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REVIEW and GIVEAWAY: Shop Cats of New York

 

You might notice them sitting in a window watching the world go by, or nestled comfortably, napping on a self next to merchandise that’s on sale. These are the cats who make their home inside the shops of New York City, but what is their life really like?

 

Book cover

That question, posed by author Tamar Arslanian, was the inspiration for her book, Shop Cats of New York. In this 176 pg, eye-poppingly colorful book, Arslanian focused her efforts on 40 beloved, cherished shop cats. These feisty felines are well cared for, some even getting fan mail from the shop’s patrons. None are mistreated or left to live on scraps. Tamar makes a fine distinction between “Bodega cats” (small markets that dot the New York cityscape, where cats are often in poor condition and mistreated) to “shop cats” where the cat’s home, from a loving-care standpoint, is the same as yours or mine.

 

Shop Cats of New York is my favorite kind of book—lots of full-page, heartwarming images paired beautifully with charming stories about each featured cat. Arslanian is a heck of a writer, one who may be best known for her blog: IHaveCat.com - “Single in the City with Cat(s)." Tamar looks for the quirky, the adorable, the sometimes heartbreaking in each cat’s tale, but doesn’t overdo it by being too cutesy or overly maudlin.

 

Cshop cats

The book would fall flat without cat photographer extraordinaire, Andrew Martilla’s images. As someone who’s taken thousands of photos of her own cats, I can sincerely appreciate the level of skill it takes to go beyond the cliché posed kitty portrait. Martilla instinctively grabs the decisive moment, where placement, lighting and expression capture the essence of each cat’s personality. Martilla admits he only had 30 minutes or so to photograph each cat; hardly time to focus the camera while his subjects were moving around, unwilling sit still for more than a second. The shops were open during photography so he had the extra challenge: how to side-step customers and balance being unobtrusive with making images.

SCONY sample image 4  Bobo

There’s one image in particular photo that really stands out. It’s a portrait of a big orange tabby named Lionel, who lives in a hobby shop. On first glance, you don’t even see Lionel amidst the clutter of the shop’s counter, but once you find him, you’re caught in his steady gaze. There’s a quality, that doesn’t depend on photoshop tricks or a studio lighting set up that reminds me of a Bernice Abbott image. There’s an honesty and simplicity in capturing this moment that’s very appealing. (You can see what I mean and meet Lionel on page 134.)

Shop Cats of New York is a hefty, gorgeously printed book by Harper Design. It’s a page-turner that’s guaranteed to delight cat-lovers of any age, and one of the best books about cats I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

Until recently, Shop Cats was sold out, but thankfully the publisher has more in stock. You can grab a copy HERE before they sell out again.

Tamar Signs
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Signing away! This could be yours!

If you’d like to win a Free AUTOGRAPHED copy of SCNY, simply leave a comment here on why you’d like to win. Most amusing comment, as judged by me, by Friday, January 13 (which would have been my daddy’s 87th birthday) 2017 at 11:11 AM EST will win.

Tamar and Andrew Signing R Olson copy
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Ms. Arslanian and Mr. Martilla.

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Bonus Bit

 

I had the pleasure of attending a book signing of SCofNY at MEOW Parlour, a cat café, some of whose cats are featured in the book. The café is clean and charmingly laid out, with doting caretakers and a few adoptable, adorable cats in residence. Two of the rescue-cats are siblings named Fanny and Nicky, who have CH (cerebellar hypoplasia). They also have a variety of cat-themed merchandise that was hard to resist (I didn’t. I got a really cute patch for my jacket.).

 

MEOW Parlour partners with KittyKind a terrific New York City based cat rescue. Their collaboration has helped find homes for over 100 cats to date.

CH Kitty Napping R Olson copy
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Nicky napping.

Tamar and Kitten R Olson copy
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Tamar has Cat!

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher. Receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

2016: The Year in Review

I’m not certain if there was some weird alignment of stars or something funky in the water, but 2016 was the worst year ever, not just for me, my rescue, my cats, but for a lot of folks. Do I want to look back over the year? Not really. Honestly, I could easily sum up the year in a volley of expletive-deletives and leave it at that.

January

Sick cats. Lots of sick cats.

Winnie and Barry, the big lug who had bitten me four times, had to be medicated for a month, each. Yes, to treat good old Bartonella. I’m constantly discovering Bartonella positive cats, and witnessing the mayhem it causes. At least they both responded well to treatment.

Bright Side

Winnie, Laney and Piglet got adopted TOGETHER! It had been a VERY VERY LONG road (well over a year) to find the right adopter, but I was so thrilled they went to a nice home in Boston. Sure, it meant me taking them ALL to the vet one last time to get their Health Certificates so they could travel out-of-state, but it was so worth it.

No, it wasn’t.

 

A week later, the adopter gave up on the girls, forcing me to drive to Boston while she was out of town, to bring the girls back home. It was six hours of miserable driving conditions, three of those hours spent listening to the cats hiss and growl at each other. Read more about the “fun time” HERE.

 

Winnie piglet laney butthole r olson 475
©2016 Robin AF Olson. After a year and a half, the girls finally get adopted together...or do they?

February

My beloved washing machine crapped out…for two months. It cost $1000 to fix it (6 visits from different techs) and the whole time I’m pretty sure it was because a part wasn’t plugged in properly (vibration pulled it apart?), but I will never know for sure. I've come to detest laundromats as a result. Also, yes, I know I could have bought a new washer, but when this misery started I only thought it was going to require a few hundred dollars in repairs.

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After a few months of wondering, and being too scared to talk to them about it, it was clear that I’d managed to lose my biggest design client or, at best, had been downgraded to getting work very rarely instead of being counted on for everything. It resulted in the rest of 2016 becoming a financial nightmare. I’m not great at replacing clients and I mourned the loss more than I can write about here.

Bright Side

Larry and Louie get adopted together by a very nice local family. My faith in humanity was restored!

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©2016 the McCubbins. The boys in their new home.

March

Something was not right with Jelly Belly’s leg. Was I imagining it or not? Vet said he had a luxated patella and, surprise, he needs surgery and 8 weeks of cage rest and his other patella isn’t in such great shape, either. Ka-ching!

Bright Side

A couple was interested in adopting Jelly and Lollipop, but since Lolli was so shy they decided to come over ONCE A WEEK and hang out with the cats until they were ready to adopt and had their house completely cleaned, repainted and prepared for their new cats to arrive. The guy was a chatterbox so their visits went into multi-hours long, including me setting them up with carafes of tea to sip while they visited the cats. It was okay they stayed, but they kept putting off deciding even though they brought treats and toys for the cats each visit. They had multiple conversations with Dr. Larry about their patella issues-and I even had to bring Lolli in to get him checked. BINGO! He had the same issues, too, but not as bad. Hey, do you want to adopt two cats who will need surgery?

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Poor Jelly, home from surgery, feeling lousy.

 

I jumped over and under and through every hoop to make the adoption happen, but in the end the father-in-law of the chatty guy showed up with a pair of kittens and, of course, they could not say no to him and make him feel bad. Instead they wasted my time, resources and tea!

 

April

I decided after having the worst birthday ever, I was going to treat myself and finally dye my hair MAGENTA, ORANGE AND YELLOW. DO NOT DO THIS. REPEAT. DO NOT DO THIS.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Looks cool, right? Don't do this to your hair.

My stylist told me that you have to strip the color out of your hair first or the color won’t be vibrant. What I didn’t realize is it causes your hair to get so brittle it will break off and fall out in clumps after awhile. The only solution is to chop your hair off. This began THE GREAT HAIR FAIL OF 2016 (that I'm still recovering from).

Also, no one but Sam even saw it because right after that…

…there is no bright side….

 

I got the flu from being at the salon. I got it so bad, I had a high fever and violent headache for over a week, followed by vomiting for six hours, laying on the floor in the bathroom, praying I wouldn’t die, then passing out cold. Followed by being so weak I could barely stand for another month. I had to miss out on my one scheduled trip to a conference given by the New England Federation of Humane Societies and I got way behind on everything else. All I did was sit in bed and feel lousy.

 

I was so ill, I didn’t pay close enough attention to Jelly after his surgery. He got at his surgery incision and it got infected from him licking at it. He almost had to have another surgery because of my poor care of him. Thankfully, we both recovered, but I still feel guilty about Jelly.

IMG 8041
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Sweet Cricket.

My sweet boy, Cricket got sick. He tested positive for Hyperthyroidism. We began treatment, hoping he would feel better soon.

May

A couple came to visit Laney, Winnie and Piglet. I was so resigned to them never being adopted together that I was surprised when they had a connection to the girls. They both had that “glow” about them that told me this might be the match I’d been hoping for, but I didn’t want to get too excited about it.

The home visit went great and the girls got adopted. I began waiting for the email or call saying they couldn’t manage all three cats, but the call didn’t come.

Laney Lolli Girls R Olson 475
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Lap full of love with Laney, Piglet, Winnie and Jelly.

Meanwhile, a superlative lady named Hallie, came to visit Jelly and Lolli. She knew about their issues and was appropriately cautious about adopting them. She was going to Yale to get her Masters to become a Midwife. She understood their health challenges and wasn’t turned off by Lolli being shy. She was going to move soon so we agreed she would come visit every week (sound familiar?) until the time was right to decide about the adoption once she had moved.

IMG 6136
©2016 Hallie M. They boys in their new home.

She decided to do the adoption. There’ve been some rough patches along the way but Hallie and the boys are doing great. Lolli came out of his shell and loves his mom. Hallie had to be patient for a long time, but I’m glad to report it was worth it.

June

Rescue Month was in high gear: Izzy and her four kittens arrived. A week later the six “Bee” kittens came up from North Carolina, then I took on four kittens from Bridgeport, CT. The Bees were full of fleas (surprise!) and so begins “THE MISERABLE FLEA OUTBREAK OF 2016.”

Snuggling with Mom 6 2 16 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Izzy and the McFarlands.

 

ALL OF OUR TEN CATS GOT SICK, REALLY REALLY SICK. Spencer and Nicky got pancreatitis, all the others were vomiting, not eating. Cricket didn't respond to treatment for hyper-t at all. Something was terribly wrong. Spencer was so ill we almost have to put a feeding tube into him, but thankfully at the last moment he began to eat a very little bit.

 

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Resting after one of many flea baths.

I think all I did in June was go to the vet about a zillion times.

July

Some of my cats began to improve, but Cricket did not. Juggling over a dozen sick cats (some foster cats) was taking its toll. We didn’t take a day off or celebrate our anniversary (sam and mine and the 6th anniversary of Kitten Associates). Nicky had to be hospitalized for five days on an IV. I was terrified, wondering when things were going to get better.

Spencer with blitz under the table
©2016 Robin AF Olson. My poor 15-year old cat, Spencer barely moved or ate.

On July 6th, Cricket had to be hospitalized and placed into a oxygen chamber while we frantically tried to sort out what was wrong with him. Thank God for one of my friends. She knew we were drowning financially and she threw us a life-preserver so we could afford Cricket’s care.

IMG 2141
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Cricket looked so beautiful, but he was terribly weak and could no longer survive outside of the oxygen cage.

 

Cricket, who was just 12, somehow suddenly seemed to have lung cancer, which is usually a secondary cancer. It meant he had cancer somewhere else, but we didn’t have time to find it. Cricket couldn’t leave the chamber or he’d die. It’s called Oxygen Cage Dependent. On July 14th, we had no other choice but to put him down.

 

Crickets Urn Insta Version R Olson 450
©2016 Robin AF Olson.

Sam and I were shell-shocked. We’d lost Gracie just nine months before. We hoped we were done losing cats.

August

The Bee kittens were passing around an upper respiratory tract infection so my vet visits became almost a daily occurrence. They were jammed in the blue bathroom and I was anxious to move them into the bigger foster room, but Barry was still with us and I was afraid he wouldn’t get along with the kittens.

Bright Side

As fate would have it, a great family contacted me asking if Barry could be with young kids. They had a 4-year old daughter and they were just in love with Barry’s photo, but I’d put on his Petfinder page that he couldn’t be with kids because he’d bitten me so many times. He’d come a long way and hadn’t bitten me in months but I didn’t want to take a risk. The mom said that’s how cats teach kids not to be idiots. Her easy-going attitude made me decide to take a chance. It was a love connection from the moment they met Barry.

IMG 7108

Barry loved this family. It was as if they’d been together forever. Barry was featured on their Christmas card, along with a note that made me cry. Barry sleeps with everyone, gets belly rubs and hasn’t bitten anyone. He had been with us for two years, but I was glad I worked with him. It really paid off.

September and October

Things were finally quieting down a bit. Spencer and Nicky had their appetite back and we were working hard to get them to gain weight. Annie and Andy got sick from being in the same room with the Bee kittens, but I could finally start getting everyone spayed/neutered so they could get adopted. Annie and Andy would wait until they got better.

The Bee kittens adoptions happened fairly fast once they were ready to go. Slinky and Beanie are first to find a home, then two of the McFarlands got adopted. Aunt Bee and Mrs Beasley were next to find a home. That left Mr. Peabody and Herbie, Annie and Andy and Noodles and Oodles (Molly).

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Mr Peabody, Slinky, Beanie and Aunt Bee.

Since we had space in our program, I agreed to take on a 2-yr old deaf cat I named Pippin. Pippin went to our foster home with Linda, where he remains today and for good. Linda was so smitten with Pippin she decided to adopt him (even though he loves Linda’s daughter, best).

Aunt Bee and Mrs B
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Aunt Bee & Mrs Beasley, boy was this almost a foster fail!

 

But something was wrong with Annie. She was vomiting, lethargic, not eating. She had a 105°F fever and had to be on an IV. Her blood work showed an infection, but we couldn’t determine the cause. She came home after a few days but she REALLY vomited this time-a huge lake of watery vomit. Annie was in a crisis.

 

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Annie's boo-boo belly (all healed up now).

Turns out Annie needed emergency surgery. It was life or death for Annie and it forced me to go on Facebook LIVE and CRY and BE EMBARRASSED and have to BEG for $5000 so we could get the surgery done that day. Thankfully you guys saved Annie with your generous donations AND Annie’s surgeon is a rock star. Annie recovered well from her Intussusception repair. Things were good again, right?

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Felling better? Maybe not quite yet.

November

I was done with vet visits and sick cats. Turns out my cats had fleas. I had been cleaning and scrubbing down everything I could to prevent that from happening, but it happened. So began “The MISERABLE CLEANING and RE-CLEANING of the HOUSE” to get rid of the damn fleas.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Belle eventually lost 15 teeth she was in such bad shape when she arrived.

We’d done enough adoptions where I finally felt like the pressure was off, so of course one of my ex-boyfriends contacts me out of the blue, says he has terminal cancer and then begged me to take his cats.

Ugh.

 

Belle and Buddy (more on them HERE) are 6-years old and never went to the vet. Buddy needed emergency surgery for bladder stones and Belle’s teeth were FALLING OUT OF HER MOUTH they were so bad. My ex didn’t help with funding nor would he respond to me begging for some financial support for his cats. Both cats had to be at the vet at the same time. Meanwhile our 16-yr old cat Nicky didn’t look so good. He had a seizure at my feet so I raced him to the vet about an hour after I’d just gotten home from dropping Belle off there.

 

Buddy a few days later 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Buddy before sugary.

Nicky’s kidney disease had progressed to the point where his kidneys were failing. It was causing the seizures. He was severely anemic. We had three cats at the vet, but only two returned home with us.

Goodbye Nicky 400
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Final moments with our boy, Nicky.

 

We had to make the painful choice to put Nicky down. It was shocking, unexpected and completely shattered us. We’d lost three cats in a year. Our heartache was immeasurable.

 

Nick and Nora 2007 R Olson
©2007 Robin AF Olson. Nicky with sister, Nora, who is mourning her brother's passing.

December

By now it was clear 2016 would not end joyfully. I had a quick break, judging a CFF Cat Show in Fairhaven, MA. I brought Annie and Andy with me, just for fun, but something was bugging me about Annie. She seemed thin and was a little bit off. One of the Judges mentioned it to me, too and that pushed me to get Annie to the vet the day after we got home.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Andy kicks butt at the cat show, but is something wrong with his sister, Annie?

Annie had non-regenerative anemia and an infection. We repeated her ultrasound and words like neoplasia (cancer) and FIP were mentioned. We started Annie on a questionable treatment for Bartonella that could harm Annie for life if she had a bad reaction to it. There were many phone calls between myself, Dr. Larry and Dr. D (our Internist). I began the treatment and right away Annie started to perk up.

Bright Side

Annie is responding to treatment. Her anemia is beginning to resolve and she gained a full pound in the two weeks between vet visits. We’re still observing her and she had more blood tests done, but right now things are looking up for this adorable girl.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. It's been a very tough road for Annie, but we're hoping she'll have a full recovery soon.

A gal named Danielle came to meet Mr Peabody and Herbie. It was another love-match so the boys got adopted. They’re re-named Simon and Theodore and they have their own Instagram account. You can keep up with them HERE.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Last day with Mr. Peebs and Herbie.

Final Words about 2016

After six years of running Kitten Associates and of losing a tremendous amount of potential income by doing so, the ramifications are clear. I need to make changes in 2017. I also need to take care of myself. My heart has been broken over and over again and the stress of running a rescue has aged me.

2016 took a lot out of me and Sam. We’ve had no chance to recover and if we don’t build our business back up, we’re going to lose our home. We can’t live like this, but we have to sort out what our next steps should be. It may mean moving away. It may mean doing less rescue. I know I have compassion fatigue, but not so bad that I don’t care at all and I’m not turning to drugs or booze (okay maybe carbs though).

 

Helping people, educating them about feline wellness, nutrition, behavior, saving the lives of little kittens and adult cats, makes me happy. It’s something I NEED to do, but I need to find a way to do these things and still have a roof over my head (that doesn’t also leak), and where I don’t have to fear the phone ringing and the bank asking where the mortgage payment is again.

 

I don’t know how 2017 will unfold and I'm glad I don't know what lies ahead, but I'll try to have faith that with the New Year comes a fresh outlook and fresh start.

May we all have a loved, peaceful, Happy New Year and may we do right by the next cats we rescue.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Goal for the New Year, meditate more. Freya knows best.

What's Bugging Annie and How it Can Help Your Cat.

Over the past few years I’ve come to understand that it isn’t always possible to get a firm diagnosis of what's ailing a cat. It’s extremely frustrating and often ends up being very expensive, as well as potentially stressful on both the cat and the cat-mama/dad. The goal is to find balance between what could be garnered by such a test, the cost, and the stress. Personally, I want to go to the ends of the Earth for every cat, until it’s clear that the value of a test result does not change treatment. In my cat Gracie’s situation, we were told she either had cysts or cancer in her liver. The treatment would be the same, but sadly her time with us would be much shorter if it was cancer (which is was). She was too frail to risk a biopsy so we began palliative care, monitored by our vet, until she passed away.

Annie and Mr Peabody 12 16 16 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Annie and Mr. Peabody take a lap break on yours truly.

What it means for Annie, is that right now we don’t know for certain what is causing her to be “unthrifty” (she’s thin, bony-thin even though she eats well and is hungry) and have non-regenerative anemia (she’s making new red blood cells but the tax on her from whatever is infecting her is so high that she can’t make enough red blood cells fast enough). Her white blood cell count is high (which means infection) and she has other wildly high or low values on her blood work, but the anemia and white cells are the most concerning.

The ultrasound has been done, but we don’t have enough funds to keep going with tests and Annie is nowhere near getting a diagnosis. Treatments have been started but they're only an educated guess on whether or not they’re what she ultimately needs.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Annie waiting for her ultrasound.

This is the assessment from the Ultrasound:

“Renal asymmetry with left kidney smaller with abnormal architecture compared to right- r/o congenital dysplasia vs other- both kidneys appear to be growing steadily with her increasing age, which is appropriate. Messenteric lymphadenopathy –r/o reactive (infectious, inflammatory) vs age-related vs less likely FIP, neoplasia, other.”

 

Annie Jones Internist Exam 12 15

We knew Annie’s kidneys were wonky but so far they’re working all right. The scary part of the assessment is some of the things that might be making Annie sick. Neoplasia is cancer. FIP is something no one ever wants to hear or read. It’s a fatal disease and in Annie’s case it would be the dry form, which we lost our dear Fred to four years ago. The disease that is so horrible I swore I would stop doing rescue if I ever had to face it again.

 

But what is more likely and treatable is if Annie has Bartonella (the bane of my rescue-existence because I see this all the time but it manifested very differently in the cases we’ve had before) or another infection.

 

Annie at NVS 12 15 16 exam
©2016 Robin AF Olson. You're going to shave my belly...AGAIN?

This is what our Board Certified Internist wrote on Annie’s discharge papers.

“Suspect infectious disease-Bartonella, Toxoplasma, tick-bourne illness, other… I suspect that Annie has an underlying infectious disease and that likely given her flea history and outdoor exposure that it is Bartonella, but toxoplasma and tick-bourne illness are possible as well. As we discussed, Bartonella testing is frustrating (note from Robin: Annie WAS tested in Sept and was +1, meaning no need for treatment at that time) and can be quite expensive. Therefore, we are going to empirically treat her for it. We are going to test her for toxo and tick-bourne (Robin note: later she was negative for tick-bourne illness like Anaplasma and Erhlichia).”

Annie Jones Discharge Notes 12 15

 

Here’s where things get dicey.

 

Normally we treat Bartonella for 4 weeks with Azithromax. It usually clears the infection, but our Internist said to put Annie on Zeniquin (Marbofloxacin) in addition to the Clavamox Annie is already getting. That’s two very strong antibiotics and in the case of Zeniquin it could be bad news.

 

Every time I have to treat a cat with a medication I'm not familiar with, I look it up on the internet. I read the manufacturer’s information sheet about the medication, noting the side effects so I’m prepared should I see the cat exhibit any odd symptoms.

 

I was sitting in bed, barely awake, when I realized I hadn’t looked up Zeniquin even though I’d already given Annie her first dose. I first read the sheet on my phone screen. What I read made my blood run cold.

Warning about marbofloxin

Clearly this is not something you give a cat unless you really have to AND clearly you are not supposed to give this to a KITTEN. Annie is 8 ½ months old.

I called the Internist and told her my concerns. I realize that with any medication there is a risk of side effects and if you need to kill a bacteria explosion you need to do something. I remember years ago I had to take antibiotics and one of the side effects was a black furry coating on the tongue! Thankfully I only got an upset stomach, but what could happen to Annie?

Cartilidge warning

We had a good conversation and it was very respectful. She assured me that this is a more effective way to treat Bartonella, but that if I wanted to go to what we’ve used in the past that was OK, too. I should discuss with Dr. Larry as he was already up to speed on Annie’s case and I agreed.

Last night I spoke with Dr. Larry and this is why I love him as my vet-he told me he’d never used Zeniquin on cats, period. Not that it was bad, I’m not saying that and neither is he, but he was not aware of that as a treatment for Bartonella. We talked further about the risks and he asked me to keep Annie on it until Monday, when he would call Zoetis and get information from them. If this WAS a better treatment we needed to know about it, but if it could put Annie in danger, we needed to know that, too. I am gathering facts before I flip out.

So I gave Annie a second dose, but with a heavy heart. I sat with the foster kittens for a few hours after the dosing. Annie seemed to be a bit perkier earlier in the day already. I’d given her an injection of Vitamin B12 and some iron-rich raw chicken liver.

I didn’t know if the medication or the iron boosters were helping her, but then she jumped off my lap and laid down on the floor. She chose a strange spot to sit, not really hiding, but not in her regular hang-out place. She cried a tiny cry, then got up and used the litter pan, peeing quickly then jumped out of the pan, laying down in another odd place. She seemed flat again and in pain.

 

I decided to give her another meal and she and the others ate every bite. She seemed a bit better after that, but I'm definitely not feeling very comfortable about all these medications. Tonight, when her next pill is due, I’m not sure I’m going to give it to her.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. A moment of levity in an otherwise troubling day.

 

We don’t even know what it is wrong with Annie for certain, which makes this choice even harder. Maybe she doesn’t even need these antibiotics or maybe she really does and not giving it to her will make her get even more anemic..and that could be VERY VERY BAD.

 

Annie doesn’t need a transfusion, yet, but if she continues to go downhill she will.

All that remains is our sad little fundraiser. We didn’t make our goal and our accounts are in the dust. I’m praying for a holiday miracle that we can pull in another $500-$1000 (ideal) so that we can get Annie’s blood work updated and cover the costs of changing her medications if needed.

If Annie has a bad reaction to the current medications, we won’t be able to afford to take her to the Vet for care. That’s how bad off we are right now and it’s not a place I want to be in.

 

 

Please consider making a gift to help our little polydactyl calico.

 

Use these quick links:

To donate $5: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/5

To donate $10: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/10

To donate $25: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/25

To donate whatever you wish: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/

To mail a check, make it out to: Kitten Associates, P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354

Your gift is tax deductible. Kitten Associates is a 501c3 non-profit. Our EIN Tax ID is 27-3597692. Thank you for helping Annie!

Annie Heart Vinci r Olson 500
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Annie hasn't sat up and looked comfortable for a long time. When she did, I couldn't believe what I saw. She's got a heart-shape on her chest!

The Sweetest Cat in the World Needs Us.

Maybe it was the big paws, the “mits” that look like baseball gloves, that did me in. When I first met Annie and her brother Andy, they had recently been rescued off the streets from a rough and tumble town south of here. It only took a look at Annie’s curious markings, her kohl lined eyes, her “tail light” white-tipped fluffy tail, and her extra toes, to capture my heart.

First sight of annie R olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. My first meeting with Annie.

 

There was something else about Annie, a gentle sweetness that is rare in kittens. She didn’t fuss or fight. She didn’t hiss or growl during her veterinary exam. She was relaxed and calm. I couldn’t believe it. I thought maybe her true kitten-nature would come out once she had time to eat some good food and relax in the safe surroundings of her new foster home with me, but she remained as-ever, relaxed and at ease.

 

I admit I love Annie, and Andy far beyond how I feel about most of my foster cats. They are very lovely animals. I knew they’d get adopted right away so I made sure to spend a lot of time with them, knowing we’d only have a short while together.

I got many applications for the kittens. Most of them I turned down for one reason or another. One of them was from a VERY affluent senior citizen who lives in a multi-million dollar home overlooking a lake. She and her husband could provide anything they wanted, but, during the home visit I didn’t see anything for the cats other than a very old, ratty cat bed and some well-worn toys and a poisonous plant I warned her about. Her reaction was that the last cat never touched the plant so it wasn't an issue and I had to insist it be moved or removed from the house. Judging by her reaction I felt I was getting lip-service. She had no intention of moving the plant. As I spoke with the woman, she went to great lengths to show me her amazing home and tell me the history of it, but when she began to tell me about her former cats I began to have serious doubts about her as an adopter.

Annie and Andy R Olson 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Never far from each other Andy with sister, Annie.

Thankfully, I was with one of our dear friends, who also is an amazing artist and volunteer for our rescue. She heard the same things I did about the woman putting her cats down after either not providing care for them, even though she knew they were sick (because apparently in her mind that’s what you do, just let them decline and die in pain) OR she spent a lot of money only to give up on the cat when the cat needed further care for a few weeks to a few months. She acted as if she was a Saint, when she was heartless and cold. I thought perhaps I was misjudging her, weighing too heavily that she was also 74 years old and I wasn’t sure any of her adult children (one had 6 kids of his own and is a busy physician) would even step in should something happen to her.

No sooner than we left the opulent grounds of the estate, my friend said; “No f-ing way.” I agreed. You can’t have cats, then not provide proper care when they were in bad shape. You can’t let them just die especially if you can afford to provide whatever care they need. If it takes effort and work, you do it. You don't just kill your cat. She was cruel.

 

I got a lot of flack from the woman because she was not used to anyone saying no to her. I’m sure she just threw money at whatever she wanted because she’d hinted to me at a big donation to my rescue at adoption. Money doesn’t buy me or my kittens. Now, I’m even more glad I said no because surely Annie would be dead right now if she was in that home.

 

Not long after the failed adoption, Annie got sick. She had a soaring fever, was slightly anemic, had high white cells. We did tests and put her on an IV. She got somewhat better, but not truly well. We later found out via ultrasound that she had an intussusception, a folding in of the intestine into itself causing a blockage, which is a life-threatening emergency.

Annie sick 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson.

I got on Facebook, crying, and begged for help. So many of you jumped at the chance to provide a precious gift so Annie would get the surgery ASAP. It was one of the most difficult, but amazing days of my rescue-career because Annie did great. The surgery went smoothly and she recovered very well. The surgeon was thrilled. We all thought she was out of the woods. Next stop, find Annie and Andy a forever home.

But something still wasn’t quite right.

Annie seemed thin. She also seemed a bit too quiet. She was always a quiet cat, but…

 

I compared Annie to Andy. Andy is bigger, more robust, but kittens often aren’t the same size. Annie was eating. She wasn’t vomiting. Didn’t have diarrhea. She just seemed to be a bit limp. Was she really sick or was I imagining it?

 

Last Friday I was to drive Annie and Andy to Fairhaven, MA, to attend a cat show where they would be our Kitten Associates representatives. For fun I was going to have them judged, too, in the Household Pets Division. The night before we left I thought Annie was a bit flat, but by morning she was perky and eating like a champ. I decided I was being too protective and thought she’d be healthy enough for the trip.

Annie and Andy on the Beds 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson.Chillin' in the hotel, but sadly no room service.

 

Annie did great. She and Andy were superstars at the Cat Show. Out of 20 cats in their division, they always made the top 10 over the 5 times they were judged that weekend. I was so proud of them. They had fun in the hotel room. They ate well. They used the litter pan, but…one of the judges thought she felt a bit thin and that set off alarm bells.

 

I decided to get Annie checked out. I found a good adopter for her and Andy, but I wanted to make certain she was all right first.

 

We visited Dr Larry yesterday. He did an exam and thought Annie looked good. I told him my gut feeling was that she was not well and he told me that 18-25% of the time the only way a Vet can know if a pet is ailing is because the owner is very observant and knows when their pet is not right. That’s when he knew we needed to do some tests.

 

At the cat show R olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. First time in the judging ring Annie scores 4th place!

We ran blood work. Annie is anemic and her white blood cell count is up. There are other issues with her blood, too, but her kidney function and other organ function is good. Dr. Larry thought the IDEXX machine was not working right and wanted us to come back the next day to re-run the test. If Annie truly had these issues, something concerning was going on and we would need to get to the bottom of it fast. Kittens don’t get anemic for no reason.

We returned to the vet this morning and after the year I’ve had, I was not happy to be there. I was scared. I was scared for Annie, that it was going to be really bad news. Our cat Nicky just died a few weeks ago and the health scares with our new foster cats Belle and Buddy did a number on me. Here we are at the cusp of the Holiday season and I am terribly behind in my work and holiday planning. I have too much on my plate, but nothing is more important than the well-being of our cats.

In my suitcase
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Ready to go home. Annie jumps into my suitcase as I pack the last night of the cat show.

 

The second round of blood tests showed Annie IS sick. She does have an infection somewhere and is anemic for some reason. They did an x-ray and saw nothing, but x-rays aren’t the best diagnostic tool for a situation like this one. Annie needs to have an ultrasound done as soon as possible. Dr. Larry couldn’t say what was wrong, but it could be a result of the surgery she had or sadly, it could be something that has been going on, undetected for a long time.

 

 

We looked back over Annie’s medical records and saw that she was anemic before her surgery and now she's worse. She had a high fever and responded well to antibiotics back in October, but maybe she had TWO things going on…the intussusception AND some sort of infection that we didn’t get a handle on 100% and now it’s coming back…or does she have a chronic type of anemia? We just don’t know right now.

 

Annie 650 in carrier
©2016 Robin AF Olson. On the way to the vet this morning.

The only thing I do know is even though we just raised money for Annie, then for Belle and Buddy, we need to raise more. We are down to our last few dollars and between Annie’s two vet visits and tomorrow’s ultrasound with a specialist, we need to raise $1500 by TOMORROW afternoon.

We may need more than that if Annie needs additional care, but I don’t want to ask for more until I know we need.

 

Annie is the dearest, most lovely kitten I’ve ever rescued, but now she needs ALL OF OUR HELP so she has a chance to get better. Please consider a Tax Deductible Gift of any size. It all adds up! If you can't help with a gift, then please share this with your friends because that helps, too.

 

It's easy to donate just use these links:

To donate $5: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/5

To donate $10: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/10

To donate $25: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/25

To donate whatever you wish: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/

Please note: We choose not to use fundraising web sites because they charge a fee on top of the fee PayPal charges us so we get less of a donation. Some of the fundraising sites also take a LONG time to relinquish the funds and we do not have the luxury to wait. If we reach our goal I let you know so that we can close the fundraiser.

 

To mail a check, make it out to: Kitten Associates, P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354

Your gift is tax deductible. Kitten Associates is a 501c3 non-profit. Our EIN Tax ID is 27-3597692. Thank you for helping Annie!

Lovely Annie R Olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Can you help save my life?

UPDATE 12/15: We are $500 short of our fundraising goal. We did further testing today and it looks like Annie has some sort of infectious disease. We're to start antibiotics and shore her up wtih Vit B12 injections and iron-rich food as she has non-regenerative anemia and high white blood count. We REALLY need funds so we can continue with vet care costs. We're praying for a holiday miracle that we can still get help for this sweet girl.

Of Cancer, Carbs and Cats: The End and the Beginning. Part 3 of 3

continued from parts 1 and 2

The next morning I got Belle into a cat carrier. The game plan was to pick up Buddy, then get Belle examined. Sam would meet us an hour later with Nicky and we’d all go home in a mini-caravan.

Dr. Mary examined Belle. No surprise, her teeth are terrible. Two canines (fangs) are hyper-extended and loose. One back tooth is broken. There’s a lot of gum disease and irritation; possibly more than those three teeth need to come out.

 

Belle weighs over 17 pounds. She is obese.

 

Belle at the Vet first time 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Belle being a good girl during her vet visit.

We updated Belle’s vaccinations and I got an estimate of $700-950 to do the dental procedure. We’d just spent $2000 on Buddy. There wasn’t much left. I’d have to do another fundraiser for Belle and hope we could make it happen soon. Having bad teeth for easily over a year was cruel. Again, I thought about O.F., ignoring his cat’s health, while they were in pain. All it would have taken was a trip to the vet once in awhile and even a slightly better diet would have helped.

IMG 6104
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Adorable Belle.

Sam arrived with Nicky. As always, Nicky was meowing loudly as Sam entered the clinic. I was anxious about the blood test. I prayed it would be ok and that Nicky’s numbers weren’t too much worse. In July, Nicky got really sick and had to be on an IV for a few days, but he recovered. His kidney function had gotten worse and Sam had to give him fluids every day instead of 3 times a week. It was a small price to pay if it kept Nicky with us longer.

IMG 6129
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Sam and Nicky waiting for the results.

 

I was hoping that Nicky’s phosphorus levels were high. We could fix that. The side effects of lethargy and weight loss fit, but that was true of a lot of issues. Dr. Mary examined Nicky. He’d lost a dramatic amount of weight. He was down to 14 pounds, when he’d been pretty stable at 16 pounds for years. They ran the blood work and the results were shocking. Nicky’s BUN and Creatinine were so high the brand new IDEXX machine could not factor them. His phosphorus was up. He was very anemic, too. Dr. Mary said we could put Nicky on an IV and see how he responded. Nicky also had recently, within a day or so, chipped one of his canine teeth. Dr. Mary thought either Nicky fell, or more likely had another seizure we didn’t know about and broke his tooth. We discussed giving Nicky fluids for a few days, then trying to do a quick dental to get the tooth out. It would be touch and go, but we’d give it a try, of course. This was Nicky. He'd had many health issues over the years, but we always found a way to shore him back up. Even if we were not sure how we were going to pay for his care, it was going to get done.

 

So we agreed to leave Nicky at the vet and bring Belle and Buddy home. Sam loaded them into his car and I drove ahead in mine, thinking I’d unlock the front door and be ready to help him get the cats into the house when he arrived. But even a simple task like that turned into a high stress situation.

IMG 6070
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Buddy getting ready to come back home.

Sam got home safely and I was waiting for them as planned. I removed Belle from the car and began walking to the front door.

No sooner than I got her inside I heard Sam yell my name. Sam NEVER yells. I put Belle down and ran to the car to find Sam scrambling to grab Buddy who was sitting IN THE DRIVEWAY. The cheap cat carrier had fallen apart when Sam lifted it and Buddy fell out.

Thankfully Buddy was too scared to run and Sam scooped him up before he dashed off into the woods. I quickly escorted both of them into the house, making certain Buddy wasn’t going to harm Sam or blow his newly minted stitches out and need to be rushed back to the vet.

 

We got Buddy and Belle settled. They were both upset and cranky, but at least they were both starting to eat something other than dry food. I tried to get some long overdue work started, but the phone rang. It was Dr. Mary. Though she always sounds cheerful and upbeat, her message was not. She reported that Nicky had just had a grand mal seizure. They gave him more valium. He was resting, but she wanted me to know. I told Sam the bad news, but that was nothing compared to what was going to come next.

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

A few hours later, Dr. Larry called. He wanted to speak with me and Sam. He has never asked to speak with both of us at the same time so I knew it was bad news. He said he had looked over Nicky’s test results and apologized for interfering with Dr. Mary’s assessments, but he had to give us his opinion. He’d been Nicky’s Vet for most of Nicky’s life. Dr. Larry often joked about catnapping Nicky because Nicky was such a great cat, one he had a special connection with. We knew that Dr. Larry was as devoted as we were to giving Nicky the best life we could, but what he said next we were not ready to hear.

 

Dr. Larry told us that in his many decades as a Vet he rarely, if ever, saw a cat or dog come back from off-the-charts kidney numbers and live very long after they were taken off an IV. On top of that, Nicky also had something else going on. It was either lymphoma or meningioma. Something was effecting his central nervous system, causing the seizures. When Nicky had seized, Dr. Larry was the one who held him through it and gave him comfort. He told us that with what was on Nicky's plate and all the challenges he faced, that the best thing for Nicky was to let him go.

 

Goodbye Nicky 400
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Final moments with our beloved boy.

Before we could ask he added that, yes, we could take him home for the night, but Nicky was at high risk of having a deadly seizure and dying in a lot of pain. We could take him to the ER Vet and spend a few thousand dollars keeping him on an IV for a few days, then see if his numbers responded well, but again, if it did buy us time, it would not be much time at all and Nicky would be in a cold, sterile place with strangers and die with them. If he survived that, maybe we’d be able to bring Nicky home but we’d face the same issues all over again, the same fears about seizures and his kidneys were shot. We couldn't fix that.

We've always known that Nicky would not be with us forever, but we were not ready to say goodbye to him so soon. The world was spinning out of control and we just wanted it to stop. Having to see my old boyfriend and know he was going to die, after the stress of getting his cats, trying to raise funds with no time to do so, trying to get his cats to eat, not fight with each other, not be so horribly depressed…now this.

Nick and Nora R Olson 2006
©2007 Robin AF Olson. Nicky and his sister, Nora, who is still with us, was named after the characters Nick and Nora Charles from the Dashiell Hammett novel, The Thin Man.

Nicky and Sam have always been deeply bonded to each other. Though I talked with Sam about our options, it was only right for Sam to choose what we would do next. It was 5 o’clock at night. The Vet closed at 7 PM. We didn’t have much time to make a life or death decision.

 

We talked. We cried. We listed very “what if” we could think of, but in the end we both agreed we wanted Nicky to have peace if there really was nothing else we could do. With no kidney function, Nicky was being poisoned by his own bodily fluids. It wasn’t right to let anything cause him any further pain.

 

I began to fuss, preparing as fast as I could for what we would need. Staying busy kept me from falling apart. We just lost our dear cat Cricket four months ago. Here we were again, in this terrible place. I listed what to do in my head as I began gathering items: find a nice cloth to wrap Nicky’s body, bring something for Nicky that he would like as a special treat, print out a photo of us to put with Nicky’s body after he passed away, figure out how to get a paw print if we could. I didn’t want Sam to have to do this. Nicky was his boy. I would drive us to the Vet. I would take on the burden as much as I could, even if my heart was breaking, too. Sam didn't need to have to worry about anything else.

I’d just left the Vet a few hours before and here I was again. I’d been there every day that week. We were silent as I drove us to the vet, our hearts so heavy a single word would have burst open a dam of heartache. I didn't want to walk in the door. I wanted to turn around and run out, but I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t do that to Sam or to Nicky.

They brought Nicky in to see us in an exam room. Seeing him again made my stomach hurt and my legs go weak. He looked worn down, but calm. The vallium, no doubt, was wearing away any stress he was feeling. They told us to take our time. I took out a soft towel and put it in Sam’s lap. He cradled Nicky as he'd done so many times over the years. Nicky rested comfortably in his arms. The only thing different was that Nicky had a catheter in place in his left front leg from being on an IV.

The overhead lights were too bright. I turned them off and Sam turned on the softer lights that illuminated only the counter under some cabinets. We were both crying and petting Nicky. I took some photos, not sure I’d ever want to see them again. We told Nicky how much we loved him. Nicky relaxed, “made muffins,” in the air and purred. I gave him a catnip banana. He enjoyed rubbing his face on it while he relaxed. He didn’t appear to be a cat who needed to be euthanized. He was still our Nicky.

Dr. Larry came in to talk to us. Again he told us why he felt it was time, but respected that if we disagreed it was okay for us to do something else. Dr. Larry has always been understanding, no matter what we decided about treatment. We asked more questions, hoping to find an answer not thought of, a treatment or case he knew about where we could still have hope, but there were none.

IMG 6143
©2016 Robin AF Olson. The final photo of Nicky.

Dr. Larry left to prepare the injections after we agreed it was time. He gave us as much time as he could, but the clinic was going to close soon. We’d had a final hour with Nicky, loving him as much as we were able, but now it was time to say goodbye forever.

Sam held Nicky, while Nicky continued to purr in his arms. The hushed tones in the room gave way to a feeling of love that filled the space. Nicky was with his favorite people, including his friend Dr. Larry. As Dr. Larry gave him the first injection Nicky's purr silenced as he relaxed further. I was standing behind Sam and Nicky, just petting Nicky, not wanting to see him die. I couldn't look any more. The second injection was given. I turned my head and continued to pet Nicky and tell him I loved him over and over again. I could hear Dr. Larry fussing with something. He took his stethoscope out and listened to Nicky’s chest. There was no sound. He nodded, turned and silently left the room.

 

Nicky was gone.

 

 

I got to work. Not wanting to see Nicky’s lifeless form. I got the photo of us out of my bag and wrote a note on it to Nicky. I took one of Sam’s fleece shirts and carefully placed it on the exam table, spreading it out flat, removing all the wrinkles. This is what we would wrap Nicky’s body in because when the sleeves where folded over him, it would be like he had an eternal hug from his daddy.

 

I was sobbing so hard I could barely stand. I tried to focus on my tasks, but my head felt like it was going to split in two from agony. I tried to be strong for Sam but I was failing.

I offered to take Nicky so Sam could write something on the photo. Nicky’s body was limp. We often joked he was a boneless cat, but he was limp in a way that was more like a wet rag. It was difficult to hold him.

 

I gently placed Nicky onto the fleece. I placed the catnip toy next to his head and slipped the photo under his body. I wrapped the sleeves across him and gave him a last kiss. Nicky would be cremated with all these things. I hoped that somehow he would know and it would comfort him.

 

I wanted to get out of that room and never come back again. This couldn’t have happened. We didn’t just have our beloved cat put to sleep. We had no time to prepare. No warning. It happened all too fast.

I’d spent 12 of the past 16 years loving that cat. He became part of my family when Sam moved in. Sam had had Nicky since he was a few months old. Nicky’s death felt more like losing a limb. I didn’t know how we were going to walk in the front door and know we would never seem him again, let alone live another day without our sweet, silly, boneless, goofy, loving, gentle, giant who often hogged the bed when he spooned with Sam each night.

I’m going to write a memorial about Nicky some day. Right now my heart is broken. Over the past year we’ve lost Gracie, Cricket and now Nicky. 2016 has been one of the worst years of my life. I keep thinking that things have to get better, but they don’t. I keep wondering how Sam and I can keep going forward when we feel kicked to the curb over and over again.

 

I’m grateful, at least, that we gave Nicky a very loved, peaceful, gentle passing. His experience really was to just go to sleep. He wasn’t in pain and he died in his daddy’s arms; the arms of the guy who loved him most in the world.

 

 

We will always love you, Nicky, and miss you and wish your life didn’t have to end so soon. Fly Free sweet boy. July 2000—November 17, 2016.

 

Nicky vinici R Olson
©2007 Robin AF Olson. Our handsome boy.

And as for O.F., I’m truly sorry you’re so sick. I’m not sure how sick you really are, but I do know how sick your cats are. For someone who has indulged himself, cheated on his partners, lived large most of his life, it wouldn’t have cost you much to provide a half-way decent diet to your poor cats, to get them a scratching post or a toy, to have a vet look at them, even a few times. Now I’m left to pick up the pieces. These poor cats are depressed and in pain and have been so for years.

In all honesty, if you told me you were well and wanted your cats back I’d tell you to shove it. In the weeks they've been here you never contacted me even ONCE to see how they were doing. You don’t deserve the unconditional love these cats give. They are gentle, sweet, and so very charming. You told me you believed in Karma and didn’t understand why this happened to you. I believe in Karma, too, and I totally get it.

Of Cancer, Carbs and Cats: Emergencies all Around. Part 2 of 3

Continued from part one.

Here’s where I sound like a b_tch.

 

Thing is, O.F. NEVER took his cats to the vet in their entire LIFE (other than the waste-of-time visit Buddy had a few days before we picked up the cats where the Vet wanted to run some tests and where they said not to bother). They’d been fed cheap dry food for SIX YEARS. They never were given “people food,” nor did they get canned food of any kind. I didn’t see a scratching post or a toy in the apartment they shared with O.F.. I asked O.F. if I could bring a cat bed or blanket with me that they slept on so they’d have something familiar smelling when they came to my home. There was NOTHING there for me to take. What kind of life did they have?

 

I asked for a very generous financial donation towards their care. I figured it would probably cost me about $2000 (this is without even knowing what might really be going on with them). I got half that amount. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful. I was, but I also assumed they both needed dental cleanings, at least, and that I couldn’t cover those costs with what we had. It wasn’t fair to ask me to take these cats on, with all the issues we knew about, plus the fear of what was to come and to do it for FREE or to magically pay for it when we didn't have the funds to do so. Yes, O.F. is very sick but he also didn’t tell me that with chemo he could live another year to THREE years. Somehow he skipped telling me that fact. I learned it through a friend of his. Was this such a dire situation or an easy way out to play the “C” card when he probably could have found a family member or friend to take the cats? It would have required effort and time, and I'm betting he didn’t want to deal with it. I began to feel my hackles go up, wondering if I’d been duped.

Buddy a few days later 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Buddy the day before surgery.

Once we got the cats home and I got a chance to really look at them, it was clear they were in terrible shape. I have six-year old cats, too, but these guys acted twice that age. Buddy kept going in and out of the litter pan. He could pass some urine, but I could tell it wasn’t enough. The fact that he kept going to the pan meant he was in pain and something was wrong. His eyes were running badly. His coat was dry. He was terrified and withdrawn. He and Belle were growling at each other. The two of them were quite overweight, with Belle overshadowing her brother by a lot.

I made an appointment for Buddy to see Dr Larry. I wanted to give it a few days so Buddy could calm down, but I was concerned that Buddy had crystals in his bladder. All it would take would be for one to slip into his urethra and cause a blockage, which would be an expensive emergency surgery. I prayed it was only a bladder infection, which would only mean giving him antibiotics for a few weeks. I knew we’d have to run blood work and urinalysis, update Buddy’s vaccinations and test him for Feline Leukemia and FIV so he could be adopted one day. I added up what I thought would be the costs in my head having had these things done so many times before. We could get by with what I had, but just barely.

Belle Reflecting R Olson 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Belle at 17.2 lbs.

 

But Buddy was too sick to delay getting him to the vet. Dr. Larry had to keep him for the day in the hopes he could get some urine to test. I got a call a few hours later. Buddy had a lot of blood in his urine. They did an x-ray and his bladder was full of LARGE stones. While we could change his diet, get him off dry and give it time over doing surgery, we’d be at high risk of him blocking up. We couldn’t wait. I begged a favor to pay off the costs over time, so we could do the surgery the next day. Buddy stayed at the Vet overnight while I began to do an emergency fundraiser. There was no way we could afford to drop $2000.00.

 

I hate asking for donations. I shouldn’t run a non-profit cat rescue. While I am deeply humbled and so very grateful we get the help we need when we need it, we NEVER have much in the bank to fall back on when there’s an emergency and that stresses me out to no end.

Funds began to come in for Buddy and we barely reached our goal after two days. Buddy had his surgery and came through with flying colors.

Dr. Larry said his bladder was loaded and the stones were very large. Buddy had to have been in pain for a very long time. Knowing that made my blood boil because O.F. lives about a block, tops, from a Vet. How hard would it have been to get the cat checked out years ago? Instead of saying no to diagnostics, say yes. Find out what is going on and face it. No. That was on me to deal with.

 

Buddy Stones 650
The stones removed from Buddy's bladder. They were quite large indicating they had been present for some time.

While Buddy recovered from surgery, I knew I needed to find out what was going on with his sister Belle. She wasn’t eating; not a bite for days. Nothing. I had to syringe feed her and that was very difficult. I’ve syringe-fed cats MANY times but Belle fought, spit, hissed, growled. Some how she spit cat food all over the ceiling. She also upset Buddy so much he ran behind me and attacked me, clawing my behind. Yes! It’s called re-directed aggression. Belle got upset and it upset Buddy so he attacked whoever was close to him---ME! I was not loving having these cats in my house.

Meanwhile, our 16-year old cat, Nicky, was depressed. I could tell he was in pain, too. He was losing weight even though we were offering him food many times a day. I was very worried about him.

 

Nicky had a seizure a few weeks ago right under my office desk, while I was working on a design project. I rushed him to the Vet where they put him on valium to stop the episode. Later that night, Sam took him to a neurologist where we learned he’d lost some vision in his left eye. It might come back. It might not. He might have underlying lymphoma causing the seizures, but it was too soon to do more tests.

 

We started Nicky on Phenobarbital but it left him doped up and miserable. We changed his medication but he still wasn’t right. He would “forget” the litter pan was in front of him and would urinate on the floor. Having chronic kidney disease, also meant when Nicky peed, it was a tremendous amount of output, often covering half of our kitchen floor. If he did it overnight while we were asleep, the urine would warp the wood floor near the kitchen. It infuriated me and kept me on edge. Every time Nicky got up, Sam or I would have to keep an eye on him because many times we’d have to grab him before he peed on the floor. I had to remind myself that it wasn’t Nicky’s fault at all. We loved him and would do what we had to do. The urine was very dilute anyway. It was mostly like cleaning up water, but it was exhausting trying to keep up.

Nicky Sick July 2016 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Our sweet Nicky, not feeling well at all. By the way, when you see your cat is depressed, something is wrong. They should be taken to a Vet to be checked out.

The night Buddy has his surgery, Nicky really seemed to be feeling lousy. Sam hadn’t given him his fluids because he got home late and was tired. I pushed Sam to do the fluids, while we made sure Nicky had a nice meal. Sam sat on the sofa and held Nicky as he often did, like a baby with his belly up and his hind legs stretched out. Sam was cold so I wrapped a blanket around his shoulders so he wouldn’t have to disturb Nicky. He sat there for a long time in the dark, just holding and comforting his dear cat. I asked Sam about getting Nicky’s blood work checked in the morning. I had an appointment set for Belle. He could have my appointment if there weren’t any others that day. Belle could wait if needed. He agreed Nicky should be seen.

I felt good going to bed that night. Nicky seemed much happier and comfortable. He didn’t come upstairs to snuggle with us as he used to do because he was somewhat weakened by his illness. We didn’t want to push him to do something he couldn’t do and Sam was worried he would fall and hurt himself getting on or off the bed.

 

If I only knew that was our last night together…

 

Part 3, the final chapter: Where we have to make a heartbreaking choice and I show my true colors about how I feel about O.F. and his cats.

Of Cancer, Carbs and Cats: Return of the Ex. Part 1 of 3

I’m trying to figure out how to tell this story without sounding like a heartless bitch. I’ve written a few drafts, thrown them out, completely frustrated. I felt I had to write a heart-wrenching tale about someone with terminal cancer, who reached out to me for help, and how emotionally draining it all was. That part was true and I even know the person, but...I also felt manipulated, and as the days pass, I wonder if I was maybe just a sucker.

My old flame (O.F.) got in touch with me after 19 years. He needed a favor. We’ve been Facebook-friends for a long time, but we rarely ever communicate. I’ve seen photos of him, taking numerous fishing trips around the USA, but most often based out of his hometown of Sheepshead Bay, New York. He’s always pictured holding a big, dead fish. He’s proud and smiling. He’ll probably eat the thing later. I remember him being a good cook. He must have killed thousands of fish by now.

He lives with his girlfriend and she has a soon-to-be “tween” daughter. They look like a Hallmark-card-of-happiness in the images I've seen.

That’s why I was shocked to hear from O.F. I figured things were just ducky with him. He said he had bad news. He didn’t mince words. He was just diagnosed with cancer. Having two dear girlfriends who are also dealing with stage 4 cancer, I knew a lot about what he might be telling me next, about treatments, cure rates, staging.

The problem was they caught it very late in the game. His cancer, which started as a tumor in his stomach, metastasized (spread) into his liver. His liver was 90-95% full of tumors. The cancer had spread into his bones, too. The only treatment option was chemotherapy, so at least there was some hope he’d have additional time.

 

As if that wasn’t bad enough, his girlfriend and her daughter were moving out. Their relationship was over. O.F. would be alone during his remaining days. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t understand how someone could leave a relationship when things got tough. I couldn't believe this guy I'd known for more than half my life just got a death sentence handed to him.

I later mentioned this to my friend Pam, who just spent the last year getting cancer-related treatments and surgeries. She told me that a lot of women who get breast cancer also lose their husband or partner. Many people take off instead of lean in and support their mate when times get tough. I thought about all the sick cats I’ve dealt with, like Freya and Fred. I’ve never given up or walked away, no matter how painful the situation. I couldn’t fathom being so cruel, especially to my own partner.

Then, in a shaky voice, O.F. began to cry.

 

“I’m begging you. I need you to take my cats. The doc says I have to get rid of anything I have responsibility for. I had to quit my job. I can’t work. I can’t even walk around the block. How can I care for my cats? Can you help me? Please?”

 

Normally I can’t take on adult cats. We don’t have a brick and mortar shelter where they might get the attention of an adopter. Having the cats in my home meant someone would have to make an extra effort to meet these cats and it was unlikely that would happen given their age. I knew if I said yes, I’d have the cats for a long time—easily over a year. Where would they live? They were six years old. O.F. said they were friendly but that the boy, Buddy, had started peeing outside the litter pan. Something was wrong.

He told me he managed to get his soon-to-be-ex to take the cat to the Vet, but he was very vague about what they found out. I’d have to deal with that issue myself. Buddy’s sister, Belle, had no known problems but weighed 25 pounds. I thought O.F. was joking, but I later found out the joke was on me.

 

I had to say yes. I didn’t want to. I’m exhausted. I haven’t had a day off in SIX YEARS. I promised Sam I wouldn’t take any more rescues until 2017 so we could have some down time over the winter, but how could I say no?

 

Then the reality of their possible health issues made me think twice, too. How could I afford to provide care for a potentially very sick cat? Buddy might block up and the surgery to help him would easily break our bank account. I did not want to do this, but I couldn’t turn them away. We would deal with it somehow, some way.

A few days later, Sam and I spent the day driving back and forth to Brooklyn, NY, in terrible traffic, to meet and transport Buddy and Belle to our home. The plan was to get them acclimated, then move them to another foster home where they would enjoy a lot more space. I figured they’d need a week here, tops, then I’d work on promoting them and finding them a home after I got their vetting done and they were in their new foster home.

 

I was uncomfortable seeing O.F. again. It had been well over a decade since I’d seen him. He’d also been the guy I dumped Sam for. Ironically, I dumped O.F. after he cheated on me, then I went back to Sam after that. Yeah, awkward!

 

I also wondered if this might be the last time I saw O.F. alive.

Being in Brooklyn again was surreal. I missed the beat of urban life as we walked past the brownstones lining the streets to reach O.F.’s apartment. Years ago I spent most weekends in Brooklyn. I only had two cats at the time. I fed them dry food back then, so I could load them up with a pile of food, take off and have a weekend of going to restaurants and movies, while blindly thinking I was madly in love with someone who often acted like a drama queen and made me second-guess my value to him. It was so long ago it felt like another life that happened to another person.

I was worried about how Sam was going to take all of this, but as usual, Sam was understanding. He knew we were both there for the cats, not for a heartfelt reunion. It was business. It was a rescue mission. We’d done this before. We’d do it again.

Belle waiting
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Belle waiting for Sam to arrive and her journey to begin.

Seeing O.F. was definitely unsettling. Here I was back in his apartment. This is where I used to spend my time with him. It hadn’t changed that much. It was even darker than I remembered, being a third floor walk-through apartment with windows at either end of the space. I began to flash back to fragments of memories, but pushed them away, trying simply to focus on the task at hand.

 

I got a hug from O.F. when I reached the doorway to his apartment, but it didn’t feel familiar or comforting. O.F. was very distressed, far more so than I’d ever seen. He was older, still plump, still with a head of thick black hair, though now with added slivers of silver threaded through it. There were the killer dimples on his cheeks that once fooled me into thinking he was a sweet guy. Even though I recognized him, he was a stranger in many ways.

 

I understood his distress. I’d be distressed, too if I had his diagnosis, but as he spoke he seemed off. I’d ask a question and not really get an answer or get a different answer than he’d given me before. I realized it would be best just to ask about the cats and get as much history on them as I could. I was very matter-of-fact about it because I didn’t want to burst into tears thinking I was taking this man’s last comfort away from him when he needed them most.

He angrily declared his girlfriend told him to “suck it up” when he told her about his diagnosis. She’s a nurse. You’d think she would understand he would need her, but she said she was moving out and that she didn’t want her daughter to see him die. Really? Is that what you teach your child? When the going gets tough, go? I hoped O.F. was being dramatic. It wouldn’t have been the first time. If it was true, I couldn’t imagine much worse. He said he loved that kid and would have adopted her. Now they were leaving him to go through chemo and to face whatever future he had left on his own. There were moving boxes stacked near the dining table where we sat, but the woman did not want to see me take the cats away so she had left for a few hours. I wondered if she would have cared for the cats and perhaps if O.F. only wanted to hurt her by preventing her from giving them a home.

O.F. never asked me anything about my life or remarked on how seeing me again was good/bad/indifferent. He barely acknowledged Sam’s presence. He just went off on different tangents that didn't add up to anything that made sense. I kept trying to ask as many questions about the cats as I could. I knew we only had a few minutes. O.F. was getting tired and wanted to rest. We had to sort out getting the cats out of the apartment without being able to park near the building. It turned into a “thing.” Sam had to go get the car, which was parked a few blocks away, while I waited with Belle, alongside me in a cat carrier in the lobby of the apartment building. We’d tried to get Buddy into the carrier with Belle, but he flipped out. I left him upstairs to cool off.

Buddy being held by OF
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Buddy's last moments with O.F.

Thankfully we brought two carriers, but had left the second one in the car. Sam would illegally park by the building, I’d run out with Belle, then he’d give me the second carrier. I’d run up a few flights of stairs, load up Buddy, then bring him to the car. Sam would stay with the car to avoid getting a very costly ticket.

 

Things went as planned, but my heart sank when I got upstairs with the carrier for Buddy. O.F. was sitting on the end of the bed, holding Buddy in his arms. This was their final goodbye. Oh God, I felt awful taking the cat from him. He was visibly upset. I asked him if he was sure about this. If the chemo worked he could live another year or more. He nodded he was sure. We put Buddy into the carrier. I didn’t have much time to talk to O.F., other than to say a few words…and I struggled with what should I say.

 

Buddy in Carrier 650
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Buddy, terrified, begins his trip to our home.

 

Maybe this was it, the last time I'd ever see O.F., but there wasn’t time to fall apart. I touched his shoulder, giving it a hard squeeze and looked him in the eyes. I told him to fight, to not give up. I told him I understood this was dire, but that if they offered chemo it meant there was still a chance for good quality of life. I said, “Fight” with all the conviction I could, then leaned down and kissed him on the cheek.

 

I grabbed the cat carrier and with a heavy heart I made my way down the stairs as fast as I could. I’d just taken two cats from their dad when he needed them most. The only thing I was grateful for was that there were some really good Italian bakeries nearby. I had every intention of carb-loading in historic amounts to offset the horrible day we just had. I only had to keep it together long enough to get into the car as the poor cats cried out in alarm, their lives about to change forever.

Mounteleone
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. The best pasteries I've ever had, but they didn't make up for the emotional train wreck and terrible traffic we had to face.

Part two is up next...where I turn into a heartless bitch followed by turning into a heartbroken shell of my former self.

Kiss Your Kittens. Don't Kiss Your Kids!

Erin Ross, in her recent article Kitten Conundrum: Cat-Scratch Disease is Making People Sicker, suggests that if you want to stay healthy, it would be wise to “avoid kittens”, citing a recent report by the CDC about Cat Scratch Disease (CSD) or Bartonella henselae. The article warns that CSD may have the the potential for causing serious illness, particularly in children and those who are immune-compromised.

 

But let’s take a closer look before we start euthanizing more kittens because they won’t be getting adopted due to irresponsible fear-mongering.

 

While I agree it is vital to provide information to the general public regarding zoonotic disease (illness that can be transmitted between humans and animals), it is equally, if not more important, to take a common-sense approach when reading information about such findings. Yes, it’s possible in a very few cases to become very ill from CSD, but if you look at the numbers, it’s so low I have to ask myself if it's certainly worth all the fuss the press has been making about it. If you're immune compromised, of course you're at a higher risk to get ANY disease. You might not want to share your home with a pet at all, not only for the CSD risk.

Again, common sense must prevail. Wash your hands. How many times did your mom tell you to do that? If your cat or kitten nips or scratches you, WASH the wound to prevent infection. DUH. Really, people, do you have to be told this?

Black kitten photobomb with P R Olson
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Pizzelle, wondering what all the fuss is about.

 

I have fostered over 500 kittens in 15 years. I have NEVER gotten ANY illness from my cats or kittens. Okay, wait, I did get a spot of ringworm once. I kiss the kittens. I give them baths. They bite and scratch me, some times by accident, and some times on purpose. I’ve been to the ER once for a bad bite that was my fault. Did I get CSD? No.

 

What my concern for articles like the one found on NPR's web site and many others across the globe is that it can take a toll on the most innocent of creatures – kittens. It’s hard enough for shelters to find a foster home or a forever family for their most fragile residents and with this biased reporting it puts how many more lives at risk?

Kittens are euthanized every day in shelters across the country because they catch a cold or get a treatable skin condition like ringworm. Now with families afraid there’s a hidden disease in seemingly healthy kittens, that their kids are going to get sick enough to require hospitalization from being in contact with them, they're going to give up on adopting cats. Clearly there is little concern that the article could send a shock-wave of panic resulting in needless death, and cause rescues to lose foster homes and adoptions, just to make a buck on a click-bait headline.

Let’s look at some facts:

• Number of owned cats in the USA 85,800,000
• Number of people sickened by CSD per year 12,000
• Number of those people seriously sickened by CSD per year 500
• Highest average annual CSD incidence for outpatients and inpatients was among children 5–9 years of age (9.0 cases/100,000 patients and 0.4 cases/100,000 patients, respectively) …and, by the way, DOGS can also transmit CSD so maybe you better get rid of your dog, too.

 

What About Kids? If You Want to Get Sick, Kiss a Kid.

 

While everyone is panicking that little fluffy Puff is going to kill their kids from CSD, what about the other way around? Want to get SICK? BE AROUND KIDS!

This is from Pinkbook, the CDCs guide to routinely used vaccines and the diseases they prevent regarding Influenza:

"Healthy children 5 through 18 years of age are not at increased risk of complications of influenza. However, children typically have the highest attack rates during community outbreaks of influenza. They also serve as a major source of transmission of influenza within communities. Influenza has a substantial impact among school-aged children and their contacts. These impacts include school absenteeism, medical care visits, and parental work loss. Studies have documented 5 to 7 influenza-related outpatient visits per 100 children annually, and these children frequently receive antibiotics"

What Does This Mean?

 

9 out of 100,000 or .009% of people get sickened by CSD and 5000-7000 of 100,000 people or 5-7% get sickened by KIDS.

 

 

GETTING SICK FROM A KID IS 550 to 770 TIMES MORE LIKELY THAN GETTING SICK FROM A KITTEN.

 

Even the CDC study mentions its own failings:

"Our study has several limitations. First, the case definition relies on diagnosis by clinicians and subsequent coding by clinicians or billing specialists, both of which are subject to error. For example, the 078.3 code could have been inappropriately used for care of a cat scratch wound but not actual CSD. Also, in some cases, the 078.3 code may have been recorded as a rule-out diagnosis when CSD was not actually confirmed. To our knowledge, there are no data on the sensitivity and specificity of the 078.3 code for CSD."

They also state that they expected the results to be higher! So what are they telling us? Hey, maybe it’s not that bad.

"The lower incidence of inpatient admissions found by our study is surprising, given that the number of US households with cats has increased in recent decades to an all-time high of 45 million." (there are now 85.8 million “owned” cats in the USA alone)

Minne and Family
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Minnie with her kittens and what would have become of them if they'd been in a shelter effected by a drop in adoptions and foster homes?

The last point that chaps my ass is the one that’s missing from the article. There is no mention on the toll CSD on the cats themselves. My rescue, Kitten Associates, now routinely tests for Bartonella and we DO find positive cats and kittens from time to time. We do this not only to protect our adopters, but because bartonella can mimic other illness. It might end up being overlooked while the cat ends up suffering for years, secretly sick. I’ve even randomly screened my own cats and was surprised at how many were positive, even though they were indoor-only cats and didn't have fleas. My Vet suggested that up to 20% of cats could have some level of infection (from mild, suggesting exposure but not needing treatment, to strong positive which requires treatment) and most people don’t even know it.

 

Ross ends the article saying not to kiss your cat until they are flea-free, which ignores the fact that if the cat has CSD, treating it for fleas is NOT going to fix the problem. You need to keep your cat INDOORS, keep him or her flea-free, test for bartonella, treat with antibiotics if there’s a strong positive, then run a titer in 6 months to make sure that cat is free from the infection. In my opinion, during the entire process you can KISS YOUR CAT all you want (I wouldn’t tongue-kiss though because that is GROSS). Let them lick your face. If they bite or scratch you, do what your mom told you to do and stop worrying about getting sick, especially if you're not immune compromised.

 

And get out there and adopt a kitten; better to adopt a pair. We have plenty ready to go right now!

But stay away from KIDS!

Sheesh.

 

Quad Shot of 4 Kittens
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Which kitten is going to infect you with a horrible disease? Adopt one to find out. (top left: Slinky, top right: Herbie, bottom left: Aunt Bee, bottom right: Mr Peabody).

The Queen of Number Two

Two years ago, a tiny kitten was born outside, part of a litter, to a feral cat. There was nothing particularly unusual about the occurrence. It happens anywhere there are intact male and female cats, but this one kitten was different than the others. Her embryo didn't mature inside the womb in the same way her siblings did. Sometimes differences can be good things, but her differences made survival unlikely, especially if her mother chose to abandon her. Mothers know when something is wrong and will let their offspring die. Only the strong survive.

First Photo of Freya
©2014 Randy S. Used with permission. Our first sighting of little Freya.

Forty percent (or more) of kittens don't make it into adulthood, whether they've been rescued or are facing life on the streets. It's a very sad fact, one that often pushes cat rescuers into retirement because they just can't take the heartbreak of losing another precious life no matter how hard they fight to save them.

 

But once in a great while, a kitten who has the odds stacked against her, survives a little longer than expected, and it's one such kitten we celebrate today.

 

WP 20140909 19 07 23 Pro
©2014 Randy S. Used with permission. Freya with her brother, Pascal.

Her name is Freya, though in truth it should have been spelled Freyja. Freyja is the Norse goddess of love, sex, beauty, fertility, gold, war and death. She rides a chariot pulled by two cats. She's one cool babe.

 

When I met her I didn't know any of that, or even how to spell her name correctly. I just knew her as a 1-pound, 4-week old kitten who had a rare birth defect called atresia ani with recto-vaginal fistula. She also had no tail, bowed, too-long back legs, crossed eyes, vision and hearing impairments, and vertebrae shaped like butterflies. It kept her from jumping very high, but other than that, nothing kept her from being a typical kitten.

 

Sweet Dreams R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. I meet Freya for the first time.

 

Her vets and surgeons first warned us she was too tiny for corrective surgery and that she only had a 10% chance to survive. Her very rare condition was only seen, if at all, once in any general practioner's career. Our Board Certified Surgeon had never repaired a birth defect such as Freya's, but had seen it done. The question of whether or not we could do the surgery was very sobering. Odds are it would be a waste of resources to even try. They gently suggested it would be more humane to euthanize her instead of let her go on with dangerous amounts of stool building up inside her with barely any way to even leak out of her.

 

Freya in strawberry r olson copy
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Next to her Snuggle Kitty, I did everything I could to help Freya feel loved and safe.

But Freya was not your average kitten and, not to brag or be arrogant, I was not about to let her die. I've always felt that as long as I put a lot of effort into our foster cat's care, that at least I'd increase the odds we'd have a "win" and not have another kitten perish. It was foolish of me to think I could control the outcome and during our journey there were many times I didn't think she'd make it. It meant me shutting down my rescue efforts while she required round-the-clock care. It meant many sleepless nights, getting up to make sure she was fed every five hours and hundreds of quick baths, rinsing off her filth-covered behind. It meant a kind of stress parents go through when their kid is in the hospital at death's door, but I had to try.

Silly stare R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Look at that face. That's why I'd slay dragons for this kitten.

I've written at great length about Freya's early days. There are links at the end of this post if you'd like to catch up. Today's focus is about celebrating a milestone. The year where Freya reached her second birthday. Where a kitten who could not pass stool, had corrective surgery that gave her a chance to live comfortably. Though the diet I created for her, also stunted her growth for good, it kept her alive until she was old enough for surgery and today we can look back and feel great joy in our accomplishment.

Freya 11 21 and 12 3 350
©2014 Robin AF Olson. X-rays before surgery showing how impacted with stool Freya was becoming.

Now healed, we joke that Freya is visited by The Poop Fairy, every time I find a poo-bean on the floor because Freya can't hold her stool very well so it does fall out. Trust me, I'd rather they fall out than be stuck inside her, causing her to cross her back legs and fall over in her litter pan simply from straining so hard. That's what she used to do. Those days are gone. Freya can lead a full life, well not "full."

The Poop Fairy R Olson copyright

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Freya vs the DOOD.

Over the past year, Freya has found her place with my ten, then nine, and sadly now, eight cats. She's easily the boss of every single one of them, even 24-pound DOOD. In fact, she and DOODIE are BFFs. They often wrestle. She'll charge at him, then turn, pushing her butt right into his face. DOOD will hold her in place and try to clean her behind, but she hates being fussed with and will scream. She'll pull herself out of his grasp then jump on him again, screaming all the while. DOOD, as usual, is completely unfazed by this. They both seem to be having fun, but I can't figure out why she shoves her butt in his face AND that he likes it so much. Weird.

IMG 7382
©2016 Robin AF Olson. A very goofy cat, indeed.

Freya still fetches. She only fetches large circumference spring toys, not the skinny ones. I think she sees the color blue best because if the toy is red or green she often can't find it. Her new trick is to load spring toys into our bedroom closet at night. There's a big gap under the closet door and Freya will put her stash into the closet, meowing until she lets the spring go, pushing it under the door. She does this around 1 AM. By morning there are usually 4 springs in the closet so my job, as I'm getting dressed, is to stop between figuring out what to wear and toss a spring over the banister and down the stairs into the living room. Freya will run half way across the house, then back up the stairs, proudly dropping the spring at my feet, she meows, asking me to throw it again.

Freya in dishwasher
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya helps with the dishes.

Freya is as chatty as ever. I have a feeling she has some siamese in her gene pool. Each night as I get ready for bed, she joins me in the master bathroom, meowing frantically. I sit on the floor and turn on the video feature on my phone. I ask Freya questions and she often answers. I call these sessions, "Chat with Freya," and if you visit her Facebook page you'll see many of our evening chats.

©2016 Robin AF Olson. Freya fetches.

Freya will always be kitten-sized. Though she weighs eight pounds and, yes, is a bit chubby, Freya's brother, Pascal is twelve pounds in comparison. Freya will always be small, but her personality is tiger-sized.

Pascal Adult
©2016 Chelsea LaManna. Used with permission. Freya's brother, Pascal.

In my 2015 post, Dreams Really Do Come True Pt 17, I wrote that it was time to put Freya up for adoption. She was healthy and strong and my job as a foster cat mom who runs Kitten Associates meant that Freya should be adopted. The reaction from all of you was strong and immediate: "No! You MUST KEEP FREYA! She belongs with YOU!"

The problem in keeping Freya meant added costs that I wasn't able to take on. Though Freya will most likely only need food and regular vet visits for the next few years, it's more than I can handle. But then I had an idea. I created the Freya & Friends Fund. It would allow my non-profit, Kitten Associates, to provide long-term care for cats like Freya, and Mia, who probably will never be social enough to be adopted, and Lady Saturday, who is quite old and has many health ailments.

 

Our heart's desire is to find enough people to sign up for a tax-deductible, monthly "subscription" donation of $15.00 or more. Sadly, though we did get a few wonderful people willing to help, we need more. We need about 20 more dedicated Freya-lovers to make a commitment to helping us provide for her so she CAN stay with us. We're fully funded by donations and none of us get paid for our work. It's a labor of love, but that doesn't pay for cat food or a trip to the vet. We really need YOU to make it possible for Freya to stay with us.

 

Robin and Freya R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. The night before Freya's surgery, exhausted and heartsick, I pray my little girl will make it. Now I need you to help us so she can stay with our family.

 

Rough Retouch of illustration E 475

I never expected I'd be writing this story or that Freya would impact my life so deeply. When I first saw her little face, I was completely charmed. When I found out about her birth defects, I was completely terrified, yet...here we are. Freya made it to her second birthday and, with any luck, we'll be celebrating her birthday for many years to come.

 

Here's a lineup of all our stories about Freya in chronological order from the beginning:

For Freya's Sake

Dear Freya

For Freya. Part 1 of 2

For Freya. Part 2 of 2.

For Freya. Bonus Part 3.

Please. For Freya.

The Unexpected Turn. For Freya. Part 6.

Antics of a 12-Week Old Kitten

On the Eve of the Birth of Freya 2.0

Freya 20. Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Gloom of Night.

Freya 2.0. In Search of Peace.

Freya 2.0. 12 Little Words.

Freya 2.0. 12 Little Words. Part 2.

Freya 2.0. The End and the New Beginning.

Freya 2.0. The Price and the Curse of the Pink Underpants.

Freya 2.0. Dreams Really Do Come True.

The Last Feral Cat. Part 2 of 2.

[continued from part 1]

This time it was a nip, not as serious as that first chomp, but it made me recoil in fear. What did I do to cause this or did Barry have aggression issues? Barry was bored. I felt it in my gut. He needed out of the crate.

When the day finally arrived for him to come inside I was both worried and relieved. First, I had to get him out of the crate and into a cat carrier so I could bring him into my home. I purposely skipped Barry's dinner the night before, thinking if he was hungry enough I could lure him into the cat carrier with food. I was terrified that if he didn't cooperate and I had to handle him that it would end badly for me. But Barry was being Barry. Show him food and Barry will go anywhere you want. I had to give his behind a quick shove so as to not get his tail stuck in the door of the carrier, but he went right inside. He was too focused on food to mind. Whew.

This was it. Time to find out what Barry was made of. Would he continue to be aggressive or would he relax with space to move around and the company of another cat? He'd been friends with Bronte. Surely he and Mia would be friends, too. I prayed that being out of the cage would be what Barry needed to begin to blossom and where I could finally trust him.

Barry looking out window 650
©2015 Robin AF Olson. It made me sad that Barry spent countless hours looking out the lone window in the bathroom. I knew he was safe where he was. He wanted to get outside, but since he wasn’t feral I had to give him every chance.

Barry was a bit bossy with Mia at first, but there was enough room for the cats to have their own space. My instructor urged me to do two, 15-minute play sessions every day with Barry. He loved them and it helped him relax afterwards. What was so completely charming was how awkward Barry was when he dove after a toy. His body was not built like a gymnast, more like a wrestler. He'd dive after a toy, then thud onto the floor. His eyes lit up and he wheezed as he vigorously grabbed at the toy then bit hard into it. Finally, something else was getting bitten besides me.

Barry 11 15 400
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Handsome man.

One night I sat on the floor and encouraged Barry to come over to me. I reached out for him and pulled him onto my lap. He sat there like a brick. His body was heavy and solid. I carefully petted him, worried I would over-stimulate him and cause him to bite again. He sat there quietly, but I was tense. Barry sensed it, too. He got up and jumped onto a small cat condo. I froze since he was towering over me. I spoke to him quietly and reached out to pet him. His mouth opened to take another bite of my hand, but this time I disengaged with him, got up and walked out of the room, closing the door behind me. He could not do that to me or anyone or I'd never get him adopted. My non-reaction was a message to him that he wasn't going to get what he wanted by biting.

Barry and Mia play time 11 2015
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry and Mia at playtime.

A few months passed and Barry and Mia became friends. I even played with Mia when I had a session with Barry. It helped her come out of her shell a little bit more, too. Barry continued to charm me but I felt terrible he was in such a small space. I cleared off the top of my washing machine and put a cat bed on top of it. He loved hanging out there since it was big enough to hold him, unlike the cat trees that were woefully inadequate. Though I was still a bit on edge, I began to worry less and less that Barry would bite me. The more time we spent together, the more I saw him as a clown instead of a fearsome beast.

©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry & Mia, BFFs.

Barry’s biggest change was when I was finally able to move him and Mia into the main foster room. There Barry quickly made friends with Jelly (who was in a big crate recovering from surgery on his leg) and his brother, Lolli, who wasn’t too thrilled, but eventually accepted the newcomers. I had a large wicker basket that I put on top of a storage container, about a foot off the ground. I had an old rag rug that I lined the basket with. It became Barry’s favorite place to hang out and I often found him there, belly up, snoring softly.

Barry on the washer R olson copy
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Barry, the washing machine attendant.

Jelly and Lolli got adopted, giving Barry and Mia plenty of space to stretch out and enjoy life. There are two sunny windows in the room, one that was very large and overlooked the same spot in the front yard where I first saw Barry so many months before. Barry had been up for adoption for awhile, but I didn't get much interest in him. Last week I got an application that looked good, but they have a young daughter. They asked me if Barry really couldn’t go to a family with young children because their kids had been around a cranky old cat and knew to be careful AND they were falling in love with Barry’s big head and goofy markings (intact male cats get really big heads. In the northern USA, we call them “apple heads” and in the south they call them “biscuit heads”).

We discussed Barry in detail and they sounded like a perfect match. Sam and I did a home visit and their home is more windows than walls and is surrounded by the woods. They promised not to let Barry outside and they agreed to give him time to adjust and not overwhelm him.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Barry and his new family (with Freya).

Nearly a year after I first trapped Barry, he found his forever home. Frankly, I’m in awe. I had no idea we’d ever find something for him, but he’d blossomed and mellowed out so much (he hasn’t bitten me for at least for six months!) that it shouldn't have surprised anyone that he found a home. I didn't want to admit it, but I'd become very attached to the big lug. He makes me laugh. He talks to me some times. He lays belly up and hugs tight onto his rainbow catnip toy. He's a far cry from the cat who tried to rip through the screen to get into my house. Now he licks Mia’s head and chases her around the room. He lets the just-arrived foster kittens push him out of his food. He’s a big, (17 pounds now!), dopey, love bug.

Living in a home with two parents and their two young kids is a good match for Barry and though I will never know, maybe he had a home like that once long ago. This time he won’t lose his home when times get tough, because I’ll always have his back. This time he'll be in a place where he's appreciated and cared for and where he's valued.

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Barry funky 10 2015
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry in the blue bathroom.

 

For the first time in almost ten years, Sam and I decided to close off the screened porch so our own cats could finally use it. We haven’t seen any cats in our yard over the past year so it was time. Barry may be the last cat I will ever trap. Now I can go back to doing what I do best, and that’s caring for kittens and their moms.

 

I miss you, Barry, but I’m glad I miss you because you’re in your forever home than because I didn’t give you a chance and you were lost to us as Bronte was. Have a wonderful, loved life, big guy. You deserve it.

And please don’t rip up any more window screens.

©2015 Robin AF Olson. A year later, a very mellow fellow with his catnip rainbow.

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