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Not On My Watch

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.

The Kindness of Strangers

A woman named Donna lives in a nearby town. She loves her cats and always provides them with the best care possible. Like so many people have reported this year, Donna suddenly discovered she had a friendly pregnant cat visiting her yard and was concerned about what to do.

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©2012 Donna M. Winnie.

This is Winnie. She usually lives at a home nearby Donna. Winnie got pregnant and had a litter of kittens, then another. Winnie is pregnant for the third time, but this time it will be different. Donna spoke with her neighbor about spaying and neutering and instead of arguing that the neighbor was doing a bad thing by leaving her cat intact, she simply offered to get Winnie spayed after her next kittens were weaned. Winnie's guardian agreed that it needed to be done.

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©2012 Donna M. Babies on board.

What Donna wasn't sure of was what to do with the kittens once they arrived and how to keep them all safe and not put any of her own dear cats at risk of picking up any diseases or vice versa. I found out about Donna's situation and thought about what I could do to help. Clearly, this wasn't the sort of person I usually run into-the kind that wants to dump a problem on a rescue, offers no other support and wants them gone. No. Donna wanted to help, to contribute and to make the entire rescue much easier on whoever helped.

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©2012 Donna M. Winnie and kitten number one.

What she really wanted was a reliable way to get the kittens adopted into good homes instead of putting them on Craigslist, which is not allowed in the first place and which is dangerous to do. Those listings can be answered by anyone and adopters aren't screened so the cats could be given away to labs for testing or for other nefarious purposes.

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©2012 Donna M. Welcome to the world little ones!

Donna worked out that Winnie would have a home no matter what, but that if she could have guidance and eventually have the kittens go into foster care, that's what would be best and I agreed. If Donna could provide a home for now, I'd work on finding a foster home or hope, pray, beg that enough of my own foster cats would get adopted by the time Winnie's were ready to find their homes.

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©2012 Donna M. Teenie tinies!

Five kittens were born on August 10th-little gray and white cow patterned kittens and one who's black and tabby cow patterned. So far they're all doing well and Winnie, no surprise, is a great mama. On Wednesday I've offered to have Winnie seen by one of our Vets to get tested for Feline Leukemia and FIV, to be checked for fleas, get de-wormed and have all the kittens examined to make sure they're all doing well, too. With any luck, everyone will be just fine and we can focus on giving Winnie great nutrition so she can support her offspring. Snap testing mama cats always distresses me, but it must be done.

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©2012 Donna M. Kitten pile!

This lucky family found safe harbor under the roof of a loving couple and although they are a bit nervous about having such small wards, I'll be offering advice and doing some hand-holding as was done for me so many years ago when I first started fostering mamas and their kittens.

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©2012 Donna M. It doesn't get any cuter than this.

In two months (or possibly sooner) we'll need a foster home for these kittens.

If you live in or near Newtown, CT, please contact me at info@kittenassociates.org for more information on how to be a foster home. It's really fun. It's not a big time commitment and you're saving lives!

I want to thank Donna for doing the right thing for this family and for not turning her back on them or trying to dump them on a floundering rescue with no resources. Your willingness to take on this responsibility makes my job so much easier and lets me stretch my limited resources a bit further.

If only everyone who found a pregnant cat was so devoted to their care!

Newton Animal Control in Georgia. Adopters and Rescue Groups Needed!

We all know it's been a tough summer on cats in Kill shelters. The warm winter gave way to an extra breeding season. It's hard for me to post photos of these cats knowing full well what their fate may be, but if I don't try and we don't try to get the word out, then they have zero chance.

Instead of getting sad about this, let's try something new. I'm not going to make hysterical claims or beg you to save their lives. All I'm going to do is share this with you and ask you to do the same with your friends. By sharing this with others, perhaps we'll find a few special people who can make room in their home to take on one more or a rescue who can do their thing and help another cat in dire need.

These cats are located at Newton County Animal Control which is located at 210 Lower River Rd. Covington, GA 30016

If you're with a rescue group and want to help, you have to have a license from the state of Georiga to pull an animal out of this facility. There may be licensed rescues who will pull on your behalf, but that's something I can't advise on.

Georgia licensed rescues contact: FREDDIE 770-786-9514 They are open M-F 11 am to 4:30 pm for adoptions/pulls (which can take up to 24 hrs) and they are hoping to hear from some of you!

These are just SOME of the cats and kittens who need help. They're all friendly.

Cage 6 8/3/12 This is the meduim haired tuxy mama with 1 of her 2 tabby kittens

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy.

Cage 10 7/23/12 This orange mama had her 7 kittens in AC about 2 weeks ago

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy.

Cage 13 7/26/12 This black & white mama has 4 black & white kittens, only 1 is male

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy.

Cage 20 8/3/12 Silver tabby mama with 1 calico kitten

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy.

Cage 8 8/2/12 This is the tortie that appears pregnant

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy.

Cage 19 8/3/12 This is the tabby that has milk. She is caged with a male that came in with her

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy.

You'll find MORE photos of most of these kitties (and ones not listed above) on this link to a PHOTOBUCKET web site

Let's start sharing on Facebook and Twitter and wherever you wish. That's all I ask. Hopefully this information will find the right place to land and some of these cats will have a happy future.

As always, THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP. The kitties thank you, too.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back. Saving Tater.

We all had a very bad scare a month ago when Tater fell ill. The Vet felt it was the “wet” form of FIP, a fatal disease. We were all heartbroken and scared, but determined that if there was ANY chance Tater could survive, we would make that happen no matter what we had to do.

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©2012 Maria S. Still got that belly, but we're not concerned that it's FIP.

Miraculously, through a twist of fate and our foster mom, Maria's careful observation, we were led down a path to a possible answer. It was NOT FIP, but a double-whammy parasitic infection along with a very nasty upper respiratory infection. We began treatment right away and sure enough, Tater's condition began to improve.

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©2012 Maria S. Mugging for Maria.

Tater began to EAT again, then began to play; two big signs he might survive. The Vet finally took the FIP diagnosis off the table and we all breathed a sigh of relief for the remainder of July. Sadly, a few days ago Tater relapsed or is battling something new.

Tater was carefully examined. His lung sounds were not good. The Vet wanted to take x-rays and do blood work. We had that done and the Vet decided to put Tater on strong antibiotics for the next THREE weeks. This poor kitten can't catch a break. I asked if we had to consider the FIP diagnosis once again-terrified of the answer.

 

The Vet feels it's not FIP, but it IS a very serious upper respiratory infection which could turn into pneumonia.

 


©2012 Maria S. and Robin A.F. Olson. Check in with Tater, ChiChi and Latte, too.

Due to the costs for care and to also provide care for Willow, who is still struggling with a URI,

we're going to ask a tiny favor—for EVERYONE to consider donating the price of a cup of coffee to help us top off the Tater Tot Fund.

 

The ChipIn for the fund is below and is also in the RIGHT sidebar on my blog. PLEASE do not feel badly if you can't donate at this time. That's why we're only asking that everyone chip in a small amount. That way it will add up to a great donation if everyone takes part!

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©2012 Maria S. Tater getting some comfort from his new buddy, Sammy.

Your donation is TAX-DEDUCTIBLE as my rescue, Kitten Associates is a 501©3 Non-Profit Cat Rescue.

If you'd prefer to send a check, please make it out to: Kitten Associates and please note on the check the funds should go to "Tater Tot" mail it to:

Kitten Associates
P.O. Box 354
Newtown, CT 06470-0354

Any funds not used for the care of this family will go into our General Fund.

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©2012 Maria S. Love that little curl in Tater's tail.

 

Thank you for helping us, help Tater. We couldn't do it without your support!

 

The Road Home is Paved with Love Part 1 of 2

I picked up all the bedding and loaded it into the washing machine, then added bleach to the load and pressed the small grey buttons to change the setting to “hot water.” I closed the door and the machine hummed to life making odd clicks and whirring sounds.

I grabbed the broom and started to sweep the floor, getting lost in the ritual that is so familiar to me now. When one cat leaves, I prepare the space so the next cat can arrive. It can take an hour or a few hours depending on how sick the previous tenant was or how messy they were in the litter pan.

Although I like to put things right and enjoy seeing bright surfaces shine, I can't help but reflect, missing the cat who is no longer with me.

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Even though I didn't know him that well, in a short time I came to love him and perhaps moreso, admire him. He might feel afraid, but he'd work past it. I was always able to pet him even if he was scared. He never once nipped me or clawed me. He didn't care if I rubbed his paws or his belly. He talked to me some times when he was fearful by uttering a mournful, deep meow. I'd comfort him right away because I wanted to gain his trust-which he freely gave me. He'd settle down and go back to mooching another ear-scritch from me in moments.

What a special cat.

A few months ago I got an email from a woman named Judith. She was inquiring, only, not ready to even consider filling out an adoption application, for one of my foster cats. I admit I'm a person who sees, or perhaps tries to find, the interconnectedness in all things. When I saw her name, something clicked. Her name was my Mother's-Judith and my Mother's maiden name was King.

The cat she was inquiring about was named King.

Coincidence? Sure. A human searching for the pattern in things. Sure. But there was more than that and my heart recognized it, even if a scientist couldn't have run a test to prove it.

Judy explained that she read Covered in Cat Hair and saw King's story. She was so moved by his struggles that she had to reach out to me to see if anyone had come forward to offer to adopt him. Sadly, in four months (six months as of this post), no one had. Judy has two other cats; Sassy a fearful calico who was hoping to find a kitty-buddy to play with and Yasmin, the boss, the long haired tuxedo beauty who might not take kindly to a stranger. Judy wasn't sure if her home was right for King, but she did offer that she had wall to wall (in her words “ugly”) carpeting which was one thing King required to be able to move around.

I let Judy know that we guarantee our adoptions for life and if it didn't work out I would take King back. She had to think about it but shortly after our email exchange, she filled out the Pre-Adoption Application. On paper she looked good, but there was a catch-Judy lives in New Hampshire. I insist on doing home visits. It was 200 miles to her house. This could be a problem.

I called Judy's Vet (who I found out later is a single guy and very cute which is only important to know if you live in New Hampshire and prefer your Vet to to be a hottie). His Vet Tech gave me a glowing review and said he wished Judy would adopt HIM she was so great. Judy had pushed back on her Vet when Yasmin became diabetic. It was Judy who demanded to change Yasmin's diet to a grain free canned diet, going against the recommendation to feed her grained D/M dry food. Judy's research ended up putting Yasmin into remission from Diabetes. This is someone I'd want to adopt one of my foster cats! If only she would say YES!

Find out what Judy decides in part two…

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King of My Heart

It's hard to believe that we rescued King from a palette factory in Georgia six months ago. In that time, King has been transformed from a thin, filthy rag of a cat into a lovely, chubby cuddlebug.

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©2012 Maria S. King getting settled prior to transport.

King is very special to me, even from afar. Knowing he must have had a difficult life living outside, handicapped by a deformity that robbed him of his hind paws, made me imagine the worst. How he must have suffered trying to get around with two stumps for back legs-especially with trucks, cars and fork lifts buzzing around him. How did he manage? How did he not get run over and killed? How is it that he's so darn friendly? I know the folks at the factory fed him scraps when they could and they put a piece of cardboard down under an outdoor staircase so he's have some sort of shelter, but someone handled this cat. That much is clear.

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©2012 Maria S. Not so sure about going for a long ride.

Six months is a long time to be in foster care waiting for a forever home, but Maria and I both knew that finding King the right home wasn't going to be easy. In fact, a small rescue like mine shouldn't even take on anything other than cute little easy-to-adopt-out kittens. We don't have the staff or the foster home space to take on a cat we can't find a home for within a short amount of time. If we had a brick and mortar shelter we COULD take on more adults. If we took on as few as three adults who would be tough to place, it would prevent us from saving MANY more kittens from Kill Shelters. It's a very tough place for us to be in, but I know in time we'll take on more adults when we have the resources. I'll still help the few I can and get the word out on other adults I can find another rescue to take on.

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©2012 Maria S. Maria watches the transport make it's way north.

But King had something about him, from the moment Bobby called me, describing this cat's plight. Bobby had seen him a year ago, then not again for a long while. When he saw him again, he knew he had to ask me, knowing full well that this is not a cat I can usually help. I understood that taking King on would cause some issues for us, but I couldn't say no. I'd never sleep at night thinking about him out there struggling to survive.

I had lots of questions and concerns. What could I do for him? Would he need surgery? Was he semi-feral? What was I getting myself into? I'd cared for a cat who had a limb amputated but not one without back feet who could not walk on a floor unless it was carpeted.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. I saw many black dogs come off the transport. Black animals in the south still carry the stigma of being bad luck.

 


©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. King arrives, though not very happily.

On Saturday, King's transport arrived. Whatever concerns I had about him would be put to the test. The Vets and Specialist declared there was nothing more to be done for him. What would I do with a cat who couldn't jump or run around-who could only travel as far as I placed rugs or towels on the floor? Would I feel strange touching him…seeing his back legs end prematurely into rounded stumps that showed signs of a paw pad and deformed toes-but which didn't function as such?


©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Meet King.

The trip was tough on King. He was crying and upset off the transport because it was filled with barking dogs. I HATE to put him through that, but the trip ends and the damage to his nerves won't last forever. It's a necessary evil if I want to get King here reliably and safely for a reasonable amount of money.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Getting to know King.

King was clearly confused and upset, but once he was in the car with me, without the sound of the dogs, he got very quiet and just sat towards the back of his carrier. I spoke to him as we drove along, but he didn't move or make a peep.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. He loves to be loved. King has a heart of gold.

I brought him upstairs to the bathroom which would be his temporary home. He hid and cried.

I got him something to eat and sat with him. I wasn't sure I could pet him, but I had to try. The second I touched him, he softened up and pushed his head back into my hand. I scratched his neck and he flopped down on his side, rolling against me. It took a few minutes, but I coaxed him out of his hiding place. Watching him walk made me sad. His little back legs can't get a grip on a smooth surface so he slipped a little bit trying to reach the cat bed I'd put out for him. He climbed into the bed. It was the first time I really got a good look at him.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. You know what King wants!

King gained FIVE POUNDS since we rescued him and I could feel the weight of him as I stroked his back, then his sides. He quickly turned over, opening himself to me by showing his belly. He had no reservation allowing me to pet him there, too. He wriggled around, keeping eye contact with me. He loved being scratched under the chin and behind his ears. If I hit a certain “right” spot, his back leg would twitch and dig at the air, just as a dog would do.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Chillaxin' on his "throne."

 

My heart sank as I realized King could not scratch himself, EVER. He had no way to do that. Of course he'd LOVE it if someone would scratch him so I spent a long time scratching every part of his head and neck, allowing his twitchy back legs to guide me to the right places.

 

The longer I scratched, the happier King got. He seemed grateful for this small gesture. He couldn't get up and run off or jump on the cat tree and look out the window. He could sit next to me and be my buddy and he seemed fine with that and I did, too.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Such a good boy! (by the way, King is going to the Vet this morning to re-check why his third eyelids are showing)

Although I still feel sad when I see King's back legs, it hit me all of a sudden-of course it really didn't matter that he's handicapped. He's a great cat, paws or no paws. King doesn't know what he's missing. He never had it in the first place. He doesn't let that stop him from living his life to the fullest.

King is here today because Bobby and Maria offered to help him, but the gravity of this rescue hit me. If I hadn't said; “I've got your back-yes I'll take you into my rescue,” this never would have happened. I looked down at King. He flipped over and showed me his belly again. He looked into my eyes and in that moment nothing else mattered. As the tears slid down my cheeks, I fell in love with this cat. This once miserable wreck of a beast, with no hope in his life, laying before me, completely surrendering himself to me, trusted me to do right by him-and I know I did. I felt honored. I felt humbled. I felt hopeful that a cat as sweet and gentle as King would find his forever home soon…

…maybe sooner than I imagined.

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Tater's Tale

It feels like a month's worth of time has passed over the last 10 days since Tater Tot first fell ill. Between sleepless nights, emails to colleagues, calls and visits to Vets; we teased out a possible answer to what has been ailing our little foster kitten.

Tater has Coccidia, Tapeworm and a bad Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (and maybe pneumonia). Three days after we began treatment, Tater's temperature dropped and by day four, his temperature was within a normal range.

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©2012 Maria S. Tater on the way to the Vet yesterday.

On day four of treatment, Tater began to eat on his own. By day five, Tater gained back some of the weight he lost.

We brought Tater back to the Vet for a re-check and to discuss what sort of testing we should consider doing. We have a suspicion Tater has Bartonella, which is now called Mycoplasma haemofelis ("feline infectious anemia").


©2012 Robin A.F. Olson & Maria S. Tater's Tale. Tissue Warning.

The Vet didn't feel we needed to do tests just yet, but to continue with treatment though she did agree to change Tater's antibiotic to Doxycycline which would fend off the Bartonella, if that's what he's been battling. There are no conclusive tests that will tell us more than just levels of exposure to the Coronavirus if he has FIP or if he has Bartonella.

For now she wants to stay the course and see how he does. Tater is NOT out of the woods, BUT he is also NOT close to death as he was just one week ago today. It will be a long road to recovery, if we are lucky enough to get him healthy. I know for certain that Maria and I are dedicated to his well being and that he should enjoy a happy future.

 

I asked the Vet if we could take FIP off the table and she said, YES based on a number of clinical factors.

 

I know we have a long way to go, but for now we can rejoice that Tater is with us—hopefully for a long time to come. We've learned a lot about FIP and perhaps what is NOT FIP. Nothing is certain, but in time all this will make sense.

This Fragile Life

The past few days have been a stress-filled blur. Our team of rescuers have been trying to determine if Opal will be having kittens or need a c-section, then questioning whether or not she'll accept her newborns. Will she provide care for them or will we have to find a surrogate or find someone who can bottle feed the kittens every 2-3 hours around the clock for the next two weeks? Not knowing what is to come, with a belly full of fear, is not the best way to take action. When there are fragile lives at stake, thinking clearly isn't always easy.

Early Tuesday morning, Cyndie heard cries from the room where Opal is staying. She knew more kittens were born, but with Opal becoming more and more stressed every time Cyndie opened the door, she decided to wait and not look just yet.

Cyndie, Maria and I were all exhausted and worried. We'd stayed up late texting and calling each other with updates, hoping that Opal would give birth. I started to read up on feline C-sections, thinking it was going to come to that if Opal didn't go into labor soon. I knew that Opal had a kitten around 5:20AM on 6/25, then nothing until almost 24 hours later, even though we could see the kittens moving inside her abdomen as she laid on a flannel blanket. Just before I was going to tell Cyndie to take her to the Emergency Vet, Opal gave birth to three more kittens on 6/26.

The problem was we didn't even know if Opal would accept her kittens once she gave birth. After the kittens were born, she stayed near them but seemed uninterested in caring for them. Cyndie had to clean the placenta off one of them and thought it had passed away, but after rubbing the little body, she took some breaths, struggling to live.

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy. Baby One.

Each kitten is a mix of white and orange tabby. There are two boys and two girls. They are grossly underweight and probably premature. Opal wasn't due to give birth for two more weeks. Looking back on it, she was probably so stressed from being in foster care that she gave birth early.

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy. Baby Two.

Over the past day, I've frantically been looking for another lactating queen to give these kittens to in the hopes the kittens would make it. To my surprise I could not find any-at least ones that weren't already nursing 5 or 6 kittens. I had to find a backup plan. Cyndie and Maria worked hard searching, too.

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy. Baby Three.

Cyndie found an experienced person who could act as a backup bottle feeder, if we needed one, and we got a lot of suggestions about how to handle the situation. Being 1000 miles away makes it difficult for me to make decisions that should be made by those in the same room with the kittens. My gut says to feed those kittens regardless if they get anything from Opal. Opal is only 9 months old and in poor condition. We don't even know if the milk she's producing is any good. The kittens got their much needed colostrum during a syringe feeding from Cyndie, so at least they have that, but they are NOT gaining weight yet.

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy. Baby Four.

We did get some answers today. Opal IS caring for her kittens and Cyndie has seen a few of them nursing, but we don't know what sort of milk they're getting. Is it enough? Is it good quality? Cyndie says that the first born is off by himself. Does that mean he won't make it? We're looking for clues, but it's difficult to get into the room because Opal is NOT okay with having anyone near her or the kittens and each hour she grows more angry that Cyndie is there.

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy. With mama. Hopefully not the only, but one of the first photos we'll have of them all together.

Maria is going to loan Cyndie some heavy gloves so she can get the kittens some supplemental feedings. In addition to everything else, we have to be concerned that Cyndie could be harmed while she's only trying to help Opal and save the lives of her newborns. We're going to do a small fundraiser so we can purchase a baby monitor ASAP. This will allow Cyndie to view the family without stressing Opal and will cut down the number of times Cyndie will need to enter the room.

I want to find that place in my heart where I have faith it will work out, but I'm having a hard time. I think the other gals are as well. It feels like these kittens have the odds stacked against them. I don't know if they'll all survive even another day. I don't want to upset anyone, but this is an upsetting situation. I wish we were at the point where we could look back and say how scared and worried we were but it's all okay now. We're nowhere near that place, but I do know we're all dedicated to getting there.

 

If you can help us purchase a Baby Monitor and set aside some funds for Vet Care and baby formula, please use the ChipIn widget, below.

 

Your donation is TAX-DEDUCTIBLE as my rescue, Kitten Associates is a 501©3 Non-Profit Cat Rescue.

If you'd prefer to send a check, please make it out to: Kitten Associates and please note on the check the funds should go to "Opal's Family" mail it to:

Kitten Associates
P.O. Box 354
Newtown, CT 06470-0354

Any funds not used for the care of this family will go into our General Fund.

 

If you can't make a donation, you can help us by getting the word out. Every dollar helps and every Re-tweet or FB Share does, too. THANK YOU for caring about these fragile little kittens!

 

A Mother's Day Wish: No More Mothers, Please.

Note: I felt the message in this post from 2011 was worth sharing again, along with some revisions and updates. I've included helpful reference information at the end of this article you'll want to take note of and hopefully, share.

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Motherhood is a sacred institution, but not if you're a cat. Motherhood can mean an end, instead of a beginning. This year, with a warm winter behind us, cats around the country bred in record numbers. “Kitten Season” which usually starts in April, began earlier. More pregnant cats have been surrendered to shelters. More are struggling to survive on the streets. More will die.

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©2010 Maria Sandoval. Tansy with daughter, Pattycake. Patty and her brother, Moonpie were adopted by a big family who spare no expense on their care. They are so lucky. Update: Tansy is not doing as well. Her adopter is facing allegations of animal hoarding and Tansy has been in a North Carolina shelter, as part of a seizure of the animals in the home, waiting for a judgment since September of 2011. 2013 Update: After 2 years in a cage, Tansy, renamed Mabel is living with me, safe and sound at last!

Motherhood is the worst thing I could wish on a cat that isn't a purebred show cat (and I won't get into what I think of THAT right now). Most shelters aren't equipped to deal with pregnant cats, especially because their offspring can so easily and quickly get sick, then spread that virus through the shelter since most don't have a quarantine room. They treat newborns like hot potatoes-MUST get them OUT of the shelter and into foster homes BEFORE it's too late! Many of my previous foster cats are a very good example of that. They were born in a shelter and by the time they were 3 weeks old, they were so sick, their care cost thousands of dollars and the end result is a lifetime of waxing and waning illness. To make matter worse, if we hadn't gotten them out the day we did, they all would have been euthanized.

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©2009 Henry Co. Care & Control. Cupid with “Santa's Team.” Cupid, the creamsicle-colored mama, gained 5 pounds after rescue. She almost died she was so thin from nursing her kittens. She is adopted and with a family who loves her dearly. Her best buddy is her Nanny, yes she has a Nanny and she's pals with the family dog. If you look closely, the creamy fur-blob at her feet, is my boy, Blitzen.

There's no bouquet of flowers or box of mouse-shaped treats for a mama cat within the concrete walls of animal control and the people that work there have their hands tied. I KNOW they want those cats (and dogs) out, but the numbers are rising so fast—especially this time of year, how can they keep up? Where's the town budget to add a quarantine room for newborns? Who would happily see their Property Tax go up to make this happen? Where are the guards at the doors that tell people with pregnant cats they shouldn't even step foot inside a shelter!

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©2010 Henry Co. Care & Control. Our own Mazie with Chester, Polly and Cara. All were very sick for months after they got out of a shelter and all are in forever homes and doing well.

I go back to square one-we all know this: the mamas don't get to BE mama's if they're spayed. There's simply NO excuse not to spay your cat. There are low cost Spay and Neuter clinics all over the country. Many Humane Societies and Municipal Shelters will offer low cost vouchers. You're doing your cat (or dog) a HUGE disservice leaving it intact. Not only is the cat apt to get mammary cancer and tumors in the uterus and ovaries, but spaying avoids birth complications. Your cat will greatly reduce its chances of getting FIV+ or Feline Leukemia. But most importantly, you're preventing MORE cats from being born into a world that cannot handle them-there are TOO MANY CATS and NOT ENOUGH HOMES.

Cats are still being euthanized in the MILLIONS. When do we put our collective foot down and say NO MORE to this insanity? When do we stop making excuses as to why it's ok for our cat to have just one litter or look the other way when our neighbor doesn't get their cat spayed or their male cat, neutered?

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©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. Rose, Poppy and Daisy.

We've got to stop this nonsense. We've got to make sure our neighbors stop this nonsense and take care of their cats, females AND males. We have to tell our neighbor why they MUST do the right thing and make sure it gets done and not just wag a finger at them, help them. Offer to pay for their spay. Offer to drive the cat to the clinic and pick it up afterwards. Do whatever it takes. Just ONE LESS MAMA means potentially hundreds of less cats! It takes more than a village, but even if it's just a handful of people who do this, it's a great start.

Maybe someday, not in my lifetime, but someday, we won't have cat overpopulation and allowing cats to have kittens will be thoughtfully controlled. Until then, we need to truly revere Motherhood and respect it and respect the fact that some times NOT being a Mother is the smartest and most appropriate thing we can do.

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©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. “Last Chance”-Angel with her son, Spyder.

Today, I sit here feeling sick. I already know there are thousands of Mama cats who have already given birth now that spring is here. Personally, my little rescue group can't even take ONE family in unless we get some foster homes. As for the other rescues, they are full up, overloaded, scrambling to help as many as they can, but with thirteen new mamas at ONE shelter in Georgia and half a dozen at another, WHERE are these cats going to go?

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©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. CallaLily and her babies. Callie is doing great in her new home.

I can tell you. They are not going anywhere. They won't even live to see Mother's Day.

Is this the legacy we want to leave, as a society?

Where we're overjoyed if a woman is “expecting,” but if a cat, or dog becomes pregnant, odds are, if those animals aren't in a safe and loving home that will care for them, they'll be given up to a shelter and soon, we'll kill them.

 

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©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. “Huggy Mama”, Dash & Snuggles. All got adopted TOGETHER! Yes, all three!

Let's make it a better world for our cats and show them how much we really DO respect and care for them by making certain they're ALL spayed and neutered.

No more Mothers, please.

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If you'd like to find a Low Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic here are some resources. There are MANY MORE OUT THERE. Odds are, check with the biggest Humane Society in your area and they will also either have a program, or know where you can find one. A few minutes of research online will save you hundreds of dollars AND you'll be doing the right thing for your cat.

ASPCA & PetSmart Charities® Database for locations in the USA

North Shore Animal League's SpayUSA

Live in Georgia? Try Spay Georgia.

Here in CT: Nutmeg Clinic is terrific. 

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