[While I try to stay clear of all the juicy details there IS a spoiler alert in this post so be forewarned if you haven't seen My Cat From Hell: 911, My Cat’s Holding Me Hostage!]
I cried during the fledgling episode of My Cat From Hell. It was the first time I ever saw a cat behaviorist work with a cat on television and get seemingly magical results. I’ve worked with cats on an informal basis for years, but the show’s star and self-proclaimed “Cat Daddy,” Jackson Galaxy helped a whole new audience learn to see the world through a cat’s eyes. I knew his work was going to save countless lives of cats who had previously been misunderstood. For that, I am forever in his debt.
Over the past 5 seasons, MCFH has become, I dread to say, a bit formulaic. As we watch each show unfold with the threat of the cat losing its home if it “doesn’t behave” or if “Jackson can’t fix the cat,” we find ourselves feeling a bit like the boy who cried wolf. We know that in the end, the cat will be okay and the family will learn a valuable lesson. The cat always stays in his or her home. What's becomes clear over the years is that often the cat guardians need the training more than the cat does.
In My Cat From Hell: 911, My Cat’s Holding Me Hostage!, Jackson moves us over our “challenge line” into a new realm that feels unsafe. I wasn’t sure I wanted to cross into this uncharted territory. Would the show have a happy conclusion? I watched because I trust Jackson's instincts and unlike some naysayers online, I never thought for a second that Jackson's motives were anything other than sincere. He's not out to grab onto Lux's media magnetism. He convinced Animal Planet to go back into production after the fifth season shooting had wrapped, hoping that documenting his time with Lux would mean a better life for the cat and his guardians and allow the public to see beyond the media firestorm. There was no turning away with such sincere motives.
©2014 Animal Planet. Used with permission. Jackson meets Lux.
The goals of this hour-long episode focusing on Lux the cat, were many, with the main objective being to end the vilification of Lux’s family by the media (not me!) and of Lux, himself. In my interview with Jackson Galaxy, we discussed this episode and went into the details of why 911 was called by Lee Palmer after Lux went berserk after his 7-month old baby pulled Lux’s tail.
Without giving away all the details, I can say that how the show unfolded left me breathless. The story of Lux, his family and how they're coping with being vilified in the media, how they're trying to right their ship, is what I want to see. The editing in of the 911 call clips repeatedly played over and over as the show evolved, were a distraction to the gut-wrenching truth being revealed. I don’t get a buzz from seeing the attempt to re-sensationalize the story by the production company. We KNOW why Jackson is with Lux, let’s focus on moving forward after we get the gist of the past problems.
How Jackson handled this cat’s problems and managed his family’s expectations once he realized he could be over his head were what made this show great. He gave Lee Palmer and Teresa Barker a fair shake, while I remained suspicious about their motives after hearing their description of Lux going on the attack. By the show’s conclusion I realized like so many others, that indeed the family had been terrorized, but now they knew most likely why.
In my interview with Jackson, before the airing of this groundbreaking episode, I asked him if Lux being a bottle baby affected his current condition, to which he agreed. But what didn’t come into play was something that dawned on by watching the show. Lux was REJECTED by his mother, which is different than finding him as an orphan. If you’ve ever fostered a mama cat and kittens, it’s very likely one or more of them don’t make it. It’s Mother Nature. Mama-cats KNOW there is something wrong with their offspring. They won’t feed them and they won’t clean them. They basically ignore them and let them die. Unless humans intervene, these kittens have no chance to live and even if they do try to help, as I learned a few weeks ago, the kittens still often die.
Does that mean Lux should be euthanized? Hell, no!
Regardless of how Lux acquired the issues he has, seeing Jackson go the distance for this cat is a shout out, loud and clear, about how imperative it is to GET YOUR CAT TO A VET whenever they display behaviors that are outside the norm. While I don’t know if this is the case, I was shocked that Palmer and Barker didn’t get this cat checked out FIRST. Perhaps they did, but not thoroughly. It’s too late to throw stones, but again it underscores why, especially in cases like Lux’s, that you can’t just do a physical exam and call it a day. You have to dig as deep as you need to go to get to the answer. Anything less than that is not humane because the cat will end up needlessly suffering, possibly for a lifetime.
©2014 Animal Planet. Used with permission. No longer a villain, Lux has the world rooting for him.
I hope that in future episodes of MCFH, Jackson takes on more difficult cases as we've seen with Lux. We’ve grown in our understanding of cats with Jackson's guidance and have learned so much, but if I’m like most viewers I’m hungry to know more even if that means no guarantee of a happy ending.
A special shout out to the Oregon Humane Society for helping Lux and for a 98% save rate. Well done!
Cat behaviors are often misunderstood, but rarely, if ever, do they make national headlines as it did with a cat named Lux last March.
For Lux, the 4-year old, 11 lb (not 22 lb as reported elsewhere) black and white domestic medium haired cat, the question everyone wants answered is who's at fault for the cat going berserk after his tail was pulled by a 7-month old baby? The incident started an escalating chain reaction. Lux clawed the baby and the baby's father, Lee Palmer kicked Lux in the rear end, then grabbed his kid, his girlfriend Teresa Barker, and their dog as they fled into a back room, terrified at Lux's violent reaction after being struck. Instead of running away from Palmer, he flew sky-high into the red zone, screaming and charging at his family who were cowering on the other side of a locked door.
The result was a call to the Portland, Oregon 911 where they dispatched the Police to rescue the family from the now crazed cat.
©2014 Animal Planet. Used with permission. Jackson Galaxy.
Once the news hit everyone had an opinion about Lux. Some said to put him down for striking a baby. Others said to put the family down for kicking the cat. In stories like this I like to believe that somewhere in the middle lies the truth, but there's only one person uniquely qualified to shed light on this situation.
From ABCNEWS the 911 audio tapes are heard.
I had the pleasure of speaking the Jackson about his experiences with Lux. What surprised me when I chatted with Jackson about this episode was that Jackson, who says it often takes him about 5 minutes to sort out a behavior problem, had a different experience with Lux. Jackson has never worked a case like this. It surprised him, stumped him, frustrated him to no end, but also Jackson discovered he had a great deal of love for this cat—the kind of love he has reserved for his own cats (which he hinted at offhandedly that perhaps Lux might be one day…or at least be a part of Lux's life going forward).
©2014 Animal Planet. Used with permission. Jackson Galaxy meets Lux.
What is unprecedented about the episode: “911, My Cat’s Holding Me Hostage!” is that since it was after season five had finished shooting it took the combined efforts of Animal Planet, the MCFH production staff, local Vets, the Multnomah County Animal Shelter (where Lux had briefly been surrendered) and Jackson to work together to get this story on the air. It's important because “this episode will challenge everyone.” Which was why a full hour was dedicated to Lux. It may very well be My Cat From Hell's coming of age show, something Jackson is very proud of.
©2014 Animal Planet. Used with permission. Jackson making a new friend in Lux.
When asked, Jackson couldn't say what the odds are that Lux will keep his home, even knowing that his family did their homework over the few weeks Jackson worked with them.
©2014 Animal Planet. Used with permission. Aww..really? Does this look like a cat who would cause trouble? Okay…a lot of trouble? Sweet Lux.
Lux's story doesn't have a resolution yet, but his journey is what makes this episode of My Cat From Hell so groundbreaking because it unfolds in ways other shows have never been able to. We discover Lux as Jackson does.
Jackson reminds us that Lux was a bottle baby. Although there haven't been any studies about how the unbreakable bond with the human who cares for orphan kittens effects them as adults, many in rescue already know there's something different about them. Those cats tend to be cats, but “not quite cats.” Without other cats to learn from, these bottle babies have a confused perception of their world. Are they cats? Are they humans? Are they something in between? In Lux's case he has that bond with Teresa, but he also struggles with many behavior issues that Jackson is determined to get to the bottom of.
My final question stumped Jackson and gave our interview a moment of levity. I asked: “Where did the name Lux come from?” Jackson, who had been so focused and passionate about helping the cat overcome his behavior issues never thought to ask. He promised that if the show goes into a sixth season he'd be sure to find out.
My Cat From Hell: 911, My Cat’s Holding Me Hostage! airs Saturday, June 14th at 8pm EST on Animal Planet.
The one and only Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy, has a new WEEKLY web video series, called Cat Mojo that delivers cat-centric tips, stories and more. The series launches TODAY, Dec., 9, 2013 and is sure to become an instant hit. Jackson's teamed up with the Animalist network to bring you his new show which hints at sharing stories about more than just cats! Make sure you check out the trailer to give you a taste of what's to come.
Jackson is finally going to tell us what Cat Mojo really means. Watch his new series to find out!
You can check out the trailer here and make sure you subscribe so you don't miss an episode!
Can't wait? The first episode just aired! You can check out right here!
I’ve often written about the challenges I've faced letting go of a foster cat. My “go to” answer when someone asks me how I can bear the pain of saying goodbye is; “I’d rather cry because they left me and went to a good home than they died alone at a Kill shelter or on the streets, afraid and unloved.”
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson napping, as always.
Since I’ve fostered hundreds of cats over the years, I’ve grown a little callus on my heart. Perhaps it helps me not “lose it” in front of adopters and be able to let go of all the wonderful cats when the time comes.
I don’t always cry when my fosters leave. Sometimes I find that I’m even happy about it. But Jackson was another story all together and frankly it’s taken almost the three weeks since he left to feel okay about him being gone.
Neither Sam nor I had any idea just how much we loved Jackson until it was time to put him into the cat carrier and tuck him into his new family’s car. I looked at Jackson one last time. He looked straight ahead, out through the windshield. His eyes were bright with excitement and perhaps some concern. I whispered; “I love you” one last time and shut the door to the car. I wished everyone a safe trip—a 5 hour trip to northern Vermont where Jackson would be “retiring.”
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
I tried to smile and wave goodbye, but the corners of my mouth weakened into a painful grimace. I turned quickly and walked into the house and immediately burst into racking sobs.
Sam held me as I said I wished Jackson didn’t have to go and that I wanted to run outside and tell them to bring him back. I knew Sam wasn’t always Jackson’s biggest fan since Jackson would charge Sam’s “baby” Nicky, causing Nicky to pee outside of the litter pan. Yet here Sam was with tears rolling down his cheeks, too. Sam has NEVER cried when a cat left us and here he was nodding in agreement. He wanted Jackson back, too. I stopped sobbing and shrieked; “Why didn’t you tell me that before? We could have kept him!”
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Morning pills. (the brown lumps in the Flavor Doh)
Who knew that this demanding cat had left such an impact on our hearts? Jackson woke me up EVERY morning by meowing loudly. Some mornings it was REALLY early. I had to get up or he’d cause a ruckus with the other cats. I tried to ignore him for days on end but every day the result was so bad that I’d rather just get up, get him his morning pills and start the day.
Jackson would yowl the second we turned out the lights to go to bed. I wouldn’t get up because I didn’t want to train him that I’d give him attention if he cried. I tried giving him a late night snack before bed but it didn’t seem to help.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Dangerously close to my office chair, Jackson just wanted to be near me.
Every morning while I was trying to work, Jackson would sit next to my chair and rub me and cry until I gave him some attention-which I always did. Thing is, he would also upset some of the other cats and want to take their place on the cat beds in my office or he’d start bugging me every two seconds. I realized I needed to play with him so I started doing play sessions in the morning before I got to work.
Jackson was a riot chasing his favorite little pom poms across the floor. He also loved da Bird, but after he jumped up to catch it I stopped playing with it. I was too worried that I’d give Jackson a heart attack.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The boy with his sparkle pom pom.
Jackson was almost constantly meowing and almost constantly hungry. He gained five pounds in the year he was with us. Being a BIG cat he could be that size, but in truth the snacks had to be cut back some for his heart’s sake.
As much as I encouraged him, Jackson never sat on my lap and rarely sat on the sofa next to me. I believe someone trained him not to get on the furniture so he would always be in the room, but never close enough to be a lap cat. He also tried to sleep on the bed with us, but that didn’t go over well with the other cats so he stayed downstairs until morning. It wasn't fair that he had to struggle to fit in.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I bought Jackson a fancy cat bed, but he preferred sleeping in a cardboard cat food tray.
It’s quiet with Jackson gone. Nicky rarely pees outside the box. The spraying is almost non-existent. It’s better for the cats that Jackson is not here, but it’s not better for me. I loved that damn cat and the stress of the first week of being separated from him was brutal.
I was really worried Jackson wouldn’t make the trip to Vermont alive, but he did. Once he was in his new home, some of the pipes burst and his family was up most of the night getting it fixed. Jackson didn’t get his medication that night and was off his medications and off his food for about three days after that. I tried not to be a pest, but I was frequently emailing Mickey, his new mom, and trying to get her to let us come get Jackson if he wasn’t eating or getting his much needed medication.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. At home on my office chair.
Jackson could die if he’s off his meds for a long time and I wasn’t about to let that happen. Sam and I started to plan a trip to Vermont, at least mentally prepare, but Mickey’s emails assured us Jackson was slowly acclimating and starting to eat and take his pills.
I backed off and hoped for the best. I wanted to beat myself up about letting Jackson go. After all I’d made a commitment to him and now he’s living somewhere else. In my heart he belonged to me. I slayed dragons for this cat, but I realized as with every foster cat; what is best for them is most important.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The last photo I took of Jackson, napping on a heated cat bed.
It was best for Jackson to have loads of attention and less stress and that’s the home I found for him.
I’ve gotten some updates about Jackson from Mickey. She writes and tells me that Jackson no longer hides, but spends his day with her beau, Offie. Offie has become quite fond of Jackson and the two enjoy each other’s company.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Normally we don't send our foster cats to their new home with so much stuff, but Jackson was an exception.
A favorite pastime is watching movies together. Jackson has a special cat bed that matches his fur so he’s almost invisible as he snuggles in it while his mom and dad watch a movie. Jackson’s been given special places in the house with soft bedding and a special place to eat. Jax met some of the couple’s friends and I’ve heard he’s always talking to Mickey, telling her about his day.
©2013 Offie. Jackson doing well in his new home in Vermont.
Though I’m truly happy for Jackson and his new family, I will always miss that big lug, those big cheeks, getting a headbutt in the morning. His story could have ended a year ago at the sting of a needle in Georgia at a shelter that didn’t have room for him, but he was lucky. I saw in those pale green eyes a long lost friend who needed to come home. I’m just sad that the home wasn’t meant to be mine.
A Valentine's Day card from Jackson..the last words cut off “will you be mine?”
Almost a year ago I saw three photos of you in an email from a kill shelter in Georgia. In one of them someone was holding you up under your front legs, while you stood on your back ones. It was clear you were a big cat, with a big “biscuit head,” but there was something so sad about your expression that touched my heart. Perhaps you had given up and for a two-year old cat to feel that way, just wasn’t right. Even though I don’t often take on adult cats, I had to save your life.
©2012 Betsy Merchant. My first glimpse of Jackson.
I named you in honor of my hero, the Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy, whose hit TV Show, “My Cat From Hell” had me glued to my television every Saturday night. When I named you I had no idea a few months later I'd be having dinner with the man himself. In a way, Mr. Galaxy is your Kitty Godfather.
There were a few bumps in the road. You weren’t neutered. After we did get you neutered, you got a terrible infection from the surgery and we had to do an emergency procedure to save your life again.
I pulled a favor with my friend Katherine and got you a placement with her shelter. You got sick after you arrived. We all thought you had a cold. Looking back on it I wonder if it was something else we’d discover more about later.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. After arriving at Animals in Distress, Jackson took ill.
In a month you found your forever home. We were all so very happy. Your namesake, Jackson Galaxy the Cat Daddy was delighted by the news. Our joy was short lived because in barely a few months, you came back to the shelter. The family said you were getting picked on by their other cats so they gave you to a family member, but shortly thereafter her husband died and that caused another round of problems. They were really sad to let you go, but they felt it was “for the best.”
I felt you needed to come here and be with me until we could find you another home. I counted it up and you’d lived in seven places in the past six months. The last place I wanted you to be was back at the shelter. You needed a break, a home and lots of attention.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This silly side of Jackson emerges.
You didn’t have an easy time being here. With eight other cats you had to find your place in the hierarchy. You attacked some of my cats while they slept. Some of them started urinating all over the house, clearly angered with the new cat in their midst. I yelled at you. I hated you. I hated myself for taking you on but there was also something about you that made me smile. You loved the people you were with and were happy to greet every visitor. I was sad you were having a tough time in an already crowded home. We all suffered.
Then you got sick and we found out about your bad heart and that you were really three to five years old, not two, and that you might not live to be six. After that day I let a lot of my anger go. I accepted you as my own and struggled to figure out how we could all get along.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My beautiful boy.
It’s been a very long road, Jackson, and not an easy one, but during the past six months I have come to love you, just as I love my other cats. I love your chatty nature. Your meow is hilarious. You talk to me all the time and some times you talk too much—especially at 3 AM. You wake me up every single morning, wanting your pill and your breakfast. You head-butt me while you stand on the bathroom counter, while I’m sitting on the throne “doing my business.” You love those tiny pom-pom toys and it makes me laugh when I see you chasing after them. Your feline acne and poor body condition is improved. At 15.10 pounds you’ve gained five pounds since last year. You’re a fine specimen of snow-white male-catlyness with sexy-beast-pale-lime-green eyes. They make me swoon.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson visits Dr Mary and Super-Deb for his checkup before leaving Connecticut.
You vex me as much as you charm me. Though I’ll never know what sort of lousy life you had before, I’m determined whatever you have left will be the best I can provide. I ache for you that some of the cats won’t accept you and I see how you feel like an outsider. Sometimes I wish I had you all to myself. I cherish you so very much.
But now, my friend, it’s time for us to say goodbye. You’ll never get the attention you deserve here and that’s not fair to you. You need to be the star of the show and get all the love and attention. You need less stress so your heart will keep beating. I think you’ll be very happy and I hope this will be the best, last place you will ever live.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. It's 7:30AM and my alarm goes off. It's white and furry and named Jackson.
I’ve been crying every time I think of you leaving. I know I will probably never see you again, unless it’s in a photo. I’m usually okay with that, but this time I think about how I know you’re going to die and I won’t be there with you to help you pass. I can’t protect you any more, but I have to have faith that your new mom will take over my reins with the same passion. It’s just that as annoying as you can be, you also have such a huge, magnetic personality that I can’t help but love you and dread you not being in my daily life.
It will be very quiet and boring here without you. You’re one very special cat who I had the honor of fostering and who I will never forget.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My boy. Life saved. Home secured. At last.
Have a great life, Jax. We’ve had quite a run together and I will miss you more than words can express.
Your foster mom, Robin
©2013 Ryan Feminella.
July was even more difficult on us than June. Maria had taken in two more kittens from her neighbor who were very sick. A buff tabby named Tater Tot was the most ill. The Vet told us it was the “wet” form of FIP which is fatal. His sister, Latte was struggling with a terrible upper respiratory infection. Maria took time off from work to care for the cats around the clock. Neither of us slept much. I researched alternative treatments, testing, anything I could think of while we expected that Tater wouldn't be with us for much longer.
©2012 Maria S. (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our amazing survivor-Tater Tot.
Because Maria is so good at what she does, she noticed that Tater had tapeworms. We ran more tests. His belly was big and round from the tapeworms, giardia and what was almost pneumonia. Once we started treatment he began to show improvement. It took a few weeks but we were very happy to take FIP off the table as we saw Tater eat on his own and gain weight.
King arrived in my home for a few days. He was quite the charmer, but he wasn't meant to be here for very long. Sam and I drove King to New Hampshire, to his new home where his mom, Judy was waiting to adopt him. I loved this home for him and this good woman and her sister. I never thought King had a chance and here he was 1400 miles from the palette factory in a safe, loving environment.
Two of my dear friends adopted Sabrina and Cutie Pie. Their mom, April, found a home in Brooklyn, NY and their sister Bon Bon was adopted in June.
We took on another pregnant mama named Winnie and got a new foster home here in CT. Donna and her husband, Paul are great foster parents. Winnie had five amazing kittens on 8.10.12 named Buttons, Bandit, Honeydew, Charly and Pinkie.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Mama, Winnie (inset) waiting to see Dr. Chris. Buttons flying high while Honeydew and sister, Bandit look on.
I took another fistful of Xanax and flew to Topeka, Kansas to tour the Hill's Global Pet Nutrition Center. I tiptoed through the “dark side,” but made some good friends and learned a lot more about pet food ingredients.
Something horrible happened to my cat Spencer. He stopped eating and hid. X-rays showed a strange mass in his sinus. I tried to prepare myself for the worst. It turned out to be a false alarm which added many more gray hairs to my head.
I was honored to be chosen as one of five members of the Animal Control Advisory Panel, overseeing the operations of our brand new town's Animal Control facility here in Newtown, CT. We had our first meeting and I was delighted to be nominated as Co-Chair of the committee.
Just as I was about to get inundated with kitties from Maria and Cyndie, I found a foster home for two of the remaining black kitties and the final one, Hello Dahlia, was adopted. We got the word that Miss Fluffy Pants found a GREAT forever home and Coco, Chichi, Choco, Tater Tot, Latte, Fred & Barney, and Willow arrived!
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. (inset) the DOOD resting in his cage while his mysterious back injury slowly healed and a few months later enjoying the new cat tree in my office.
Chichi and Choco got adopted right away into a great home.
One morning, the DOOD couldn't get up and walk and was in terrible pain, growling or crying if we touched him. We did x-rays that showed nothing and began talking about taking DOOD to a neurologist or starting him on steroids. It took six long weeks, most of it forced cage rest, before he was well enough to walk again without pain. I think he fell down the spiral staircase to get into the basement where we store food for our feral cat, but we'll never really know what happened.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson getting oxygen before we raced him to the Emergency Vet and Intensive Care (inset). Jackson at home feeling better.
With Maria having space in her home open, we took on a kitty named Bongo who has nerve damage to his front leg. It had been a Hell of a month, but we kept on.
Opal went to a sanctuary and is doing well. She is becoming more friendly each day and she may one day be put up for adoption.
There was troubling news about King. He'd been struggling with chronic, severe and frankly bizarre ear infections. He had to have surgery, loads of daily cleanings, antibiotics. The other cats in the home weren't too sure about him. King faced losing his ears and his home, but his mom never gave up on him.
©2012 Maria S. Bunny Boo Boo (inset) with Bongo (left) and George (right)-who are all ready to be adopted! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
I rescued a knockout silver tabby Maine coon mix named Nico from a kill shelter in Georgia because I knew I could find him a home and I wasn't going to let him die.
Maria found a kitten in a parking lot she named, Bunny Boo Boo that she rescued on her own and we took on another cat whose former mom was going to lose her home if the landlord found out she rescued a cat from the parking lot nearby. We named him George and he and Bongo and Bunny Boo Boo are great friends.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hurricane Sandy, no power for almost a week-just a bad flashback to the year before when we got nailed at almost the same time by “Snowmageddon.”
Hurricane Sandy killed the power and made life HELL for a week making a mess of my home in Sandy Hook, CT.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. You are deeply missed, sweet girl.
Nico arrived and was adopted a few weeks later. The rest of Winnie's family found their forever homes. There were lots of inquiries about adopting kittens since the Holidays were approaching. Tater Tot, in a surprising twist, got adopted instead of Willow, who the family had come to meet. Willow, Fred & Barney and Latte were still with us waiting for their forever homes.
I got good news that King overcame his severe ear issues and was finally settling in with his new family. The other kitties were slowly accepting him and King was finding his place. His mom is the sort of adopter I always wish for-after a very rocky start, loads of vet bills and difficulties, she kept on. She never complained. She was completely devoted. My only hope is that her reward is enjoying the love of a very dear cat and hopefully a much easier future.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our mascot of Covered in Cat Hair and my baby, Spencer before and after surgery.
Spencer had a very challenging dental cleaning where he lost two more teeth and surgery to remove a mass from one ear and another from inside the other. I prepared myself for bad news, but the shock came as the test results indicated it was an apocrin gland cyst with “no content”-meaning NO CANCER.
Sam and I cleared out the garage of recycling one bright sunny morning. After we were done we went to Panera Bread to have a late breakfast. While we were sitting there we saw police cars racing past. I knew something bad had happened and a few minutes later I heard the news of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, which you can read more about HERE and HERE.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My home town will never be the same again. The school is a few miles from my home.
Wanting to reach out and help heal the broken hearts in our town, I created “Kitties for Kids” a kitten-therapy for the children, first responders and residents of Newtown, CT. We were featured on national television news and major news outlets online. We got loads of donations of plush toys and the first children and parents began to arrive to visit our kitties.
Although we had no Christmas and sent out no card (for the first time in my adult life), the joy of knowing I was helping people and the overwhelming honor of so many people reaching out to us was my gift.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. We will never forget and find a way to heal our hearts.
It's been quite a challenging and painful year. I realize that 2013 may be no easier. All I can do is hope that I'll be better able to handle what is yet to come and that for the cats out there who need me, that I'll have the resources to help them when the time comes.
We began the year with a rescue, going beyond our comfort zone by taking on an adult, instead of an easy-to-place kitten. The cat was a huge, white, “biscuit head” tom-cat from Henry County Care & Control. I saw his photo and saw something about him that made me take action. I named him Jackson Galaxy in honor of the Cat Daddy/Cat Behaviorist on Animal Planet's hit show, “My Cat From Hell.”
©2012 Henry Co. Care & Control (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson was a miserable wreck when we first took him into Kitten Associates as our first rescue of 2012.
Jackson had a rough start. He frightened Maria but we realized later it was because he was in great pain. He had a terrible infection from his neutering and he needed emergency surgery to correct the problem and get him back on the road to good health. By the end of the month, Jackson was on the transport headed to Connecticut to find his forever home.
©2012 Bobby Stanford (inset). ©2012 Leesiateh.com. Miss Fluffy Pants shortly before being adopted.
Our friend and volunteer, Bobby Stanford, told me about two cats living outside a palette factory in McDonough, GA. They were living in poor conditions and in danger of being hit by any one of the numerous fork lifts that raced around the premises. One of the two cats, a dirty, thin tuxedo we named King Arthur, seemed to be missing his back paws. Completely horrified I decided we'd help him and the other cat on the premises, who we named Miss Fluffy Pants, because we worried she was pregnant.
©2012 Maria S. (inset). King's mama, Judy. King's journey has been quite amazing. I'll be doing a more in-depth update on him in January.
I was fostering a little orange tabby spitfire named Bobette, along with her two boys, the third had just been adopted. Bobette needed surgery to repair her luxated patella, so I sat in on the procedure and helped her in recovery and for the next few weeks while she healed.
February was a month of discovery. We learned that King's missing paws were due to a birth defect. He didn't need surgery or prosthetics. He could walk on carpeting, but who would adopt this cat? King began to clean himself and gain some weight. He loved being petted until Miss Fluffy Pants came to join him.
Miss FP was not pregnant. We thought the two cats were friends at the factory, but they were not happy to see each other. With some quick thinking and the donation of a cat tree, Miss FP could sit high up, away from King and both cats relaxed into their new foster home.
©2011 Henry Co. Care & Control (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bobette with one of her kittens while at the kill shelter and after surgery in Sam's loving arms.
We also learned the Miss FP was FIV+ which we knew would put a roadblock in our ability to find her a good forever home. With her taking up valuable foster care space I got to work trying to figure out what to do for her that didn't mean putting her in a sanctuary.
We were heartbroken to learn that after some behavior issues gave us a clue to trouble, Dr. Larry diagnosed Sam's cat, Nicky with Chronic Renal Failure. We began giving him sub Q fluids every few days and began to learn more about this condition and ways we could lengthen his life.
Jackson arrived in Connecticut and was placed with my friends at Animals in Distress, but fell ill after arriving there. They thought it was a mild upper respiratory infection and in time he was feeling better. By the second week of February, Jackson found his forever home with a loving family. We were all delighted.
©2011 Maria S. (inset) ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Two of Bobette's boys, Jakey & Teddy.
Bobette continued her recovery, but was still limping. I had to separate her from her boys because she hissed and growled every time she saw them. The boys, Jakey & Teddy had a blast hanging out with my cats while I continued to try to find them a great home.
The saying is March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but this March was the opposite; quiet for a few weeks, then things started to go crazy.
Bobette had the staples taken out of her leg and due to a problem with the bandage removal she ended up biting my hand so badly I had to see a Doctor.
I found a blueish growth on my cat Gracie's abdomen. She had a dental done and had the cyst removed. It ended up being an Apocrine Gland Carcinoma, but was considered to be completely excised and of no further concern.
Jakey & Teddy were adopted together and Bobette was glad to see them leave.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me with Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy.
On March 26th, a few days before my birthday, Jackson Galaxy emailed me and asked me out to lunch (which ended up being dinner). It was one of the best days of my life, but that wasn't all that happened. That night in the frigid cold in nearby Trumbull, CT, six mostly black kittens were born to a gray mama named April. I didn't realize it at the time, but they would be my next foster family.
The next day, still buzzing from my visit with Jackson, I was honored by Freekibble.com with a donation of a full palette of Halo® canned cat food! The press came to document the event and I started to wonder if the foster cats would eat it (they loved it!).
The Worst Birthday Ever was followed by picking up April and meeting her mostly all black female kittens for the first time. Three kittens were polydactyl and there was no way I was going to be able to tell most of them apart for the next eight weeks.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. April and her kittens.
I rescued a senior cat named Leo who was an adorable long haired tuxedo. The poor cat was forced to live outside on scraps when his owner's wife had a baby. I begged my friend Katherine to take him into Animals in Distress if I paid the Vet bill. We worked something out and Leo was saved. A few months later, Leo and a second cat found an amazing home with a family I found for them here in town. They are doing GREAT.
A missing cat alert showed up in email with a very familiar name, Amberly. One of my former foster cats was MISSING and the family didn't have the nerve to tell me. I leapt into action. Thank GOODNESS Katherine has good instincts and lived nearby the family. By the next DAY Katherine found Amberly and the family promised to work harder to keep her inside.
©2012 Maria S. (inset) and Robin A.F. Olson. Coco, all grown up with siblings Choco and ChiChi (inset).
Maria contacted me about a tortie mom cat we named Cami and five kittens in her neighbors yard. She was very worried about them so I told her to find a place to put them and we'd take them on. By the time Maria got back to the home, two of the kittens were gone, never to be seen again. We named the surviving kittens Coco, ChiChi and Choco.
On May 1st a shelter called AnimalKind in upstate New York suffered the total loss of their facility after a small fire caused the sprinkler system to flood the 3-story building. Through my contacts a pet product companies I was able to provide them with palettes of food and litter. Later in 2012 I visited their facility and met with their Director, Katrin Hecker. You can read about my visit HERE.
I travelled to New Jersey to attend Bottle Baby Bootcamp at Tabby's Place. The timing was great because the black kittens needed help since poor April was having a tough time feeding all the kittens. I worried the littlest one wouldn't make it, but Cutie Pie surprised me and began to do well. I named her sisters Sabrina, Bon Bon, Beauty, Belly Holiday and Hello Dahlia (in honor of my friend, JaneA's cat Dahlia who had recently passed away).
Then a crazy thing happened.
JaneA came to visit us and instead of falling in love with her cat's namesake, she threw me a curveball, clearly falling in love with our little spitfire, Bobette. She adopted her the next morning before she left for her home in Maine. It was a one of the happiest adoptions I'd ever done.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. JaneA with her girl, Bobette (who she later named, Kissy)
By the end of the month there was more somber news. Jackson the cat lost his home and was being returned. Since I had space I offered to take him back since AID was full up.
June will forever be a tough month for me since it's the anniversary of my Father's passing and of my favorite cat's passing. I hoped that this June would not be under such a dark cloud but it was not meant to be.
Thankfully it wasn't all bad news. After months of searching, begging, dealing, I was able to get Miss Fluffy Pants transferred to Good Mews in Marietta, Georgia.
©2012 Maria S. (inset) and Robin A.F. Olson. Willow is still looking for her forever home! You can visit her Petfinder page HERE
Maria, our cat-magnet, rescued a cat from a tree. She named her Willow and we added her to our group of rescues in Georgia. Meanwhile, I got a curious email from a lady in New Hampshire inquiring about King. She had a fully carpeted home. She had two cats. Did I think King might be happy with her?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me, Jill Delzer (center) and Ingrid King (far right). Inset: Joanne McGonagle, Me with Gracie the cat.
And for the first time in many years, I took a fistful of Xanax and boarded a plane headed to Salt Lake City where Sam and I were Speakers at BlogPaws 2012. I was up for two awards that I did not win, but I had so much fun and made a great new friend. In those few days I was re-energized enough to keep doing rescue work once I got home.
Maria removed another cat from her neighbor (with his consent)- who NEVER spays or neuters his cats. Maria has tried repeatedly to get the cats taken care of but he just puts it off and his cats get pregnant. A nine month old kitten named Opal, who had become almost feral, was pregnant. Our new foster mom, Cyndie offered to take her in and help her along. Sadly, the stress of being in a home pushed Opal in to premature labor. Four kittens were born, but after extensive attempts to save their lives, only two survived. She named them Fred & Barney. We had their siblings Pebbles and Bam Bam cremated and their little wooden urn is here with me placed next to my cat, Bob's ashes.
The first morning after Spencer's surgery I went over to his crate and opened the door so he could stretch his legs. I hated having to confine him, but it's only for a few days. There's a pen attached to his crate once the door is open. It gives him more space, but keeps him from running around. He's supposed to rest. He's supposed to wear that damn “cone of shame.” He's supposed to be feeling awful for a few days.
I started placing the dishes out onto the counter. I count to myself the numbers 1 through 9. I have enough plates. Next is to get the raw food thawed so I go over to the refrigerator and pull out a package of food that Sam made up a few days ago. I hear a weird sound and turn. I don't see anything so I go back to what I was doing but something caught my eye. It was Spencer. He was sitting in his “spot” where he usually waits to be fed. He looked up at me and gave me the ever-familiar silent meow, letting me know he was hungry. The sound I heard must have been him jumping over the pen when just the night before there was no way he could manage.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. “This is your cat on drugs.”
It would be a good hour before the food was warm and Jackson, too, was fussing about wanting to eat. Who am I to say no to them after the last day we had?
I grabbed a few cans of one of their favorite canned grain-free foods and scooped some out on a dish. I hid Spencer's antibiotics and Jackson's pile of pills into the food after I'd coated them in my favorite stuff-Flavor Doh. It really works to hide pills! I put the food down and within two seconds, pills and all, it was gone. Spencer ate normally for the first time in MONTHS. He'd been chewing out of once side of his mouth, a telltale sign of some sort of dental problem. Here he was, like nothing ever happened. Meanwhile, Jackson was chowing down, wanting more. I couldn't be happier.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Purple-buprenex-haze.
Later that morning, as I sat at my desk, Spencer ran over and jumped into his favorite cat bed which is at table top height and is right next to me. I was so glad to see him, even though he was supposed to be in his cage resting. He seemed very comfortable even though he was still on Buprenex and was a bit loopy. Blitzen and Nicky were also in my office fast asleep. I felt safe again with them here. I couldn't get over how dreadfully lost I felt without them less than 24 hours ago. We were a family again and everyone was basically okay.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson, back to his old self.
I've said it many times before that my finances are in the shitter. Part of it was due to how much we spent trying to keep Bob Dole (my cat) alive, along with some other very costly Vet visits. I knew if Spencer had cancer I'd have a very very very hard time paying for his care. I would find a way, but when you're in a deep hole already, you don't have much energy or tools to dig deeper.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My lovely floor.
Meanwhile Jackson was back to his old ways. He was LOUD, meowing the second we went to bed, then starting up again very early in the morning. He wants his pills/snack at 7:20AM. I do not need an alarm clock with him. He's almost spritzed cat urine in the bedroom but I watch him like a hawk and have stopped him a number of times. It's exhausting. I don't know what it would take to get him to stop doing it. There's competition for the bedroom and he rarely stays the night. He's probably trying to scent the place so he can take over. Meanwhile it's pee pee pads by the front of the bed to protect the rug and a lot more policing then I'd like to do.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Yummy goodness, but naughty boy.
Jackson is not deaf. He MAY be hearing impaired to some degree, but I'm not sure how severe it is. He CAN hear me, especially if I YELL at him to NOT PEE on the BED. As for more subtle sounds, he may have a problem. More testing needs to be done.
For now it's simply watch and wait—make sure everyone stays out of trouble, eats their food, takes their medicine. Spencer's been very good about not picking at his sutures and for that I continue to be happy.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer with the only Friskies I allow in the house.
I also have one more thing to be HAPPY about.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Soulful Jackson.
I could barely speak and I had to hold back my tears as I thanked her profusely and hung up the phone. I ran to Sam to tell him, the tears falling freely, before I could get the words out, leaving him to think it was the worst before he realized it was the BEST NEWS EVER!
Not only was Spencer just fine and dandy, but the weight of worrying about how I would pay for his care lifted. What a great gift! It was completely unexpected and so very very sincerely appreciated. My boys were back home with me, just where they belong. I wanted to hold each one tight and never let them go.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me and my baby. It's going to be okay.
I may not have ever had human children, but I suddenly felt like I understood how the bond between a Mother and child-how it must feel to almost lose someone you love very much, then yank the back from the edge of the cliff at the very last second. It's been quite a week and this time we get a happy ending. I know it won't always be like this, but for now it's all good.
Jackson made it to the Vet without dying, but he cried pitifully once we entered the waiting room and were met by two big dogs. I blocked Jackson from seeing them as much as I could, fighting off the urge to grab the dogs and run them out of the building and release them into the parking lot while their owners ignored their interest in my cat.
One of the Techs took Jackson into the back room. This time I wasn't invited to join them. She came back out and we discussed Jackson's symptoms. We'd noticed he was a bit off and on over the past few days, but he'd maintained his good appetite until that day. He'd regurgitated his food after eating two days ago, but other than that he was just a bit more quiet than usual.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. At the Vet, now would he survive the Exam?
That was it. Now we wait. We wait for two cats who are at some risk of having a really bad day. I asked after Spencer, but they hadn't gotten his blood work back yet, which would either allow them to do his surgery of have to postpone it. Sam drove us home. Neither of us spoke a word. I closed my eyes and tried to rest. I realize stress is a killer and I have to work on how I deal with situations like this. What I really wanted to do was crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head.
When we got home, as I walked in the door, I stepped on my stupid-jeans again, re-igniting my irritation. If it hadn't been such a cold day I would have yanked them off then and there. Instead, I got to work and focused on keeping myself busy. I kept looking at the clock, trying to imagine what was being done.
Shortly after 2PM Dr. Larry called me. He's just finished working on Spencer and wanted to give me his findings.
Spencer's mouth was a MESS, his gums were like “hamburger meat.” Spencer needed two molars removed which were very difficult to get out. The other teeth looked remarkably good. I need to insert a note here that I've recently learned that the theory about WHY cat's teeth are SO BAD is because they no longer gnaw on food as they would if they were killing a mouse or chewing on a bone. They can't crunch dry food and canned is too soft. Since their teeth have no real pressure on them the blood supply is reduced, hence poor oral health. To solve this if you're like me, you'd give the cats raw chicken necks, wings or turkey necks or wings to give them something to sink their teeth into. NOT COOKED with brittle bones-just rinsed with cold water and served raw.
Dr. Larry removed the small wart on the back of Spencer's leg (that I discovered as I was loading him into his cat carrier that morning).
…and Dr. Larry didn't feel comfortable taking it now. We'll keep an eye on it instead.
The good news was that Spencer's blood work was “very good,” ”nothing remarkable.” Considering Spencer is about eleven years old, having good blood work results is something to be proud of-Go Raw Diet!
Dr. Larry offered to give Spencer a shot of Convenia to which I adamantly opposed. He doesn't like it for oral issues anyway so I'm to give Spencer Clindamycin for the next two weeks as well as give him pain meds for a few days. Spencer is to get cage rest and wear “the cone of shame” until “he doesn't need to any more.”
By 6PM Spencer was ready to come home, but what of Jackson? I hadn't had any update. I didn't even know if he was ALIVE. When we reached the Clinic the first thing we asked was; “Do we have one or two cats to bring home tonight?”
The answer was TWO.
Okay, good start. They brought Jackson out. He was sitting up, meowing loudly. He looked GOOD, perky, ready to go HOME. Dr. Mary did his examination and talked about how she worked hard not to upset Jackson, which also meant she couldn't do many tests other than an examination and get his temperature. She gave Jackson more lasix to help move the fluid out of his lungs and around his heart. Jackson sounded VERY WET when he coughed and I'd already spoken with Dr. Larry about changing the dose, but he wanted to wait. Cats don't do that well on diuretics so adding more has to be done very soberly and thoughtfully.
After the injection, Jackson took a big pee, then perked up. Because his lungs are really wet and they could be breeding bacteria, she also gave him antibiotics (which I will continue for two weeks). We discussed changing Jackson's meds and will work something out there. For now he was to go HOME, get something in his belly and see how he does.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Feel beter, Jackson Galaxy!
It would answer the question of why he yowls just as we go to bed each night. He can't hear where we went off to and wonders where we've gone. He may be causing fights with the other cats because he can't hear their cues/warnings to get away. I said we'd observe him and report back. My goodness Jackson's certainly keeping me on my toes.
They brought Spencer out and he was growling a little bit, clearly whacked out on painkillers. They forgot to give me the cone of shame and I silently hoped he wouldn't pick on his stitches. Ears can bleed a lot and if he messed with the stitches I'd have to get one on him right away. He can get very crabby. Having to cage rest him for a few days would be asking too much of him already.
I had my boys back home and I hoped they were changed for the better. It was back to watch and wait to find out if they'd benefited some long term positive results. I had a better idea of what I was dealing with and they both survived the day.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer in his pen with Blitzen wondering what's going on.
Once home, I was finally able to take off my annoying jeans and toss them into the laundry. Next stop the dry cleaners to get the dammed things hemmed up or maybe dig out some duct tape to do the job?
Stay tuned for part three!
The past 24 hours have squeezed the life out of me. I could barely make it to my bed last night I was so tired.
The morning started off too early. I wanted to go back to bed as soon as I left it, but I pushed myself to get into the shower. Get dressed. Get going. I had to get ready to leave for Dr. Larry's with Spencer in tow. It was finally time for Spencer to get his MUCH NEEDED dental cleaning done, as well as the removal of an ugly black growth from the edge of his right ear. Spencer also had a small growth INSIDE his left ear that had to go, too. It was these two unwelcome guests that I was most worried about. Was it CANCER?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My baby.
I got dressed and put on a new pair of jeans. I managed to get them half price on Cyber Monday. It was the first new pair of clothes I'd had since I could remember. They fit great but were a bit too long. As I walked I kept catching the ends under my feet, causing me to hike up my jeans as high as they could go, but then they'd slip back down. I'd get them hemmed later, but it made me crankier.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Growth highlighted. Was VERY difficult to notice this until it was bigger due to Spencer's coloring.
Spencer was a dream to get into his cat carrier, but once we got into the car, his pupils dilated and he started to, well, not meow, per se, but sort of squeak. Spencer doesn't meow. He never has. I call what he does "air meow" because he WILL look at me, then open his mouth; it's just that nothing comes out but some air from his lungs.
I took the back roads instead of the highway, determined to keep Spencer as comfortable as possible. Just before we reached the Clinic, a cop car whizzed past us, lights and sirens blaring. I knew from the days when I volunteered with EMS that it had to be bad news, the more noise and fuss the car was making, the worse the situation. I wondered where he was going as a sense of dread filled my heart. I hoped this wasn't a bad sign of things to come.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This is Spencer's favorite spot, right next to me when I'm working at my desk.
It was quiet at the Clinic so I asked if I could set Spencer up in his cage and to spend a few minutes saying goodbye. I've been a client of Dr Larry's for over 15 years so I get to go in the back where client's aren't usually allowed.
There were two big dogs barking loudly. The Tech got them to quiet down, but it ticked up my anxiety wanting to protect Spencer from these beasts. Spencer didn't want to come out of his carrier. I couldn't blame him. I ended up having to tip the carrier up on its edge hoping gravity would do the trick and it did.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Dirty, yucky, teeth and gums.
I spent a few minutes talking to Spencer, petting him, kissing him, somehow trying to capture this moment because of the fear under all the other fears—that I would never see Spencer again. I realize it may sound dramatic, but over the past few weeks so many cats have died that I just felt this sense of impending doom. I kept thinking about Bobette and how we all thought she was going to be fine and she didn't survive her surgery. I pushed back my fears as best I could, but I wasn't raised to have faith, my parents feeling we should decide our own path to religion (if we had one at all). It left me struggling with my feelings.
I didn't go straight home. I decided to go grocery shopping, get just a few things. I was tired of being hungry and broke, but I certainly had enough to buy some bread and eggs, maybe some soup. The store was not crowded, being that it was not even 9AM. I enjoyed the meditative quality of walking up and down the aisles, looking at all the food, wondering what was on sale and what would make for an inexpensive meal while my tummy rumbled reminding me I'd skipped breakfast.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Not comin' out!
As usual, I bought more than I anticipated, but took advantage of the sales and saved $40.00, for which I felt quite proud. I distracted myself long enough to forget my worries about Spencer. He was in good hands. I had to wait and see how things would unfold, but I couldn't fool myself completely. I was really cranky from being tired and from struggling to not to be worried. By the time I got home I was in a bad mood.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Too fluffy for feet? Spencer in his cage.
I got the car unloaded and Sam helped me put the groceries away. He didn't say anything to me until we were done.
“I need to talk to you about Jackson.”
I felt a ice pick in my gut and my legs go wobbly.
“He didn't eat this morning and is hiding in your office. I can't get him to eat. Something's wrong.”
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This makes me sick-I think of all the “urgent” cats who need to get out of shelters and I look at this photo and see my sweet kitty-how much I love him-how easy it could be for him to be one of those cats.
I began rattling off questions as we walked into my office. Sure enough there was Jackson with his front legs tucked under him. It's called “meatloafing” and it's an indicator that Jackson was in pain. I squatted down and petted Jax. He didn't respond. Normally Jackson would press his head back into my hand and start purring right away. He just sat there in stone silence.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The day before he was a bit “off.”
I hustled back into the kitchen, my jeans getting caught up under my feet. I wanted to rip them off and throw them out. My mind racing, I thought of things I had on hand to tempt Jackson to eat. Nothing worked. I even brought out the big guns-DRY FOOD. He wouldn't even sniff it.
Once at the Vet we wouldn't be able to do anything to him other than an exam because the stress, again, could push him into heart failure. Jackson was only to have home visits from Dr. Larry, not trips to see him!
We started to get ready, then I stopped Sam. We both sat down in the living room, looking at Jackson, who'd relocated along with us. I didn't want to rush a decision. He'd only missed ONE meal and we were running him to the Vet. How nutty did that sound? Maybe we should wait a day and see how he does? Maybe he's in trouble and we need to bring him in right away?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. We chose to risk the trip to the Vet. It was up to Jackson if it could make it.
We went back and forth weighing the pros and cons.
We offered him the cat carrier and he got up and went right inside it-no fuss-no stress. It was a good start, but would we MAKE it to the Vet?
I asked Sam to drive slowly, to take the back road I'd just been on an hour before with Spencer. We stopped part way into the trip because Jackson started to cry. I was sitting next to his carrier with the door open, my arm snaked around the door so I could offer him what comfort I could. He was sitting awkwardly, crying as I scratched his neck. I wondered if I'd made a terrible mistake and if this trip was sending Jackson's heart into dangerous rhythm.