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

(continued from Part 1)

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

But it did.

 

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

 

So we took Holly to the vet.

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Nope.

 

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

 

 

Then everything fell apart.

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

[to be continued]

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 1.

I don’t know how this story is going to end and frankly there have been times I just wanted to walk away from this whole situation with my hands up in the air, completely surrendered to failure, but something inside me pushes on, unwilling to give up just yet.

It all began innocently enough. My rescue, Kitten Associates, offers a Free Cat Behavior Counseling program, available to anyone who needs it. The hope is that with my help as a Cat Behavior Counselor, I can keep cats from losing their home by supporting and educating their family, while helping work with the cat's behavior issues in any way I can.

I received an email from a fellow wanting a cat behavior consultation. He told me that his kitten was peeing outside of the litter pan. She was only 5-months old. As I read on, I began to think of questions I’d ask, as often times, the solution for things like this can be rather straightforward once a few questions are answered.

Some of the most often asked questions included: Did they make sure the cat didn’t suffer from a medical issue? Were there enough litter pans? Were the litter pans cleaned often enough and with litter the cat wasn’t opposed to? Was the stress level in the home too much for the kitten? Were there other pets in the home intimidating the young cat?

Then I looked at the signature on the e-mail. Stephen Kellogg. Below his name was a list of URLs, his TedXTalk, a link for his new record, and another for his movie on Amazon Prime. Oh sh!t. He’s a rock star.

Album covers
Just a few of Stephen's albums. You can learn more about him on his web site.

I saw his TedX Talk, watched his movie, listened to a few songs (very good!). I imagined a cool, but probably entitled guy with lots of tattoos and attitude. I wondered what he was doing contacting me. Surely he had a “person” to deal with all these things so he could spend time writing hit songs, but talking to him was surprisingly different than what I expected. Unknowingly, this was going to be the theme of our time together.

 

We made an appointment to talk on the phone. I had my 10-pg questionnaire printed out so I could get a history on the kitten, but I was nervous about the call. I wanted to focus on the cat, be professional, and hopefully solve the issue promptly. I’m just a humble nobody. I don’t have a cheering fan base. I didn’t know if I could even keep my voice steady. I was literally shaking when he first called.

 

As our conversation began, I could tell this guy sang. His speaking voice had a luscious lilt, a blend of husky and honey. He was polite, respectful, and seemed kind. He wasn’t anything like what I expected or feared. He was so sincere it was almost painful to hear him talk about his frustrations with his kitten.

I learned about Holly, a little tortie with white paws who was adopted the day before Christmas as a gift for his four, yes, four daughters (who range in age from about 4 to 13). Stephen is a family-guy who married his high school sweetheart, Kirsten, and whose songs often reflect his love and struggles with his most adored people on Earth.

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Holly at home.

 

He referred to Holly as their “fifth daughter,” but was admittedly feeling both sad and stressed that Holly had been peeing on some of the kid’s beds. I promised I’d do everything I could to get to the bottom of the issue and that odds were good that this was a solvable behavior problem.

 

I asked if I could meet Holly to gather more information, since it turns out they live near my home in Newtown. I was so determined not to mess this up that I figured a home visit would help me make sure I was giving them good advice. We planned to meet a few days later and after a long, miserable winter of difficult issues with the Waterbury Ferals (more on that in another post), I was glad to have something to look forward to.

I planned to stop at the pet supply store to get a few things for Holly and pick up some other things for our foster cats before I visited with the Kelloggs. When I got to the store I chatted with Scott, the Manager, who’s also become a friend after the many years of me coming to his store. Scott referred Stephen to me, so I had to update him on what was going on. While we were chatting away, Courtney, one of the other employees shouted that she saw Stephen walk past the window and that his wife and youngest daughter were about to walk into the store.

 

Now what? Do I play it cool? I’m not supposed to know who they are, but the entire staff is making googly eyes at me while they walked over to the cat food aisle where I was standing. I was trying to figure out what to say when Kirsten said hello and asked if I was “Robin.”

 

Flummoxed, I said yes and she immediately reached out and gave me a hug then said hello as her youngest daughter, Greta clung shyly to her leg. We began chatting about cat food when Stephen walked in behind me. Instead of how I’d imagined walking up to the door of Stephen’s home to meet him, there he was, the rock star in the cat food aisle. I had dressed carefully, trying to look less like myself and more like a cooler version who wasn’t covered in cat hair. My gut was twirling and I had no time to take a breath to steady myself because it was “go time.”

Stephen is tall and slender with mischievous nutmeg colored eyes. He wore a bandana around his unruly brown hair. He radiated confidence and had sizzling charisma. His attire was casually chill featuring jeans and t-shirt. I wanted to make a joke about him wearing a hoodie that had his name silkscreened on the back. I wanted to ask why did he have to wear something with his own name on it? Did he forget who he was from time to time and needed a reminder? I was too “deer in the headlights” to say what I was thinking. He gave me a warm smile and hug to match, as we chatted about how funny it was to meet in the cat food aisle. But now I had to focus on the matter at hand. Clearly these people were depending on me.

I couldn't get over what sweet people they were. Their little daughter, Greta with her baby blonde hair, was wearing funky blue glasses and didn’t say a word, she was so shy. Stephen explained they were going to get some food for Holly since I’d suggested taking her off kibble and putting her on a high-protein canned food with a scheduled feeding regime, instead of free-feeding her dry and supplementing with some canned. I took that to be a good sign that they were going to follow through on my suggestions.

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Holly with her daddy.

We agreed that I’d still meet them in a few minutes at their home. I had to stop shaking and gather my thoughts, but I told them I had to go to the grocery store where I wished I could buy some time.

 

Doing cat behavior consultations is always very challenging. By the time someone finds me they’re usually about to toss their cat out on the street they’re so distressed. Working in that kind of environment is definitely a skill that takes years to finesse. I had to remember: DO NOT BE JUDGMENTAL and to ask open-ended questions. Be calm. Go slowly. LISTEN. Pay attention to what you can learn in the environment; there you will find clues.

 

I got to the Kellogg’s red clapboard sided home. Their place is vintage, much homier than I imagined, and pretty darn huge. The remaining three Kellogg-daughters were spread out around the house doing their thing. I expected chaos, but it was surprisingly calm. We stood in the gleaming white kitchen as I began to get more in depth information on Holly.

I was grateful that Stephen and Kirsten were open-minded and thoughtfully replied to my many questions. I asked why they adopted only one kitten when their home was grand and with four children. Certainly only one pet wasn’t enough for them to cuddle and snuggle with. The answer was they really only wanted one cat right now but maybe some day they’d get another.

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Two cool people and a dork (middle).

 

I told them I was concerned that some of Holly’s behavior might be linked to being overwhelmed. She’s immature, in a big home with one litter pan on the second floor. She was 11-weeks old and had a URI when they adopted her, then was spayed about a week after she recovered her health. The peeing started after the spay surgery and they feared it was a complication of that procedure.

 

Holly had been taken to the vet soon after the peeing issues began. They performed a urinalysis that came up negative. It wasn’t a thorough test of whether or not she had an infection, but the vet felt that it was enough to do to rule out her behavior issue as health-related.

 

At the time Holly was peeing on beds once a week or so, but that was about to change, and not in a good way.

 

[to be continued]

Top Cat Blog from BestForTheKids

Cat blogs badge

 

WOWIE!

 

 

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

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

 

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

This is what they had to say:

 

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

 

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

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

Here's their complete LIST

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

Product Review: DNA TESTING FOR CATS REALIZED!

You’re at a shelter or rescue a cat from the street. You don’t know anything about how they’ll behave once they’re in your home. One of the biggest fears is that this new cat won’t get along with the other pets or family members or that they’ll set off a chain reaction of behavioral problems that will ruin your furnishings.

 

What if there was a way to know exactly what kind of cat you were adopting and what their predispositions were to certain situations? Perhaps that shy cat who was overlooked was really a “diamond in the rough” and with a little time and attention had the potential to blossom into a lap cat? Wouldn’t you give that cat a chance?

 

What if you knew that by adopting the friendly calico who caught your eye, you’d be bringing home a cat who will thwart all attempts to rub her belly?

Problem Solved!

CDNA logo

 

DNA testing has evolved, going beyond what can be learned for humans or what breed of dog you have. A new company, CDNA (CatDNA), is using emerging technology to intelligently discern actual emotional and situational traits in cats and kittens (as young as 6 weeks old).

 

With a simple swab and quick swipe along the inside of the mouth, your cat’s sample is sent to the CDNA lab in Whynot, Mississippi for testing. In 4 to 6 weeks the test results will be delivered to your e-mail inbox.

Below is a listing of the initial group of traits that can be tested. If all goes well and there’s enough interest, there’s talk of capturing more data points and expanding into other areas like food preferences, ability to wear "Cone of Shame" and how intense your cat's drive is to "make muffins" on you (especially when their claws need a trim).

Data Points

• Always Hovers Over Litter (A.H.O.L.) Cats who stay in litter pan while it’s being scooped out.

• Cognitive Reaction to Audible Stimuli (C.R.A.S) Positive or Negative reaction to being told to get off the counter

• Diarrhea or Other Poop Explosions (D.O.P.E.) Cats who need pro-biotics

• Belly Rub Attempts Thwarted (B.R.A.T.)

• Pees Everywhere Soiling Things (P.E.S.T.)

• Belly Up Remains in Place (B.U.R.P.)

• Has Underwear Moving Predisposition (H.U.M.P.) Cats who will take their human’s clothing and move it to their stash area, usually a basement or closet

• Inappropriate Mounting of Stuffed Toys (E.W.W.)

• Meowing with Toys in Mouth (M.T.M.)

• Eats Greens Almost Daily (E.G.A.D.)

• Purrs in Tones, Annoying (P.I.T.A.)

• Definitely Effective Reasoning Powers (D.E.R.P.)

Thanks to CDNA for sponsoring this post, I was able to test my cat DOODLEBUG (the DOOD) free of charge.

Here’s Dood's chart. As you can clearly see, DOOD is a few fries short of a Happy Meal because his D.E.R.P. score is not even calculable. Clearly DOOD is a freak about vegetables and don’t go near his belly. Huh. I guess I already knew that, but it’s good to have confirmation. Would it have stopped me from adopting him? No. There’s no test (YET) for adorability and DOOD has that in spades.

Pie Chart April Fools

In closing, I’d say the cost of CDNA's test could be worth it to new cat parents. Perhaps it would inspire them to give their cat more greens or to realize they really can’t ever rub their cat’s tummy safely and to stop trying.

 

As far as I'm concerned, I'll love DOOD test results or no test results, and in the end maybe that's what really matters.

 

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If this tickled your funny bone, I hope you'll check out these very special April 1 blog posts from years gone by.

Product Review: Flunette

Product Review: GLITTER CAT LITTER

Product Review: PetBit

and my favorite: Pebble Associates

Cat Camp NYC. Love at First Sight.

 

It’s impossible to describe a whirlwind, but I’ll do my best. There’s a blizzard churning outside my window so maybe that will inspire me. I’m just back from the very first ever Cat Camp NYC and I’m trying to piece things back together in my mind. For a cat-writer, cat-lover, cat-parent, Cat Camp NYC was a tasty morsel of all the things that make my heart go pitter-patter.

 

Cat Camp Sign R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson.

Cat Camp NYC, conceived by Christina Ha, owner of Meow Parlour and the Meow Parlour Patisserie, had a hunch that with the explosion of cat images, blogs, TV shows and movies that a symposium on the east coast, of all things cat, would be well received.

She was right.

With full disclosure I have to add, or is it brag or is it sing to the heavens, that yours truly was invited to be one of the Speakers at this year’s event. My task was to hostess a storytelling hour focusing on heartfelt cat rescue tales. According to the schedule, I’d be going right before The Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy’s VIP Meet and Greet. Be still my heart! What a thrill and honor to be included with such a respected cat behaviorist.

Lounge Sign R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Okay, so maybe they forgot to make a sign for the Lounge schedule. They did a nice job considering.

Okay, but that was Sunday and Cat Camp NYC was a two-day event.

Saturday

It was bitter cold but a crystal clear day. We’d gotten a few inches of snow the day before, but the sidewalks were thankfully well-groomed. With my face half-hidden by my scarf and my hands about to break off from the cold even though they were in my pockets, I was happy to finally arrive at the Metropolitan Pavilion on west 18th street a few minutes before the event opened.

Cat Camp Badge 1000

Security stopped me, but I proudly told them I was a Speaker and then suddenly I was welcomed into a group where I could have only dreamed of being a member years ago. I was greeted by a friendly volunteer who got me a Speaker badge and showed me where I could stow my things. The room was abuzz with last minute activity of the many vendors setting up their wares. I told myself I wasn’t going to spend all my money on items for the cats, but I also doubted I’d keep that promise.

It was lovely to walk the show before it got crowded. The exhibitor space was large and well lit. Off to one side were banks of tables topped with small black cages. In each cage was a cat available for adoption. I wondered if I should have had a table there for my rescue, Kitten Associates and our cats, but I also realized the stress from traveling would be awful coming from Sandy Hook, CT.

Tommy R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson.Tommy Boy. See him in action HERE.

I was glad to see that some of the cats were seniors or special needs cats. As I walked past each cage I silently prayed that by the end of the show all the cats would be adopted.

I met a cat named Tommy Boy, an FIV+ cat with the burden of also having hypertrophic cardiomyopathy-the heart condition that eventually took the life or our dearest foster cat, Jackson Galaxy. Though it can be managed and the medications aren’t costly, HCM is eventually fatal. Tommy Boy was clearly a big, love-bug, just like Jackson was. He had no problems head-butting my fingers through the cage. Tommy needs to find a forever home ASAP so he can purr and relax with a loving family. To adopt or inquire about Tommy see his listing on Kitty Kind's web site.

 

Cone of Shame Robin LR

The lure of knowing there were cool things to see and learn about was too much. The show opened and the crowds were starting to enter. I got my photo taken with a giant cone of shame on thanks to Worlds Best Cat Litter (who also later donated some litter to my rescue-Thanks, Scott!). I began to see some of my cat lady friends, like Tamar from IHaveCat and Joanne from The Tiniest Tiger, who had a table displaying all her lovely cat-themed products for humans.

Tamar and Robin 2017
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Tamar, from IHaveCat.

 

I decided it was a good time to do a Live Facebook video where I’d do a quick tour of the show hall. Things went pretty smoothly until I entered the cat adoption area. Just as I panned right, a guy stood in front of me. He bent over to get a better look at one of the cats when his behind popped out of his pants! FAIL! Plumber’s butt? After that I thought it might be wiser to stick to taking photos.

 

Robin and Brandy R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. My new BFF, Brandy, who adopts senior cats and I think adopted one at the show!

 

In addition to the cat products and adoptable cats there were two tracks of Speakers ranging from Hannah Shaw, the Kitten Lady, Kate Benjamin of Hauspanther to VIP meet and greets with Lil Bub. There was so much going on it was tough to decide what to do or see-a good problem to have, but I also felt like I wanted a chance to see everything and not miss a beat.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Hannah Shaw, Kitten Lady., gave an inspiring lecture on neonatal kitten care.

I learned some interesting things about neonatal kittens from Hannah, who I had the good fortune to speak with one on one. We traded some tips and I was thankful she's open minded and interested in learning as much as she can. Years ago I caught myself becoming arrogant about what I thought I knew about cat care and that was a huge mistake. You can’t learn enough because there’s always something else to discover-whether it’s the hard way or by having a support network you can go to when times get tough and the unexpected occurs. With all of the Kitten Lady’s fame, she's still humble and approachable. She’s already opened the door to inspiring others to foster the tiniest, frailest foster cats and I can see her doing even more amazing things in the future.

Kate B and Robin 2017
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Kate Benjamin looking adorable as usual!

I also attended Kate Benjamin’s Feline Design presentation, which to me is like watching a porno because after she gave us the story of her fascinating background before launching Hauspanther (which, by the way I designed the logo for!), she started showing photo after photo of gloriously designed cat furniture. Oh be still my heart!

Kate Doing Preso R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Kate kicking butt.

 

And then there was Jackson Galaxy. As some of you know, four years ago, before he was a superstar and travelled with bodyguards, Jackson took me out for dinner. (It's three parts in case you missed it: Ch 1, Ch 2 and Ch 3. ) It remains one of the best nights of my life, certainly one I’ll never forget, but a lot had changed since I last saw him.

 

I lost 60 pounds and had to chop my hair off after an unfortunate magenta hair color fail. Would he even know me? Why would it matter? I should be happy to even see him and leave it at that.

Robin Jackson Vinci 2017
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Oh boy! Oh boy! I got my hug. Oh, and learn more about Jackson's charity the Jackson Galaxy Foundation.

What was sweet was when I did get to have a chance to have quick chat with him, he seemed a bit taken aback that I thought he wouldn’t remember me. From the hug I got I’d say we were good. From the photos one of my fans took of us, you can see in my expression that I am about to fly without an airplane I’m so happy. Jackson has a natural charisma and warmth that is off the charts. He also is adorable, but out of deep respect for his wife, Minoo, who is one of the most kind and compassionate people, that’s all I’m gonna say. It’s ok to enjoy someone’s company and just let that good feeling keep you going after you part and leave it at that.

Plus, I had stuff to buy so off I went!

Jamie Shelmen, a “moderately crazy cat lover” and artist who has a shop called The Dancing Cat penned a number of hilarious greeting cards and t-shirts. I couldn’t pass up grabbing as many cards as I could, along with a much coveted t-shirt (see photo below).

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. WOO!

I met with Mario from Square Paws and we had a great conversation. His cat trees are pure fantasy realized. His creative talent and architectural background give his pieces a sense of whimsy I have rarely ever seen. I told Mario about my dream to re-do our main foster room. About how all our cat trees fall apart because kittens are very hard on sisal and carpet covered cat trees. I told him about the theme of the room (secret for now!) and about how I wanted innovation beyond just a cat tree. The room isn’t very large. The cat tree has to work for kittens 8 weeks and older so it has to perform for cats of many different sizes up to adults. Mario seemed very interested in our project and I’m hoping this connection will be a great benefit to our foster cats one day.

Of all the ways Cat Camp NYC succeeded, the best part of it was the networking. You can’t really connect when you’re commenting on a social media post the way you can in person. I also enjoyed meeting new people and making new friends, like Cathi De Meo Marro, an artist and flutist who created some hilarious cat-themed paintings. Her business is called Cat-Hi.

I got great tips about our TNR, Waterbury Cats project from the NYC Feral Cat Initiative. and I learned about two documentaries about cat rescuers who do TNR. One is called Catnip Nation and the other is called The Cat Rescuers. Both projects highlight the importance of doing TNR in ways that aren’t upsetting to viewers. I was glad to know that they both felt that in effective storytelling they could help people not familiar with community cats learn that we need to do more and be more compassionate about their plight without shock tactics. I’ll have more about these projects and their fundraising in a future post.

Felted Cat Beds R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Distinctly Himalayan's crazy cat beds (the googly-eyed ones are for cats up to 15 lbs).

There was so much more to see like the Distinctly Himalayan felted cat beds or the hilarious tiny sombreros and faux hot sauce pouch catnip toys of Polydactyl Cats. That said, I would have liked to see even more vendors and I hope that if Cat Camp NYC continues that next year will be even bigger and better.

The only shortcoming was that the areas were only curtained off for the special presentations instead of being in a separate walled off space. It was very loud in the Metropolitan Pavilion and the flat screen in the lounge area needed to be about four times bigger so everyone could see the presentations better. That said, the presenters were high-caliber and the presentations were packed full of eager and interested cat people.

Robin and Ingrid 2017
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Ingrid King of the Conscious Cat (left) and moi (right).

 

As for my presentation, I was delighted to have some of my readers in attendance, along with Sydney, one of my adopters, who drove down from Connecticut to see me. We had a very lively group, but again, the noise level made having an intimate discussion a bit tough…and wouldn’t you know it, right in the middle of one of my stories, Jackson Galaxy enters the lounge, which I feared would distract everyone in my group (including ME!).

 

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©2017 Sam Moore. Trying to stay focused when you-know-who is right behind me-not in those cat pants though, behind her.

I focused on my tale and was really getting into the story when I got tapped on my shoulder. One of Jackson’s staff whispered to me that if I wanted my photo with Jackson to be used on our Kitten Associates promotions I could get that done but it had to be right now…right in the middle of my session!

Robin GLowing A Marttila 1200
©2017 Andrew Marttila. Used with Permission. Um. Yeah, so don't say anything to me about the look on my face. You'd look like that too if you were standing next to Mr. Jackson.

I quickly excused myself and what was kind of funny was his assistant introduced me to Jackson (not realizing I knew him) so I extended my hand with a smirk on my face and said; “how do you do.” Jackson rolled his eyes ever so slightly, then put his arm around me (:::Swoon:::). He asked me which camera to look at for the photo (there were a few photographers clicking away) and I stupidly replied “who gives a sh_t” because by then I figured he must have been completely wiped out by book signings, meet and greets, getting his photo taken with a zillion people already and traveling from Los Angeles. I hoped he didn’t get offended. By then I was pretty delirious, too. It’s not my fault that I was an idiot. Okay it was my fault! I had my story to get back to telling-which I did, seconds later, even though I wish I could have grabbed his hand and run out of the building.

I didn’t get a chance to see much of Lil Bub. Though I love her dearly and think so highly of her dad, Mike, I also didn’t want to take up time for those who had never seen her before. Bub had her own table of goodies at the show which always make me smile. I finally got to see the Bublehead box I designed for her. Looked great! I also found out there are some new Bub plushies coming out and I’ll have more info on them soon.

Bub Sign R olson

There was a lot more going on at Cat Camp, but I was so weary by the end of Sunday that I was glad Sam had driven to the city to see my presentation and could drive us home safely while I slumped in the passenger seat. With the daylight savings time change that weekend, the traveling, walking a zillion miles and the excitement of seeing my friends I was ready to pass out.

Line for Jackson ROlson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. The line to get into Jackson's keynote address went around the entire event space.

 

Cat Camp NYC was a well laid out, well planned event. I wish it had been in an even bigger space yet somehow magically a quieter one. I had so much fun, but I hated leaving my friends so soon. Cat Camp NYC is like going on a first date with “the one.” It’s thrilling to feel connected to someone you have so much in common with that it just feels "right." When it’s time to part you feel sad, wishing it could go on forever, but you know that all good things must come to an end eventually. Maybe you'll meet again soon and that's what keeps your heart beating.

 

I hope Ms. Ha will decide to launch Cat Camp NYC in 2018 because I will be there with my cat ears on and ready to rock.

Robin Cathi Jodi TIRED R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Cathi De Meo Marro (left) myself (center), the Healthy Pet Coach, Jodi Ziskin (right). Very pooped after an exciting weekend!

I'm Speaking at Cat Camp NYC!

OMG! I'm so excited. There's finally a cat-centric event on the east coast! There'll be vendors with cool cat products, fun stuff for cat parents and adoptable cats. Celebucats like Lil' Bub will be there and the Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy will be there, too.

Cat Camp Logo

In addition, there will be really great presentations by Kate Benjamin of Hauspanther, Kathleen O'Malley of NYC Feral Cat Initiative, Hannah Shaw (Kitten Lady), Ingrid King of the Conscious Cat, Beth Adelman a noted author and Cat Behaviorist as well as... ME!

 

Yes! I will be part of the lineup hostessing a roundtable storytelling-hour about heartwarming cat rescue stories. And yes, you KNOW I can tell a good rescue story, but the question is, Should I bring tissues? I've never told my tales in public. It would not be good if I made people cry!

 

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The details for getting tickets (some of the VIP meet and greets are sold out already) can be found HERE. Cat Camp NYC is 11 AM to 8 PM Saturday, March 11 and 11 AM to 7 PM March 12th. The location at the Metropolitan Pavillion at 125 w 18th Street in NYC.

So fly your furry feline flag and come on down. Pop over to say HI if you see me and ask for a brand new Covered in Cat Hair bookmark. Yes! Fancy, right? I just designed them and have a bunch to give out. Maybe some day I'll have a publisher and my own book to mark.

 

I'll be posting updates and doing a LIVE Facebook broadcast from Cat Camp so keep an eye on my Facebook Page for news!

 

Over and out!

It's HERE! #FairfieldCountyGives is TODAY!

FCC Gives FB Banner 2017 for cich

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

(continued from Ch 1 and Ch 2)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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©2017 ROBIN AF OLSON. Respecting her fragile state I did not open the cage door to disturb her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

This is why we do rescue.

 

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

 

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

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

The Feral50. Unimaginable Joy. Ch 2.

continued from Ch.1

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Or maybe we won’t…

Meanwhile…

 

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

 

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

 

No.

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

And further surprises…

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The tough part is believing it.

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

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

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Such beautiful creatures.

The Feral50. Unimaginable Pain. Ch 1.

I still remember the first time I heard about TNR (trap, neuter, return). It was twelve years ago and it was very clinically explained to me by a woman who did cat rescue. I later learned she didn’t have much compassion for cats. She would trap, neuter/spay, return most of the cats, even ones that could have been socialized (due to their age or due to the fact they were friendly cats who had been outdoors a long while and needed time to adjust). The kittens came to me and got homes, but in my heart TNR never sat well with me because I’m a softie. I don’t like to see cats outside, filthy and starving, or worse…but TNR is the only effective way to compassionately care for feral cats and many of them, who have a caretaker, do great. We've had as many as four feral cats in our yard that Sam and I cared for and we loved them dearly.

I get it. Some cats are going to live outside and there are plenty of things we can do to keep them safe and healthy, at least to a degree. Maybe we can’t medicate them or keep them away from predators completely but we can do better than turn our heads and hope someone else will do something for them.

Cats on truck r olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. How many cats do you see in this photo?

 

Over the years, too, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m good at some things about rescue and not so good about other things. I’m not a trapper. I’m better at being a nurse to the sick. I can do a bit of fundraising. I can educate people about nutrition or cat behavior so cat’s can have a better life.

 

The good news is I finally figured out that I don’t have to do everything to rescue a cat because if I can find a good team, between all of us, we can find a way. It always takes a village to rescue a cat.

That’s why a week ago I decided to offer my help when I heard about a colony of over 50 cats in the neighboring town of Waterbury. Normally, this is not something I can take part in, especially a group this size. I decided grant some funds and to help raise more. I knew it would cost a great deal to vet these cats, but it had to be done. With no one doing anything about it, the colony size was exploding.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Everywhere I looked there were cats.

So I raised my hand and thankfully, so did many other people. People who run rescues, who volunteer, who love to trap cats, who don’t mind driving a truckload of trapped cats to the vet. Some offered room to take on the friendly cats, if there were any. Most of these people never worked together before, but because of their dedication to these cats, they’re trying to put aside any differences and focus on the alarmingly huge task ahead.

 

What’s also amazing is the location is next to a very large manufacturing plant and warehouse. While there is a nuisance aspect to having so many cats on their property, most of the employees love the cats. They just don’t know what to do for them. A few of them even adopted previous litters of kittens. It’ll make our job a lot easier to have their support and permission. In return, I realize we need to educate them and leave them with resources so they know what to do when the next feral cat shows up at their door---and it will happen.

 

Parking lot with cats
©2017 Robin AF Olson. This is where I started to get scared I should have stayed home and hid under the bed, but I couldn't give up on these cats.

 

The main contributing factor to our job is the enormous apartment complex right behind where the cats are living. It’s very clear to me due to the wide variety of cat colors and patterns that many of these cats were dumped. There’s no way they are all inter-related. It makes my blood boil because none of this had to happen, and certainly in not such gross numbers, if only their former families had spayed or neutered their cats. Now we’re the unpaid volunteers who will deal with this situation, spend many long hours and drink too much coffee while waiting for traps to snap shut.

 

The first time I walked the property it reminded me of being on a ride at Disney World; the one where you ride a boat around a lagoon. You turn left and an alligator pops up out of the water, then right and you see a monkey swinging out of a tree, towards you on a vine. At the lot, it was almost as if the cats appeared on cue. As I opened pouches of food, they slowly walked towards me. I’d see one sitting on the hood of a car, then realize there were really three cats there. They blended in to their surroundings so well my eyes had to adjust to seeing cats everywhere I turned.

Lots of cats r olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Getting ready for snack time.

Within a few minutes, I quickly counted twenty cats. I was told that the rule of thumb is to double the number you see in the daytime because many more come out at night. The workers had told us they counted up to 63 cats, but until we start trapping we won’t really know. We just know it’s a bad situation even though the cats are being fed every single day by a very very wonderful lady who works across the street from the lot.

Of course, as I looked at each cat I had to fight off the urge to try to pet them. They came close to us, but did not solicit attention. Some of them were fairly dirty and a few looked like they had a slight upper respiratory tract infection. One had lost a good deal of her fur, another had a slight limp. I expected to see things like this, but I was not prepared for what I saw next.

 

I was standing next to a flat bed trailer, opening more pouches of food. I looked down and what I saw made me gasp in horror. It was a small black and white, long haired cat. At least I think it’s fur was long, but it was so seriously matted and filthy it must have given up grooming itself months ago. In contrast to the other cats in the lot, this cat was in dire condition. It still had lovely crystalline green eyes and a sweet face, except for the band of thick, ropey mucous or maybe even pus, coming out of his mouth. He moved very slowly. I could tell he was skin and bones and in a unimaginable amount of pain.

 

Waterbury 1 by tire r olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. My first glimpse of pure heartbreak.

He or she walked past a pile of kibble. I doubted he could smell it. I happened to have some fish flavored canned food and he could smell that. He came over and greedily tried to eat turning his head to the side, then scooping small mouthfuls out of the side of his mouth as fast as she could.

Most of the other cats had enough weight on their bones, but this one did not. He needed to get to a vet as soon as possible, but without a trap it was going to be tough to get him.

Waterbury 1 with other cat
©2017 Robin AF Olson. She looked even worse in person.

 

I had to fight the urge to try to scoop him into my arms and race to the vet, but it was vital he eat something. If I took a step too close he would back away. I stood as still as possible so he could focus on trying to get food into his mouth. As I stood there my chest tightened and my eyes burned as I fought off crying over this poor animal. I’ve seen lots of very sick kittens in my day and I’ve had to humanely euthanize some of them, too, but I’ve never seen anything this bad in my life and it was ripping my heart out to see this sweet kitty suffering.

 

I called over to my associates and told them about the cat. We all agreed he had to be the first one we trapped. Though we did try to coax him into a cat carrier, he was too timid. I almost got him, but he was still strong enough to know to stay away from us. We knew if we didn’t act fast he’d die.

It broke my heart to leave. I didn’t sleep much that night. I kept thinking about that cat and all the others, trying to find a warm dry place to sleep, most probably full of parasites or fleas. What a lousy life.

GOOD NEWS! The next day, I was thrilled to learn that the cat got trapped. It took all afternoon before it was found, then trapped. But shortly thereafter we realized we had to quickly figure out the answer to the “now what do we do” question. We had this cat, but we didn’t have time to do a fundraiser for the spays/neuters that needed to be done, let alone an emergency vet visit.

Waterbury 1 close up
©2017 Robin AF Olson. That discoloration under her nose is a great deal of mucuos.

I offered to cover a some of the costs through my non-profit, Kitten Associates, until we could fundraise, but it was a Friday night and the vets were all closing.

We also had to have a depressing conversation about what would cause us to tell the vet to humanely euthanize this cat. First, could he be saved AT ALL. Were we already too late?

 

Would we put him down due to costs? No. Would we put him down if he was positive for Feline Leukemia. No, not right away. We would re-test a positive result and honestly, I think as long as he had good odds to recover we’d find a safe placement for him. If the vet said there was no chance to save him, then we agreed we’d have to let him go.

 

Now began the long painful wait to get answers on this cat’s future.

 

With tech at vet watebury 1 400
Trapped! A good start, but are we too late to save her life?

 

None of us wanted to start this mass-rescue by killing any of the cats, especially since I had to make the painful choice to put Lady Saturday down just a few days before. Her age and failing kidneys had caught up with her. There was no way we could help her other than to let her go with peace and surrounded by people who loved her. I couldn’t face that again, even if it was with a cat I didn’t know.

 

One of our teammates got the cat to her vet. It was late and they couldn’t do much for the cat until the next day, but right away they got her on antibiotics and pain meds. They only had time to shave her behind so they could tell that we did have a SHE and not a HE.

It took another day to find out the answer to the big question: did she have FIV or FeLV? Thankfully, the answer was NO. She was clear of those diseases.

Waterbury 1 perspective
Waterbuy 1's view of the world as she begins her life version 2.0.

 

The cat needed to be groomed to cut the filthy, smelly mats off her. She appeared to be 3 to 6 years old, but it was too tough to tell because one way is by looking at her teeth and her mouth was in one of the worst conditions the vet had ever seen. She has such severe stomatitis that it’s amazing she could eat at all. She also has ulcers on her tongue, too. It must hurt like Hell.

 

 

ALL OF HER TEETH HAVE TO BE REMOVED if she is to have any chance at a comfortable life.

 

It’s a painful, long procedure and quite expensive, but in the end she should be able to live a normal life, with one big exception.

SHE CAN NEVER GO BACK TO THE COLONY. She would not survive without her teeth and she’d freeze without her fur. She needs a safe, warm place to recover from her procedure, then a forever home. We need to sort this out, but right now we need to get her dental done ASAP.

 

The good news is we’ve already raised $800. The bad news is we need to raise about $800 more and that’s just to cover this cat’s dental care. We also need to raise funds beyond the $800, to spay/neuter the remaining cats and based on the two other sick cats, funds to help them, too.

 

Estimate2It's hard to read but the estimate is basically $1000-$1600.00. Our vet's info is below where you can confirm with them or make a donation.

If you’d like to help give this feral kitty a chance to have a pain-free future, here are ways you can make a big difference.

The kitty is named Waterbury 1, but we'll give her a proper name soon.

DONATE: DIRECTLY TO HER VET-A special fund has been set up for her with:

Dr. Kristine Matz

"c/o Kitten Associates and Waterbury 1"

Animal Medical Care of CT

490 Cornwall Avenue

Cheshire, CT 06410

203-439-2597

DONATE: TO KITTEN ASSOCIATES and we'll provide the funds to the Vet. Any left over funds will go to our spay/neuter needs or to vet care for another sick cat from this colony.

Use these quick links:

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

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

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

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

To mail a check, make it out to: Kitten Associates, P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354

Your gift is tax deductible. Kitten Associates is a 501c3 non-profit. Our EIN Tax ID is 27-3597692. PLEASE PUT A NOTE ON YOUR CHECK: "Waterbury Ferals" or "Feral50" so we can direct the funds appropriately.

TO HELP SPAY/NEUTER CATS DONATE DIRECTLY TO NUTMEG CLINIC. Please add a note that it's for KITTEN ASSOCIATES, WATERBURY CATS/Feral 50

 

THANK YOU for loving and caring for cats and their well-being. We can't do these rescues WITHOUT ALL OF YOU.

 

Waterbury 1 in cage at vet
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Already in love with this sweet baby, I've got everything crossed that she will be okay one day. We're off to a good start.

 

UPDATE: Waterbury 1 is stable and I will have news about her condition shortly. Stay tuned for more news...and news about a few other kitties who have just been trapped! 8 cats trapped and a bunch more to go (including, dare I say it, the newest member of my family?).

 

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