Dee reads my blog (Thank you, Dee!). She bugged her friend, Angi to give Chloe a foster home since Angi lives in Connecticut, has cats and LOVES cats enough to take on one more (and she's also an awesome artist). Dee already fosters cats and knows that Angi would do a great job so she used whatever secret powers she has to urge Angi to give Chloe a home until she's ready to go to her forever home.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor Chloe. Feeling scared was not a surprise, but what happened next certainly was.
I would call this “finding a foster home in a haystack,” because I thought there is NO WAY we're going to be able to find a LONG-TERM foster home for Chloe. Color me surprised.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A little self-soothing foot bath before she explores the room any further.
Angi is awesome. She's vivacious and cute with a funky-cool haircut and an easy going attitude. I did a home visit to make sure she had a good space for Chloe to pass the next few months, recover from her abuse and to lose a bit of weight (she's already lost a pound). Angi had a perfect space-a guest room in the corner of her home that overlooks her yard. It's a far cry from the bathroom where Chloe has been staying with Katherine and it's almost as big as the entire living room where Chloe once lived with her former guardian.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Katherine brings out Chloe's favorite brush.
Everything went well with the home visit and today Katherine and I delivered Chloe to Angi's home.
Chloe didn't protest too much in the car, but Katherine and I both worried what she'd do when she got out of her cat carrier. Would she completely revert to being aggressive with Angi? Would she try to bite her? Would she growl and lash out?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Chloe's FAVORITE-Cat Grass!
We covered her cat carrier and rushed her into Angi's house, before Angi's three cats knew what we were up to. We got the room set up with Chloe's things while Chloe watched us from the safety of her crate.
Then came the big moment-opening the door.
We all took a collective deep breath as Katherine opened the crate. Out walked Chloe, planting her face directly into a small container of cat grass. Content to munch on her favorite treat, we all relaxed. At least Chloe wasn't going to charge us, guns blazing.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Or is Chloe's favorite thing being brushed?
Chloe, energized from her treat, surprised us by getting up and casually began to examine her new home. She rubbed her face onto Angi's outstretched hand, the table, the edge of the cat carrier. She rubbed up against ME, which at first scared, then delighted me, leaving me sitting there with my mouth hanging open like an idiot.
Chloe continued exploring the room. She didn't go very fast or very far. She had to take a break and sit down every so often, but she wasn't hiding. She was simply curious. So far, so good.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Happy Buddha-kitty!
Katherine got Chloe's favorite brush out and that put a smile onto this kitty's face. Chloe loved being brushed and it helped her relax.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Reaching up to be brushed. More, please!
Chloe got a bit irritated from all the attention. Perhaps it was a bit too much, too soon. She gave Katherine and Angi a “love bite,” but nothing worse. Katherine stopped brushing Chloe and decided it was time to go over the instructions for taking care of her with Angi.
Katherine and I left Angi's, feeling happy and hopeful that Chloe would finally have a chance to flower.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A little love from Katherine.
A few hours later, Angi wrote that she was have a bit of hard time getting BACK into the room with Chloe and that Chloe attacked her ankles. I guess I shouldn't have made a joke about the boots, but then I realized maybe someone had kicked Chloe and that's why she was upset? When we let her out of the cat carrier, we were all sitting on the floor, which made us less intimidating. Now what was Angi going to do?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A few skritches from Aunt Angi.
Angi took it in stride. She knows this is going to be a long process and now Chloe will have to learn to trust her, too. She's prepared to give Chloe every chance, if Chloe will just allow her into the room once in awhile so she can water her plants.
©2012 Maria S. Our first glimpse of Willow-stuck up in a tree.
Almost a year has passed since our-Maria rescued a stray kitty out of a maple tree. We didn't know her story, only that she was probably dumped and a pit bull saw her and chased her up the tree. Maria had quite the time getting her down, but from the very first moments, we knew that Willow was going to be a special kitty. (read more about Willow's rescue HERE).
©2012 Maria S. (inset) and ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow's transformation.
From day one, Willow was very sick with some sort of upper respiratory tract infection. She was thin. Her coat was ragged, but Willow was very easy-going and friendly. In fact, Maria soon realized she could put a harness on Willow and take her for walks and even jokingly put a baby doll dress on her. Willow was fine with whatever came her way.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow enjoying the sunshine…
We tried many rounds of antibiotics to cure Willow's sneezes and runny eyes. They worked for a time, but she would get sick again and again. We tried 60 days of doxycycline, only for it to return. Willow had been in our program for over six months with no real idea of what was ailing her. I finally decided to try to test her for Bartonella this bast January.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. …and the view of the woods.
Due to a mixup, I never found out that the test was a STRONG POSITIVE until MARCH! Once we knew, we began treatment and she got better right away.
Of course, I couldn't easily put Willow up for adoption if she was sick, but between cycles of her illness it seemed she was fine so I processed LOTS of applications and even went on a few home visits, but NOTHING EVER PANNED OUT.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A tender moment with Fred.
I got an application from a gentleman named, Matthew. He's young and married and has a nice home north of here. I did a Vet check and it panned out. He was very sweet when he talked about his cats and I really liked him.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow has tortie-patterned paws-you can just see it here.
I knew that telling an adopter about a cat being sick could have them give up on her. Many folks will just think they're getting a terminally sick cat and move on to another rescue. I worried that Matthew would not want Willow but he just asked me if it was contagious and I said no. I didn't hear from him for a day or two and finally he wrote that if I could medicate Willow and keep her here, that he would be happy to adopt her after her medication was done-which would be another month.
©2012 Maria S. (inset). ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. On the way to her new home, Willow's journey is almost complete.
Willow is such a sweet cat. She's become the mother-figure to all the other fosters. They adore her and cling to her and she calmly reassures them as she grooms them. I didn't mind having her for awhile longer.
The day finally arrived to bring Willow to Matthew. I was very sad because Willow is a "top 10" sort of cat. She simply had no unwanted habits, she was always friendly to everyone and affectionate. She was silly and seemed to always be happy and she is so very lovely to look at-with her crazy, undefinable patterning and colors. I loved her dearly and definitely would be missing her a great deal-and I worried that Fred & Barney would, too.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Back seat driver!
We got Willow packed up. I had all sorts of toys, food, a scratcher, catnip, a cat bed-everything I could think of to get Willow off on a good start. I even brought extra toys for her two new kitty friends. She didn't want to be in her cat carrier, so I let her out. She panted a bit, out of fear and excitement, but eventually she just sat on top of her cat carrier and watched the world go by. What a GREAT cat!
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow is so cool she can even travel in the car in style.
We got Willow settled and she immediately started to PLAY in her new room! She didn't hide or run off. She rubbed her face on the furnishings, marking her new space with her scent. She went over to Matthew to get some pets. She seemed completely cheerful, as ever. Meanwhile, Roo, one of her new friends, was sitting outside the door, wondering what was going on.
©2013 Matthew R. Willow, in her new home eats while her new sister, Roo, eats on the other side of the door.
I didn't want to leave Willow, but as it always goes, I have to do it. I have to do it so I can help more cats. I gave her a kiss on the “M” on her forehead, her silky soft fur brushed my lips. I told her I loved her one last time. With a heavy heart I went home wishing she could have stayed with us. I crossed my fingers and said a silent prayer that I hoped I'd made a good choice for Willow and that she would have a lifetime of happiness with her new family.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Our last moments with Willow before it was time to head to her new home.
When I first met Chloe and assessed her for rescue, I had serious concerns that her behavior would change any time soon-that I'd be putting my friend, Katherine into a tough situation because ultimately Katherine would be responsible for this cat's future. I was clear with Katherine that right now Chloe was not adoptable, but I had a glimmer of faith that this cat COULD turn around. We just didn't know if it would take months or years to do so. In cat rescue it's rare to have the luxury of time when there are so many other cats who are just as deserving and who also need help. It's a constant dilemma.
©2013 Katherine Reid. Chloe's back is finally free from mats
The good thing about smaller rescues is that sometimes they can take that time. They aren't faced with the crushing demand big shelters get for space-not that they aren't always busy, but it's not as severe. Even here I've been able to hold cats for over a year when necessary. Is it the best thing to do? No. For those cats, I'd guess they'd beg to differ.
©2013 Katherine Reid. Chloe knows there's a treat on Katherine's leg, but will she try to reach it?
Chloe has made some astounding changes, almost overnight. Katherine has worked tirelessly to offer Chloe everything she can think of to enrich Chloe's life and give Chloe a good reason to bond with Katherine. Katherine tried all sorts of grain-free treats, different types of canned and dry food. Two days ago Katherine brought Chloe an offering of cat grass-something none of us had thought to try. Within moments Chloe was greedily chomping the grass. She was having SO MUCH FUN that Katherine was able to brush away Chloe's matted fur. Chloe was too happy to care about being brushed and the mats came out easily.
©2013 Katherine Reid. Treat gone! Cat on lap-almost!
Katherine persisted, always giving Chloe space and passed only short periods of time in the room with her.
©2013 Katherine Reid. First pets-no growling or hissing, too!
Once Katherine began to pet Chloe, a new cat shyly emerged, one who may have been beaten down, or simply ignored for so long that she gave up, we'll never really know. What we do know is that Chloe is blossoming, instead of retreating. This cat has the heart of a warrior, this chubby siamese mix, and so does her foster mom.
©2013 Katherine Reid.
©2013 Katherine Reid. Katherine tried a number of different brush types on Chloe until she reacted positively. Look a the HUGE change in Chloe's expression.
Katherine and I are cut from the same cloth. We NEVER want to give up on ANY CAT and Chloe was no different. We couldn't know she would begin to trust again, but when I saw that glimmer of joy the moment I met her, fleeting though it was, I had a feeling we needed to try and I'm so grateful that Katherine agreed.
Chloe still has a long road ahead of her, but now that her mats are brushed away and her ears have finally been medicated, each day Chloe will feel more comfortable and confident.
©2013 Katherine Reid. This is the moment all rescuers live for. Thank you to Katherine for sharing it with all of us.
Animals in Distress is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. If you'd like to make a donation to help with Chloe's long-term care, you can use this LINK to their PayPal account. Thank you!
It's been almost two weeks since the grossly overweight and possibly abused kitty, Chloe, was removed from her home and placed under the care of Animals in Distress. For now, Chloe is staying with my friend, Katherine, who oversees intake of all the cats in the AID program and is a very savvy foster mom.
Chloe has had a peaceful few weeks and after only one incident I reported initially, Chloe has not lashed out at Katherine. In fact, Chloe is showing signs of relaxing and learning to trust again.
©2013 Katherine Reid. Hopefully this is one of the last photo you'll see of Chloe's back mats! Katherine is starting to remove them.
The first few days were the toughest. Chloe would not move, urinated and defecated on herself and barely ate. Katherine tried to clean her off, but was met with so much resistance that we all decided it was best to leave her alone. Katherine focused on offering Chloe a variety of grain-free dry food as her first attempt to get Chloe moving in the right direction.
Chloe took to one of the brands and began to eat. Katherine also offered Chloe some plain chicken baby food from a spoon, which encouraged Chloe to both regard Katherine in a positive way and to help Chloe want to interact, instead of withdraw.
Katherine had to move slowly and not do too much. It was easy to upset Chloe, so she did less, instead of overload her. With the guidance of our friend Wendy Christensen, cat behaviorist and author, she kept the pace to baby steps only.
©2013 Katherine Reid. Is that a smile I see?
Chloe began using her litter pan and eating more than a mouthful of food. With such an obese cat, we have to be careful NOT to restrict her food intake as much as IMPROVE her food, for now. Once she is stable, she will no longer be free-fed and will begin the process of eating grain-free canned food, in monitored amounts, until she can lose some weight.
Chloe also may have bad teeth and an ear infection-both issues will be dealt with as soon as we feel Chloe can be handled without it putting her into a panic. We're hoping that at least the ear issues may resolve, to some degree, with better food. Her body may be reacting to the grain in the food by making her ears get a build up of material. It's unlikely she has ear mites, but she WILL get the treatment as soon as it's safe to do so.
©2013 Katherine Reid. Chloe's sweetness may be starting to emerge-and what a cute face she has!
This morning I got a note from Katherine that she had another small breakthrough. Last night she was able to brush Chloe's face, which she liked, and while she was brushing Chloe, Katherine managed to pick out a few of the mats on the cat's back (which she pulled out easily without causing any irritation to Chloe). As you can see in the photos, Chloe looks like she's almost smiling and for that, we are all very pleased and hopeful that Chloe's story will continue to be one filled with promise. I know we're all rooting for this kitty to make it through this difficult time.
Animals in Distress is a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization. If you'd like to make a donation to help with Chloe's long-term care, you can use this LINK to their PayPal account. Thank you!
©2013 Katherine Reid. Lucy, safe in her new foster home.
UPDATE: Shortly after Chloe was returned from the home, the former guardian called saying that Lucy HAD to go, too. Lucy has been placed with AID and is doing well. I've met this cat and she's VERY friendly and gets on well with other cats, too. If you live in CONNECTICUT and would like to know more about Lucy, please visit her PETFINDER PAGE!.
Who knew the need to vent my frustrations, living with an ever-changing number of cats, would lead to all of this?
It began with this post.
©2006 Robin A.F. Olson. Here's my cat, Cricket (center) flanked by his brother, Boo-Boo and sister, Sophie. Back then, Boo-Boo was one of the inspirations to starting my blog (because he was so annoying!)Boo and Sophie were later adopted together.
For those of you interested in the origins of Covered in Cat Hair, you should know that this blog was meant to be a book project entitled: Covered in Cat Hair: the Mostly True Stories of a Life Spent with Cats. James Frey had just been busted for lying about his tome: A Million Little Pieces and I figured I had to add the “mostly true” part just in case I goofed up on some facts.
©2006 Robin A.F. Olson. A few months after Covered in Cat Hair began, I inherited my Mother's cat, Bob Dole, after she passed away. My Mother never read my blog or any of my work, saying she would wait for it to be published, first.
In the meantime, I began writing my book, not really focusing too much on blog-length posts. I wrote about 90,000 words (yes, that's a lot, but not quite enough for a book). Each chapter is a short story. Some of the stories are poignant and some flights of foolish fancy. I was determined to finish my book, but I realized no one would want to read such long posts online so I had to change course on my blog.
I was fostering for a rescue group and thought I'd write about the cats in my care. There were many stories to share, but my “boss,” the Director of the group, did NOT like me writing about her or anything else we were up to. I also couldn't post photos with my stories, which frustrated me endlessly. I grew up with a camera in my hand and telling stories and sharing photos is natural to me.
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. Blueberry and her brother, Blackberry were rescued from South Carolina.
So what did I do?
I kept writing. I used aliases. I waited for technology to get to the point where I could share photos and I began to write posts to help other people with their cats, as well as to continue telling stories about my foster cats.
©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. Two of the Pi Day babies, Happy and Jelly Belly.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson & A. Merritt. The Halloween Express-four kittens in a kill shelter in Georgia didn't have a chance. We rescued them, did quarantine, and placed them in a month-ALL TOGETHER with ONE FAMILY! You can see how well they're doing, laying crammed next to their Mom's lap in this recent photo.
I imagined all those cats, many of them newborns and kittens, dead in a pile waiting to be…who knows…taken to the dump? Incinerated? Used in pet food? (I'd heard that was true, but could never prove it).
©2006 Robin A.F. Olson. The now infamous, Huggy Mama, the first cat (and her two offspring, one pictured here) I rescued out of a kill shelter in 2009. She and her two boys were adopted TOGETHER.
I met with a great deal of opposition. It was difficult work, but I had an excellent team in Georgia offering to help me led by Maria and Bobby. It pushed all my boundaries. I was rescuing cats I never had a chance to meet before agreeing to rescue them. I had to hope they would be nice, adoptable cats who didn't have serious illness. I raised money for these rescues and was overwhelmed by how many people cared, to the point of being willing to send me $5 when that money was the WORLD to them.
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. 1 in 7 million are the odds that this little calico named Gingerbread would be a male. He surprised us all.
I left the rescue I was with under great duress and with a great deal of anger for how I was treated. I opened Kitten Associates, scared out of my mind that I was taking on more than I could handle. I knew enough to get myself in trouble-and I did just that, but I kept writing, buoyed by the supportive emails and calls I got from so many of you.
©2006 Robin A.F. Olson. Poppy, about a week old.
Where Covered in Cat Hair has taken me, I could have never imagined. I've been honored with many awards and accolades. I've met wonderful people who share my passion to save cats, enrich their lives, to help their guardians cope with behavior problems and to feed cats a species appropriate diet. I cherish my cat-lady-babes, every one of them.
©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. Will & Grace.
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. CallaLilly & daughter, Sunny.
I’ve been skulking around, carrying a shameful secret in my heart for almost three years. Only a very few trusted friends knew what was going on. For legal reasons I couldn’t say anything online about what was happening until there was a verdict in the court case. Yes, COURT CASE.
I suffered in silence, but I deserved it. It was part of the penance I had to pay for what I did.
Simply put, I made a terrible judgement error. I trusted a stranger when I should have been more careful. Although I consider myself to be a responsible person, I trust others too easily. When I take something on, I do it to the best of my ability. If I fail, I take the blame. I hold my head up and apologize and do my best to make it right again.
Because of my actions, a cat suffered in a most unfair and despicable way. I know that even now going public with my story may risk serious backlash from the other person involved in this horror. She will rain down on me, make untrue accusations, she will whine and twist her words. She may even do more than that, but I don’t care about her feelings after what she's allowed to happen.
In July of 2010, we opened the doors to my Non-Profit rescue group, Kitten Associates. We were still getting things sorted out, building our web site, setting up the foster room, sorting out what cats we rescue and how we would find them good homes. I already had almost a decade of fostering and working with other cat rescues, so this was a natural next step. I was scared. I was excited. I hoped I could help make a positive difference for cats and the people they live with. This was a big test for me.
At that time this blog, Covered in Cat Hair, had been going for over 4 years. I had a growing readership and my stories about rescue life were going very well. I leveraged my readership to help me get the word out on cats at kill shelters in the southern US who needed rescue. It was working to make a difference and continues to be an exciting part of what I do.
I’d already rescued cats from a few Georiga shelters in the past so when I heard about a calico mama and her two, cow-patterned kittens, who needed to get “busted out,” I jumped at the chance to help.
©2010 Maria S. Cali-Mama our first rescued cat, just after her spay surgery. She is mama to Pattycake and Moonpie.
I was worried about what to do with this cat, who we called Cali-mama, but just after I broke the news that we were taking on our first rescues, one of my readers contacted me saying she wanted to adopt the mom before we'd even gotten Cali OUT of the shelter!
I was over-the-moon happy. It didn’t occur to me to have her fill out an adoption application. We spoke on the phone at great length and shared many emails. I was so relieved she wanted this cat that I didn’t even charge her an adoption fee or ask her to sign an adoption contract! Yes, I was STUPID.
©2010 Maria S. Cali and her daughter, Pattycake.
Within two weeks, we had the cat fully vetted, since the kittens were already weaned, and our friend, Bobby, drove her to her new home in North Carolina. Cali-mama was our first adoption.
Bobby told me he didn’t like the look of the woman. The first warning sign – she wouldn’t let him drop the cat off to her at home. Though he offered many times, she wanted to meet him a few miles away-and this is after he just drove a few hundred miles with the cat - what was a few more? He said there was something about her he didn’t feel comfortable about and he wished he’d kept the cat, instead of let her go. When he told me that I feared we'd made a terrible mistake, but it was too late.
©2010 HCC&C. From my original post announcing that Cali had been adopted.
I got a few updates telling me that the cat was renamed Tansy. She was doing okay but a bit uncomfortable with the dog. She’d tried to get out of the house a few times, but seemed to be calming down. I didn’t worry about Tansy. It sounded like she was adjusting, so I continued on with rescuing more cats.
I asked her to tell me what happened. She went into a long rant, saying all sorts of things about the Home Owner’s Association saying that there was a stench coming from inside her home that could be smelled outside her home. It that was so bad they eventually called Animal Control. She said she was getting vilified and it was unfair; that there was some sort of pond causing the odor, not her house.
©2010 Maria S. One of the last photos we'd see of Cali for the next two years.
Pressing for more details, I finally got my answer. When I heard it I felt like throwing up, then passing out, as the blood went out of my head, into my toes. WHAT HAD I DONE?! When I had a second to process her words I wanted to reach through the phone line to let’s just say do something really bad involving causing this person a lot of PAIN, but I said nothing at first. I was too stunned to talk.
What happened next literally took a piece out of my heart.
This person, who I will call Sue (not her real name), tried to convince me she was a victim and that I should help her get her animals back.
I was able to find out where Tansy had been taken, so I immediately began calling and emailing them to get more information.
I found out the that conditions in the home were terrible. They would not say more than that for legal reasons. They said they would not euthanize any of the animals unless they became seriously ill, so Tansy had a chance to get out alive.
Humiliated, I had to tell the Director of Animal Control about my terrible error adopting out this cat to Sue. I couldn’t even give her a microchip number because we hadn’t started doing chips then. I had a few photos and luckily they matched one of the cats in custody. They took down my information and were a bit terse about dealing with me. I deserved it, but at least they knew I would be there for this cat, with bells on, if I could only get her back.
And then the wait began. The fear left me breathless each time I emailed Animal Control to ask for an update. I didn’t want them to forget me. I feared if I waited too long I’d miss my chance to get this poor cat back, so I just kept contacting them, hoping for good news.
I thought about Tansy’s life—living in a tiny cage with no sunshine or fresh air, most likely living near barking dogs - what torture for her. It would be a few weeks before the case would be heard, but certainly it wasn’t a long enough time for being back in a kill shelter to do any harm to her, right?
But Sue wanted a fight so she got one. The case dragged on. It went to a higher court. There were delays and more delays. MONTHS passed. Each time I had to contact Animal Control for an update, my heart sank when I saw they’d replied. Were they going to tell me I was too late or worse, that she went back to Sue?
In part two, the wait continues, as does the fear that I will never get Tansy back alive.
I decided it was time to move foster kitties George, Bongo and Bunny-Boo Boo from Maria's house in Georgia to my house in Connecticut so we could get going on finding the cats forever homes. We rescued them FIVE MONTHS AGO and in that time I had hoped my other foster cats would have been adopted. With Kitten Season upon us, I have to crank things up a notch and hope we adopt out at least some of these foster cats before there are loads of kittens competing for adopters.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Meet George.
Most of the time I use a professional transport service to move our cats north. I really like PETS, LLC because they have been very trustworthy and prompt and their rates are reasonable. The only bad thing is the transports are usually filled with dogs. None of us love that the cats are with dogs, but the cat's discomfort only lasts for about a day's time (and they ARE in separate crates and some times even a separate walled off space from the dogs). The cats adjust and after they arrive here, within a very short amount of time, they are playing, eating and enjoying their new home.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. How many gorgeous cats are in this photo? Answer: All of them!
But…Maria didn't want to put these cats on the transport. I understood her reservations and certainly didn't blame her one bit. In five months of fostering, the close bond Maria had with the cats made it even harder for her to let them go on a truck full of dogs. Our only other option was to ask our friends Izzy and Mark if they were going on any road trips to Florida any time soon.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Keep that pretty face clean, George.
Izzy and Mark LOVE cats. If you've read my blog before, you know they will do anything to help any animal and their home in Pennsylvania reflects their passion. They've shared photos of their bed-it's covered with cats. I've seen a photo of Izzy on her sofa, working, flanked by the couple's two dogs, with cats at her feet. When Izzy and Mark go on a vacation, the always offer to bring rescue cats back north with them and many rescues are very grateful for their generosity.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Helloooooo Bongo!
Though they had no plans to travel, Izzy and Mark offered to drive down to Georgia, then drive back to PA and meet us with the cats! Yes, that's something crazy people do (lucky for us)! Before I knew it, in the space of a day, a plan was hatched. Izzy and Mark would leave Wednesday morning and drive to just north of Maria's in Georgia. They would get a good night's sleep, then pick the cats up very early on Thursday. By Thursday night (last night) they'd get the cats to the Perkins near the state line of NY and PA where we would meet them and take the cats the rest of the way home.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bongo is the spitting image of our former foster kitty, Charly!
Tuesday night, Coco fell ill. She had a fever and wasn't eating. I took her to see Dr. Mary the next morning. They ran some blood tests and re-ran her snap test to see if she had Feline Leukemia or FIV. Great.
Now what do I do? Do I tell Izzy and Mark to turn around and go home? What if Coco had something terrible? What if she was contagious? Sure, she wouldn't be in the same room as our new arrivals, but it's pretty much impossible for me to prevent transmitting disease as I go from one foster room to the next-even if I wash my hands and change clothes.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Portrait of cuteness.
If I cancel the trip, it will be TWO MORE weeks before the PETS transport runs and then we're in mid-March.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. LOOK AT THAT TAIL!
I spoke with Maria and we realized we needed to just do this transport. It would be better for the cats and after having nine deathly ill foster cats here two years ago, I figured with any luck, I would be able to manage what was yet to come. Ha ha ha. I think it's funny, too…funny or foolish.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. White Lion or domestic house cat?
I spoke with Dr. Mary the next morning. Coco's blood work indicated her white blood count was very high, which was her body's response to a virus or bacterial issue. She wanted to put her on antibiotics. Normally, I would just do that, but now I'm much more conservative about using antibiotics and more prone to allow the body to defend itself. Coco had begun to eat and perk back up after we'd given her subcutaneous fluids the day before. The blood test results were from the day before, too. Just because her white blood count was high then, did not mean it was STILL elevated now. I decided to let Coco heal on her own and, of course, if she showed ANY signs of feeling poorly I would get her on the medication right away. She was still negative for Feline Leukemia and FIV, too.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Goofhead.
Now I just had to get ready for the new arrivals so I got to work cleaning the foster room. After that I made myself a sandwich for lunch. I'm including this boring detail because not long after that I got SICK. Needless to say, driving 100 miles each way to pick up three cats at 9:00 PM in the middle of the boonies of mid-state New York is NOT something you want to do with a stomach ache and little, if any, access to a bathroom.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor Bunny. She'll feel better soon.
Izzy and Mark were running ahead of schedule AND the weather was about to take a turn from just cold to rain, sleet and snow mixed together. There was no way to back out of the pickup trip. I decided to take a nap and see if that would help any. Sam took a nap, too, since he was really tired and we were both going to do the run together (and hopefully not both GET the RUNS together since I made HIM a sandwich, too).
When I got up I felt just as awful as before, but now I also felt really groggy. I woke Sam up and had a difficult conversation with him. He had to do the run on his own. I just couldn't do it. I'd print out the directions, get him everyone's phone number and stay up in case he needed me for anything while on the road. I felt so terrible asking him to go alone, but he took it with a grain of salt while I stewed in my guilt.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh so delicate.
As it turns out, the trip was a quick one. Izzy and Mark were very tired and just wanted to get the cats to Sam and head home. They had been on the road for nearly fourteen hours by that point and still had three and a half more to go. Sam texted me saying he was turning right back around and would be home soon. By 11pm Sam called saying he was down the street. I thought; “Here goes nothing.” Then started praying this wasn't the stupidest idea I've ever had.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bongo wants to start the day with a belly rub.
We got the cats into the foster room. I had my first look at each one. George was calm, cool and collected. He let me hold him right away. I took one look at him and knew I was in trouble, suddenly realizing that to avoid “foster fail” I should rescue cats I'm NOT going to LIKE, yet here in my arms was my dear cat, Spencer's little twin brother. George has the same mostly white Norwegian Forest Cat body, the crazy spots of tabby, the biggest, fluffiest tail I have EVER SEEN, a plush coat and ruff AND he's a NICE CAT to boot.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The CRAZIEST tail I have ever seen!
Bongo hid behind the litter pan. Poor Bunny didn't even come out of the cat carrier. I knew to keep the room dark and quiet. I put out some food and left them to rest from their long trip. I set up an electric blanket for them in case they wanted to snuggle and I whispered goodnight to them and headed to bed…but first another trip to the bathroom. Ugh.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh Bunny, it's going to be OKAY!
This morning George and Bongo came over to say hello. I saw Bongo's nerve-damaged leg curled tightly against his body as he walked towards me. He walks with a wobble, but he doesn't let that stop him. He came over and laid down on the floor next to me. He rolled over and showed me his belly. He got up and laid against my lap and purred deeply. Oh crap, another cat to fall in love with!
Bunny is still scared, but I know she'll come around. It hasn't even been 24-hours yet and we all need time to get used to all the changes.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Doomed. I'm doomed!
What the Hell is wrong with me? The current group of foster cats has been here for FIVE MONTHS. They started out as kittens and now they’re young adults. Each day they grow a little less adoptable and each day I grow a little more concerned that I will never get them adopted.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow has blossomed into a lovely young lady.
I had lunch with Super-Deb yesterday and we got into a heated discussion about appropriate nutrition for cats. We were both respectful to each other, but I also felt like perhaps I was seen as being arrogant about my views about NO KIBBLE for cats, ever. It gave me pause. I would never want to be seen in that light.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred with Latte.
Deb surprised me by saying she feeds grain-free dry, along with grain-free canned and some raw. After all, Deb was one of the people who inspired me to look into feeding a raw diet for my cats so I assumed she was only feeding raw, too. She said she doesn’t claim to know everything about what is the perfect food for cats. What she feeds her cats is based on what she feels is acceptable. She does not find issue with grain-free kibble. Go figure.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow's pantaloons.
Deb reminded me that some cats live to be 20 years old on crappy dry food and little to no Vet care. I countered that some people live to be 100 and they smoke cigarettes every day, too, but it’s only SOME people, not MOST. What is the QUALITY of that cat’s life over the years versus a cat on a species appropriate diet? What is a daily smoker’s life like over 100 years? What is it about some cats who can live just fine on dry while so many others get seriously sickened to the point of dying? At least half of my cats had issues that were resolved once I put them on a raw/grain-free diet. Two of the issues would have eventually caused the cats to die.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow with her Cat Dancer®.
The jury is still out and perhaps we will never know what the perfect diet is for our cats, but in my book; garbage in is garbage out. Obligate carnivore cats need PROTEIN for energy, not a baked, extruded, blast-heated granule of grain and vegetable-based proteins and chemicals. It sounds disgusting even imagining it. Even if the dry food had animal protein how much nutrition is left in it after the massive amounts of processing are completed?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney (left) with Fred (right).
Then, the epiphany came into the diner astride a gleaming white horse. I realized the primary reason I’m not finding good adopters is because I need to find people who share the same passion about caring for their cats as I do. What I don't want are people who don’t treat their cat as, well, a cat; something to pet when it’s convenient-to provide care for rarely if, at all. People who easily assume a cat is “evil” if it doesn’t behave in the way the cat expected to—even if it’s against their nature. They don't look past the assumption that the cat is being evil and don't seek out WHY the cat is acting that way or ask their Vet. People who when given common sense information about appropriate nutrition stiffen their back and refuse to even listen. That is not my idea of a good adopter.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Finally Willow holds still long enough to get a photo of her.
Yes. I ask a lot. I realize that.
I don’t need people to be as cat-centric as I am. I’ve been working very hard to pry my mind open and give every possible adopter the benefit of the doubt when they want to adopt one of my foster cats. I try to keep expectations simple. I do my best to educate, to be respectful, but in the end there can be a parting of the ways and another potential adopter finds a cat elsewhere.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Coco, now a refined ladycat.
To date, Coco has lost out on MANY applications. I went as far as I could with each one. I even went on a home visit. I loved the people, but their home wasn’t a good fit. I had very long conversations with Sam debating about what really mattered—the family or the condition of the home or both? In the end I knew Coco would have spent her life hiding under the bed if she lived there and I couldn’t let her go. There have been other homes that were really crazy-messy but there was so much love in the home that I knew the cat would be happy. I try really hard not to judge, but there's a lot of pressure to get it right. I don't get a second chance to find a better home once the cat leaves here.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I don't know what Willow is doing to Barney.
I finally found a great adopter. He and his family came over a few times. Each time there was a reason why they couldn’t do the adoption right then and there. I gave him the benefit of the doubt knowing he would adopt her after the Holidays were over. He finally got back to me and because his daughter didn’t do some mysterious chore she couldn’t have the cat. I wasted two months on this.
I found another good candidate and was about to do the home visit when the former applicant contacted me and asked if Coco was still available and could they adopt her that weekend? My gut instincts said no way so I moved on.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fabulous Fred.
Saturday Coco might FINALLY be getting adopted except that the woman who was going to adopt her called a few hours ago and said her father has had a serious health issue and she was going out of town for ten days at least. Could I hold Coco? Oh dear..not again. [note: and as of this writing Coco has just come back from the Vet. She's SICK with a mysterious “Fever of Unknown Origin”]
There have been many other setbacks with adopters wanting the cats, coming to visit, leaving empty handed, then contacting me later to see how the cats are doing but they don’t want to adopt them! It's not completely my fault, but I want to do better.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I still haven't gotten even one application for Latte.
After the Shooting in Sandy Hook and the launch of our Kitties for Kids program I didn’t push too hard to move the cats out. It would be tough to have a program involving cats if all the cats were gone so I lost more time there.
Tomorrow my friends Izzy and Mark are driving to Georgia to pick up Maria’s foster cats: Bongo, George and Bunny Boo-Boo. I’ll meet them late Thursday night in Pennsylvania to bring the cats to Connecticut. While my house is already full, I’m bringing these guys here. They’ve been waiting for four months to come up and start the process of finding their forever homes and with Kitten Season upon us I have to get things going.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney-chomp.
There is a great temptation to not be so strict, to bend the rules, let the cats go to homes where they will go outside to roam freely, where there is no Vet reference, let alone a good one, where it just doesn’t matter what they get fed as long as there’s food. I could get the cats homes in a heartbeat if that was the case…
…and I’d never be able to live with myself.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney and Latte wrestle.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred with favorite toy.
Note: Before you even go there, if you free-feed your cat kibble, that’s YOUR choice. I’m not suggesting you’re a bad person if this is what you do. Everyone does the best they can with what they have and as I said, there are some cats who are fine on kibble and nothing more. If you read this blog, odds are you really care a lot about your cat. Be assured I would never want to offend any of you. That's never my intention.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow with cool slow motion tail blur.
I AM, however, suggesting that you feed on a timed schedule-twice or three times a day, tops and NOT leave a bowl of food out all day and night. This is true for MOST, not ALL cats. There are always situations where cats need access to food all the time. I can only think of a senior cat who doesn't eat much as an example but I'm sure there are others. Free-feeding can easily cause your cat to become obese and diabetic. Just that small change could mean a lot to your cat even if that's the only adjustment you make to feeding him or her.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Fred.
It’s easy to associate food with love. You can still love your cat more than anyone or anything in the world, but you don’t have to show it by overfeeding them. Love your cat with pets, with lots of play time and environmental stimulation. Keep the bowl empty unless it's time for breakfast or dinner.
As someone who does rescue, I know that every cat who gets dumped off at a shelter is evaluated for adoptability. At far too many shelters, being over the age of 8 is all it takes to be euthanized immediately if there are space issues in the facility. The health of the cat is a major factor as well. If the cat is diabetic it stands VERY LITTLE chance of getting out alive. The stigma and possible expense associated with providing care to a diabetic cat turns off most adopters. They imagine it's too tough to do-who wants to give their cat a shot every day? Who wants to monitor the cat's blood sugar? Who has time to learn proper treatment for a cat they don't know?
©2013 Heritage Humane Society. Jibbit is approx. 15 years old, is a male manx and is currently diabetic.
Jibbit and Sunshine are cats who score very low on the adoptability scale at first glance. They are seniors-Jibbit is about 15 years old and Sunshine is about 11 years old. Both cats are diabetic.
©2013 Heritage Humane Society. Sunshine is approx. 11 years old, is a female silver tabby and is currently diabetic.
Our friend Amy Sikes, who fosters kitties and who also offers up a portion of the proceeds of her sales of Avon products to my rescue, Kitten Associates, was contacted by her Vet. Her Vet is the same Vet HHS uses. He asked if Amy could foster Jibbit and Sunshine, but Amy said no because she works full-time and is also a Grad student. How could she give the cats insulin every 12 hours on her hectic schedule?
©2013 Amy Sikes. Sunshine and Jibbit, (the Laser Cat!).
Amy saw photos of the cats and her heart melted. I told her about Diabetic Cats in Need (DCIN) and they quickly offered to assist Amy by providing testing tools and guidance about caring for the cats. Amy had faith it would work out and said YES to taking the cats into foster care.
©2013 Amy Sikes. Jibbit. Cute little guy!
Amy reports: “These two furbabies truly are sweet cats I've ever met! Jibbit is a love-bug who wants to sit next to you and get petted while he purrs his wonderful purr. Sunshine is a little more reserved, but once she gets to know you, she'll come over to give your hand head-butts and cheek-rubs and purr happily for you. She also gives hugs when you pick her up!”
©2013 Amy Sikes. Jibbit is a love bug.
Amy has a big heart and with all she has on her plate, she graciously opened her home to these two kitties. I asked her if they might go into remission now that they are both on an appropriate diet-which consists of affordable gluten free cat food.
©2013 Amy Sikes. Sunshine give hugs.
What Jibbit and Sunshine need is one more person to have faith in them. Faith in the fact that because both these cats are very affectionate, that whatever extra needs to be done for them is worth the effort for all the love they'd give back in return. Cats are living longer lives and Sunshine could still live another ten years. Jibbit could sail along for too, but if he doesn't, even that's okay. Doesn't he deserves his last years knowing love?
Jibbit and Sunshine may be safe from being euthanized, but Amy can't give them a home for very long. It's not fair to her OR to the cats (she has another handful of foster cats to care for, too). These two need a HOME; a place where their new family won't give up on them regardless of what the future holds. It's possible that both cats will only need good food and no more injections one day soon. In the meantime, DCIN can provide guidance and possibly more than that, like testing equipment (contact them for details). I've cared for a diabetic cat in the past and it's not difficult when the cats are good-natured, as are these two kitties.
©2013 Amy Sikes. Who doesn't need a little Sunshine in their life?
What's wonderful about this story is that these cats have people out there supporting them. DCIN, HHS, HHS's Vet, Amy and myself have their backs. Now we just need ONE MORE PERSON to join our group and make this rescue turn into an adoption.
TRANSPORT OUT OF STATE CAN BE ARRANGED.
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I’ve often written about the challenges I've faced letting go of a foster cat. My “go to” answer when someone asks me how I can bear the pain of saying goodbye is; “I’d rather cry because they left me and went to a good home than they died alone at a Kill shelter or on the streets, afraid and unloved.”
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson napping, as always.
Since I’ve fostered hundreds of cats over the years, I’ve grown a little callus on my heart. Perhaps it helps me not “lose it” in front of adopters and be able to let go of all the wonderful cats when the time comes.
I don’t always cry when my fosters leave. Sometimes I find that I’m even happy about it. But Jackson was another story all together and frankly it’s taken almost the three weeks since he left to feel okay about him being gone.
Neither Sam nor I had any idea just how much we loved Jackson until it was time to put him into the cat carrier and tuck him into his new family’s car. I looked at Jackson one last time. He looked straight ahead, out through the windshield. His eyes were bright with excitement and perhaps some concern. I whispered; “I love you” one last time and shut the door to the car. I wished everyone a safe trip—a 5 hour trip to northern Vermont where Jackson would be “retiring.”
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
I tried to smile and wave goodbye, but the corners of my mouth weakened into a painful grimace. I turned quickly and walked into the house and immediately burst into racking sobs.
Sam held me as I said I wished Jackson didn’t have to go and that I wanted to run outside and tell them to bring him back. I knew Sam wasn’t always Jackson’s biggest fan since Jackson would charge Sam’s “baby” Nicky, causing Nicky to pee outside of the litter pan. Yet here Sam was with tears rolling down his cheeks, too. Sam has NEVER cried when a cat left us and here he was nodding in agreement. He wanted Jackson back, too. I stopped sobbing and shrieked; “Why didn’t you tell me that before? We could have kept him!”
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Morning pills. (the brown lumps in the Flavor Doh)
Who knew that this demanding cat had left such an impact on our hearts? Jackson woke me up EVERY morning by meowing loudly. Some mornings it was REALLY early. I had to get up or he’d cause a ruckus with the other cats. I tried to ignore him for days on end but every day the result was so bad that I’d rather just get up, get him his morning pills and start the day.
Jackson would yowl the second we turned out the lights to go to bed. I wouldn’t get up because I didn’t want to train him that I’d give him attention if he cried. I tried giving him a late night snack before bed but it didn’t seem to help.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Dangerously close to my office chair, Jackson just wanted to be near me.
Every morning while I was trying to work, Jackson would sit next to my chair and rub me and cry until I gave him some attention-which I always did. Thing is, he would also upset some of the other cats and want to take their place on the cat beds in my office or he’d start bugging me every two seconds. I realized I needed to play with him so I started doing play sessions in the morning before I got to work.
Jackson was a riot chasing his favorite little pom poms across the floor. He also loved da Bird, but after he jumped up to catch it I stopped playing with it. I was too worried that I’d give Jackson a heart attack.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The boy with his sparkle pom pom.
Jackson was almost constantly meowing and almost constantly hungry. He gained five pounds in the year he was with us. Being a BIG cat he could be that size, but in truth the snacks had to be cut back some for his heart’s sake.
As much as I encouraged him, Jackson never sat on my lap and rarely sat on the sofa next to me. I believe someone trained him not to get on the furniture so he would always be in the room, but never close enough to be a lap cat. He also tried to sleep on the bed with us, but that didn’t go over well with the other cats so he stayed downstairs until morning. It wasn't fair that he had to struggle to fit in.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I bought Jackson a fancy cat bed, but he preferred sleeping in a cardboard cat food tray.
It’s quiet with Jackson gone. Nicky rarely pees outside the box. The spraying is almost non-existent. It’s better for the cats that Jackson is not here, but it’s not better for me. I loved that damn cat and the stress of the first week of being separated from him was brutal.
I was really worried Jackson wouldn’t make the trip to Vermont alive, but he did. Once he was in his new home, some of the pipes burst and his family was up most of the night getting it fixed. Jackson didn’t get his medication that night and was off his medications and off his food for about three days after that. I tried not to be a pest, but I was frequently emailing Mickey, his new mom, and trying to get her to let us come get Jackson if he wasn’t eating or getting his much needed medication.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. At home on my office chair.
Jackson could die if he’s off his meds for a long time and I wasn’t about to let that happen. Sam and I started to plan a trip to Vermont, at least mentally prepare, but Mickey’s emails assured us Jackson was slowly acclimating and starting to eat and take his pills.
I backed off and hoped for the best. I wanted to beat myself up about letting Jackson go. After all I’d made a commitment to him and now he’s living somewhere else. In my heart he belonged to me. I slayed dragons for this cat, but I realized as with every foster cat; what is best for them is most important.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The last photo I took of Jackson, napping on a heated cat bed.
It was best for Jackson to have loads of attention and less stress and that’s the home I found for him.
I’ve gotten some updates about Jackson from Mickey. She writes and tells me that Jackson no longer hides, but spends his day with her beau, Offie. Offie has become quite fond of Jackson and the two enjoy each other’s company.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Normally we don't send our foster cats to their new home with so much stuff, but Jackson was an exception.
A favorite pastime is watching movies together. Jackson has a special cat bed that matches his fur so he’s almost invisible as he snuggles in it while his mom and dad watch a movie. Jackson’s been given special places in the house with soft bedding and a special place to eat. Jax met some of the couple’s friends and I’ve heard he’s always talking to Mickey, telling her about his day.
©2013 Offie. Jackson doing well in his new home in Vermont.
Though I’m truly happy for Jackson and his new family, I will always miss that big lug, those big cheeks, getting a headbutt in the morning. His story could have ended a year ago at the sting of a needle in Georgia at a shelter that didn’t have room for him, but he was lucky. I saw in those pale green eyes a long lost friend who needed to come home. I’m just sad that the home wasn’t meant to be mine.
A Valentine's Day card from Jackson..the last words cut off “will you be mine?”