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Not On My Watch

What Would You Do for Bongo?

Bongo is seven months old. In that time he’s made friends, learned to play and met some very nice people, all while his right front leg didn’t function properly. We rescued him before he was going to be euthanized at a shelter not knowing much about him other than something was wrong with his leg. They noted his paw was crushed, but that turned out not the case.

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©2012 Maria S. Bongo.

We did tests and x-rays. Bongo met with noted Orthopedic Vet, Dr. Alan Cross of Georgia Veterinary Specialists. Dr. Cross felt that Bongo, while happy and otherwise healthy, could not feel anything in his right front paw and that he had severe nerve damage that was either not repairable or would be very costly to repair with very little hope for success. He suggested the best course would be to remove the leg since it was only getting in the way and slowing Bongo down.

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©2012 Maria S. Favoring his leg.

We work with a great Vet who helps rescue groups. Her nickname is Doc Thomas and she really knows her stuff. During our rescue of Bongo, Doc had taken a few weeks off-a rare vacation for her and certainly well deserved.

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©2012 Maria S. Getting some lovin' from foster sister, Bunny Boo Boo (who needs a home, too!)

We knew she could do the surgery for far less than the $2000. Dr. Cross quoted us, but we had to wait a few weeks to talk to Doc T about whether she could do it. Dr. Cross felt it was not a rush to do the surgery because Bongo wasn’t in any pain.

In the meantime, Maria, Bongo’s foster mom noticed Bongo using his leg as a crutch. He couldn’t bear weight on it, but he did push litter around and use it to help him balance. He did this by swinging his leg from his shoulder.

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©2012 Maria S. Bongo with his new BFF-George who we rescued from an apartment complex in GA.

When I heard about this I thought the same thing Maria did; “Maybe we should talk to Dr. Cross again? Maybe Bongo is getting feeling back?” The last thing any of us want to do is amputate this cat’s leg unnecessarily.

Maria contacted Dr. Cross. He felt that it would be very unusual for nerves to begin to work again and that Bongo didn’t have to have the surgery–ever, as long as he wasn’t dragging the limb. Dragging the limb meant he’d get infections in it eventually and that’s dangerous especially because he can’t feel if something is wrong.

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©2012 Maria S. Bongo with catnip banana.

Maria took Bongo to meet Doc Thomas today who has done plenty of amputations for other rescue groups. She looked at Bongo’s x-rays and examined him and came to the same opinion—Bongo does not need to lose his leg at this time. If it’s not bothering him, then leave it.

We worried that as Bongo ages he would have arthritis in his shoulder or as he grows larger and gains weight, that the constant pull of his “dead” leg would give him back pain.

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©2012 Maria S. His leg problem doesn't stop him from climbing.

Both Vets agreed that he should be just fine. If he drags the leg it has to go, but as long as he’s holding it up, running around and having fun, then for now it can stay. It’s really up to us if we feel he would be better without it in the way.

So again, Maria and I are wondering what to do. Neither of us want to take Bongo’s leg, but how will that effect his future? Would he be better off if we amputated his leg now so he could adjust and so we can oversee his care before he gets adopted or is he more adoptable with a leg that doesn’t function? What if he got his leg stuck somewhere because he couldn’t feel it and was home alone and did worse damage to himself?

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©2012 Maria S. Brothers from other mothers.

Fortunately, Bongo is adorable and affectionate. Leg or no leg we’ll find him a wonderful home one day. It would be easy to leave the leg alone because we don’t want him to lose it, but what is best for Bongo? He has to be considered first and last…not us…not our ideas of what might not be as appealing to adopters or what might make us feel sad for Bongo’s sake.

Choosing what’s best for Bongo is very difficult. Perhaps we have our answer now and just have to accept it? Perhaps we need to do something more difficult and have the amputation done?

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©2012 Maria S. Da boyz.

I don’t know, but I’m grateful we have the luxury of seeing how it goes and waiting on making any firm decisions.

I’ve never had to have a cat’s leg amputated and am unsure what is the best course of action. If Bongo was your cat what would you do?

To Those I Cannot Save

Every day whether it be via email, a phone call or on Facebook, I get notified of cats and kittens in dire need of rescue. Some are owner-abandoned, some are found on the street wandering, seriously injured. Others are listed on Craigslist because they have behavioral issues or the family is moving and “can’t take them” or mysterious allergies pop up so the cat has to go. If they don’t get any help they will go to the shelter---and we all know what that implies---they may be euthanized.

This is a letter to all those cats.

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Dear Cat ID# Unknown,

My heart is very heavy. I took it upon myself to open my home to helping cats like you. Cats who are hunkered down at the back of a stainless steel cage, with dilated pupils, cowering in fear. Cats who are too old to care and just sit, staring in their litter pan, hoping the smell of their own excrement will offer them a sliver of comfort in a place that is not their home. They are confused, lost, scared, hopeless. Some have newborn kittens clinging to them for nourishment and who are trying to protect them from the sounds of the shelter, the barking dogs, the smells of cleaning fluids and untouched cat food.

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©2012 Maria S. George's guardian lives in a very bad part of town and had taken him off the streets knowing full well she would get evicted for having a cat. She was also in hiding from an abusive relationship and was risking her own safety if she got evicted. My rescue group, Kitten Associates took him on because his next stop was going to be the kill shelter or being turned back to the streets.

I want to save your life, but I can’t. I’m so very sorry. I see your photo and you look like a perfectly nice kitty. You don’t deserve to sit there, waiting to die. I wish I knew something I could do to help you. There isn’t enough time in the day to send out pleas to everyone I know for every cat I discover who needs help.

I don’t want to be cliché and say, “If I had the space and money, I would save all of you,” because I don’t think that’s even possible to do by just one person. I have to measure what I can do versus what is needed. If I take too many, I am no help to anyone. As it is, my home is ruined from my own cats suffering from stress from a constant flow of incoming and outgoing cats, but it’s just urine-ruined floors. If that’s the price I pay to save lives, then so be it.

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©2012 Bobby Stanford. 10 yr old Helmet was brought to the shelter. The owners were warned the cat would be euthanized if they surrendered him. Being over 10 years old he had no chance. I sent out a plea on Facebook and within a day we had three adopters interested. This is a rare WIN. There are so many requests for help on Facebook cats like Helmet get overlooked.

I’m not saying you’re not worth it, because you are. You are SO worth it. You are worth making a fuss over-every single one of you. You’re a sentient being. You forgive and forget. You can move on with little or no remorse. You are so much better than I can ever be, but I don’t have a way to help you so I have to delete this email or ignore this post on Facebook.

Even though I try not to see you, I do. Each time I “pass” on helping another one of you, it puts a little tear in my heart, which is already in tattered shreds.

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©2012 Bobby Stanford. Helmet, now named, Grayson, with his new, devoted family. I'm told he is doing really well and is already requesting belly rubs.

I feel so badly I can’t do more, but I aspire to, at least, but it’s getting harder and harder to know about all of you because this year is the worst I can remember in a long time. I know that mamas and their kittens are dying in record numbers this summer and into the autumn and that pains me in a way that nothing can make right again. I can’t stand seeing elderly cats given up by their families who turn a cold shoulder to them at a time when those cats should be cherished even more.

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©2012 Bobby Stanford. This lovely pregnant cat was living outside in a very dangerous part of town. The owners of the apartment complex wanted her dumped at the heart stick kill shelter where she would die before her kittens were born.

What ever happened to “when the going gets tough, the tough get going?” No…you are disposable. I will never understand how anyone can think that of you.

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©2012 Jennifer N. Another miracle rescue-Anastasia was offered a loving foster home ONE HOUR after I asked for help. This is another rare WIN for a sweet cat who deserves the best we can give her.

You are not a cat on death row-you are my cat. You would give me the world, your love, your heart. You would give me all that you are, every single one of you, but I can’t give you the same in return no matter how badly I wish I could.

No other rescues stepped forward to help you. They’re in the same bind. No one came to adopt you. You’re going to die today. I can’t do a damn thing about it other than cry and hate that we, as a society, decided euthanasia is the answer to overcrowded shelters.

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©2012 Jennifer N. Anastasia's due to give birth any time now. Thank goodness she's safe.

I recently learned that in Italy it’s against the law to euthanize a cat. The community has decided to take cat care on as a group. Everyone pitches in to help the cats. There are sanctuaries and adoptions and some cats just live outside without a home, but they are cared for and cared about.

Why can’t we do this, too? Because we’re selfish and don’t want cats ruining our plants or peeing on the front door. Or we don’t want to deal with spending a few extra dollars to put out food for the strays or ferals because then it becomes a bigger problem. We’d rather the cats just die, as long as we don’t see it happening, so we can focus on what WE want and what WE NEED, who cares about them?

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©2012 Betsy Merchant. Three days ago I learned about this kitty and MANY others at Henry County Care and Control. I wanted to help him but I didn't have time. Why would a cat like that have to be put down? It never makes sense.

We can shout all we want about spaying or neutering cats, but it falls on too many deaf ears. We can say “no kill!” but we don’t know that it often only means “no killing of adoptable animals” and that shelters can make rules that any animal over 7 is too old to be adopted so they can KILL those perfectly healthy, loving animals and still declare they are “no kill!”

We have to realize that millions of cats will die this year because we’re too lazy to get off our asses and really FIX this problem. It’s not an important issue compared to the economy, people losing their homes, losing their jobs, etc. There will always be another reason that is “more important” to focus on even though we COULD focus on this AND work on those other issues, too.

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©2012 Betsy Merchant. I found out that they're putting cats down daily. This photo was haunting me, like so many others. I stopped what I was doing and begged a favor. As of this afternoon, THIS CAT IS BEING RESCUED by Kitten Associates and Animals in Distress, but I couldn't help the other 15 or more who don't have a chance.

To my dear cat who will die today, I failed you. We all failed you. We need to stop failing and start putting an end to this madness and start saying NO we don’t accept euthanasia as a solution for overcrowded shelters. We need to start opening our homes and accepting cats in to foster-NO MORE EXCUSES ABOUT IT BEING TOO PAINFUL TO LET THEM GO TO A NEW HOME BECAUSE WE DON’T WANT TO SUFFER THE EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT BEING BROKEN. Just do it.

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©2012 Betsy Merchant. Three days ago I learned about this kitty and MANY others at Henry County Care and Control. I loved this cat's face. What a serene and beautiful cat. This post is dedicated to her and the thousands like her who didn't make it. She was euthanized two days ago because there wasn't enough room in the shelter.

I would much rather cry because my foster cat got adopted then if it died in a shelter because I refused to open my home up to fostering cats.

I’m so very sorry, kitty. Rest in Peace. Fly free.

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If you want to help the cats of Henry County or the cats in your town, please consider opening your home to foster a cat for a rescue group or shelter. It's a magical thing to realize you truly are SAVING a LIFE.

Not on My Watch-It's Just One More Cat

Maria and I decided after a few years of fostering non-stop that we both needed a break. That lasted one week before Maria took on a sweet kitty whose owner had left it at a parking lot near the local Target store. Maria named the 4 month old kitten, Bunny Boo Boo and on her own, took care of the vetting and brought the kitten home until she could find a forever family.

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©2012 Maria S. Bunny Boo Boo.

Bunny is a love bug and I'm helping Maria find a forever home for her. Maria knew I just couldn't take on more kittens here in Connecticut so we're focusing on finding a local home for Bunny (somewhere in the McDonough, GA area).

Bunny gets on with other dogs and cats and loves people. She'd be a great addition to any family. We can arrange transport to nearby states if you're not located too far from Atlanta.

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Visit my rescue, Kitten Associatess to fill out a Pre-Adoption Application or email us at info@kittenassociates.org to find out more.

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©2012 Betsy Merchant. Bongo.

A week after Bunny, we rescued Bongo. It was just one more cat, right?

Then we heard about a heartbreaking situation in another part of Georgia. Apparently a neighboring town has an Animal Control where they not only euthanize animals in record numbers, but their method is by heartstick. If you want to know what that is, click HERE (there are no graphic images). I don't want to describe it because it's horrible and upsetting, but if you feel you can read about it then you'll know WHY we want to AVOID any cat having to go to this place. If you read it you'll also know why there is a strong support to BAN this heinous activity.

I heard about a pregnant mama cat roaming the parking lot of an apartment complex where the owners were VERY happy to get "rid" of any stray cats and take them straight to Animal Control. With local rescues filled to the brim we had a big challenge ahead of us, but something amazing happened.

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©2012 Jennifer N. Pregnant siamese mix in her new foster home.

After posting ONE PHOTO on our CiCH Facebook Page and asking all of you to SHARE her story, this kitty got TWO offers to foster her IN ONE HOUR!

Within a few days we were able to put together a team and Bobby our awesome volunteer, drove her a few hundred miles to her new foster home. I'm very glad to report she is doing VERY WELL with foster mom, Jennifer N. and is VERY affectionate (and gorgeous). That she was living outside on her own, but still very friendly reminds us of how many owner-abandoned cats there are out there. She must have known love at some point. Thankfully she will know love again.

And then there's George.

George lived with a lady who took him in off the streets at the same apartment complex. She took him into her home, knowing full well she would get evicted if they found out she had a cat. To make matters worse, she's at this location to hide from an abusive husband so she really needs to keep a low profile. In some ways it would have been good if we could have rescue her AND her cat, but at least we could help her cat.

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©2012 Bobby Stanford. George.

George is just one MORE cat, but that's really IT for us for this year. We need to find homes for the cats we made a commitment to already and I DO need a break so I can focus on fundraising and getting a lot of silly things done, like finish our web site and do some long range planning, RIGHT?

Bobby picked George up a few hours ago. George is about 7 months old and is vetted and has a clean bill of health. He's friendly and could become a good buddy to Bongo as soon as George can come out of quarantine. George has a bad “toupee” swatch of black fur on his head, a spot on his side and his tail is fluffy and all BLACK! This may sound odd, but I had a premonition about this cat the night before I found out about him so I had to say YES when I was asked if we could take him on (or that's just a weird-ass excuse and I think he's cute so what the heck).

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©2012 Bobby Stanford. Helmet.

There is one more cat who does NOT have a RESCUE, but who clearly needs one. His name is Helmet.

Helmet is 10 years old. His family has been evicted from their home and are going to live temporarily with a family member who refuses to take on the cat, too. Helmet was taken to Animal Control. They told the couple they will have to EUTHANIZE HIM when he comes in the door. He will have NO CHANCE FOR re-homing. They are FULL UP and OWNER SURRENDERED CATS DIE FIRST.

Helmet does not deserve this. The couple, crying, begged for another choice. Animal control called Bobby and Barb from Winging Cat Rescue. They don't have anywhere for this TWENTY-FIVE POUND, DECLAWED cat to go.

We are in DIRE need of a Georgia Licensed Rescue to take Helmet into their program. I'm sure we can provide either vetting and/or a donation to provide for his initial services. Helmet is a nice cat, with a crappy name, in a terrible situation. This poor guy is in a small cage at a boarding facility and he's not eating. This is no way to put a big cat on a diet. He's terrified and sad.

We would also be HAPPY if someone wanted to ADOPT this GENTLE GIANT and give him the love and security he needs.

Can you help HELMET? Sharing this post would REALLY help! We need to find a needle in a haystack, but we just did it with a pregnant cat, why not with a chubby one?

If you wish to adopt or are a rescue, please contact me, Robin, at info@kittenassociates.org and I'll put you in touch with all the right folks. We can deliver Helmet to YOU at no cost.

We've had a lot of WINS this week. It's just ONE MORE CAT, right?

Please share for Helmet!

The Sad Truth about Bongo

If we didn't have the power of imagination just think about what a dull world it would be. We'd probably all still be living in a cave, wearing animal hides. There are times, though when I wish I didn't have the ability to imagine, especially when it comes to thinking about our latest rescue, Bongo.

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X-ray of Bongo's damaged leg.

In the week we've had Bongo, I've only heard good things about him. The first few days made me sad when I heard he stayed in his litter pan, comforted by his own scent-something common to cats who are confined in cages at animal shelters. In time, Bongo realized he was safe and loved and began to spend his days relaxing on a soft bed or playing with toys. He walked holding his right front leg off the ground. It doesn't seem to function properly. You can see a video of it HERE.

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If you compare the front legs, you can tell one has good muscle mass and one does not.

Yesterday Bongo met with Dr. Alan Cross, a noted Orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Cross reviewed Bongo's x-rays and did a careful and thorough examination.

He felt that Bongo had severe nerve damage and muscle wasting in his leg from a trauma of some kind. Most likely from someone grabbing his leg and twisting it backward. It wasn't enough force to break the shoulder, but it was enough to destroy the nerves.

It could NOT have been from being hit by a car. Bongo's leg had to be grabbed and twisted by force.

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Muscle wasting.

I tried not to imagine who did this to him or why. I tried not to imagine that this person is still doing this to other cats. I did allow myself to imagine what I'd do to the person if I ever could find out who did this to such a sweet and innocent creature.

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©2012 Maria S. Sweet Bongo.

Dr. Cross felt the best solution in this situation would be to amputate Bongo's leg. It's only in his way and over time it will become more and more of a hinderance. Bongo has NO sensation in his paws, which we originally thought he had. I've never had to make this choice for an animal and I'm not overjoyed it has come to pass. For Bongo, I will do whatever it takes to help him live the most comfortable life possible.

If there was any way we could save his leg, it would be done. I know Bongo won't mourn the loss of his leg as we will because we can imagine what life he could have had, but perhaps we can begin to imagine a new life, on three legs, that can be just as full of love and joy as it would have been on four.

Crushed Foot Kitty finds a Rescue with Kitten Associates

Not quite a kitten, but not big enough to be a full grown cat, a friendly Norewegian Forest cat mix was dumped off at Henry County Care & Control in McDonough, Georgia. Like most cats he was placed in a small steel cage to await his fate, but what was different about him was this cat was injured and unable to put weight on his right front leg.

Any cat lover would want to grab that kitten out of the cage and rush him off to the Vet, but without funds to do so, cats in shelters don't always get the help they need. It's not because the staff is evil or because they don't care, it's because of stupid things like money that force their hand. If they help this one, what about the two other badly injured cats with gaping wounds in their necks who just got brought in, too?

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©2012 Betsy Merchant. Poor little fella.

This year I had to turn away from helping cats from Henry County because there were so many others that needed our attention who literally fell out of trees (like Willow). After a long year of helping more abandoned cats than I have ever seen, more stray, homeless, starving, knocked up cats, Maria (our super foster mom in GA) and I decided we both needed to plan to take a break. Neither of us had had more than a week free from fostering for almost three years.

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©2012 Betsy Merchant.

It's just plain crazy to push yourself in a field where there is so much misery and heartache. I want to always love my foster cats and have the stamina and compassion to keep helping them. For my own sanity and out of respect to my own cats, after the 13 cats in my program get to their forever homes, I'm done for a few months.

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©2012 Betsy Merchant. Do you love those wispy ear tufts or what?

I've already had to say no to many requests for help. I hate it, but I have to do this. Of course, last night I got a text from Maria asking me if I'd heard about this “crushed foot” cat at Henry Co. I had seen the plea a few days before, felt bad about it, then closed the email. I hoped someone would help him, but it'd been a week and no one came forward.

We believe the cat is 6-9 months old and his right paw is twisted out at an odd angle. It's not quite fused in place, but there is a deformity. His paw is warm so there is blood flow. Our intrepid volunteer/driver, Bobby felt the paw and the kitten didn't wince, nor did he feel any broken toes.

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©2012 Betsy Merchant. This kitten mostly lays down in his cage. Getting him to stand up is not often easy.

I asked Maria if she wanted to take on another foster and she didn't hesitate to say yes. I contacted Bobby and Henry County and by 2 AM everything was sorted out.

Bobby arrived at Henry County 90 minutes ago and picked up the kitty, who has been purring non-stop since he got out of the cage.

We're going to take on whatever ails this little guy. He may need his leg removed or hopefully surgery can save it somehow. Yes, we'll need to start a ChipIn, but I'm even tired of asking for money. We'll wait to see what the Vet says and take it from there.

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©2012 Bobby Stanford. Meet Bongo, our latest rescue!

The cat is at our Vet's office right now being examined. I'm praying his snap test is negative/negative. I'm more worried about that than I'm worried about his leg.

We'll get him his vaccinations and they'll do x-rays. If he needs pain meds, he'll get them. I look at it this way-it's just one cat, right?

Just one more cat to find a home for. One cat to fuss over and worry about until he's feeling well again. Just one more to love (and honestly, just looking at his crazy ear tufts was enough to put me over the edge).

This is Bongo, our latest rescue. Welcome aboard. The story of your rescue starts now.

BIGGEST PAWS EVER-Meet Kenny

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting, Kenny. He's an affable lug of a cat, the kind that makes you take notice-especially when you look down-at his paws.

Kenny is a polydactyl (sometimes called Hemmingway) cat. He has the BIGGEST PAWS I've EVER SEEN! This cat's paws are almost as big as my HAND!

What I can't get over is the sad fact that Kenny was given up by his guardian and left to die at a shelter. He was going to be put down for not other reason that space issues AND that Kenny is not a cute kitten.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. LOOK AT THOSE PAWS!

Kenny is about 9 years old. He probably weighs a bit over 20 pounds. From the first second I saw Kenny and he saw me, he rolled over to show me his impressive belly. I was told he was nasty at the shelter most likely due to the fact he was terrified. This cat was sweet, friendly, willing to be held and simply happy to be out of his cage.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

Kenny needs a home where he'll get the love he craves and the adoration he deserves.

Kenny is SAFE where he is now, but it's not very roomy and he doesn't get a lot of attention. We need to find this special kitty a home!

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hi Kenny!

Kenny is located in CONNECTICUT.

If you think Kenny is the one for you, contact ME and I'll put you in touch with Kenny's caretakers.

Please don't contact me if you live more than one state away from CT. I doubt this caretakers would want to transport him too far away.

Contact me at info@coveredincathair.com if you'd like to know more about Kenny!

From the Ashes. Fire at Animlkind.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. What remains after the fire and flood at Animalkind on May 1, 2012..

[If you missed it you can read Part One HERE and Part Two HERE]

We continued on to the fourth floor. It suffered the least amount of damage. The sheet rock was still intact. There were cats living here, too. Some of them had been kittens who had tested positive for Feline Leukemia. A few of the kittens died and the others couldn’t be near other cats until they had time to re-test negative. The surviving kittens had to sacrifice those first few months when they would have been the most adoptable. It would mean if they weren’t sick, they’d be adults who'd have a much tougher time getting adopted. It wasn’t fair, but it was the best that could be done for them.

There were many cats walking around the large sun-soaked space. It was too warm and the cats were lying stretched out on scant blankets that were scattered around the rooms. A few cats came over to me. Clearly they were sick. I didn’t judge Katrin. I would have done the same thing. She could have put them all down to save her the headache of trying to see them through this, but she didn’t.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet kitty finds comfort in a simple box.

Katrin had a difficult time walking through the building that had come to mean so much to her. This place was her life and her life was in shambles at her feet. I told her to imagine the day when she walked up the stairs and she could smell freshly painted walls; to imagine the cats running freely around the rooms, enjoying their release from captivity. My mother often said; “This too shall pass.” I knew it was true for Animalkind, the problem was—WHEN. When would it pass?

 

The insurance company has been slow to provide the funds to get the re-building started. The agent had a heart attack. There were other delays. Each day revealed another frustration for Katrin and her staff.

 

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Lovely architectural bones, but not so comfortable for the kitties.

We returned to Animalkind’s temporary headquarters at the Warren Inn. The phone rang. Katrin was called over to speak to the person making the call. At last there was some good news–the power in the building was hooked up! All they needed was a final inspection, which could happen very soon. Katrin spoke to the caller at a rapid pace and as soon as she hung up the phone, she lifted the receiver and made more calls. She was on the phone as a volunteer brought in an injured snowshoe kitten AK had agreed to rescue from the notorious Animal Care & Control in NYC (notorious for euthanizing zillions of cats and dogs every day). The kitten was stunning, but supposedly suffered from a broken hip. She sat in the cardboard carrier and meowed. A cat carrier was also brought into the room with two young kittens, also from ACC&C. Just because their building was gone, didn't mean Katrin was going to stop rescuing cats.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Quarantine kitty.

I overheard Katrin speaking with a volunteer to ask them to go buy as many fans as she could. She also wanted screens for those windows-ASAP. She was going to make certain the cats in quarantine were more comfortable now that they had their power restored.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sick ward patient enjoying one of the few comfortable places in the building.

With all the activity of volunteers and calls, I decided I should head back home. A foster mom entered the room with her kitten, Tatanka (which means Buffalo in Indian). Tatanka’s eyes were like orange saucers as he looked around the room. He couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 weeks old. Something happened to him, but so far their Vet couldn’t determine whether it was a neurological problem like Cerebeluar Hypoplasia or an injury. Initially, the kitten couldn’t walk at all, but with his foster mom's care he was starting to use his back legs and could stand up for short bursts.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Tatanka with his Stretch & Scratch.

She jangled a toy in front of him and he looked at it oddly. There was something not working right in his mind, you could tell by his expression. I found myself wanting to take him home with me. His cuteness factor was set really high and the fact that he was a bit wobbly and needed extra help made him even more adorable.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet ginger boy.

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I’d brought with me the donation of Stretch and Scratch scratchers, which Katrin LOVED. She and I hung them in most of the cages and right away the kittens started to use them. Some of the adults were too scared to try them out, no doubt stressed from their months of captivity (they DO give each cat a break outside of their cage as often as possible).

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Tuxedo kitty in the sick ward.

It was time to head out. I said my farewells and wished good luck to Tatanka. As I walked to my car, I felt heavier. The struggles and the suffering of these good people and sweet cats effected me deeply. It’s one thing to read a story about a disaster, but it’s another thing to stand up and get involved even if you’re not confident you can do anything to make it better.

 

The one thing I am confident about is that even though I have my own struggles, failures and fears that I only truly feel happy when I help someone else.

 

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Oz is a super sweet kitty looking for his forever home.

Katrin called me a few days ago to give me another update, but before she told me the latest news, she had to tell me something else. She said that what I’ve done, getting donations for them, coming up to do a story about Animalkind, meant a lot to her.

This stoic, lioness choked up as she spoke. I suddenly understood why what I did effected her so deeply. I understood what she was going through on so many levels—everyone wants something from her when she’s at the lowest point in her life and here was a stranger showing up to help, without asking for anything in return and not making her life more difficult, but better.

She told me she regretted that I didn’t live closer so we could get to know each other better and I felt the same way, too.

 

 

It reminds me that we need to look out for each other, whether we’re strangers or best friends. That one person with only a few bucks to her name can make a difference in someone else’s life that maybe helps them get through another day. Each and every one of us has that power and frankly, that duty. Without even considering “what about me” I got a great gift. It’s so much more meaningful when it comes without feeling like it’s even needed.

 

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Tatanka sits up on his own!

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© 2010 Mark Westscott Studios. Animalkind before the tragic loss of their shelter.

Update: After all these months, MAYBE just MAYBE construction is going to begin in two weeks. They have an expert coming in to review the spaces in their building and help them set it up so that it will be the best environment for the cats AND the safest from a health standpoint so they can keep their cat population from spreading illnesses.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the many kittens at Animalkind.

THEY’RE LOOKING FOR HELP RIGHT NOW FOR THOSE OF YOU WITH THE FOLLOWING SKILLS. (Animalkind is located in HUDSON, NEW YORK-about 2 hours north of New York City)

• an Architect who can help with designing the new spaces

• Solo Construction workers OR someone who owns a construction company to help them rebuild

• Stone Masons who can help with their garden

• Carpenters who can help them build out their new rooms

Of course, like any rescue, they need financial donations or donations of goods. You can visit their Network for Good donation page to donate OR you can contact AnimalKind at 518-822-8643 or email: katrin@animalkind.info to arrange for a donation of goods or services.

Donate

 

Don't forget: If you'd like to gift AnimalKind more scratchers (they LOVE THEM), please go HERE to get their shipping information. You can get a SPECIAL DISCOUNT of 10% off on any size case of Stretch and Scratch scratchers, plus you get reduced shipping. Use CODE: CATS to get the discount!

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Tatanka casts his cute-spell on us.

The final update is that Tatanka is ready to be adopted! I’m not clear on the status of his current medical condition, but I believe he'll still need some Vet visits and possibly physical therapy to be well. If you’re interested in adopting Tatanka or finding out more about him contact Animalkind at the same numbers above or fill out an adoption application.

Pierre, the Amazing, Mysterious, Stray Kitty!

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I met my friend at Animal Control for lunch. She told me about two cats who were being borded at a local Vet. One, we believe may be a cat who was dumped or who is lost. She asked me if I wanted to see him. Of course I said YES! This is one of the coolest cats I've ever seen. He has a remarkable mustache-shaped black spot on his head and two tiny earring-shaped dots on his ears. The rest of his body is white. He has a blue eye and a green eye.

As the saying in rescue goes; “If I didn't already have so many cats I'd take him in a heartbeat!”

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. Bi-colored eyes AND a mustache shaped black spot on his head. Fantastic!

This cat is SUPER friendly, with a sleek, healthy coat, not a flea on him. He's neutered and only about three years old. Where did this cat come from? Is his family missing him?

We don't know much but I'll be posting this boy's photo in the local paper. If no one steps forward we'l find him a great home. Who wouldn't want a cat who gets on with other cats, dogs and people? This guy likes to be held and purrs up a storm.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. What a knockout!

He's perfect and then some because of his crazy markings and rare bi-colored eyes. What a gem!

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. Mr. Lovey-Dovey.

I nicknamed this kitty Pierre. If you live in western CONNECTICUT and are missing a cat and can prove this is your boy, contact me right away at info@coveredincathair.com ! If you'd LIKE this to be your cat and want to adopt him, let me know at the via the same email address. If we can't find his owner, we'll go through the adoption process and transport him to you if you don't live too far from CT.

The Heart of a Lioness: The Fire at Animalkind part two

There’s a certain quality only a rare few people have. It’s a magnetic kind of energy that radiates from within, but can be felt by others. At times it smolders, belying the real power it can unleash, while other times there is no ignoring it. When that person enters a room, the airwaves seem to change and become electrified.

One such person is Katrin Hecker, the Director of Animalkind. She’s tall and tan with brilliant blonde hair. She’s from Germany and has an unmistakable accent even after living here for decades. She’s not shy about who she is, where she’s from or what her passions are. Upon first glance she might come off as a bit distant or cool, but talk to her a few times and you’ll sense her great heart.

Katrin operates in a no-nonsense manner especially when there's so much to get done. Since losing Aninalkind's building after their sprinkler system destroyed the interior (You can read more about that HERE), she has more than a lot on her plate.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Katrin Hecker with the latest arrivals.

Katrin is creative, a painter way back when. She lived in New York City with her husband, but after too many years in the hustle and bustle, decided to move north to the small riverside town of Hudson, NY. They bought an old church and set up their first home. Katrin wasn’t sure what she wanted to focus her attention on, maybe design or get deeper into painting.

One day she realized she’d seen quite a few cats walking around town. Her first thought was how sweet it was, seeing them dash down an alley or pass by her front door. She imagined she was living in a town that loved and cared for their cats as a community, otherwise why would there be so many of them roaming around?

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Panogram of one side of the temporary headquarters at the Warren Inn. Click to see a large size of this photo.

 

It didn’t take long for her to realize that those cats were very thin, their coats ragged; some were injured or pregnant. Clearly none of them were being cared for and there was no rescue facility or group in the town to help them.

 

Katrin rescued a black cat off the street and took it to the Vet. Her husband didn’t mind as long as she didn’t get out of hand and take in all the cats she saw. Katrin found a few more cats that needed help. They were all black. Mischievously motivated or just plain brass, Katrin took in a total of eight black cats. She hid them away in one room, where she’d set up as her painting studio, knowing her husband wouldn’t enter the space. She let one or two out at a time and her husband never noticed they had more than just a few cats until one night when it was very cold and the power went out.

The wood stove was the only source of heat. One by one, the cats showed up to warm themselves by the fire. The cats were out of the “bag.” Katrin’s husband was shocked, thinking he’d gone mad seeing eight nearly identical cats appear out of the woodwork, but she made no apologies. There was a serious problem in this town and something had to be done.

By 2000, Animalkind came into existence and ever since it’s had a symbiotic relationship with the community. Katrin told me that she can’t be like other rescues and say no all the time when someone asks for help. She described some of the locals, who are down on their luck, struggling and just want to help a stray or their own cat. She finds a way to say yes, even if it means loading up her home with cats or reaching out to the community to help her help the cats.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Doors to the former surgical suite where they did all their spay/neuters.

Even at the clearly worst point of her life, with heartbreaking family problems, including illness and brain injuries to contend with and the loss of Animalkind’s headquarters, she still has to help the cats. She could have given up and walked away after the building was gutted. She could have walked away after her own home was badly flooded after Hurricane Irene badly damaged all the homes in her neighborhood.

With all that’s on her plate she finds a way to get up every day and figure out how she’s going to put the pieces of Animalkind back together again and how she’s going to get those poor cats out of their cages and into their new space as soon as possible.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Watching my step.

Katrin led me through the front door of what was once a building filled with the sounds of volunteers working away, answering calls, scooping litter pans, feeding the cats; who were living freely in large open group areas. It was eerily silent now. I had to watch my step because the floors were stripped to the bone, covered with debris. The HVAC vents snaked across the floors having fallen from the mounts on the ceiling. The cheerily painted sheet rock was gone. All that remained were exposed studs and wiring, the shell of what must have been a glorious Victorian home. I stood there. The heartache of loss was palpable.

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©2007 Animalkind. Before the damage.

As we picked our way around the first floor, Katrin described each room. We passed the Adoptions area, then climbed to the second floor to see where their grand surgical suite was located. There are French doors separating the spaces, but no longer any walls on either side of the doors. A few stainless steel surgical tables and other equipment were shoved into a corner, dirty, but still usable. However, most of what had once been there was long gone.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. After the damage. The only thing that's recognizable is the teal bench.

It was a warm summer day and as we climbed the stairs you could feel the temperature rise slightly, along with the humidity. The third floor held a secret—one that couldn’t be helped. This is where the contagious cats lived...the ones with ringworm. Even though they weren’t supposed to have animals in the building, they had no choice. It was keep them safe or let them go. It’s not as though any rescue would knowingly take cats with ringworm and there was no way Katrin was going to put them down, either.

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©2007 Animalkind. Cats lounging before the disaster.

They did the best they could. The cats had the basics and no more. It was only for now. It would get better soon, but the building had no electricity and without screens on the windows, the windows could only be opened a very tiny bit. Most of the cats were flat from the heat but not in any danger at all.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Waiting.

Katrin told me about their plans for the room as I looked around imagining how it would appear with fresh paint, new cat trees, comfy chairs. It was an enormous space with large windows overlooking the street on one side and an overgrown yard on the other. They received a generous grant to re-do the yard into a perfect cat habitat so cats could go outdoors and still be within a closed space. They were going to put in benches and lots of plants and cute statutes of cats playing. It was going to be so wonderful, if only it could happen soon.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. A skinny little lady comes over to greet us.

And truly, that was the problem.

“Soon” seemed to be defined as “not any time soon.” You tell that to a room full of cats who are desperate for things to get back to normal.

 

The final part of my story introduces you to one amazing little kitten and shares some last-minute updates, promising news and more. Stay tuned...

The Best Worst Thing Ever. Fire at Animalkind.

Late in the evening of May 1, 2012, on the third floor apartment where a caretaker lived, a small fire broke out due to the hot embers of a cigarette coming into contact with bedding. The fire was extinguished before the fire department even arrived. The building didn't burn to the ground, but something equally terrible occurred. The building-wide sprinkle system was activated, releasing a torrent of water, not light rain showers, but a flood of water throughout the building.

On the second, first and basement levels lived the cats of Animalkind, a non-profit cat shelter located in Hudson, New York. Most of the cats were allowed to freely roam their adoption areas. Terrified from the onslaught of water, the cats climbed onto the horizontal vents from the brand new $50,000 HVAC system that was installed to control the spread of disease. The cats huddled in the rafters, terrified; but what was worse was the fate awaiting the most fragile of the cats—the mamas and kittens. They were in the basement and all the water from the floors above pooled there, inches deep. The families weren't free to escape, they were in cages, trapped in the water at risk of drowning.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Still lovely, the exterior of Animalkind.

No one perished. No cats died. In that, it was a miracle, but the building was gutted. The once pink and yellow cheerful walls of Animalkind were soaked, ruined, crumbling to the floor. The joy that had filled the building, all the years of hard work and loving care, vanished in a matter of hours. The building that once held 150 cats was destroyed.

As early as 2am Katrin Hecker, the Director and Founder of Animalkind, her volunteers, staff and residents of Hudson, New York, gathered together and quickly began to capture as many cats as they could.

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©2012 Animalkind. Used with permission. Moving the cats into their new location.

Thanks to the kindness and generosity of a local merchant, The Warren Inn, a nearby hotel, turned its' office space into a temporary shelter space. It was just a few steps away from Animalkind's headquarters. Cages were assembled and cats were tagged and given a place to recover their shock. Many cats needed to go into temporary foster homes and people throughout the area opened their doors. The townsfolk jumped into action along with everyone from Animalkind. Though heartbreaking, the staff was buoyed by the support.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The irony of the sign on the bottom of the window isn't lost on me.

In the following days, amazing things happened. Cats who'd been at AK for YEARS were getting adopted. Adoptions on the whole went way up. About 60 cats found homes right away. Folks started to show up from out of the blue to help any way they could. As the news spread, I heard about this terrible tragedy. In an odd coincidence, I'd been only a few miles from the fire delivering Leo to Animalkind's neighbor, Aslan's Sanctuary.

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©2012 Animalkind. Used with permission. The basement.

Like so many other people, the devastation bothered me deeply. I couldn't imagine how any rescue could recover from such a loss. I'm just one person. What could I do to help?

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©2012 Animalkind. Used with permission. One of the shelter spaces, empty of cats, filled with water.

I got in touch with Animalkind and Bob Mechling, a Designer and key member of the shelter, got back to me right away. I asked him what they needed and told him I'd do what I could to help him get it. I couldn't believe I was saying those words. I don't have two sticks to rub together, but in my heart I knew that after all these years of blogging and writing pet product reviews that somewhere I MUST know someone who could help me scrounge up a few donations.

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Freekibblekat.com and Halo come to the rescue!

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World's Best Cat Litter-YOU ROCK!

I got to work. Within a few days and after many phone calls I got the logistics worked out. Right away, Kelly Ausland of Freekibble.com and Freekatkibble.com said he would be delighted to help with a donation of 350 bags of kibble from Halo. He wasn't doing this for a write-up on my blog or a pat on the back. He sincerely was concerned and wanted to help.

Next up were my associates at World's Best Cat Litter, who also did not hesitate to help once I alerted them to the problem. I was very impressed by how quickly they jumped into action! Now the cats had a supply of food and litter coming in the door. I reached out to a few other companies, but sadly they were not able to offer any assistance.

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If you'd like to help put a smile on the faces of shelter cats in your town, you can get a SPECIAL DISCOUNT of 10% off on any size case of Stretch and Scratch scratchers, plus you get reduced shipping. Use CODE: CATS to get the discount! If you'd like to gift AnimalKind more scratchers (they LOVE THEM), please go HERE to get their shipping information:

I also reached into my own fairly empty pockets and ordered two cases of Stretch and Scratch cat scratchers. I knew that the cats would be stressed out in cages and having something to scratch could make a world of difference to their well being.

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©2012 Animalkind. Used with permission. The Adoption Room circa 2004..

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Welcome to the Adoption Room 2012.

As Animalkind began the difficult work of assessing the damage and speaking with their insurance company, things got very busy for my little rescue. I didn't hear much from Katrin, but she was never far from my thoughts.

Recently, I made the 100 mile trip north to meet Katrin and Bob and see how things were going. What I saw broke my heart and compelled me to do more.

Animalkind still needs help. In some ways, things are worse now than ever. In part two I'll share what I learned during my visit and introduce you to some VERY special cats.

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