working on becoming Mia’s BFF. He “forgot” she was feral and picked her up. She just hissed, confused by the sudden contact. Brian and Kendra are both able to pet Mia, not just on her face, but on her back and even on her paws. Even Kendra's 8-year old son could pet her! Mia is stressed, but has moments where she closes her eyes and relaxes. It seems that it’s just a matter of time before we see even bigger changes. Maybe by tomorrow she’ll be ready to go?
All joking aside, we can’t give up on Mia. Maybe I wasn’t the person who could help her overcome her fear, but I was the person who was ready to take action when an opportunity came up that would give her the chance of a lifetime. Now I have hope that maybe one day Mia will be ready to find her forever family. For now she's got a great team, working hard to help her overcome her fears.
Last June I asked all of you to weigh in on a question that was plaguing me; whether or not to transport our foster mom-cat, Mia from Georgia to my home in Connecticut along with her kittens or just transport the kittens. It wasn’t an easy question to answer because I knew that Mia was not friendly enough to be adopted as she was and I wasn’t sure IF she’d ever be friendly towards humans. It would cause a serious rescue-roadblock if she couldn’t be socialized. I couldn’t take on more rescues because she’d be taking up precious foster space, but I also owed it to her to find her a safe harbor and not just kick her to the curb.
Mia’s first foster mom, Moe, was able to pet her, but they were in tight quarters and Mia had nowhere to hide. Her kittens were newborn so they didn’t get in the way of any of Moe’s attempts to socialize her. Moving Mia north, also meant she’d be in a bigger room and I’d have a tough time working with her, especially with her much bigger kittens sharing the room. Ideally I’d want to sequester her so it would be just one on one, forcing Mia to either become desensitized to humans or I’d eventually realize I couldn’t “turn her around.” The problem was; I didn’t have the space to separate her from the others.
I’d have to wait months for space to open up. The kittens would eventually be adopted but I’d end up with an adult feral cat remaining that I couldn’t allow to be with any new foster families. It was too dangerous. This HAD to work or I’d be forced to consider sending Mia back to Georgia where our good friend Warren would add her to his small feral colony.
Warren originally trapped and rescued Mia when she was still pregnant, getting her away from a terribly dangerous situation. He told me I could count on him to take her back if things didn’t work out. It would be my very last option and I prayed I'd never have to go that route. It wouldn’t be fair to have Mia indoors for months, then chuck her back outside, especially to a place she’s not familiar with. Odds are, she’d run off and get killed or slowly starve to death. This situation weighed very heavily on me. I just couldn't give up on her.
Moe needed a much deserved break and after careful consideration I decided that Mia should head north with her family.
In late June, Mia and family arrived. From the moment she hissed, racing out of the carrier, I knew I was in trouble. I’d only ever worked with feral kittens, who typically socialize fairly quickly depending on their age. My own cat, Cricket was a horror when I began fostering him and he was 6 months old when I started working with him (in many books too old to try to socialize). He would have rather ripped my face off then let me pet him, but these days he’ll seek out attention, even sitting on my lap. It took years for Cricket to blossom. He’s brave now and even solicits attention from new people who visit our home. It required Sam and I had to work with him every day, but it paid off.
The problem was, I didn’t have the bandwidth to work with Mia.
Mia was never aggressive with me. She just hissed. She had no interest in toys or catnip, just food. She’d come to me, on occasion, if I held out a treat to her, but the kittens would usually snatch the morsel of chicken before I could shoo them away. I couldn’t pet Mia at all. It was just too chaotic in the room to try because she’d always back away and hiss.
I knew as soon as Celeste’s kittens were out of the blue bathroom I’d move Mia over and get to work. Then after Mia and family were adopted I would FINALLY take a break, too. It was the closest I’d gotten to thinking I could take some time off and frankly if I didn’t get it I was a bit worried about what would happen to my mental health.
After a month off from fostering, Moe contacted me about her neighbor’s cat. She’d never been spayed and she was 3 years old and was pregnant again. There were kittens of various ages running around this family’s yard. Moe found one dead. The family flippantly told her “some just go off and never come back.” Most of the kittens were sick. There was a bowl of cheap cat food out on the porch. It was filthy and covered with flies. One of the mom-cat’s daughters was pregnant, too. Moe asked told the people if she could get help would the family would allow us to start spaying and neutering the cats or maybe let us take them into our program?
I hadn’t had a break from fostering in 5 years and I didn’t want to take them on, especially because the head count, with soon-to-be-born kittens could be over a dozen cats (in the end it was closer to 16). I didn’t believe I could easily place two adult cats who were part of the group and I didn’t know how we’d afford it or how much longer it would mean for me to be fostering. I told Moe; “First things first. Get a head count and let’s get those mamas. We’ll start spaying and neutering the ones that are old enough.”
While I couldn’t promise I’d bring all the cats here, I told her that we’d sort it out later. I knew we could raise the funds for their vet care but it would be costly to provide for them for the coming months. Clearly these animals were at high risk of dying and even though Moe and I were tapped out, we had to do something.
That was last August.
It’s been a blur since we took on Laney, Winnie and their 7 kittens, plus 6 other kittens that were from Laney’s previous litters. They were all in lousy shape and it was a lot of work on Moe’s part to care for so many cats and to get them back to health.
Meanwhile I was experiencing one after another calamity with my foster kittens. Twinkle-Twinkle broke her leg, Fernando ripped his eyelid in three places, Greta ate a string and had to have a barium study done all within a month.
Slowly, I started doing some adoptions. I knew I had to get the numbers down because Laney and crew would need the space in a few months. We got a great foster home with Jame and her family so they took on a few of the kittens to give me some relief.
I finally managed to free up space in the blue bathroom so I thought it would be time to move Mia there. It was early September and for the first time since I could remember, the bathroom could be used as a bathroom and I was a bit reluctant to change that.
I don’t know about a lot of things. You see I was just born a few weeks ago. My mom told me we were living in a, well, not-so-nice place before we came here. She said there were a lot of other cats and a lot of other things all over where we used to live. There was so much human stuff she couldn’t move around too well, but I guess that was okay.
With so many cats in this place, my mom was scared to leave her hidey-spot. I know she was scared because she was going to have me and my brothers soon and she didn’t want to give birth in this place like the other cats did. She said that it seemed as though there were more and more cats being born, some of them went to Heaven right away and we should feel lucky that we didn’t go there yet.
She said that she counted how many cats there were and she counted one cat for every one of her toes, then she ran out of toes! So she said there were must be more than 18. I guess her sister had a kitten that went right to Heaven and then another sister got really really sick from being full of babies and she almost went to Heaven, too.
I don’t know why there are places like this—full of cats and full of dirty cat droppings and dirty human piles of things, because it doesn’t seem like the place where a little kitten like me would want to grow up.
My mother told me that before I was old enough to tell my own stories, some human-ladies came to our place. They carefully lifted us up and put us into a nice clean box with a handle on the top. Inside it there was a soft bed. It was nice and clean, too. They told us not to worry and that they would take care of us. I think one of the ladies had wet sparkles covering her eyes that she had to wipe away with a soft cloth. She seemed sad when she looked at us, but I think that’s because I look kinda funny.
The ladies are feeding me extra milk and they are getting me some medicine. I hope it will help me feel better really soon. I know they are worried about me going to Heaven and I’m a bit worried, too. I don’t know much about anything, like I said before, but I do know these ladies are really good people. They helped us when no one else could help, and they will take care of us so we can get big like my mom someday.
The problem is there are so many other kitty-cats who came from the not-so-nice-place and they need something called a Rescue Group to help them go to a nice place to live. The kitties don’t need much, just somewhere clean and with good food, whatever food is. I only drink milk right now, but I hope you know what I mean.
The ladies told me that to keep helping all of us they need donations so they can make sure we’ll get more good food, some of the kitties get special treatments called spay and some get neuter, and they all get vaccinations…and the donation-thing is something they really need help with.
Well, I have to rest again. I get tired easily since I’m only 3 weeks old. I hope you can help me and my family and all our other kitty friends somehow. I’d like to have a chance to grow up and see the world, but I just don’t know if that will happen.
I’ll write again if I can.
Thank you for reading my story.
This is a true story that began two weeks ago with a phone call from a person asking me for help to get a C-section for his cat. When I explained how dangerous that procedure was to the mom and babies and asked about the mother cat’s condition, he began to reveal what was really going on: He had more than 18 cats and none were spayed or neutered. Far more than I could take on myself, I reached out for help and my fellow rescuers answered the call.
PAWS in Norwalk sent a representative over to the home to begin the process of sorting out what needed to be done. This liaison was terrific, keeping us abreast of what was going on, but the true heroes are the staff at Nutmeg Spay/Neuter Clinic, who offered to not only vet each and every cat, but they would travel an hour to get ALL the cats and have ALL the cats recover from their procedures on site, then stay on in their facility until legitimate rescue organizations could step in to help.
PAWS and our rescue, Kitten Associates granted funds to provide 8 of the cats spay/neuter surgery and vaccines, and the former owner of the cats provided funds to get 7 more cared for.
Considering this is a situation that Nutmeg normally can't get involved with and is so far from their facility, the staff deserves a huge round of applause AND especially, our support. They're still in need of $2,200.00 to provide complete care to all the cats...
...(a couple needed emergency spay surgery and had additional health challenges, plus all the cats were tested for FIV and Feline Leukemia, dewormed, de-fleaed and some needed special grooming).Nutmeg is in dire need of assistance from the local rescue community to help them place each and every one of these cats into a loving home.
Every cat is spayed/neutered, has their rabies and distemper vaccinations and NEGATIVE for feline leukemia and FIV. Many of the cats are very friendly and all are under the age of 3, with most being older kittens.
Please visit NUTMEG CLINIC to share your love for kittens like Zoe. Simply use their PayPal donation widget (DONATE BUTTON on left side of page) or mail a check to: Nutmeg Spay/Neuter Clinic, 25 Charles Street, Stratford, CT 06615 and note on the check “For Zoe & the Kitties.” Any unused portion of donations will go directly to the other cats in Nutmeg’s care. Nutmeg Clinic is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization so your donation is tax deductible as the law allows.
Connecticut and surrounding area rescue organizations, please consider taking just one or two of these deserving cats into your adoption program so the folks at Nutmeg can get back to doing what they do best—keeping the animal population under control with safe, effective sterilization and vaccinations. In the almost three years since they have opened their doors, they’ve already spayed or neutered almost 10,000 cats and dogs.
Imagine what your life would be like if your cat not only had his own phone, but was able to send you text messages from it. What do you think he might say? Would you enjoy the conversation or realize you've created a monster?
This was the impetus for cat-writer & humorist Angie Bailey's sophomore book, “Texts from Mittens.”
TFM is a full-color, beautifully bound hardcover with page after page of screen shots of text message conversations between Mittens, a slightly neurotic, cat-liver-treat-obsessed, dog-hating, cat and his human-Mom, named, well, Mom.
There's an additional cast of characters ranging from under-sexed and over-boozed-up neighbor, Drunk Patty; to Phil, the annoying-dog, to Stumpy, Mitty's BFF (Best Feline Friend) and lastly, Grandma who always serves up the best goodies while Mom is away.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I began reading TFM, but it was quickly apparent that I was in for a treat. Texts From Mittens is engaging, with a light-hearted tone that made me laugh out loud. Mittens has a big personality and his relationship with Mom feels all too familiar-that is IF I could talk to my own cats.
TFM is a quick read, but I discovered I was wishing for more as I came to the last page. Bailey takes us on a journey that is thoroughly enjoying and entertaining and I would heartily recommend this book to readers of any age.
I had a chance to sit down with Angie Bailey and Mittens to ask them about their book. Here's what they had to say:
CICH: What inspired you to write your first Texts From Mittens post?
AB: I've always loved thinking about cats doing human things. In my first book, whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, cats used a craigslist-type site to find dates, sell their stuff and join clubs. My imagination is more than a little vivid, and the idea of kitties sitting at a laptop, wheeling and dealing completely cracked me up. That led into Texts from Mittens. I tested it on Catster.com, and it became a bi-weekly column.
CICH: If someone developed an app so cats could text their guardians would you buy it for your cats?
AB: Yes, but it'd be silenced a lot of the time. I feel like Cosmo would be relentless with the texts.
CICH: How many cats do you currently share your life with? What are their names and tell us a little bit about each one.
AB: I share my life with three cats.
Saffy is nearly 14 years old and is a totally laid-back Daddy lover. She gives him the ol' goo-goo eyes -- it's adorable. Also, she has about three good teeth and floofy gray fur.
Cosmo is my 13-year-old tuxie man. He follows me everywhere and would love nothing more than my carrying him around in a Snugli baby carrier.
Phoebe is nearly 10 years old and is the queen of the castle. She's barely seven pounds, but has more attitude and sass than the other two cats put together.
CICH: Mittens has been a wildly successful character. What’s next for Mitty?
AB: Right now he's focusing on the book launch and making sure I give him enough publicity -- he's so demanding. He's still posting texts every day and hanging out with his girlfriend Fiona and best friend Stumpy. He's like me to produce little stuffed Mittens toys. We probably will, but not right now. He also has a lot of Judge Judy to catch up with on the DVR.
CICH: Are Mom and Drunk Patty ever going on a double date?
AB: Maybe. Drunk Patty dates Rusty, a competitive eater, and Mom just can't seem to find the right guy. Mittens hijacks her dating site and tries to help, but he only pushes prospective dates further away. One day she'll find the perfect guy, and hopefully Mittens will approve.
CICH: How’s Phil doing?
AB: Phil is doing great! He's 13 years old and is enjoying a life of retirement. Mittens wishes he'd retire to Florida.
CICH: Who’s one of your favorite Cat Bloggers? :-D
AB: Um ... there's this weird one named Robin. I think her blog's called Covered in Bat Hair or something. I hear she's kind of a nut, but I'd probably like her.
And our Exclusive Interview with Mittens
CICH: What’s your take on being an indoor-only cat? Do you feel your principals are being violated?
MITTY: Have you seen the evil squirrels and chipmunks that lurk outdoors? My only violation is getting breathed on by Drunk Patty.
CICH: You seem to have a lot of emergencies. Have you considered getting one of those pendants that allow you to get help with the push of a button?
MITTY: Is there such a thing?? Are you offering to send me one? #yesplease
CICH: Do you hope your Mom finds you a new Dad some day?
MITTY: Only if it doesn't take away from Mittens time. I would look past some of his imperfections if he were heir to a liver treat company.
CICH: Where’s the most exotic place you’ve ever barfed?
MITTY: On Mom's World Market receipt. Then she wasn't able to return that Moroccan pillow sham. Too bad because it was ugly.
CICH: How do you feel about Judge Judy’s contract being renewed until 2020?
MITTY: It's just wrong. It should have been extended until 2021. She was ripped off.
Texts From Mittens hits bookstores starting March 31, 2015 (but you can order it NOW) for $10.14 (hardcover) and $6.64 (Kindle) via this LINK on Amazon.com
If you can't get enough Mitty, you can follow his exploits below.
If you'd like to win your very own copy of Texts From Mittens simply leave a comment below(ONLY ONE COMMENT PER PERSON). Your comment should be a message you think your cat would text you. Funniest entry (as chosen by me) wins! There will be only ONE book given away so make it your most clever and crazy message ever. Winner must be a resident of the United States of America due to insane costs of shipping oversees. DEADLINE: APRIL 3, 2015 (my birthday) 2:22 PM EST.
I’m not even sure when it started. In some ways it seems as though it’s been going on forever, a never-ending cycle of bad to worse. I don’t even know what triggered it in the first place. Was it a visit to the Vet? Was it stress-related?
All I know is that close to every one of my cats and my foster cats are sick with a viral upper respiratory tract infection and there isn’t much I can do about it.
It began over a month ago, before Laney, Winnie and their 7 kittens arrived from Georgia. A few of my cats had a mild case of the sneezes. DOOD, Blitzen, Nicky were a bit quieter than usual with DOOD leading the charge with violent head-whipping sneezes. There's no way I can separate the cats from each other so I had to hope that as it spread from one cat to the other, it wouldn't be too bad.
But Fluff Daddy, with his shortened nose was hit the worst. Because it was likely a virus, the treatment is not to treat; to give supportive care, rest, and monitor him to make certain it wasn’t turning into a secondary infection or pneumonia. Fluff had already battled pneumonia last year and we couldn’t risk that happening again. This meant vet visits for Fluff-lots of them. Because he never had a fever, Dr. Mary felt we should let it ride and that eventually, being self-limiting, the virus would die off and Fluff would feel better.
Throughout the day I would bring Fluff or DOOD into the bathroom and run the shower. The warm moist air would help their breathing. Fluff particularly enjoyed these sessions and would sit on a thick towel on top of the bathroom counter without fussing around as DOOD often would. I’d sit on the closed toilet and play solitaire on my old iPad. It wasn’t much, but it was something I could do to help them recover.
I’ve cared for sick cats many times and there’s a tipping point where their care can become overwhelming. There are too many medications to juggle, too many vet visits and worse; too many late nights worrying that your sick cats will need urgent care. I hover, I fret, I try to be calm. I make mental notes about each one; are they eating? normal litter pan habits? will they play a little bit at least?
It wasn’t too much to support the cats, but then things took a turn that anyone who does rescue fears.
Laney, Winnie and their 7 kittens arrived. They’d been vetted prior to being transported to Connecticut from their home in Georgia. They were on a transport with other cats who supposedly were also vetted. I will never know for sure the actual cause, but within ONE HOUR of them arriving to my home, a few of the adults began sneezing. At first I thought perhaps the stress of the trip had pushed them over the edge and that maybe in a few days they’d be feeling better. They'd never been sick all the months they'd lived in Georgia.
The long winter kept me from opening the windows, which would be one of the first things I’d want to do when the cats get sick. Nice, fresh air keeps sickness at bay, but with a closed in room and nine large cats in a small space, of course they would all get sick in time. What I feared was that my foster cats got sick from another rescue’s cats on the transport. They could have been shelter cats and those guys can pick up a whole host of horrible diseases. My guys had never been in a shelter and now what would become of them? What had they been exposed to?
I had to bring all NINE cats to the Vet to get their CT Health Certificates issued on Monday. The Vet supposedly looked at each cat, but I wasn’t privy to seeing the exams as her techs brought the cats into the back of the clinic a few at a time to see the vet. I didn’t know if she was checking them well or barely looking at them. I’d given her information that said some of the cats had URIs and she was to check the cats for signs of it.
After waiting for about 90 minutes the vet finally came into the exam room. She talked about Piglet’s ear having an infection inside it. She mentioned Jelly Belly has a stage two heart murmur. She did not mention one thing about the URI only what to do to treat Piglet’s ear.
The cats were supposed to get their claws trimmed, for which we were charged a lot of money, when some of our vets don’t charge for this. I got scratched. I started to look at the cat’s paws. The few I looked at hadn’t have their back claws trimmed completely. Nice.
So I was left feeling like the cats got a lousy exam and I didn’t know what to do about the URI. If their lungs sounded clear that was one thing, but if not I'd need to consider antibiotics.
Within a few days Piglet especially, Jelly Belly, Louie, Larry, Lex were really sick. Instead of going back to this vet I went to Dr Mary and Dr Larry. I took the two sickest kittens to start: Piglet and Jelly.
Dr. Larry examined Jelly. He had a temperature of over 103°F. He listened to Jelly’s heart and agreed he had a heart murmur, but that many cats did fine with a murmur like his and that right now we didn’t have to do anything about it. The real shocker was when Dr. Larry looked at Jelly’s gums. They were RED and irritated. It was a sign to us that Jelly might have bartonella and if you’ve read any of my posts you’ll know that bartonella is the bane of my existence. It's often mis-diagnosed as something else because it has a wide range of symptoms ranging from IBD-like digestion issues to upper respiratory to no symptoms.
Jelly was meowing and sneezing while poor Piglet hid under a chair. When Dr. Larry examined her, he saw the very nasty ear infection and again discovered that she, too, has the irritated gums. Her temperature was over 104°F which was getting dangerous. They gave her and Jelly sub-q fluids and we decided to test both cats for bartonella and because all 9 cats were sick, to spend the extra on doing a DNA test called a PCR, on Piglet’s secretions. It would help us treat her better to know exactly what virus she has. Because she only weighs 4 lbs 14 oz, roughly half what Jelly weighs, we’re starting her on azithromycin, which would be a treatment for bartonella. Even though we don’t know she has it, it may help her feel better. The test takes 10 DAYS to get back results and considering how frail she is we can’t risk waiting to treat her.
With the possibility that we’ll have to test ALL the cats for bartonella or just if we treat them, we can’t treat unless Dr. Larry examines them first so that means 7 times exam fees + 8 times more azithromycin costs. This medication is compounded and EXPENSIVE. It’s $46/cat for just 10 days of treatment and the full course is 21 days.
This could be bad, but what I fear more is what will become of Piglet. She is depressed and not eating that well. Her fever came down last night but I have to check her again today and she gets very agitated if we try to get her temperature. She's so tiny I just don't want to upset her while she's so sick.
Then add this to the fact that I have my 12-year old cat Petunia in a big dog crate recovering from serious surgery on her bladder and she’s not eating well, either. I can’t get antibiotics in her any longer and frankly she deserves more one on one time while she’s recovering. Sam has to take over that duty, besides I shouldn't be handling her. She can't get sick on top of everything else.
And that's the thing. No amount of hand-washing, clothes changes, step baths of bleach are going to stop this mess. I've been as careful as I can be but when Fluff and Freya like to hang out near the door to the foster cat room and the air from the room goes under the door, into the hallway, what am I to expect? It hasn't stopped me from being as careful as I can but in the end there's nothing I could have done to stop this.
With my cats slowly starting to improve I thought I could handle helping whoever needs it, but this morning I woke up to discover Freya, sneezing her little head off. Of course she’s sick now, too, even though she’s on week 5 of a very strong antibiotic called Baytril to help kill her ear infection.
You may think I run a bad rescue and that I’m sloppy about keeping foster cats quarantined, but I assure you I’m neither of those things. This is a horrible confluence of events that I didn’t cause and I’m struggling to do what’s best for each cat even though it’s meant I was at the vet 5 out of 6 days this week. Even if it’s meant I’m going to drive through the latest snowstorm to get medication for Piglet.
With a virus you often have to let it ride until it runs its course, but the difficulty lies in knowing when to stop and hit it with antibiotics that often cause digestive issues and open the cat up to more problems. The challenge for me is to find a way to survive the stress this is causing. Seeing cats so sick and not being able to fix it is heartbreaking. Worrying about the most fragile cats and worrying that I’ll miss something because there are just too many cats to oversee is terrifying.
You can mail a check to Kitten Associates, P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354.
Just SHARE this with your friends who have kind hearts and love cats. That helps Piglet and her family, too.
Your donation is Tax Deductible.K.A. is a non-profit rescue and our IRS EIN is 27-3 597692.
We will stop our fundraiser as soon as we’ve raised $1750.00, which we hope will cover some of our costs and allow some funds to be banked for the medications we’re going to have to purchase. Any funds we don’t use for Piglet's family, Fluff Daddy or Freya we will set aside for other kitties who need help.
I wondered if I was seeing Petunia for the last time when I dropped her off early yesterday morning at Dr. Larry’s office. It had been barely a week since I’d found out she had a bladder full of stones, causing her incredible pain that resulted in a flood of inappropriate urination all over my house.
Petunia was quiet in the car as I drove along the river, choosing to take the slow route to the Vet. The brilliant sunshine of early morning began to warm us through the windows, keeping the harsh late winter cold at bay. The winds of March were raging outside the car, but inside it was peaceful.
I thought about Celeste and about how she died; very possibly because she was so stressed from being at the vet her body shut down on her. I knew that I had to do everything I could to keep Petunia from following the same path. Petunia could be just as fearful as Celeste so I drove slowly and carefully, talking in soft tones to Petunia. I told her it would be all right. I tried to make myself believe that, too.
Once we arrived and before I let one of the techs take her, I told her to NOT do the surgery if Petunia was too upset and to give her another day to calm down if needed. Petunia is 12 years old. We have to respect her if she is just not ready.
In the end, Dr. Larry performed the surgery while I waited for news.
Meanwhile, I’d gotten word that a very special, cat-mama had fallen ill. Her name is Jodi Ziskin and she’s a pet nutritionist. She contacted me, asking if she could help formulate a diet for our foster kitten Freya. She'd been following Freya’s story and was charmed by her and also concerned that without proper nutrition, Freya would have a difficult time passing stool since Freya had just had surgery to create her rectum.
Jodi and I emailed often and spoke a few times on the phone. We discovered we both went to the same high school in Connecticut, but somehow missed meeting each other back then. She told me about her cats and her husband, Zach. She was training for a marathon she was going to run in LA to help raise funds for a cat rescue. She just amazed me by all she could do and by how well she cared for herself as well as her family.
I got news that at some point after she ran the marathon, Jodi collapsed. She missed her flight home and that’s when people started looking for her. She had been unconscious for a day once she was located. She was not in good shape and was taken to the California Hospital in Los Angeles while her husband dropped everything to leave their home in Florida to be with her.
I should have been thinking about Petunia, but all I could do was worry about Jodi. She wasn’t able to remember much about her life. She knew her husband, but not the names of her beloved cats. We started to fear that Jodi would have a very long road to recovery—if she would ever recover at all.
They began doing tests. Apparently from the extreme exertion of the marathon, Jodi may not have hydrated properly afterwards. Her muscle tissue was shredding, going into her kidneys. It made her collapse. In some people it can kill them.
After a few days Jodi began to recover. She was remembering things 25 years ago. Her kidney values were normal. She messed up her teeth very badly from falling. She hadn’t lost all the memories of her 17 year marriage. She remembered Obi and her other cats, but there are still some scary memory issues going on that are mysterious in origin. More tests are being done to find the root cause. It's a very scary time for Jodi's family and friends.
This is a BIG reminder to all of us NOT to take ANYTHING or ANYONE for granted. Jodi, stay strong. We love you!
It was 4 PM. Where was my call telling me to pick up Petunia at 5 PM? I started to wonder if that meant she was dead. Dr. Larry always takes a very long time to tell me bad news. I can’t say I blame him. Maybe he was busy and she was fine? I decided to call and find out.
Petunia did well. She was ready to go home, but I didn’t get any more information than that.
I raced over to Dr. Larry’s and waited to speak with him. It was the end of the day and the clinic was quiet. I wondered what he was going to tell me. Was it really bad? Did he find something else? Would Petunia be all right?
He looked tired when he entered the exam room. I readied myself for bad news. He told me that the surgery was a long one. Petunia’s bladder was loaded with approximately 40 stones. Most of them had little spikes on them so it had to have been very painful. He told me her bladder was in good condition even with all the stones. The tissue was soft, as it should be, instead of leathery as it would become if her situation was more dire. He spent a long time flushing the bladder out to make sure any tiny grains of stone were cleaned away.
We looked at a new set of x-rays. He was clearly pleased with what he was showing me. Her bladder had a plump look to it, indicating it was already filling with urine. I could see a carefully placed line of surgical staples along the underside of her belly, glowing on the screen. Her incision was rather serious in size, which meant there would be at least a week or two of recovery time.
I’d asked Dr. Larry to take photos of the stones before he sent them out to be tested. When I saw them my jaw dropped and I got shivers down my spine. It’s clear she needed that surgery and I’m glad I made the financial sacrifice to provide this for her instead of hoping to dissolve them with a diet change.
It was time to bring Petunia home and get her settled into her big dog crate so she’d have a quieter place to recover. I didn’t know what would come of this and if Petunia 2.0 would be better or worse off now that she was feeling well. Would the other cats begin peeing around the house if she stood up for herself? Would there be worse fighting? Would Petunia expand her living space now that she was no longer in pain? Would she still need to be on anti-anxiety medication to keep her from erupting in more bladder stones?
Only time will tell as I focus on doing what I do best—being her mom and caring for her, instead of vilifying her unfairly. Pee-tunia is dead, long live Petunia.
An hour later Dr Larry came into the waiting room to escort me into the back to look at the x-rays. Before he could even point them out, I saw them. Petunia has a mass of stones inside her. One looked fairly large. While we could try a diet change to acidify her urine and dissolve the stones, the most humane thing to do is to surgically remove them as soon as possible. The diet change would take months and it might not work depending on what kind of stones she has. It must be incredibly painful, yet Petunia never acted like she was in pain. She always was ready for a pet or snuggle. She never licked at herself or squatted and left small pools of bloody urine, but she was very sick.
Dr. Larry asked me what I wanted to do-do the surgery or wait? He told me he'd do whatever needed to help, but all I could do was cry. I asked him the cost of the surgery and he told me it would be about $1500.00. He does these surgeries all the time (which is fodder for another post because WHY are so many animals getting stones in the first place?). Normally I wouldn't bat an eye and just say let's do it, but this time I was lost and scared. I HAD TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN and by God I would no matter what.
Bladder stones. Lots of them.
Dr. Larry patted me on the back and said not to cry. I didn't have the nuts to beg for a big discount. I had to be a grown up and figure it out. I would find a way, but some times it's just tough to struggle and struggle, then feel like you're starting to make positive changes, then WHAM!, another big bill. I know I'm not the only one who feels like that, but it's hard to keep your head up some times.
I told Dr. Larry that I needed some time to gather my thoughts. As I drove home, I flashed back over the decade of peeing issues we've dealt with. I was fed up. I can't list how many things were ruined by her because there were so many. I was sick and tired of trying to find a way to get the cycle to stop. I thought about how many times I wished Petunia would die so the rest of us could live in peace. I know it's wrong to think that way but that's how far I'd been pushed. But all that ill-will vanished, quickly replaced with shame when I looked over to Petunia as she sat in her carrier on the passenger seat. I stuck my index finger into one of the holes on the side so I could touch her face. She rubbed her cheek against my finger a few times, desperate for some love. I realized that Petunia must have been in pain for YEARS and even through all of that she still loved me. How could I be so heartless to her in return?
A few minutes after we got home I called Dr Larry's office and made the appointment for Petunia's surgery. There would be no waiting on this. It had gone on far too long already.
Though I arrogantly thought we’d checked Petunia for everything last year, we hadn’t and she’s been suffering in silence, been called names and shunned because of her behavior. All it made me want to do was hold her and tell her how sorry I was for being such a moron. I recalled that when Petunia was very young she had struvite crystals in her bladder. We treated them with a special diet and within a year we started transitioning our cats off kibble, to canned food without grains, and finally to a raw diet. It never occurred to me that she could even GET stones again since she gets appropriate nutrition. It’s clear this may have been going on far before the transition and is only getting to a point of severity where we’re noticing it.
I am so ashamed. The only thing I can do to make it better is to get this surgery done ASAP and help Petunia get on the road to recovery. Perhaps she’ll never need to be on anti-anxiety medication but it’s also possible that her anxiety is the root cause. There’s something called FLUTD (Feline Urinary Tract Disease) that could be part of the problem and it's also VERY LIKELY related to a whole-host of issues Petunia may have called Pandora Syndrome.
Pandora Syndrome can be a combination of many factors—genetics, environment, stress and diet. The result can be IBD, dermatitis, cystitis and more. Once I read this article, I realized that because this might have genetic aspect we may never be able to “cure” Petunia entirely. Then the light bulb moment: Petunia’s mother Gracie must ALSO have it! It would answer the question as to why we have never found a treatment for Gracie’s mysterious miliary dermatitis.
I spent two years searching for and trying treatments on Gracie. I sought out different specialists, did tests and biopsies. Gracie's a lot like her daughter and tends to be high strung. We've been working with her every day and over the past year Gracie's become less and less fearful, but now is more clingy and demanding. Her skin is improving slightly. We got her to stop vomiting clumps of fur every day and she no longer “barbers” her fur. She needs more work to help her mojo return, but I think the fog is lifting off these mysteries. I'm not happy about what might be going on because it means these cats are just not able to handle the stress they feel and how to reduce that will continue to be one of the biggest challenges of my life.
While I have failed these cats, I also feel hopeful that we may finally have some light at the end of the tunnel. I know that someone out there will read this and will say “hey, that’s my cat!” too. Perhaps they’ll take their cat to the vet and discover there was more going on than imagined. Perhaps it will save a cat from being given up or let outside to fend for itself. I can only hope that baring my soul will help others, because I really hate myself right now.
So, to all of you who feel like they’re suffering with inappropriate elimination problems with their own cats, don’t make the same mistake I did. Even if you already took your cat to the vet and they found nothing, KEEP SEARCHING if you can't solve the problem. Do research online, talk to your friends who have cats, try to see the world through your cat's eyes and if you feel they are subjected to a lot of stress, there's a big clue to how to help them feel better.
Get your cat vetted again, if needed, or get a second opinion. Yes, it may be costly, but this is YOUR cat, YOUR responsibility. Your cat may be in a lot of pain and I can promise that your cat is not trying to get revenge or ruin your life. They’re not “BAD” cats. They’re communicating in the only language they know and it’s up to us to be better at translating their message.
I’m so sorry, Petunia, but I will make it right. I promise.
Four years ago I wrote about my cat Petunia. It was a guilt-ridden confession about how I’d missed the signals that she wasn’t just a high-strung, territory-aggressive cat who urinated all over my house. Something else was causing her issues. I foolishly thought I discovered the root cause of her behavioral problems so I stopped looking for a health issue as the trigger. Up until that point I’d never given Petunia a fair shake because she drove me crazy, ruining everything in her path. She was urinating, marking and defecating everywhere. [If you want to read this post it’s HERE].
I thought her issues were due to having impacted anal glands and that her bad scent caused some of my other cats to go after her. She’d flip out, then I’d find something soiled. The cats never fought. They just charged her, but it was enough stress to cause her to inappropriately eliminate.
Once her glands were cleaned the attacks slowed, but never really stopped. Petunia saw Dr Larry, had her teeth cleaned and had some blood work done as recently as last summer. I was under the impression she was in good health and that her behavior issues were genetic and/or stress-based. I was very wrong.
When Petunia was young she had Struvite crystals in her urine. I knew this because her urine was pink, indicating blood. When we tested it we knew she had crystals so the simple answer was to feed her a prescription diet that would acidify her urine, dissolving the crystals (something I would never feed now).
Petunia resolved her peeing issues for a time, but then I did more rescue and our cat-population began to increase. With each cat we adopted, Petunia lost a little bit more of her territory. First it was just that she stopped coming upstairs to bed. In a way I was relieved because it also meant I stopped finding urine on my 80-year old bedroom furniture.
But then her space, got even smaller. Though she stopped peeing on the banquette cushions in the kitchen (I finally had to remove them because they were so destroyed), she rarely ever entered the space to look out the window at the birds who were dancing around the feeders hung over the deck. The other cats enjoyed the view and one or two marked in this area most likely due to her marking first. Petunia made a huge mess and having that stop was yet another relief.
With her space dwindling down to the living room, mostly all points behind the sofa, we knew we had to do more to help her. We’d tried all along, but with 10 cats it’s very difficult to single one out and only play with that cat and only spend time with that cat. The others were curious if we gave her attention; some took over play time, some attacked Petunia if we tried to play with her.
I tearfully confessed to one of my friends that I needed help. I had re-visit the idea of re-homing Petunia. It wasn’t fair to her, but with her issues and age, it would be VERY difficult to find a new family who was willing to believe that she wouldn’t soil their home, too.
There also was the complication that Petunia’s mother, Gracie lives here and from time to time Petunia still goes to her mother for comfort, so how am I to find a home for a 14-year old and a 12-year old cat?
I was certain this was the answer, but just as much sure that I’d never find a home for both cats. Gracie has an incurable skin condition.
I had to find a solution here, so it was back to the drawing board.
Over the past year Petunia earned the nickname: PEE-tunia because she began peeing on the SOFA. No matter what we did she kept doing it until I finally got a static mat and that stopped the behavior. Well, really it just encouraged her to pee somewhere else, but it was on a cat bed I could cover with a wee-wee pad and that was something I could deal with.
Sam and I decided to make a concentrated effort to re-catify our living room, to help Petunia find her confidence, which Jackson Galaxy refers to as “cat mojo” (a term I quite like). I realized that with the addition of Blitzen, DOOD and Mabel into our family came the reduction in Petunia’s living space. I hadn’t seen Petunia come upstairs to bed in years. Her living area was getting smaller and smaller to just the few feet behind the sofa. She was too fearful to go far because the others would charge at her. We HAD to find a solution.
One night a few weeks ago we ripped apart the areas where the cats hang out the most. We moved cat trees, did a deep cleaning and set up one of our web cams to monitor the area when we weren’t around. We hoped we’d find out what was causing Petunia to avoid the litter pan when there were a few with in feet of where she was sleeping.
Every day we patrolled the area, particularly behind the sofa. This is the only place where Petunia pees-and when she does it’s A LOT of urine and it really smells bad. I should have known by that smell that something was wrong, but no alarm bells went off. I just grumbled, cleaned it up and looked around to see if I should move a litter pan closer or make another change that would help Petunia feel safer.
Sam and I also focused on spending more time talking to, sitting with, petting and grooming Petunia and that helped soothe her to a degree, but she was still anxious around the other cats. It also didn't stop her from defecating on the table just near the sofa.
I decided that after all these years, the last remaining option was to put her on anti-anxiety meds. I thought if she could better handle stress and the cats charging her, she’d stop acting like prey, racing off, which made some of the cats go crazy and chase after her. Poor Petunia would hide on the seat cushion on a chair under a table not far from her “safe zone” every time that happened. It happened so often I was afraid her life would be spent huddled on that chair.
It’s hard to describe how hopeless I’ve been feeling. I couldn’t re-home her. It was too late. I blame myself for adding so many cats to our home, but I thought it would be all right. The other cats are fine. It’s just Petunia who is so stressed by them.
Petunia had to see our vet before she was put on any medication. Dr. Larry insisted on doing a full CBC, a stool test and urinalysis before giving her anything. When I got the results my heart sank.
While Petunia’s blood work was “Fantastic” (chalk it up to years of being on a raw diet) and her anal glands were fine as is and did not need to be expressed, her urinalysis was another issue altogether. Her urine had blood in it. Keep in mind that doing urinalysis with a needle (cystocentesis) often causes a small amount of blood in the urine, but she had far more than normal. She also had VERY elevated phosphorous and ammonia levels (remember how BAD her urine smelled?). It was an indicator that Petunia might have stones in her bladder.
Last week I took Petunia back to Dr. Larry’s for x-rays that might show us if she had stones. It was a lovely day, lots of bright sunshine, but I was struggling to hold back tears. I knew that if Petunia had stones, it would mean surgery and I asked myself how I was going to make that happen when I’m already struggling. It wasn’t a good feeling. I didn’t have an answer.
What do the x-rays show? Is there any hope for Petunia? Find out in part 2.