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TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat

Cats are evolving as they navigate from living in the wild, to a life spent indoors with humans. The resulting problems that inevitably follow when two species try to get along in a shared space, but don’t speak the other’s language is the core of Jackson Galaxy, the New York Times bestselling author of Catification, and host of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell’s, latest book, TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat.

Galaxy kicks off this charmingly illustrated guide with a story surrounding a phrase he coined: Cat Mojo. What is it? Why is it important that our companion cats have mojo in the first place? It’s something we all notice, but may not have a word to describe it. Each of our cats have it to varying degrees, but each cat is different. At their core is a confident creature either yearning to blossom (and who needs our compassion and support to get there) or one who is already strutting his or her stuff, but may be causing other strife in the human home.

As others have written before him, Galaxy dives deeper, underscoring that we can never truly understand our cats until we look at the world through their eyes, not our own. We cannot have a relationship, yes, relationship with our beloved cats without getting to know what makes them tick.

Galaxy hits this point home in a heartfelt, passionate way, nearly imploring all of us to get down on all fours and look around. It’s a different view of the world from under the sofa or on top of the ‘fridge, when we’re terrified of the dog, the kids, or simply being a stranger in a strange land—as cats often feel entering their “forever home” for the first time.

 

To get to know our cats, Galaxy starts at the very beginning. It’s like we’re on a date with our cat and the first question we ask is “Where are you from?” He and co-author, Mikel Delgado, Phd, go into great detail about where cats were first known to exist millions of years ago, along with a timeline of how they slowly, but surely began a journey, living closer and closer to humans until only recently (less than 100 years), they began to live indoors with us full-time. This part of the book effected me deeply. It was a reminder in ways I hadn’t considered that my fluffy, purring, sleeping-on-my-lap-cat, is still a hunter, not far removed from his wild-child ancestor.

 

Being out of touch with our cat can result in all sorts of behaviors that we humans consider unacceptable. Those “bad” behaviors can lead to a terrible ending, literally, for the cat, when they get surrendered to a shelter, kicked out on the street, or worse, and Galaxy lays down the challenge line asking us to reconsider this label.

 

Once you understand your “Raw Cat,” Galaxy provides a section he refers to as his toolkit, a little like his guitar case, filled with in-depth information about the particulars of how cats spend their day, their natural rhythms, their need for predictability in their environment and what happens when that gets disrupted.

 

TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat, at 345 pages, is a must-read for anyone who just got their first cat or who has a cat or two (or eight), but who finds themselves completely frustrated by their antics. This book is filled with “ah-ha” moments, clearly written as if you’re in the room with Jackson himself and he’s your private tutor. Galaxy includes occasional asides that remind us he’s been there, too. This is no preachy tome. It’s very accessible to any cat lover and I highly recommend it.

Where I feel this book hits a bump in the road is with the amount of catch-phrases or special lingo. That said, if we are to truly understand our cats, perhaps we need a new lexicon and if so, this is it.


©2017 Robin AF Olson. Kitten Associates foster kitty, Annie Jones, showing off her #TotalCatMojo.

What I loved about TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat was that Galaxy gave reason after reason why free-feeding kibble is bad for your cat and for a cat to be truly Raw (and therefore closer to his ancestral self) he has to be fed a raw meat diet. He also goes into depth about the often dreaded litterbox issues many people face (Galaxy refers to it as “Raising the Yellow Flag”). I have a feeling many who read “Cat Daddy’s 10 Litter Box Commandments—Quick View,” will cheer, knowing that at last they have hope of a remedy that will work for everyone, humans and cats alike.

 

TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat is the universal translator to understanding your cat’s language and why it’s vital we be willing to invest in a deeper, more compassionate relationship with our cat. Cats have been misunderstood for decades, with deadly consequences, but with Jackson Galaxy at the helm, those notions are changing, and for that I applaud his efforts.

 

TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat is available NOW!

 

If you want to SEE Jackson Galaxy LIVE and in person, he’s starting a book tour starting November 1, 2017. Pop over HERE to get details of when he’ll be in a city near you!

 

Like what we're up to? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Learn more about our rescue, Kitten Associates!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from tarcherperigee. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

#TotalCatMojo #JacksonGalaxy #TeamCatMojo #CoveredinCatHair

Home, At Last

On a crystal clear afternoon last November, Buddy and Belle lost their home. They didn’t lose it due to a natural disaster like Hurricane Irma, but instead to a human crisis. Their dad, my former flame of decades ago, called me, begging to please take his cats. I have cancer he said. It was advanced liver cancer. He was probably not going to live much longer and would I take his cats?

I’ve been contacted many times by families who have lost a loved one, who don’t know what to do when a pet is left behind. Was this going to happen to my ex? How could I say no, but how could I say yes? It would be a terrible burden on my rescue.

His cats were 6 years old. It wouldn’t be a quick placement. I don’t have a shelter, so it’s not easy for people to just come and see them. They’d have to go through the adoption process just to meet the cats and with the competition of kittens available for adoption, the odds were slim Buddy and Belle would be adopted any time soon.

Belle waiting
©2016 Robin AF Olson. My first moments with Belle where I promised her it would be okay one day. She just had to trust me (and I had to hope I could really pull this off).

What was worse was their being in our foster network meant I’d have to say No to a lot of kittens who needed our help, because I’d lose that foster space to adult cats.

I wrote about my struggles and my anger about the situation in a 3-part post (links for them are at the end). I knew my ex was going to screw me one last time by dumping his cats on me, but I also knew that I’d say yes and take the cats for their sakes, not for his. He was prone to being a drama-queen back then and was still now. That sounds cruel, but it’s not, especially when you get the part of this story about what happened recently. Bear with me.

Poor Buddy. Poor Belle. It was clear they were in shock and stressed out when they arrived. They were in terrible condition, too. They were both overweight, had never had decent food, not even one bite of the worst canned food, ever. They ate the cheapest kibble, stored in a plastic jug that sat on the floor.

 

It cost my rescue $5000.00 in surgeries, medications and vet care to get them back on their feet. Meanwhile, our 16-yr old cat, Nicky was on his last legs. We couldn’t spend much time with him the week Buddy and Belle arrived. They had to be in surgery as soon as possible.

 

There was too much going on, but but I put my head down and plowed ahead. We quickly realized Nicky needed vet care, too. In fact, Nicky, Buddy and Belle were all at the vet on the same day. It was a nightmare to try to stay on top of which cat needed what treatment or procedure next.

Belle at the Vet first time 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Belle's first vet visit in her LIFE.

 

Sadly, Nicky never came home. We had to put him down that night after he’d had a grand mal seizure while on an IV at Dr. Larry’s. I felt like we had to sacrifice our last days with our precious boy to care for someone else’s cats. I was furious. This was not right. I sacrifice SO MUCH to do rescue yet it wasn't enough.

 

Nickys last day 600
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Ten months after this photo was taken, Sam and I still cannot talk about Nicky. The pain is too much.

Belle lost half of her teeth. Buddy had a bladder full of painful crystals and a suspicious cyst (Dr Larry biopsied it and it came back benign). Buddy was withdrawn for months. Belle, began to slowly flower, but I could tell she was depressed living in my blue bathroom.

Buddy Stones 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. What cheap kibble does to the inside of a cat's bladder.

 

It took three MONTHS for me to get Belle to eat canned food and get her off kibble.

Thankfully Buddy had a better appetite. Belle slimmed down and began to eat better for me. I realized I had a brand of canned cat food that was made up of small, round shapes, similar to her kibble. I offered her one tiny piece of canned food and she ate it. She recognized the shape and would eat the food if it was broken up into tiny bits. It took a long time, but eventually she began to eat more and more brands of canned food. I could stop worrying about her losing weight too quickly, but it wasn’t good enough.

 

 

They were lonely. Pitifully lonely. I couldn’t spend enough time with them and it wasn’t fair. Now that I had them eating consistently, I could move them into a better foster space.

 

Enter Jame and family.

Jame (pronounced: Jamie) and her daughters, Grace and Frances, are my go-to foster home for kittens and friendly cats. I love this family like my own. They’re so smart and capable and eager to learn about cats. They graciously agreed to take Buddy and Belle knowing they might be in their home for months. They gave up fostering kittens for the spring and summer. I was so very grateful that Buddy and Belle would have full run of a finished basement lined with a row of big, sunny windows. They could enjoy a lot more attention than I could provide. I hoped they’d be happy.

©2017 Robin AF Olson. .

 

I worried about Buddy and Belle feeling like they lost their home with me, but it wasn’t the right place for them. I worried they would stop eating (again) or just hide for weeks on end. It was a rough go for a time, but eventually they adjusted. Having the attention of this loving family made a big difference.

 

Meanwhile, I kept trying to find them a forever home to no avail.

No one wanted adult cats, even though I lightheartedly described them as 72-month old kittens on their adoption listings.

Ten months later, my rescue, Kitten Associates, took part in the national event called Clear the Shelters (more on that another time). Part of the festivities included an adoption event at BMW of Watertown (thank you guys!). I was to bring all of our 14 foster kittens for the general public to meet and hopefully adopt, but I knew Buddy and Belle couldn’t take the stress so they remained at Jame’s house.

Final butt sniff R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Belle making sure Buddy is still Buddy.

At the last minute I decided to design and have printed two huge posters, one for each cat. There wasn’t much text on the banners, just portraits of the cats. I hoped I’d captured their essence in my images. They were goofy, loving, playful and so filled with love. They were gentle cats and had been with kids thanks to Jame. I just needed someone to believe in them and realize that kittens aren’t always the best option to adopt.

Buddy and Belle Posters copy

While we were setting up the showroom for the event, Kathleen and her son, Jace came over to me. She told me about their cat Morgan and how he’d recently died. How Jace, at only 3 ½ years old, could not truly process death. His understanding was to relate it to cars. When the car got old it went to be recycled and would come back as a new car. I asked him what he would call his new cat and he answered quickly, “Morgan, of course.” ...once it was done being recycled.

©2017 Robin AF Olson.

Normally I don’t consider it safe to adopt kittens into a home with such a young child, but Jace had already grown up with Morgan. He told me he missed his cat and was so sad. I also knew that Buddy and Belle had once lived with a little girl. Since they’re adults it was worth a try to place Buddy and Belle if Kathleen would consider adopting two slightly used cats.

 

I told Kathleen Buddy and Belle’s story. She teared up. She didn’t want kittens, especially after she heard their story. This woman is so sweet and compassionate, she completely understood their plight. Buddy and Belle’s home was long gone. They needed the love and support of a new family-one that would stick with them no matter what. Kathleen wanted to be that family if it was a good fit.

 

I was hopeful, but not sure if it would be a match. I moved forward with the adoption process and they passed with flying colors. Over a week ago Kathleen, her husband Jay and son, Jace met Buddy and Belle. I was worried the cats would run and hide with so many people wanting to interact with them.

As Jame, her daughters, and I looked on, Kathleen cautiously held her hand out towards Belle, who took a careful sniff, then leaned in to be petted. At that moment, I saw the look on Kathleen’s face. She lit up with pure joy. It made my gut hitch. She loved this cat. I could tell in that first moment, but I said nothing, afraid I might push too soon.


©2017 Robin AF Olson. The first moment Kathleen met Belle was magic.

Buddy and Belle took turns being a bit shy, then playing with Jace (which made him giggle with glee) or sitting to be petted by the family. Jame’s daughter Frances and I kept exchanging glances, our eyes wide. Without a word I knew what she was thinking.

This is it. This is the family, isn’t it?

Was it too much to wish for?

 

We had our answer barely an hour later. Kathleen shocked me by asking me if I thought it would be ok for them to make Buddy and Belle part of their family. They asked ME for my blessing? ME? Are you kidding? This was a love match if I ever saw one, so of course I said YES!

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Buddy and Belle with their new family.

Then Frances turned to me, stunned; “You mean they’re getting adopted now? As in RIGHT NOW?” I nodded somberly, yes, suddenly realizing the girls hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye to their foster friends.

I invited the family upstairs to the kitchen to do the adoption paperwork while Jame and family had time to say their goodbyes.

I didn’t want to get excited. I was scared the cats would be returned right away. I warned the family that Buddy might shut down and to give him a lot of time to adjust. He might hide a lot and to leave his cat carrier out because he liked to de-stress inside it. They promised they would go slow and were so gracious and thankful to both Jame and her family and to me for taking them on. I asked her to update me if she would be so kind. We gave them Belle’s bed, Buddy’s hidey-cat-carrier, toys, food and even their old litter pan so they’d have familiar scents in their new home.

 

With the cats safely in a big carrier, we brought them outside, as a gentle rain fell from gray skies. A wave of sadness hit me. After the resentment and anger from all those months ago faded away, I realized I loved these cats as my own. They completely charmed me, but I would probably never see them again. I could only hope that I’d get updates from time to time. It was tough not to cry. They’d had a rough journey, but now they could finally relax for the first time in nearly a year.

 

The next day I got a promising update.

Buddy and Belle were home. Really home. They didn’t have to adjust to living with Kathleen at all. They took a nap on the sofa, Buddy choosing to snuggle next to his new dad. He didn’t hide at all.

Belle climbed up on the cat tree and looked out the window. They were already eating and using their litter pan.

Belle w jace.jpg
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Belle on her new cat tree with her new friend, Jace.

I was stunned. These cats had always been fearful, but clearly they were in the wrong homes. They were good homes, but not the right home. This was right. This was it.

 

They finally had what we all yearn for-a safe place to sleep, shelter from the storm of every day life and love.

 

In just over a week since the cats have been adopted, I’ve gotten a few updates. Each one is accompanied by photos of the cats looking completely relaxed and happy.

Kathleen wrote:

 

“Nearly first full week and we have learned that Buddy enjoys his nose being gently massaged. He also fetches and retrieves the krinkle balls.

 

Belle is just plain curious and silly. She loves investigating dresser drawers but is also well versed in creating her own shenanigans. She is pretty content so long as one part of her body is touching someone....or she is playing, she's a happy girl.”

 

napping w dad.jpg
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Buddy fell asleep next to dad, Jay, within a few hours of arriving in his new home. I guess he knew he was finally home.

 

And as for my ex, well his latest Facebook post declares he’s cancer-free and already fishing again in Sheepshead Bay. In the nearly year since we’ve had his cats he never once asked me how they were doing. He never answered my emails telling him we could not afford the burden of the costs of his cat’s vet care. That was on me to solve by begging for donations. What a creep. He just wanted someone to dump his problems on and he knew I’d be a sucker. I wonder if he’s going to adopt cats again? I sure hope not.

 

I feel bitter and want to hold onto my anger, but in truth, I’m ready to wash my hands of having anything to do with him ever again. He doesn’t deserve such amazing cats, or my complete dedication to providing for them. I’m damn glad I got them away from him.

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©2017 Kitten Associates. B&B with mama. I'm betting they'll be good lap-warmers as the days grow colder.

Buddy would be dead by now without me stepping in, no joke. Belle’s mouth was so painful with broken teeth and teeth falling out of her mouth that it would have been horrific torture to stay with him. He cheated on me and was completely unrepentant all those years ago, yet as I write this I realize here’s more proof that I will do anything to help cats, even if it means dealing with someone who hurt me so badly.

But then I look at the photos of Buddy and Belle with Kathleen and her family and my anger turns into joy. Their life begins anew, filled with the promise and hope that this time, this family, is theirs forever.

Cute twosome vinci
©2016 Robin AF Olson. I will really miss these guys. Good luck and happy life!

Backstory: Of Cancer, Carbs and Cats: Return of the Ex. Part 1

http://coveredincathair.com/content/cancer-carbs-and-cats-emergencies-all-around-part-2-3

http://coveredincathair.com/content/cancer-carbs-and-cats-end-and-beginning-part-3-3

How to Prepare for Before and After Your Cat's Final Days.

This post is not filled with research data or rules you’ve seen before about determining quality of life, it’s written solely from my own experiences facing the final days of life of my cats. I hope some of these ideas might help you one day, as you have to bear witness to your cat’s last moments.

 

The thing I’ve come to embrace over the years is that when my cat is nearing the end of his or her life that euthanizing them allows their experience to literally be to go to sleep. I’ve hated the phrase “put them to sleep” because they never wake up, but now that I have witnessed euthanasia enough times, I truly respect those words. For us, the cat-mom or cat-dad, it’s a sleep they never waken from, but thankfully for them it can be VERY PEACEFUL as they experience simply going to sleep. To me, that’s the best gift I can give my cat—peace and love in those final moments.

 

But let’s take a few steps back…

How do you face it when you either know or are suspicious that your cat is nearing the end of his or her life? Personally, when it’s been a longer road, like cancer and even though treatments may help, at some point my cat will grow thinner, weaker and have other issues. The sicker my cats get, the less I can sleep, eat or function. The last month of Gracie’s life I could barely cope with getting up in the morning, fearing I’d find her dead, but also secretly hoping that would be the case. I hated witnessing her demise, knowing I could not cure the cancer that was killing her. This is something I think effects a lot of people. Sam can function better and handle the stress better so I began to depend on him to provide some of Gracie’s care (mostly giving her her medication), while I focused on preparing her food and keeping her clean. Having support made it a lot easier to face the last months. If you have a family member who you can lean on to assist in providing care, a team approach can really help. Each person takes on what they can do best and the cat will greatly benefit. If it's not possible, then reach out to friends, family or your spiritual advisor so you have someone to talk to about your feelings during this difficult time. You should never have to feel alone.

What I learned from Gracie’s passing

 

What I aspire to do is to face death with less fear and more gentleness. Our cats live in the moment. They don’t even know about death. They know they feel good or bad right now. They know they are hungry or not. They know they are loved and safe. My goal is to be more like them and live in the moment, not obsess about what is yet to come, then end up not even being emotionally present when my cat needs me the most.

 

Princess Bubbles
©2007 Robin AF Olson. My most beautiful and sweet girl, Gracie at the prime of her life.

If my cat has a terminal illness, then I need to find a way to accept it, then forget about how I feel and focus on my cat. Is she ok in this moment? Yes. Is she eating? Maybe not. Maybe I’m syringe-feeding her for a few days to see if her appetite picks up or giving her medication to increase her appetite. I’m making certain I’ve spoken with my vet (usually more times than I care to admit) to get feedback about the care I’m providing. It definitely helps to have someone who knows my cat, but is not emotionally involved, weigh in on how things are going.

But what do you do if you don’t know what’s wrong with your cat?

 

Of course, first, get the cat to the vet. Understand that many times they will not be able to give you a definitive diagnosis. It can cause a great deal of stress on the cat’s caregiver because treatments may be iffy, specialized tests, too costly to do, or your cat may be unwilling to be medicated without a great deal of fussing or even bloodshed if they fight you every time they need medication. It's a very difficult balance between providing care for your cat when your cat may be wildly uncomfortable being medicated. Then you have to ask yourself how much you really can do to help when their reaction causes them even more suffering.

 

Your vet may require a consult with a specialist, or for you to take your cat to see one. Getting a second opinion on cases that are not clear cut is a great idea. You may also find out about alternative treatments from the specialist. There are also holistic vets, too. In a way, it can complicate knowing what is the best answer for your cat and many times it’s driven me nuts-especially if you add “Dr. Google” and asking all your friends for advice on what to do. Too many choices can be distressing, but it’s also a great thing, because someone may have an answer that no one else has and that’s what may change things for your cat.

Sleeping on mama
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Gracie's final days.

So how do you handle not knowing the best route to take with your pet’s care? The answer is that you will never know the best route (rarely only in hindsight), BUT, if you come from a place of always trying to DO YOUR BEST for your cat, do research, ask a lot of questions, weigh the pros and cons, no matter how things resolve (a cure or your cat dies), then you can sleep at night because you did everything you could.

 

The most important advice I have about end-of-life care for your cat is this: No mater how things play out, this is about THEIR FINAL MOMENTS, NOT YOURS. It’s not about YOU. It’s about them. Yes, you’re going to be upset, scared, heartbroken— but think about your cat. How would they like their final days to pass? Would they like to be surrounded by people who are anxiety ridden, crying, possibly even angry or shut off from the world OR would they like their environment to be full of love and peace?

 

That’s why IF I have the chance (I realize some times the end comes very fast), I make sure my home is quiet, my cat is comfortable, has a low-sided litter pan that’s easy to access (even if it’s in an awkward place for now). We don’t run the TV or talk loud. Every mealtime is a chance for love and affection, too. After I fed Gracie and Sam medicated her, we would brush her because she loved it. You could also spend some quality time petting or just sitting with your cat. Make sure they can easily be in a sunny spot, on a soft blanket, possibly give them a box or covered space that’s in a social area of your home so they can get out of the way but not be away from the family. Hiding them in a room, alone, is not ideal if your cat was usually a social part of the family. If they tend to be fearful, that’s a different situation. Just remember “what is best for them?”

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Because Gracie was weak we set this area up for her so she wouldn't be bothered by the other cats and still enjoy being in the center of the room where we spent the most time. Gracie wanted to be with us and we made sure her space was comfortable with easy access to whatever she needed. The heated pad was always covered with a soft cloth or towel, but she had another unheated bed incase she felt too warm.

 

ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS look at the situation through your cat’s eyes. Ask yourself what would they want to make them happy, feel loved and be comfortable. They might benefit from a pet-safe heated pad or a cat bed with a thermal core to reflect body heat but not be too warm.

 

Also RESPECT this process. It is natural for our cats to grow weaker as death comes closer. They will eat less (if they are not eating then that is very serious if you’re not supplementing them with assist-feeding). They may miss the litter pan (no scolding them if that happens). They may be more vocal at night. Forgive them for anything that you may find difficult to deal with, as long as you’re clear that you understand the underlying health issue.

Do not ASSUME your cat is dying without proper vet care and consultation.

 

There have been plenty of times when I thought “This is it.” and the cat rebounds and is fine for years. This is why it’s so tough to know when is the right time to say goodbye because in many cases, with some effort, medication, dealing with messes around the house, your cat can recover.

Last summer when ALL of our 10 cats got sick, I thought we might lose Spencer and Nicky. They were both over 15 and both were quite ill. Our cat Cricket, had to be euthanized. He was only 12 and it came on very suddenly for him and after a lot of tests and treatments that didn’t work we had no other option. The fear was very real that we’d lose two more cats.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Nicky last July when we had the first bad scare we were going to lose him.

This is where that tricky word, faith, comes in to play. I had to learn to have faith, being brought up in a home with parents who were atheists. I think that folks who have religious backgrounds understand faith better than I do. It’s been a long road and I still struggle, but when your cat’s diagnosis is not clear, sometimes faith is the little bit you need to keep you going and not give up on your cat just yet.

I also want to talk about letting your cat pass away at home. I’ve witnessed it a few times and I want to say it’s okay to do this, but looking back on it it was NOT okay. One cat fell into a coma and passed away very peacefully about 20 minutes later, clearly in no pain, but another struggled and I know I waited too long. On the way to the vet she died in Sam’s arms. Not ideal.

 

It’s too risky to wait and let nature take its course to that last second. The risk being your cat WILL very likely suffer if you don’t help them pass away. That’s why this is so tough. You will never know the perfect time, you just have to do your best and come from a place of love. It will guide you, but you have to be willing to let go and that is so very difficult. The saying goes: "Better to do it one day too soon than one minute too late."

 

Goodbye Nicky 400
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Our last moments with Nicky a few months after our scare in July. We spent time holding him and helping him feel comfortable and loved.

Eight months ago when we euthanized Nicky, our 16-year old cat. We could have brought him home and hoped to have a few more days with him. It would have been very likely he’d have another seizure and die painfully, but we could have had him euthanized at home. Inasmuch as we wanted him to be home, we also loved him so much that we wanted him to have the best death possible.

Yes, I said BEST death.

That’s the “great” thing about euthanasia-you can have a say on how your cat dies. Yes, in some very rare cases maybe you can let them just fade away at home, but it’s far better to have an opportunity to create a meaningful send-off for your cat.

Some tips:

Light. I think it’s VERY important, if you can, to keep the lights low in the room. At our vet’s they had two banks of lights-one on the ceiling and one under a cabinet. We shut off the overhead lights and it was significantly more peaceful in the room. If you’re at home, you can lower the lights or maybe light a few candles if it’s safe. If needed, use the light on your phone so the vet can see the vein in your cats leg, but you don’t have to have blazing lights on in the room. Cats feel safe in the dark so this will help them.

Sound. We had it very quiet in the room and were whispering. Maybe your cat was used to music softly played or just hearing your voice. You don’t have to say a lot. Of course you will be upset, but keep focusing on the love you have for your cat and just let them know how you feel and let them know it will be okay.

Location. Wherever we are, always try to hold our cats when they pass. Be prepared because many times fluid will come out of the cat after they die so hold them gently wrapped in a towel or have a towel with a puppy pad under it, or place them on a soft cat bed that you won’t care about getting ruined.

If you can, of course be at home with your cat. There are many services that only do in-home euthanasia. Take a moment to look one up right now and put the info into your address book. You may need it right away and knowing you have the info is, in a way, a comfort.

 

Before, During and After Passing

• Preparations. I prefer to have my cat cremated. They can be cremated privately, meaning, their remains are cremated without any other animals. This is a more expensive option, but certainly worth it. You can have your cat's cremains returned to you (or not if you don't want them back) or placed in an urn. Many pet cemeteries can provide an urn or you can make your own or have one made for you on places like Etsy. Your vet will help you make the arrangements.

 

I also bring with me a photo of me and Sam and a few special items that I will have cremated with the cat. With Gracie, we sent her off with a photo of us, she was wrapped in a beautiful, colorful cat bed and with her favorite catnip toy. For Nicky, we wrapped his body in one of Sam's softest fleece shirts because he often held Nicky in his arms. You'll know what special things you can do for your cat to give him or her the proper send off.

 

• The Process. If you have your Vet help your cat pass, the process itself is usually very quick. They will have to shave a small area on one of the legs to access a vein. Then there should be two injections. The first one is a sedative (ask for this if your vet doesn't usually do it-they really should), which does not kill your cat. It just helps them relax and go to sleep. This is when you can truly say goodbye. Your cat won't feel any more pain now and will be resting. You can take a moment before the final injection. The last one is an overdose of Sodium pentobarbital which will slow their heart beat down and finally cause it to stop. It is very fast acting and often-times you won't even know your cat is gone until your vet verifies by listening to their heart for any sign of function.

I ALWAYS ask my vet to take a paw print impression from my cat after they have passed. It's a little thing I like to have. Some folks cut a small lock of fur. There's even a fibre artist who makes memorials out of your cat's fur (you can have one made while they are still alive, too).

Just After. Although I've wanted to run screaming out of the room after my cat dies, I stay put. It's very very difficult, but this is a time when you can say your goodbyes. I take time to clean any mess off my cat's body as a sign of respect and love. I will often brush them and place them on the special cloth or item of clothing I want them to be cremated with. I've written them a note and placed it with them, along with a photo of myself. I find doing these things very comforting. I stay with their body for as long as I feel I need to-some times it's been up to an hour, some times because our vet wasn't open and our cat passed away at home, we kept their body with us over night surrounded by candles in a makeshift memorial. How you choose to spend your final moments with your cat is up to you.

• Religion. Do whatever feels right either before, during and/or after your cat passes. After Gracie and Cricket died we did a Buddhist ritual for them. Perhaps if you feel it would be appropriate and if there’s time, ask for help from someone in your spiritual community to be there or prepare a special service for your cat and invite your friends and family to be there after you get your urn back. This is about you and how you want to honor your cat. Everyone is different. Some, like me, feel better having their cat’s ashes and some prefer burial. Whatever is right for you, is the right way to go.

Crickets Urn Insta Version R Olson

The Bottom Line

How each cat passes is unique. How you handle it doesn’t have to be. You can flip out, run away, not deal with it and make an excuse why you let them suffer because you were afraid, or you can use this experience to truly cherish those last days, to celebrate them both before and after your cat passes away. This is not an easy path but we all have to face it. Being prepared and resolute in your roll will go a long way to making those last days blessed and at some point you will be able to look back and feel comfortable with the choices you made.

I wish we never had to say farewell to anyone, beloved pet or human we love, ever, but knowing our time together is limited makes it all the more precious.

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©2012 Robin AF Olson. I wrote this post in honor of the One Year Anniversary of Cricket's passing. I miss you so much, Crickie!

Not On My Watch: The Fate of the #SweetSuperheroes

I haven’t wanted to rescue any cats for a long time. In fact, I haven't been all that keen on rescuing cats ever again. Over the past 7 years, it’s taken too much of a toll on me in too many ways. Taking on Waverly, a filthy, pregnant cat and her two kittens into Kitten Associates was not in the plan. But after witnessing and working on the Waterbury Feral colony this past winter, I had to do something right to offset how difficult it was to see sick, pitiful looking cats racing through snow banks to get something to eat. I knew that vetting the ferals and providing food and shelter was the best we could provide. I got a handful of them off the property and into either a loving home or an open shelter where they had a chance to blossom, but there were another 40 cats left behind. Most were TNR’d (Trap, Neuter, Released), but it just never feels like it’s enough.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. February blizzard and the little calico who was so trap-savvy we could never get her trapped.

What’s odd is that this spring I’ve only gotten calls from people looking to adopt kittens, not any calls to help rescue them. March into April begins a usually very busy time rescuers refer to as “Kitten Season” here in the northeast. Due to a very warm January, followed by blizzards in February, it probably prevented any significant increase in the kitten population, which may be why my phone hasn’t been ringing off the hook.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Waverly lived in a warehouse on the same property as the Waterbury Ferals. They manufacture pipes in the building and Waverly was covered with grime and she smelled so bad you could smell her across the room. Our Vet warned us she could not give birth because it would be too dangerous to the kittens. Thankfully, foster mom Linda, got her cleaned up enough right before the kittens arrived.

I’ve been busy working on other projects (and with the Kellogg's on Holly's case) and trying to get some things sorted out for Kitten Associates. Waverly is going to be spayed soon and soon we’ll be able to get to the bottom of her mysterious and distressing cough. She’ll get the dental cleaning and tooth extractions she’s in dire need of, along with her vaccinations and spay. After 14 weeks with us she’ll finally be ready to go to her forever home, along with, I hope, her daughters Willoughby and Weatherby (who are getting spayed today).

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. What a difference good food and love make. Waverly shines and her kittens are getting ready to be put up for adoption. Waverly should be ready soon after her kittens.

 

It’s been rather calm here, which I cherish. My day-to-day routine with cat care is manageable. So why, when I got a text from a rescue partner in the south, begging for help, did I feel I needed to make my life crazy again?

 

Perhaps I’ve gotten used to the cycle of summers being busy and winters being more peaceful. Perhaps the big foster room needs to hold new life, new possibility, now that it’s not needed for much.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. The goofy twosome, Andy and sister, Annie.

Annie and Andy have been living among my cats during the day, leaving poor Mia by herself. Mia has always done great with kittens so maybe she’s ready for new youngsters to teach how to be big kitties? It’s not ideal to have her share the room, but I’ll make sure any kittens are vaccinated and tested first. I can’t let Mia roam the house. She might vanish into the basement and we’ll never see her again. It’s too dangerous for her and she has everything she could want where she is, it’s just in a 130 sq feet space instead of 2000.

So Joan contacted me about kittens in Henry County, Georgia. I used to help them, along with my very trusted (and missed) foster mom, Moe, who lives in the area. Moe has “retired” from fostering, but we're still good friends. Without Moe, I can’t do much to help save lives in Georgia, so I haven’t even tried. In fact, it was Moe who alerted me to Huggy Mama and her kittens, who later became the inspiration to start my own non-profit rescue where I could help more southern cats.

But Joan reached out to me with a sickening, heartbreaking fact:

 

There are 60 kittens that need placement. It’s Sunday afternoon. They will be euthanized Monday morning (today).

 

 

That’s it. No more time. All other rescues or shelters in the area are loaded to the gills. They're seeing one of the worst summers ever in the south and no hope in sight. That’s why they’re reaching out to rescues in the northeast, praying someone can help.

 

 

Kittens are going to DIE.

 

Kittens who are friendly, healthy, adoptable. Kittens who have no idea they have less than 24-hours left to live. I can’t take 60 kittens into my rescue, but maybe if I take a few, someone else will take a few and it will add up to enough kittens being helped that they don’t put any of them down.

It means sticking my neck out. It means hoping that we’ll get enough donations to cover their care. It means hoping they don’t arrive full of parasites or disease that harms my own cats. It means all the things I face every time I say, “Yes” to a rescue.

I told Joan she needed to find me a foster home for the two-week quarantine period and she'd have to find a way to get the kittens to Connecticut. If she could do that, I'd consider helping, so she got to work.

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I also always ask Sam what he thinks about taking on more kittens because it effects him, too. I’m grateful he’s always of the same mindset: help anyone we can, however we can. He doesn’t look for “what’s in it for me.” He has a huge, compassionate heart and I’m lucky for that because if we take on a litter of kittens and one is sick, odds are I’ll have to medicate and/or vet each one and that can turn into a nightmare if he doesn’t help me.

Joan asked me what kind of kittens I wanted since there were so many to choose from (thank God she didn't send me photos of all of them). I said to please choose colorful cats since if I can get the most adoptable, friendly kittens, I can move them out fast and help take on more. I said please no black or gray (very sorry if that’s your favorite cat color), because they are the harder ones to place. I said I could take 6 kittens.

 

But then I thought about it more. I could really take 8. It would be a bit much to handle, but I could do it. It would literally save their lives, so I wrote her back and said I changed my mind and to get me 8 kittens.

 

She sent me photos…

…of the gray, black, gray and white, black and white kittens. Really?

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They are friendly and healthy (so far). So what if they’re not the easiest color to place? I believe there IS a home for every cat. Some just take longer to adopt out. These little ones are going to die.

If I say yes, they will live.

 

 

Can you imagine what that feels like? It’s both heartbreaking and thrilling twisted together into a big painful knot in my gut.

 

What could I say?

 

I said, “YES.” Of course I said YES!

 

So we’re rescuing 8 kittens.

 

So everything is going to cost times 8.

 

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And we are going to have to find probably 4 to 8 families to adopt them some day. That’s a lot for a little rescue, but I couldn’t turn them away.

But as most stories go, things change in ways we can’t predict.

As I was adjusting to the idea of 8 kittens coming here in a few weeks, Joan contacted me again. There was an error.

Error?

 

I immediately feared the kittens had been euthanized before she could let her contact know to put a “rescue hold” on them. Thankfully, that was not the case with the kittens I agreed to take, but I did learn that they hadn’t waited regarding some of the others. The sick and feral kittens had already lost their lives, being put down ahead of schedule.

 

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I was completely heartbroken by this news and afraid of what Joan needed. Joan said she was sorry there was a mix-up. Apparently, of the 8 kittens (one litter of 3 and one litter of 5), there was an additional kitten that was missed because she’s a twin to her sister.

 

There was a 9th kitten—a little female tuxedo with medium length fur. “Could I please take just one more?”

 

It was bad enough that I knew this little one could be left behind to die based on my decision, but that she was a twin, too? You know what I said.

“Of course. We’ll take her.”

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So now we are 9. I’ve said yes to 9 kittens.

It will be our single, biggest kitten rescue (though 3 years ago when we rescued Laney, we ended up taking on 18 cats and kittens over a longer period of time).

 

I saved these little lives because I believe that you guys will have my back. It’s no joke that their care will be quite costly between vaccinations, spay and neuter, parasite treatment, FIV and FeLV testing, food, litter, vet exams and whatever else they may need times 9.

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I can’t do this rescue without you, so I’m asking you to become part of our rescue team by giving a life-saving gift. It will help us provide everything these kittens need until they find their forever families.

 

The #SweetSuperheroes basic care will cost at least $1500-$2000, as well as provide for Waverly, who has a very painful mouth in need of tooth extractions and testing to find out what is causing her horrible coughing. Between her care ($1100 -$1500) and the kittens, we need to raise a total of $3500, with at least half of it needed ASAP.

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Things to know before you give:

• We’re a 501c3 non-profit cat rescue. Your donation is tax-deductible.

• Our EIN (tax number) is 27-3597692

 

• We’re a 100% volunteer rescue organization so your donation goes directly to the cats and kittens, not a fundraiser or any paid staff members.

 

 

• Give a gift (of any size-every dollar matters) by going to our PayPal Account HERE.

 

 

• OR USE THE DONATE TODAY BUTTON WITHOUT A PAYPAL ACCOUNT (can use your debit or credit card)

 

• You can mail a gift to: Kitten Associates, 5 Commerce Road #354, Newtown, CT 06470. Make checks out to: Kitten Associates

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NOTE: We are NOT going to use any fundraising web sites because they take between WEEKS and MONTHS to give the donation to our rescue AND they can take a portion of the donations, or they ask you to pay a percentage. If we don’t use fundraising web sites, more of your donation goes to the kittens right NOW.

We’ll be posting updates on our fundraiser, along with updates on the kittens, on our Facebook page. As always, if you have any questions for us about the kittens or the fundraiser, please contact me (Robin) at info@kittenassociates.org

 

How does it feel to save a life? Become part of our team and find out! We can't save them WITHOUT YOU!

 

Meet our #SweetSuperheroes!

 

Oh and...they're arriving in two weeks, on Sam's birthday.

 

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UPDATE 6/14/17: We've only raised about $500 of the $3500 we desparately need to save these lives. But the exciting news is, we were able to contact a rescue partner to save an extra THREE KITTENS, which raises our comittment to ONE DOZEN kittens lives saved! What does that do? IT PUT A STOP TO EUTHANIZING ANY FURTHER KITTENS for now! Please consider making a gift of even $2 or $3 per kitten. It all adds up and makes it possible for these kittens to have a chance to live a full, loved life. Thank you!

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 9

(continued from Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.)

Holly peed on Sophia, the eldest daughter’s bed.

 

Game over.

 

Even though I warned the family this could happen while she’s adjusting to her medication, they will not give her any more chances. Perhaps they hung on because I was such a passionate advocate for giving her more time all these months. Perhaps she would have been long gone if they hadn’t contacted me, maybe in a new home where she didn’t pee on beds. I can’t say. All I know is there is no way she is not going back to the rescue that had her before to live in a cage.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Holly.

Sam agreed that this was not going to happen to Holly when I told him about my fears. I was glad for his support. It could set Holly ever further back to put her in a cage in a room with a lot of other cats. She'd be an emotional wreck. Holly can come back here and be part of Kitten Associates. Hopefully she won’t skip a beat and will resume enjoying her life in the foster room until we can re-home her. If she pees on the bed until the medication takes full effect, I guess I’ll do more laundry.

 

In some ways Stephen and are are cut from a similar cloth. We both work very hard at what we do and are passionate about it. I said as much to him when he told me the bad news. I told him I couldn't bear working so hard, for so long, only to fail. There wasn't anything more I could do than I had done. He had tried very hard and put up with a lot of chaos and mess, beyond what most people would tolerate, and he STILL loved Holly and still ached over this decision.

 

I was so busted up about this news that I went upstairs and laid down on the bed in the foster room because it's so far removed from the rest of the house. I was unable to do a thing. I just laid there completely depressed and heartbroken. My silly tuxedo polydactyl foster cat Andy came over to me and snuggled under my chin. He has always been a great comfort to me and his timing couldn't be better.

 

I couldn't stop going over it in my mind. I worked so hard for Holly and I really thought this story was going to end with a happy reunion. I know the Kellogg-girls are going to be distraught about this, too. I feel responsible for that and it breaks my heart. What I fear most is that the good feelings we all had for each other will morph into awkwardness and distance, until we are all faded from each other’s memory.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Yes, the entire Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue is in my kitchen.

On top of everything else, it’s been a terrible few months for me, personally. We’re in a crisis. In addition to seemingly everything breaking at the same time, without notice or warning, the power got shut off on Monday, the literal icing on the cake of horrors and humiliations I’ve had to bear. This is what I get for running a non-profit rescue and helping others. I’m broke. The range almost set the house on fire, so we can’t use it any more. I’ve been without a way to cook decently for a few weeks. I just want to make my scrambled egg for breakfast again. It’s awful microwaved. It leaves me feeling ill, but how can I complain when other people have it so much worse than I do?

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. No kidding. Look at my shirt. I guess maybe I knew I had to wear it that night.

I’ve never felt so low and hopeless. I’m trying to rise above it. My friend Adria told me she’d had her power cut many times a very long time ago. She’s ok now, but she’s known bad times. She reminded me that things can change for the better, I just can't give up. I'm terrified things are going to keep changing for the worse. Something has got to give. It’s been years and years of awful.

My lone ray of hope is something my friend Carolee told me this morning. She is the Animal Control Officer here in Newtown and I’ve known her for many years. I told her about Holly and how I feared she’d never find a home, but Carolee said it happens all the time. She’s had cats and dogs returned for peeing or passing stool just one time on the floor. She finds a new home and usually that’s the end of the issue. Could the answer be so simple? Holly really just needs a new family?

I don’t know.

 

All I know is having her return will be deeply painful for all of us. I don’t know how we'll move on as friends. I'll continue to do my job, to be Holly’s advocate, until I can find her a new family to love.

 

…twelve more hours later...

Stephen sent me some photos of Kirsten with Holly or just of Holly looking forlorn. I couldn’t understand why he’d send them to me. He’d given her up. He wrote to the rescue who handled Holly’s initial rescue and told her they had to give her up and that I was taking her, but Holly was STILL WITH THEM, not with me.

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Kirsten and her girl, Holly.

I had a feeling that Stephen was determined to move on with re-homing Holly, but that maybe his girls were pushing back about it. This morning the evidence became more clear when I contacted them to tell them I’d spoken with Dr. Larry. They needed to be reminded that Holly had to be on Prozac for at least 4 to 6 WEEKS before we knew if it was truly working and she’d only been on it for 2 ½ . I hoped they could give her more time, but I felt like I was pushing my luck.

 

Kirsten surprised me by telling me that Holly was doing great. She was following everyone around, being very affectionate and playful AND peeing in the litter pan. So I said; “Really??? So no giving her up then?” and she replied that she wanted to give Holly a chance, even after the incident two days prior.

 

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Where she belongs. Holly is home.

So…here we are again. Is Holly going to lose her home or not? I guess she got a reprieve for now and I’m thankful for that. I’m not sure I should “de-pee-proof” the foster room just yet or frankly what I can do, other than wait and see.

Time passes...

 

Final words (for now). Holly peed again, this time on Adeline's bed. Stephen said Holly needed to come to me as soon as possible. Really. For sure. I told him it being Memorial Day weekend that I needed to take her on Tuesday, honestly needing a few days break. I began to make preparations for Holly's arrival, resigned to the inevitable.

 

 

Until a day later...when "girl power" kicked in and Kirsten lobbied for more time (for which I am truly grateful) and to please give their dear Holly a chance. So they got what they wanted.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Andy and Annie with little "sister" Holly.

Meanwhile, Annie, Andy and Mia were supposed to be adopted together, but as fate would have it the oh-so-patient adopter was really just a sociopath who was also passive-aggressive. She went bonkers on me, was rude, impatient and pushy. I decided to do a bit of detective work on her application and discovered she'd had a DUI a few years ago at the age of 51 followed by having her nursing license suspended, then a year later in 2015, revoked. She had lied about being retired from nursing. She could not be near controlled substances for 4 years. Even though I admit I didn't want to the kitties to get adopted, that wasn't a factor when I realized they could have been in danger with this person. I put an end to the adoption while the woman bad-mouthed me on social media.

HOLLY. IS. STILL. HOME.

 

She's getting her Prozac every day. She's being loved by her family and, I hope, starting to outgrow her tendency to pee inappropriately (she's gone 12 days with no issues). I just got a photo from Stephen of her playing on her NEW CAT TREE so I'm taking that as a very good sign.

 

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Holly's new cat tree.

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I got to meet a singer/songwriter and get a glimpse of what life on the road is like for him. I got to know him as a fine man, kind and loving, passionate about his family and his music and his little torte kitten. He made me a cup of tea, gave me a bottle of bourbon, a bunch of Stephen Kellogg CDs and a t-shirt, but most importantly he gave me his friendship, which I will always treasure.

 

This consultation went far above and beyond anything I could have imagined. Holly and the Kelloggs (especially Stephen) kept me on my toes. I learned a lot about how the other side of a cat behavior issue effects the people that live with the problem and that was a great lesson to learn.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. BFFs.

No matter what, I will continue to be there for Holly-girl and the Kelloggs, in any way they need me. It's been quite a ride. One I will never forget.

As much as there can be...this is The End of Holly's Story...

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Holly's dad. If you'd like to catch Stephen. Here's his current Tour Info.

 

As for me, I have another case to work on dealing with a purebred lynx point Siberian cat who I took into Kitten Associates to help her find a new home. Her mom's allergies got so bad she couldn't be near the cat any more so I offered to help. The problem is, I didn't know that the cat has a few issues. Okay, one issue. She's very aggressive and unpredictably so. How am I going to get to the bottom of this and help Stormy find her forever home or is she going to be considered unadoptable? Find out next...

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stormy lives up to her name.

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 8

(continued from Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.)

I’ve been writing in my Stephen Kellogg embossed journal every day since Holly arrived five weeks ago. Today I made the final entry.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. My cat Mabel with my journal. Keeping a diary REALLY helped a lot. I was able to track how many times Holly peed, but more importantly what I was doing to change her behavior. I tried feeding her on the spot where she'd peed before. It worked for a few days, but then she still peed on the bed. That was a good data point to help me decide what to do next.

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GOOD DAYS 14

 

It was time for Holly to be reunited with her family. There weren’t any more tests I could put her through. The next one would be to see how she does once she’s home with her family and without the companionship of other cats. I warned the Kellogg’s that Holly might need more time before she completely stopped peeing. We couldn't know how much stress she’d experience making such a big change. I felt she should not start off in a small space, but just come home with access to her usual places so things didn't seem different to her (all of which had been steam cleaned while she was gone). They'd have to monitor her carefully and remember that it takes at LEAST 4 weeks for the Prozac to take full effect-more like 6 weeks.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stephen did come to visit Holly after he returned from his Tour and she was very happy to see him again.

I wrote the Kellogg’s a letter from Holly and sealed it into an envelope, along with a personal note that I'd leave with them to read after I'd left. Here's Holly's letter:

“To My Dear Family,

My name is Holly Ivy. I may look familiar to you on the outside, but inside I’m a different kitty. While I’ve been away, I’ve been on an adventure. I met some terrible beasts, but they became my friends because of my inherent good looks and charm.

I also met some people, who, at first I wasn’t so sure about, but guess what? They became my friends, too. One of them, I call her Aunt Robin, was super nice to me and because she is so squooshy, she made a nice bed for me to sleep on.

Another new friend is Dr. Larry. He has a pretty loud voice and where is his fur? It certainly is not on his head. That is weird. Anyway, Aunt Robin and Dr. Larry said that I was a wonderful kitty, but to unlock my magical powers I needed a little bit of help so I could become the best kitty ever, a Kellogg-kitty.

 

I told them that sounded good to me, but how would these powers be unleashed? Honestly, I still don’t know, but whatever they did must be working because I don’t get scolded any more and no one is tense around me any more. In fact, everyone can finally see me for who I really am…the super-prettiest, the pom-pom-fetcher, the smile-maker, the love-bug, and fifth Kellogg daughter.

 

I missed you all so very much and I am so glad to be home. I hope I never have to leave you again, because even though everyone was really nice to me, there’s no place better than with my family. I hope we can forget the past and move forward with joy because that’s what life is all about.

Love,

Your Holly-girl

I wanted the Kelloggs to have a clean slate and start fresh with Holly. I knew it was a lot to ask, but I’d also shown them that Holly could go a few weeks without resorting to her old habits. I’d come to understand that cats can learn to outgrow their inappropriate behaviors while on Prozac. It could take six months to a year. She might always need to be medicated, but at least we have something that worked for two weeks. Now comes the true test.

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Stephen met me at the door in his loungewear (PJs?). I guess he felt comfortable enough around me to be himself. I wasn’t trying to be cool any more, no longer worried about what I was wearing, either. We were at ease as he bent down and nonchalantly opened Holly’s cat carrier. She walked into the kitchen, tail up, excited. Within seconds we could tell she knew she was home. She gently rubbed her cheeks against a toy filled basket on the floor and again on the corner of the kitchen island. She was a busy bee, refreshing her scent around the main rooms of the first floor.

Stephen was busy filling up the litter pans and sweeping up some loose grains from the floor. I kept an eye on Holly, tossing her a pom pom, which she ran after, or following her into the room where she’d often peed on the sofa. This time she was exploring and though her pupils were rather large, she still had a confident, happy air to her.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Holly-girl with her daddy.

 

Kirsten returned home from dropping the children off at school. She was clearly happy to see Holly again. I’d suggested they didn’t tell their daughters that Holly was going to come home today so they kept it a secret. Their second oldest daughter, Adeline, had asked before leaving for school if they could visit Holly this week, anxious to see her again. I was grateful there was still a connection even after all this time and wished I could see her face once she realized Holly was home.

 

I was grateful, too, that although Stephen has been clear he does not have the bandwidth to go a crazy distance with Holly (again), he is willing to give it another try. I’m guessing because of how hard I worked to solve this problem he's willing to continue…and I think, too, because he trusts me (and that is a great gift).

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Two normal and cool people with Holly and...yikes.

I showed Kirsten and Stephen how to hide Holly’s magic pill into her food. It’s a bit of a fussy thing to have to do, but it’s only once a day. We gave Holly a snack and she ate it right up. It was a good sign that she was adjusting to being home after only a few minutes. It gave me hope.

 

Holly returned to her favorite spot next to the vent under the refrigerator. The warm air was soothing and the Kellogg’s often found her there. We gathered around her in a semi-circle, all sitting on the floor. Stephen took a selfie of all of us together, but I didn’t realize I should sit up so I looked like an idiot laying on the floor while they sat up, smiling for the camera (so I sort of fixed it in photoshop!). I really wanted this last image of us together to be the one that would bring this story to a close, perfectly, but as so many things go, events unfolded in ways I never expected.

 

Group Photo w Holly RT
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Ha ha ha...photoshop!

 

Three months ago, a guy sent me an email asking for help with his cat, Holly and I never could have imagined where our paths would take us. Today my heart is full. I’m fighting back tears, but it’s a losing battle. I worked so hard to save Holly from having a terrible future. I gave up a lot of my time and resources. I asked so many of my peers for help. I pushed and begged and cajoled, and in the end, at least, so far, knock wood, it was completely worth it.

 

A few hours after I got home, Stephen texted me a photo of Adeline. Although I can’t share it (because I respect her privacy). I can tell you what it looked like. He took it the moment she realized Holly was home. She’s crying. Her expression is a mixture of pure heartbreak and joy. Kirsten is holding her tight, comforting her, but you sense that in another moment Adeline will be reaching towards Holly so she can hold her again and tell her the words she never thought she’d be able to say: “Welcome home my Holly-girl, welcome home."

…12 hours later...

----------------------------

 

Holly peed on the eldest daughter’s bed.

 

[yep, one more part to go then...we'll see.]

IMG 1590
©2017 Robin AF Olson.

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 7

(continued from Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.)

Ten Days Later

 

Holly began peeing on the bed, on her own cat bed that was on the mattress, on Mia’s cat bed that was on the mattress. I did load after load after load of laundry. All the pillows (all six of them) had a little bit or more of urine and had to be washed, too. Clearly Holly was adjusted to being in my home and was back to her old behavior issues. Even though I’d been through things like this in the past, this was really bad. I was constantly on edge and it was a vivid reminder of what the Kelloggs had being going through.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Screen shot from my web cam footage showing Holly peeing in her own cat bed. Andy is peeing in "her" litter pan (they were all using either pan by then) but he got in there AFTER she started peeing in the cat bed.

Kirsten and the girls came to visit Holly. Less than 10 minutes before they arrived, she peed on the bed for the second time that day. About an hour after they left she peed yet again. I felt that Holly was spinning out of control, fast. Also, the amount of urine was alarming. It wasn’t a small puddle. It was a great volume of urine.

IMG 0680
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Good thing she's cute.

I spoke with Dr. Larry again and we were both torn about next steps. Did Holly need an ultrasound now? Another urinalysis? Or did she need Prozac? I did NOT want to put her on medication at such a young age, but I did find out that unlike other anti-depressants, with Prozac Holly would feel more relaxed, stopping inappropriately eliminating and learn that she does not need to continue this behavior. There was a chance that in 6 months to a year she could be weaned off the meds and in essence grow out of this behavior problem.

I had to do something so I started Holly on Canna-Pet. From the company: "...Canna-Pet is NOT simply a “CBD product.” In fact, Canna-Pet is something totally and truly unique. All Canna-Pet products are formulated with an awareness of the benefits of whole plant extracts, to provide an “entourage effect” from the inclusion of eight additional cannabinoids and more than 20 terpenes beyond “just CBD” – along with higher bioavailability. This proprietary production and formulation makes Canna-Pet® unique."

IMG 0802
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Everyone on my lap.

I’d been using Canna-Pet on my cat, Spencer, to soothe his arthritic bones and saw it helped him a lot. It can also help with stress, and I didn’t have to ramp up the dose or worry about weaning her off it if it didn’t work. Dr. Larry agreed to give it a week and see how it went. If it didn’t work we could go on from there.

 

A day or two passed without incident, but Holly began peeing on the bed again every so often. It was very difficult not to strangle her I was so tired of doing laundry and cleaning up the room. The room was becoming empty of any furnishings. There were no pillows on the bed and barely any cat beds left. If Holly began to pee on the cat trees that would be a deal-breaker. I wouldn’t be able to launder them and it could ignite a fire under the other cats and they might pee on everything, too.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Funny-Face.

She didn’t even make it a week. It was clear the supplement wasn’t the right fit for Holly. Stephen was coming home soon. Things were as bad as ever. I spoke with Dr. Larry yet again and we decided to start Holly on Prozac. Inasmuch as I felt like a failure, I just could not give up on this cat. It reminded me of a nursery rhyme my mother used to recite:

There was a little girl, 
Who had a little curl, 
Right in the middle of her forehead. 
When she was good, 
She was very, very good, 
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

(I later found out it was attributed to a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem.)

Kirsten and the girls came to visit again and again I had to have a sit-down with Kirsten about what was going on. I knew it was shocking to her that I felt we needed to go to Prozac, but I got her blessing to start that day. I felt so badly. I really didn't want to have to do this, but my hand was forced. I showed Kirsten how I’d be sneaking the pill into a treat. It’s only ¼ of a small pill so it was easy enough to hide. I gave Holly her first dose, realizing it was her last chance to stop her inappropriate behavior.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Fits in like one of the Kitten Associates family now.

The girls were great with Holly and so happy to see her. It made me feel doubly worried that maybe this was the last visit they'd ever have with her. I tried to shift gears emotionally, so I changed the subject and asked the girls about Irish Folk dancing and why they keep their arms down straight. Sophia, Stephen's eldest daughter, said it would look funny if they moved their arms around and proceeded to do an amazing Irish Stepdance in my living room both with her arms straight and then waving her arms around. It was hilarious and just what I needed.

--------

Day 3 of Prozac. Nightmare.

 

From my journal: "Holly has pretty much become unglued. She just peed on a cat bed, right in front of me. A bed that was not on the mattress, but off on another side of the room. She peed a lot of volume. I lifted her during her peeing to put her in the litter pan and she peed ON me."

 

 

It was 1 o’clock in the morning. I was so mad I wanted to throw her into the wall, but I just cleaned up with tears of rage rolling down my cheeks. I was so fed up and tired. Three days on Prozac turned her into a nutcase worse than before. It was the third time she’d peed on something that DAY.

 

Sam was exhausted, too but I begged him to help me. With great reluctance we set up a big dog crate with a litter pan inside it and some bedding for Holly. She went into the crate easily and didn’t seem to mind being confined. I just wanted to sleep, but I still had to do more laundry. I felt a bitter mix of anger and frustration. This cat was completely impossible to deal with. I was “done.”

Script

But I couldn’t give up. I knew if I did I would hate myself later. Under the veil of my frustration was care and concern for this creature. She was a total love-muffin and happily fell asleep with her head against my cheek. I loved her! I knew if I could get some rest I could re-set my emotions and try yet again.

The next day I gave Holly her pill. Somehow a tiny bit of it wasn’t covered and the terrible taste freaked Holly out. It took 8 more tries over the course of the day to get her to take the pill. I hid it every way I could think of, even in a frozen ball of butter, but every time she outsmarted me. I finally was so fed up I had to get Sam to hold her so I could shove the pill into her mouth-she spit it out-but I finally got the job done.

 

I knew it upset Holly forcing the pill into her, so I expected her to begin peeing. I wondered how I was going to get a pill into her ever again. I wondered if she would ever trust me again. I knew if I gave her some time and was careful that maybe she would recover from the pill being forced on her.

 

I didn’t put Holly back into the crate. I let her be. I let myself be and took some time off to be alone. If she peed, she peed. I couldn't do any more for anyone.

------------------

The Next Day

Guess what? She didn’t pee on anything over night. It was a new day. Fresh start.

I was able to figure out a new way to hide her pill and it worked-easily!

Holly was playful, continued to eat well and even sat on me, purring loudly. Who was this cat?

The next day, same thing. No peeing on anything. Got her pill into her easily. There was something different about Holly. It was as if her edges were ever so slightly softened. I left 2 pillows on the bed over night. She didn’t pee on the bed or the pillows.

I left the pillows on the bed a second night. They were fine the next morning.

 

This morning I returned Holly’s cat bed to the bed. If something was going to set her off, this was going to be it. Annie and Andy ran over to it, sniffing at it. They began to “make muffins” on it as Holly walked over. I tensed, ready to see Holly furiously scratch at the bed, then pee in it, but she was barely interested in it at all. In fact, she walked away and played with a pom pom instead.

 

This is the first time I’ve felt like maybe Holly is “over” this behavior issue. That’s a nutty thing to say, considering this cat constantly throws me curve balls, but in my heart it feels like maybe she’s okay now. Of course I’m going to to upstairs to check on Holly and she will have peed everywhere, right? It’s only been 4 days since the triple-pee storm, but it’s been one week that Holly’s been on Prozac.

I think that perhaps Holly was fighting the effects of the Prozac so that's why she got so bad on day 3 and by day 4, the Prozac had "taken over" and begun working.

The Kelloggs are on the road with Stephen. They come home in a day or two. Perhaps Stephen will come see Holly. I know that all these weeks away from her makes him more reluctant to come back. It’s easier to let her go if the connection is fading, but with this promising news maybe I can get him to give her one more chance?

IMG 0901
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Come on Holly-girl!

 

In my journal I wrote, “Come on Holly! You can DO THIS!” And I hope, pray, and cross my fingers and toes, that maybe we finally found the answer to help Holly keep her home.

 

[sorry, we're not done yet...to be continued...two more chapters to go...]

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 6

(continued from Part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.)

Annie and Andy’s (A&A) possible adopter was willing to wait a few weeks, while Holly stayed with us. It also gave me a few more weeks with A&A, who YES, I love way too much (if there is such a thing as too much) and who I'm reluctant to adopt to anyone.

 

The Kellogg ladies did come visit. I offered to take them over to Wildflour Confections and Tickled Pink, which I consider to be a perfect girlie-afternoon adventure. They were in agreement because really, cupcakes and cute girlie things to buy? What is better?

 

Tickled Pink Easter R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Tickled Pink.

We began with a visit with Holly, breaking up the large family into smaller groups of two so Holly wouldn’t get overwhelmed. Greta and Sophia and I were having fun with the kitties while Kirsten, Noelle and Adaline were with Sam in the living room. Holly was playing fetch with her pom poms and all was well.

After a while we switched things up. Greta and Noelle were downstairs with Kirsten and Sam while I was with the older girls and Holly. Suddenly I heard a tremendous crash from downstairs. I could not, for the life of me, even guess what the sound was, other than breaking glass, a lot of glass.

I ran downstairs to find the 1950s glass topped table that’s in the room by the front door, turned onto its side with everything that was once on it in pile on the floor. Pressed up against the wall was Greta, terrified, not saying a word, not admitting she tipped the table over while her mom had gone outside to get something from the car. There is no other explanation and somehow I had to bite my tongue and not flip out as I carefully picked through the things on the floor to assess the damage.

Kirsten was immediately apologetic and confused-as we all were. If I had thought there’d be a risk of the table being turned over I would have taken precautions. Luckily, the table was ok, but one glass piece, not a valuable one, was destroyed. Later I discovered my kitschy bowling ball decanter that had a music box in the base, was also broken. That would be tough to repair and I knew everyone felt terrible and Kirsten wanted to make it right. I get it, things like this can happen. It’s only stuff and no one got hurt. I was afraid that our afternoon trip would be cancelled, but thankfully we agreed to move past it and focus on having fun.

Kirsten got everyone into their 8-seater van so we could travel together. She has so much energy and is so bubbly, I don’t know how she does it. My guess is she goes to bed at 7PM because it has got to be a tremendous amount of work to just stay present and pay attention to four children, let alone care for them and keep them all safe.

IMG 0855
©2017 Robin AF Olson. The lovely Kellogg ladies at Tea with Tracy.

We had a very lively conversation during our drive. The girls mostly occupied themselves and, once again, I was impressed by how quiet they were.

IMG 0390
©2017 Robin AF Olson. STRAWBERRY. POPTART. CUPCAKES.

I urged Kirsten to head for the cupcakes first because I was worried they’d run out since it was a bit later in the afternoon by the time we arrived (full disclosure: I NEEDED A CUPCAKE). The girls had fun choosing cupcakes and though I had every intention of only getting 4 cupcakes (to share with Sam), somehow I got 6 (thank you to Kirsten for buying them for us!). After getting cupcakes, we decided to try to have high tea down the street at Tea with Tracy. On a Saturday afternoon, the odds were not so good we’d get a table. The owner was very nice to us even though he was booked up he said if we could order and be done in 30 minutes he could seat us. We took on the challenge and had the fastest tea in history. We didn’t even finish so cups of tea were transferred to “to go” cups and the food was boxed up. No one complained. Everyone did their part and had as much fun as they could, promising they would do it again when they could make a reservation ahead of time. I was sorry we couldn’t have stayed longer, but it was nice to be part of a family for a time.

Wildflour cupcakes r olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Wildflour Confections.

Our last stop was Tickled Pink, mecca for girlie-gifts. As we walked around the shop, the girls were allowed to choose one modest gift for themselves. We broke into smaller groups pointing out things we liked. Little Greta chose a stuffed white kitten toy and clung to it as we continued looking at the displays of adorable giftware. She saw some hair combs that looked like a tiara. She tried to put one onto the kitten’s head. It kind of shocked me because a few weeks before I had done the same thing to a real kitten (I didn’t use the comb part on the kitten, just placed the tiara-comb on her head). I showed the girls the photo and we were all amazed by the synchronicity.

Will with Crown Robin Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Princess Willoughby.

 

I think we all enjoyed our time together. Kirsten congratulated me for surviving the day with the girls, but in truth I enjoyed myself. I haven’t been around children much, other than my nephew and he’s going to be 24 soon. I find that I like kids a lot. Maybe it’s because I still feel like one inside.

 

I kept in touch with Stephen, updating him on Holly's progress. He sent her some video messages to keep her company, assuring her he still cared about her. The problem was I was the human on the other side of the messages and in a lot of ways the messages felt like they was directed to me, even though rationally I knew they were not. My God this man can make a person swoon, no doubt there. With his permission, this is what he sent Holly [see below] (and by the way, Holly heard his voice and pawed at my phone, then meowed, so his swoon-powers work on cats, too).

©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Used with permission. [SWOON!]

So things moved along. Holly began to settle down. I wondered if she’d start to pee on the bed once she felt safe in the room and if she began to bond with me. I began looking for a kitty-buddy for Holly since the Kellogg’s decided adding Annie and Andy would be too much to take on. I wasn’t surprised at all, but it would have been the easiest transition for the cats.

©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Used with permission. Holly-girl, Stephen's special nickname, along with the special message that made Holly swoon, too.

I found a possible cat-candidate with my friend Katherine who runs AID. He was the right age, mellow cat, who liked being with other cats. I trust Katherine and knew she would back him up if it didn’t work out. The Kelloggs were anxious about getting a second cat and looking forward to adding to their family. They knew I had to offer them a cat so I could carefully assess them up front to give them every chance of making a good match. I wish I had a cat that could be a solo cat but none of my fosters fit the bill.

I also realized I needed to push Holly a bit to see if she would react inappropriately, so two nights ago I didn’t clean the litter pan before going to bed. That day I hadn’t spent much time with the cats because two of my own cats, Spencer and Nora, had health emergencies. I was also trying to wean Willoughby and Weatherby off their mom, Waverly, and onto cat food. I was tired and stressed out. Annie, Andy, Mia and Holly only got the basics that day.

 

The next morning, Holly peed on the bed…on MY side of the bed where I spend my time hanging out with the cats. I was pretty shocked and saddened to see the large stain on the sheet. Thankfully I had prepared the bed beforehand using a waterproof mattress pad, topped with a shower curtain, topped with puppy pads, THEN covered with a fitted sheet. The urine was mostly absorbed by the pads, but one pillow did get a bit wet so I did a few loads of laundry.

 

Pee On Bed
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Heartbreak comes in the form of a puddle of urine exactly where I sat each night with Holly.

I thought about what this means for Holly. It could mean she will lose her home. I have to talk to Stephen about it, but I want to have more data points before I tell him.

Sam and I spent yesterday (Saturday) afternoon with Holly and the kitties. Their pans are cleaned three times a day. I made sure Holly got a snack so she wouldn’t be stressed from being hungry. Right before bed I cleaned out the pan again.

IMG 1428
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Being prepared made a big difference. There was no way any urine was going to get on the mattress with a shower curtain under these puppy pads.

This morning the bed was dry. I got up early to make sure it was ok. I scooped the pans, then went downstairs to get the cat’s food. About an hour later I served breakfast. Everyone ate well, then started using the litter pans so I scooped them since I was there. While I was scooping, I heard a noise on the bed. Holly was sniffing the area where she’d peed the day before and was furiously pawing at the area. I responded by making a short loud hiss-like sound at her. She stopped, jumped off the bed and into the litter pan and peed.

Holly pees in pan r olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Whew.

I didn’t know if she was reacting to a urine smell that I didn’t clean well enough or if she was energized by my being there a few times so early in the morning and by just eating. She corrected her behavior immediately once I hissed, but what was the bigger meaning here?

Was she stressed from me being gone the day before and wanting to have her scent mix with mine? Was she just having an “oops” moment that needed a quick correction? What I knew I couldn’t tell Stephen was definitively what we had to do for Holly. I couldn’t guarantee anything would work. In my own home I still deal with inappropriate elimination issues because I have 8 cats. It’s not bad compared to how it was years ago, but if I’m not careful there are still things that can trigger a cat to pee somewhere they shouldn’t.

Could the Kelloggs still love Holly if they knew they’d have to clean up after her from time to time? Maybe she would grow out of it. She'd gone TWO WEEKS without one misstep. I know she can do it and maybe in a few more months she will be using her box all the time?

IMG 1471
©2017 Robin AF Olson.

 

IMG 1473
©2017 Robin AF Olson.

 

The problem is, I can’t know how she will behave. I can put her on anti-anxiety meds, but she is only 7-months old. I’m going to talk to Dr. Larry tomorrow and I’m going to work up the courage to talk to Stephen. He’s only on the road for another week so my time is running out.

 

 

I’m afraid Holly’s is, too.

 

[to be continued...]

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 5

(continued from Part 1, 2, 3 and 4)

Then this happened…

 

…I got to meet my cat behavior mentor, Pam Johnson-Bennett.

 

 

Seventeen years ago I read Pam's book, “Think Like a Cat” and it changed my life. A light went off, a fresh awareness blossomed; cats are not humans in little furry outfits nor do they think like them. They think like cats. It may be stating the obvious, but understanding how to decode those motivations, behaviors is eye-opening. A cat peeing on the bed or other unwanted (by humans) behavior is perfectly appropriate in the cat-world. They're sending a message in cat-language, but when they live with humans who don't speak "cat," that's when conflict occurs.

 

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The meeting almost didn’t happen. I’m dealing with two sick 7-week old kittens, Weatherby and Willoughby, and I was worried about leaving them alone while Sam drove us to New York City to attend Pam’s Cat Wise Cat Cafe Tour (thanks to Wellness Natural Pet Food) at Meow Parlour.. It was to celebrate the launch of her latest book, Cat Wise. I knew there wouldn’t be another chance to speak with Pam and the timing couldn’t be better for Holly. I could ask Pam about Holly’s case and get feedback on whether or not I was nuts to take her to my home as part of the solution for her inappropriate elimination problems.

I fed the kittens and cleaned their goopy eyes right before we left. I figured we could do the trip in about five to six hours, most of it being the drive-time between Newtown and New York City. It was a lovely cool spring afternoon and fortunately with good weather meant the drive time should go smoothly.

Or not.

We had planned to arrive by 6:30 PM but the traffic was so bad we got to Meow Parlour just as the event was going to get under way at 7:30. Thankfully, even though we were running late, I had a chance to get my photo with Pam. Many people didn't show up regardless of the event being booked solid. Not only was it rude of those folks to skip out, but I couldn’t imagine why they’d miss this rare opportunity to meet Pam if they were cat lovers. The good part about it was I got to have more time with Pam...and I freely admit that I was all "fan girl" with her. Totally embarrassing, but what the heck. I love PAM! She's my heroine!

IMG 0760
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Pam giving out tips while one of Meow Parlour's foster kitties looks on.

 

Pam gave the audience some great tips and things to think about to help them better understand their cat. What delighted me is she was willing to take on cat behavior problems and offer suggestions. One of the folks there stunned some of us by saying she took her cat on the subway every weekend and that she was worried about the stress on the cat. Then she added, the cat traveled loose inside her PURSE. No wonder the cat was scared!

 

Even though I wanted to scream at the woman, Pam was calm and relaxed. She gave very clear suggestions and explained why these things needed to be done. Meanwhile Sam and I were rolling our eyes at each other, stunned that anyone could be so foolish.

I asked Pam about Holly and she began to suggest things I’d already done but didn’t have a chance to tell her. She quickly realized we were well down the path of things cat behaviorists can suggest. Then I told her about my out-of-the-box idea of bringing Holly to my home for kitten bootcamp. She said it was a good move and the right choice. She confirmed what I’d wondered from day one-Holly needs a buddy. Her peeing on even a shower curtain covered bed, on her “mom’s” side of the bed is saying she wants to bond with her family and is anxious they are going to leave her alone again.

This explains why that after almost a week here, Holly has used her litter pan perfectly. Even though I'm not in the room that often, Holly has become friends with Andy and even Annie is starting to tolerate her. This was the answer I needed. Of course it begs the question of “now what?” "How do we take the next steps?"

Holly has been introduced to Annie and Andy already and they do well together. Would Stephen and Kirsten go this far for Holly? I knew they’d be ok with a buddy-kitty for Holly, but two? At least they didn’t have to spend another thousand dollars doing more testing on Holly, so that was good news.

This is somewhat uncharted territory. My gut says they should all three together because it would be easier on the family. It’s a known quantity. They don’t have to introduce a new kitten to Holly and frankly I don’t know what Holly might do in her home with a new, unknown cat there. Pee more? If they don’t do the introduction correctly, then what happens? BUT, it means adding two more cats because they want to keep one. That's just crazy!

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Pam Johnson-Bennett (left), me (center), Sam (right).

 

I so was energized by talking with Pam. It also helped my confidence soar. I identified the problem early on but I had to go slowly and rule out other things before jumping to adding a new family member.

 

The true test is to return Holly to her home. I could probably return her tomorrow, when the Kellogg ladies come to visit. It would mean Holly leaving two weeks early, but without Stephen home it wouldn’t be a fair test. And do I tell the Kelloggs NOW about what I’ve learned or wait at least another week to see if once Holly is settled down she’ll start to pee on the bed?

As excited as I am I should wait a bit longer. Holly can stay here and I can be even more sure it’s the right thing by the time Stephen is back from being on tour.

 

The only problem is, I just found an adopter for Annie and Andy.

 

[To be continued…]

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 4

(continued from Part 1, 2, and 3)

 

I have to say it again, the Kelloggs are some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. Kirsten is sweet and lovely. The girls are all so polite and well-mannered, smart and outgoing (except for little Greta, but even she is starting to open up around me). Their warmth opened me up, giving me insight into the other side of cat behavior and cat rescue—that of the family who is dealing with the possibility of giving up their cat. Reluctantly, I admit I tend to vilify people who don't do the work to keep their cat. I try so hard not to do that, but in the back of my mind, I often find that I’m not too thrilled, and often frustrated when it comes to the human part of doing rescue, but this was different.

 

Holly wasn’t being given up for good, she was being given up for now. Stephen was really shaken up about it. It made me want to help him all the more to see him fight off tears when he put Holly’s cat carrier on the bed in the foster room. I rattled off how things were going to go next, to give him time to take a breath. I quickly started to talk about what to expect from Holly in a new environment to help distract Stephen from his heartache.

 

 

I wanted the whole family to see for that it would be okay, and moreso that leaving Holly with me wasn’t a failure of any kind. It was about love. The love this family has for their kitten meant giving her up for a few weeks to give her every chance to learn appropriate behavior in a situation that might be better for her. I honestly think they would do anything to help Holly and because of that I was inspired to take her on.

 

I hooked up our old web cam so the family could check in on Holly, silently praying that they’d never see her getting beat up by the other cats-a possibility-or they might see worse, me in my jammies scooping the litter pan! I promised to keep them updated and assured them that if there were any health issues I’d advise them immediately.

We said our farewells and Kirtsen and I decided that a weekly visit would be a good idea to help the kids stay connected and help Holly know she was loved. With Stephen being on the road, it would be strange not to have his late night texts, but he gave me the ok to update him. Once again I was so glad to know how much this guy cared about his family, even the furry kind.

Fostering Holly Begins with a Bite

Holly was not happy. She was angry about being with other cats. The first twelve hours she hunkered down in her cat carrier. I wondered if she was peeing inside the carrier, but she was so upset I didn’t want to try to handle her after my first failed attempt ended in being nipped.

My foster cats were upset, too. Mia, was effected the most negatively. She hid. She wouldn’t eat dinner. That night while I was trying to sleep in the room she cried every hour or so. Her meow is hoarse and ragged and pitiful. I felt terrible upsetting her so much.

Annie and Andy were staying away from Holly, too, because for a little “punk” she is an alpha cat, really a full-blooded tortie full of ‘tude. During times like this it’s difficult to imagine that it will ever change for the better. In all my years fostering, I’d seen kitten after kitten behave the same way until they felt safe. With Holly doing things outside the norm in her home, would she be unpredictable in mine, too and NOT settle down?

IMG 0540
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Holly arrives and the rest of us hide.

That first night was rough. Holly came out of her carrier around 11 PM. I’d moved her litter pan close to her spot on the floor below the bed where her carrier was located. She was acting fussy. I lifted her into the pan and stood guard, while Annie and Andy stared at her. I blocked their line of sight the best I could so Holly was able to feel safe enough to urinate in the pan. I checked her cat carrier while she was doing her thing and it was dry.

There wasn’t much room on the bed. Holly returned to her cat carrier. I was exhausted and wanted to sleep, stretch out and relax. It wasn't possible, but I managed to slide my feet behind Holly’s cat carrier. As I laid there trying to get comfortable, I thought about how Stephen had told me he spent his last night with Holly laying on the floor of his bathroom with Holly’s cat bed as his pillow. She laid next to her daddy, a sweet final night together. Now Holly was slowly creeping out of her cat carrier to snuggle up against my ankles. Unlike most kittens, she didn’t attack my feet. She was also probably exhausted from stress. As she slept, I laid there and listened to Mia crying. She was scared and wanted to get out of the room, something she's never tried to do. I dozed off for a short time until Mia began again, always sitting next to the door, anxiously trying to get out, get away from the “interloper.”

 

The next day was Easter Sunday and Sam and I had to leave early to drive to NYC to take Sam’s mother to Easter service at her church. I was scared to leave Holly alone. I'd gotten about three hours of sleep and was barely coherent. I had to go. I had to hope the room wouldn’t be soaked with urine or sprayed with blood when I returned.

 

Holly hadn’t been inappropriate so far. I was keeping a journal so I’d know if she was peeing 8 times a day as the Kelloggs had noted. Things in the room were a bit calmer, too. I knew they’d have to work out their hierarchy and since there hadn’t been any violent fights that maybe by the time I got home they’d be buddies.

I kept checking the web cam while I was on the road. I saw Annie and Holly smacking each other, but that was it. I also saw Holly use her litter pan. So far, so good, but Mia was still hiding and miserable.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Via our web cam I saw Andy sneaking a look at the newcomer.

I observed that Holly began to take ownership of the bed. It was the prime position in the room and I couldn’t allow her to do that. She had to share it with everyone. Mia’s favorite cat bed was in the back corner on the mattress and she hadn’t been in it for days. I kept moving things around in the room, trying to gauge whether a cat bed here would make Holly pee on it or block others from using it. I finally settled on repositioning items so Holly didn’t have the main location of her scent on the bed.

I knew every time I made a change, she could react by urinating or it causing a fight if I didn’t sort out how to position everything from the litter pan to her cat carrier (she needed it to hide in for the short term) into locations that were workable for the cats. Was the litter pan too exposed? Too protected? If I moved the cat carrier would Holly flip out? It was a slow process that had to be refined again and again.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Out of her cat carrier, but still not so sure of her surroundings.

 

Then, a breakthrough. The following night I was watching tv in the foster room. Holly chirped to Andy and he sat up and ran over to her. They began chasing each other around the room in a playful manner. Holly slapped at him a few times and he slapped back. It wasn’t vicious, it was simple roughhousing. Somehow they'd worked things out enough to begin playing together.

 

Holly continued to use her litter pan, then used the main pan the fosters used, too. It was interesting they were not using hers, but I was glad they were not using the bed either.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Making friends.

Today is Day 6 of Holly being with us. She is using her litter pan faithfully. There were two incidents where I thought she might be showing a possible medical issue, but it hasn’t happened recently. She’s eating well, playing, still a bit hissy, but she’s also fearless and has a huge personality. Annie and Mia are coming around. Mia is eating and finally went back to her spot on the bed.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Relaxing enough to sleep soundly-at last.

Holly is very chatty and lets me know if she’s hungry and dinner is late. She loves her pom poms and spring toys and will fetch them on occasion. She likes to sit behind me or will pass out on my lap completely stretched out and limp. I’m grateful she trusts me. Making friends with her is important. She has silly markings on her face. It looks like she doesn’t have a nose at all but it’s just her coloring. I can see why her family loves her so much. She's pretty darn cute.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. The web cam shows me Holly IS using her litter pan.

Kirsten and the girls are coming over to visit in a few days. She was kind enough to share a photo of something her daughter Noelle created. When I saw it I cried.

 

Here’s a little girl who feels she is lucky because she has a kitten. I remember feeling like that, too, when I was a kid. I have to make this work with Holly. I have to find a way for Holly to be happy and appropriate in her home with humans. I got a glimmer of why Stephen is so passionate about helping Holly because of the impact this little tortie has on his family. This is not just a kitten who can easily be replaced. This is a kitten who will break her family’s heart if they can’t find a way to live with her.

 

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©2017 The Kellogg Family.

Now I want to know how this is going to end because I finally have a measure of hope that perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe that light is actually furry and has oddly shaped paws and is named Andy? Maybe Holly just needs a friend? All I know is I’ve got to get this right for Holly’s sake and for the Kelloggs.

[to be...yes, you guessed it...]

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