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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 Last Feral Cat. Part 1 of 2.

Cat rescue doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone who does it. What I’ve found over the years is that most folks tend to specialize in the area they feel most comfortable. Some people, like me, will take on a pregnant cat or foster and socialize orphan kittens, while others prefer to do TNR (trap, neuter, return) of feral cats.

Within those areas are so many other facets. Some people prefer to specialize and only take on blind cats or cats with feline leukemia, while others take on the tremendously difficult task of caring for neonatal kittens (difficult because easily 40% of any litter of kittens can die even if you do feedings every two hours around-the-clock, keep them warm and clean, do everything you’re supposed to do..it's not for the faint of heart).

Ready and Waiting
©2007 Robin AF Olson. My first attempt at trapping.

I no longer feel like I have to do it all. I can’t. I’m not that great at all aspects of rescue and thankfully, I don’t have to be because usually if I can’t do it, I can find someone who can.

Eight years ago I tried doing TNR but I always felt badly letting the cats go. I trapped a cat in my own yard and was tempted to work on socializing her, but the person I did rescue with told me not to bother, that it would take too long and to let her go. I always regretted listening to her because the cat wasn’t aggressive, just scared. I named her Bronte. Sam and I set up a wonderful home for her using our screened in porch as a home base. We got her two heated cat cabins and made sure she was fed and cared for. Bronte had a daughter I named Madison, and years later another cat, Buddy, joined her, but only for a short time. Bronte was the only one who survived more than a year, out of the three cats.

Feral Cat 1 Trapped
©2007 Robin AF Olson. Bronte.

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Nearly two years ago, the idea of doing TNR came up again. I was sitting at my desk when I heard a cat yeowling outside my window. I looked up and saw a black and white cat sitting on the hillside partially hidden by tall weeds. I didn’t see Bronte, but I did see this newcomer. My hackles raised. I wanted to protect my girl from this interloper, but he ran off into the woods when he saw me approach the window to get a better look at him. Who was he? Where did he come from? It was very unusual to see a cat outside in my neighborhood.

Sam reported seeing the cat again and again. We put out food for him and sure enough, he began eating comfortably alongside Bronte. Clearly he was no evil-doer and I was glad she had a friend. Winter was coming. We often saw them cuddled together in one of the cat cabins.

Barry and bronte eating rt
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry and Bronte have lunch.

 

We couldn’t handle this new cat. He'd run off if we got too close. We weren’t even sure he needed our help. I designed a flyer and put one on my neighbor's mailboxes. One contacted me and said she fed him but that it was not her cat and that once he came inside her house and flipped out so she put him back outside. She assumed someone dumped him.

 

I asked around, called my friends at animal control, posted his photo on Facebook but no one stepped forward to claim him. I figured I’d borrow a trap and deal with the cat some day, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with him. Would I give him the chance to come around that Bronte never had? I didn’t have loads of space to foster him in and he was far from a kitten. If he was feral I’d have to let him go back outside and I hated having to do it. I know that feral cats are by definition, wild, and that it’s not fair to keep feral cats indoors, but we have coyotes in our yard. Our home is next to a state forest. There are many real dangers here and I didn’t want this cat to become a predator’s next meal.

Barry comes a courtin R AF Olson
©2015 Robin AF Olson. the DOOD and Blitzen taunt Barry.

 

The following autumn the cat sat outside my office window once again. Blitzen and Dood were sitting on the window ledge staring at the cat. Within seconds I heard something ripping. I looked up and the cat was hanging off the screen window, ripping at it to get at my cats! He put a big hole in the screen ($100 to fix!) and scared the crap out of all of us. It made me even more concerned about trapping this cat because if he was that ferocious from outside, how would he behave INSIDE my house?

 

But my hands were tied. Sam called out to me a few days later. He had just seen Bronte. She was visibly thin and limping. Something was terribly wrong with her so we put out a trap, hoping we’d be able to get her to our Vet. She’d been trapped a few times over the years and was trap savvy. I knew we might have to get the help of one of my friends who does a lot of trapping and could use a drop trap, but we were quickly running out of time.

Barry Poster 400

The trap was set and we heard it slam shut not long after. We had hoped to see Bronte sitting in the trap, but low and behold there was the big black and white cat sitting hunched over in the trap that was barely big enough to hold him. I had to deal with him now, even though my cat Gracie was critically ill and we were doing almost daily vet runs with her, even though Bronte needed help first. We had him, now he needed to be vetted. I called a favor from my friends at Nutmeg Spay/Neuter Clinic and got him booked to be neutered.

Unfortunately, it meant he had to stay in my garage in the trap until he could be taken care of and the fastest I could get it done was in two days because it was a weekend.

Barry in trap r olson
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Gotcha!

I didn’t get too close to the cat. I changed out the newspapers that lined the trap and gave him fresh food. He wasn’t aggressive with me, but I didn’t want to find out if he was, either. He was a big cat and he scared me. His ears were ripped up and he was missing fur on his front right leg, scars from years of fighting, no doubt. I decided to call him Barry Lyndon. I don’t know why I named him after a truly terrible movie, but I liked the Barry part so it stuck.

 

We continued to try to trap Bronte, but we never saw her again after Barry was trapped. Sam and I had fed her for so many years, never missing a day. She’d become part of our family and now she was gone, never to return. I hate to think of what became of her. We gave her the best life we could. I yearned to hold her, to tell her we loved her, that we missed her and we’d probably never stop looking for her. That’s why I don’t do TNR. I’m too much of a softy. I want all the cats to live in my house and be happy. I don’t want them to have a difficult life and a sad, maybe very scary ending of that life.

 

Meanwhile, Barry got neutered. We found out he was about three years old. Thankfully, he hadn’t gotten FIV or Feline Leukemia, but I had to believe there were lots of baby Barrys running around the area.

Barry in the Garage
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry's home for a grueling 6 weeks.

I wasn’t sure what the heck to do so I set up the biggest dog crate I had and made it into Barry’s temporary home. I’d assess him while he was confined inside the garage and decide in a few days whether or not I should release him or bring him into the house. He weighed 13 pounds and looked like it was all muscle. His golden eyes blazed at me from inside the crate. I wondered what he was thinking.

I had to feed Barry, but I was scared to open the crate. Would he charge at me? Flip out? Instead he surprised me by coming right up to me, then ate every last bit of food. I didn’t try much with him at first, but he was so focused on eating I pet the top of his head. He didn’t care. He just wanted a meal.

Fortunately for me I had begun to take a Cat Behavior Counselor certification course though the HSUS. I knew it would help me with Barry, but I didn’t know I’d need a lot more help than I thought.

Within the first few days I knew Barry was somewhat friendly. I was confident enough to put my hand into the cage to offer Barry food. He’d spilled the contents of his litter pan and I was trying to brush some of it up with a paper towel. Before I realized I was in trouble, Barry lashed out and bit me, HARD. He bit me so hard my hand was black and blue (really purple) for TWO WEEKS. Some how he barely bit into the flesh of my hand. It was a freakish crushing bite.

©2015 Robin AF Olson. How to get bitten.

I asked my instructor for guidance. I was terrified of Barry, though I realized that between his still-surging hormones, being scared and bored in a crate and seeing my hand moving like prey, of course he would bite me. I wanted to believe he didn’t mean it. I didn’t scold him, but in all honesty, I didn’t know if I could give him any more time.

He cried a lot. He wanted out of the crate. I had to crate him for 6 long weeks because the only place I could put him was inside the now famous blue bathroom, where Mia still lived. If I put a fractious cat in with Mia it could be very dangerous for her. Once Barry’s hormone level was down (hence the six week wait), it would be safer for all of us, but it also meant it would really flat out suck for him. He was letting me pet him. He wasn't feral. I had to give him a chance.

During times like this I force myself to look at the big picture. Yes, it was awful to confine Barry for weeks on end, but if I looked at what might be the rest of his life, living in a home, safe, warm, and happy some day, then these weeks would soon be forgotten.

 

And then Barry bit me again.

 

part two next...

Product Review: PetBit. Never Get Bitten or Scratched Again!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this product free. I was not required to write a positive review and, in fact, I didn't. The opinions I have expressed are my own, as well as my evil twin's. I am disclosing this somewhat in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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How many times have you been innocently petting your cat when, WHAM!, you get bitten? What if there was a way to stop that from happening? Conversely, if you have a cat who can't be petted enough and you have a competitive streak, what if you could track every pet you take and measure your prowess against other cat-petters?

 

 

Now you have the one-stop-cat-petting-tracker-solution that also protects your fingers, hands and other parts of your body in one easy-to-wear device called the petbit™.

 

PetBit Logo copy

The petbit uses hyper-sense technology™ to read, not only the speed of your hand moving back and forth during a petting session, but the pressure and location of the petting in relation to your cat's body and position. Why this is important is simply put: if you understand where, how often and how hard your cat LIKES to be petted, then you'll reduce the risk of being bitten as well as enhance the cat guardian to cat bond.

Petbit pink copy

 

Who wouldn't want a road map into their own cat's psyche without having to watch out for their tail to flick back and forth or pay attention to their ears "T" or "airplane" as a warning. Why bother even thinking about where your cat might like to be touched when with the glow of the display and color indicator, you can look at your wrist and get all the answers you need...once you've memorized the simple to follow Guide (see below)

 

What You Can Learn About Your Cat

Harder-how hard or softly does your cat want to be stroked? As you increase the pressure, the LED colored readouts on your petbit indicate that you may be reaching a point of too hard. That's when (advanced models only) the all red LED lights come on indicating a BITE WARNING® just milliseconds before kitty is going to sink their teeth into you giving you time to dump kitty onto the floor and run for cover.

Scale copy

Faster-some cats love a slow, soothing pace to being petted and some prefer a rapid ripple along their back. Watch your petbit turn greener as you step up the pace. Go too far and that's when (advanced models only) the all red BITE WARNING® lights up. Quick, move out of the way or else!

Harder b 475

Not There-There-Pet your cat's belly? Yes or no? What about the base of their tail or their paws? petbit steers you in the right direction-the lighter the purple tone, the closer you are to the right location. Ignore the purple getting darker and you know what happens next. With hyper-sense technology you should never have to worry you're touching your cat in the wrong place.

Not there there B 475

Pet Count Community Building-I've always wondered how many times I've petted my cats. Now, not only do I have a global count of pets per hour, day and week, but I can join the petbit community where I can share my latest petting tallies! Now I can show my friends what a great cat mama I am! The only problem I see is that you need to purchase a separate petbit for each of your cats (which is why you can now get them engraved with your cat's name) AND you have to remember to change the petbit when you begin petting another cat. ANOTHER AND...of course pet your cat too many times and you know what happens on advanced models, only.

Wallace Biting 475

I would say that petting, location, hardness or speed are well and fine, but if this only had one feature, I'd want to upgrade to get the Bite Warning™ indicator on my petbit. Honestly, if I knew that once I saw the red lights flash on and off that my cat was going to bite me maybe I could have avoided going to the ER and getting a big shot of antibiotics in my behind. There's a disclaimer in the 401 page owner's manual, that due to a cat's ability to react far faster than a human or the petbit can detect, that petbit international cannot guarantee you'd be any better off using common sense and paying attention to your cat's state of mind than you would be waiting for the red LED lights on the device to appear.

Scratch warning r olson 475

 

But heck, it's a really sweet design and light on the wrist. It comes in designer colors AND there's a new model coming out soon that has Scratch Sense™! Considering the number of scars all over my arms and hands, I'll be first in line to get one and I hope you'll join me!

 

Scratch warning pet bit b 400

How do you get a petbit?

Sadly, as this was going to press, the company went bankrupt and sold all their technology to an S&M retailer who changed the product's name to: PetMyBits™ (think "50 Shades of Gray"). I guess you could do a web search to order one. I hear they're shipping in brown paper wrapped packages with no return address on the box. I'm not sure you'd want to sign up for the Pet Count Community they've created, but heck, to each their own.

 

You'd be a Fool not to get one right now.

In a Perfectly Shitty World. Returning Home in One or More Pieces.

(continued from part 1)

I just couldn’t get my mind or body to feel settled as I began the drive to Boston. My pants felt too tight. My jacket was bunching up in the back. My sunglasses had smudges I couldn’t wipe away. I had to use Sam’s hands-free dohickey because my old one doesn’t hold my new iPhone. I really needed something that worked in case I got a call. Add to that problem was just figuring out which car to drive. My car has a seal that’s broken along one door so the interior temperature isn’t great and there’s a windchill advisory here. With the uneven temperatures inside the car, it often fogs up as a result. My only other option was to borrow Sam’s car and it’s a lot bigger than mine is and I don’t drive it very often. I figured I’d have enough on my plate just getting to the location. Adding feeling awkward driving didn’t make sense either so I took my ol’ beast and hoped the windows wouldn’t constantly be fogging up.

IMG 6611
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. I wondered if Winnie would still be as sweet after the ordeal she'd been through.

It was a bright crisp winter morning, but no sooner than I got on the road, my thoughts drifted. Lady Saturday was back at the vet getting her urine re-tested. She has a very bad, very dangerous bladder infection that the antibiotics may not cure. Add that to her poor kidney function and this is a cause for concern.

The hope was that 3 weeks of meds would have kicked the infection down, but would it?

My phone rang and I couldn’t answer it. The Bluetooth was acting up, or the phone was acting up, or I was just crabby and trying to drive in heavy traffic and not get into an accident answering the phone. I pulled over and listened to the message from my vet; where was Lady Saturday? No one showed up for the appointment. No one is answering their phone.

I texted Saturday’s foster dad, really chapped that I had to deal with this on top of everything else. There are a lot of terrible things going on that I can’t even talk about, but they are BAD things that require lawyers, so at this point I really didn’t need “one more thing” to go wrong.

IMG 6651
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. And what of Piglet? She's been adopted and returned TWICE? WHY?

I called Betsy, my buddy at Dr. Larry’s office. She assured me it would be okay, but I said I was very sorry. I don’t want our rescue to be the cause of issues with their practice. It’s not professional and it’s rude. I can’t risk losing my vet-not that I would over this, but still. It’s not cool.

I got back on the road and tried to keep a good pace while I couldn’t get settled. I knew most of the trip by heart since it meant basically driving to Boston. The problem was where it stopped being the usual trip-it meant going against the way my GPS would route me and I had to memorize the last 30 miles, until I got close enough that it got me on the track I intended in the first place.

Getting lost on the crazy roads with crazy drivers in south Boston is not my idea of a good time.

I got to exit 14 off the Mass Pike. This is where the drive was going to get hairy. The traffic thickened up. There was construction. I was paying careful attention while the GPS was telling me to do something else. I made it to 93 heading north without ending up on Cape Cod. By just after noon I pulled into the icy driveway next to the home where Laney, Winnie and Piglet had been living for the past 11 days.

Laney on the Bed
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Laney waits forever for a family to call her own.

I was greeted by Michelle, the pet-sitter, since the adopter was still out of town. She was very nicely dressed and had carefully applied lots of make-up. She had a thick Boston-accent and I found myself unable to understand all the words she said. It was like a phone call with a spotty connection where every so many words drop out of the conversation. It was enough so that I understood, but if there were any nuances I missed them.

I’d never seen the home in person though I most often do home visits before adoption. I’d seen photos so it wasn’t much of a surprise. It was a cute 1940’s era bungalow. All the heavy oak trim had been painted white. Most of the walls and furnishings were white and there were a few very nice period pieces of furniture, but there wasn’t much of a sign of anything for the cats other than a very tiny, short cat tree that wouldn’t stand up to much more than a kitten.

Winnie and Laney 400
The only image I have from their adopter, before she left the girls.

I looked down and Laney came over to me, tail up. She looked much as she had before, only a bit thinner and she had dandruff, which alarmed me. It’s usually a sign of diet issues and I wondered what she was being fed. Winnie and Piglet were nervous. They knew something was up.

Michelle and I filled out the Surrender form, then we discussed how we’d get the cats in their crates. I had hoped to lure them into the bathroom where I’d have easier access to them, but it didn’t work. Only Laney went after the treat and I easily put her into the bigger of the two carriers. I’d noticed a few weeks before that she seemed to like being with Piglet so there was room for her inside the crate, too. We just had to get her.

Winnie was tough to wrangle, but eventually I was able to get her crated. She began to cry and so did Laney. I knew getting Piglet might be nearly impossible. She would certainly know something was going on and she'd already dove under the sofa to hide.

 

We tipped the sofa back and it surprised me but Piglet shut down emotionally when I reached for her. I quickly scruffed her and lifted her into the crate with Laney. Laney, her devoted grandmother, immediately hissed and swiped aggressively at Piglet.

 

Great. Just great. I had no other place for Piglet. We’d just have to deal with it. Maybe they’d calm down?

There was no fanfare. No goodbye. It didn’t look like a home that had cats. It looked like a home that was going to be in a magazine and it didn’t have room for messy cats. Part of me wanted to do something mean. Break something. Say something cruel, but what would be the point? In the end, Michelle gave me directions to the highway and instead of following her, I just left. I wanted to put this behind me as fast as I could. I’d been in Boston for 30 minutes. That was enough time for me.

 

Winnie was upset. She cried. She cried ALL THE WAY HOME FOR THREE HOURS. Laney flipped out and attacked Piglet. There was nothing I could do. I had to drive safely. I wanted to scream. At one point I did. I yelled at them to shut up, but that didn’t fix anything. I quickly realized that if I drove over 65 mph, the cats would cry even more and Laney would lay into Piglet again. I couldn’t even try to get home fast. I had to balance driving with the nutjobs who were focused on getting out of work on a Friday afternoon and getting to somewhere better. With the constant shrieks from Laney, I had even more pressure on me to get home before Piglet was gravely injured.

 

I knew I could stop to check on them, but again, it would just drag out the trip. I wanted to get this over with. I was already really tired after driving the first 165 miles of the trip. Now I had to do it in reverse.

I had planned to stop at a deli on the way home and get some treats for Sam and myself. Sam was going to place the order ahead of time so I wouldn’t have to wait, but I was already in such a bad mood I called him and said not to do the order. I had to get home. No stopping. Just driving. It was bad enough that I pulled over at a rest stop to call him because the hands-free thing didn’t work very well. Stopping didn’t soothe the cats. Three more hours and I’d be home.

I hated my life. I hated the crying, fighting cats. I hated that they were going to be messed up from this experience. I hated that they were going back into a small room. It wasn’t fair to them. I hated that I would have to cancel my plans on rescuing some kittens because they were taking up space that could go to them. I hated that it seemed like all I had in my life was bad news, heartbreak, stress. Nothing was good any more. I was probably gaining weight back, too. The thing I fear so much after giving up everything I loved to eat was that I couldn’t maintain the weight loss. My pants felt like they were strangling my waist.

 

Sun Dog
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson.

And then I looked up. It was a sun dog. As I drove along the Mass Pike, I realized it was a full sun dog. I’d never seen one before. As the cats cried, I whispered; “thank you,” not sure to whom or what being, just a general thank you for the reminder that there is good and beauty in the world. It’s all around us. In our darkest hours it’s there. We just have to open our eyes to see it.

©2016 Robin A.F. Olson.

Next up: Home Again. Will Jelly and Lolli remember their mom? Will Laney continue to flip out? Is Piglet badly injured?

2015: Year in Review. 2 of 2

(continued from part 1)

August

After a month of tests, I continued on, but this time weighing about 20 pounds less. The pain wasn’t as severe and I was a pro at checking my blood glucose every day. I never saw it go beyond a normal reading, but I was also terrified to go out to eat (so I didn’t). I cooked more than I cared to, but if I controlled what went into the food, I was “safe.”

I was lost trying to sort out what to eat, what not to eat. I hadn’t had sugar or much white flour. No more pasta, no more nuttin’. I had terrible cravings, but I knew that if worked very hard, it would go away and I’d make new routines eventually…yeah, right. We’re talking about me, a self-confessed “foodie” who felt like her whole life was over.

At least I got to rescue a kitten we named, Tink. She came flea-infested from Animal Care & Control in NYC. It was our first rescue-pull from them and it was a proud moment for me because if you’re going to rescue a cat from a tough place, NYACC is it. They do a great job partnering with an organization called HOPE, to get the animals OUT of their facilities, but you can imagine they are overloaded day and night.

Tink went to foster care and her foster mom fell in love so Tink’s adoption was sealed.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Think, a mini-Freya, bright light in an otherwise dreary world.

Meanwhile, I wasn’t too sick to notice that my cat, Gracie wasn’t eating well. No matter what we did or tried to feed her she was clearly off her food. I took her to the vet and they said she needed a dental cleaning right away. Other than the fact I hadn’t been working and was low on funds, there was nothing to be particularly concerned about as it was a routine procedure.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Minus most of her teeth after a dental, now Gracie was facing something much more dire.

September

 

Something was wrong with Gracie after her dental. She wouldn’t eat, was depressed and after going back to the vet a half dozen times in two weeks, they noticed she had a very enlarged liver. I might as well have let her go the second I saw the look on Dr. Larry’s face as he examined her. He shook his head. “I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all.” he said.

 

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. At one of a million vet visits, each one giving us hope that we'd find the answer of what was ailing our girl.

And so began a torturous two months of trying to save Gracie’s life. It was so hard on me that I couldn’t eat or sleep. I had such bad anxiety because we couldn’t find what was going on, but could only guess it was neoplasia (cancer), somewhere. If we didn't know what was slowly killing my sweet cat, we couldn't TREAT it. The clock was ticking. I’m not a loser when it comes to my cats. I will fight and fight for them but nothing I did helped Gracie get any better.

 

I cared for her around-the-clock. Sam and I took turns medicating and feeding her. Every morning I wondered if I would come down the stairs and see Gracie had passed away over night. Every morning I hated myself for partly wishing it would be the case and it would be over, but I also had to work hard to find joy in our last days together because this was all we were going to get.

 

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2015 used with permission. Woody on his mom's lap. He's where he was supposed to be all along.

There was a moment of joy. Woody, the last of Mia’s kittens, finally got adopted after a 18 months. Woody’s siblings, Greta and Lil’ Snickers had been in their forever home for 6 months, but their mom, Nicole and been aching over the fact that Woody was left behind. She and her family agreed that Woody needed to join them. I couldn’t believe it when she called, but indeed that’s what she really wanted all along.

It was a shaky two weeks because Woody had to leave his mother, Mia. I hated separating them, but truth be told, Mia is not friendly enough to be adopted and this was Woody’s best chance.

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2015 used with permission. Wood (on recliner) reunited with Lil Snickers (front) and sister, Greta (sofa).

Woody is doing great and his siblings remembered him after a few days. Mia is showing signs of coming around, too, so maybe one day she’ll find her family, too.

October

Lex & Lucy got adopted even though I was pretty much checked out of running Kitten Associates. I was glad for them because the couple was great and I’ve heard the kitties are doing well, but it also meant the remaining foster cats were well beyond being cute kittens. They were all over 8 pounds and too big for their prime adoptable time.

Togetherness
Used with permission. Lex & Lucy together always, in their forever home.

I began taking an online class with the Humane Society of the United States. It was 10-weeks long plus 5 hours of course week, at least, every week. At the end of it I’d be certified as a Cat Behavior Counselor. The question was, could I do it when my heart was breaking and my mind was numb from stress?

Our sole remaining feral cat, Bronte showed up looking frail and sickly. We put out a trap so we could get her to the vet, but instead of trapping Bronte, we got this big tom cat who had been hanging around our house for months. I was able to learn he was being fed down the street, but the person at that home said he wasn’t her cat. Since we had the cat and to get back at him for ripping my screen window open a few days before, I took him to be neutered (okay I wasn’t getting revenge, but…).

Barry comes a courtin R AF Olson
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry sat outside my office window (before he ripped it open) and cried. Meanwhile DOOD and Blitzen egg him on.

I named the cat, Barry.

I figured I’d let him go back outside after he recovered from surgery. What I didn’t expect was that Barry was friendly, so then I was faced with what to do with him.

Bronte after Vet
©2008 Robin AF Olson. Bronte, the last time we were able to trap her and get her vetted.

Sadly, we never saw Bronte again. She’d been with us for seven years. We had heated cabins for her in our screen porch and heated water dishes. We fed her every single day and now she was gone. We couldn’t even say goodbye. I still find myself looking for her when I go outside.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Cricket with frankenbutt.

One night I looked over at our cat Cricket. I saw blood all over his rear end. It was bad enough we were doing vet runs and fussing over Gracie, but now Cricket was in big trouble. It was clear he blew out one of his anal glands and needed surgery to repair the wound. We had him stitched up the next morning. He needed 17 stitches and was just in time for Halloween.

 

And two days later, as October became November, Gracie died in Sam’s arms as I was driving us to the vet to have them release her from this life.

 

Sunny Side Up
©2006 Robin AF Olson. The most beautiful, sweet-natured cat I've ever known. I miss you, Gracie, so much.

November

I suppose the best news of the year was that after repeating my blood work it was determined I didn’t have diabetes after all. I didn’t even know I could hope for that outcome. I'd lost about 45 pounds and still need to lose more, but the change in my body was starting to be pretty clear since none of my clothes fit me any more.

I knew I still had to be very careful because I can become diabetic due to my family history, so I can’t go back to eating things I used to like, but at least I can have a cookie or some such thing once in awhile.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Is this my future?

On the flip side, the bad news is there is trouble with my heart, a lack of blood flow that is either a small or moderate in area in the lower part of the muscle. My cardiologist wanted me to take a fist full of medications, but after careful consideration I decided not to take his advice. As of this writing, I’m still on this journey trying to find out what this pain is from. It’s mostly gone these days, but not entirely. I’m getting out for walks more, but not enough. I’m still eating well, too, but I don’t know what is really going on. Hopefully some day I will. I’m getting a second opinion.

Poor Petunia was getting picked on too often, even after the surgery. I decided to create a penned off space for her near the living room. She has her own litter pan, water, cat tree, scratcher, heated bed, cozy hut to hide in. Pretty much the second she realized the other cats couldn’t bother her, she calmed down and never missed the litter pan once. Though it’s not a perfect solution, it stopped the insanity. I don’t feel stressed out because seeing the cats go after Petunia upset me a lot. Now I can relate to Petunia differently, too. She’s not soiling anything and I’m not unfairly vilifying her. I learned I can start over and re-introduce her to the other cats. It’s going to take a long time, but in the meantime she’s calm and content and that’s what matters.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Petunia watches DOOD from a safe distance. After I took this photo, I covered the pen with towels to give her more separation from the other cats. As for the other cats, I had to suck it up and take my beloved boy Spencer in for a dental. I had put it off after the disaster following Gracie's final cleaning. Spencer HATES to go to the vet and is very tough to handle. They got the job done, but I have to say I was very upset until he came back home. Even then I noticed he's showing his age. He's 14 going on 15 and I just can't "go there" when I think about how we lost Gracie and she was younger. Spencer has the early signs of kidney issues so he'll be going back to the vet for blood work again soon.

December

I got the flu for Thanksgiving. Not a surprise, really. After all the stress with caring for Gracie, no wonder I got sick. I lucked out and was just well enough a week later to meet Mike Bridavsky and see Lil Bub again. I’d designed Bub’s BUBblehead box and was really proud to be part of her world, even in some small way.

I got home and went back to bed. Sam joined me. He had just been hit by the flu, too.

Robin Mike Bub Selfie RT 450
©2015 Robin AF Olson. The bright spot to an otherwise sad year-seeing Mike & Bub again.

Somehow I managed to graduate my class! I got a 98! I’m a Certified Cat Behavior Counselor. Now I can help people keep their cats instead of giving them up when times get tough.

The results of not working much and a lot of sick cats hit my bank account really hard. Christmas ended up being mostly just another day. I was grateful that at least I could keep things going with Kitten Associates. I had some folks interested in wanting one or two of the cats. I’m hoping it will pan out in the new year.

Laney and family had been here so long they needed their vaccinations boostered. I had Dr. Larry and Super-Deb do a house call. I figured it would be a routine visit. No big deal.

I was wrong.

Laney needed a dental. Winnie and Piglet had severe stomatitis and needed not only dental cleanings ASAP, but they both were going to lose teeth. Just how many teeth would be taken was to be determined. There went $2200.00 in vet care I hadn’t figured on.

Barry sounds “bad.” He’s getting x-rays of his lungs done in a few days.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry, no longer the "feral" cat, is making his home in my bathroom until we complete his vet care (and he quits biting me!).

The “good” news I found out today is that Winnie has raging bartonella. It’s good because it means she probably does NOT have an immune disorder that will effect the rest of her life. We’re going to re-test Piglet because she was a +1, when Winnie was a +4 (+4 is the highest level of infection). Since the protocol is to not treat for a +1 and it’s been 9 months since we tested Piglet, it’s possible Piglet had it, but we caught it early and that now she, too may be a +4 (which would explain her bad mouth).

If it means neither cat will have to lose all their teeth one day, I’m all for it.

Moving Onward

It was a really tough year. I miss having kittens so much, but I needed a break without being able to really take one. I helped about 45 cats, mostly behind-the-scenes. I was going to end the year by rescuing this super cute ginger boy in South Carolina but happily for him he got adopted before they found out we’d take him.

I faced my mortality in a way I never did before. I made many difficult choices and ended up deciding to give myself the respect I never could before. I'm trying to treasure this body I have, faults, extra padding and all. It's been the toughest thing I've ever done and I have a long way to go, but for the first time I think that maybe, just maybe I'll get there and end up being the girl who really liked herself instead of loathing the face in the mirror.

My dreams for 2016 are a mixed bag. Firstly, I want to get as healthy as I can and get to the bottom of the chest pain. Second, I hope 2016 will be a re-birth of sorts. This humble blog has been far overdue for a re-design and Kitten Associates' web site needs a facelift, too. I'd also like to take my writing to the next level-which means a book project. Will you read a book if I write it? I've got to do this. If I can't make this one dream come true I never will.

 

And I'm still dedicated to making lives better for cats, for rescuing them and giving them safe harbor, for helping their humans understand them better so they can be happier and so those cats don't lose their home. I may not run the biggest rescue with the highest number of adoptions, but as the story of the starfish goes...

 

...The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.” The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

adapted from The Star Thrower

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Necklace from my friend, Adria.

Karma is a Wasp Queen

I thought a lot about Karma last week when Sam and I decided we had to call an exterminator to rid our house of a nest of social wasps. They’d built a home under the siding over the summer and although I knew they would perish naturally in a few weeks, there were so many of them swarming outside that I worried they’d be chewing through the walls breaking inside the house next.

As a Buddhist I am told to consider every living being in the same way as I would think of my mother. Every fly is my mother. Every spider is my mother. Each creature has a precious life and to take even one on purpose is definitely not something you want to do.

The morning of the event, I wept. I really did. My cat Gracie is constantly wavering from circling the drain to maybe feeling better. I didn’t want to kill other creatures. I thought about the Queen wasp and all the drones. I thought about how they would be dead soon and how could I do that while my own cat was so ill. I knew that there would be a price. I just couldn’t imagine what it would be. I just hoped Gracie would be left out of it.

Joe, the exterminator arrived. He has a Brooklyn accent and a friendly demeanor. When I told him my concerns he said that the wasps would have to go because they really could case a great deal of damage. In my own defense, last year they built a big nest on the underside of a bird feeder so we just didn’t go out on the deck much and the birds got fed elsewhere.

Joe explained the process. It was a powder. It was safe for us. It would work pretty fast. I didn’t want to see the wasps die but it was happening right outside my office window. As he applied the powder I heard the wasps making a familiar “tick” sound inside the wall. They were moving around trying to get out. Some were trying to get in because the alarm, sent via hormones through the air, had gone out and the wasps who were outside were coming back to save the Queen…but it was already too late.

I said a silent prayer. I said I was sorry to the dead wasps. They aren’t just bugs. They are part of the natural world and now they were gone.

Joe said that we should be all set and wished us well. I tried not to dwell on it and went back to fussing with Gracie, trying to get her to eat.

Until that night when Fluff Daddy knocked over a lamp.

He was trying to get at the wasps. Yes, that’s plural, WASPS. They had found a way into the house and there were about a dozen of them skittering about around Fluff Daddy’s head. He and Freya were having a blast racing after their newest toys.

It’s funny how quickly things can change. I went from pure remorse to hyper-protection-mode. I had to get the cats away from the wasps and I had to get the wasps OUT of the house, fast.

I ran for the vacuum and Sam and I spent a few minutes sucking up every one we could find. We managed to take a very few of them outside, but there were too many. We decided to leave the vacuum out because we didn’t know if there’d be any more. A few minutes later the cats would go crazy, signaling that there was another…and another...all in the same room by the front door. But where were they coming in from?

We looked around and found nothing. Only the front room had wasps so it had to be from that room. I flashed back to a day when we found a mouse in the house. I figured out it came in from inside the coat closet by the front door. The sheet rock from the back of the closet didn’t go all the way to the floor. There was no molding at the end of the sheet rock so anything inside the walls could get into the house. It took me until the next morning to figure out that was the problem.

Vespula germanica Richard Bartz 350

Creative Commons. Wasp. Thanks to Richard Bartz.

Joe returned and we began emptying out the closet. Sure enough wasps continued to come into the house from inside the closet. The tables certainly were turned. I was struggling to consider the wasps as blessed living creatures. I just wanted them out of my house.

Joe treated the areas and he took another look around. We thought that things were settled once and for all. Joe cautioned us that maybe we’d see one or two more wasps but they’d be heavy with the dust and too off-kilter to sting any of the cats.

It was late morning so I went upstairs to the foster room. I began doing the daily cleanup when I noticed Piglet playing with something. It was a dead wasp. Their room is directly next to where the nest was in the wall. Joe told us there was no way they could get into the ducts and fly into the rooms so I couldn’t understand where this lone wasp came from.

I had shut the window when the spraying was going on so I decided it was okay to open it again. A few moments after opening the window about 10 wasps appeared in the foster room. I called out to Sam to bring me the vacuum quickly. I couldn’t risk the cats getting stung and these wasps were none too happy. Though I would have preferred to catch the wasps and let them go outside there was no time. I sucked up each one, then waited, then another would appear. I wondered if they, too, had an entrance route through the closet in that room.

It seemed as though I’d turn my head for a second and another would appear, but it couldn’t be from the vent, right?

Wrong.

I decided to put a flashlight on the vent. I turned it on knowing it would attract the wasps. A moment later, a wasp appeared IN the vent. I called for Joe yet again. The receptionist was stunned when I told her, no it wasn’t just one or two wasps, it was over a dozen. She told me to cover the vent with a doubled over garbage bag, to seal each edge of the bag perfectly because wasps can slip through a space the thickness of a piece of paper. She promised me that Joe would return, but not until the next day. I was to cover up the vents near the nest and report back if it got worse.

The next morning Joe returned, a bit embarrassed. He’d never seen wasps get into duct work, but we have a cheaply built house so I’m not surprised. He told us to simply leave the vents in my office and the foster cat room sealed shut for the next few weeks. Any remaining wasps would die once it got cold enough outside. He did not want to put any chemicals into the duct, nor did I want him to do so.

He re-inspected the area outside the house and declared that the siege of wasps was over and this time he was right.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a crappy re-birth over this, but at least I don't hear buzzing.

Culture of Killers. The Death of Lions at the Hwange National Park.

Note: As of this writing the initial reports that Cecil’s brother, Jericho was also murdered, are untrue. Sadly what IS likely is a second lion was murdered from Zimbabwe’s biggest park a few days after Cecil was killed. Regardless of which lion died, the death of any creature, especially ones that are endangered, purely for sport, is unconscionable.

Over the past week I’ve barely been able to look at Facebook because it seems almost every status update carries a link to a story about Cecil the Lion, who was murdered by a Minnesotan Dentist named Walter Palmer. Like so many others, I was outraged to learn the King of the Jungle’s death was completely senseless beyond how morally reprehensible it was. With each image I saw of Cecil, laying bloodied and dead at the feet of a psychotically-smiling Palmer, I felt an all too familiar rage boiling inside me towards yet another person causing death to an innocent creature.

There’s no need to re-hash Cecil’s story here, and in truth, I had no intention of writing about it; but with breaking news, the almost incomprehensible news, that a second lion was killed by poachers a few days after Cecil drives me to say something about it now.

Cecil the lion at Hwange National Park 4516560206
Cecil the lion at Hwange National Park in 2010.

I have to ask: what is the point of their deaths? Was it to feed a starving family or to simply stroke the ego of a heartless bastard, who had to turn tail and run off leaving his or her trophy behind?

As someone who respects all life and who works to help others I can never understand what would drive someone to kill animals for sport. I realize some of us eat meat and those animals are killed so we can live, but to spend an outrageous amount of money to go to another country and purposely kill an animal who is part of a group of animals that are struggling to survive is beyond comprehension.

What makes a person like this grow into an adult who feels they have the right to take life and who is PROUD of their ability to do so? It seems as though Death is their Champion—their supreme ruler. They are the ones who deal the “kill shot.” They are the ones who act like a God deciding which animal lives or dies. It’s sickening.

Walter Palmer s clinic

Raul654. Used with permission. Walter Palmer's dental clinic.

I have to wonder if these same people struggle to stay on the “right side” of a fragile line between showing their true nature and using hunting as a smoke screen for what they really want to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d rather be serial killers, but maybe they’re sane enough to know that posing as hunters of animals is still acceptable in society. Who’s to say their repeated killing of big game animals isn’t just a cover up. In the least they're sadists. If they didn’t have the outlet of killing a rare beast would they have turned to killing humans? Perhaps that’s how the dentist can fit in with society by masking his true desires.

But what is the root cause of this culture of killing? Entitled-elitists and those who cater to them. GREED. Right now you can book a trip to Texas to kill an ENDANGERED Arabian Oryx for $10,000.00 (of course 4-star accommodations are extra, but easily obtained if you're wealthy).

Have you noticed that killers like Palmer or Lindsey or the latest poor excuse for a human being, Sabrina Corgatelli , know exactly how many and of what type of animal they’ve killed? They love posing next to the dead animal proving they did it. They cut off parts of the animal and take it with them so they can look at it again and again to relive the few SECONDS it took them to slaughter an innocent animal. Palmer was quoted as bragging about killing Cecil and waving photos of his dead body as he tried to impress a waitress at a restaurant in Alexandria, MN. She was disgusted, saying Palmer was old enough to be her dad and his creepy way of flirting scared her badly. What kind of twisted mental disorder do these people suffer from?

The flip side of this is mankind is capable of so much brilliance and innovation, compassion and true bravery, but our legacy seems Hell-bent on shitting up the planet and murdering animals to the point where none will be left because the poaching “industry” is well into the BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. Good luck stopping that. Good luck telling Asians especially in Viet Nam that rhino horn does not prove they are wealthy or give men an erection. They’ll still pay $60,000 for a kilo of ground rhino horn. How can we make it more worthwhile to keep those animals alive when there are such high prices on these animals when they're dead?

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

I want to know why there’s an airport storage room in Denver with thousands of animal trophies confiscated from hunters trying to smuggle them into the country. Heads of tigers, bodies of lions, tusks of rhinos. And why is it OKAY that our country allows the importing of 440 lion carcasses a YEAR. How many other Cecils were destroyed, setting off a chain reaction of cub and lioness death? How many other animals considered “big game” are suffering the same fate when for FOUR YEARS there has been legislation on the books to ban the import of these items beyond the ivory ban that’s in place now.

I know what will happen next. Everyone who totes a gun around will wave it in the air and shout how it’s their right to have a gun and they can kill animals with it if they want to. Hunting is part of our culture and tradition—just for the “sport” of it, not to provide food for anyone. Just for bragging rights. They can go trophy hunting with a permit and kill animals with a bow and arrow. They can throw rocks at the animals. Who gives a shit about them. They just want their trophy and to feel like someone important, when in truth they are lower than pond scum.

Shame on all of you. Shame.

It’s not necessary to kill a lion to be a real man or to get a thrill. Crawl under an old house in the worst of summer heat. Carefully remove the tiny kittens out from under it who are dying from flea infestations. Clean them off, while you’re covered in debris. Give them nourishment then slowly see the light come back in their faded eyes. Hold them close to your heart so they can feel your heartbeat and know they are loved and safe. Isn’t that a far better thrill?

Or do you stop being a big tough person if you can’t KILL another creature? Or is this about bloodlust? Maybe you need a therapist? Medication? Do you really know what being tough truly means? Do you have any idea how tough it is to care for a terminally ill kitten? How tough of a person you have to be to stay up for days straight trying to save the life of a tiny newborn kitten? With one heartbreak after another that very same person will go out and rescue MORE KITTENS. They will gladly suffer through more challenges involving just as much heartache so those animals have a chance to grow up and have a good life. THAT IS A TOUGH PERSON, not someone who hides behind a bow and arrow or a gun.

THAT IS ALSO A BRAVE PERSON. THAT IS A COMPASSIONATE PERSON. THAT IS A FEARLESS PERSON WHO LOOKS DEATH IN THE EYE AND SAYS. “NOT NOW. NOT ON MY WATCH.”

Mankind will be known for thousands of years of killing each other, animals, the planet. We’ll be known for our “1 percent” who greedily have it all and want more, when they know they could stop trophy hunting and paying outrageous sums for animal body parts and finally do something decent with all that money.

It is NEVER going to end until we ALL DIE from the effects of the greedy-entitled continuing to take and take and take---from aggression and inability to see the power of simple compassion and empathy. Then, at least Mother Nature will do what she does best. She will step in after we’ve trashed the place and the earth will go on without us and it will be far better off.

Or we can look at the deaths of Cecil and the second lion and the thousands of others and say; “No. We don’t need to do this any more. We don’t need to allow trophy hunting anywhere, any time. We don't need to raise lion cubs in captivity and later sell them to be slaughtered later by entitled losers who need to feel powerful over a "canned" hunting simulation under controlled circumstances. We can reward the people who put their lives on the line to keep poachers from killing the animals. We can create programs that support the economies of the regions who need help. We have technology that can increase the effectiveness of our ability to protect those animals. Let's get it where it's needed. We can let the voices of those who CHERISH what's left of the wildlife on this planet rise up over the desires of the rich. We can PROTECT the animals, not sell them to the highest bidder.”

I hope we can find a way to criminalize big game hunting throughout the world and give those animals a real chance to regain their numbers. If the good people of Africa and beyond need tourism to rule over big game hunters, then let’s all go visit. Let’s show our support for doing the right thing and let’s NEVER FORGET this lesson when the next big story hits the airwaves.

These animals have no voice. Maybe that’s the one thing we can do right-speak up. Tell your government official you agree with the Cecil Act which would disincentivize trophy killings. Sign the petition to extradite Palmer to Zimbabwe. Book a trip to Zimbabwe to take photos of those magnificent creatures. Donate to organizations who put their lives at risk to protect these animals from unscrupulous poachers. Let's find a way to work together so heartbreaking stories of wildlife being murdered can come to an end.

Rest in Peace, Cecil...

...and all the precious animals that are being lost to us in record numbers. Your death matters.

You're Fired. Revoke the Vet License of Kristen Lindsey.

Kristen Lindsey did something most of us would consider a disgrace to humankind. “For fun” she went hunting with a bow and arrow shooting what she claims was a “feral” cat in the back of the head, killing it. If she hadn’t been so completely arrogant, maybe she would have thought twice about bragging about it; but what makes her actions despicable was that she not only bragged about it, she posted a photo (that I will NOT share here EVER) on Facebook of her holding her arrow while the cat’s body dangled from it.

How Facebook is Killing the Little Guy

There are so many stories to tell, but the will to tell them has diminished over the past few months. I’ve been writing this blog for nine years. Doing so has changed my life in ways I never could have imagined. I never expected that writing, in the hopes a publisher would magically find me, would turn into a labor of love that spawned the creation of a non-profit cat rescue called Kitten Associates . Though the publisher never found me, my rescue has helped over 350 cats since KA opened in 2010 and through this blog I’ve given life-saving advice to many of you across the globe.

But there was a cost.

These stories take hours, into days, to write, photograph, edit. I don’t get paid for these tales, though the community I’ve built is priceless. Because you have been there for us, we can keep the rescue-kitties of Kitten Associates fed and cared for, but it doesn’t allow me to pay my bills. In the end, something has to give, which is why I haven’t posted anything for nearly 6 weeks, so I can focus on my graphic design work.

12 cats at Iredelle rescue safe copy
These 12 cats could have died in 2013 if I didn't have the ability to get the word out on their plight.

The other reason I’ve lost my passion to write is Facebook. Facebook giveth and tooketh (yeah, great grammar here) away. Being on Facebook watered my seedling blog, Covered in Cat Hair, so it could blossom. It helped us find homes and rescues for so many cats, too. But the ever-starving beast of greed propels FB to make more and more changes to the mystical-algorithm that continues to whittle away any chance that what I write will ever be seen by people who want to see it. It's that little code that determines what content is seen and what is not.

I read somewhere a wonderful summation of why being on Facebook is a mistake: “You don’t build your home on someone else’s land.” Well that’s what I did and so many other mom and pop shops did, too. Now it’s biting us in the ass because if we don’t “pay to play,” there’s only about a 2-5% chance any of our fans will read what we’re posting.

So is it worth it for me to keep writing when you won’t see it, it takes too much of my time and I’m broke because of it?

No.

But.

I love you guys, even if you aren’t seeing this right now. I love our community and I NEED to write. I have so many stories to tell you, but I have to find a better solution. One of them is that I’m working on a major overhaul of this web site to provide a chat feature and some other fun ways for us to get to know each other and retain our community. It will mean you’ll have to come visit us here, but I hope that if I can create a nice enough destination it will be worth the effort to stop by. It will take some time to get this accomplished but that is my goal. I will build my new house on MY land so no one can take it away or decide who can or won’t be allowed to view my efforts.

I also fear that what Facebook has done will seriously hurt other rescue groups, as it is my own. There’s a petition going around asking FB to reconsider and change the algorithm so that non-profits will still be able to reach their fans without the penalty of having to pay for it. They can’t afford to “play” at the level of the heavy-hitters so FB will continue to turn into one big promotion/advertising machine. Is this what we want?

I want a place to go to hang out with my friends and make new friends. FB did an amazing job with that, but now they’ve taken it away if you run a small blog or non-profit. Those folks provided a great deal of fresh, fabulous content that is going to waste and eventually they are going to leave, too.

2 20 2015 Nap R Olson
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya never would have had a chance if we didn't have such a good support system, ready to donate for her surgery. All I had to do was post a request for help on Facebook. It didn't have to cost our rescue money to do a mailing or pay a PR person to help. Freya has her own FB page called For Freya, which I now realize may be a mistake because again this "house" is not built on our land.

How much money does Facebook need? Where is the space to give back, to be fair, to be reasonable? I’m not saying don’t make a living, but I am saying greed is an ugly thing and it’s hurting a lot of innocent people and animals who NEED a venue like this to get the word out about what it is that’s important to them and their friends/fans.

Facebook could be a beautiful golden palace instead of yet another place for the 1% to decide what the rest of us get to see. Why not just charge a subscription fee? Even if they charge a $1 per person they have what...a billion dollars a year? They can drop the advertising and open up the news feed so we can REALLY see what our friends and interests have to share.

I know. Fat chance.

Note: I see the irony that I'm going to have to pay to "boost" this post on FB in the hopes you'll read it.

Discarded Cats Diary Ch 7. Bravery Isn't Enough.

It’s been a week since Biscotti arrived in his new foster-to-adopt home. There were plenty of bumps in the road between his foster mom, Mary Lou, fretting she had cat allergies and her not being sure he would come out of his shell and have a happy life.

As the days passed I got updates that Biscotti truly was a brave little lion. He was hiding less, and snuggling more. He loved his new dad, Greg and Graham the 17 yr old high school student with movie star looks. I got a few photos of Biscotti as he began to blossom. I could see the sweet but slightly scared look on his face, the one I knew so well. I could see him struggling, but overcoming his fears. I was so proud of him.

In a few days, Mary Lou is supposed to go to see her allergist and there I had hoped she would be able to put her fears of allergies to rest or be able to find a way to enjoy living with Biscotti without any discomfort. She’d even mentioned that perhaps it had nothing to do with the cat, but perhaps something else, especially this time of year with all the pollens coming out, that were causing her eyes to feel dried out and itchy.

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Biscotti hoping this is his forever home.

Then an email this afternoon telling me how beautiful Biscotti is and in the next breath how he needs to come back tonight, if possible. That Mary Lou’s reaction to him prevents her from even going in the room where he’s staying. She won't even wait until Monday or try any product I suggested that will neutralize his dander. I even suggested to wait a bit longer because some times you can get used to a cat, but…I didn’t know how badly she was doing. I imagine sniffles and for all I know she’s having an anaphylactic reaction.

But she does want a cat. Just not Biscotti.

She wants a hypoallergenic cat, though I told her there really is no such thing, at least not 100% hypoallergenic, and that even with those cats there can be an issue. She’d have to get a purebred cat, but she feels the costs (over $1000) are too high and wanted me to help her find another cat for less money.

As always I try to find answers and be helpful but I was also suspicious that something else was going on. I gave her some options for some breed-specific rescues and now I’m sitting here waiting for her to get home so I can go get our cat back.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

I’m sad Biscotti lost his home, but I’m glad to have him come back. I know he’s had a good challenge and it will help me understand what sort of home would be good for him going forward and I’m PROUD of him for being such a brave boy.

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Something just didn’t feel right once we arrived at the house. Mary Lou was rather stiff and made a quick frowny-face at me as if she was pretending to feel badly. Her son greeted us and gave us the same uncomfortable look as if there was more going on to this than we could know. Sam and I entered the room where I’d last seen Biscotti. He was sitting on the floor, looking a bit confused, but didn’t run off.

The room was rather a surprising mess compared to the utter perfection I'd seen a few days before and right away something bothered my throat. I don’t know what was causing it, but there was something in the room that was really irritating me. As Mary Lou gave us her feedback about how Biscotti was doing, telling us of his charming antics, while I politely nodded, I really just wanted to get the Hell out of there. My throat was really bothering me, but Mary Lou seemed fine. I think she was trying to be nice about giving Biscotti back but I couldn’t help but feel that something else was going on.

Mary Lou is still going to her Doctor on Monday. I don’t know why she couldn’t wait a few days, but she can’t. She gave me back the food I bought and Biscotti’s cat bed along with a few toys. Biscotti had hidden under a table. I scooped him out. He felt a lot heavier and was clearly afraid. I gently put him back in the cat carrier and he began to cry. Mary Lou seemed unfazed.

Sam and I made a beeline out of the house. Mary Lou said she was sorry to which I replied it was fine. I’d rather bring him back and my gut told me not to try to fix the situation-just get out.

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©2014Robin A.F. Olson.

The second I got into the car I said to Sam that my throat was bothering me. He shocked me by saying his was irritated, too. I knew right then and there that it probably wasn’t Biscotti Mary Lou was allergic to, but either the perfume of the cat litter (since the room was closed off from the rest of the house and the litter pan was with Biscotti) or there was something else in the room causing the issue.

It took a few hours for my throat to feel better. I decided to email Mary Lou and let her know, in case it would help her going forward. I told her I was not trying to get her to take Biscotti back, but that she should be aware something is going on in that room if two other people had allergic reactions. Her one word reply left me feeling flat: “WOW!”

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©2014Robin A.F. Olson.

I brought Biscotti back to his old buddies, the Clementine-kittens. There was a lot of sniffing and Biscotti hid right away. I checked in on him a bit later and he came out of hiding, but he definitely had a setback. He was not as friendly as he was just last week and he was clearly confused and upset. He didn’t eat well, but I know that will change. He felt a lot heavier so he must have had some good meals.

As the Clementines ran around the room playing, Biscotti sat on the bookcase away from the activity as he did before. He watches the world go by and wishes he could take part, but something in his heart hasn’t ripened enough yet where he feels like he can.

I know my little lion-heart will get there. It’s just a bump in the road.

Back to the drawing board for you Biscotti. We’ll find you the home you were really meant to have, not the one that gave up on you at the drop of a hat.

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