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Not On My Watch

The Never-Ending Rescue: Pistachio. Part 2 of 2.

What the Hell was I going to do? I used to depend on Sam. He helped out when the kittens needed a claw trim (my close-up vision sucks) or he’d hold a kitten so I can give them medication. I needed to de-worm Pistachio again, but Pistachio was fussing around and wouldn’t hold still.

I was too proud to ask for help and even though I went slowly, right after I gave the liquid de-wormer, Pistachio coughed furiously.

I feared the meds went into his lungs which can cause aspiration pneumonia. When it happened the next night, too, I got very scared I screwed up big time.

I took Pistachio to the vet the next day. The kittens were due for their first FVRCP vaccination anyway. I forgot to mention the coughing when Pistachio was examined, but Dr. Larry didn’t hear anything troubling during the exam. It didn’t help that the kitten was purring so loud it interfered with what he could hear. Because I didn’t say anything about the cough, he didn’t know to listen extra carefully.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. One of over 2 dozen trips to the vet. Here Pistachio is being examined by Dr. Mary.

Over the weekend, late at night, Pistachio would cough, a wet cough, not unlike a hairball type cough, but there was something off about it. I called Saturday morning and talked with one of the vet techs. She said if it got worse to come in but that maybe I was over-thinking it. I agreed. Lack of sleep, maybe giving it another day, since Pistachio was bright and running around, would be okay.

By Monday I was sure there was something terribly wrong and thank goodness I went back to have Pistachio checked. On x-ray you could see his lungs looked terrible. If it was aspiration pneumonia, Pistachio could DIE. No joke. Maybe I just killed one of the cutest kittens I’ve ever fostered.

Artistic Cutie R Olson for FB
©2018 Robin AF Olson.

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I was to give Pistachio antibiotics because, as Dr. Larry told me, the bacteria in his mouth was pushed into his lungs, if, indeed I forced the de-wormer liquid into his lungs. It made sense, but I didn’t want to give him the medication because I knew it would throw off his gut bacteria.

I’ve been learning about homeopathy and I’ve seen some amazing things happen for my cat, Spencer, but I didn’t know what to do for Pistachio so I followed Dr. Larry’s advice.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Feel better!

The next day Pistachio didn’t cough that I know of. He seemed to be doing really well, though his appetite was worse than ever. He’d never been a great eater, which is very unlike kittens, who will usually eat anything and everything. Something didn’t add up. I just couldn’t figure it out. I know I’d seen kittens get a cough after being de-wormed. The dead parasites can cause a mild allergic reaction that effects the lungs. I’d seen it a few times but it always went away after a few days. Pistachio was skinny. I could feel his ribs. His wormy belly was gone, but he wasn’t chunking up.

©2018 Robin AF Olson.

It was very difficult to stay strong and keep Pistachio’s symptoms tracked I was so stressed out. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t write. Words failed me. One night I saw Sam sitting in the living room typing onto his laptop. Facebook was open. I could see he was talking to someone in Messenger. It was late at night. Who was he talking to? I NEVER EVER SNOOP. I’m not that kind of person, but he was saying a lot to whoever it was. He got up and walked into another room. I tiptoed over to his laptop, but I couldn’t tell who he was talking to because I had the wrong glasses on. All I know is he saw me looking and he quickly walked over and closed the laptop, then walked back into the kitchen. That’s when I felt the gut-punch of fear well up inside me. Was Sam cheating on me? Would he really do that? For over a decade we’d lived together and I never worried about him having something going on with another woman, but now this? I understood. We’d been under tremendous stress for too long. No fun. No laughter. Lots of hardship. Why wouldn’t he look for love somewhere else? Why wouldn’t I? I couldn’t ask him about it, but I could let the fear fester inside my gut and add to my sinking depression.

I returned to my self-imposed jail, the foster room, and tried to read a book as I sat there trying not to throw up. I didn’t want to be on social media, but I wanted to look at Sam’s posts. Maybe there was a clue there, but I stopped myself. Instead, I made a list about how we would separate the cats. Which ones Sam would get. Which ones we’d have to re-home (yes, re-home). How I would live if I cashed out whatever I have left, sell the house in its poor condition and move. I couldn’t live in an apartment because they’d restrict me from having more than a cat or two. I’d have to buy something, but what? Where would I live? Where could I move where it’s affordable? How would I make a living?

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Off to the vet again.

I realized if Sam and I broke up for good I’d have to shut Kitten Associates down, at least for a year or two, or maybe forever if I couldn’t get back on my feet.

I tried to be positive. Maybe it was time to realize a dream I’ve had for over a decade. I’ve wanted to move to Lunenberg, Nova Scotia since I visited there in 2004. I looked up what it would take to get citizenship in Canada and I’m A) too old, B) don’t have any skill set they need, C) don’t have a $600,000 (at least) business to bring into the country. I think I could live there, just not as a citizen, but I’d have to keep residency here in the USA, right? How could I do that?

I was hit with a crippling sense of failure. I'd waited too long to try to move. Add that realization to depression, well, it wasn't a good mix. I started to have very dark thoughts about maybe I didn't even want to live any more.

My father took his life. I know what suicide does to the surviving family and friends. When my mother was still alive, I had to promise her I wouldn't follow in my father's footsteps. She knew of my struggles. We made a plan. If I ever went into the dark place I could call her. Then my next goal was to get to my next breath-that was it.

I knew if I could just hang tight, I'd feel different in time, but without the support of my mother, I didn't know how I was going to manage to be strong enough to keep going. I had to find some grain of faith and trust that I really didn't want to die. I just wanted the pain to stop. I could find another way.

I started looking around for things to sell. I have a lot of items from my parents estate that I don’t want and that they didn’t care much about. Nothing is particularly valuable but if I sold it all off it might help with a few bills and paying bills would help me feel better. I have an old jewelry box of my mother’s. Inside it I found my father’s wedding ring. He took it off after he had an accident fixing the garage door and spilt his fingers open. It was when we lived in Ohio back in the 1960s. He never put the ring back on after that, though my parents stayed married the rest of their lives. But now the unworn ring gave me a clue about the truth of their relationship.

A few months ago I found out my brother is only my half-brother, that my mother had had an affair with a lawyer just a few years into my parent’s marriage. Maybe my dad found out some time around the accident and that’s why he never wore the ring again. For his sake, I hope he never knew the truth.

It made me sad to see the ring, I missed my daddy so much. I would never sell it, but oh to have one of my parents around to confide in during this time would have been a great relief. My mother’s been gone for over ten years and my dad, nearly twenty.

I put my daddy’s ring on and inside the next small box I found a necklace he gave my mom. It’s a jade heart surrounded by tiny pearls. I love this piece and won’t part with it. On the back it’s inscribed to my mother and dated Feb 14, 1959. 59 years later I held it in my hands. It just happened to be Valentine’s Day 2018. I put the necklace on. It fit perfectly. Through the pieces of jewelry I could feel both my parents with me. I hoped that they were out there somewhere helping me find my way out of a very dark place. I felt so alone. It was unbearable.

I went downstairs and found two Valentines cards from Sam on the kitchen counter. I was shocked. I figured this would be a Valentine’s Day with no celebration. I was too scared to open them, but once I did I was sickened, because one card basically said he wished me happiness and peace. In so many words, goodbye, then he added, I don’t wish you anything bad. In the other card he made a comment about the artwork on the cover; heart-shaped sushi. We went out for sushi the first time we met 25 years ago. It was the first time I ever had it and I loved it.

Inside that card were tickets to a comedy show he knew I wanted to go to. I felt totally messed up and distraught. What was going on? Why wouldn’t he talk to me but yet here was this offering. Was it a goodbye gesture or something else? By then I didn’t have the confidence to imagine it was anything good, so I slunk back into my room and sat with the kittens.

Later that night I went into the master bathroom to brush my teeth. Sam was in bed reading, not looking up at me. I was so sad and broken. I don’t know how I worked up the nerve, but I slipped into the bed next to him. He was startled, silent. I lifted his arm and got under it. Even if he loved someone else, maybe he still had a little bit of love left for me? He didn’t say a word. He put his book down. He didn’t adjust his position. He didn’t hold me any closer. He stretched out and turned the light off. Neither of us spoke. We barely moved. I didn’t know if he wanted me there or was too stunned to do anything. I squeezed his hand. He didn’t squeeze back. I laid there quietly for a few minutes. We were like two corpses, we were so still. The only sign of life was our breath. I didn’t know how long to wait or what to do next. I felt resigned to my fate. After a few minutes I got up and quietly went back to the foster room to sleep. He didn’t stop me. He didn’t come after me. He let me go. It’s amazing how much can be communicated without words and how much it hurts.

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A few days passed. More tension. Continuing inertia on my part. I couldn’t take the stress any more, but I also feared if I said anything to Sam we’d have a knock-down (not literally), drag-out fight. I just didn’t feel like I could do that and I was too down in the dumps to even try. I went out to dinner with some of my cat-rescue lady friends, but it did little to cheer me. I didn’t want to get into a bitch-fest complaining about Sam. I just wanted to go back to my ratty bed in the foster room.

And I was worried about the kittens, yes the kittenS. Cassie started coughing. That meant two things, one: I DIDN’T GIVE PISTACHIO ASPIRATION PNEUMONIA because that’s not contagious and two: whatever was going on they BOTH HAD IT. Was it viral or due to their common health issues regarding parasites? Mia was in the room, too and she seemed unaffected.

I couldn’t keep ignoring my problems. I had to get back on my feet. I had to talk to Sam, so without any agenda, I sat down next to him and started to talk. Thankfully after all the weeks of not talking we’d both calmed down enough to have the start of a conversation. We didn’t fight at all, but we expressed some of what we were feeling. We acknowledged we have a long way to go, if we go together. We need to make a lot of changes but we weren’t going to try to solve it all in one sitting or say everything that needed to be said all at once, too, but at least some of the pressure dissipated.

I asked him about if he’d stepped out on me. I looked him in the eye when I asked. He said no. Nothing was going on. He was surprised I asked him that, but I told him I had my reasons. Yes, I understand people lie to each other, but I had a choice. I chose to let it go. If there was something going on or still is, it will come out eventually. Since Sam never left home much during the past few weeks and even before that, he couldn’t be hooking up with someone nearby. It would have to be via online, or it was nothing. Part of me was too beat up emotionally to fight about that, but the other part still wasn’t 100 percent certain I wanted to fight for him at all.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Late one night we get silly.

Pistachio was doing all right, other than a rare cough, but still wasn't eating well. Cassie hadn’t coughed again since the first time days ago. I thought they were getting better, but without warning, Pistachio started up again. The kittens were a bit quieter than usual, not playing or eating well. To make things worse, Dr. Larry go the Flu and wasn’t in the office for most of the week while I was getting suspicious about the kitten’s health.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Catshew finally learns she can relax around me.

Yesterday I took them both in to see Dr. Larry. The night before they’d been quiet and had actually eaten a meal. I thought maybe I was nuts, the stress of the past month, severe lack of sleep had gotten to me, but I wasn’t wrong.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Pistachio's x-rays.

Dr. Larry took x-rays of Pistachio’s lungs. They were no better than two weeks ago when we last did the rads. He told me if Pistachio was an adult he’d think it was cancer. It did not look like asthma, but perhaps it was P.I.E. (Pulmonary Infiltrates of Eosinophils). Yet another disease I’ve never heard of before. I swear all my cats have weird things wrong with them that my Vet rarely sees. IF that’s what it is, it basically means a severe allergic reaction to some sort of parasite. The problem is it may be a CHRONIC problem, not a curable one.

Dr. Larry asked me if we could x-ray Cassie. I had no reason to believe she was in trouble. I almost said no, but I was glad I agreed.

Her lungs are as bad as Pistachio’s. I almost fainted when I heard the news. What the Hell was going on with the kittens? How would we find out what was wrong?

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Cassie's x-rays.

We decided to do a PCR test on Cassie’s saliva since she had never gotten antibiotics, which would ruin the test results. Dr. Larry said it would rule in or out “some bad things,” (which it ended up doing) but this time didn’t go into detail and I didn’t ask, which is completely unlike me. The tests, the x-rays, the over 10 vet visits have taken a toll on us…and Pistachio’s testicles haven’t dropped. This is called, Cryptorchid.

It’s either one testicle doesn't drop or both sides don't drop, and in his case, it’s both sides which, again, is very rare. This can also be very painful and cause a lot of problems. It complicates his neutering because it turns it into exploratory surgery unless we do an ultrasound first.

It also means Pistachio can’t go anywhere-be adopted-for another two months. If at 6-months of age he still doesn’t have his little nuggets, then we have to do the procedure and surgery and we might as well wait to re-test him for FIV while we’re at it (we did re-test and he was found to be negative for FIV).

It was a real kick in the teeth. So many people want to adopt Pistachio and now no one can. I don’t know when or if the kittens will be able to find their forever homes. First, I have to find a way to get them healthy if it’s possible, and right now I have more questions than I have answers.

If there’s something to be learned it’s to follow your gut with your pet’s health. Even though Pistachio’s cough isn’t every day, it sounds terrible. He still plays and purrs, but his lungs tell another story. He and Cassie have come a very long way in the weeks they’ve been with us and I’m determined to find an answer for them.

As for me, it’s one day at a time. At least my words are back and I have so many more stories to tell.

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August 2018

It was February when I wrote about Pistachio and Catshew, but as the year dragged on, things got worse for me and Sam, for the kittens, too. Spencer just turned 17, which was the highlight of the past few months. Somehow he’s still with us. I haven’t done chemo, just homeopathy and good food. It was a very difficult decision to not give him chemo, but now I feel more comfortable with my choice. Hearing him purr and having him gain back weight he'd lost last year has given me hope he may be with us a bit longer.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Spencer & Freya curl up together. I'm so grateful Spencer is still with us.

But Pistachio. My God. For MONTHS he coughed. MONTHS. I tried homeopathy with both kittens for about 6 weeks and their lungs got about 40% better. I was tracking every meal, if they ate, if they coughed, I timed Pistachio's coughs since he was much more severely effected, even if it was 3 AM. I wrote what kind of cough (foamy or dry-harsh, etc) into the notes app on my phone.

I finally had to give up on homeopathy (which I found out later is fine to do. You don’t have to do all homeopathy or all “traditional” treatments. You can do a bit of both, but that sort of fine-tuning is not something I'm comfortable with yet.)

Meanwhile, Pistchio’s testicles didn’t drop. He frequently goes in and out of the litter pan, but doesn’t always pass urine. I got an ultrasound done to find his testicles and they only saw one. It was pressing on his bladder. The longer we waited to do surgery, the more uncomfortable he would become, but you can’t sedate a cat and do surgery on a cat who has lousy lung function.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Guess where they're going? Ugh!

We tried antibiotics. Nothing worked. I asked about lungworm, but was told it was too unlikely and his symptoms would be different. We did more tests and talked about doing a trans-trachael lavage (basically they sedate the cat, infuse his lungs with a small amount of sterile saline, then remove the fluid and test it to get answers about what the coughing was from). The problem, not only was cost, but THE CAT CAN’T BREATHE very well! Is this wise to sedate him? Okay, it would be a “twilight” sort of sedation since they needed him to cough as part of the procedure, but it was still risky.

I took Pistachio to see a specialist. We talked about lungworm again. We decided to do a Baermann fecal test. It’s $200. It’s also VERY TOUGH to do because they require a FRESH stool sample..I mean like “right out of the pipe” stool sample. If I didn’t see Pistachio pass the stool, it would be too old. Also, I needed to get the sample on Tuesday-Saturday between 8AM and 6PM. Really? That meant ideally I should be in the foster room ALL THE TIME. Yeah, that’s not going to happen. I have to work!!!

It took a few weeks, but I finally lucked out and got a sample. Guess what?

LUNGWORM POSITIVE.

Lungworms are rare here in the northeast, but common in cats in the south. It meant he had to have come into contact with a secondary host somehow. I read it can be from a slug or drinking out of a puddle a slug passed through, but in the winter? Or something else was the culprit because it could be transmitted through him eating another prey animal. Whatever it was, clearly both he and his sister had been infected because they both had a terrible cough.

The treatment was a de-wormer! No biggie. We’d do it for 2 weeks. You can bet I did not miss one dose of that de-wormer!

At last, Pistachio and Catshew stopped coughing so often. Cassie was fine very quickly so I was able to get her spayed. I opted to have it done with Dr Larry just in case her lungs were an issue, but it was very expensive. Pistachio still had a lingering cough now and then, but I could finally get it set up to have him neutered.

It was July. I’d been trying to find a cure for SEVEN MONTHS.

The first week of August we set the date for his neuter. The neuter is really exploratory surgery to find both of Pistachio’s nuts. Dr. Larry said we had to repeat the ultrasound, which dashed my hopes at not having to spend yet another $500 on more tests. I’d taken him to our vet over 20 times and spent over $4000 on his care to date. His surgery was going to be about $750. Normally it’s less than $100 to neuter a cat. His care was breaking the bank.

©2018 Robin AF Olson. Still coughing.

The day arrived for his surgery. I couldn’t wait. For months I’d been suffering from the stench in the foster room. His urine smelled VERY STRONG-a mix of ammonia and male-cat-stank since he still had working hormones. I couldn’t do much to clear the smell out of the room and I was trying to sleep there each night. Yeah, good luck with that. A few weeks after surgery his hormone level should drop and the smell would go away. I could finally put Pistachio and his sister up for adoption.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. At least Pistachio can get some rest.

Around 6AM Pistachio started coughing again. I had to cancel the surgery. It was too risky. I didn’t know if the de-wormer had failed or if something else was going on. The next time we could do the ultrasound and the surgery was a MONTH later (August 31). I was devastated.

This cat was uncomfortable. The smell was terrible and he continued to cough from time to time. I contacted our specialist and she said we should repeat the Baermann test before trying any surgery. Here we go again…

Meanwhile, Pistachio was growing up. The sweet little kitten got “stud tail!” It’s when an intact male has overactive hormones that create an overabundance of oil in the sebaceous glands. The base of his tail got greasy and it could get full of blackheads and become infected, so back to the vet I went with a new bottle of specialized shampoo for his tail. Pistachio was so fearful he hid under a towel on the exam table.

He no longer trusts me to come near him because of all the vet visits. It breaks my heart more than I can describe to lose his trust. I love this kitten so much, but I have to get him healthy and that means taking him for car trips to the vet whether he likes it or not

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Growing up fast. Pistachio's tail floofed, while the rest of his coat is silky and smooth.

We didn’t wash his tail. It can actually make it worse and because we plan on doing the neuter I HOPE, it’s a temporary problem (and he didn’t have an infection).

He’s a man-cat now, too. I’ve NEVER seen this before because we ALWAYS spay and neuter our kittens at a reasonable time. I would never wait 9 months to neuter a cat unless he had health issues, as Pistachio has, but now, my little guy has a BIG JOWLY HEAD (often called “Apple-head” here in the northeast or “Biscuit-head” down south). He probably weighs 10 pounds. We used to be so close. He loved to sleep on my chest and now he whines if I come near him.

I hope that in a few weeks, after his surgery, he’ll feel better and want to be close again. I don’t know if anyone will want to adopt him and his sister since they’re no longer kittens, but I can’t keep him as much as I would like to.

I’ve spent most of this year helping a cat I thought I’d have adopted out so long ago. It was supposed to be a quick rescue, not one that broke the bank, my heart and my back. I don’t regret rescuing Pistachio and Cassie. I know they would probably be dead if I hadn’t fought so hard to find out what was ailing them, but now I really need help for the final hurdle.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. One and a half 'staches.

Thanks to our friend Chris, she will match up to $1000 in donations. We need them BADLY. This year has been the toughest on us. Donations are at about 1/10 of what we normally can raise. We just took in a mom and 5 kittens and we still have Daphne and 2 of her 4 kittens to find homes for. Chanel, who came from a hoarder, is still with us too. It’s been a tough year in so many ways, but I can’t provide for the rescue cats we have without support.

Our goal is to raise $1000 to earn the matching $1000. It won’t even come close to getting us out of the hole, but it will make Pistachio’s surgery possible. If we raise more, then it will go to any and all of the other cats in our care. Ideally, we need to a lot more to cover everyone (at least $900 to do the spay/neuter surgery for Matilda and her kittens). It’s very hard to have to ask for help, but we really need it.

Here’s how you can help:

DONATE

Give a gift of any amount over $1 to Pistachio using our PayPal.me link (you don't have to have a PayPal Account to give a gift) HERE.

Quick shortcuts to donate a specific amount :

To donate $5: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/5

To donate $10: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/10

To donate $25: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/25

VENMO https://venmo.com/KittenAssociates

To donate whatever you wish: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/

Please note: We choose not to use fundraising web sites because they charge a fee on top of the fee PayPal charges us so we get less of a donation. Some of the fundraising sites also take a LONG time to relinquish the funds and we do not have the luxury to wait. If we reach our goal I let you know so that we can close the fundraiser.

If you wish to write a check, Please make out your gift to: Kitten Associates and send it to: P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354 and add a note that it’s "For Pistachio."

Your gift is tax deductible. Kitten Associates is a 501c3 non-profit. Our EIN Tax ID is 27-3597692.

Please think good thoughts for Pistachio and for me, too. I made a promise to this kitten a long time ago-that one day we would be friends. I kept that promise to the best of my ability, but I can’t help but feel I have failed him, and that doesn’t sit right with me at all.

Cutie on Cat tree 1000
©2018 Robin AF Olson. So adorable, yet so very sick.

Sam and I have waxed and waned in our ability to get along. Sometimes I’m sure the heart-connection we have is gone and other times it feels unbreakable. We almost lost the house a few weeks ago, but a family member stepped up and helped us with a temporary loan. Our path has been rocky for so long. I'm praying we find a way to overcome these issues and find a way to take a break to recover from the stress we’re under. We’ve got to be able to buy groceries without being scared the lights will be shut off while we’re at the store. I feel like I’m in a pit of despair that I can’t get out of, but I keep trying.

I do it for the cats. I do it because they need me. I do it because I can’t fail and lose everything.

The Never-Ending Rescue: Pistachio. Part 1 of 2.

Prologue

Every time I take on a rescue-cat I always get to a point where I realize this cat or kitten came into my life for a reason. Maybe I’m just looking to make sense of it, to connect random events, or maybe there’s something cosmic going on that I’m responding to. I’ll probably never know for certain why, all I know is that it’s starting to add up with our latest rescues.

It’s been over a month [guess what…it’s been 6 months now] since I wrote what follows. A lot has happened, not all of it bright or cheery, but the puzzle pieces are fitting together. I know that these kittens needed to be here. If they had been given away, it’s very unlikely they would have gotten the care they needed. It’s not to say those people are unkind, just not as experienced caring for kittens. As often is the case, what seemed to be a straightforward rescue has turned into a complicated, expensive journey to get two kittens on the right track.

January

A text message appeared on my iPhone. “Help needed for a kitten…can you take it?” I get these requests for cats of all ages, all the time. Dozens a day. I refer some, hope-for-the-best for others, network a few, take on ones that will fit into my foster home network when funds allow. It happens so often it becomes a blur of endless anxiety, frustration, and heartbreak for me.

“I’m really tired. I’m on a break…first time in 7 years. Was going to take the winter off from fostering.” was my reply.

This is where I thought the story would end. My soul felt empty from the ravages of years of acute stress without the chance to have a day off, to feel peace again. My cat Spencer has lymphoma. I need to focus my attention on him, not another kitten who needs de-worming and 100 trips to the vet…who might have a contagious virus that will sicken my cats.

Karen, a lady I’ve known for years, works with the place where I get my old car fixed. We’ve talked cats many times. Her husband owns a business where there’s lots of heavy machinery and concrete forms. They have a small feral cat colony and from time to time they rescue the cats and find them homes. This time they couldn’t find a place for the kitten they just found and wanted me to take it.

She sent me a photo. The kitten was black and white, dirty, probably feral, probably full of fleas and mites and worms. I explained I just couldn’t do it. Later that day she told me she found a home for the kitten, but if I wanted to stop by the next morning, I could see him. She said she was already eating solid food and had eaten 3 cans she was so hungry.

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First glimpse of the little kitten. I was so tired (probably had compassion fatigue) that I didn't even notice how cute it was.

I felt like she could have told me anything about this kitten and I wouldn’t have cared. I don’t know why I agreed to stop by. I guess I felt guilty. I worried that if the kitten wasn’t going to a rescue, that at least I should make sure it gets de-wormed and make sure it was in good enough shape to go to a home. Why I put a cat carrier in my car before I left the house is beyond me. I just had a feeling I better do it in case there was more going on than I was lead to understand.

I heard the kitten before I saw her. She was crying, backed into the corner of a small dog crate that was placed on the floor in Karen’s office. Karen explained they had bathed her a few times, but you could still smell the odor from burnt engine oil coming off her. Her fur was caked and spikey. She was hunkered down, terrified. That’s when I learned she was found under the hood of a big truck, on the block heater of a diesel engine. Too scared to move, one of the employees grabbed the kitten. It had been so cold outside that the only source of warmth anywhere was under the hoods of the trucks since they were plugged in when not in use to keep the engine fluids warm so they’d start each morning.

I asked her to take the kitten out of the crate. She really stank. Her belly was so big I could barely see her legs. She shuffled over to a stack of papers and pressed herself against some file folders. Her pupils were huge. She was definitely feral and I said as much to Karen.

Pistachio at NCC
©2018 Robin AF Olson. Filthy, stinky, adorable.

She was skin and bones under all that swelling. She might have other health issues. Her eyes were watering, then she sneezed. I asked about the person who was going to adopt the kitten and was told they had a cat and dog, but that was about it. I asked if they were going to make sure the kitten got spayed and I didn’t get a firm answer.

I looked at the pitiful fur-blob and told Karen that I thought I should take the kitten. My inner voice was yelling at me at the time, but my heart won out. I knew what this kitten needed would be too much for someone who doesn’t work with kittens to deal with. That the kitten would probably turn into one of those kittens who always hides under the sofa because it didn’t get socialized properly. I worried that it wouldn’t get the vet care it needed. As a rescuer, it was against everything I do to leave this kitten’s future up to fate.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Oh yes, I AM the cutest kitten, ever.

I carefully inserted a syringe of de-worming medicine into the kitten’s mouth, then quickly turned her upside down and looked between her back legs. She was a HE. Karen was sure it was a girl, probably because the kitten has a very girlie looking face, if that makes any sense. I saw little nubs, no question in my book of it being a "him", but the next question was…

Oh shit. Now what do I do? Karen agreed it made sense for me to take the kitten and perhaps he could be adopted later by this lady once the vetting was all done.

I called my vet. They could see us right away. I packed up the kitten into my oh-so-conveniently-ready-cat-carrier. As I placed the carrier onto the front seat of my car I said to the kitten; “You don’t know this, but we’re going to be good friends one day. I promise I will take good care of you. Don’t worry.” The kitten replied by crying all the way to the vet.

I had ten minutes to come up with a name for the kitten. He has a little black moustache just under his nose so I named him Pistachio.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. A very filthy boy.

A winter storm was due later that day and I had planned to go to the store and grab some supplies, instead of rescue a kitten. My vet had to examine Pistachio between other appointments so I went to the store while they took care of him.

The store was crowded and it took a long time to get everything on my list. So long that I’d forgotten about the kitten when my phone rang. It was Dr. Mary.

She told me the exam went well, but Pistachio looked like he was coming down with an upper respiratory tract infection. They were going to give me antibiotics, but I wasn’t sure I was going to give them to the kitten because they estimated he was about six to eight weeks old and weighed just 1 lb, 9 oz. I knew some of that was fluid build-up from parasites and I didn’t want to harm his immune system right away. As I was thinking about what sorts of digestive support I could give him, Dr. Mary’s normally cheerful tone, dropped a bit.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. After the bath, a forlorn Pistachio.

“It looks like Mr. Pistachio is positive for FIV.”

My heart sank, but then Dr. Mary reminded me that due to his age, it could be a false positive and that we’d re-test in a few weeks. Although I knew it would make finding this kitten a home a lot harder, I also knew FIV wasn’t contagious as long as he didn’t end up being aggressive with the other cats.

“One day at a time. One step at a time.” I thought to myself.

I couldn’t freak out now. I had a long way to go with this kitten. Next thing was to get him home. Get him clean and get him a place to live. I hadn’t worked with a feral kitten for years. I’m not exactly the most patient person. Ugh…what have I done? What if I make it worse and I fail at socializing him?

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I got Pistachio home and set up a medium-sized dog crate where he’d be staying until I felt he was socialized enough to let him have free reign of the infamous blue bathroom, the smaller of my two foster rooms.

I was lucky. Even though he’d never been handled much before I got him, Pistachio was willing to put up with my awkward attentions. I did a few things wrong, like cover his crate. I should have put his crate in the living room so he’d get used to the sights and sounds of us and the other cats, but I was worried about spreading illness and stressing him out. Thing is, that’s what would have worked better to start.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Sizing me up.

I remembered using a baby spoon at the end of a long stick. 1. Put chicken baby food on the spoon (warmed up food of course), 2. offer it to scared kitten, 3. encourage kitten to come forward after a taste of food, 4. repeat as necessary.

OR

Do what I did which was get frustrated, then just pick the kitten up, stick him on a towel in my lap with a plate of food, and have him eat while sitting on my lap. He was not too happy about it, but he wasn’t hissing or growling at all. He was just scared.

I kept him hungry and only fed him off my fingers or in my lap. He had a very bad load of roundworms come out of him (both ends) and it caused his rectum to bleed and get swollen. We went back and forth to the vet about 5 times that first week.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Roundworms. Lots of them.

I bathed him over and over again, trying to do it quickly, but also trying to get at the deeply embedded grease that was on his chest and back. He was a good sport, but still looked like Tribble; all fluff and no shape. He was a sorry mess.

The tip of his tail was hairless and frostbitten. It later fell off (Dr. Mary said it was OK and we didn't have to do anything since it was a clean break).

But then I found the thing, the one thing he loved more than food, he loved to be brushed.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Sam brushes 'stache into a blissful state.

A few days after taking him on I got a purr as I brushed his winter-thickened fur. I knew then we’d be okay. I encouraged him to play and that helped him forget to be afraid. It only took a little over a week to get him where I felt it was all right to put the crate away and let him have some freedom. The poor kitten was alone, though, so I made myself a nest of blankets alongside the washer and dryer. It was the only place I could stretch out other than inside the bathtub. Each night I stayed with Pistachio and we watched Netflix on my old iPad after I fed him and played with him. I tried to sleep but I had no chance of success. I was terrified of crushing him in my sleep or if I did fall asleep he would stick his wet nose into my ear, startling me awake. He’d pounce on my face if the nose-in-the-ear thing didn’t work.

©2018 Robin AF Olson. Our first week together.

My new schedule was to join him around 11 PM, then stay ‘til about 3 or 4 AM. It was difficult to get in and out of the tiny space with the blankets in the way. My back was so stiff I could barely stand to fold up the blankets so I could open the door to get out and to get into my real bed. I was worried Pistachio would have behavior problems being alone so much, so I stayed with him as often as I could.

Meanwhile I’d been hearing there were possibly two other kittens related to Pistachio who were on the property that needed to be trapped. In for a dime, in for a dollar…except that I don’t trap, nor do I have a trap.

I asked on social media for help and I lucked out when one of my best buddies said she’d come help. Katherine runs Animals in Distress. We help each other out from time to time and she is a terrific trapper. I told her I’d get all our snacks and cat food for trapping if she brought the traps. She squawked: “This isn’t brunch. We have work to do!”

Hey, if I’m going to freeze my ass off waiting to trap a kitten or two, I might as well have some good snacks and tea so I ignored Katherine, as usual, and loaded up on treats.

It was about 20° F that bright Sunday morning. I had the key to the gate so we could enter the property where the cats had been seen. We set traps, drizzled stinky food all over the lot, but it was so cold the food froze in a few minutes.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Find the feral kittens here! Good luck with that.

Katherine stood by one of the trucks where Pistachio had been found and began to meow. It was so realistic a cat replied to her! There WAS a cat under the hood of the truck. The problem was…how to get it out? How to get it into a trap? The hood opened towards us, not away. It was about 8 feet high and no way to reach the hood to open it anyway. Katherine continued to meow, but the cat wouldn’t come out.

We had to keep going back into my car to thaw out after only a few minutes it was so bitter cold. I kept thinking about the kittens trying to live in this environment. All over the lot were huge concrete forms. There was no way they’d stay warm inside any of them. We didn’t see any signs of life. It was so different from my experience just the year before in Waterbury where everywhere you looked there were cats.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Inside the engine where Pistachio was found.

I didn’t want to think that failure was an option, but we had to give up. We were there for six hours. Katherine was great, offering to come back the next weekend when it was supposed to be warmer. In my heart, I wished we didn’t have to wait that long, but we needed the lot to be quiet and reduce the danger of trucks coming in and out of the lot. I’d also made contact with the caretaker of a second feral colony nearby. She’d given me a lot of information that made me wonder if our kittens were even on the lot at all, but somewhere else.

A Week Later

This time I got fried chicken as a trap bait. I’d heard that Kentucky Fried Chicken was the best, but it was too early in the morning and they weren’t open yet. I opted to hit Stew Leonard’s, a huge local grocery chain, on the way to the trapping location and got fried chicken there. Okay, I got mini-chocolate croissants, too (for us).

The temps were in the 40's and there was freshly fallen snow on the ground. Katherine and I scanned the lot, looking for paw prints and found quite a few. We made a plan to drop bits of chicken near the tracks, hoping we’d stir up some activity. Crows saw the food and started cawing loudly. I put out some dry food to encourage them to come closer. I figured if they put out the call there was food, the kittens would hear it, too.

Katherine and I sat in my car once again, thankfully not shivering as we stuffed mini croissants into our mouths and gulped down hot tea as we waited. An hour or so ticked by, then, in the distance I saw her. It was an adult cat, followed by a tiny kitten!

We were about 50 feet away, too far to see detail, but there was Pistachio’s sibling. I hoped to see a third kitten, but we didn’t see one. They were not near any of the traps. They were just eating the morsels we’d left on the ground. Katherine said that mom was probably trap savvy, which meant the odds just took a nose dive that we’d get any kittens.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Poppy and her little kitten, soon to be our Catshew.

The cats vanished soon after we saw them, but their image burned into my soul. I couldn’t just sit there and know they needed us and no do anything. We decided to move the traps further into the lot, closer to where the second colony was located.

As we crossed the lot, I saw the kitten again. I called to Katherine, but I didn’t want to yell. She couldn’t hear me clearly and started crabbing at me (as we always do to each other). I was trying to get her to head left towards a small concrete form. I was on the right. We could have cornered the kitten.

I walked as fast as I could, pointing and motioning to Katherine but she was carrying a trap and didn’t know what I was doing. I got within a few feet of the kitten but there was a huge mound of snow covered dirt in my way. I clambered up the side and the kitten dashed left, but before she did she, she waited a beat and looked me straight in the eyes, daring me to make a move. She turned quickly, then vanished. I was so upset I started to cry. I was ready to pounce on this kitten, get bitten or scratched, just to get her into my coat and off to safe harbor but she was gone. Then I saw her mom run across the street. I called out to her not to go and silently prayed she wouldn’t get hit by a car. Thankfully the road isn’t a busy one and she made it safely across.

I told Katherine what happened. We were both bummed out. We decided to set the traps where we were because to me some of the area looked like good hiding spots for the cats. There were more concrete forms but grasses had grown around them and it looked like a good cubby hole was along the base of one form. There was nothing more we could do other than go back and sit in the car and wait.

We’d waited a few hours, checked the traps, then decided to go meet the caretaker of the other colony since she was coming to feed her guys soon. We thought we might get some good intel on what was going on, but I didn’t expect what I saw next.

©2018 Robin AF Olson. Listen carefully!

Turns out our guys were also part of her colony. She had named every cat. When she called out to them most of them showed up. There were half a dozen cats or so. I gave them some of the chicken and some of the other food I had. The cats were either black or black and white, similar to Pistachio but short haired. The caretaker told us that the kitten’s mom was named Poppy and that she’d had Poppy spayed a month ago and had to quickly return her because the vet said she was still nursing. I don’t know how she managed that or how the kittens survived without their mom for a time, but they did. As the caretaker talked about Poppy, a delicate little tuxedo ran over to the feeding station. It was Poppy. I wondered if mom was here, maybe the kittens were nearby, too. The caretaker said that mom would bring her the kittens when she was ready and she’d never seen any kitten this winter. Poppy ate, then took off. We decided to go check the traps and head home, thinking we’d have to come back again as soon as we could, but also grateful to know that most of the cats had been TNR’d already and had a loving caretaker looking out for them.

I drove us across the lot and parked behind a small hill in case the kittens were nearby. We got out of my car and walked over to the traps and then I saw one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.

There was a kitten inside one of the traps, frantically trying to get out. A few feet away, sitting on a concrete block, was Poppy. She was sitting very still, statuelike, while her kitten cried out for her as she banged her tiny body into the wire bands of the trap. I called to Katherine that we’d gotten a kitten and we both ran over to the trap feeling a mixture of elation and misery. I called out to Poppy as she turned away and ran back towards the colony across the street. I told her I was sorry. Katherine said the same thing to the fleeing cat. I called out to Poppy saying we’d take care of her baby. I said I was so so sorry again and again. I didn’t want to break up this little family. The image of the little kitten flashed in my memory, her tail curled up high, chasing fearlessly after her mama just a few hours ago and now that was over, forever. How could I do that to this poor creature?

 

©2018 Robin AF Olson. Heartbreak and joy and wrapped up in a big knot of guilt. Our first look at Cassie.

It was twilight so I turned my iPhone light onto the trap. The kitten’s nose was bloody from struggling to get free. She was quite small and short-haired. I took off my coat and put it over the trap. I made her the same promise I made her brother. She’d be ok one day and one day I hoped we’d be friends, but for the moment a familiar thought came to mind: what the Hell am I doing? What mess have I gotten myself into now?

Katherine and I hugged, finally feeling like we got the job done. We’d heard there might not have been a third kitten, but everyone knew to contact us if there was. In the weeks since we did the trapping no other kittens have been seen. I fear that the others just didn’t make it, but I’m glad, at least, we got these two. Now Pistachio will have company once his sister was socialized enough to be reunited with him.

IF she gets socialized…

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Girls! Why are they so difficult? It seems male kittens usually socialize fairly fast if they’re young, but the girls, fuggetaboutit! I named the kitten Catshew (Cassie). She didn’t have her brother’s big wormy-filled belly. She wasn’t covered in grease. She was petite, had her brother’s silly ‘stache markings (though she only has a half-stache), but none of his long fur. Her tail was very crooked at the tip like a waded up ball of paper. I thought perhaps it was from a birth defect but later found out it was broken and already set. She wasn’t in pain so it was okay to leave it be.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. We love you even if you hate us.

She hated my guts; hissing and withdrawing any time I got near her. At least she wasn’t striking me. Clearly she was fearful, but I didn’t think she was going to bite me. Once again I did the wrong thing, putting her in the foster room with Mia. Her crate was partially covered, I thought to help her de-stress, but I found out later I should have kept the cover off.

I approached Cassie slowly, tried a few tricks like baby food on a long-handled spoon, but she wouldn’t go for it. I knew if I kept her hungry she’d have to come to me sooner or later and lick food off my fingers if nothing else. It was very slow going.

Someone suggested I wrap her in a towel and hold her on my lap for at least 30 minutes, petting her and touching her gently so she’d get used to me so I did that. She froze up, whined, shivered. I felt terrible and lost about what to do.

Then Pam came to visit.

Pam’s cat, Frida, was the reason for me deciding to help Pistachio and his sister. I’d learned about Frida on Instagram. She was a tattered, dirty, freshly-trapped, rescued and quickly adopted. She looked like Hell, but was also completely captivating. I fell in love with her sweet demeanor and gentle nature as I watched all her videos and waited for her next photo to appear on Pam's page. Frida had been living a rough life on the streets. She had an injury to her face. She needed a lot of TLC. Pam had seen her photo and offered to adopt her right away, not concerned that Frida might have a lot of health issues or behavior issues. She just wanted to give Frida the life she deserved.

Pam was doing everything she could to help her recover, but in barely two weeks after her rescue, it was discovered that Frida’s swollen cheek was not due to an abscess (infection), but to cancer that had ravaged her jaw and was going into her brain. There was nothing that could be done other than to humanely euthanize the sweet girl.

Frida

I never met Frida, but there was something about her that made my heart break when I learned she died. It was the day I was asked to help Pistachio. The next morning I decided to funnel my grief into helping this kitten, to honor Frida. I had no idea my simple gesture would turn into something much bigger.

You see, I contacted Pam and told her about Pistachio and how sorry I was about Frida, that she would live on by another life saved. Then she posted about what I did and the news took off. I was contacted by another gal who said she adopted a cat because of what I did, to honor Frida, too. Then more people stepped up, either naming a newly rescued cat Frida or rescuing more cats in honor of this special girl.

Pam got so fired up she decided to use social media, as I have done for over a decade, to help cats get out of kill shelters and get rescued. She started a new IG page TeamFridaFries and has been highlighting the tough to rescue cats who need a helping paw. In just a few weeks Pam has already started saving lives all over the country, to honor the cat she loved so dearly.

…And Pam had a crush on Pistachio, so I invited her to come and meet him.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Pistachio, meet Pam. Pam, meet Pistachio!

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What I often notice is when someone comes over to adopt a cat that the cat has a say, too, and some times it’s clear the cat doesn’t want that person to adopt them. That was the case with Pam and Pistachio. He just didn’t want her to hold him or pet him. It was so odd. I felt terrible because perhaps I’d been with him too much and I needed to have other people visit with him. Pam was a good sport about it and frankly it was way too early for anyone to adopt Pistachio anyway. I asked Pam if she would like to meet Cassie and of course she said yes.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Pam + Catshew = 4Ever.

That’s when I saw a love-match. Pam didn’t hesitate to purrito Cassie, then hold and kiss her, while she Cassie whined and fussed. The little kitten was confused about what this human was doing to her. Pam lit up. Her energy changed. Cassie settled down and all I could think was “PLEASE TAKE CASSIE!”

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Kitten purrito.

Pam offered to foster Cassie and I said YES right away, but I had to get Cassie to the vet and get her vaccination done before it was safe for her to be near any of Pam’s other cats. Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t great and Cassie never got to visit Aunt Pam, but just seeing her with Cassie gave me the inspiration to keep trying to socialize her.

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I kept at it. I got some good advice from a few rescue friends. They said to put Cassie’s crate into the living room with no cover on it. Get her desensitized to life around humans. The second I did that she perked up, happy to see other cats. She still growled and whined every time I went near her, but she would allow me to pet her, always keeping one or both ears flattened down, not sure she trusted me yet.

Meanwhile I was going back and forth to the vet with Pistachio. His rear end was in bad shape from the parasite load. Then he tested positive for coccidia, too. I worried my cats would get it, but I read that they can become immune to it as adults. The last thing I needed was 10 cats to have diarrhea!

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Poor Pistachio. You've just got to get better!

Pistachio was becoming aggressive with me since he had no outlet to interact with other cats. I knew he needed, what I call, Kitten Bootcamp. He needed to be with other cats who would let him know he was biting too hard or being too rough, and that meant he had to be vetted enough so that it was safe to put him into the big foster room with Mia. If Cassie would turn around I could put her into the room, too, but it seemed like it was going to take months for her to be stable enough to move.

When the time came to give it a try, I realized Pistachio and Cassie had been apart for too long. Cassie was very aggressive the few moments she’d seen her brother. I decided to do site swapping so they could learn each other’s scent, while staying safe. I let them have time together, but only while I was in the room because Pistachio was so rough with his sister. It took a few weeks, but I finally got Cassie to purr and I finally felt that it was safe for both kittens to move into the foster room together.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Reunion.

What I couldn’t know was that I was going to be moving into the big foster room, too. Sam and I had not been getting along for months and things finally came to a head during the time I trapped Cassie. We stopped talking, eating together, being anywhere near each other. We figured out how to do this horrible passive-aggressive “dance” while we shared the same living space.

If I was in the kitchen, Sam would wait a few feet away until I left before he’d enter the room. At first I was so angry and fed up I didn’t care, but as the days wore on with no changes, I got hit with a depression that was one of the worst of my life. I tried to make a home for myself within the four walls of the foster room, but living with hyperactive kittens running around, who were fighting half the night, trying to sleep on an old hard mattress with a lone spring that poked my hip when I tried to sleep, was robbing me from getting any peace, any rest, any relief.

Things go from better to worse...will Pistachio EVER get BETTER? ...oh, then Catshew gets sick, too. Find out the good, the bad and the ugly next...

Home, At Last

On a crystal clear afternoon last November, Buddy and Belle lost their home. They didn’t lose it due to a natural disaster like Hurricane Irma, but instead to a human crisis. Their dad, my former flame of decades ago, called me, begging to please take his cats. I have cancer he said. It was advanced liver cancer. He was probably not going to live much longer and would I take his cats?

I’ve been contacted many times by families who have lost a loved one, who don’t know what to do when a pet is left behind. Was this going to happen to my ex? How could I say no, but how could I say yes? It would be a terrible burden on my rescue.

His cats were 6 years old. It wouldn’t be a quick placement. I don’t have a shelter, so it’s not easy for people to just come and see them. They’d have to go through the adoption process just to meet the cats and with the competition of kittens available for adoption, the odds were slim Buddy and Belle would be adopted any time soon.

Belle waiting
©2016 Robin AF Olson. My first moments with Belle where I promised her it would be okay one day. She just had to trust me (and I had to hope I could really pull this off).

What was worse was their being in our foster network meant I’d have to say No to a lot of kittens who needed our help, because I’d lose that foster space to adult cats.

I wrote about my struggles and my anger about the situation in a 3-part post (links for them are at the end). I knew my ex was going to screw me one last time by dumping his cats on me, but I also knew that I’d say yes and take the cats for their sakes, not for his. He was prone to being a drama-queen back then and was still now. That sounds cruel, but it’s not, especially when you get the part of this story about what happened recently. Bear with me.

Poor Buddy. Poor Belle. It was clear they were in shock and stressed out when they arrived. They were in terrible condition, too. They were both overweight, had never had decent food, not even one bite of the worst canned food, ever. They ate the cheapest kibble, stored in a plastic jug that sat on the floor.

 

It cost my rescue $5000.00 in surgeries, medications and vet care to get them back on their feet. Meanwhile, our 16-yr old cat, Nicky was on his last legs. We couldn’t spend much time with him the week Buddy and Belle arrived. They had to be in surgery as soon as possible.

 

There was too much going on, but but I put my head down and plowed ahead. We quickly realized Nicky needed vet care, too. In fact, Nicky, Buddy and Belle were all at the vet on the same day. It was a nightmare to try to stay on top of which cat needed what treatment or procedure next.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Belle's first vet visit in her LIFE.

 

Sadly, Nicky never came home. We had to put him down that night after he’d had a grand mal seizure while on an IV at Dr. Larry’s. I felt like we had to sacrifice our last days with our precious boy to care for someone else’s cats. I was furious. This was not right. I sacrifice SO MUCH to do rescue yet it wasn't enough.

 

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Ten months after this photo was taken, Sam and I still cannot talk about Nicky. The pain is too much.

Belle lost half of her teeth. Buddy had a bladder full of painful crystals and a suspicious cyst (Dr Larry biopsied it and it came back benign). Buddy was withdrawn for months. Belle, began to slowly flower, but I could tell she was depressed living in my blue bathroom.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. What cheap kibble does to the inside of a cat's bladder.

 

It took three MONTHS for me to get Belle to eat canned food and get her off kibble.

Thankfully Buddy had a better appetite. Belle slimmed down and began to eat better for me. I realized I had a brand of canned cat food that was made up of small, round shapes, similar to her kibble. I offered her one tiny piece of canned food and she ate it. She recognized the shape and would eat the food if it was broken up into tiny bits. It took a long time, but eventually she began to eat more and more brands of canned food. I could stop worrying about her losing weight too quickly, but it wasn’t good enough.

 

 

They were lonely. Pitifully lonely. I couldn’t spend enough time with them and it wasn’t fair. Now that I had them eating consistently, I could move them into a better foster space.

 

Enter Jame and family.

Jame (pronounced: Jamie) and her daughters, Grace and Frances, are my go-to foster home for kittens and friendly cats. I love this family like my own. They’re so smart and capable and eager to learn about cats. They graciously agreed to take Buddy and Belle knowing they might be in their home for months. They gave up fostering kittens for the spring and summer. I was so very grateful that Buddy and Belle would have full run of a finished basement lined with a row of big, sunny windows. They could enjoy a lot more attention than I could provide. I hoped they’d be happy.

©2017 Robin AF Olson. .

 

I worried about Buddy and Belle feeling like they lost their home with me, but it wasn’t the right place for them. I worried they would stop eating (again) or just hide for weeks on end. It was a rough go for a time, but eventually they adjusted. Having the attention of this loving family made a big difference.

 

Meanwhile, I kept trying to find them a forever home to no avail.

No one wanted adult cats, even though I lightheartedly described them as 72-month old kittens on their adoption listings.

Ten months later, my rescue, Kitten Associates, took part in the national event called Clear the Shelters (more on that another time). Part of the festivities included an adoption event at BMW of Watertown (thank you guys!). I was to bring all of our 14 foster kittens for the general public to meet and hopefully adopt, but I knew Buddy and Belle couldn’t take the stress so they remained at Jame’s house.

Final butt sniff R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Belle making sure Buddy is still Buddy.

At the last minute I decided to design and have printed two huge posters, one for each cat. There wasn’t much text on the banners, just portraits of the cats. I hoped I’d captured their essence in my images. They were goofy, loving, playful and so filled with love. They were gentle cats and had been with kids thanks to Jame. I just needed someone to believe in them and realize that kittens aren’t always the best option to adopt.

Buddy and Belle Posters copy

While we were setting up the showroom for the event, Kathleen and her son, Jace came over to me. She told me about their cat Morgan and how he’d recently died. How Jace, at only 3 ½ years old, could not truly process death. His understanding was to relate it to cars. When the car got old it went to be recycled and would come back as a new car. I asked him what he would call his new cat and he answered quickly, “Morgan, of course.” ...once it was done being recycled.

©2017 Robin AF Olson.

Normally I don’t consider it safe to adopt kittens into a home with such a young child, but Jace had already grown up with Morgan. He told me he missed his cat and was so sad. I also knew that Buddy and Belle had once lived with a little girl. Since they’re adults it was worth a try to place Buddy and Belle if Kathleen would consider adopting two slightly used cats.

 

I told Kathleen Buddy and Belle’s story. She teared up. She didn’t want kittens, especially after she heard their story. This woman is so sweet and compassionate, she completely understood their plight. Buddy and Belle’s home was long gone. They needed the love and support of a new family-one that would stick with them no matter what. Kathleen wanted to be that family if it was a good fit.

 

I was hopeful, but not sure if it would be a match. I moved forward with the adoption process and they passed with flying colors. Over a week ago Kathleen, her husband Jay and son, Jace met Buddy and Belle. I was worried the cats would run and hide with so many people wanting to interact with them.

As Jame, her daughters, and I looked on, Kathleen cautiously held her hand out towards Belle, who took a careful sniff, then leaned in to be petted. At that moment, I saw the look on Kathleen’s face. She lit up with pure joy. It made my gut hitch. She loved this cat. I could tell in that first moment, but I said nothing, afraid I might push too soon.


©2017 Robin AF Olson. The first moment Kathleen met Belle was magic.

Buddy and Belle took turns being a bit shy, then playing with Jace (which made him giggle with glee) or sitting to be petted by the family. Jame’s daughter Frances and I kept exchanging glances, our eyes wide. Without a word I knew what she was thinking.

This is it. This is the family, isn’t it?

Was it too much to wish for?

 

We had our answer barely an hour later. Kathleen shocked me by asking me if I thought it would be ok for them to make Buddy and Belle part of their family. They asked ME for my blessing? ME? Are you kidding? This was a love match if I ever saw one, so of course I said YES!

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Buddy and Belle with their new family.

Then Frances turned to me, stunned; “You mean they’re getting adopted now? As in RIGHT NOW?” I nodded somberly, yes, suddenly realizing the girls hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye to their foster friends.

I invited the family upstairs to the kitchen to do the adoption paperwork while Jame and family had time to say their goodbyes.

I didn’t want to get excited. I was scared the cats would be returned right away. I warned the family that Buddy might shut down and to give him a lot of time to adjust. He might hide a lot and to leave his cat carrier out because he liked to de-stress inside it. They promised they would go slow and were so gracious and thankful to both Jame and her family and to me for taking them on. I asked her to update me if she would be so kind. We gave them Belle’s bed, Buddy’s hidey-cat-carrier, toys, food and even their old litter pan so they’d have familiar scents in their new home.

 

With the cats safely in a big carrier, we brought them outside, as a gentle rain fell from gray skies. A wave of sadness hit me. After the resentment and anger from all those months ago faded away, I realized I loved these cats as my own. They completely charmed me, but I would probably never see them again. I could only hope that I’d get updates from time to time. It was tough not to cry. They’d had a rough journey, but now they could finally relax for the first time in nearly a year.

 

The next day I got a promising update.

Buddy and Belle were home. Really home. They didn’t have to adjust to living with Kathleen at all. They took a nap on the sofa, Buddy choosing to snuggle next to his new dad. He didn’t hide at all.

Belle climbed up on the cat tree and looked out the window. They were already eating and using their litter pan.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Belle on her new cat tree with her new friend, Jace.

I was stunned. These cats had always been fearful, but clearly they were in the wrong homes. They were good homes, but not the right home. This was right. This was it.

 

They finally had what we all yearn for-a safe place to sleep, shelter from the storm of every day life and love.

 

In just over a week since the cats have been adopted, I’ve gotten a few updates. Each one is accompanied by photos of the cats looking completely relaxed and happy.

Kathleen wrote:

 

“Nearly first full week and we have learned that Buddy enjoys his nose being gently massaged. He also fetches and retrieves the krinkle balls.

 

Belle is just plain curious and silly. She loves investigating dresser drawers but is also well versed in creating her own shenanigans. She is pretty content so long as one part of her body is touching someone....or she is playing, she's a happy girl.”

 

napping w dad.jpg
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Buddy fell asleep next to dad, Jay, within a few hours of arriving in his new home. I guess he knew he was finally home.

 

And as for my ex, well his latest Facebook post declares he’s cancer-free and already fishing again in Sheepshead Bay. In the nearly year since we’ve had his cats he never once asked me how they were doing. He never answered my emails telling him we could not afford the burden of the costs of his cat’s vet care. That was on me to solve by begging for donations. What a creep. He just wanted someone to dump his problems on and he knew I’d be a sucker. I wonder if he’s going to adopt cats again? I sure hope not.

 

I feel bitter and want to hold onto my anger, but in truth, I’m ready to wash my hands of having anything to do with him ever again. He doesn’t deserve such amazing cats, or my complete dedication to providing for them. I’m damn glad I got them away from him.

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©2017 Kitten Associates. B&B with mama. I'm betting they'll be good lap-warmers as the days grow colder.

Buddy would be dead by now without me stepping in, no joke. Belle’s mouth was so painful with broken teeth and teeth falling out of her mouth that it would have been horrific torture to stay with him. He cheated on me and was completely unrepentant all those years ago, yet as I write this I realize here’s more proof that I will do anything to help cats, even if it means dealing with someone who hurt me so badly.

But then I look at the photos of Buddy and Belle with Kathleen and her family and my anger turns into joy. Their life begins anew, filled with the promise and hope that this time, this family, is theirs forever.

Cute twosome vinci
©2016 Robin AF Olson. I will really miss these guys. Good luck and happy life!

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

http://coveredincathair.com/content/cancer-carbs-and-cats-emergencies-all-around-part-2-3

http://coveredincathair.com/content/cancer-carbs-and-cats-end-and-beginning-part-3-3

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 6

(continued from Part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.)

Annie and Andy’s (A&A) possible adopter was willing to wait a few weeks, while Holly stayed with us. It also gave me a few more weeks with A&A, who YES, I love way too much (if there is such a thing as too much) and who I'm reluctant to adopt to anyone.

 

The Kellogg ladies did come visit. I offered to take them over to Wildflour Confections and Tickled Pink, which I consider to be a perfect girlie-afternoon adventure. They were in agreement because really, cupcakes and cute girlie things to buy? What is better?

 

Tickled Pink Easter R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Tickled Pink.

We began with a visit with Holly, breaking up the large family into smaller groups of two so Holly wouldn’t get overwhelmed. Greta and Sophia and I were having fun with the kitties while Kirsten, Noelle and Adaline were with Sam in the living room. Holly was playing fetch with her pom poms and all was well.

After a while we switched things up. Greta and Noelle were downstairs with Kirsten and Sam while I was with the older girls and Holly. Suddenly I heard a tremendous crash from downstairs. I could not, for the life of me, even guess what the sound was, other than breaking glass, a lot of glass.

I ran downstairs to find the 1950s glass topped table that’s in the room by the front door, turned onto its side with everything that was once on it in pile on the floor. Pressed up against the wall was Greta, terrified, not saying a word, not admitting she tipped the table over while her mom had gone outside to get something from the car. There is no other explanation and somehow I had to bite my tongue and not flip out as I carefully picked through the things on the floor to assess the damage.

Kirsten was immediately apologetic and confused-as we all were. If I had thought there’d be a risk of the table being turned over I would have taken precautions. Luckily, the table was ok, but one glass piece, not a valuable one, was destroyed. Later I discovered my kitschy bowling ball decanter that had a music box in the base, was also broken. That would be tough to repair and I knew everyone felt terrible and Kirsten wanted to make it right. I get it, things like this can happen. It’s only stuff and no one got hurt. I was afraid that our afternoon trip would be cancelled, but thankfully we agreed to move past it and focus on having fun.

Kirsten got everyone into their 8-seater van so we could travel together. She has so much energy and is so bubbly, I don’t know how she does it. My guess is she goes to bed at 7PM because it has got to be a tremendous amount of work to just stay present and pay attention to four children, let alone care for them and keep them all safe.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. The lovely Kellogg ladies at Tea with Tracy.

We had a very lively conversation during our drive. The girls mostly occupied themselves and, once again, I was impressed by how quiet they were.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. STRAWBERRY. POPTART. CUPCAKES.

I urged Kirsten to head for the cupcakes first because I was worried they’d run out since it was a bit later in the afternoon by the time we arrived (full disclosure: I NEEDED A CUPCAKE). The girls had fun choosing cupcakes and though I had every intention of only getting 4 cupcakes (to share with Sam), somehow I got 6 (thank you to Kirsten for buying them for us!). After getting cupcakes, we decided to try to have high tea down the street at Tea with Tracy. On a Saturday afternoon, the odds were not so good we’d get a table. The owner was very nice to us even though he was booked up he said if we could order and be done in 30 minutes he could seat us. We took on the challenge and had the fastest tea in history. We didn’t even finish so cups of tea were transferred to “to go” cups and the food was boxed up. No one complained. Everyone did their part and had as much fun as they could, promising they would do it again when they could make a reservation ahead of time. I was sorry we couldn’t have stayed longer, but it was nice to be part of a family for a time.

Wildflour cupcakes r olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Wildflour Confections.

Our last stop was Tickled Pink, mecca for girlie-gifts. As we walked around the shop, the girls were allowed to choose one modest gift for themselves. We broke into smaller groups pointing out things we liked. Little Greta chose a stuffed white kitten toy and clung to it as we continued looking at the displays of adorable giftware. She saw some hair combs that looked like a tiara. She tried to put one onto the kitten’s head. It kind of shocked me because a few weeks before I had done the same thing to a real kitten (I didn’t use the comb part on the kitten, just placed the tiara-comb on her head). I showed the girls the photo and we were all amazed by the synchronicity.

Will with Crown Robin Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Princess Willoughby.

 

I think we all enjoyed our time together. Kirsten congratulated me for surviving the day with the girls, but in truth I enjoyed myself. I haven’t been around children much, other than my nephew and he’s going to be 24 soon. I find that I like kids a lot. Maybe it’s because I still feel like one inside.

 

I kept in touch with Stephen, updating him on Holly's progress. He sent her some video messages to keep her company, assuring her he still cared about her. The problem was I was the human on the other side of the messages and in a lot of ways the messages felt like they was directed to me, even though rationally I knew they were not. My God this man can make a person swoon, no doubt there. With his permission, this is what he sent Holly [see below] (and by the way, Holly heard his voice and pawed at my phone, then meowed, so his swoon-powers work on cats, too).

©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Used with permission. [SWOON!]

So things moved along. Holly began to settle down. I wondered if she’d start to pee on the bed once she felt safe in the room and if she began to bond with me. I began looking for a kitty-buddy for Holly since the Kellogg’s decided adding Annie and Andy would be too much to take on. I wasn’t surprised at all, but it would have been the easiest transition for the cats.

©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Used with permission. Holly-girl, Stephen's special nickname, along with the special message that made Holly swoon, too.

I found a possible cat-candidate with my friend Katherine who runs AID. He was the right age, mellow cat, who liked being with other cats. I trust Katherine and knew she would back him up if it didn’t work out. The Kelloggs were anxious about getting a second cat and looking forward to adding to their family. They knew I had to offer them a cat so I could carefully assess them up front to give them every chance of making a good match. I wish I had a cat that could be a solo cat but none of my fosters fit the bill.

I also realized I needed to push Holly a bit to see if she would react inappropriately, so two nights ago I didn’t clean the litter pan before going to bed. That day I hadn’t spent much time with the cats because two of my own cats, Spencer and Nora, had health emergencies. I was also trying to wean Willoughby and Weatherby off their mom, Waverly, and onto cat food. I was tired and stressed out. Annie, Andy, Mia and Holly only got the basics that day.

 

The next morning, Holly peed on the bed…on MY side of the bed where I spend my time hanging out with the cats. I was pretty shocked and saddened to see the large stain on the sheet. Thankfully I had prepared the bed beforehand using a waterproof mattress pad, topped with a shower curtain, topped with puppy pads, THEN covered with a fitted sheet. The urine was mostly absorbed by the pads, but one pillow did get a bit wet so I did a few loads of laundry.

 

Pee On Bed
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Heartbreak comes in the form of a puddle of urine exactly where I sat each night with Holly.

I thought about what this means for Holly. It could mean she will lose her home. I have to talk to Stephen about it, but I want to have more data points before I tell him.

Sam and I spent yesterday (Saturday) afternoon with Holly and the kitties. Their pans are cleaned three times a day. I made sure Holly got a snack so she wouldn’t be stressed from being hungry. Right before bed I cleaned out the pan again.

IMG 1428
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Being prepared made a big difference. There was no way any urine was going to get on the mattress with a shower curtain under these puppy pads.

This morning the bed was dry. I got up early to make sure it was ok. I scooped the pans, then went downstairs to get the cat’s food. About an hour later I served breakfast. Everyone ate well, then started using the litter pans so I scooped them since I was there. While I was scooping, I heard a noise on the bed. Holly was sniffing the area where she’d peed the day before and was furiously pawing at the area. I responded by making a short loud hiss-like sound at her. She stopped, jumped off the bed and into the litter pan and peed.

Holly pees in pan r olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Whew.

I didn’t know if she was reacting to a urine smell that I didn’t clean well enough or if she was energized by my being there a few times so early in the morning and by just eating. She corrected her behavior immediately once I hissed, but what was the bigger meaning here?

Was she stressed from me being gone the day before and wanting to have her scent mix with mine? Was she just having an “oops” moment that needed a quick correction? What I knew I couldn’t tell Stephen was definitively what we had to do for Holly. I couldn’t guarantee anything would work. In my own home I still deal with inappropriate elimination issues because I have 8 cats. It’s not bad compared to how it was years ago, but if I’m not careful there are still things that can trigger a cat to pee somewhere they shouldn’t.

Could the Kelloggs still love Holly if they knew they’d have to clean up after her from time to time? Maybe she would grow out of it. She'd gone TWO WEEKS without one misstep. I know she can do it and maybe in a few more months she will be using her box all the time?

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©2017 Robin AF Olson.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson.

 

The problem is, I can’t know how she will behave. I can put her on anti-anxiety meds, but she is only 7-months old. I’m going to talk to Dr. Larry tomorrow and I’m going to work up the courage to talk to Stephen. He’s only on the road for another week so my time is running out.

 

 

I’m afraid Holly’s is, too.

 

[to be continued...]

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 2.

(continued from Part 1)

After my first visit, I put together a written game plan of steps to take next. I didn’t want to over-complicate things by telling them EVERY SINGLE THING we could do to change Holly’s behavior. It can be overwhelming, so I started simply: add another litter pan, slightly move the one they had away from a drafty doorway and add two sessions of play time to Holly’s day.

The second litter pan was a hit. Holly used it right away, but she continued to pee on a bed every so often and clearly even one time would be too many times. I knew that Holly could be reacting to old stains that were not cleaned up so I urged Stephen to get a black light (because urine and some other bodily fluid stains glow under black light), cleaning supplies (like vinegar and a CO2 enzymatic cleaner). We set another date to tour the entire house.

I tried to make it sound fun; like we were detectives on a mission. Stephen was all for it. He wanted to do whatever it took to get Holly to be happy and not feel like she had to pee on anyone’s bed. Many other people I’ve worked with push back about doing the work to solve the behavior problem but Stephen was intrigued. He’d never really considered how a cat thinks or feels about their environment before. He wanted to dive in, get it right, and return to a happy home life.

 

I felt like Mary Poppins. I arrived with a stash of items in my shoulder bag. I had my own black light and cleaning supplies, too, plus a few other goodies for Holly. Stephen, Kirsten and I began checking every single bed, carefully going over each one with the lights. It was then I discovered a surprising fact. Two of the younger daughters either had or have a bit of a problem wetting the bed or having a diaper leak. Then it hit me. They didn’t have one cat, they essentially had two (one was human) who were staining some of the beds. Maybe Holly was reacting to human urine stains?

The answer was clear right away. First bed we checked had sparkling clean sheets and blankets, but the mattress had a butt-shaped urine mark on it. Of the three of us only Stephen had a decent sense of smell. I think mine died from cleaning one too many ammonia-scented litter pans over the years. He dove in. He didn’t get fussy about it. He sniffed away and acknowledged that the mattress did have some scent. We got to cleaning it, while Holly ran into the room, jumped on the bed and was completely uninterested in peeing on it. She played in the corner on a fuzzy pillow and promptly fell asleep while we continued to scan the beds.

We didn’t find much more, but one of the girl’s bed was going to be an issue so that room was going to be closed off from Holly, period. The last room we did was the master bedroom. Okay now this was a bit weird for me. Rock star bedroom? The inner sanctum!

I tried to be respectful and not have any thoughts about what I know about black lights, but my God, I had to say out loud that the black light picks up ALL sorts of STAINS, not just cat urine (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Thank GOD the bed was very clean other than one small area that had to have been from Holly.

 

Okay, so we had a clean space. The bedrooms would be shut down for now. We’d see how it went with Holly. The Kelloggs looked relieved. Maybe this would do the trick?

-------------------

Being a singer/songwriter means traveling to events or going on tour from time to time. The Kelloggs went out of town for the weekend, leaving the kids and Holly with grandpa. I didn’t hear anything for a few days but when they came back I got a long text late at night from Stephen. Holly had peed on the sofa, passed stool on it and on a sleeping bag that was on the floor and I think peed on a bed, too. I tried to soothe Stephen’s concerns. Firstly, Holly was accidentally locked in a room that had no litter pan in it so a few of the issues weren’t her fault. I didn’t know if the schedule was completely in turmoil or if the girls were acting up because the parents were gone. Maybe Holly was upset by the change. Maybe this would not continue to happen?

But it did.

 

Holly stopped passing stool inappropriately, but began peeing more often in places she shouldn’t. I decided we needed to get her to the vet to be certain she wasn’t sick. They hadn’t looked for infection or other issues and being so young she could have something going on that a urinalysis wouldn’t show.

 

So we took Holly to the vet.

I’ve been to many vets over the years. I was not a big fan of this person. He didn’t want to listen to me but clearly was focusing on Stephen and the fact that they both had four kids. The vet was almost proud to say he was split from his wife and only had the kids on weekends as if it was a relief. I was horrified. Stephen and Kirsten smiled and were polite, listening attentively, adding their take on the situation. I wondered what they thought of the vet and if they shared my disdain. They certainly had far a better poker-face than I do.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stephen with Holly-girl at their vet.

 

The vet did a quick exam and suggested tests. Stephen was not used to seeing gnarly vet estimates and the $1000 price tag seemed a bit high to me as well. I worked it out with the vet to cut the bill down by more than half. I felt we could get away with a full CBC and Chemistry Panel, an x-ray, but to not do urinalysis again since they’d just done it a month prior. What we ended up with wasn't what I expected. It was blood work but it didn’t have a Chem Panel and the x-ray showed Holly had a lot of stool in her but it obscured seeing her kidneys or bladder-so it was almost a wasted test. The results we got were normal so the vet suggested putting Holly on a prescription dry food to solve her problem.

 

I had warned the Kelloggs ahead of time that this might happen and to NOT buy the food. The vet gave a compelling pitch about why the food would help her, telling them it had helped other cats because it had “soothing proteins” in it. Excuse me? What the HELL are “soothing” proteins? I almost popped my lid when I heard that line of BS. I could see Stephen was tempted. Heck, I’d be tempted, too if I didn’t know any better, and if I believed just feeding my cat would stop her deeply rooted behavior issue. Thankfully he listened to me and didn’t buy high-carb, grain-loaded junk.

Holly Lateral XRAY SS
All we learned from Holly's x-ray...she needs to poop.

 

Once I got home, I looked up the food on the internet and was completely horrified that it had literally EVERY SINGLE type of GRAIN in it you can imagine. What was soothing about that? Nothing. The supposed “soothing” part was listed near the bottom of the ingredient panel-which also meant the amount of it was far less than any other ingredient. It had .08 L-tryptophan in it, which is an amino acid that is found in turkey. It’s the stuff that makes you sleepy after a big Thanksgiving meal. If you really wanted to dope up your cat you’d have to feed them a heck of a lot more of it to get an adequate dose…oh and this stuff was ungodly expensive to boot.

 

So now what? I really wanted to take Holly to see MY vet, Dr. Larry. He’s a great diagnostician and he knows not to try junk foods on any of my cats, but I’d just encouraged Stephen to drop a lot of money on Holly. I couldn’t ask him to do it again.

Meanwhile, I reached out to a few of my cat behaviorist friends. I ran Holly’s history by them to make sure I hadn’t forgotten something. They all agreed there was nothing more to do other than confine Holly to a smaller space, which was next on my “to do” list.

So we confined Holly to the master bathroom. Perhaps the house was too much for her and the quiet of the bathroom would keep her away from the kids a bit more, in case they were stressing her out. Holly had her own litter pan that was kept perfectly clean, her new diet (which she liked very much) and some comfy beds. This was going to work, right?

Nope.

 

Well, it did work for almost a full week. Holly used the litter pan every day. She had play time and lovey-dovey time. The girls were instructed to let Holly come to them and not grab at her. Things were going great until one morning they let Holly out early in the morning while Stephen and Kirsten went back to bed. Holly peed on the bed while they dozed.

 

 

Then everything fell apart.

 

 

Holly began to urinate in the sink, then the second sink in the master bath room. She used the litter pan, then she’d pee on the bed even if it was right after using the litter pan. I had Stephen track how many times Holly was peeing. It was 4 times a day, then 6, then up to 8. Something was STILL WRONG. We had to see Dr. Larry and the next day we did just that.

 

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Two litter pans in the master bathroom: one with the litter Holly used at the rescue and one with World's Best.

I was also toying with the notion that Holly maybe needed a cat-buddy. Maybe her being the only pet in such a large home was too much for her and that a friend would help her adjust. Stephen and Kirsten were open to the idea, but I didn’t want to, again, do too many things at once, plus they’d have to introduce the new cat to Holly and that was just going to add more stress to the situation. No. We had to get Holly’s health issues resolved-IF she had any.

Since the first days I’d begun this case Stephen and Kirsten kept returning to the fact that Holly began peeing on things AFTER she was spayed. I called the clinic who did the procedure and they spoke with their vet who does the spays. I spoke with two of my vets, a handful of vet techs, did research online and found that there ARE incidents where there are post-surgical complications or there are genetic deformities that can’t be visualized on x-ray which could be the culprit. It was rare that this happened and Holly would have shown incontinence issues, along with inappropriate elimination. I knew we’d have to do an ultrasound to get this resolved, but I also knew that there was only so much money we could spend without the Kellogg’s pushing back. In truth, they have to balance the vet costs with the costs for caring for their family. It didn’t make them villains. Everyone deals with this balance who has a pet.

I had high hopes we’d find SOMETHING wrong. In a way it would be a great relief. I felt terrible wishing she was sick, but at least we could probably cure whatever it was and having to deal with cat pee in your bed is very high up on the “sucks!” list.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Holly waiting for Dr. Larry. While I wonder what the heck is going on with this kitten.

Dr. Larry was great. He even suggested maybe Holly needed a friend. He also said that some cats do better going outside-for which he knew I was going to flip out over. He sees this situation over and over again and how people deal with it is as different as are the cats who have the problem. He’s had people want to euthanize their otherwise healthy cats. They don’t want to spend money doing tests. They want the peeing to stop but they won’t do what it takes to really SOLVE the problem.

 

I was SO grateful to the Kelloggs that they were in it for the long haul. Stephen surprised me by digging in, asking question after question, offering his hypothesis; fascinated by the process, the detective work, the documenting, the study needed, to sort out what was going on. He even told me he was fascinated by ME. What? No! Yes!

 

We finally did a full blood panel and the results were normal. Urinalysis and culture were normal, too. Fecal test was normal. IF something was wrong with Holly the only thing we could do was ultrasound and they’d already spent a lot of money. It would have to wait…if the Kelloggs could keep the faith.

By now a month had passed. We’d had good and bad days but trending towards worse days. Maybe Holly was upset from being confined. Stephen had the added pressure of leaving for 3 weeks to go on tour soon. If Holly wasn’t improving how could he leave his wife to care for the family AND deal with Holly’s urinary mishaps?

I returned to the Kelloggs’ home to assess Holly again. I felt like I was losing my mind. I told them new things to try and they had failed. What was so bizarre was that Holly wasn’t peeing on the lovely pure white very soft and fluffy rug in the bedroom. She only peed on Kirsten’s side of the bed. I’d asked her about laundry detergents, perfume, makeup, hair spray, anything that had a scent that could set Holly off, but there was nothing that made sense to cause the peeing.

I contacted one of my mentors and we spoke again about this case and again I was told I had done the right things and that we could continue to tweak how we dealt with Holly, IF the Kelloggs were okay with it.

I also had more detective work to do. I spoke with the lady who runs the rescue where Holly came from. What I found out made me change my opinion again that this wasn’t a health issue. It had to be a behavior issue.

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Holly home from the vet, but when will we find out if she's sick or if it's a behavior problem?

Holly was rescued from a kill-shelter in North Carolina with her siblings where she lived in a cage. She was only 5-weeks old and had no mother with her. She was transported to Connecticut and went into another cage on arrival. Holly spent her life in a cage up until she was adopted at 11-weeks of age. What had gone on with her social skills? She couldn’t learn as much without her mom. Maybe she never had proper experience with a litter pan? What did the stress of being confined, then removed from her siblings, do to her?

 

I imagined her going from a small cage into a HUGE home with 4 kids. Wow. That would make ME pee on the bed, too. I felt really sad for Holly because if she didn’t make a positive change she would lose her home and have to go back into a cage at the rescue until she found another home…and what if she peed in that home, too? Holly could end up being euthanized.

 

[to be continued]

The Feral50. The Beginning of the After. Ch 3.

(continued from Ch 1 and Ch 2)

I saw her this afternoon, ”Waterbury 1.” It wasn’t the heartfelt reunion I had hoped for, but in reality visiting a feral cat who’s recently had all her teeth removed wasn’t going to be all unicorns and lollipops.

She was curled up in the corner of a large steel cage surrounded by a few towels, but the cat behaviorist in me wanted to give her a smaller box or cat hutch to retreat to. She was on the bottom of a two-level cage, but I’ve read that cats in shelters feel safer higher up and I guessed that was the case here, too. I mean to talk to someone about this in case it will help W1 feel more at ease. (note: I was able to ensure that this will be taken care of soon.)

W1 in cage
©2017 ROBIN AF OLSON. Little W1 after all her teeth were removed.

It was cold in the room. I wondered if W1 was chilled from having all her fur shaved away. It was a necessary evil. Her badly matted fur was filthy and her skin could have been damaged from the mats that tugged at her when she tried to walk. Being shaved down in January in Connecticut is the worst time to have it done, but one day her lovely coat will return.

I wanted her to have a thermal core cat bed and I was mad at myself for not bringing her one. But being at a vet’s office, W1, wouldn’t have the comforts of a home because her towels would be replaced daily and any bed I brought her would probably have to be washed as often and that seemed to be a lot to ask.

 

I’m sorry this isn’t an uplifting part of W1’s story. In a way it should be because the very worst is over for her. Her teeth are gone. Her infection is waning and no doubt her anemia will be resolving. She’s managing to eat when no one is looking. She has every chance of making a full recovery, but it will be a long road.

 

W1 in cage C R Olson
©2017 ROBIN AF OLSON. Respecting her fragile state I did not open the cage door to disturb her.

W1 isn’t ready to leave the hospital, but I know she'll be well cared for while she’s there. I wonder if she’s missing her sister and her other friends in the feral colony. I wonder if she misses the pace of the day, of the familiarity of her home, but I can’t imagine she’ll always miss those things once she regains her strength and the comfort of a full belly.

I almost didn’t recognize her when I first saw her. Her whiskers are broken off and her face is still somewhat dirty. She seems half the size she was without her fur. Her pupils are large. She sat very still, watching me carefully as I sat across from her.

I know my being there scares her, so I sat on the floor, making myself as small as I could. I spoke to her in hushed tones. I reassured her that everything is going to be all right; that I’m sorry for what happened and that everyone is doing their best to help her feel good again.

I slowly closed my eyes, giving her a loving blink. She almost did it back to me. In that moment I felt hope for her future, but even with pain medication I’m sure her discomfort colors her mood. I know that as long as I’m there she won’t relax and get more rest. I’m torn between the constant yearning of wanting to pet her just one time. I want to open the cage door and at least let her catch the scent of my fingers, but more than that I don’t want to upset her, so I leave her be. She’s been through so much already that risking causing her more stress didn’t feel right to me at all. My mothering instinct, my need to protect her, would have to accept that I’d done as much as I could and that holding her would not comfort her at all.

Waterbury 1 by tire r olson
©2017 ROBIN AF OLSON. This moment will live in my heart forever. Thank you to Betsy for going back and trapping her the next day, then getting her to her vet for care.

Seeing her for the first time, under the semi truck trailer is something I will never forget. Her small form, huddled against the cold, still with enough life-force that gave her the desire to eat even though each bite crippled her with pain. She walked stiffly and was covered in filth and crusty mucous.

 

I didn’t imagine it was possible that just a week after I saw her I’d have raised enough money to get her vetting done. That just a week after I saw her, through a magical twist of fate, someone would see her in her sorry state and step forward, offering to give her a forever home, even if she may never pet this cat either. To honor W1’s dignity she has been given a proper name: Tulip.

 

Tulip’s life is precious to all of us who have worked so hard to save it. She has a chance at a comfortable and safe tomorrow. It’s clear that her life was precious to the many people who happily donated to provide for her care, too. Together we made a second chance fully realized for this tiny tux.

This is why we do rescue.

 

May the rest of your days be free from pain and suffering, dear Tulip.

 

W1 in cage B
©2017 ROBIN AF OLSON. Even though you don't know it, you are loved by many both near and far.

[Update: Tulip is still at the vet. It’s been a full week. She has giardia and a belly full of roundworms for which she’s getting treated. In another week she will be lightly sedated so the vet can look at her mouth. It will be an important exam because Tulip may have more going on than stomatitis. There is a chance she developed an oral cancer from not being vetted for so long, but because she’s eating very well, it’s hoped that her mouth ulcers are gone and no longer a sign of something more dire going on. No matter what happens with Tulip she is loved and will have all her needs met and we couldn’t ask for more than that. Okay maybe we can...she's getting a thermal core cat bed.]

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)

 

IMG 7709
©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!

IMG 7797
©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.

IMG 7799
©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.

IMG 7801
©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.

IMG 7802
©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.

IMG 7681
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Such beautiful creatures.

A Spoonful of Despair. Part 1 of 4.

 

We all face difficult times over the course of our life, but the dark days often come in measured amounts—a spoonful of despair, a cup of grief. We must take a sip, as bitter as it is, knowing that’s the cost of being alive. There’s the dark but there's also the counterpoint of the light, the happy vs the sad. We assume that after a time of heartbreak there will be love again one day. We push against suffering. We can try to cover up the pain with medication, food, or other neurotic reactions, but it never really goes away. Despair forces us to take another sip and another and another, but there are times we know we’ll drown if we have to take just one more. That’s how I’ve felt these past few weeks as I’ve been struggling against the dark, praying for the light to return soon.

 

Heartache, anxiety and fear have robbed me from being able to write, work, think. As a cat-mom and rescuer, most of what I do has something to do with or for cats. There are bumps in the road that I usually manage, but when a health crisis hits one of them, the all-too-familiar and all-too-painful knot twists my gut, draining my soul. The worse the crisis, the less I can eat or sleep, the more I worry, research, call Vets, try to find an answer while attempting to soothe an anxious, weak, mysteriously sick cat.

Spencer with blitz under the table
©2016 Robin AF Olson. My baby, Spencer, flat, depressed and not eating while Blitzen worries about his old friend.

There was something wrong with Spencer, the mascot of Covered in Cat Hair, my 15-year old shadow. He was lethargic, would not eat, was depressed. He’d been drinking a lot of water and I’d feared it was his kidneys because water drinking can be a sign of kidney disease. At Spencer’s age it's no joke for him to have a problem like this. The issue: getting him to the vet when he’s a very high-stress patient.

This time it was no problem getting him to the vet. That’s how sick he was.

We gave Spencer fluids, hoping it would help him feel better, but it did nothing. I knew we couldn't wait this out. Once at Dr. Larry’s office my mind went into overdrive imagining what was wrong with my dear boy. I thought it could be pancreatitis or that his kidneys or his liver was failing but why? Spencer’s on a fresh diet, with lots of protein. There was no reason something would irritate him like that. It had to be that his kidneys were failing so I worried about how we’d give him fluids when he has a very short fuse.

Dr. Larry did some tests that indicated pancreatitis. It was possible I caught it early but Spencer still needed an ultrasound at the ER Vet as soon as possible to make certain there wasn’t something else going on. They kept him there for the full day because he’d been so stressed out, even though he was weak. Just taking his blood was difficult so they had to let him calm down in a cage for a few hours before trying to get the sample. By the time we got home Spencer was flat and even more depressed than before.

Sniffing baby food r olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. One of my "go-to" things to tempt a sick cat to eat-chicken baby food. Notice I offer the food on a flat dish and elevate the plate not only to make it easier to reach but so that the aroma of the warmed food reaches Spencer's nose faster. Normally I use a soup bowl to elevate the plate but in this case a tissue box was a good height and nearby.

I didn’t want to take my baby to the emergency vet because over the past year they’ve lost most of their staff and I didn’t know if they were hiring any decent vets. I didn't want to believe the rumors I'd heard. Their prices are crazy-high, but they are also a few minutes drive from my home. It meant less stress on Spencer and they could see him the next day so I agreed and hoped for the best.

Even the short drive to the ER did a number on Spencer. He was open-mouth breathing so they rushed him into an oxygen cage until he could settle down. How the heck where they going to be able to an ultrasound on him if he was flipping out? I feared they’d have to sedate him and the after effects of sedation on his old body. This had to be done, but how would they do it without pushing Spencer into the red zone?

Instead of meeting with the Internist, they went ahead and performed the ultrasound. I was surprised that it only took a few minutes. They went slowly and since Spencer was so ill, he was easier to handle and did not require sedation. I waited anxiously in the exam room, mentally adding up what I feared the bill was going to be for the day. The door opened and there stood Dr. De (her nickname to keep her anonymity). She was very nice and polite. She explained right away that yes, Spencer did have pancreatitis and that the key now was to soothe his belly while getting him to resume eating. There was no sign of cancer and the rest of his organs appeared normal. The concern was that if he didn’t eat soon, I’d have to assist-feed him or what worked much better was the placement of a feeding tube.

 

Feeding tube? In Spencer? The cat whose claws I can barely trim if I only try one or two at a time? Oh God!

 

She gave me a list of meds and a schedule along with some bland food (which of course I hated since the ingredients included corn, wheat and soy, but I had to do whatever I could for my boy). I went home and wrote everything out. Pilling Spencer was going to be dreadful but I had to get the job done.

Pancreatitis is no joke and cats can get it once, then never again or they can have flare ups for the rest of their life…or they can DIE.

 

Fluff with spencer
©2016 Robin AF Olson. I constantly followed Spencer around, but not so close as to make him anxious. As he chose a strange place to lay down, near the stove, I decided to sit down on the kitchen floor, too. Fluff Daddy, ever the jokester decided it was a great time to sit on my lap and watch Spencer with me.

Spencer laid on the floor under the table in front of the sofa. He’d lost a good bit of weight and he was depressed and in pain. I began giving him pain meds and something to help the nausea. I offered him some food but he would not touch it beyond a few licks.

Two of my friends got in touch with me when they heard the news and offered to help me if Spencer did need a feeding tube. They assured me to welcome this if the Vet thought he needed it because it made it much easier to provide nutrition and medications and that most cats (hey, not Spencer!) would not be bothered by it, too much. That feeding tubes could extend or save lives.

A very nice lady named Dee even offered to come to the house and show me how to feed, then clean the setup should Spencer need it. I had to prepare myself for doing this. If he needed it then so be it.

Spencer after peeing on the bed
©2016 Robin AF Olson. I took this photo not realizing that Spencer was laying in a large pool of his own urine. He was completely zoned out, between the pain meds and being sick. You can see it effected his pupils as well.

 

The next morning I woke up to find Spencer sleeping next to me. I was so happy to see him after days of him sleeping under a table, but my joy was short-lived. Spencer was also laying in a pool of his own urine. He had peed on the bed right next to me. He has never done anything remotely like that in his entire life. I wasn’t angry for what he did. I was heartbroken. This was not good. Not good at all.

 

After a few days of meds, Spencer began to eat on his own. He liked the crappy food so I was glad that he'd eat anything. I offered him many small meals throughout the day and he’d eat a teaspoon or two at most. He began to perk up a little, but I was still worried about taking him off the pain killers. I also wondered if we did something to his food that made him sick in the first place. We make our own raw food from carefully sourced ingredients, but what if we made a mistake? Surely one of our other nine cats would have been sickened, too?

By day five Spencer was off his medications and back to eating his regular diet. He’s still underweight but he’s back to his old self. I think he’s even friendlier than before and he’s not sucking down copious amounts of water, so perhaps the drinking was a way to soothe his digestive tract and not an alert that his kidneys were failing?

Wee wee squinting
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Spencer giving me "lovey-eyes."

 

But my joy was very short-lived because as Spencer began to improve, our little black cat, Cricket began to go down hill, fast.

 

Next up: A Semi-feral cat, indeed!

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