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Foster Mom

For Margo. Ch 3. From Heartache to Hope.

[Note from Robin: Stories need to be told in a timely manner, but due to the terrible weather, the near-miss tornado that wiped out power and our internet, I’m left feeling as scrambled as the branches of many downed trees in our area. I couldn’t finish this story when I'd planned to, but in some ways it was a blessing some time passed because now the tale will end a lot differently than I imagined. The power is finally back on. We’re reconnected to the world again, so here I go...]

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I understand the error of thinking that there’s a way to control the outcome of a situation, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. Determination, sleepless nights doing research, mixed with palpitations, fear, and anxiety is my offering to the “Gods,” who I hope will grant me my deepest desire. Certainly the sacrifice of my own pain and hard work will change the path of one little kitten, keeping her from dying, right? My suffering is her protective shield. But unfortunately it doesn't work like that.

Cute girl
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Margo in her tiny outfit that held her diaper in place.

It’s been barely three weeks since we ended our fundraiser for Margo, a tiny 13-week old lynx-point Siamese kitten who lives in Florida with her mom, Pearl, her human mom, Kathy, Kathy’s hubby, children, some chickens, another cat, a dog and a young, naughty cow named Daisy.

With mom looking on
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Mama-Pearl watching over her daughter.

Margo was surrounded by love. Even though she was blind, Margo navigated her world with grace, dignity and joy. Even though Margo also had many other birth defects, she was happy, plucky, and curious, still 100% kitten. She loved the amazing world she was just getting to know. In the photos and videos I saw of her it always seemed that Margo was smiling. I couldn’t help but fall in love with her from afar.

Nosy Chicken
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. One of Margo's many chicken-friends looks in on her while Pearl gives her a bath.

Without ever spelling it out formally, instead of surrendering Margo to a local rescue, where her vet bills would be covered, I ended up being Kathy’s liaison and rescue-partner. I gave her advice for how to care for Margo, since I had so much experience with Freya. I helped her sort out the many vet appointments and tests Margo would need. I was in charge of fundraising. Our goal was to get Margo to surgery to reconstruct her biggest, baddest, scariest birth defect–Atresia Ani with Recto-Vaginal Fistula. In awkward terms, build her a butt-hole and close off the abnormal pathway that went from her colon to her vaginal vault. If it wasn't fixed, she would eventually die. Our dream was to relieve Margo from the buildup of stool inside her body, since she was only able to leak stool from her "lady place," and finally give her a way to void safely. We wanted the rest of her life to be the happiest it could be, and the most comfortable.

Kathy’s smart and capable, but anyone in a life or death situation with their cat is going to have brain fog from the stress of being a caregiver. I’m over 1000 miles away, so it was easier for me to keep things on track. I had Kathy’s back. I had Margo’s care as my top priority. I researched vets and found the surgeon, Dr. Gary Ellison at the University of Florida. He’d done this surgery before. He had the skills we needed to move forward, but before we could even have Margo see him, we needed to be budget-conscious and do some pre-operative blood tests with a local vet. More importantly, it would save some travel time for Kathy and Margo too, because Dr. Ellison was 2-hours away.

In cat carrier blood test vet run
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Off to yet another vet visit.

Kathy located a vet that was about 30 minutes away. I reached out to them to set up a rescue-account for Margo’s care. Somewhere in these early communications there was a disconnect between Kathy, the staff and Vets at Prime Vet in Orange Park and myself. They may have assumed that because I ran the rescue group, that Kathy was my foster mom, even though I said she was the owner. We were doing things differently than what is considered the "norm" , but as long as the bills got paid, did it matter? (Note: the assumption: rescue takes kitten if owner can't afford care, rescue deals with paying for care and for having someone else foster kitten, owner has no role so rescue is in charge.). This left Kathy feeling ignored when she brought Margo in for her appointments, but worse, she wasn't consulted or informed about Margo's condition, only I was, and that communication wasn't great, either. Though I was nothing but cordial, respectful and paid our bills immediately, I feel on their end there was something going on behind-the-scenes that they weren't saying to us.

Maybe they felt it was a lost cause to bother with Margo, so why do tests? I don't know, but you can decide if you think this sounds like a great vet "practice" or not.

1. They wanted to do an enema on Margo. In any other cat we might have said yes, but this is a cat with no known pathway in how stool is moving through her body. An enema could have KILLED her on the spot. We said, no, and for good reason. We were both shocked this was even suggested considering the atresia ani.

2. EYE-Rolling. YES, I wrote: EYE-Rolling. Kathy told me that on numerous occasions she would ask a question of staff members and they seemed irritated that she had the nerve to bother them with her concerns. Advice to Prime Vet: If you're going to roll your eyes at a client, I think it's wise to do it WHEN THEY CAN'T SEE YOU DOING IT.

With stepdad
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Stepdad giving her comfort after lactulose made Margo feel awful.

3. They treated Margo like a circus freak. Atresia Ani is very rare. After Margo's second visit they asked Kathy to bring her back so a surgeon they knew could see her. Why? He was Board Certified and had experience with the surgery and just wanted to see Margo. Okay, so show-and-tell? Is that what is going on? We already had a surgeon. Kathy obliged, hoping we'd get a better idea of what we could do to help Margo until she was seen by Dr. Ellison, but that's not what happened.

This Dr. pontificated about Margo's condition, told us he would charge $10,000 or more for the surgery, then said we should do a barium study where they inject barium into her rear end and see where it goes. It would have to be under sedation. We didn’t even know if Margo could handle ANY sedation so why do it in a vet clinic that isn’t staffed 24-hrs if she tanked? We didn't have ANY BLOOD WORK at that point so we didn't know if she had underlying issues. Why do this when we don't have her with our surgeon overseeing the procedure? Or risk doing something, that again, could harm Margo? Again, we said NO and again we must have hurt their fragile feelings because we didn't blindly do what they suggested. I asked if he could send his notes to Dr. Ellison, to give him a heads up on Margo. Well, no. He wouldn't do that unless we PAID him a few hundred dollars. It was ok for Kathy to waste part of her day, stress out Margo for their show-and-tell, then not take 5 minutes to write notes to Dr. Ellison, who he already knew and was friendly with. So once again, we said NO. Why bother? We only learned that he's an expensive surgeon. It really felt like no one cared.

Heat Lamp
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Kathy feared she would lose Margo a few weeks ago after a dose of lactulose made her grow week, but that time with a lot of TLC and a heat lamp, Kathy got her perked back up.

4. NOT CONTACTING US WHEN MARGO WAS SERIOUSLY ANEMIC and they KNEW IT. All we wanted to do was simply have Prime Vet run some blood work, do an exam, make suggestions as to how to shore Margo up until we got her to see Dr Ellison. I'd explained that up front. I was open to suggestions as I always am, but I also have to take Margo's condition into account and therefore I declined some tests.

Instead, they got offended. One of the staff hinted at it to me during a phone call. I assured her we depended on them to guide us but that we also had a surgeon we would be seeing. Why do I even have to tell her this?

So I NEVER got contacted after Margo's blood test results came back in. I was the one who saw in her results OVER A DAY LATER (again I had to bug them for the information) that she was dangerously anemic. It shocked me that I wasn't getting alerted by the Vet. I asked them about it and got a cryptic reply only saying that maybe Margo’s anemia was from her birth defects, not that she had fleas. That was it. No suggestion about what to do about it because by then I'm guessing they just didn't want to help us any more. In the end, I was left to figure it out on my own. WHAT VET DOES THIS TO THEIR CLIENTS?! I consulted with my own vet, Dr. Larry, about what to do. He was alarmed that we hadn't been testing Margo for bartonella right away, that she wasn't getting supportive care for her anemia, that the Vet hadn't bothered to notify us or be concerned about this kitten.

Aching after lactulose
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Margo finds another warm spot for a kitten nap.

5. Which Vet are we dealing with anyway? We couldn’t even get Margo to see the same vet. She saw THREE different vets on her three visits. None of the vets examined Margo in front of Kathy. Instead, they took her in the back of the building and who knows what they did. No one asked Kathy how Margo was doing. I had to chase them down to get exam results and updates even though I'd asked for them a few times.

Being treated like this was completely unprofessional, unconscionable and potentially DANGEROUS to the well-being of Margo. I have never, in my life, dealt with such uncaring and passive-aggressive people. It's not like we were constantly bothering them, not paying our bills or being late for appointments or rude to the staff. We did nothing to deserve this! MARGO needed ALL OF US to be on her side and not act like petulant children because someone took their lollipop away.

Xray
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Most of the right side of this x-ray is stool inside Margo.

Kathy already had more than enough stress. Not being able to trust a vet almost made her give up right then and there. I had to encourage her to keep going. I even told her if need be, Margo could come here where I have vets I trust and who treat us with respect and compassion. We were both terrified that Dr. Ellison wouldn’t be any better.

Maybe this is how vets behave in Florida? I’d like to think that is not the case. I was so shocked I didn’t know what to do. I just kept trying to right the ship, to let all the vets know that we just wanted to help Margo and we were prepared to cover whatever costs were involved. They shouldn’t even assume Margo's case was hopeless and not to bother when we hadn't determined a definitive diagnosis. We were going to bother. We were going to get this done if there was any chance to do it. We were #TeamMargo.

Wrapped in Towel
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. TLC time.

Finally, on May 8th, Kathy made the long drive to Gainesville with Margo to meet with Dr. Ellison. We couldn’t wait. We knew Margo had anemia and I was very worried about it. I wanted her to finally have a vet look over her results and give us a game plan. Dr. Ellison wasn’t too concerned about the anemia at the time, saying this is something he’d seen before. He felt that there were things that could be done and some tests needed to be performed, especially a dye-contrast CT scan. He was hesitant about the costs, knowing that my rescue, Kitten Associates, was responsible for the fundraising and payment of Margo’s medical bills. During our conference call I assured him we were ready to go. It took some convincing, but he realized we were going to go the distance for Margo. Once he understood, he became more invested. That was just what I wanted. I wanted him to care. It would make a difference for Margo and give some measure of comfort to Kathy. She and I quickly agreed that we both liked Dr. Ellison and felt like he was going to treat Margo right.

Dr. Ellison lightly sedated Margo just to probe her back end and try to get an idea of how serious her atresia ani was. He also injected lactulose, a stool softener, into her opening, so she might be relived of some of the bulk. A few hours later he called again saying that Margo might be a stage III which was not good news. It’s a much harder repair. It’s not that it couldn’t be done, but it would be more difficult, especially at her small physical size.

Feeling crummy
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Sweet slumber.

My challenge, years ago with Freya, who also had atresa-ani, was that I had to keep her going until she was nearly 4-months old. I didn’t dare do the surgery when she was too little, but she could have died on me from waiting so long. I had terrible anxiety from taking on such a risk and here we were again. I knew the next decisions could mean life or death for Margo.

Dr. Ellison wasn’t sure we could wait much longer, either. We went back and forth about what to do. We decided to try to get Margo back home and do the surgery on June 6th. We were to change up a few things to help her with the anemia and hopefully get her strong enough for what was to come next.

It had already been a long road, especially for Kathy, who had to manage Margo’s ups and downs. It seemed every time Margo got lactulose she tanked. She HAD to have the stool softener, but it made her so weak Kathy almost lost her a few times along the way. Margo’s appetite was poor after she got home from seeing Dr. Ellison. She was weak. We thought maybe it would resolve by the next day, but she still wasn’t doing well. They’d done an updated CBC and Chem Panel at U of FL. Dr. Ellison called just as Kathy was deciding on if she should rush Margo back to see him.

Feeling awful with mama 5 9 18
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Margo's refuge was always with Kathy.

Margo’s PCV (Packed cell volume) had gone from 24 to 21 to 14 (normal is 29-48).

She was so anemic she was at the point where she could die. Kathy packed Margo up and raced to Gainesville. We weren’t even sure Margo would make it to the hospital she was so weak. Kathy had been syringing pedialyte into her and some food, but it wasn’t enough to perk her up.

We had another conference call with Dr Ellison. He didn’t mince words. Margo was probably severely dehydrated, a possible side effect of the lactulose. They needed to get an IV into her, then see if she would perk up. You have to keep one thing in mind-Margo didn’t even weigh 2 pounds. She was so tiny, the only place an IV could go would be into her neck. We didn’t want to do that to her, but it was that or die.

He sketched out the game plan for us. They were to cross-match Margo with a blood donor cat. If needed, she’d get a transfusion. They would see how she did. If she survived the night and showed improvement, they would sedate her and do the CT Scan, then either do the surgery or if she didn’t do so well, send her home until Monday, then do the surgery Monday. Also, there was a chance Margo had a liver-shunt on top of all her other birth defects because maybe that was the reason Margo tanked after getting lactulose. If she did, it was “game over” because it could not be repaired along with her atresia-ani. It was just too many birth defects at that point. So they were going to add a bile acid test, too and see if she had the shunt.

Farewell
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Goodbye, sweet girl.

Kathy said goodbye to Margo. Margo curled her paw around Kathy's fingers, as she had done so many times, late at night while she snuggled on Kathy's chest. Kathy didn't know if she'd ever see Margo again, as she looked down at Margo's sweet smiling face. She could only pray it would be ok and that Margo was in good hands. Kathy later told me that the techs reported that Margo held their fingers, too and that they already loved the little kitten. I sat with my gut knotted up, hoping that all the love and kindness and great skill of the staff and Dr. Ellison would be enough.

And so we began the ever-painful sitting-by-the-phone-waiting-game. We held our breath until we got some answers. We were distracted and couldn’t think about much until we found out what would be next. We prayed, asked for prayers, I lit a candle, we thought good thoughts. We did all those things many of us do hoping to tip the odds in our favor, so things will go the way we most desire.

We got an update a few hours later that Margo had perked up. She was eating and drinking. Her PCV was up from 14 to 21! No need for a transfusion! This was very promising news. I knew that Margo, being a kitten, still had that “kitten power” in that she could respond to treatment well because she was so young. Kittens could bounce back. I’d seen it before. I hoped that in the morning we’d get more good news.

I didn’t sleep that night. Catshew, one of my sick foster kittens, went into heat. She’s been too ill to be spayed and I’ve already had to crate her once to keep her brother, Pistachio from impregnating her. I heard her moan, then saw her squat low with her hind end up in the air. Pistachio ran over to her and mounted her. I clapped loudly to keep him away. I couldn't go to back to sleep because I couldn’t physically lift the big dog crate and bring it upstairs into the foster room without waking Sam. If I couldn't set up the crate to keep Catshew from her brother, then I had to stay awake.

Catshew would have to be crated for the next 10 days. So I was left to keep distracting the cats, while I sat on the pile of old blankets I use as a makeshift sleeping nest. I watched an awkward romance movie featuring Daniel Radcliff that made me realize he's sort of odd looking. I tried not to think about Margo.

The phone didn’t ring that night. I took it as a good sign. No news is good news. If Margo passed away, they would have called regardless of the time.

Around 6:30 AM Catshew got tired and went to sleep. I decided to set my alarm for 8:30 AM and take a nap. I got up just as the phone rang. It was a tech who sounded like the most depressed person in the world. She told me in as few words as possible that Margo’s PCV dropped to 17 and they had the donor cat on standby to do the transfusion. They were going to go ahead with the CT scan and report back later.

My heart sank, but I still still hopeful.

I got up, my back aching badly. I began the “rounds” that take about 2-hours to feed and clean up all the cats and kittens. I did what I had to do to try to keep my mind off Margo. I felt like a zombie. I could only imagine how Kathy was doing, but I didn’t want to bother her.

Then the phone rang again. It was Dr. Ellison, though he simply refers to himself by his last name, which I found both curious and somewhat endearing. His tone was matter-of-fact, with no emotion to betray what he was about to tell me.

He explained that after he saw the contrast study he knew that Margo was staged at a III. She had her fistula well inside her body. It was only 1 inch inside her, but that inch was the difference between reconstruction and no surgery at all. Margo was too tiny. He could try a procedure where they take the fistula and make it into a rectum. It’s just basically a tube after all, but in her body it was more like a thread. It wouldn’t grow with her. How could she live passing stool out of a thread? I knew the answer.

I wanted him to stop talking, not to say what I knew what was coming next, but there was nothing I could do. He told me he’d spoken with Kathy already. She’d given permission to humanely euthanize Margo. He explained that due to the very long distance Kathy could not be there to say goodbye, plus Margo was still sedated and they couldn't keep her like that for the hours it would take for Kathy to get there. Kathy loved Margo very very much and she fought so hard for her. It’s a terrible choice to have to make. I think she was very brave, but it broke my heart that none of us were there with her at the end.

I had to remind myself that Margo was still sedated from the scan so she wouldn’t suffer at all. She would just drift off to sleep gently and peacefully with the staff by her side.

Dr. Ellison also added that Kathy had agreed to allow him and his students to do an autopsy on Margo (called a necropsy). He was very appreciative of the opportunity and grateful that Kathy understood why it was important to allow them to do the procedure.

This will be very difficult for many of you to know, but please read on. It’s horrible for us to imagine ever carving up a precious creature, but this is a teaching hospital. Kathy understood that perhaps someone who examined Margo, and learned about her condition, might be the same person who one day pioneers the solution that results in saving the lives of other kittens. Margo’s life gave so many joy and now in death, Margo's body would allow others to learn and someday save more kittens born with atresia-ani. Again, it was the brave choice to make, albeit so very very painful.

But no one would be with Margo in her last moments. I could not hold back my tears any longer. Choking out the words, I asked Dr. Ellison a favor. I asked him to please kiss Margo goodbye from me. I heard him say to his assistant that of course they would both say farewell and give her kisses and a peaceful passing. I thanked him for trying, for caring so much.

I asked about what would happen to Margo’s body afterwards. He told me that she wasn’t going to be cremated unless we wanted that. That the necropsy would take a few days. Kathy had asked for a paw print (I later found out she kindly asked for two so I could have one). It was the distance that made her choices so difficult, with no time to prepare those choices. She would love and honor and remember Margo always, in her way. She wanted to remember Margo as she was, a playful, happy kitten. Whatever she wanted I would respect. You can’t judge someone for their choices about how they handle mourning or the final arrangements for their cat.

Dr. Ellison was very kind. He thanked me for what I do as a rescuer and for not giving up on Margo. He was sorry he couldn’t do the surgery. I know he would have tried if there had been any chance, but he said it wasn’t fair to her. I would have fought to try to change his mind, but this time it would have been foolish. There are some things you can’t fix and because of that, early this morning, Margo began her journey to the Rainbow Bridge.

All that hard work, sacrifice, begging for donations, anxiety about what we should do next, what test we should do, what the results might mean, what Doctor to work with, what advice to take, how to help Margo feel better...it was over in the blink of an eye. We were not ready. It happened so fast. Kathy and I really thought Margo was going to make it. Losing Margo was completely devastating.

Fly free

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So began the all too familiar crying jags over the loss of a precious life we had tried so hard to save. I never even met Margo, though I had dreams of flying to Florida one day to meet her after the surgery was over and she was stable. It would never happen now.

I wondered about Kathy. We’d become friends. I really liked talking to her. We’d share stories late at night. I’d given her all the comfort and support I could, knowing her road so well from all the times I’d not slept or cried over losing a foster kitten. One night a few weeks ago, in a text she asked if it was too early to tell me she loved me (but “not like that”). She made me laugh and feel honored all at the same time.

Diaper big girl
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Kathy created this little wrap so Margo could still run around the house without making a mess.

Our connection was because of a little kitten we were both fighting to save. We had joined together without any real discussion about it. We just did it and worked hard and worked well as a team.

Kathy is gutsy and brave. She fought like a tiger for Margo. She would have taken on all her post-op care needs, even dealing with a feeding tube, which was likely going to be done had Margo survived. She would get Margo through this and it would be okay.

Except that it wasn’t.

I went for a long walk. I took a shower. While I was in the shower something was nagging at me. I wanted Margo cremated. I wanted her ashes. Creepy and weird as it may seem to Kathy, or any of you, I would ask her for her OK. I have a shrine that’s filled with little boxes and urns. Some are the ashes of my kittens who passed away, like Fred, his siblings, Pebbles and Bam-Bam, like Fiorello, who only lived a day. I have a candle burning year-round in their honor. Though Margo, in life, would never be with us, Margo’s ashes have a place here. I can honor her in my way, as Kathy is doing in hers.

I use humor when I’m feeling scared, I suppose as a defense mechanism. Naked, still wrapped in a towel after my shower, I grabbed my phone and dialed Kathy. I somehow found a way to make her laugh before I asked her the difficult question. She, as always, was gracious in her answer. Of course I could have the ashes and she liked the thought that Margo would be with our other kitties. Maybe it was her way of sharing her with me in a way she never could have done if Margo had lived.

It’s so unfair that this precious life is over so soon. Margo was one of those magical kittens who never let anything get her down, who so wanted to live. Blindness, bent spine, atresia-ani, it didn’t matter. Margo had a smile on her face until those last moments. Now it’s up to us to honor and remember her and maybe for some of us to learn so we can help others not suffer.

Rest in Peace. Go with Love. You left deep paw prints in my heart, Margo, and I will never forget you.

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24 Hours Later...

Kathy and I shared a few text messages after Margo’s passing. In our way, we were both saying goodbye to each other and thank you for everything. My heart was so heavy. Kathy is no longer a stranger asking for help. She is my friend. I feared that in time we would lose our connection. It made sense. It was how it was going to be without Margo.

Kathy lightened the mood by saying her cow Daisy busted out of the fence and was using the patio as a rest room (again!) and that today would be fence-repair day. Then she wrote something odd. “Ok....so I went....but, not to get a fence. Hubby is doing that with the boys.”

Followed by a photo and this message: “My heart is so empty without Margo! All this love and no kitty to give it to...As soon as I walked in here, they reached their paws out to me and started crying!”

The boy kittens
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Ricky & Bobby.

Kathy was in Clay County Animal Services. Not even sure why she was there, once she saw the kittens begging for love and care she took action. She does what so many rescuers do, they direct all their heartache into rescuing another animal. She wasn't there to adopt. She was there to help.

I was floored, thrilled, gutted, delighted, but it didn’t stop there. Kathy continued saying that she was inspired to do more after Margo died, but what, she didn’t know until that morning.

Scared Mama
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Mama-Moon with her newborns tucked beneath her.

She also saw a scared mama cat with 3, 2-day old kittens. She looked at the mom, cowering in her litter pan, with her kittens snuggled under her, and knew she had this cat’s back, too. She asked if she could foster them and was given the green light. Getting them out of Animal Control would help keep the kittens from getting sick and being euthanized.

Kathy turned her grief and love for Margo into rescuing 5 kittens and 1 adult cat. I couldn’t think of a better way to honor her sweet baby. In that moment, Kathy joined the sisterhood of cat rescuers. I wish I could have given her a big hug, I was so proud. She’s so brave and selfless. It doesn’t mean she’s going to forget Margo, in fact it’s because of her that this happened at all.

Holding newborns
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Little lives saved because of Kathy and to honor her love for Margo. If you'd like to follow Kathy's rescue adventures, visit Margo's Friends on Facebook.

Six cats have a chance to live full lives and one day find their forever homes because one person decided to turn their grief into a gift and their heartache into hope.

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Yesterday Margo’s ashes arrived in an absurdly big red plastic heart-shaped urn. I lifted the lid and saw the tiny plastic bag inside the urn, filled with all that was left of Margo. As tears ran down my face, I kissed the bag and said a silent prayer. I gently placed the urn on the shelf alongside the urns of so many others cats I’ve lost over the years. I lit a candle. I imagined Margo's curious smile and the way she cocked her head when navigating her world. I hope that wherever she is now she's still smiling.

2017. A Look Back on a Tumultuous Year.

2017 was a lousy year that followed another lousy year (2016). That I’m alive and have a roof over my head sort of surprises me. I’m VERY GRATEFUL for what I have, so grateful. I’m lucky, even with very serious financial problems because it could be so much worse. I feel for the millions of people who lost their homes this past year due to floods, fire, hurricanes, tornadoes…not to mention all the suffering caused by social upheaval, reports of rampant sexual abuse, and the fears stemming from the actions of the so-called leadership of our precious country.

January

Annie, one of our Kitten Associates fosters, fell ill yet again. She’d been punky after recovering from intussusception surgery in October of 2016. Even though Dr. Larry said she looked good, I pushed to do blood work. It revealed Annie was seriously anemic, to the point of an Internist feeling she might have lymphoma. I asked if we could treat her for my nemesis, Bartonella, because there are some forms of the infection that cause anemia. We couldn’t re-test her so we tried a new treatment. Within a few weeks and some TLC and vitamin B12 injections, Annie bounced back and regained her good health, but just as she was recovering I got a disturbing call.

IMG 1722
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Fly Free sweet Lady Saturday. We miss you so much.

Lady Saturday was ailing. She was skin and bones. I didn’t know. Our foster family called and said she needed to see the Vet. She’d been pretty weak and eating a lot less. When Dr Larry saw her, he was shocked. She only weighed 4 lbs and was near death. We didn’t know how old she really was, but we knew she’d had kidney issues for the nearly two years she’d been part of our foster program. She’d gotten fluids, a heated bed, good food, supplements, but we couldn’t cure old age. On January 16th we said goodbye to our sweet girl.

With all of that going on, my cat Petunia began having focalized seizures. We didn’t know the source even after taking her to a neurologist. We started her on Phenobarbital in the hopes it would give her some relief, but did she have cancer? Would she eventually have a grand-mal seizure and I’d come home to find her dead?

IMG 7715
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Petunia is doing better these days and no longer needs medication to control her seizures.

The year wasn’t off to a good start, but thankfully it was pretty quiet as far as rescue went. After years of saying I was taking a break from taking on kittens, I decided I would really do it. Then I saw a post online about a huge feral colony in Waterbury, CT. Over 50 cats were struggling to survive and were breeding out-of-control. Read about the first cat we rescued HERE along with follow up stories them HERE and HERE) While doing TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) isn’t my forte, I thought I could help raise funds for these cats and do some social media outreach.

IMG 7685
©2017 Robin AF Olson. My first sighting of the Waterbury Ferals.

My mistake…I decided I had to go to the location to see for myself what was going on, to take some photos, then start raising money for the #Feral50 #waterburyferals. Once I saw a horrifically sick cat, I knew I had to get more involved. I had no idea that instead of taking a break, I was going to be busier than ever for the sake of these cats.

Kitty Sick
©2017 Robin AF Olson. This little sweetie is feral. She was eventually named Tulip and was the first cat trapped. You can read about her story HERE.

February

I pushed the limits of what I could handle and was pushed beyond my limits by another volunteer who worked doing some of the trapping of the feral cats in Waterbury. The things I saw, some cats barely clinging to life…I found placements for 10 cats, but it wasn’t enough. I had to do more and more and more until February 13th when I ended up in the hospital during a snow storm. I was diagnosed with an ulcer, along with an anxiety attack that I was certain was really a heart attack in disguise. The stress was just too much.

But in rescue "too much" always ends up becoming "just help one more." I decided to take on a pregnant feral from the Waterbury colony.

It was very risky, because I didn’t know what I was going to do with her after the kittens were born and weaned, but as so many other rescues, I just took it one day at a time. Solve one problem at a time-that’s the key. The cat had been named Waverly. She was covered with oil and metal dust. She was too dirty to give birth, but we have a great foster mom who is gentle and patient and who was able to wipe Waverly down every day until Waverly was clean enough to give birth-and just in time, too. By the end of the month, Waverly had given birth to three kittens. Sadly only two of the three survived. I knew that if we hadn’t taken Waverly on none would have made it.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Happy Birthday Willoughby and Weatherby!

I’ve come to the understanding that in rescue you shouldn’t try to do everything. Rescue the kind of cats you can handle and do your bit. Other people, who are great at things you may not be so great at can do their part. It all adds up to be much more effective than trying to take on more than you can handle and getting sick from it. What I learned is that I am not cut out for TNR. I want to give every cat a chance to become socialized. There isn’t time or space to take that on.

While I respect every cat who just can’t become social kitties, and I will return those cats to the outdoors, it kills me because I know their future will be very difficult, even with a great caretaker looking after them.

Meanwhile, Spencer had a re-check of his blood work because in late 2016 we found out his kidneys weren’t working very well. The new test results showed us that Spencer might only have a few months left because his values changed for the worse, so very fast. We were to start him on fluid therapy and see how he did in 6 months.

March

Things started looking up. I was a Guest Speaker at the first ever, Cat Camp NYC. I had a blast, made new friends and saw some of my most cherished cat lady friends. It did my heart good to be reunited with them and energized me for Kitten Season, which was right around the corner.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Artist Cathi Marro (left), Me and Jodi Ziskin of Treatibles (right)

We took on #FairfieldCountyGives and had our best fundraising day ever, raising over $3500 in a single day-most of which were $10 donations. We’d be ready to take on kittens, but where were they?

I got an email from a guy who asked for cat behavior help with his 5-month old kitten, Holly. She’d been peeing on the family beds. The guy turned out to be musician and songwriter, Stephen Kellogg. What transpired next even surprised me. You can read about this crazy trip in these stories HERE (including links to all 5 chapters). I’m glad to say that after all the trials and tribulations that Holly is in her home and that Stephen has become a good personal friend and newly minted Cat Daddy.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stephen visiting Holly while she was here being evaluated for behavior issues.

Weird April

I wasn’t getting calls about kittens. It was very strange. Then I thought about why it might be so quiet. We’d had a very mild January giving intact cats plenty of time to become pregnant, but in February we had a few brutal snowstorms dropping a lot of snow. I didn’t want to imagine it, but I started to believe that perhaps a lot of kittens just didn’t make it and that the “season” would be starting later in the year.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Will Bills was a bit too wild for Bill.

For once I got out on my birthday for a short road trip and lunch at O'Rourke's diner. We stopped at a crazy place called Wild Bill's. The namesake and owner was there as we strolled down the aisles. I didn't think he looked so hot. I guess I was right. He died a few days later. I couldn't help but feel like I better not take having another birthday for granted.

May

Ah, Stormy; a purebred Russian Siberian cat whose owner really was allergic to her entered the picture in May. Her mom, Kim, was sick all the time and though she felt terrible about it, she needed help getting Stormy a new home. The problem was, Stormy was not very nice. I thought it might be due to her being declawed. Perhaps she was in pain? So we did a lot of tests to see if that was the problem.

The bottom line was I promised to help find a home for this 9-year old aggressive cat, but how was I going to pull it off?

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stormy.

I found what I thought was a good home in Boston, but the people were terrible, fearful, posers. A few weeks later they brought Stormy back to Kim’s where I was under even more pressure to find Stormy a placement because her home was about to undergo a serious renovation and they’d have to put her in a boarding facility if she stayed much longer. I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever be able to find Stormy a home. I even tried to get a breeder from the CFF Cat Show, where I took part as a guest judge, to take her on, but with her anger issues it was a lot to ask.

June and July

I wasn’t going out of my way to find kittens to rescue since I never got a break over the winter, but then I got a call from my friend Joan. She told me one of the shelters down south had 65 kittens. They were going to start putting them ALL DOWN in 12 hours. Could I take even a few? She’d foster for me and even go get the kittens.

I decided to take 6 kittens, which turned into 8, except that they counted wrong and there were twins so 8 became 9 and I got another rescue friend to approve taking 3 and somewhere in the middle of that Moe, our other southern foster mama asked me if I could take just one more to make it 13 kittens.

Yes. I’m insane.

I nicknamed the group, the #SweetSuperheroes. If only they had lived up to their name. I wrote about what happened to them, how it broke me in ways rescue never broke me before, but I never published what I wrote. I may some day reveal all the details when I feel I can tell their story without it wrecking me.

In a few words, it was our first experience with Feline Panleukopenia. Within the first week, two of the kittens were dead and the threat of many more hung over us as poor Joan feverishly scrubbed and cleaned, while I spent thousands of dollars on vet bills, cleaning supplies, cages, food and litter for the remaining kittens.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Some of the kittens we rescued. Thankfully, our offering to take so many inspired other rescues to take kittens, too so a majority of the kittens made it out alive.

Some of the kittens were in isolation at the vet in Tennessee, while some remained at Joan’s foster home. We both did as much as we could to get the survivors healthy for the long transport to Connecticut, but in all honesty I did not want to bring them here at all. I was terrified my cats would get sick.

I’m not a fan of the FVRCP booster vaccination, but we had to make the difficult choice to booster most of our adult cats right away because there is no definite period of time for how long kittens who are exposed to PanLeuk are still contagious. To be safe, the kittens were isolated for 6 weeks, which ruined their window of adoption by a great deal, but I also didn’t want them here if there was any chance at all they’d sicken my cats, too.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. In honor of Super Nibs, who died from PanLeuk. You are forever in my heart. I wish you had a chance to grow up and find your forever family as your siblings did.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. and Major Muffin. He died so fast there was nothing we could do to save him from the ravages of Panleukopenia.

I spent most of the end of June and into July crying, worrying, researching PanLeuk and trying to prepare things here for their arrival. It was the first time in years I dreaded taking on more kittens.

Stormy was proving to be a tougher case than I imagined. The shocker, what I realized much later was that Stormy had reverted to being feral from not being handled for many years. She wasn’t in pain at all.

Because she had to be moved into the in-law apartment in the home and be in close proximity to her family, Stormy ended up getting handled more and sure enough Stormy became friendlier. So friendly that a lovely lady named Annabelle flew to Connecticut from Philadelphia so she could adopt this magnificent cat. They’re doing great and Stormy no longer lives up to her name.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stormy says farewell to her sweet mom, Kim and hello to her new mama, Annebelle.

August

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Leslie Mayes gets ready to interview us for #CleartheShelters.

My rescue took part in #CleartheShelters, a national program to help pets get adopted in a 24-hr period. We were off to a great start because Heidi Voight, journalist and Anchor on the local NBC affiliate came over to interview me and meet the #SweetSuperheroes. We did an hour-long live Facebook event and I think we were in the news about 10 times over the next few weeks.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Ready for their big adoption day, most of the Sweet Superheroes.

The problem was, we didn’t have a shelter to clear, so that meant doing an adoption event at Watertown BMW. Being surrounded by $100,000 cars and anxious adopters and yet more news media was literally a crazy ride. The folks at Hoffman Auto Group BMW were awesome, but some of the potential adopters left something to be desired…yes, screaming kids, demanding kids who wanted a kitten “RIGHT NOW” and unapologetic parents shocked and angry with me. They asked why I would deny their application to their face when the dad would declare they would let our kittens outside even after the mom hushed him and said “They don’t allow going outside. Don’t you get it?” Followed by "dad" getting so angry I thought I was going to have to call the police.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. The Kitten Associates, associates from left to right: Grace, Me, Sam, Adria, Jame and Frances.

Thankfully, one kid was nice and his parents were just as sweet. They saw a poster of Buddy and Belle, my ex-boyfriend’s two cats. They’d been in our rescue for almost a year with not one application for their adoption and they would be too scared to be at the adoption event so the best I could do was have a poster advertising them.

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©2017 Kathleen. Buddy & Belle in love with their new mama.

I told the lady their story and she was smitten. A few weeks later, Buddy and Belle were adopted. Her new mom says it’s like they were home from the second they arrived. They’re doing great and the new joke is her son likes to blame things he did on the cats.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Poor Fluff Daddy!

And then Fluff Daddy got really sick, really fast...Horrible, bloody mushy stool. I was terrified it was PanLeuk. How did he get it? He had to be confined to a cage, then a few other cats got very mildly ill. Tests came back positive for Giardia. How could he get it? Guess what I didn't know? Adult cats can have chronic episodes of it or it can be intermittent! Gah! It's really contagious, but thank God it wasn't PanLeuk.

Shitty September

The brown month. Diarrhea. Kittens with diarrhea. Kittens squirting the walls, floors, bedding, pretty much everywhere but the litter pan, with stinky, pudding poo. I could not get most of the foster kittens to resolve their runs. We did so many tests and trips to the Vet followed by a zillion de-worming protocols and found NOTHING.

Joan had warned me about Tritrichomonous Foetus. It’s pretty much impossible to test for, though we did do a PCR fecal test (negative) and treatment can cause neurological damage and may not even work. I was to a point where I didn’t want to go into the foster room because it would take over an hour to clean it every time I entered it. I was so angry and frustrated that I imagined kicking the kittens outside, but I would NEVER DO THAT EVER. Instead I just cried as I scrubbed the floor yet again. The kittens were oblivious to my suffering. They were not sickly at all, unless you counted them leaking stool out of their rear ends while they were playing.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Yes, it's poop. The poor kittens couldn't have much of anything soft in their room because it would get filthy so quickly. I don't think any of us got any decent rest that month.

I put the cats on a raw diet. They got better quickly, so as the kittens got adopted, their new families had to promise to keep them on the raw diet. So far, so good.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. The good with the bad...de-wormer for the kittens first followed by a freeze-dried chicken heart treat.

The highlight of the month was my play date in NYC with Mario Arbore who is an architect by day and fantasy cat furniture designer by night. I can’t do better than to have a buddy who builds cat furniture, right? His business is called Square Paws (humans measure space in square feet, so Mario’s coined the term “square paws” to indicate how cats measure space).

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Mario putting the moves on Fluff Daddy.

Mario had been graciously helping me design a brand new foster room for Kitten Associates. We’d bounced a few ideas around over the summer that were truly inspired. The main foster room in my home is totally run down and I want to create a showpiece for our kittens and to allow us to increase adoptions and have a safer, more entertaining home for our fosters. Mario is incredibly creative and though our workload has prevented us from locking down a theme, I hope we’ll get there in 2018.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Uncle Mario surprised Fluff Daddy and the rest of the kitty-clan with a hand-built giant mouse trap for our cats! Check out more of Mario's wild designs at Square Paws.

October

The Big Chocolate Show returned after being on hiatus for a few years and boy was I happy it came back. The show was fantastic. I learned that there’s some kickass chocolate coming from Ecuador and that I will eat as many samples of chocolate as the vendors will hand out.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Thank God for chocolate.

Adoption Day
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Thunder Cake and Wonder Waffles get adopted together!

With Buddy, Belle and many of the kittens adopted, I took time to focus on trying to make a living and for a quick escape to New York City!

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. I actually left the house! Here I am at NY ComicCon where I got to meet one of my idols, Bob Camp, who did the animation art for Ren & Stimpy. I also had a chance to get back to work as a Graphic Designer. I love working with Royal Bobbles on their carton graphics for the main cast of Better Call Saul.

I also had the honor of creating the carton for Bob Ross, the afro-hairdo-headed painter who had a show in the 1970s on PBS that’s in re-runs on Netflix even today.

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To see more examples of my design projects, visit Ultra Maroon Design.

The biggest thrill was having a chance to design the new cartons for over half a dozen of The Walking Dead figures. Those designs are still in development so I can’t show them, but I’m crossing my fingers they’ll be greenlighted into development in 2018. The only problem with this project was I felt I needed to watch all 8 seasons of TWD so I could do a better job with the design. It’s a compelling and interesting show, but watching the entire program over the course of a month left me feeling a bit paranoid. I had to fight off the urge to strap a weapon to my leg when I did a run to the grocery store.

November

Waverly found her forever home with a retired couple named Molly and Sam. I was thrilled that the cat we feared was feral was really just a sweet, mild-mannered lady. Her kittens, Willoughby and Weatherby were adopted together over the summer.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Dear Waverly with her daughters.

Then one night, just before Thanksgiving, my dear 16-year old cat, the Mascot of this blog, Spencer vomited. It was a lot of food. He sounded like he aspirated some of it. Normally I’d wait it out and see how he did, but something told me to go to the vet right NOW because they were going to close soon.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Waverly on her Gotcha Day with Sam & Molly.

Dr. Mary found a big mass in Spencer’s abdomen and feared it was an aggressive cancer. So began our journey of tests, scans and treatments until we realized that the next step would have to be surgery or palliative care and prepare to say goodbye. We'd already lost 4 cats in 2017. I prayed there wouldn't be another.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. The x-ray that changed everything for Spencer.

December and Beyond

Every time my cats get really sick, I get sick with worry. I try to take a breath, have faith, focus on my cat, but I often find myself not sleeping, not being able to concentrate on work and wanting to bury my head in the sand. But it was Spencer. I had to face whatever it was. I had to face that maybe this was it and I had to face that I couldn’t afford to provide surgery for my beloved cat even if there was a chance it could give him more time.

I almost didn’t ask for help, but in the end I did do a fundraiser. Thanks to A LOT of REALLY REALLY REALLY AWESOME people, we raised just enough to have the surgery done. I still can’t believe it happened at all and am blown away that we got the funds together in just four days.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. What do you mean SURGERY?!

Now that I had the funds, I had to decide for sure if we were going to move forward because there were lots of risks involved and quite a few could happen after the surgery was over.

On December 5th, Dr. Weisman removed a 6cm mass off the very tip of Spencer’s pancreas. The amazing thing was it wasn’t cancerous, but there WAS small cell lymphoma found in other areas. It’s extremely rare that a cat has a benign mass like Spencer’s and I was so grateful, because those sorts of masses often are very aggressive cancers and lymphoma is slow-growing. At the time, I didn’t know if removing the mass would help him, but now, a month later, I can say that Spencer is so much better that he often surprises me.

He’s had a lot of ups and downs and I have to carefully monitor what he eats because he did get pancreatitis after surgery. He’s eating all right, not quite enough. He’s given me some very bad scares, like trying to eat cat litter when he got badly constipated and was battling anemia (He lost a lot of blood during surgery and I read that cats who lick cement or cat litter often are anemic.).

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Doing well and I am oh so very very very grateful to have this extra time with my boy.

We recently did new blood tests to confirm the pancreatitis and anemia and were surprised to see Spencer’s kidney values had improved some.

Today, Spencer’s getting up the stairs to come to bed and tuck me in just like he used to do. He’s also smacking foster cat Andy in the face and chasing after toys. He LOOKS better. His eyes aren’t so sunken. He’s grooming himself more. I honestly am completely thrilled to see him like this.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Naked belly requires a heated bed for full napping comfort.

It’s time to start him on Chlorambucil, a form of chemotherapy that we hope will retard the growth of the lymphoma and help him feel even better. I already have him on CBD Oil, which may also help and will certainly keep him comfortable even if it doesn’t effect the cancer. I’ve decided to put off starting him on prednisilone because it IS a steroid and Spencer’s oncologist is ok with not using it right away. I’m hoping the CBD oil will take the place of the pred for now. Why? Because steroids really do a number on the body and I’d rather help give him vitality and protect his failing kidneys for as long as I can.

Needless to say, with all the vet runs and care Spencer needed, Christmas cards didn’t get printed and I didn’t do much to plan for “the day.” Somehow it was still a really nice holiday, aside from all the guilt I had for not getting everything done and for not being able to buy presents for anyone except Sam.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Our Holiday e-card.

Sam and I have had one thing after another go wrong with our finances and honestly I’m terrified that if things don’t improve we will lose our home. We’re trying to keep the faith and we’re both working as hard as we can. So many people have it far worse off than we do, I can’t complain. I’m happy I have a home, it’s not on fire or swept away by a hurricane. I have my dear cats, as much as they often annoy me, they’re still one of the few reasons I get out of bed in the morning.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Bye bye Sprinkie! I'm going to miss you!

And I’m determined, after nearly eight years of constant fostering, to take this winter off and focus on work and getting funds for Kitten Season. The other cat rescue in town surprised everyone by deciding to close after many years.

Their reason, they aren’t needed any more, which is completely absurd. They spun it into making it sound like they solved the feral and free-roaming cat problem in Newtown so they can look like heroes and get out of doing rescue any longer. It just puts a bigger strain on Kitten Associates so we’ll need to ramp up.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Macaroon is a total goof head who loves to fetch her pom pons. Her new family promised to make sure she has as many pom pons as her heart desires.

I expect 2018 to be very busy for us as we shoulder more responsibility in helping local cats, but in a way I’m excited for the challenge and crazy as it seems, I really do miss having little ones here.

Here’s to 2018. May we all have a safe, loved, prosperous and Happy New Year!

Oh, and the last two kittens from the #SweetSuperhero rescue were adopted just after Christmas. Congratulations to the Mighty Macaroon and Professor Sprinkles!

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Last night Mackie and Sprinkie met their new family. Here's Suzanne and Maddie, totally psyched to have their first kitties ever!

-----------------A few hours later------------------

….I just got a text message…“Robin, I just found a kitten. Can you take him?”

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Uh oh...

The Queen of Number Two

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

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

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

 

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

 

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©2014 Randy S. Used with permission. Freya with her brother, Pascal.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. X-rays before surgery showing how impacted with stool Freya was becoming.

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

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Freya vs the DOOD.

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

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

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

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

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

©2016 Robin AF Olson. Freya fetches.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

For Freya's Sake

Dear Freya

For Freya. Part 1 of 2

For Freya. Part 2 of 2.

For Freya. Bonus Part 3.

Please. For Freya.

The Unexpected Turn. For Freya. Part 6.

Antics of a 12-Week Old Kitten

On the Eve of the Birth of Freya 2.0

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

Freya 2.0. In Search of Peace.

Freya 2.0. 12 Little Words.

Freya 2.0. 12 Little Words. Part 2.

Freya 2.0. The End and the New Beginning.

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

Freya 2.0. Dreams Really Do Come True.

A Spoonful of Despair. Part 2 of 4.

Twelve years ago I volunteered for a rescue group fostering cats and kittens. I’d already fostered Spencer, Gracie and Petunia, along with a few others when I got a call about 3 “semi-feral” cats needing a foster home. They were in a situation where they were at high risk of being abused and were living outside in the dead of winter. I’d never even seen a feral cat, let alone ever dealt with one before. I was assured they were not wild, but “semi” feral. They were about six months old. I didn't know that generally it's too old to socialize a kitten at that age. I just knew I needed to help.

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©2004 Robin AF Olson. My feral friend, Cricket.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into but I agreed. The lady who runs the organization brought the cats over; three black cats, nearly identical save for one who had a little white “locket” on his chest. The other two were all black. How was I going to tell them apart? Did it matter? They all wanted to KILL ME!

I named them Boo-Boo, Sophie and Cricket and eventually I was able to tell them apart, but getting them socialized was another story.

I figured I’d be friendly and go slowly with them. There was no information about socializing feral cats online back then. I had to go it on my own. I only fed the cats off a spoon while wearing heavy gardening gloves. I’d let them lick the food, then try to pet them. What an idiot I was, but in a way, not knowing made me less fearful of what could happen to me if I was bitten.

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©2005 Robin AF Olson. Boo-boo and Sophie, Cricket's brother and sister.

Cricket was all “airplane ears” and hissing. He was never aggressive with me, but man did he not want me near him. Boo-boo was a little bit easier to handle and so was Sophie. If I’d known then what I know now I’d have separated them, but in those days I didn’t even have a crate to house them in, let alone know they'd bond to me better if they couldn't rely on each other.

 

Shortly after the cats arrived I attended my first animal rescue fundraiser. I’d never been around people who did rescue before and it really opened my eyes. There I was, surrounded by people who really did rescue, not just a newbie like myself. I asked one of the ladies about “semi feral” cats and she laughed at me. “Kid, there are feral cats and domesticated cats. That’s it. You want these cats to like you, get this really cheap tuna-based cat food and bribe them with it. Works for me.”

 

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©2005 Robin AF Olson. Slowly but surely Cricket began to trust me.

 

So I got the cat food and the rest is history. Cricket and his siblings began to trust me. I still remember petting him for the first time without the glove. I was scared but determined to let him bite me, as if my sacrifice would gain his trust. He didn’t bite me. He purred. I tried not to gasp, to cry out with delight. As he leaned into my hand, he gave me the gift of his trust, and I never wanted to betray that again.

 

MINE
©2005 Robin AF Olson. Boo-boo was fearless and loved playing with toys. I twas a great way to distract him from being fearful.

His siblings soon opened up and eventually I allowed them to mingle with my own cats. I knew finding them a home would take forever and I had little resources to find a family for them. I eventually left that rescue and began with another. The woman who ran the new rescue found a home for two of the cats. Getting them to that home was a bit of a nightmare, but in the end I was left with Cricket.

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©2005 Robin AF Olson. After about 6 months, Cricket and his siblings had free run of the house. This spot in the living room became his until his final days.

At the time I only had a few cats so keeping Cricket wasn’t a difficult choice. Cricket never bothered with anyone or caused trouble. He was shy with new people but he found himself a place on the loveseat near the window where I often found him sunning himself. I hoped in time he would feel comfortable trusting us more and hiding less, but I had no idea just how far he would come over the next decade.

Next: the blossoming of a wild child...and just how much Cricket surprised us.

Freya 2.0. Dreams Really Do Come True. Part 17

continued from part 16

I didn’t want to take Freya to the Vet. I was sick with worry about it. If Freya was a “normal” cat I wouldn’t be so concerned, but we already know that Freya has lots of deformities so it wouldn’t be surprising that her ovaries or uterus had some issues. I knew she’d be in very good hands because Dr. Chris, our Board Certified surgeon, was going to do the procedure. He’d also be the final word on whether or not Freya still needed to have her right inner ear CT scanned and if she'd also needed surgery on her ear canal to drain any remaining infection.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Our Freya.

I love Dr. Chris, not like I want to run away and bear his children love, but I really cherish working with him. He’s always smiling even though the poor guy has often had to soothe my fears about Freya. He’s extremely smart and talented and I trust his opinion (okay and he’s really cute, too, but that has nothing to do with it. I’m just dutifully relating information as any good writer would).

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Dr. Chris last December with Freya.

So this morning I sat in the now so very familiar waiting room at NVS with Freya at my side, who was snuggled inside her Robin’s egg blue cat carrier. Dr. Chris came out from the back of the building to escort us into an exam room. Just seeing his radiant smile made me feel more relaxed. I hadn’t seen him for a few months and it was good to see him again. After we said a quick hello, I found myself focusing on the mental laundry list of things he needed to know about Freya. As I spoke I noticed he was looking at Freya as she ran around the room. He was smiling, then remarked how great she looked. After all she’d been through I didn’t see her transformation as clearly as Dr. Chris did.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya's nickname is Monkeypants, so this is a box of monkeypants.

Dr. Chris examined Freya as we spoke about what should be done today. We went over the costs which would range from $1800.00 to $5100.00, the low price being only the spay. Of course many of you who do rescue know we can get spays done for under $100 at a clinic, but Freya couldn’t go to a clinic since we didn’t know what was yet to be discovered inside her.

Freya at the Vet again R Olson
©2015 Robin AF Olson. At the vet yet again. At least Freya's not scared being there.

It was a tough nut to swallow, but I knew we had to do what was right for our kitten. Dr. Chris said that he didn’t feel Freya should have the CT scan yet. Clinically she was doing very well. She was playing, eating, passing stool. She no longer had a head-tilt, though she does have some deafness, which could be something she’s had since birth. Instead of spending that money on the CT now, he thought it was wise to wait and give her more time. If she relapses then we’d have to do the scan, but for now the less we do to her, the better.

All that was left to decide was when to do her spay surgery. Again, I was surprised by the answer. Dr. Chris felt that Dr. Mary or Dr. Larry could do the spay and that as a rescue it would be better for us to bank the savings so we could rescue more cats than spend it on having him do the procedure. I asked if he felt it was safe to have our G.P. Vet do the surgery and he thought they could easily handle it. He also said I could bring her back and he would still perform the procedure if our other vets didn’t feel comfortable taking her on.

Freya and Raccoon R Olson
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya meets the raccoon.

He added that it was very unlikely Freya would ever need the “twist” surgery that Dr. Pavletic pioneered to aid her rectum function. The plan was for it to be her final surgery when she reached her first birthday. Since she never ended up developing megacolon, which would have been corrected during her spay, there’s no need to do that either. So instead of needing three surgeries for her colon/rectum, she was done after just the one we did last year. Wow!

I agreed to call Dr. Larry and to determine whether or not we could have Freya’s spay performed today since she was already fasted and ready to go. Then, what I never expected happened. In my writer’s mind I'd describe a romantic scene about being alone in the exam room with Dr. Chris; about how our eyes locked in an intense gaze across the room, the passion building between us, undeniable, magnetically drawing us ever closer, but also knowing his peers and my friends might read this; I’ll have to keep a more detailed fantasy to myself. In truth, what really happened was very straightforward, COMPLETELY professional and G-rated.

Loving Aunt Nora R Olson
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya loves Aunt Nora.

Dr. Chris is leaving NVS. I will never see his smiling face again.

It was a bitter pill to swallow after such a long journey. After discussing the results of a million x-rays of Freya’s colon, after a hundred tears worrying about my kitten, after all this; it was over. Dr. Chris said his residency is wrapping up in Newtown and he’s accepted a position in Miami and will be leaving in July (in that heat?!).

Resigned to this disappointing news, I gave Dr. Chris a hug goodbye and told him I was sorry to see him go (along with my silly schoolgirl crush). He walked us over to the reception desk, smiling politely as he said goodbye, then turned, greeting the next couple waiting to meet with him.

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Two hours later.

Freya and I were in the exam room at Dr. Larry’s office. As he entered the room I could feel the energy shift. I knew that Dr. Larry’s in-law had passed away a few days ago and that he was truly hurting. He looked visibly thinner and tired. Before we could talk about Freya I reached out and gave him a big hug and told him how sorry I was for his loss. Dr. Larry’s my brother from another mother and I hate to see him suffering. I felt badly for even asking him to spay Freya. He should be home with his family.

What is this tail thing
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya's tail obsession goes into overload when she sees Spencer's tail.

I gave Dr. Larry the rundown and explained to him why I felt it was okay to at least try to spay Freya. We had a few rounds of blood work done in the past that were very clean. She’d had a 2-hour long surgery and did well. She was eating and playing normally. She went into “heat” so that meant something was working inside her. We just didn’t know how well it worked or if there were other surprises.

Dr. Larry listed his concerns, which all made sense. He told me she could have part of her reproductive organs fused to other organs or her digestive tract or a whole host of other issues that could kill her.

Freya watches Deadliest Catch
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Yes, Freya watches TV.

In the end I agreed that he should consider this an exploratory surgery and if she was well enough to be spayed, to do so and if not I’d take her to Dr. Chris for a surgery at a later date.

He told me that he’d call me right away if there was a problem and that if she did all right he’d wait until he was done to let me know how things went. Basically if there was no news any time soon, that was good.

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Three hours later.

Dr. Mary, Dr. Larry’s partner, called me. She sounded as cheerful and bubbly as ever. She said; “Well, Miss Freya is all set. We did the spay and she’s recovering now.”

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya vs. Fluff Daddy.

“That’s it?”

Yes, she did fine. Everything was normal. She may act a bit odd for a few days since she her hormones were still elevated, but other than that she’s doing well. You can pick her up later this afternoon.”

After I hung up the phone it hit me. It’s OVER. Freya doesn’t need any more surgeries and hopefully will never need a CT scan. She’s spayed. She’s had her shots. She’s been de-wormed. She’s passed all the milestones our other foster cats have passed. It just took a lot longer and we never were sure we'd make it this far.

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No more worrying about if she’s going to survive her surgeries. She did. No more worrying about her being able to pass stool. She does.
No more wondering if she’ll ever hold her head straight or have both eyes open. It’s all good.

Then I recalled something I wrote in my very first post about Freya:


“In my mind’s eye I can see Freya, sleeping on a soft bed that is bathed in sunlight. She’s comfortable and plump. She looks like she’s smiling as she sleeps away the afternoon. She is healthy and well and these dark days are over for her. She didn’t have to die, she got to live. That is my dream for Freya...”

And for once, my dream came true due in part to so MANY generous donors who offered not only financial support but sent cards and gifts to Freya, who put tires on my old car, who sent us emails and called and told us they cared so very much about our little foster kitten. To our amazing Vets: Dr. Chris, Dr. Larry, Dr. Mary, Dr. Pav, Dr. Deb and Dr. Cory--yes, it took all your expertise to bring us to this fine day and I appreciate it so much. To Chelsea and Randy, who gave up their kitten because it was the right thing to do for her, even though it meant giving her up (and it was Chelsea's birthday that day, too), thank you for your bravery and trust in letting a rescue take over when you weren't able to.

I guess there's only one thing left to do. It’s time to put Freya up for adoption.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Home from being spayed, Freya gets some much needed rest.

Mia's Story. A Very Long Road Part 2

Before I could do a thing I got a call from my friends over at Animals in Distress about a kitten with a serious birth defect and could I just foster her for a weekend?

Continued from Part 1

That was the day I met Freya and you know what happened after that. Freya required round-the-clock care, specialized surgery and lots and lots of vet visits. Freya is still here 8 months later and is now part of the Kitten Associates family. Sadly, once again, Mia would have to wait to be socialized and I felt terrible about that.

Monkeypants
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya.

Mia’s offspring began to find their forever homes and so did a few of Celeste’s. Whichever cats were still waiting were moved over to the big foster room. Mia was nonplussed with newcomers. In fact I began to wonder if she had a vision problem because she didn’t react to anything. Her eyes were often dilated when I thought they shouldn’t be. She didn’t seem to look at toys if they weren’t making sounds, as if she was blind. I did a few tests but I’m not sure if she saw me or only has shadow vision. She’s too fractious to take to the vet and our vet said unless it’s pretty obvious (like cataracts) it’s tough to tell the degree of vision loss a cat has.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. The first group of Laney's kittens arrive. Jules, Jasper, Jasmine and Junipurr (are all adopted now!).

We began transporting Laney’s family north from Georgia earlier this year. The oldest four came up first and were quickly adopted because they were outstanding cats. One of them, Jules, was adopted along with Wallace, the once tiny kitten we’d taken from the Danbury Fire Department after they’d pulled him out of a concrete wall. Fernando and Astro were adopted together and so were Jasper and Jasmine.

That left Mia and Woody, the kitten no one seemed to want. Because Laney and gang were set to arrive I knew I’d have to move Mia and son into the blue bathroom so Laney’s group could have the bigger space. It meant no sunshine for Mia and Woody since the room faces north. It’s one of the reasons I wish I had more foster homes because this really isn’t an ideal room for a cat.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Woody with his mama-Mia.

With Woody vying for my attention, I could only do a little bit with Mia. I’d tempt her with treats and lightly brush her paw with my finger. I was careful to be at ease with her and not tense. I wanted her to be used to me being around but she always hid in a corner if she heard me coming. She never climbed on the cat tree, which added to my suspicion about her vision. It might also make socializing her much harder if she couldn’t see me very well, if at all.

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Laney and the gang have been here for about 2 months and I hopefully have a lead on ONE home for two of the kitties, but that’s it. Poor Woody, Mia’s remaining son, who has been with us over a YEAR, has never had even one application. I don’t know why we can’t find him a home because he’s amazing, but sadly he’s also keeping me from working with his mom.

During these past few months one of our adopters, who has become a good friend, came to visit the kitties. Her name is Kendra and she teaches art to children. She’s a wonderful artist in her own right and has volunteered to create torn paper portraits for many of our donors (she even did a big one for us of our dearly departed kitten, Fred that you can see on her ETSY page). Kendra is adorable and when she’s with our cats she her voice takes on a magical quality. It sounds a bit like a cross between a little girl and an elf. The cats love it. Even my shy boy Cricket will sit in her lap while she tells him how handsome he is.

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©2015 KendyBo. One of Kendra's many awesome portraits. This is of Jayne Dog, who I wrote about HERE.

I spoke with Kendra about my frustrations with Mia while we were in the blue bathroom with her. Without hesitation, Kendra reached out and started petting Mia while we were talking! WHAT????!!!!

Yeah. She was petting Mia. Mia who had been in our program for over a year and in one second Kendra is petting her.

Did Mia like it? Meh; not so much.

Did Mia bite her or swat at her or growl? No.

It was shortly after that when Kendra contacted me and offered to foster Mia, hopefully unlocking the key to help socialize her. I had my hands more than full and she wanted to help. Kendra’s boyfriend, Brian, had been around feral cats all his life. She referred to him as the “feral cat whisperer.” Once we worked out the details we set a date to begin.

Saturday, Kendra came over to pick up Mia, but first I had to get Mia into a cat carrier.

I was lucky that Mia was in the bathroom because removing hiding places is the key to getting a cat into a carrier when you can’t pick them up. The first thing I did was move Woody out of the room, then move the cat tree, litter pan and anything else giving me full access to Mia. I also knew that because fearful cats feel safer in a small dark space that if I controlled where the small dark space was, then she’d go to it sooner or later.

I knew, too, that Mia had already had this happen to her before so even with a plan of action it might prove difficult.

As I moved things out of the way, Mia dashed across the floor and hid behind the toilet, which was the only thing I couldn’t move. I put the open cat carrier to her right. It was covered with a big towel so it was nice and dark inside. Mia wouldn’t budge.

I had to get the broom. I didn’t want to do it, but I couldn’t risk being bitten. I tried to keep Mia calm, but she shot between a small space between the toilet and the cat carrier and jumped into the bathtub. She was very scared but didn’t growl or try to attack me. I kept at it, coming towards her, slowly herding her back to the cat carrier.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya peeks in on Mia.

She was so afraid her bladder let go. I felt so badly when I saw the pale yellow fluid run out from under her tail. I wanted to rinse her off, but it was make or break and she needed to get into the carrier. I used the broom to carefully push her towards the open cat carrier. She wouldn’t move at first, but then suddenly made a run for it, this time into the cat carrier. I closed the door behind her and made sure it was closed properly.

I told her I was very sorry and I truly was. I opened the door to the bathroom and Woody entered. He was distressed, too. He knew his mom was leaving him, but this was her only chance to blossom and to finally enjoy the loving touch of a human. With Woody left in the room it was time for him to leave, too. I’d begin to transition him to meeting my cats since he was so easy-going and it was far less crowded than adding him to the room with Laney and family.

Kendra had a room ready for Mia, with no places to hide. I waited for her to get home and update me on how things were going. Within a few minutes of her arriving, she sent me this video.

©2015 KendyBo.

Later that night I got more images and videos. Brian was working on becoming Mia’s BFF. He “forgot” she was feral and picked her up. She just hissed, confused by the sudden contact. Brian and Kendra are both able to pet Mia, not just on her face, but on her back and even on her paws. Even Kendra's 8-year old son could pet her! Mia is stressed, but has moments where she closes her eyes and relaxes. It seems that it’s just a matter of time before we see even bigger changes. Maybe by tomorrow she’ll be ready to go?

All joking aside, we can’t give up on Mia. Maybe I wasn’t the person who could help her overcome her fear, but I was the person who was ready to take action when an opportunity came up that would give her the chance of a lifetime. Now I have hope that maybe one day Mia will be ready to find her forever family. For now she's got a great team, working hard to help her overcome her fears.

2014: The Year in Review

January

The year began with our litter of chronically sick orange kittens nicknamed The Clementines. They’d arrived from Kentucky, months before, supposedly after being in quarantine, they arrived to my home covered in fleas and with bad eye infections. A kitten named Sherbert got so sick we thought he’d lose his eye. What I couldn’t have known then was that 2014 ended up being “The Year of the Vet Visit” with so many sick and injured cats. What I thought was a lot of vet runs in January was nothing compared to what happened throughout the year.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. The Clementines.

Our black, white and gray foster cats, Mochachino and her son, Pizzelle fond their forever home together with an outstanding family here in Newtown. Soon after that, Mocha’s other sons, Nanny and Linzer found their home together, too.

Tired mama with kittens
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Mocha finally getting some rest now that her kittens are safe after being rescued from being sealed up inside a tiny cat carrier, left in the street in the hot summer sun of Atlanta for a few days. It's a miracle they survived.

It left Biscotti on his own so I let the Clementines share his room. Of course Biscotti got the eye infection from the Clems so it was back to the vet and weeks of terramycin eye ointment (it was on national shortage so the only way to get it was to have it compounded at a pharmacy for $60 a tube-we went through over half a dozen of them).

Sweet Biscotti R A F Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Biscotti, rescued out of a hot metal dumpster, burned, to this gorgeous, friendly creature.

By the end of the month, after many discussions and visits, Minnie, our lovely mama-kitty got the chance to move out of her former foster home where she was being frightened by other members of the household and other cats in the home. I couldn’t move her fast enough and luckily I found a quiet place with Susan and her hubby, Barry. The challenge for me was that Susan was pregnant and would it be a wise choice to have Minnie be part of a family with their first baby on the way? Susan wasn’t sure that Minnie was her forever-kitty, too, after still mourning the loss of her previous cat a few years prior, so the plan was to foster Minnie for a few weeks and see how it would go. The first goal was that Minnie had gotten a bad allergic reaction to something in her former foster home and if she couldn’t heal from it, then Susan would have a harder time if Minnie needed a great deal of care. It wasn’t because Susan wouldn’t provide the care, it was just really bad timing and I didn't think it was fair for her to have a sick cat and be pregnant. I worried that Minnie would become unhappy with a new baby, but there was something really special about this couple and they were determined that it would work out well so I gave it a chance.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Minnie, with scratches from other cats and sores on her face from some sort of allergic or stress reaction.

February

If February is the month of Love then it was no surprise when I got a call about a cat named Popcorn who would make me gush. He was listed on Craigslist-which is a dangerous way to find a cat a new home. A rescuer offered to take him from his family who had not provided care for him and as a purebred Himalayan Flame Point, not being groomed is not an option.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Two hours of grooming and this cat just let us do what we had to do.

I had a potential adopter for Popcorn so I worked it out for the cat to go straight to this woman’s home, do the adoption and call it a day.

But the cat’s coat was in horrific shape. The rescuer called me asking if I had clippers and that could she stop by and trim the cat before she took him to his home. I had clippers so she came to my home first.

The end.

Okay, maybe not the end. Popcorn was in such bad shape the matted fur had trapped urine from escaping very far so his behind was always wet and his skin was literally melting off his back end. It must have hurt SO BADLY and also been the reason why his former jerk-owners sprayed Axe body spray on him because he smelled terrible.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Mr. Cranky just after being groomed.

Two hours later, after a miserable time trimming him, this cat never hissed or bit me. After he was shaved he looked so adorable that between his china-blue eyes and silly expression I fell in love. I knew Popcorn would need serious vet care and though we did bring him to his new home, I told the woman to bring him to the vet the next day so she could use our discount. When she balked at being able to afford ANY charges, I realized I had to get this cat back. At the vet I made her realize he was better off with me until he was healthy. She couldn’t lift him to get him cleaned and every day his rear end needed to be medicated. It was just “for now,” right?

March

We renamed the cat, Fluff Daddy, even though it was only supposed to be his nickname, the name stuck. Fluff had lots of health issues, but nothing severe. He was so easy-going I let him leave confinement to hang out with my cats. Even though he’s half the size of my guys, he doesn’t take crap from any of them. I’d never had a purebred cat in my life, ever, and it seemed everything he did was unusual and fascinating. He also loved the foster kittens so I started to think that maybe he should be our rescue mascot.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Fluffzilla.

The Clementines were still sick. I started to wonder if they’d be with us for eternity. They were all so lovely, I wasn’t sad they were still here, but it also wasn’t fair to them to be here for so long. Biscotti also struggled with the repeating eye infection, too. It was endlessly frustrating.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. I will never forget you, Jackson.

On March 27, 2014 I got the call I’d been dreading. Mickey, the devoted and loving mama to Jackson Galaxy, a cat I’d rescued from Georgia, called. Jackson almost died a few times from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and Mickey had been the needle-in-the-haystack adopter who wasn’t phased to adopt a cat she knew wouldn’t live for many years. After a year and a few months together, Jackson cried out in pain. He was rushed to the vet, but there was nothing more to be done and he was released from this world surrounded by love, even his Vet cried. Jackson who had always been fussy at our vet, loved his new vet and had charmed everyone there and they were all so saddened by his passing. Jackson was one of the most special cats I’d ever known and to this day I get a lump in my throat when I think about him.

April

Biscotti got adopted twice in April, once to the WRONG family and at last to the perfect family, a super-smart-talented-writer named Amanda, came all the way to Newtown from Massachusetts and fell in love. Biscotti was smitten, too. It was one of the most perfect adoptions we’d ever done.

Then the call from Susan, they wanted to make it official. Minnie was adopted, too!

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©2014 Warren Royal. Maggie (grooming) and Junie (center orange) were part of a 5-cat rescue. Two of the cats went to another group and my rescue, Kitten Associates, took the remaining three cats.

The Clementines started to find their families, Maggie, Junie and Purrcee, from Georgia arrived and began finding their homes, too.
We took in a semi-feral mom named Mia and she gave birth to five kittens, Mickey named one of them Woody Jackson in honor of her sweet boy Jackson.

Photo with mama
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Mia and family.

May

Our first pregnant rescue was a gorgeous chocolate point Siamese named Celeste. She was dumped outside and a good Samaritan found her and asked for help. She was willing to cover the cat’s vet care and would even adopt the mom after she was done weaning her kittens. I felt it was a great fit and I was eager to see kittens being born.

Celeste outside
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Pregnant and dumped by her family, Celeste needed rescue right away.

On May 13th, just days after Celeste arrived, she gave birth to five kittens. I could tell right away that something was wrong with one of the kittens. I also realized I was in way over my head when I tried to get that kitten to nurse on Celeste, who never ignored her kitten, so I thought if I could get him to latch on he’d be okay. I tried to feed the little guy, but he was much smaller than the others. I named him Fiorello and I stayed with him all night, keeping him warm and urging him to eat, but he would not. I think we all knew he wasn’t going to make it and by the next morning he was gone. In grief, Celeste reacted by furiously scratching all the litter out of her pan. She growled and hissed at me and for a few days I knew she was mourning the loss.

Thankfully the other kittens, Twinkle-Twinkle, Little Star, Astro and Hubble were doing well.

Celeste and Fiorello R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Celeste with Fiorello.

June

When the Danbury Fire Department got a call about a weird sound in a wall, they responded. They had to break a hole into a concrete basement wall where they discovered a tiny kitten. With no mother or siblings to be found they took the cat to a vet for help. They vet wouldn’t help unless the care was paid for so they called me.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Wallace.

Enter Wallace, the tiny tabby who needed to be bottle fed. After losing Fiorello, I didn’t want to bottle feed again. Lucky for all of us Chris, a Vet tech offered to help. She and her Great Dane, Nina became Wallace’s new family until he was weaned.

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©2014 Christine C. Wallace with surrogate mom, Nina, the Great Dane.

July

A crazy month. Our foster mom, Moe told me about neighbors who had a cat that never got spayed. She’d had at LEAST 4 litters in three years, probably more than that. Kittens were dead in their yard or sick. None were getting vet care. I told Moe I didn’t want to add more cats to our program but I couldn’t say no. One by one, Moe got the cats. Six of them were older kittens, covered in fleas, really sick. There was the first mama, Laney and her daughter, Winnie and they were both pregnant. We had a few other of the older cats vetted, then began the arduous task of vetting everyone else while we waited for the kittens to be born.

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©2014 Foster mom Moe. The J's, the first group of 15 cats we took from ONE family's yard just because they didn't spay their female cat.

Meanwhile Celeste’s kittens were weaned and were spayed/neutered. I had to cancel Celeste’s appointment because she was in heat, which ended up being a temporary blessing.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Hubble (far left), Twinkle, Astro and Star (far right).

August

Winnie has her first litter. Two kittens-one was stillborn, one was very tiny and pale. She was named Piglet but we didn’t think she’d survive because Winnie wasn’t interested in caring for her offspring. Being so young herself, we understood her reluctance to nurse her baby. We also knew she was mourning, too.

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Laney and Piglet.

Thankfully for Piglet, his grandmother, Laney, began to care for him. As she did, Winnie took interest. Both cats mothered Piglet and a week later when Laney had six healthy fat kittens, her first concern remained that little Piglet got the best care.

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Laney (left) and her daughter Winnie (right) with all their kittens.

Minnie’s mom, Susan gave birth to a son, Henry. I held my breath, waiting for bad news that Minnie would have to go, but it never came.
Instead I got photos of Minnie, sitting next to the baby, seemingly protecting him while he laid in his mother’s arms. Susan reported that Minnie was fantastic with the baby and that she was already telling her newborn son that he should be gentle with Minnie and love her like a sister.

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©2014 Susan Whalen. With son Henry at her side, Minnie, completely relaxed keeps her family company.

September

If I knew then what I know now I would have moved to the North Pole.

In late August, kitten Twinkle got her leg stuck in such a way that she panicked, then ended up breaking a tiny bone in her leg to get free. She caused everything I’d stacked on top of the washer and dryer to fall to the floor as we heard one of the kittens screaming. I didn’t know which kitten it was until I looked at her and she cried, trying to stand, but fell over. It was late at night and I rushed her to our Emergency Vet. They wanted $5000 to fix it with 75% up front. I didn’t have it.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson.

At 3AM, after I got home from the Vet, asking them to get her stable until the next morning and give her pain meds, I started a fundraiser hoping we’d get enough to get us half way there. I honestly didn’t know what I would do if we couldn’t raise the funds.

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In less than 24 hrs we had the full amount. I’d never raised that sort of money, ever. I made a tearful, kind of embarrassing video thanking everyone for knocking one out of the park for Twink. She made a full recovery after being on cage rest and in a cast for over a month.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. With daddy Sam.

Ten days later, more screaming, but from a different foster room. I am sick to say our web cam captured what happened. At the time all I knew was to run upstairs and find out who got hurt. It took all of a second to know it was Fernando because all I saw when I looked at his face was that one of his eyes was covered in blood.

Another Emergency Visit, another few thousand dollars later, Fernando’s eyelid was ripped in three. When I viewed the footage of the accident I cried. He had been upside down, wrestling with Wallace. Somehow his eyelid caught on the metal “finger” of a dog crate divider I had stored out of harm’s way. At least that’s what I had thought. It’s in the dump now.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. At the Vet for his final checkup after ripping his eyelid in three.

So now I had a cat with stitches and cone-of-shame and another in a cage with a cast. What’s next? I shouldn’t have thought about it, but then came the call that changed my life. A little kitten was at the Emergency Vet. She was messed up but the family couldn’t afford care for her. My friends at Animals in Distress had already told the Vet the couple could sign the kitten over to them, but then where would it go? I offered to go there since I live nearby to take photos and help do yet another fundraiser. They asked me if I’d foster the cat and I said no way I had too much going on.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. The first look at Freya. She was too tired to even worry that she was almost euthanized due to the rareness of and difficulty to repair her birth defects.

When I got to the vet the couple told me the Vet said the kitten had a 10% chance to live. That she had a rare birth defect called Atresia Ani and that only surgery would save her life, but it would be $5000.00. I asked the cat’s name. They said “Freya.” She was so tiny, almost pure white with an odd thumbprint of tabby on her forehead. The vets decided to give the kitten a few days to get bigger before they tried the surgery. She weighed just over a pound. Since it was “only a few days” sucker-me said yes, I would take her, not knowing her care would end up almost shutting down my rescue for the rest of the year.

October

Though the month got off to a happy start, with Kitten Associates winning the Dogtime Pettie Award for Best Cause Blog, things turned dark quickly.

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Celeste needed to be spayed, but I was overwhelmed with caring for Freya. I got an air mattress and basically slept on the floor with Freya every night. Celeste was at another foster home so I had room for Freya. I was so tired from all the cats who needed extra vet runs and care that I was having a breakdown. One of my friends said she’d take Celeste to be spayed so I could get a bit of rest.

Celeste got spayed, but no one at the vet told me they had a very hard time with her. They never told me she was 10 years old, not 2. They didn’t tell me her uterus was full of cysts and that those cysts would have caused her to be in heat 365/7/24. I only learned all that after the early morning call from her foster home saying something was wrong.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson.

Although I got Celeste to the vet within the hour, she died. I was devastated. Celeste’s blood wouldn’t clot. It might have been caused by severe stress, it might be hereditary, it might be from being so much older than we thought. We’d never know the real reason, but the kittens all had to be tested to make sure their blood clotted normally (all did).

After that day we made changes so that all our mama-cats get pre-op bloodwork and any other tests they might need. If they are fractious then our vets know to give them a day to relax and to call us if there are problems. As we all grieved this loss, I also continued to worry about Freya because it was a challenge to get her good nutrition without it adding to the stool that was slowly filling up her abdomen. Would a foolish mistake about her diet end up killing her?

Having Freya for a few days turned into two weeks, which turned into six weeks, which made it impossible for me to deal with finding adopters for our cats, work to make a living and write a blog post or two. I was making up my own idea of what a good diet would be for a kitten who could only pass less then a pea-sized stool out of her vagina. Every two weeks we did x-rays to see how Freya was doing and her intestines were getting more and more filled with dangerous stool.

Then just as October was coming to a close, worse news. Big Daddy, the charming, dearly loved cat had died due to complications from lymphoma. I’d been part of Big Daddy’s team, first finding him a rescue to take him after his daddy Warren trapped him and got him ready to be adopted. Having FIV meant it would be tough to find Big Daddy a home, but after reading my blog, Angels of Assisi in Virginia offered to foster him and find him a forever home.

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In the end, Big Daddy returned to Warren after it was discovered that Big Daddy had lymphoma. Warren had been missing his big buddy and with such a serious health issue it was decided it would be best for him to return to Georgia. Warren took Big Daddy to oncologists and researched treatments to get Big Daddy the best care possible. For a time Big Daddy did well, but other days were very tough. As with most cancers, it’s hard to know where it spreads until it’s too late.

Big Daddy’s life was not lived in vain. He still has a fan club and mission, through his devoted dad, Warren, to help remove the stigma of cats with FIV and provide education and awareness about this disease.

November

I was certain I was going to have a breakdown from nonstop stress, I somehow manage to pack up Freya and all our things and head to Boston where Freya would finally get her surgery. I felt like it was very possible these were her last days because even at three pounds, she was still small. The surgery was VERY RARE and had many risks. What I never expected was that Dr. Pavletic knew after a few minutes that she was still too small and he wanted to wait until January. After a hair-raising 4 hour drive to Boston, I had to turn around and go back home barely after I’d arrived. Part of me was wrecked by the news and the other part was relieved. I wanted Freya to have the best chance to survive, but I also knew the longer we waited, the more likely the stool build up would get worse.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Dr. Pavletic decides it's too soon to do surgery after examining Freya.

Sometimes I think I should never answer the phone. A friend contacted me about a cat his wife had found near the side of the road the night before. They asked me if I could help them with it since they weren’t sure what to do. I told them we could take the cat to my vet and we’d do an exam. I didn’t think it would cost more than $200. What I didn’t know was that the cat was very old, emaciated and VERY SICK.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. A very sick, skinny lady in ICU/Isolation.

So began the next rescue-odyssey. We needed a name for the cat right away so Betsy, who works for my Vet, blurted out “Saturday?!” At that point I didn’t even know if the cat would live so I said okay.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Erich, Saturday's foster dad, holding Saturday after she'd survived three weeks in intensive care and was finally stable.

For the next week, every day I expected the Vet to call and tell me the cat had died. I’ve rarely seen a cat in such poor shape live. She was a bag of bones, hunched over, snorting and coughing. Not eating. Three weeks passed and somehow, some way, Saturday got better and again, a bit better. She needed a tremendous amount of care and it cost over $3500.00. She still needs a dental to clean her teeth now that she’s stable and has gained a few pounds. The hope is to raise the funds for her teeth, then find her a sweet place to retire. We call her “Lady Saturday” now as she’s so regal and fine and sweet-tempered. She was one of our best transformations-a work in progress.

December

I honestly don’t know how I made it to December. I didn’t have a day off, certainly no vacation of any kind, really no break from anything. All the foster cats were huge because I hadn’t been quickly processing applications. Frankly, I just gave up. The kitties were safe and well fed and loved, but I just didn’t have the bandwidth to do everything. I knew that 2015 would have to be the year of saying NO and creating a better space to take time for my life and to just have some peace, but before I could do that, Freya’s bi-weekly x-rays told us that it was time to go to surgery. We wouldn't make it to January after all. With the holidays upon us we had to act quickly.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Our last night before the big surgery.

On December 9th Freya and I left once again for Boston, this time through a Nor’easter that pounded New England and made the drive a dangerous nightmare. All I wanted was to rest the night we arrived, but I was so worried about surgery the next day, rest never came.

On December 10th, Dr. Pavletic proved once again that he is a genius. He performed Freya’s surgery in just under two hours. She did well and was coming out of her sedation. He was ready to release Freya that night but I insisted she stay, shocked that she could go home so soon. It was the first of up to three more surgeries, but it would be months before we knew how Freya would really do. Would she be incontinent for the rest of her life? Would she handle more surgeries? It was wait and see. At least now, finally, she had a chance to pass the stool that had been trapped inside her for months.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Just after surgery, Freya is already back on her paws.

So here we are on the evening of the last day of 2014. It was a very tough, draining year. I won’t label it a “bad” year because I learned a lot and I’m very proud of all we’ve accomplished. Though due to chronic illnesses of the kittens and lack of adoptions we only helped 64 cats this year, but we also created awareness about Atresia Ani, which is helping to save the lives of other cats with this very rare birth defect. We’ve also just been awarded one of the Top 50 Pet Rescues of 2014 by Entirely Pets, which is pretty darn cool considering we’re a tiny rescue.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Jasmine, Junipurr (upper cat tree) with Josh (center) and Jules (below) just a day before three of them broke with bad eye infections and a URI.

Midnight, December 31, 2014 arrives and what am I doing? I’m putting terramycin in the eyes of a sick orange tabby bringing the year to some sort of strange perfect closure.

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If you'd like to read more about any of these cats, simply use the SEARCH box to the right and enter the name of the cat. You should find a list of posts related to each one.

The Neglected Kittens Chapter 1. This Miserable Life.

The kittens were born under the hot southern sun to two mothers who were barely out of kittenhood themselves. The mamas had a human family who fed them, but that’s about all they did. They never bothered to spay their cats or neuter the males for whatever excuse made it seem as though it’s all right to not provide care because that’s what people do…or rather don’t do in this part of the country.

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©2014 Foster Mom, Moe. I can't believe this kitten was so depressed he was lying on the thorns of a rose bush!


We’ve seen this story played out so many times, in so many places. Intact cats left to breed out-of-control, leaving their offspring to meet a terrible fate. These cats are often reduced to being part of the food chain, instead of becoming beloved family members, which is a terrible truth that most rescuers fight with all they’ve got.

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©2014 Foster Mom, Moe. You can see it in the photo but this kitten, like all the others, is very thin.

One white kitten doesn’t make it past a few days, while the others are mercilessly spared, or is it a good thing they survived? Their fate was to immediately become tempting morsels for anything that could catch them, bite them, slowly drain the life out of them. While somehow the roaming foxes didn’t get to them, the parasites had a field day.

It’s likely their mama passed roundworms and probably tapeworms into them during nursing. Being outdoors, of course the fleas were next to enjoy their bounty. Add to that the only food the kittens had after they were done nursing was cheap greasy kibble that was rotting under the blazing sun, covered with hungry flies.

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©2014 Foster Mom, Moe. A mama already. We need to help her stop having more kittens.

Slowly but surely whatever vitality they might have had was slowly being eroded away. In time, if no one intervened, Mother Nature’s clean up crew would take care of them (but I don’t dare describe this any further as any kind-hearted cat lover would be devastated by reading about it).

I’m so angry and sick and tired of this story. It’s unfair, “fixable” (pardon the pun), but for some reason the people who mindlessly leave their animals intact have no concern about what happens after their cats have kittens. What drives me INSANE is not only do these people IGNORE their cats basic needs, but when it’s CLEAR that the littlest kittens are COVERED in FLEAS. Don’t they notice? Don’t they see their eyes running? Don’t they feel that they’re basically skin and bones when they reach down to pet them?

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©2014 Foster Mom, Moe. How do you NOT notice this kitten is sick?

I ask this over and over again and never get answer: WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE IGNORE DISEASED ANIMALS who they are supposedly in charge of caring for? WHAT DO THEY TELL THEMSELVES SO THEY DON’T FEEL BAD ABOUT NEGLECTING THESE CREATURES? Is it because they can’t afford it? Sorry, but they can get vouchers, they can ask for help from shelters or rescues so money isn’t the reason. I’m going to hold my tongue and not go off on a rant, but I’ll admit it’s not easy while my blood is boiling.

Of the eight kittens in this person’s yard, two already “ran away.” The six that were left didn’t have much time left before it was their turn to magically disappear into a horrific ending.

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©2014 Foster Mom, Moe. Worst shape of all the kittens. If he went much longer with the amount of fleas he had on him he'd be dead.

When our foster mom, Moe was driving home from work and she saw kittens running around in this person’s yard. She stopped and quickly realized these kittens needed help ASAP.

Moe had just finished fostering Mia and her kittens and was taking a much needed break. I had taken Mia and family, plus I have Celeste and her 4 kittens plus Wallace, our Fire Dept rescue kitten AND Junebug and MaggieMae. To say that I’m overwhelmed is an understatement. I did not want to take on any more cats for the next few months, but when I heard about what was going on, then saw the photos, I couldn’t turn my back on this situation.

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©2014 Foster Mom, Moe. Can I give you my fleas?

I am not going to let these kittens die.

Moe reported that there are 6 kittens and 5 adults (very young) who need at least vetting if not more. I have a great fear that as a small rescue this puts us over our limit for what we can care for, but I don’t know what else I can do other than take it one day at a time and hope this all works out. I’m glad she wants to take on this responsibility and I’ve assured her that anything she needs-I’ve got her back.

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©2014 Foster Mom, Moe. Lovely lady. We hope she's not pregnant. Can any rescues in GA lend a hand?

But now I need someone to have my back, too. Taking on six more mouths to feed, plus vetting the adults is going to be expensive. We’ve already done the initial vetting and all the kittens have very bad flea infestation, worms, ear mites and more. Thankfully they tested negative for FIV and Feline Leukemia, but they have a long road ahead. I can’t even use the word: recovery because they have never known good health. Perhaps this long journey will lead to a rebirth of sorts into the beautiful animals they were meant to be from the day they were born.

Here’s the plan:

We’ve got the ball rolling but we need more help. The kittens haven’t had good nutrition so they’re underweight and in one kitten’s case, I’m very worried about him. He was covered with over 100 fleas, which may have made him anemic. We need to test his blood and test the kittens for a flea-born infection called Bartonella, which I bet they have. Treatment (liquid compounded zithromax for 3 weeks) costs $40/bottle and each kitten will need a bottle. Add to that all the other medications, vet visits, tests…yikes…

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Our goal is to get everyone healthy. If we can find a local rescue to take them after they’re vetted, great. If we are fortunate to get a new foster home here in Newtown OR if we start doing some adoptions (very slow this time of year), then I’ll bring the kittens here (which I would prefer doing).

We’re also going to work with the family to get their adult cats vetted as soon as possible. There are low cost clinics we can work with. We know if we ask these folks to pay for this service they will find a reason to say no, so we want to get the cats taken care of on our dime. Moe has a tough task balancing her own desire to rip these folks a “new one,” with the need to focus on caring for the cats. She can’t upset these people so she’ll be respectful and get the cats vetted as soon as she can using funds my rescue, Kitten Associates will provide for her.

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©2014 Foster Mom, Moe. No more fleas on meet! By the way, this is a VERY SWEET kitten.

I estimate it will cost at least $140/cat to be vetted (if they have bartonella). This doesn’t include food, litter and toys, which adds a lot since they eat 8, 5 oz cans of food every day. We’re at roughly 1600.00 for all the kittens AND the adults to get vetted. I just spent $400.00 on food, toys and initial vetting.

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©2014 Foster Mom, Moe. This is no existence for a kitten.

Ways to Share Your Love:

smile.amazon.com – use it to shop and we’ll get a small donation that’s banked to our account every time you shop for anyone or any thing on amazon.com

KA amazon wishlist: our wishlist shipping address helps our Connecticut based fosters, but we can't add our Georgia location to our list. The BEST way you can help is by purchasing a Gift Card for amazon.com so we can buy what the kittens need and ship it directly to foster mom, Moe. If you’d like to direct how the gift card is used, just leave a note when you purchase the gift card in the gift note area and we’ll take care of it. WE REALLY NEED GIFT CARDS TO BUY FOOD!!!

Donate through our Facebook App that’s on the left side our KA Facebook page

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Visit our PetCaring Fundraiser Page where we’ll share photos and updates

If you'd like to mail us a check, checks can be made out to: Kitten Associates and mailed to: P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354. Please add a note on your check: “Neglected Kittens”.

We realize there are zillions of cats whose stories are online who need help and we’d all be broke if we made a donation to each one of them. The other way you can make a difference that doesn’t cost a dime is to simply SHARE this post socially with your cat-loving friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Your donation is tax deductible in the U.S.A., but see your tax advisor for how to claim a deduction and how it applies to your tax situation. Our Tax ID EIN is 27-3597692.

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©2014 Foster Mom, Moe. First car ride, of course, is to the Vet.

UPDATE: In just two days the kittens have eaten A TON of food. THEY LOVE IT! Moe spent the afternoon giving each kitten a bath. No more fleas! They’ve been treated for fleas, mites and worms so they should be feeling better very soon. I think they’re off to a great start.

Next is to get the buff kitty’s blood work done and test them for bartonella and get their first vaccinations done. We need to do this ASAP! Stay tuned to Covered in Cat Hair on Facebook for updates.

Thank you for being part of our life saving efforts!

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©2014 Foster Mom, Moe. It's going to get better from this moment forward. Welcome to our rescue little ones. We've got your back.

This Precious Life. Chapter 2. More Hurdles for Chapstick the Kitten.

Today “Chapstick” celebrates reaching the second week of life. During that time there have been many struggles. After being thrown into a dumpster like a piece of meaningless garbage on a cold early spring afternoon, with a sibling kitten who didn’t survive, this poor little creature was lucky to have Guardian Angels on its side.

We’re fairly sure that Chapstick, whose given name has been changed to Miracle, is a girl. At her age and stunted size, it’s tough to tell, but for now we can think of her as a little girl who, so far has lived up to her name.

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©2014 Jeannie Garrison. Our first glimpse of Miracle beside a tube of Chaptstick® to show just how small she was.

Miracle is finally bigger than the lip balm she was photographed next to and in the latest photos from her foster family Christal and Jonathan, you can see her limbs look thicker and more robust and her fur looks like it’s growing softer. In fact, Christal believes that Miracle may be a long haired cat. It’s another one of those things where it’s too soon to know for certain.

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©2014 C. Peruzzi. The same age as her step-siblings, Miracle is dramatically smaller, indicating it's very likely she was born premature.

What we do know is last week Miracle was not doing well and Jonathan realized he hadn’t gotten her to pass stool for far too long. How he did this or how he KNEW to do this, is beyond my knowledge of neonatal kitten care, but Jonathan managed to give Miracle an enema with a small amount of mineral oil. He also fed some to the kitten to see if he could get her to function normally.

It worked. The next day Miracle passed very hard stool and after that she began to struggle less and thrive more.

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©2014 C. Peruzzi. Able to sit up on her own.

Miracle doesn’t fight off attempts to feed her any longer. She goes for her bottle and is happy to latch on to her new stepmom-kitty a moment later. She’s eating like a champion and we hope this means the worst days are over for her.

Her step-siblings are about the same age as she is, but compared to her they are gargantuan. They are healthy, happy, thriving, as all kittens should be, growing lovelier every day.

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©2014 C. Peruzzi. Miracle's eyes are opening, yet another good sign.

The other mama in the home is going to give birth soon, too. Though I welcome this news, it also adds to the shocking number of pregnant cats I’m aware of. My friends at Animals in Distress have FOUR pregnant cats and are desperate to find good foster homes ASAP (contact me at info@kittenassociates.org if you live in Connecticut and work with a rescue group or want to foster).

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©2014 C. Peruzzi. The results of round-the-clock care are clear. Miracle IS living up to her name.

We just took a pregnant mom into Kitten Associates, my rescue, and she gave birth two days ago to five healthy kittens (more on that in a future post). I fear “kitten season” is going to be brutal this year, which shocks me because the winter was fairly harsh yet kittens are being born barely moments after the first day of Spring.

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©2014 C. Peruzzi. She feels so good she accepts belly rubs now, too.

I still think about the person who put Miracle and her sibling in the garbage, assuming they would die fairly soon. I wonder if they regret what they did and feel badly about it. I wonder if they don’t sleep well realizing what a horrific thing they did. I wonder if they knew one of the kittens still lived and was possibly going to make it if they would be relieved or just not care. Sometimes I imagine telling them she’s still with us, but they don’t deserve any chance to feel relief. Every day that Miracle is loved and grows bigger and stronger is proof that her precious life DOES matter.

Plus, if I ever met the person who did this I would skip any updates and go straight to hurting them with all I've got.

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Bunny Boo Boo's 14 Month-Long Road Home

Once in awhile you get a foster cat who doesn’t cause any trouble, who doesn’t have serious behavioral issues, who gets a bit…meh-sick…but not really ill. They might not stand out from the crowd. Sometimes it takes more than simply spending time with them to see how they stand apart, but in this case I didn't see this cat's magnificence until I saw her through other people's eyes.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bright-eyed Bunny.

I’m referring to Bunny Boo-Boo, the now full-grown brown tabby who started her story with us as a little 4-month old kitten, dumped in the parking lot of Target in McDonough, Georgia. Bunny’s family, for whatever reason, thought that dumping their cat was the answer for whatever issues they had with her. Was it that they couldn’t afford to take care of her? Couldn’t keep her in their apartment due to regulations? Were they just cold-hearted fiends?

What I do know is in September of 2012, our intrepid foster mama, Maria, was shopping at Target when she saw Bunny, just moments after she got dumped. Seeing cats running loose in her town is not uncommon. It’s a sad fact that there is rampant cat overpopulation in the south and Maria has helped as many as she can (most end up coming to our rescue, Kitten Associates). I don’t know how Maria does it, but she jumped into action, even though she was already fostering other cats for us—even though she has more than enough on her plate.

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Bunny's Adoption Flyer featuring photos of her when she was a kitten. What a cutie!

Maria called me to ask if I could take the kitten and at the time I had to say no, but I did say I would help her find a home for Bunny. Maria got Bunny vetted and I designed a flyer she could hang out at work and share around town. Bunny did very well in Maria’s home. In fact, Maria became very fond of her little tabby sweetheart. A few months passed and Maria felt hopeless about finding Bunny a home. She asked me again if I could help and since I had space I told her I would take her on, knowing I might have a hard time finding Bunny a placement. She was much bigger now and as you know, the bigger they are, the harder to find cats a home.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sleepytime.

Bunny arrived in Connecticut in February of this year, along with her new buddies, George and Bongo. They were all adult cats, but I wanted to see if we could make a go of adopting out cats that were older than kittens. It took a few months, but Bongo and George found a great home together. By then we’d had some changes in our foster spaces and with poor Barney alone, after his brother Fred died, we put him with Bunny and they got along great.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny and buddy, George.

During all these months since Bunny arrived, a friend of mine in Boston named Michelle, had told me she was looking to add a kitty to her family. She and her husband, Pat had a sweet cat named Sunny. Sunny was submissive and shy so when they brought a new kitty into their home, Sunny stopped eating. The new kitty was marvelous on her own, but she was too much for Sunny and they began to worry about his health.

Though they tried everything they could, they realized it wasn’t a good match. They had no other choice but to return the cat to the shelter, but the good news was the kitty was not at any risk and the couple gave the rescue a huge donation and returned their adoption fee. The kitty was adopted again shortly thereafter.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny has a "necklace" of black fur that encircles her neck, then runs down her back, all the way down her tail.

The couple truly suffered after that unfortunate experience and decided to take a very careful, long look for another cat. After they shared their story with me, I suggested a few different cats for them and we talked at great length about each cat’s personality and how it might work with Sunny’s. At the time, Bunny was still in Georgia, so I offered other cats we had as options. Then, nothing came of it.

I didn’t hear much from Michelle for months. I didn’t pester her. I figured she adopted from another place. What I didn’t know was that Michelle had a death in her family and there were a lot of expected issues surrounding that so she stepped back from thinking about adopting a cat for a long time. Meanwhile, Bunny continued to be overlooked as many of our other foster cats got adopted. After the first year passed, I wondered if we'd ever find Bunny a home.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny with new buddy, Confetti Joe.

A few weeks ago, I heard from Michelle. It had been about 10 months since we first started talking about finding her a good match. I told her about Bunny and sent her photos. She used our web cam to observe Bunny’s interaction with her new foster friends, Gracey and Joey.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny snoozing with Minnie's kittens.

Michelle and Pat thought that maybe it was a sign that this was their new cat because they already called their current cat, Sunny-Bunny and they loved how sweet Bunny was with the kittens. She often groomed them and slept with them. If she was so friendly with Minnie's 5 kittens, Barney, George and Bongo, certainly there was a good chance that Sunny would someday be her new best friend.

We set up a time to meet and I thought it might be Bunny’s adoption day, but the couple wanted to drive down from Boston just to meet this kitty and to really, truly make sure that this was the kitty of their dreams.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I oftener watched the kitties sleeping together via our Dropcam.

I liked that they wanted to meet her without the pressure of deciding. They know what a commitment it is to adopt a cat and they take it very seriously. I had a good feeling about it when within the first few moments of entering the room, Bunny walked over to Pat and rubbed up against him! Bunny had been quite a shy kitty when she first arrived in Connecticut and as the months passed she’d become more friendly and outgoing. I was delighted to see her out of her shell, but I also knew that she had to win Michelle over, too.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny is very good at making funny faces.

I left the couple with Bunny to have some private time with her. I thought about how she’d been in our program for over a year and that in all those months she’d only had ONE adoption application that fell through right away. Bunny has beautiful coloring, a deliciously soft coat and is in prime health. She’s also very charming and has a high-pitched me-ow that I find amusing. I don’t know why she never had a line out the door of potential adopters, but in truth, all she needed was one good one.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Licking Gracey's tail.

Michelle called for me to join her and her husband in the foster room. I asked them how it went and they were very pleased. I asked them “Is this your cat?” and they said YES! Though they weren’t ready to take Bunny home with them that day, we did sign the contract, sealing the deal.

Bunny had her forever home, at last.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey and Bunny.

Michelle and Pat wanted time to get their home ready, buy a few things for Bunny and arrange to take a few days off to help ease her transition. I was very impressed and thrilled when they talked about how they plan on spoiling her, too. Clearly, there was something about Bunny that stood out from all the other cats they could have adopted. Maybe I didn’t see how special she was until I saw her through their eyes as they began their lives together. I hope it works out for both Bunny and her new friend, Sunny, but only time and careful introductions will tell.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny the spy.

I’m off to drive Bunny to Massachusetts to start the next chapter in her life. Though it took a very long time for Bunny to find the right place, I’m happy about how things worked out for her. Bunny will have lots and lots of love and the companionship of both humans and a new kitty friend that will bring her great joy.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny often sat on a shelf on the bookcase near the door. She liked to greet me when I entered the room.

From dumped in a parking lot in Georgia to a loving home in Boston—not a bad end for this cat’s rescue tale.

Update: Bunny was delivered to her new mama last night and I've already heard that Bunny was ready for pets and play time not long after she arrived in her new home. I feared she would begin her new life by hiding under the bed, but she just enjoyed getting to know her new family. Go, Bunny! Hurray!

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