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Top Cat Blog from BestForTheKids

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WOWIE!

 

 

BestForTheKids selected our blog as one of the Top 16 Cat Blogs to follow if your kids love cats! What a lovely honor and thrill!

Also, that means someone is reading my blog?! Hurray!

 

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©2017 Waverly and her kittens Willoughby and Weatherby, some of the many kittens we've rescued over the years. This sweet family will be up for adoption on Kitten Associates in the next few weeks!

This is what they had to say:

 

"An overwhelming majority of kids absolutely ADORE pets. A large portion of those kids love nothing more than a cute, fluffy cat. Here at BestForTheKids, we cover the importance of pets in the life of kids and how pets help kids become compassionate human beings.

 

It took us more than 3 weeks to come up with this list of carefully vetted cat blogs that had to go through several filters before being considered useful for parents who'd like to know about cats mainly because their kids love them.

So, without further ado, here are 16 top cat blogs (in alphabetical order) run by their amazing cat-literate owners that you should check out as a parent."

Here's their complete LIST

Thank you so much for this honor and welcome to our new friends. Hope you'll visit us again!

It's HERE! #FairfieldCountyGives is TODAY!

FCC Gives FB Banner 2017 for cich

It's here...the 24-hour giving marathon that can be a game-changer for my little rescue, Kitten Associates.

 

The deal is to get as MANY UNIQUE DONATIONS (that means one donation per person) of $10 or more over a single day-Thursday, March 9, 2017. The non-profit in Fairfield County Connecticut who gets the MOST UNIQUE DONATIONS WINS $20,000!

 

We have NEVER had even CLOSE to that amount of money in the bank in our 7 years doing rescue. We could finally upgrade our miserable foster room, get INSURANCE!, get toner for our printer and bank a bunch of funds to provide vet care for the cats we have now and the cats we'll be able to rescue in the coming days. We need a lot of funds for things that aren't easy to raise funds for and this award would change the history of our rescue efforts.

 

To Donate, go to our SPECIAL DONATION PAGE ON FCGIVES.

 

 

DONATE $10 OR MORE. Your donation IS Tax-Deductible.

 

 

TELL YOUR FRIENDS TO DO THE SAME. Sharing this post can dramatically improve our chances!

 

Stay tuned to our Facebook Page for updates throughout the day!

Know that every dollar matters and makes a huge difference to our rescue efforts. With Kitten Season upon us and two new kittens and their mom in our program, it's going to be a busy year.

Just Born
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Waverly and her not-yet-named newborn kittens a few minutes after they were born on 3/2/17. They are our first kittens of 2017.

The Feral50. Unimaginable Joy. Ch 2.

continued from Ch.1

It astonishes me how resilient cats like “Waterbury 1” can be, even with a mouth full of slowly dissolving teeth, infected gums and with burning sores on and under her tongue. Somehow through all of this, W1 has made impressive progress since I discovered her in a parking lot barely alive a week ago.

 

Her vet said she’d never seen anything so bad. W1’s teeth were either falling apart or were fused to her jaw from years of untreated stomatitis. If it was a human, the fragile gums would have been packed with gauze, but with the delicate bones of the feline jaw it wasn’t possible. The vet had to gently suction mucous and bloody pus out of the cat’s mouth before she could even intubate the cat and begin the difficult procedure. She had to remove the roots of teeth that were long gone and separate the teeth off the jaw bone. I don’t want to think about how much pain W1 must have been in and for how long.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Sweet W1 before rescue, waits her turn to eat.

Every single one of W1’s teeth were removed. My guess is the root cause was bartonella gone unchecked for years, but it could also have been from other issues; we’ll never really know.

Her matted fur was completely shaved off. I asked if she got a bath, but they only needed to rinse her paws off because they were filthy.

I can’t help but imagine her wanting to use her front paws to wash her face before she gave up on trying. She had to have been rubbing dirt from her paws into her already infected mouth if she could manage to clean herself at all. I feel sick thinking about it.

 

Oddly enough she had no fleas, but does have ear mites for which she’s been treated. She’s on very heavy duty pain medication and is on an IV because she’s anemic and has an elevated white blood count.

With all her challenges, W1 still ate food barely a day after her procedure was completed. This remarkable girl wants to live. Though she shows no signs of being friendly, she has only been fearful with the staff, no hissing, no aggression so far.

Our new kitty
©2017 Robin AF Olson. W1's sister with a few of the other colony cats.

We’d gotten W1 medical attention, but the “what do we do now” question returned. There was discussion that W1 would come to me. We’d reunite her with her nearly twin sister, who was just trapped yesterday. I’ve read that relocating ferals is more successful if they’re paired. Thankfully, the sister is not sick AND to our surprise she was spayed a long time ago. We discovered she has a very badly done ear tip, so all she needed done was her vaccination updates. After vetting she was ready to be released back to the lot, but because we wanted her with her sister, we’re holding her for a few days. Maybe she’s friendly and we can work with her. We’ll have to see how it goes.

Or maybe we won’t…

Meanwhile…

 

…one of the Vet’s clients had come to the clinic to drop her cat off to have a dental cleaning. She saw W1 in surgery, then heard W1’s story, and was so moved she offered to adopt the cat if she needed a home.

 

Wait. Adopt a FERAL CAT? Would she live outside?

 

No.

 

W1 would live INSIDE her house, even if she was feral. The woman has a lot of experience with both feral cats and cats who have suffered the same dental issues as W1. W1 would want for nothing, ever. She would get the best care possible. It would be a far better situation than I could give W1, but what about her sister?

I try not to be jaded and maybe I’m afraid that telling you now will jinx it from really happening. That this amazing woman came forward at all turns W1's story into a fairytale of epic proportion. She added when we spoke this morning that she would consider adopting W1’s sister, too.

What I’m learning and finding terribly difficult is this is an extremely fluid situation-more fluid than my brain can process. Day and night I get emails, texts, calls about what to do, who I should call, who told me what, trying to track what everyone is doing or needs and sorting out where each trapped cat was going to go (though I am thankfully not in charge of that). One minute I have a feral cat in my garage (as I did last night). The next minute I find myself signing up to take on two feral cats that may not be a good fit to even live as ferals! I’m asking my foster homes if they can take on a cat or two, or maybe even a pregnant feral if we come across another one. Not to be a complete whiner, but I REALLY wanted to take a few months OFF from rescue and just REST. What have I gotten myself into?

 

Between work, the #Feral50 craziness and finding my cat Petunia having focalized seizures last week I am fried. (and very sadly it looks like Petunia may have brain cancer-which I will write more about later)

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Petunia mid-seizure. We lost her mother, Gracie just over a year ago.

There’s a great divide in my head about what I expected and what I’m experiencing. I realized tonight that it’s akin to dealing with a totally different kind of animal rescue. Getting a litter of kittens to foster takes some vetting and fussing and cleaning and de-worming and such, but with the ferals, it’s all about logistics. After trapping: where do they go? where do they get spayed/neutered? where do they spend a day to three days recovering? where do they go after that? Are they dumped-strays who are friendly and need a home? If so, is there a rescue to take them? If not, how can we get a rescue to take them or should they go back to the parking lot where we assumed all would go but may not be the case now. YIKES!

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. A few of these guys have already been trapped.

I’m surprised that of the first eight cats trapped we discovered a few of the cats were either already vetted and may be friendly and not feral at all. The people who have done a lot of trapping and working with ferals seem different, too. Maybe tougher in some ways and better at going with the flow. I can’t quite put the words together yet because it’s so new to me, but they seem okay with the constantly shifting tasks we need to accomplish times 50+.

And further surprises…

The gray cat with the strange fur was in my garage last night. I didn’t try to touch him, thinking he needed peace and quiet after being trapped. When he went into his foster home tonight he was head-butting his foster mom, soliciting pets! He didn’t even come out of his cat carrier the 24 hours he was here. I assumed he was scared and to leave him be, but he really wanted love.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Gray kitty needed help, too, so he was high on our list to be trapped.

 

Some of the others are not feral either. I don’t know how common this is that there are more friendlies than true ferals in a colony, but it’s heartbreaking. All these cats getting dumped for whatever selfish, thoughtless, heartless reason. As a cat behavior counselor I know there are many reasons cats lose their homes that are fixable behavior issues, yet here these poor creatures are, fighting for their lives in difficult circumstances.

 

Last night we had an ice storm followed by pounding winds and rain. I kept thinking about the cats, imagining them hiding under the blue tarps near the warehouse, huddled for warmth. It makes me even more anxious to get all of them whatever help they need. I know they were all getting fed and that goes a long way to keep them alive. Some of the team have begun putting out shelters and I hope the cats will start using them soon.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. They got him and now I've got him!

Tomorrow there will be more trapping. Eight cats have been trapped and maybe eight more will get grabbed. I thought we were going to have a game plan and do a big trapping all at once, but the folks in charge are just going for what they can trap with the traps they have. I don’t know what is the best way or if it matters how it’s done. It’s just amazing that it IS being done so fast when the donations are barely coming in the door for the spays/neuters. They're finding vouchers from other rescues or calling in favors. They’re just getting it done and I need to learn how to move as fast as they do, but I think I need more caffeine first.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Temporary lodging, gray kitty is hiding in his cat carrier. He ate 9 oz of food over night. Glad he has a full belly.

Waterbury1 is resting in her cage at the vet. She’s clean and beginning her life anew. Her vet wants her to stay at the hospital for the full week so she can continue to monitor her recovery. We raised almost enough for the high end of the estimate. If a few more donations come in we’ll be all set until we trap the other cats who are sick or injured.

This experience is all about how to face something difficult without having any idea beyond step number one about how you’re going to get to step number two. It’s about finding faith that you’ll get there¬—that it will all shake out just fine. If you don’t have enough faith, you’re going to fantasize about sitting in a darkened room with a big box of chocolate chip cookies on hand and plenty of time to eat every single one. Don’t ask me how I reached this hypothesis, but I just know it to be true.

As I’ve written in the past, a majority of the rescue process is about having faith that everything will be okay one day no matter how bumpy the path might be.

The tough part is believing it.

And lastly, W1’s adopter liked my choice of a proper name for her instead of W1: Hyacinth, but then, after some discussion, she added that perhaps she should name the cat, Robin.

NOTE: If you'd like to make a donation towards W1's care, there's complete info on ways you can help on the previous post. Stay tuned for even more news about the #Feral50.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Such beautiful creatures.

2016: The Year in Review

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

January

Sick cats. Lots of sick cats.

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

Bright Side

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

No, it wasn’t.

 

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

 

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. After a year and a half, the girls finally get adopted together...or do they?

February

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

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

Bright Side

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

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

March

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

Bright Side

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

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

 

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

 

April

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

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

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

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

…there is no bright side….

 

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

 

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

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Sweet Cricket.

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

May

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

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

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

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

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

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

June

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

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Izzy and the McFarlands.

 

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

 

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

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

July

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

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. My poor 15-year old cat, Spencer barely moved or ate.

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

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

 

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

 

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©2016 Robin AF Olson.

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

August

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

Bright Side

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

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

September and October

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

November

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

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

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

Ugh.

 

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

 

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Buddy before sugary.

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

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

 

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

 

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

December

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

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

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

Bright Side

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

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

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

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

Final Words about 2016

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

The Queen of Number Two

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

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

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

 

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

 

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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.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Poop Fairy R Olson copyright

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Freya vs the DOOD.

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

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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.

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

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

©2016 Robin AF Olson. Freya fetches.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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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.

Cats Shows and Breeders and Haters, oh My.

I like to think I’m open-minded. I try to give everything and everyone a chance, resisting the temptation to make a judgment about an issue based on little or no facts. With my life, via this blog, being part of the fabric of social media, I find that people are very willing to express their feelings about what experiences I've written about and can be quick to make negative comments. It gives me pause. It makes me wonder if I should not write any more or if it’s worth it to constantly open myself up to a volley of negativity.

As always, I will go to my center, where my goal is simply to tell my story and through my experiences possibly educate anyone who takes the time to read these words. Success AND failure is something we learn from. My ups and downs are like anyone else’s, except for that they’re a lot more public and open to scrutiny.

I ask that you remain open-minded as I tell this tale because I know it’s a minefield and may fill some of you with a lot of strong emotions ready to fire off, but I have to speak my peace.

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It’s been a very long time since I’ve left the house for more than a few hours, and even a longer time since I’ve gone anywhere overnight. As much as I love my cats and Sam, I needed a break.

I was supposed to attend an animal rescue related conference in early April, but I got the flu the day before I was to leave. I was so sick I didn’t do anything for three weeks other than lay in bed and feel miserable. I was so angry, feeling robbed of my one tiny chance to get away. I cursed at the sky and asked whoever the Big Boss is, why, someone who helps others, who is so poor, who works so hard, gets the flu the one day she is supposed to do something for herself (which in truth will help others since she’ll learn things about rescuing cats).

I still had one more trip to look forward to this year and I decided early on that I’d get there, no matter what. I’d been invited to attend a cat show in Massachusetts as a Guest Judge. Judge? Cat Show Judge? Me?

Not only that, but little Freya, our pooping-wonder-cat, was invited to be the Guest Cat! If I wanted to, I could show her in the Household Pet Cat division. Did I? Gosh, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but it also was an opportunity to educate people about the importance of saving the life of a cat who was deemed “un-savable.”

Freya is our Mascot after all. It’s through her that we were able to help save more kittens with atresia ani and put a spotlight on the importance of helping kittens with birth defects reach a happy adulthood.

Okay. I decided to give it a try.

I know what some of you are going to be thinking, and you’ve already voiced your opinion on my Facebook page about how cruel showing cats is and that any animal breeder should be punished, their animals not paraded around to the benefit of their owners and that how could I, as the President & Founder of Kitten Associates, dare do that to our Mascot, leaving her terrified in a tiny cage while waiting to be judged?

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I’d have to admit that before I attended the cat show, I did have reservations. Sure, I’d been to cat shows plenty of times before, but only to oooh and ahhh over the pretty pedigreed felines and buy cat toys. I thought about how many cats are in kill-shelters, how many are starving and dying horrible deaths and that cat breeders just made the problem worse by adding more cats to the population problem.

I’d heard stories about breeders euthanizing cats that weren’t up to Standards, or not breeding their cats responsibly and causing birth defects or genetic health issues, then selling the cats for twisted amounts of money under the guise that they were healthy and robust.

 

I’m sure that there are those of you who know every fact and figure to prove the point that breeding should be outlawed completely, so how dare I spend the weekend at a cat show, showing my little cat in the Household Pet Cats ring?

 

There’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye.

Firstly, there is no black and white about cat shows and breeders being all good or all bad. There are degrees of both states, just like in anything else. I did a lot of thinking about this topic as I walked around the show floor. I wanted to hate the breeders and be pro-cat-rescue, blinders firmly in place.

But then there were the cats.

Holy shit they were stunning. I thought about what the world would be like if no one preserved or created new breeds of cats (like the Napoleon who I just saw this weekend who was so cute I practically melted or the mind-blowingly magnificent orange Maine Coon with paws as big as my hands).

Baccaruda R Olson 475
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Baccaruda, one of my new BFFs gets shown. He is all fluff, all the time.

 

What if we DID outlaw breeding and all we had were what I usually see in my rescue-world—an assortment of tabbies, gray cats, lots and lots of black cats, fluffy cats, orange cats, calicos or torties, but I wouldn’t see a magnificent, mellow-minded Birman, with big white mitts, sapphire blue eyes and chocolate coloring that fades along the abdomen and darkens at the paws. I wouldn’t see a delicately proportioned, trouble-making, Singapura with a ticked coat and pale green alien-like eyes who had so much energy she was practically vibrating.

 

What goes beyond looks is that these cats are also bred for temperament. Some are chosen for being curious and playful, while others are gentle giants. I never know what I’m going to get when I rescue a cat. Usually they’re sick, thin, full of fleas. When they feel better, they can sometimes become pretty obnoxious, while others might become fearful once they’re strong enough to show their true nature. I work hard to help them become confident and loving, but if they were genetically predisposed to be sweet and I knew that ahead of time, gee, there is something to be said for that.

I’m not looking to start a big argument about what is right or wrong, but I am hoping that maybe some of you will just be open-minded enough to think about a world without purebred cats and focus your anger on anyone who is cruel to animals, period.

Do I love that these cats are sold for crazy amounts of money? No.

Do I love that there ARE some cats who are stressed out of their minds and should not be shown. NO!...but we’ll talk more about that in my next post because I did see some pretty amazing changes in the cats as they quickly acclimated to their surroundings (including Freya).

Gorgeous Maine Coon R Olson 475
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Stunning Maine Coon KITTEN.

That said, I would never condone making a cat miserable just so I could show him or her off and I am clear in the fact that there are breeders who do horrific things to their cats in the name of the almighty dollar.

 

Then there’s something I’m not sure many folks consider. There are a few people who do the cat shows who would otherwise have little or no contact with anyone in society. They use their cats as bridge so they can be comfortable around others. It gives them reason to get out of their home, socialize, and make friends when they probably can’t do that very well in their day-to-day life. I honestly think it improves their mental health.

 

Is it right that cats could be seen as being used to help humans? Well then what about service dogs? Horses? Police dogs, bomb-sniffing dogs, cancer-sniffing dogs, therapy cats? Is it so different that some of these cats provide their guardians with a feeling of safety and security in social settings?

And lastly, when you look at any cat, what’s one of the first things you do after cooing over how cute it is? You try to sort out what breed it might be. I think it would be a sad world if we were reduced to describing our cats, as, well, cats or by color or fur pattern alone.

Freya Helps 475 R Olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Freya "helps" me pack up for our trip.

Slowly, over generations of not preserving breeds, we’d end up with a mixed bag of cats, who have no interesting personality traits that we can count on and probably less and less remarkable coloring or characteristics. I’m not sure what the impact would be on over-crowded shelters because the sort of people who don’t spay/neuter their cats isn’t going to change. Yes, some unscrupulous breeders dump their pet-quality kittens or adults at shelters, but my gut tells me the folks who don’t spay/neuter their cats or give kittens away for free on Craigslist without them being vetted are a bigger concern.

As humans, it’s in our nature to categorize, identify and create. Over the millennia, we have come to do that with our cats, too. We have bred cats who are sweet lap cats and cats who are glorious athletes. Just as humans are diverse, so are our cats. Do we really want to get rid of cat breeds because some breeders are rotten apples? Do we really want to close down cat shows because some of the cats experience stress for a few hours? How many cats are in homes that experience stress 24/7 due to their guardians behavior or suffer stress from the other pets in the home because they were not introduced properly or don’t have appropriate places to flee when they experience fear?

While I can’t say I love every aspect about breeding cats, maintaining a standard, or cat shows, I can say that after being part of one I see value I couldn’t see before. I hope you can, too.

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So, yeah, I judged a cat show, but first, I had to get there and let me tell you, THAT was a story in and of itself.

Warning Lights R Olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Anti-lock brake, brake and traction control warning lights come on 12 hours before I have to drive to MA. Do I stay home or risk driving a car that's about to crap out on me?

Next up…the trip from HELL, in a hateful car, with a dead phone and no way to navigate my way out of a horrific traffic jam where I was traveling at a blazing 4 MPH. How determined was I to get away for a few days after all? Maybe I should have just stayed home?

What A Mother Won't Do for Her Kittens

Her claws dug into the wooden grate and tugged, tugged hard. Beyond the grate in the shadows under the house, she could see a safe place to hide away from the tidal pool, the animals there, the wetness that could sweep up and drown her if the rains continued to fall. She was so close to Long Island Sound she could hear the hiss of the waves as they reached the shore, but she didn’t care for a trip to the beach. She had far more important things on her mind.

A little black and white, tuxedo cat named Izzy was pregnant and desperate to find a place to give birth, but time was running out. Izzy bit and clawed at the grate. One corner was loose. If she kept pulling she’d be able to remove the grate and enter the depths of the underside of the house, but she'd have to rip out some insulation, too. No other animals had been there, she could smell the sweet earth and staleness of the fiberglass and knew she’d be safe. Her kittens were wriggling inside her. She knew they’d be coming soon so she continued to claw away even though her claws were breaking, the sheaths splintering off into the grass.

At last the grate gave way and Izzy clawed at the insulation ripping it to shreds as she made her way under the house as far back as she could; away from the wet, the wild, the world.

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©2016 Dana Kane, used with permission. Photos of Izzy under the house, then as the kittens get trapped and ready for a trip to "Aunt Katherine's House." If you look carefully, the bottom center image shows the area Izzy dug out to have her kittens.

Two weeks later…

 

Izzy gave birth the first night under the house to four kittens and began to care and feed them while she herself was slowly starving. She foraged for food but she couldn’t be away from her kittens for more than a few minutes so often her attempts were unsuccessful. It was unusually cold for May, the nights especially so. Many other kittens born outdoors weren’t going to survive and the odds were against Izzy's too.

 

One day a lady noticed the broken grate and pieces of insulation. She assumed it was done by a raccoon or opossum and didn’t think much of it until she saw Izzy duck under the house. Not long after that she saw a kitten, then another. She loved animals dearly, but didn’t know what to do. Of course she could put down food for the mama cat, but what about the kittens?

It’s not always easy to find help for a mom and kittens. Rescues and shelters are overloaded, especially this time of year with other moms and kittens who need help. The woman called and emailed and after a week had passed she finally found Katherine, from Animals in Distress, who was willing to come help trap the family and get them to safety. Katherine had no problem getting the kittens, but she had to return to the home a few times, in the middle of the night and early the next morning on only a few hours sleep, until she finally trapped Izzy.

Mom and boyfriend 475
©2016 Katherine Reid, Animals in Distress. Used with Permission. While hoping Izzy would get into the trap, along comes who we think is the "baby daddy"! He's getting trapped next!

 

Once trapped, the problem was that Katherine only had one space for the family, in a big crate inside her bathroom. It wasn’t ideal. Katherine has other cats. The more cats, the more chance of spreading disease to the kittens, whose immune systems were just developing. The best thing would be to move the cats into a home with no or few other cats, but where would that be?

 

That's where I came in.

Over the past year and a half I’ve been struggling to find a home for Laney and 15 of her offspring. I’m down to the final two, Jelly and Lolly, and frankly I was dreaming about taking a break when they got adopted, but part of me was also yearning to be around kittens. I’ve missed having little ones running around, learning to be confident little cats. I miss the joy of seeing them thrive, though I don’t miss the heartache of seeing them get sick or worse.

I knew we had the space to take on the mom and kittens, but SURPRISE, I’d also just said OKAY to taking on six orphan kittens from two different kill shelters (stay tuned for updates on them)! Now what would I do?

Snuggling with Mom 6 2 16 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Our marvelous mama, Izzy.

Thankfully I have another foster home with Ms. J and her family. I love these guys to pieces. They always jump at the chance to foster but they’ve never had LITTLE kittens. There’s a lot to learn and it can be a very tricky few weeks. At least there was Izzy to feed and clean the kittens. They were almost 4 weeks old and would start using the litter pan and eating on their own, but they needed guidance to do that. Could I oversee their care when they were in another home? Would they be willing to take on such a task? Inasmuch as they were new to fostering kittens, I needed to do a great job passing on my knowledge to them.

It took a few days to work out the details. Katherine grew ever more frantic that the kittens would get sick. I understood having had so many kittens suffering from upper respiratory tract infections from being in kill shelters. She called around to other rescues just in case I had to say no.

 

What was really great was that Ms. J and family were ready for the challenge. They knew that there are plenty of risks involved…that something very bad could happen if they weren’t careful and even if they were careful. You have to have a big brave heart to do rescue and be willing to be crushed, then do it again and again because you love cats, because you need to help make their lives better. If Ms. J hadn’t said yes, this story could have ended in a much darker way.

 

Slumbering family 6 2 16 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson.

So I began to shop for things the kittens would need: baby food (chicken!), goat's milk, syringes, cotton pads (to help them eliminate their wastes), pee pee pads, paper towels, cat food for mom. I put together a trunk full of stuff including a new baby scale. The kittens have to be weighed every day to ensure they are growing properly and so we know if they need some help with extra supplemental feedings.

Two days ago, Katherine, Ms. J and family and I met to get Izzy and family set up in their new foster home. Ms. J’s two daughters were glowing they were so excited. As Katherine introduced us to each kitten, we all swooned. We have a litter of four tabbies, with lovely sharp-edged stripes along their brown fur.

Sleeping Cuties
©2016 Robin AF Olson.

Katherine and I began talking about what to do for the kittens, how to do it, when to do it, all while the kittens were being passed from one of us to the other. We marveled at their markings and took notes about which two were our boys and which two were our girls. Two of the kittens, a boy and girl, are almost identical with the exception that the girl has a tiny white tip one her tail. We hugged and kissed them, welcoming them to Kitten Associates.

Sweet dreams r olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Safe, with mama and a fully belly, it doesn't get any better than this.

It takes a lot of effort and sacrifice to rescue one kitty family. It also takes resources and that’s something we need a lot of help with. These kittens will need vaccinations, de-worming, to be spayed or neutered. Izzy eats as much as three adult cats and fairly soon the kittens will be eating cat food, too.

 

Katherine and I focus on doing the right thing for cats in need. We hope that our efforts will be appreciated and that in the end when we need help, it will be there for our foster cats. Without it we simply can’t keep our doors open or rescue another cat.

 

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. One of the boys gets some extra nom noms.

That’s where you come in.

 

Since the kittens do not have names yet, I’ve decided that for every donation of $10 or more, YOU CAN MAKE NAME SUGGESTIONS. We’ll review the suggestions and we may pick yours. It’s one way we can say thank you for loving what we do and for caring about our kitties.

 

Be a part of our life-saving efforts by sharing your love in the following ways:

For super fast donations of a specific amount use:

$10 Donation make a name suggestion for one or more kittens

$25 Donation helps keep Izzy's tummy full

$50 Donation provides cat food and treats

$75 Donation lots more cat food, toys and treats or first vaccinations for all the cats

$100 Donation covers spay/neuter one kitten

$200 Donation which sponsors one kitten's complete vet care

Make a donation HERE to use our DONATE TODAY button (and yes, you can use your credit card).

 

Send a check to Kitten Associates, P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354

Kitten Associates IS a 501c3 non-profit rescue so your donation is tax deductible. Our EIN is 27-3597692

Purchase cat food or chicken baby food or teenie tiny toys through our Amazon.com Wish List so you can choose exactly what gift you’d like to give to our foster kitties.

Purchase catnip-free cat toys at Purrfect Play. We LOVE their toys because they're small and not scary to growing kittens. Since we have six MORE kittens coming in, we'd welcome more toys! You can ship to our P.O. Box 354 (see above).

Bottle FEedig Yuck R Olson 400
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Learning how to syringe-feed. Yum!

Every single dollar adds up and no gift is too small. We appreciate everything we get and sharing on social media helps, too!

We’re working on getting Squee TV HD up and running so you can watch our kittens 24/7 so stay tuned to our Facebook page for updates and a link to the web cam!

Thank you to the family who found Izzy and went to bat for her and made sure she found safe harbor with Katherine and I’m not thanking Katherine because she knows why. Hee hee…hey..we blogger/cat rescuers have to have a few secrets once in awhile.

 

NAME THESE KITTENS

 

Little boy two 400
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Boy 1

Little Girl no white 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Girl 2

Maybe little girl 475
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Girl 3

Little Guy 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Boy 4

©2016 Robin AF Olson.

In a Perfectly Perfect World

I entered the foster room and was met by Laney, Winnie and Piglet. Their tails held high, their eyes bright with excitement. They crowded in close, rubbing up against my legs as I struggled to enter the room without dropping their food. It was time to have breakfast and they were eager to eat.

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©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Winnie, Piglet and photobomb by Laney.

As I lowered the tray, covered with small mounds of chicken, they gathered in a circle, joined by shy-Lolli, and began to eat. It was just another breakfast, about their 485th, with me, but this one was different. It was their last breakfast together.

Last Meal R Olson 475
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Last breakfast.

I watched them eat, oblivious to what I knew was going to happen in a few hours. They lapped up every morsel as they quickly glanced over to their neighbor to see if they had any food left that could be snatched away. In moments the tray was clean, as if nothing had ever been on it in the first place. It was a metaphor whose meaning wasn’t lost on me.

I sat on the bed, in my usual spot near the right side. Winnie jumped up right away, as she often did, climbed into my lap and began washing her face. Laney took her place just in front of me and Piglet was off to my left. They were getting clean before settling down for a nap. The only sound was them purring away. All was right in the world, but wrong in my heart.

Piglet wrapped on Winnie R Olson 475
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Love-filled lap.

 

Winnie looked up at me, her sweet expression filled me with sorrow. I ran my hand along her back and she pressed against me. Her fur was soft and thick, no longer shabby and dirty from living a lousy life outside with no one to care for her. I wanted to hold onto this feeling of love, make it solid somehow, so I could have it with me whenever I needed it. In that moment I saw Winnie vanish, my lap empty, as if she never existed. I felt the pang of loss, the yearning, the familiar heartache that was to come. Our story together was ending, a real end this time, and her story was going to begin anew with someone else.

 

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Used with permission. Winnie, pregnant, just before rescue.

Time felt more like a layer cake than a linear path. All at once I could see Winnie sitting in the grass in Georgia, fat with kittens inside her, the same sweet expression as she had now. I saw Winnie struggling with an upper respiratory tract infection last year and coming back home from a failed adoption in early February. I saw myself entering the room and the girls would not greet me. They would be gone and I probably would never see them again. All things were happening at once, the beginning, the end, the challenges, the happy moments.

As much as I wanted Winnie, especially, to stay with me forever, it was not fair for her to stay in a small room for the rest of her life. She and the girls always deserved more, better. I turned away great adopters who only wanted Laney and Piglet had a failed adoption by a poser-cat-person in NYC over a year ago. I struggled once I decided the girls HAD to stay together because who would adopt three cats?

Winnie Photobomb R Olson 475
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. The ever-silly, Winnie.

When I found an adopter, she was flakey, changing her mind over and over again. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt so I moved forward with the adoption. I wasn’t surprised when after barely a week, the girls adoption fell through, leaving me to drive to Boston and back in an afternoon to bring them back home.

After over a year I wondered if I was doing the wrong thing. Maybe I should let the girls go to a home on their own? Maybe I was stupid and greedy. I didn’t want them to leave. I liked having them here.

Win Pig on my Lap R Olson 475
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. No vacancy.

In March I got a two adoption applications for all three girls. I wanted to get excited about it but I couldn’t get my hopes up after what had already happened with them. It was a good thing I just went through the motions of processing their applications. Both adopters backed off-one after going back and forth with me for a MONTH, the other had a terrible vet reference.

Laney Winnie Photobomb R Olson 475
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Lovely Laney.

I began to feel remorse every time I entered the foster room. I felt so bad for the girls and for poor Jelly, who is still in a cage recovering from knee surgery. I felt so badly for his brother Lolli, who I doubt will ever be adopted because he’s too skittish. For the past five weeks, every Monday night, a couple came to visit Jelly and Lolli with the idea that if the boys warmed up to them (they did), they would adopt them. I was so excited that they might find a home, but even after hosting this couple when I had the worst Flu of my life, after answering a million questions, putting them in touch with my vet so they could be assured they understood why Jelly had to have surgery, I get a short email. “Bad news.” The woman’s dad brought over two kittens and they couldn’t say no (really?) and the adoption was off. I was devastated.

Laney Lolli Girls R Olson 475
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. On or near my lap, this wonderful family will be one I'll never forget.

The cats deserved more than to be in a small room day in and day out. They were bored and I didn’t blame them. We were all ready for a change, but I felt like hope was running out unless I did something.

I got another application for the girls-for all three. It wasn’t another out-of-state adopter. It wasn’t someone who had two dogs and a cat. It wasn’t someone who had a terrible vet reference.

It was from a couple who live IN Connecticut, in fact, about 30 minutes drive from my home. They live alone with no children. They had no other pets. Their cat passed away in March at the age of 19. They had room in their heart for a new cat and they wanted to help cats who were hard to adopt.

Winnie Miffed with Girls R Olson 475
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Too much love irks Winnie.

A few days ago Sam and I did a home visit. I loved their home. It wasn’t too big or too small. It was on the side of a hill surrounded by plants and trees. The home was immaculately clean and when I mentioned that Winnie would jump on their piano because she liked to be up high, they thought it was charming and said they didn’t care about furnishings. They just cared that the cats had each other to play with while they were away at work during the day. There were lots of big sunny windows. This was it. Now all I had to do was have them fall in love with the girls.

Win close up with Pig R Olson 475
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. I know. I played favorites, but I do love them all, just maybe not exactly equally.

I really liked this couple; Amy and her husband, Markel. The more we spoke, the more I liked them. I never had a weird pull at my gut telling me something was off. This time it was easy. They came to visit the girls for maybe 30 minutes. The girls were great with them and vice versa. It was the easiest adoption I’ve done in ages, though they’d have to come back and finalize the paperwork once they had things set up at their home, it was decided. The girls found their forever home and I had a few days go say my goodbyes.

Bye Bye Girls R Olson 475
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. I wish I could have told them it was going to be okay and that they'd understand this was all so they could have a great life.

I’ve fostered over 500 cats so far. Most of the time it’s not too difficult to say farewell, but the girls have been with me for so long that it was more like I was giving away my own cats, than I was adopting out foster cats. I knew if it went on any longer, Winnie would be staying with me. It wasn’t fair to my other cats or to Winnie. I didn’t want to break up Laney’s family any more than I already had. I had to continue on with the plan. I had to let go.

Last night the girls began their new story, their life with their new parents. Markel came to get the girls since Amy was delayed at work. He has a loud, deep voice, but the moment he loaded the girls into the car his voice turned falsetto. They were crying and scared. As he entered the car, he turned to the girls and said it was going to be okay, that they would be home soon.

©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. A few final moments with the girls.

 

Home. That's what this story has been about from day one; finding a home for sweet cats, neglected by uncaring people. It took a small team of dedicated volunteers, especially their rescuer, Moe, our intrepid foster mom in Georgia, to reach this joyful conclusion. The money spent, the sacrifices, the fearful times were worth it because we got what we dreamed of, placing three adult cats in a home together.

 

Their story with me has come to an end. It’s been a very long journey. All in all we saved 16 cats all because Laney was never spayed. I still have Jelly and Lolli left to find a home for. I know they'll be missing their mom, so I return to the foster room to comfort them, but in truth, they'll be comforting me.

A long, happy, loved life to my girls…forever in my heart.

2014 09 01 12 10 26 all together
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Used with Permission. This is how I'll remember the girls and their amazing story.

 

 

©2016 Foster Mom Moe. Her lovely video in honor of Laney & family.

Losing Their Home. One Last Chance for Forever.

I often get emails and calls from people asking me to take their cat. Usually the reason is a family member has allergies or they're moving and for some (stupid, if you ask me) reason they can't bring their cat/s with them. I always do the best I can to help, but more often than not, all I can do is send out an email to my peers and see if someone else can jump in and take over. Even if I did have a shelter and not a few foster homes, we'd never be able to take on all the cats who need help.

Enter Dacus.

Dacus contacted me about his cats FeFe and Meow. He lives in the town where I first rescued southern kitties: McDonough, Georgia. I have a special connection to that town since my house has had dozens of southern belles from there pass through our rescue program since we began in 2010.

Dacus's story was different. He and his wife are in so much physical pain that they are unable to provide care for their two adult cats.

Dacus didn't dump his problem on me. He began looking for help by reaching out to as many rescues in his area who could possibly help him. He was turned away because he was honest, saying one of the two cats was a bit shy and due to the cat's ages they were certainly not easily-adoptable kittens any longer.

 

I know for a fact that the municipal animal control in his town WILL take his cats and they might have a DAY there before they end up being euthanized due to the burden of over-crowded conditions they constantly face. The cats won't stand a chance to leave there alive and Dacus knows that.

But Dacus and his cats are running out of options. In his own words, this is his story:

“The reason we are trying to re-home the cats is because my wife and myself have back and neck problems due to car accidents. We are both in our sixties. On March 2nd 2016 we were involved in another rear end collision. This accident has exacerbated both of our previous injuries. She was injured in 2012 and has lingering problems with her neck and back. In that accident she was also rear ended. She can hardly lift anything and day to day chores are painful for her. I, too, have medical problems. I was injured at work in 2014 when the tug I was driving was hit by another tug in the back. Due to the accident I have back, neck and face problems. I have trigeminal neuralgia.  It has gotten considerably worse since the accident on March 2nd. I have constant headaches and face and neck pain. The more that I do the more the trigeminal neuralgia hurts. My lips go to sleep and my teeth hurt like I have an abscess tooth. Lifting things, especially things that are heavy, cause my face and head to hurt. Sometimes just getting out of bed will cause my lips to go to sleep. It is very painful to carry and change out the cat litter. In addition to the back and neck pain I had shoulder surgery in January 2016. We can’t physically take care of them. We would like to re-home them in a loving home so their quality of life stays the same. We have tried hard to find a rescue center and/or a rehoming agency to take them. We do not want to take them to the Animal Control Center and this is our last resort.

Lovely FeFe 475
FeFe. Used with permission of Dacus G.

About FeFe (from Dacus)

Fefe is a 9 year old indoor only cat. She has been with us for 8 years. She is current on her shots, March 2016, is FIV negative. She has a heart murmur and has had a heart murmur as long as we have had her. It doesn’t cause any problems and she is healthy. She is spayed. She is a gray, white and brown long haired mix but she looks like a Norwegian Forest Cat. She has short legs and has never been known to jump or the table or kitchen counters. She is a sweet cat that loves to be petted but is not a lap cat. She will climb upon your stomach and give you a belly massage. She is very friendly but loves to be petted on “her terms.” She gets along with other cats, but we have never had her near a dog. She shared our home with a cat that recently died. The cat that died was 19 years old.

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FeFe. Used with permission of Dacus G.

About Meow (from Dacus)

Meow is a 3 year old indoor/outdoor cat. He comes into the house during the day and sleeps in the garage at night. We generally let him and out when he wants. He is the classic tuxedo cat. His mother was a feral cat that we fed. She had two kittens that we were able to get someone to adopt. Meow was the only surviving member or her next litter. She eventually quit coming around but Meow continued to show up. We fed him and made a place in the garage for him to sleep. He likes to sleep on my wife’s car. He has had all of his shots and is FIV negative. He is neutered. He is friendly to my wife and myself but is afraid of everyone else. I think that with a little patience he would make someone an excellent pet. He loves to have his belly rubbed and will roll over on his back and spread his legs. He used to sleep on my chest but hasn’t in a while. He always comes when my wife calls him. He loves eggs but just the yoke.

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Meow snuggling with mom. Used with permission of Dacus G.

Note from Robin: From emails with Dacus I believe both cats were "snap tested" and negative for FIV and FeLV (feline leukemia). Meow has been vaccinated against FeLV since he goes outdoors. He has no contact with FeFe and does not share litter/food with her.

Meow on rug 400
Meow, a handsome fellow. Used with permission of Dacus G.

We all see stories like FeFe's and Meow's and we feel like we're trapped about what we can do to help, but it's not that tough. First, transport IS available outside of Georgia! If you live anywhere on the route between Georgia and PA, we have someone already willing to drive them to your area next month.

Meow 475
Meow, Mr Mellow. Used with permission of Dacus G.

I can help coordinate paid transports (usually about $75/cat) from GA to points to the northeastern USA. Outside of that area we can arrange for a pet flight. It may take a bit longer to sort out.

 

If you're with a non-profit rescue and can take these kitties on, contact ME at info@kittenassociates.org and we will get the kitties to you. We will also provide at least a $200 sponsorship (possibly more) towards the cat's care.

 

Fe FE sleeping 475
FeFe dreaming of her new forever family. Used with permission of Dacus G.

If you're interested in knowing more about either of the cats---they CAN be adopted/rescued separately because they have not lived together---then contact me at info@kittenassociates.org If you are seriously interested, fill out our pre-adoption application. I will be helping screen applicants for Dacus, but my rescue, Kitten Associates, can not be responsible for the cats once they are on transport and arrive at your location.

 

Please help us get the word out on these deserving and adorable kitties. It would be a great way to honor cats you love by helping these cats find their home, too. Thank you!

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