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Kitties for Kids

The Other Side

The past month has been one of the worst of my life. Although I’ve witnessed the slow decline and eventual passing of my own senior cats, and all the fear and sadness that brings, I’ve never watched it happen to a mere kitten. It is so much worse because there’s the added tragedy of the full, long life that never got to be lived. The family I imagined coming to adopt him, never came to the door. The joy he’d have being loved and cherished for a lifetime, was taken away by a fatal disease.

Yesterday afternoon, Fred made his journey over the Rainbow Bridge.

The past month, I’ve had to face Fred’s decline, despite so many efforts to revive him, find an answer, at least keep him stable for a while longer. I’ve had to watch him as he lost use of his back legs. He could still get around after we made changes to his living space to make it easier on him to still have some freedom.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney often tried to get Fred to play, which I discouraged. Eventually, Barney realized his brother couldn't play with him any longer.

He became incontinent. Not surprisingly because he couldn’t get to the litter pan. We just made more adjustments and bought a lot of “wee-wee” pads. The goal was to keep him comfortable, hoping we’d get enough time for the test results to come back or to start another treatment.

I set up the web cam so I could watch him when I wasn’t in the room, but felt sick to my stomach every time I looked in on him. Seeing him struggling broke my heart. There was a time I saw him slip and fall off the pet stairs onto the floor. I raced up to the room to help him back up. He seemed so confused about how such things could happen to a once agile creature. I kissed him and told him to hang on that I would find a way to make it better.

I realized I was running out of things to hope for last week. I realized how ridiculous it was to find myself hoping Fred had lymphoma, instead of FIP. Both were fatal, but at least with lymphoma Fred could live longer, maybe over a year. It was crazy to hope that, at least, Fred wouldn’t lose use of his front legs, too, but eventually he did. He could sit up, but other than that, he didn’t move around. Sam and I took turns changing his position or location in the room. I’d place him on a bed in the sunshine and he’d groom himself, perked up by the joy of being in his favorite place.

Fred hadn’t eaten anything on his own over the past week, not even his favorite chicken treat. Sam and I fed him three times a day via a syringe. He struggled at first, but as the days passed, he just took his food without a fuss. Sam would hold him against his chest, shielded by a pad because Fred would often urinate when we held him up to feed him. We’d cheer him on when he peed because that meant his body was still functioning normally. A few times we even got him to poop, which caused us to be even happier. He still had some strength. It wasn’t time. We still had a chance.

I would focus on coming up with the tastiest, most nutritious, combinations I could put into the blender to make Fred enjoy his food. He would take a taste, then smack his mouth with his tongue. He’d look up at Sam with this silly, sweet expression and Sam would look down so lovingly at this little cat. I’d syringe a tiny bit more food into him and he’d swallow some and dribble some onto his fur. Between syringes of food, I’d carefully wipe Fred’s face with a paper towel I’d wetted with very warm water. I wanted to recreate the feeling of his mama washing his face. He seemed to like it and often purred.

When we finished feeding, there were the many medications, eye drops, bad things. I washed Fred again and we’d put him on a soft bed. We’d take turns brushing him, again, anything to help him feel clean and comfortable. Some times Barney would come over and lick Fred’s face, ears, or paws. Fred almost smiled at Barney’s attempts to connect with his brother.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred (front) and Barney (by the pillows).

I found I couldn’t focus on work or eat much. My only respite was sleep and I couldn’t get to sleep unless I was exhausted. I’d get a few hours, only to wake up as the first glow of sun peeked over the horizon. My gut would go back to its familiar ache. Should I look at the web cam? Is Fred still alive? Did he pass away over night?

Eventually I’d work up the courage to look and I’d see him in his bed, so very still. I’d race into the room to find him still with us. I hate to say that some times I wished maybe he’d have left us over night and it would just be over and done. I kept reminding myself that the other side of this means how I live my life without Fred, knowing he is gone. The sheer Hell of watching him fade away would be over, but a new Hell-one of grief and remorse would take its place.

Time was quickly running out for Fred. Tests kept coming in negative for lymphoma so for certain it was FIP. Fred’s condition got much worse on Tuesday night. We had to hold his head up to get him fed. He was much weaker. I’ve never seen a cat, while still alive, who was so very limp-everywhere. Fred couldn’t lift his head or lick his paw. He could flick his tail ever so slightly-and that’s how I knew it was time to change his wee wee pad, but that was it. After we fed Fred, got him cleaned up and on a fresh blanket, we left the room. I broke down in tears and said to Sam that it was time. He agreed. We were taking turns changing Fred’s position every hour and making sure he wasn’t urinating on himself. I was to call Dr Larry in the morning to make the appointment for that day. We couldn’t wait any more. Now my last hope was that we could end Fred’s life in a peaceful way and without pain or fear.

Sam and I discussed what we would do, how it would be done. I made a promise to Fred-no more Vet runs and that the Vet would come to us. Sick to my stomach, I made the call. Dr. Larry was out sick that day. My only option was to bring Fred to them and have Dr. Mary put Fred down. Sam and I discussed it and felt we could keep Fred going on more day, so we made the appointment for yesterday afternoon.

When you know your cat is going to die and you know when, you can’t focus on anything else going on in your life. Any other issues fall to the wayside. The irony is that through this past month, Sam and I have been working on refinancing our mortgage so we can stay in our home. I’ve been so sidetracked I ignored all the calls and paperwork. I even put off the Closing last week so we could watch over Fred. We managed to get everything taken care of and in the end it saved us a lot of money. We should have been happy since it’s been a constant worry for us for a long time, but we were both like zombies, signing papers, nodding yes or no to any questions our Lawyer had, hoping we’d just get it over with. We got the job done and raced home to be with Fred because we knew we had less than 24 hours to be with him.

The last twelve hours were spent with Fred. He was not left alone, even for a second. Around 10pm on Wednesday, we put or pajamas on and set ourselves up in the foster room with Fred and Barney. Fred was either on a cozy cat bed between us or on Sam's chest. We each were petting him or holding his little paws. They were starting to feel cooler and I wanted him to feel the warmth of my hand. We didn’t say much.

Trying to lighten the mood a little I blurted out, “tell me a story.” and Sam began reciting bits of Dr. Seuss books he read to his daughter 30 years ago. “Look what we found in the park, in the dark! We will take him home, we will call him Clark. He will live at our house; he will grow and grow! Will our mother like this? We don't know.”

I thought Clark would be a good name for the next cat we rescue, then I caught myself. The next cat? Would there be one after this?

We tried to include Barney or play a little bit with him. He was somewhat curious about what was going on, but eventually settled down on a blanket near Fred, too. We formed a circle of loving kindness around Fred. His breathing was slower. He reacted to less and less. I started to hope that Fred would hang on because I didn’t know how the FIP would kill him. Would he suffocate and struggle? Would his heart just give out? I just wanted this one thing since I couldn’t have anything else. I couldn’t have Fred rebound or recover. At least he could die without pain.

Sam slept with Fred that last night. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t see him in such terrible condition for hours on end. I still got up at 4am and again at 7am to check on Fred and to clean him up because he was urinating on himself. Every time Fred peed we still cheered him on. “Good boy! Okay, let’s get you cleaned up. Oops! Here’s some more! Get another pad. Okay, good boy, Freddie!”

But this was it, the morning of the end. I did all the chores getting our other cats feed, watered, boxes cleaned out, so Sam could stay with Fred. I was so busted up that seeing him was killing me, too. I had to go back and face him because time was running out. We got the room cleaned up and got ourselves washed and dressed. Fred was very frail now. We both sat on either side of him, petting him, talking to him. Telling him we loved him. He was barely conscious. It was devastating.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sam holding Fred before we start feeding time. You can see how limp he is in Sam's arms.

It was a gray day. I was hoping for some last rays of sun for Fred, but it rained. Around 12:30pm, the clouds opened up and it started to pour. I saw Dr. Larry’s car come down the driveway and my heart sank. This was it. It was time. I got up to answer the door, but my legs felt weak. Dr. Larry and super-Deb said hello as they entered the house. My mouth opened to reply, but no words came out.

We went upstairs to the room where Sam was waiting with Fred. Dr. Larry was quiet, then sighed and looked at Fred. He and Deb got to work. I had to sign a form saying Fred hadn’t bitten anyone in 15 days and that I was giving my consent to have him euthanized. Dr. Larry talked about how tough cats are and that he could see Fred living a few more days even though he was barely alive. He said that Fred’s body condition looked really good because we’d been constantly feeding and cleaning him, but that, too, it was clear it was time for Fred to be helped to pass away.

I asked if Dr. Larry could take a look at Barney first. I was worried that Barney could get sick, too, because I’d heard that FIP can hit siblings since they have the same DNA. He and Deb examined Barney and felt he was okay, but we would keep a close eye on him going forward. He suggested we thoroughly scrub down the room and get rid of the cat trees and bedding, just to be safe. We couldn’t risk having an unhealthy environment since I still have three adult foster cats in my bathroom who would benefit being in a bigger space. Although I knew it meant more fundraising to replace all the cat furniture, I agreed it made sense.

There wasn’t anything else I could do to put off what was to come next. It was time to let Fred go. Dr. Larry explained that we had to be calm because Fred’s veins were compromised by the steroids and that the needle might blow out a vein and that we had to not get upset. Sam was still sitting on the bed next to Fred so he lifted the cat bed with Fred on it into his lap. I gave Fred a few kisses and moved aside to hold his front paw while Dr. Larry slipped the first needle into his vein. Dr. Larry fussed over the placement, but the vein held. Fred didn’t even react to the sting of the needle. Fred was already so far gone that when he passed, none of us even saw him go.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred's last night. Sam held him for hours.

Dr. Larry listened to his chest and there were no more signs of life. He said, “okay, it’s done.” as I burst into racking sobs. Some how I had enough strength to remember one last thing as I cried. I had cut sections of green and white ribbons, which are the colors that are associated with the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. I tried to tie a bow around Fred’s neck, but my fingers didn’t work. It took five tries but I finally got it done. Fred was our Mascot for Kitties for Kids. He made so many kids happy. Super Deb remarked, now all the children who were killed will know Fred when he arrives in Heaven and I agreed.

I kissed Fred a few more times and told him I was sorry and how much I loved him. Deb carried him out in her arms. He was still on his comfy cat bed. She said she didn’t want us to see her put him in the black plastic bag and I agreed I didn’t want to see that either.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fly free, sweet Fred. We will love you and miss you, always.

I closed the door and came close to fainting. I was crying so hard I couldn’t stand. I willed myself to go back to the foster room, which had so often been a place of joy, to find Sam on the bed, weeping.

I sat on the bed, in the same place I’d spent the better part of the last day, but now we were on the other side of this journey, the side where the questions are answered and where the real pain begins.

A loud rumble of thunder traveled through the house. I said to Sam; “that was Fred. He’s on his way to be with the children and they’re celebrating his arrival.” He looked at me through tear-filled eyes and nodded “yes.”

Dear Fred.

Dear Fred,

You’re in the foster room on the floor above my office catching the last few rays of sunshine as you rest in the little cubby on the cat tree. I imagine your respirations, too fast for normal, a bit shallow. Your tail lays limply, instead of flicking back and forth. You’ve been sick with something for months and it’s robbed you of the use of your back legs and now your front are gone, too. We’ve done so many tests on you, with most of them coming up negative or normal, only to find a hint of the horror you may be facing is FIP after all. Feline Infectious Peritonitis—a fatal disease.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred catching the last rays of sunshine.

I’ve never fought so hard to save a cat’s life. I’ve never reached out to so many Veterinarians, Specialists, anyone who might be able to help you. I’ve never worked so hard to raise money to make sure we have whatever we need, so we can provide for you—no matter what the cost.

I’ve been anxiously waiting for each result, praying it wasn’t FIP. There were MANY tests that said there was NO WAY it could be what we feared most, but one did point a bloody finger…a very high protein level in your spinal fluid…and that may be the only clue we ever get from science. The rest of the clues are witnessed in your weakening physical condition.

You’re just a baby, Fred. You’re only 10 months old. I know we lost your siblings, Pebbles and Bam-Bam a few days after they were born, but I never thought you or your brother, Barney were at risk, too. Please tell me if I did something wrong-or made you get sick! Did I cause you too much stress? Did one of the other foster cats in your room expose you to something that they were immune to? I didn’t think I waited too long to get you to the Vet, but maybe we were too slow to do tests, fearing the costs? I feel like I’ve let you down, Fred and I hate myself for that. I will never forgive myself for your death and I know you’re going to die. I'm so VERY SORRY, Fred. I know it won’t be much longer now.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Our Fred.

The treatment we hoped would work has done nothing other than make you gag when I give it to you. The steroids don’t make you hungry or feel any better. I keep thinking that I can’t give up on you. I just can’t, but now I see you barely able to sit up and I think, why am I doing this to you? Is it fair to let you be this way? You’re still “Fred,” in so many ways, but now I’m faced with the worst thing I will ever deal with and that is choosing when to end your life.

It’s so against what I have devoted my life to-saving lives, not taking them. I know that if you were in a shelter, they would have put you down a long time ago. I know if you were still living in that terrible place where we rescued your mom, you’d have died a long time ago there, too. You can’t expect to live in filth with little or no food and no vet care and survive very long. I know that you’ve probably lived with me longer than you would have lived anywhere else-even if you’d been adopted because I doubt anyone would not go to work so they could stay home and syringe-feed a kitten or spend thousands of dollars in Vet care for a possibly hopeless situation, so maybe that’s the meaning of this journey?

You didn’t get adopted months ago, when you had an adopter come see you because you were supposed to stay with me. I just don’t want to know what my lesson is in all of this because if it’s that cat rescue means euthanizing cats, I honestly don’t know if I am capable of doing that.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney fussing over his brother, trying to get him to play again.

I love watching kittens take their first steps and be part of introducing them to the world, but if it means I have to take the life of a precious kitten before he even has the chance to see his first birthday, I just don’t know if I have what it takes.

Dear Fred-I love you so much. You were so charming and carefree. You amazed me at how high you could jump and how much you loved to chase those feather toys. I’ve known you since the day you were born and I’ve looked out for you all these months.

I know I can’t fix what’s wrong with you. I can syringe-feed you, try to keep you clean and dry, since you can’t make it to the litter pan any more. I can brush you and speak sweetly, encourage you to be strong, while I try to be as gentle with you as I can.

I have one last offering for you, sweet Fred. Today you’re getting adopted. Sam and I are adopting you into our family. The contract is signed. You belong to us. Our goal is to find a forever home for every one of our foster cats, even if forever is only going to last another day. I can’t cure your FIP, but I can give you a loving home until your last breath leaves your body.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

I will never forget you, Fred. I know that one day we will do something very special in your honor because of the big impact you made on all of our lives. I hope your journey to the Rainbow Bridge is as beautiful as I can make it and that one day I will see you again.

Love always,
Robin (and your daddy, Sam, too)

Kitties for Kids is a WINNER!

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On December 14, 2012, after my town's heart was broken, I sat on the sofa watching the news in tears. I couldn't just sit there and do nothing. I didn't have much to offer, except a house full of cats and foster cats. I realized not everyone knows what it's like to be in the company of so many cats at one time and perhaps there was something about the wonder of living with cats that I could share with others. I knew we couldn't take the cats out into the public because that would be a hot mess. I left that job to the therapy dogs.

I worried about opening up our home to the residents of our town. Could they spend time with our cats without it turning into a big liability? What if someone was bitten or scratched? Would I lose the house if someone got hurt? How could I protect my cats and our visitors or was this just a stupid idea? I thought about it for a few minutes, realizing I had to take the chance. I needed to help my neighbors. It was worth the risk. That night Kitties for Kids was born.

I've written more about our program (you can see the post HERE).

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The invitation to the 2013 CVMA Awards.

But what I've been keeping secret for a few months is that our program was chosen by the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association to receive their Pet of the Year Award! This special award is given to honor our FOSTER KITTENS for their outstanding achievement in helping our town's kids find their smiles again.

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When I was first contacted about this award I thought it was a joke. I called my vet and Dr. Larry said he'd been part of CVMA for years and that CVMA has been around since 1884 and was a very distinguished organization. Wow.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I was a bit sad that no one jumped into the fountain at the Awards Banquet, but there's always next year.

On Tuesday, March 26th, Sam and I drove to Hartford, CT to the Wadsworth Atheneum to attend the Awards Banquet. Now any of you who have read this blog before, know that I've been the President & Founder of Kitten Associates, Inc. for almost three years. To be in a room FULL OF VETERINARIANS was a DREAM COME TRUE! I felt like a kid in a candy store! I wanted to run up to every Vet and make friends with each one. The heck with the award, I need to find more vets to work with (at a discount, of course!).

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Yes, the cauliflower is naturally purple!

Part of me worried that if I found a cute single Vet I might be tempted to leave Sam behind and run off, but the thrill of the evening and the upcoming award forced me to (sort of) temper my enthusiasm.

The Wadsworth is a gorgeous Gothic Revival styled Art Museum. We couldn't explore the galleries, but were kept to a large courtyard with a lovely fountain in the center of it. We hadn't taken more than a few steps into the room, when we were greeted by Dr. Chris, the former President of CVMA. He warmly welcomed us and thanked us for being such an inspiration to others. Who us? What? I couldn't believe it.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. This is Addie the Comfort Dog. She is clearly excited about winning her big green ribbon.

Dr. Chris is an emergency room Vet. He likes the thrill of not knowing what's coming in the door next and works and sleeps at the hospital for four days in a row, then takes a few days off to be with his wife, two kids and their menagerie of animals he's taken from owners who could no longer provide care for their animals. This guy has a heart of GOLD and it was very clear he had a passion for caring for animals.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Senator Blumenthal gives his acceptance speech.

We also met with TD Bank sponsors, who were also gracious and friendly. They were chatting with our co-recipients from the Golden Retrievers of Lutheran Church Charities who had brought their dog, Addie with them. We sat down and chatted about, what else, dogs and cats. It was a pleasant start to the evening.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The cover of our Certficate from Senator Blumenthal.

Chris came over and told us that Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, who has been a hero of mine for years, was going to be attending the banquet and that in addition to his receiving an award, he had insisted on giving US a Certificate of Special Recognition for the work we do!

I was stunned and thrilled. A certificate from our own Senator meant the world to me. This accolade was from our STATE, where I've lived most of my life. This sort of recognition was something I could have only dreamed of and here it was about to happen.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. My pride and joy.

A few moments later, Senator Blumenthal entered the room. He gracefully made his way around the room, shaking hands and taking photos with people. I knew we would get to meet him so I tried to ready myself for the moment. He shook my hand and thanked us for our service to the people of Newtown. I quickly said a few fumbling words and before he could leave I gave him my card and I asked for a photo. I kept thinking, this man has been to the White House. He knows the President of the United States. Wow.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Proof! Senator Richard Blumenthal and Robin A.F. Olson (me!).

Dr. Chris made the opening remarks and introduced Senator Blumenthal. The Senator gave a very moving, well articulated and heartfelt speech. He had no notes. I thought about how many speeches he must have given over the years and that it was probably second nature to him. I was glad I didn't have to give a speech that night because I doubted I could do as good a job-even with notes.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A close up-I'm so honored!

Dr. Chris returned to the podium and began to talk about Kitten Associates and our Kitties for Kids program. I'd sent CVMA information about us and thought I'd hear back what I'd written, but Chris had his own special commendation for us. Hearing it made me blush with joy. I couldn't get over that this was our moment in the spotlight. All we had to do was get up, walk across the room and accept our plaque and certificate.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Our CVMA Pet of the Year Award.


Chris handed me the awards and he whispered to me to go ahead and say a few words. WHAT?! Make a speech? NOW?!

I had NOT prepared a single word, but I pulled myself together and I knocked one out of the park. Thank goodness I didn't flop in front of all those juicy Veterinarians!

I was buzzing from all the adrenaline coursing through my veins. The rest of the ceremony flew by and no sooner than it was over, the Vet of the Year, Dr. Eva Ceranowicz of Bloomfield Animal Hospital, came over to introduce herself to us. Again, I was floored to get this sort of recognition when I was planning to introduce myself to her.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. We did it!

She was delightful and charming. We had a quick, intense conversation, then she was off to talk to more guests and we followed suit.

I got to talk shop with a few Vets who were clearly amused by my knowledge of all things de-wormer related. I tried to make quick BFFs for future reference, but most of the Vets I spoke with had their Practice too far away from Newtown.

The evening was winding down and just as Sam and I were going to leave a gentleman introduced himself to us. He said his name was Gordon and turns out he's the Executive Director of the Connecticut Humane Society! As if talking with a room full of Veterinarians and meeting Senator Blumenthal wasn't enough, here was someone I admired from the rescue side of things and he's a GUY. A GUY WHO DOES RESCUE(who is also adorable, but I didn't say that to his face). Wow again!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Wendy and Sam really had fun taking part in our Kitties for Kids program (with Barney in the background).

We had a lively conversation and I hoped we would be in touch. He was glad to work with us and vice versa (in our small capacity). Of everything that happened that night, this was definitely a highlight. We shook hands (he has a nice, warm, strong handshake) and said goodnight. I walked out into the cold night air, floating on cloud nine.

I never expected the night to go so well or to be so honored for our Kitties for Kids program, but I learned that if you follow your heart, it will take you in the right direction.

And now if you'll excuse me, I have another family coming to visit our kitties and I need to get the room ready!


Make sure you LIKE the CVMA Facebook page. It's embarrassing that they only have 141 likes!

Also, make sure you visit the Connecticut Humane Society FB page and say hello from Robin, but don't tell them I have a crush on their boss.

Struggling to Find Balance on the Head of a Pin

What the Hell is wrong with me? The current group of foster cats has been here for FIVE MONTHS. They started out as kittens and now they’re young adults. Each day they grow a little less adoptable and each day I grow a little more concerned that I will never get them adopted.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow has blossomed into a lovely young lady.

I had lunch with Super-Deb yesterday and we got into a heated discussion about appropriate nutrition for cats. We were both respectful to each other, but I also felt like perhaps I was seen as being arrogant about my views about NO KIBBLE for cats, ever. It gave me pause. I would never want to be seen in that light.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred with Latte.

Deb surprised me by saying she feeds grain-free dry, along with grain-free canned and some raw. After all, Deb was one of the people who inspired me to look into feeding a raw diet for my cats so I assumed she was only feeding raw, too. She said she doesn’t claim to know everything about what is the perfect food for cats. What she feeds her cats is based on what she feels is acceptable. She does not find issue with grain-free kibble. Go figure.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow's pantaloons.

Deb reminded me that some cats live to be 20 years old on crappy dry food and little to no Vet care. I countered that some people live to be 100 and they smoke cigarettes every day, too, but it’s only SOME people, not MOST. What is the QUALITY of that cat’s life over the years versus a cat on a species appropriate diet? What is a daily smoker’s life like over 100 years? What is it about some cats who can live just fine on dry while so many others get seriously sickened to the point of dying? At least half of my cats had issues that were resolved once I put them on a raw/grain-free diet. Two of the issues would have eventually caused the cats to die.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow with her Cat Dancer®.

The jury is still out and perhaps we will never know what the perfect diet is for our cats, but in my book; garbage in is garbage out. Obligate carnivore cats need PROTEIN for energy, not a baked, extruded, blast-heated granule of grain and vegetable-based proteins and chemicals. It sounds disgusting even imagining it. Even if the dry food had animal protein how much nutrition is left in it after the massive amounts of processing are completed?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney (left) with Fred (right).

Then, the epiphany came into the diner astride a gleaming white horse. I realized the primary reason I’m not finding good adopters is because I need to find people who share the same passion about caring for their cats as I do. What I don't want are people who don’t treat their cat as, well, a cat; something to pet when it’s convenient-to provide care for rarely if, at all. People who easily assume a cat is “evil” if it doesn’t behave in the way the cat expected to—even if it’s against their nature. They don't look past the assumption that the cat is being evil and don't seek out WHY the cat is acting that way or ask their Vet. People who when given common sense information about appropriate nutrition stiffen their back and refuse to even listen. That is not my idea of a good adopter.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Finally Willow holds still long enough to get a photo of her.

Yes. I ask a lot. I realize that.

I don’t need people to be as cat-centric as I am. I’ve been working very hard to pry my mind open and give every possible adopter the benefit of the doubt when they want to adopt one of my foster cats. I try to keep expectations simple. I do my best to educate, to be respectful, but in the end there can be a parting of the ways and another potential adopter finds a cat elsewhere.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Coco, now a refined ladycat.

To date, Coco has lost out on MANY applications. I went as far as I could with each one. I even went on a home visit. I loved the people, but their home wasn’t a good fit. I had very long conversations with Sam debating about what really mattered—the family or the condition of the home or both? In the end I knew Coco would have spent her life hiding under the bed if she lived there and I couldn’t let her go. There have been other homes that were really crazy-messy but there was so much love in the home that I knew the cat would be happy. I try really hard not to judge, but there's a lot of pressure to get it right. I don't get a second chance to find a better home once the cat leaves here.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I don't know what Willow is doing to Barney.

I finally found a great adopter. He and his family came over a few times. Each time there was a reason why they couldn’t do the adoption right then and there. I gave him the benefit of the doubt knowing he would adopt her after the Holidays were over. He finally got back to me and because his daughter didn’t do some mysterious chore she couldn’t have the cat. I wasted two months on this.

I found another good candidate and was about to do the home visit when the former applicant contacted me and asked if Coco was still available and could they adopt her that weekend? My gut instincts said no way so I moved on.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fabulous Fred.

Saturday Coco might FINALLY be getting adopted except that the woman who was going to adopt her called a few hours ago and said her father has had a serious health issue and she was going out of town for ten days at least. Could I hold Coco? Oh dear..not again. [note: and as of this writing Coco has just come back from the Vet. She's SICK with a mysterious “Fever of Unknown Origin”]

There have been many other setbacks with adopters wanting the cats, coming to visit, leaving empty handed, then contacting me later to see how the cats are doing but they don’t want to adopt them! It's not completely my fault, but I want to do better.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I still haven't gotten even one application for Latte.

After the Shooting in Sandy Hook and the launch of our Kitties for Kids program I didn’t push too hard to move the cats out. It would be tough to have a program involving cats if all the cats were gone so I lost more time there.

Tomorrow my friends Izzy and Mark are driving to Georgia to pick up Maria’s foster cats: Bongo, George and Bunny Boo-Boo. I’ll meet them late Thursday night in Pennsylvania to bring the cats to Connecticut. While my house is already full, I’m bringing these guys here. They’ve been waiting for four months to come up and start the process of finding their forever homes and with Kitten Season upon us I have to get things going.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney-chomp.

There is a great temptation to not be so strict, to bend the rules, let the cats go to homes where they will go outside to roam freely, where there is no Vet reference, let alone a good one, where it just doesn’t matter what they get fed as long as there’s food. I could get the cats homes in a heartbeat if that was the case…

…and I’d never be able to live with myself.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney and Latte wrestle.

I told the gleaming white horse to go back to the barn. I have more to think about and I need to find a better way to get these cats good homes. I don’t want to come off like a snob. It’s not that. It’s just that I see how cats suffer when they are misunderstood and not given appropriate care. It hurts me to know there are homes like that. I want to help all cats live a better life with their humans.


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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred with favorite toy.

Note: Before you even go there, if you free-feed your cat kibble, that’s YOUR choice. I’m not suggesting you’re a bad person if this is what you do. Everyone does the best they can with what they have and as I said, there are some cats who are fine on kibble and nothing more. If you read this blog, odds are you really care a lot about your cat. Be assured I would never want to offend any of you. That's never my intention.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow with cool slow motion tail blur.

I AM, however, suggesting that you feed on a timed schedule-twice or three times a day, tops and NOT leave a bowl of food out all day and night. This is true for MOST, not ALL cats. There are always situations where cats need access to food all the time. I can only think of a senior cat who doesn't eat much as an example but I'm sure there are others. Free-feeding can easily cause your cat to become obese and diabetic. Just that small change could mean a lot to your cat even if that's the only adjustment you make to feeding him or her.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Fred.

It’s easy to associate food with love. You can still love your cat more than anyone or anything in the world, but you don’t have to show it by overfeeding them. Love your cat with pets, with lots of play time and environmental stimulation. Keep the bowl empty unless it's time for breakfast or dinner.

The Dreaded M.D.

“Is that kitten missing some of his fur?”

I looked over at Barney. He was playing with a toy held by a little girl who was taking part in our Kitties for Kids program. Barney was oblivious to the fact that the fur on his side looked like it had been wiped away. He wasn’t completely bald and with his white and orange coat, it was tough to see how much he was missing at a glance.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney's naked patch.

I took a closer look and it was clear that Barney was licking off his fur, not just on one side, but on both.


I’d noticed the foster cats have been itchy for a few weeks or more, but not so much that it caused alarms to go off. They’ve been checked a few times for fleas, but we find nothing, not even flea dirt. Last year was a VERY bad year for fleas so it wouldn’t be surprising that there were some in the foster room.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Dr. Larry takes a look.

What to do?

I’ve had a lot of experience with Miliary Dermatitis. My cat Gracie suffers from it. M.D. is basically “I don’t know that the heck it is” but it’s some sort of skin issue. Many times it’s related to a stress reaction, food or a mite or flea bite. In Gracie’s case, after YEARS of doing tests, seeing specialists, trial and error, only homeopathy worked to reduce the problem and steroids resolved it for a few weeks. The problem with steroids is-it will end up killing Gracie over time so for me, giving her more wasn’t acceptable.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred seems fine.

Gracie is covered with scabs. She stopped “barbering” (chewing) her coat and no longer has bloody lesions, but her fur is not plush and her skin feels terrible. I’m looking into acupuncture, but other than that I feel as though I’ve tried it all.

I look at Barney and think about the MANY things that could be causing him to lick off his fur. I knew a trip to see Dr. Larry would probably be a waste of time, but I had to start there.

Dr. Larry agreed with me that it was most likely M.D. and made some suggestions. One startled me, but also inspired me. He said to let Barney be an indoor/outdoor cat. That the stimulation of being outside reduced the need to over-groom because the cat was having so much FUN!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Caught in the act.

What? I can’t let my cats outside!

Then I realized I have NOT been spending enough time with the kittens. Playtime is for five minutes here and five minutes there. I’ve been too busy to do more than that. I figured since I hear them running around they must be playing. There are five cats in the foster room after all.

I also thought about the Kitties for Kids program. Was the stress of meeting all these strangers getting to Barney? Thing is, he is the FIRST cat to go over to a new person and say hi! He’s very social. If he was upset by the visitors wouldn’t he be hiding instead of playing?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. What the?!!!…the kittens are nursing on Willow!

What about diet?

Yes, that could be a factor. Since ALL the foster cats are scratching, something is making them itchy. The donations of food we’ve gotten lately is a mixed bag of canned, grain-free food. They get fed what I have on hand, not something consistent AND I’ve fed them a tuna based food recently for the first time. Did that set them off? Gracie seems to react to having fish.

The more I learn about cats, the more I sense that playtime is the key to more than we understand.

It reduces stress, stretches the muscles and the mind, it helps them have an outlet for their prey drive. If we simply shake a toy at them once in awhile, it’s just NOT enough. Their mind needs to be engaged if they stay indoors. I’ve seen Jackson get very nasty with the other cats when he’s clearly bored.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Liftoff during one of our Kitties for Kids visits.

Normally, what you do is change ONE thing and see if it works. If that doesn't work, then go on to the next thing. Because Barney is so young and should NOT be having this issue, I’m going to do a few things and hope that one of them is the answer.

I’ll start with an application of Revolution®. I like it better than some other flea treatments and it does affect mites and internal parasites, too. I realize it could make things worse, but Barney’s skin is fine. There are no open lesions. He does NOT have ringworm.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Coco shows how it's done.

I’ve already started ramping up playtime. I got a new Da Bird donated to us. It REALLY tires the cats out as long as I don’t let the cats catch the toy. If so, they destroy it in about 2 seconds. What I do is basically make them go nuts for at least 15 minutes. After the cats slow down or start to lay down instead of chase the toy, I start up with ANOTHER toy. I use a Cat Dancer and Rainbow CatCharmer or a laser pointer or both. I throw balls around, mouse toys, Kong® Cat Kickaroos. I want to see the cats get to the point of just about falling over they’re so tired. I’ll even open up my old iPad and play Game for Cats for them to further stimulate their minds. If I see Barney lick at himself I distract him with more playtime.

Lastly I’ve simplified their diet. Ideally I would feed them raw but that’s not in the budget. I’m cutting out fish and only giving them chicken/turkey. It’s very high quality grain-free canned food and I’m feeding them more often so they’re less stressed when they get their food. I noticed they were gulping at their meal the other day so clearly they need more to eat and more often.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Entertained by his Kong Cat Kickaroo.

The hope is that one or more of these things will work and Barney will stop licking off his fur. The fear is that he won’t and this will be a chronic problem for him. I’m also thinking about letting him run the whole house instead of just the foster room. The extra space might do him good.

Last night I let him out for a few minutes and he was terrified, so for now I’ll go more slowly and only open up smaller areas at a time.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor sweetie.

What is ailing Barney and making the others itchy? Is it dry skin or is Kitties for Kids going to have to be shelved? I can’t say right now. All I know is that I need to find an answer fast before Barney makes this into an OCD-like reaction that will require heavy-duty meds for years to come.

In my heart I feel like the key to keeping Barney healthy is more playtime, not just for him, but for ALL of our cats.

2012 The Year of Heartbreak and Hope Part 2


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.

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©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.

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©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!

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©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.

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©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.

Jackson fell ill with a temp of 105.1°F. We put him on antibiotics and waited two weeks to do a re-check. At his re-check, since Jackson did NOT like to be messed with, we had to sedate him to get a good x-ray. I didn't like the way his chest looked when he breathed. That day Jackson went into heart failure from the effects of sedation and we almost lost him. He had undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and was in poor condition. The next day Jackson was supposed to be adopted. Instead, Jackson fought for his life in intensive care at an emergency Vet. We took Jackson home later that night, unsure of how much longer we'd have with him.

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.

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©2012 Maria S. Bunny Boo Boo (inset) with Bongo (left) and George (right)-who are all ready to be adopted! Email 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.

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©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.


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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. You are deeply missed, sweet girl.

More vet runs, some of Winnie's kittens found forever homes, but all that didn't matter after learning the shocking news that Bobette, who was now named, Kissy, had passed away shortly after surgery to remove the same leg we'd tried so hard to save. JaneA drove five hours to be with us over Thanksgiving so we could all mourn together. I had a breakdown, sobbing uncontrollably, saying I wished I could make it better or could have done something different. JaneA comforted me when I really wanted to comfort her. I'd rescued Kissy over a year before and suffered when three of her kittens died a few days after rescue from a kill shelter. Here it was just over a year after I'd saved her life. I'd never worked so hard or for such a long time to make a cat's life pain free and happy and now she was lost to us forever.


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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. We will never forget and find a way to heal our hearts.

As the year draws to a close, we have saved over 60 lives by networking, rescuing, fostering…and many of those cats were tough to place. I also helped people keep their cats by offering them suggestions on how to work with their cat's behavior and health issues. I even covered the Vet bill of a few cats in dire need so they would keep their homes, too.

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.

Happy 2013 to All!

How the Sandy Hoook Tragedy Inspired Me

NOTE TO READERS: It's been a week since I wrote this post, but I felt it was still worth sharing. This is a behind-the-scenes look at the birth “Kitties for Kids” and its initial flowering. I hope it inspires all of you that next time you get an idea that rises from your heart, you just go with it. You may change the world, or only a small part of it or just your own soul. Whatever comes of it, do it. The world needs you.


My Mother used to say to me: “Never wish for anything. You're liable to get it.”

A week ago I wished I could pay my mortgage, find more donations for Kitten Associates and get the kittens adopted so I could finally take a MUCH needed break from fostering. Things were looking up. I had good possible adopters for Coco, Fred & Barney, Nico and Willow. That left me with Latte and George & Bongo (who are still down in Georgia).

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The size of the memorial grew every day until the sidewalks were jammed with toys, flowers, candles and messages of love.

Then the world stopped spinning and the tears began to flow after the vicious rampage and mass murder at our local elementary school. The following day, Saturday the 15th of December, an idea blossomed. I'm not one to sit idly by when something bad happens. I need to take action on some level, in some way. Maybe running a cat rescue predisposes me to be the type of person to run TO trouble, instead of AWAY from it?

There are so many times when I believe I have a good idea, but never act on it. There's always a reason to watch more TV or to not bother because it would take too much time and keep me from other things I've made a commitment to already. Between tears I said to Sam that maybe we should open up the foster kitten room and invite the children of Newtown to come here and just pet the cats. We knew the effect playtime would have on the kids. I'd seen it many time before-their eyes lit up, twinkling, giggling like mad, their voices rising in glee. I thought if I could help them, even for a short while it would be worth it.

©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. So many candles. So many tears.

I knew I couldn't take away their pain-or frankly, anyone's here in Sandy Hook, CT for that matter, but I HAD to try. I feel very protective of the people in this town-which surprises me because often I feel like an outcast. Sam and I don't have any children together so we miss out on a lot of things since Newtown IS very family focused. Some times I resented living in a bedroom community where we didn't drive an SUV or go to soccer games. I found my way to fit in through my love of animals and now I get to do something with that love that might be of some benefit on a grand scale. I've always wanted to make a difference. Maybe with this little idea to help the children I COULD.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The note reads: “Sandy Hook Elementary. With all my love and lots of Hugs. Sandy Hook Class of 1972.

I called the program Kitties for Kids (though looking back on it I wish I called it Kitties for Kiddies, but it's too late now) and put together a mental picture of how it would work. I bounced the idea off Sam and he said; “Go for it.” He didn't find any serious issues with doing it and I was so energized by my need to help that I sat down and started making lists. I went online and added a number of plush cat toys to our Amazon WishList. As I do with every adoption event or promotion I went online and told my Facebook fans, both of Covered in Cat Hair and of Kitten Associates, my non-profit cat rescue organization.

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I thought that after the kids came to visit, I'd give them a plush cat toy because I feared they would either not want to go home after 30 minutes OR not want to go home-EVER. Perhaps getting a parting gift of a plush cat would help soothe them and remind them of the nice time they had.

I got a text message from my foster mom down in Georgia. “Where were the plush cats on the list?” She didn't see anything.

Neither did I.

All the plush I asked for were purchased in less than an hour.

I added more and they, too, were gone in minutes!I began getting emails from folks asking how they could help. One woman, who created K.T. Cat, an adorable plush toy designed to help young children talk about their feelings, offered a donation of her plush.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Every day the UPS driver kept bringing us packages. It was like Christmas for days and days!

She offered 50 K.T. Cats and I gladly accepted. I knew a special therapeutic plush like this could REALLY make a difference.

I was stunned by all the sudden activity and interest in my idea. I started to worry about what-if's: What if I don't have enough space to store all these boxes of plush cats? What if no one shows up? What if TOO MANY people show up and I can't take them all on for fear of stressing my kittens? What if we have to rent a haul and a storage container? What if I RUN OUT OF FOSTER KITTENS?

By Sunday I was in full “WTF-mode”. I didn't care if it doesn't work out, if I flop on my face, if we get robbed or a cat gets dumped by our front door. I was going to make this happen come what may.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sorting out what we have and trying to keep it all away from inquisitive cats.

My dear friend Mary, of The Word Forge LOVED the idea and offered to help write a Press Release. Another friend, Irene, my super-volunteer offered to come over and help me clean out the foster room and go to Target so we could get some things to cheer the space up a bit (even though i really wanted to completely re-do the room there wasn't time). It seemed as though EVERYONE I told about Kitties for Kids LOVED the idea. Their enthusiasm kept me going.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. A huge box of plush ready for the children to take them home.

By Wednesday, a few days from the birth of this idea, our story was reaching NATIONAL MEDIA OUTLETS already and the plush cat toy MOUNTAIN was growing bigger every day! I believe that for once my timing was right on and my idea was appropriate and needed which made it an easy thing for the media to want to cover.

I got very little sleep and barely ate. There was a lot of time spent answering calls and emails. Kitten Associates was FINALLY starting to become known in Newtown, something we've been very weak on since being established in 2010 and the word is spreading about us beyond the borders of the USA.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen and his plush counterpart, both offering comfort to those effected by the Shooting in Sandy Hook.

And then the phone started to ring. The people I needed to reach were getting the message and wanted to book an appointment. Kitties for Kids was really happening. Now it was time to found out if my idea was a good one.

Next up-"Media Mayhem," followed by “Terror-tourists GO HOME!”, then we do a wrap up with an update on how the Kitties for Kids program is doing along with some very special photos.


For more information about Kitties for Kids, or to find out how you can visit our kitties visit Kitten Associates!

The Saddest Place on Earth. Sandy Hook, CT 1 of 2

[There's SO MUCH going on that it's tough to catch up. Here's a double dose of blog entries that cover Saturday and Sunday. Next up will be the truly uplifting, surprising and amazing story about what's going on with the Kitties for Kids Program we've put into action. By the time I get to write it, I'm hoping I'll have even more joyful news about how this program is taking off.]

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Land of the Tripods at Treadwell Park in Sandy Hook.

I’ve been doing a lot of crying over the past two days. I’ve been raging, not sleeping much, not eating much. Whatever I “had” to get done isn’t done. Christmas plans or shopping? Who cares? We cancelled dinner with dear friends we rarely get to see because we were too sad to go out and the roads are nearly impassible in some areas so why bother?

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Imagine yourself standing here with the world watching.

I need to explain to all of you that writing and taking photos is a way for me to purge, explore, digest my feelings. I also feel that I want you to see what I’m seeing, maybe in some way so you can understand what’s going on here a little better without the filter of television news.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our intrepid First Selectman, Pat Llodra (center facing right) at the news conference to announce the names of the deceased.

Last night I was editing photos I shot at the news briefing in Treadwell Park where Lt. J. Paul Vance handed out the list of the deceased. I needed to be there, partly to prove to myself that this was real, partly to honor the history of this moment and partly because I was terrified some of our adopters were on that list.


The phone rang. It was 9:30pm. The local 24 hr Emergency Vet was calling me to ask if I could help a cat who needed care right away. His urethra was blocked and his owner, who was disabled and on social security could not afford to pay for it.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Reporters, reporters, reporters.

It took a few hours to sort it all out. The owner surrendered the cat to us because in all honesty he had no family to support him with this challenging situation and he was not mentally clear enough to understand what his cat needed done-just that his cat was sick. I made sure he was fine with giving up his cat as long as he got a good home-which I promised we would do.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Lt. J. Paul Vance (right) and the medical examiner (in white).

The cat’s name is Shorty. He’s a big red tabby who must have lived outside most of his life because his left ear tip is missing, indicating he was trapped and neutered at some point. Sadly, it was done too late in his life because he is also FIV+, which can be transmitted sexually or from fighting (deep puncture bites).

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Lt. Vance holds “the list” of the deceased close to his chest.

Money. We needed a lot of it-about $750.00. In the middle of the night, in the middle of all this sadness, I stopped what I was doing to help this cat.

I asked for help for Shorty. Taking on a debt like this would put our finances into a very serious strain and prevent us from caring for the cats in our program. I needed my support group-my friends and fans of Covered in Cat Hair and once again, they did NOT disappoint!

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Shorty.

Before I could even FINISH writing the plea for help my phone started chiming with text messages notifying me of donations.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Shorty after a night of treatment, beginning to perk up.



The sun didn’t make an appearance this morning. It was cold and drizzling. I wanted to drive over to visit Shorty and get his bill settled. If things weren’t so insane I’d normally drive through “downtown” Sandy Hook to get to NVS.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The sign says it all.

I often feel the tug of my instincts to tell me where to go, when to go, what to do. Half the time I ignore it and try to “rationally” choose my next steps because that’s more logical than following your gut. Today, perhaps I was too tired to fight it and instead of driving the long way over to the Vet, I went straight for downtown. It was early enough and miserable enough outside that I thought maybe I’d miss the bad traffic.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The memorial—its first day.

I got there without much delay, but the center of our little district was already jammed with cars and people milling about.

I took a few photos from my car since the traffic was barely moving. A few cars ahead of me, a huge satellite truck was trying to parallel park. I watched in amazement as this behemoth crept backwards, knocking branches off a tree it was so tall. I thought he was going to hit the car behind him, but he suddenly signaled and pulled back into traffic, giving up on any chance of parking. It was a HUGE parking space. The car in front of me didn’t take it and in a flash I was parked and out of my car, walking down the sidewalk to the center of Sandy Hook, where many of the memorials are located.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. One of so many plush toys all over downtown Sandy Hook, CT.

I felt okay for the first block. It was my town. It was all so familiar. There were the pretty garlands of holiday evergreens tied with big red bows. There was the coffee shop where we sit outside on the back deck and soak up the sun while we sip our frothy cappuccinos. Everything seemed normal. I was just going to look around, take some photos. Not a big deal. But within a few more steps everything changed. My heart began to tighten, followed by my throat. I felt like I was going to faint.

There before me was a makeshift memorial, just like the ones I’d seen firsthand in New York City on 9|11, but these had teddy bears and toys covering what was normally a place to sit and look out onto the Pootatuck river.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Yes to both!

I began to sob. It came on so fast, from such depths of despair, that I had no way to stop...

…to be continued.

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