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One I Hold in High Regard

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 9

(continued from Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.)

Holly peed on Sophia, the eldest daughter’s bed.

 

Game over.

 

Even though I warned the family this could happen while she’s adjusting to her medication, they will not give her any more chances. Perhaps they hung on because I was such a passionate advocate for giving her more time all these months. Perhaps she would have been long gone if they hadn’t contacted me, maybe in a new home where she didn’t pee on beds. I can’t say. All I know is there is no way she is not going back to the rescue that had her before to live in a cage.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Holly.

Sam agreed that this was not going to happen to Holly when I told him about my fears. I was glad for his support. It could set Holly ever further back to put her in a cage in a room with a lot of other cats. She'd be an emotional wreck. Holly can come back here and be part of Kitten Associates. Hopefully she won’t skip a beat and will resume enjoying her life in the foster room until we can re-home her. If she pees on the bed until the medication takes full effect, I guess I’ll do more laundry.

 

In some ways Stephen and are are cut from a similar cloth. We both work very hard at what we do and are passionate about it. I said as much to him when he told me the bad news. I told him I couldn't bear working so hard, for so long, only to fail. There wasn't anything more I could do than I had done. He had tried very hard and put up with a lot of chaos and mess, beyond what most people would tolerate, and he STILL loved Holly and still ached over this decision.

 

I was so busted up about this news that I went upstairs and laid down on the bed in the foster room because it's so far removed from the rest of the house. I was unable to do a thing. I just laid there completely depressed and heartbroken. My silly tuxedo polydactyl foster cat Andy came over to me and snuggled under my chin. He has always been a great comfort to me and his timing couldn't be better.

 

I couldn't stop going over it in my mind. I worked so hard for Holly and I really thought this story was going to end with a happy reunion. I know the Kellogg-girls are going to be distraught about this, too. I feel responsible for that and it breaks my heart. What I fear most is that the good feelings we all had for each other will morph into awkwardness and distance, until we are all faded from each other’s memory.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Yes, the entire Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue is in my kitchen.

On top of everything else, it’s been a terrible few months for me, personally. We’re in a crisis. In addition to seemingly everything breaking at the same time, without notice or warning, the power got shut off on Monday, the literal icing on the cake of horrors and humiliations I’ve had to bear. This is what I get for running a non-profit rescue and helping others. I’m broke. The range almost set the house on fire, so we can’t use it any more. I’ve been without a way to cook decently for a few weeks. I just want to make my scrambled egg for breakfast again. It’s awful microwaved. It leaves me feeling ill, but how can I complain when other people have it so much worse than I do?

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. No kidding. Look at my shirt. I guess maybe I knew I had to wear it that night.

I’ve never felt so low and hopeless. I’m trying to rise above it. My friend Adria told me she’d had her power cut many times a very long time ago. She’s ok now, but she’s known bad times. She reminded me that things can change for the better, I just can't give up. I'm terrified things are going to keep changing for the worse. Something has got to give. It’s been years and years of awful.

My lone ray of hope is something my friend Carolee told me this morning. She is the Animal Control Officer here in Newtown and I’ve known her for many years. I told her about Holly and how I feared she’d never find a home, but Carolee said it happens all the time. She’s had cats and dogs returned for peeing or passing stool just one time on the floor. She finds a new home and usually that’s the end of the issue. Could the answer be so simple? Holly really just needs a new family?

I don’t know.

 

All I know is having her return will be deeply painful for all of us. I don’t know how we'll move on as friends. I'll continue to do my job, to be Holly’s advocate, until I can find her a new family to love.

 

…twelve more hours later...

Stephen sent me some photos of Kirsten with Holly or just of Holly looking forlorn. I couldn’t understand why he’d send them to me. He’d given her up. He wrote to the rescue who handled Holly’s initial rescue and told her they had to give her up and that I was taking her, but Holly was STILL WITH THEM, not with me.

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Kirsten and her girl, Holly.

I had a feeling that Stephen was determined to move on with re-homing Holly, but that maybe his girls were pushing back about it. This morning the evidence became more clear when I contacted them to tell them I’d spoken with Dr. Larry. They needed to be reminded that Holly had to be on Prozac for at least 4 to 6 WEEKS before we knew if it was truly working and she’d only been on it for 2 ½ . I hoped they could give her more time, but I felt like I was pushing my luck.

 

Kirsten surprised me by telling me that Holly was doing great. She was following everyone around, being very affectionate and playful AND peeing in the litter pan. So I said; “Really??? So no giving her up then?” and she replied that she wanted to give Holly a chance, even after the incident two days prior.

 

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Where she belongs. Holly is home.

So…here we are again. Is Holly going to lose her home or not? I guess she got a reprieve for now and I’m thankful for that. I’m not sure I should “de-pee-proof” the foster room just yet or frankly what I can do, other than wait and see.

Time passes...

 

Final words (for now). Holly peed again, this time on Adeline's bed. Stephen said Holly needed to come to me as soon as possible. Really. For sure. I told him it being Memorial Day weekend that I needed to take her on Tuesday, honestly needing a few days break. I began to make preparations for Holly's arrival, resigned to the inevitable.

 

 

Until a day later...when "girl power" kicked in and Kirsten lobbied for more time (for which I am truly grateful) and to please give their dear Holly a chance. So they got what they wanted.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Andy and Annie with little "sister" Holly.

Meanwhile, Annie, Andy and Mia were supposed to be adopted together, but as fate would have it the oh-so-patient adopter was really just a sociopath who was also passive-aggressive. She went bonkers on me, was rude, impatient and pushy. I decided to do a bit of detective work on her application and discovered she'd had a DUI a few years ago at the age of 51 followed by having her nursing license suspended, then a year later in 2015, revoked. She had lied about being retired from nursing. She could not be near controlled substances for 4 years. Even though I admit I didn't want to the kitties to get adopted, that wasn't a factor when I realized they could have been in danger with this person. I put an end to the adoption while the woman bad-mouthed me on social media.

HOLLY. IS. STILL. HOME.

 

She's getting her Prozac every day. She's being loved by her family and, I hope, starting to outgrow her tendency to pee inappropriately (she's gone 12 days with no issues). I just got a photo from Stephen of her playing on her NEW CAT TREE so I'm taking that as a very good sign.

 

Holly cat tree
©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Holly's new cat tree.

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I got to meet a singer/songwriter and get a glimpse of what life on the road is like for him. I got to know him as a fine man, kind and loving, passionate about his family and his music and his little torte kitten. He made me a cup of tea, gave me a bottle of bourbon, a bunch of Stephen Kellogg CDs and a t-shirt, but most importantly he gave me his friendship, which I will always treasure.

 

This consultation went far above and beyond anything I could have imagined. Holly and the Kelloggs (especially Stephen) kept me on my toes. I learned a lot about how the other side of a cat behavior issue effects the people that live with the problem and that was a great lesson to learn.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. BFFs.

No matter what, I will continue to be there for Holly-girl and the Kelloggs, in any way they need me. It's been quite a ride. One I will never forget.

As much as there can be...this is The End of Holly's Story...

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Holly's dad. If you'd like to catch Stephen. Here's his current Tour Info.

 

As for me, I have another case to work on dealing with a purebred lynx point Siberian cat who I took into Kitten Associates to help her find a new home. Her mom's allergies got so bad she couldn't be near the cat any more so I offered to help. The problem is, I didn't know that the cat has a few issues. Okay, one issue. She's very aggressive and unpredictably so. How am I going to get to the bottom of this and help Stormy find her forever home or is she going to be considered unadoptable? Find out next...

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stormy lives up to her name.

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 8

(continued from Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.)

I’ve been writing in my Stephen Kellogg embossed journal every day since Holly arrived five weeks ago. Today I made the final entry.

Mabel and Journal
©2017 Robin AF Olson. My cat Mabel with my journal. Keeping a diary REALLY helped a lot. I was able to track how many times Holly peed, but more importantly what I was doing to change her behavior. I tried feeding her on the spot where she'd peed before. It worked for a few days, but then she still peed on the bed. That was a good data point to help me decide what to do next.

DAYS ON PROZAC 19

GOOD DAYS 14

 

It was time for Holly to be reunited with her family. There weren’t any more tests I could put her through. The next one would be to see how she does once she’s home with her family and without the companionship of other cats. I warned the Kellogg’s that Holly might need more time before she completely stopped peeing. We couldn't know how much stress she’d experience making such a big change. I felt she should not start off in a small space, but just come home with access to her usual places so things didn't seem different to her (all of which had been steam cleaned while she was gone). They'd have to monitor her carefully and remember that it takes at LEAST 4 weeks for the Prozac to take full effect-more like 6 weeks.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stephen did come to visit Holly after he returned from his Tour and she was very happy to see him again.

I wrote the Kellogg’s a letter from Holly and sealed it into an envelope, along with a personal note that I'd leave with them to read after I'd left. Here's Holly's letter:

“To My Dear Family,

My name is Holly Ivy. I may look familiar to you on the outside, but inside I’m a different kitty. While I’ve been away, I’ve been on an adventure. I met some terrible beasts, but they became my friends because of my inherent good looks and charm.

I also met some people, who, at first I wasn’t so sure about, but guess what? They became my friends, too. One of them, I call her Aunt Robin, was super nice to me and because she is so squooshy, she made a nice bed for me to sleep on.

Another new friend is Dr. Larry. He has a pretty loud voice and where is his fur? It certainly is not on his head. That is weird. Anyway, Aunt Robin and Dr. Larry said that I was a wonderful kitty, but to unlock my magical powers I needed a little bit of help so I could become the best kitty ever, a Kellogg-kitty.

 

I told them that sounded good to me, but how would these powers be unleashed? Honestly, I still don’t know, but whatever they did must be working because I don’t get scolded any more and no one is tense around me any more. In fact, everyone can finally see me for who I really am…the super-prettiest, the pom-pom-fetcher, the smile-maker, the love-bug, and fifth Kellogg daughter.

 

I missed you all so very much and I am so glad to be home. I hope I never have to leave you again, because even though everyone was really nice to me, there’s no place better than with my family. I hope we can forget the past and move forward with joy because that’s what life is all about.

Love,

Your Holly-girl

I wanted the Kelloggs to have a clean slate and start fresh with Holly. I knew it was a lot to ask, but I’d also shown them that Holly could go a few weeks without resorting to her old habits. I’d come to understand that cats can learn to outgrow their inappropriate behaviors while on Prozac. It could take six months to a year. She might always need to be medicated, but at least we have something that worked for two weeks. Now comes the true test.

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Stephen met me at the door in his loungewear (PJs?). I guess he felt comfortable enough around me to be himself. I wasn’t trying to be cool any more, no longer worried about what I was wearing, either. We were at ease as he bent down and nonchalantly opened Holly’s cat carrier. She walked into the kitchen, tail up, excited. Within seconds we could tell she knew she was home. She gently rubbed her cheeks against a toy filled basket on the floor and again on the corner of the kitchen island. She was a busy bee, refreshing her scent around the main rooms of the first floor.

Stephen was busy filling up the litter pans and sweeping up some loose grains from the floor. I kept an eye on Holly, tossing her a pom pom, which she ran after, or following her into the room where she’d often peed on the sofa. This time she was exploring and though her pupils were rather large, she still had a confident, happy air to her.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Holly-girl with her daddy.

 

Kirsten returned home from dropping the children off at school. She was clearly happy to see Holly again. I’d suggested they didn’t tell their daughters that Holly was going to come home today so they kept it a secret. Their second oldest daughter, Adeline, had asked before leaving for school if they could visit Holly this week, anxious to see her again. I was grateful there was still a connection even after all this time and wished I could see her face once she realized Holly was home.

 

I was grateful, too, that although Stephen has been clear he does not have the bandwidth to go a crazy distance with Holly (again), he is willing to give it another try. I’m guessing because of how hard I worked to solve this problem he's willing to continue…and I think, too, because he trusts me (and that is a great gift).

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Two normal and cool people with Holly and...yikes.

I showed Kirsten and Stephen how to hide Holly’s magic pill into her food. It’s a bit of a fussy thing to have to do, but it’s only once a day. We gave Holly a snack and she ate it right up. It was a good sign that she was adjusting to being home after only a few minutes. It gave me hope.

 

Holly returned to her favorite spot next to the vent under the refrigerator. The warm air was soothing and the Kellogg’s often found her there. We gathered around her in a semi-circle, all sitting on the floor. Stephen took a selfie of all of us together, but I didn’t realize I should sit up so I looked like an idiot laying on the floor while they sat up, smiling for the camera (so I sort of fixed it in photoshop!). I really wanted this last image of us together to be the one that would bring this story to a close, perfectly, but as so many things go, events unfolded in ways I never expected.

 

Group Photo w Holly RT
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Ha ha ha...photoshop!

 

Three months ago, a guy sent me an email asking for help with his cat, Holly and I never could have imagined where our paths would take us. Today my heart is full. I’m fighting back tears, but it’s a losing battle. I worked so hard to save Holly from having a terrible future. I gave up a lot of my time and resources. I asked so many of my peers for help. I pushed and begged and cajoled, and in the end, at least, so far, knock wood, it was completely worth it.

 

A few hours after I got home, Stephen texted me a photo of Adeline. Although I can’t share it (because I respect her privacy). I can tell you what it looked like. He took it the moment she realized Holly was home. She’s crying. Her expression is a mixture of pure heartbreak and joy. Kirsten is holding her tight, comforting her, but you sense that in another moment Adeline will be reaching towards Holly so she can hold her again and tell her the words she never thought she’d be able to say: “Welcome home my Holly-girl, welcome home."

…12 hours later...

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

 

Holly peed on the eldest daughter’s bed.

 

[yep, one more part to go then...we'll see.]

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©2017 Robin AF Olson.

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 7

(continued from Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.)

Ten Days Later

 

Holly began peeing on the bed, on her own cat bed that was on the mattress, on Mia’s cat bed that was on the mattress. I did load after load after load of laundry. All the pillows (all six of them) had a little bit or more of urine and had to be washed, too. Clearly Holly was adjusted to being in my home and was back to her old behavior issues. Even though I’d been through things like this in the past, this was really bad. I was constantly on edge and it was a vivid reminder of what the Kelloggs had being going through.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Screen shot from my web cam footage showing Holly peeing in her own cat bed. Andy is peeing in "her" litter pan (they were all using either pan by then) but he got in there AFTER she started peeing in the cat bed.

Kirsten and the girls came to visit Holly. Less than 10 minutes before they arrived, she peed on the bed for the second time that day. About an hour after they left she peed yet again. I felt that Holly was spinning out of control, fast. Also, the amount of urine was alarming. It wasn’t a small puddle. It was a great volume of urine.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Good thing she's cute.

I spoke with Dr. Larry again and we were both torn about next steps. Did Holly need an ultrasound now? Another urinalysis? Or did she need Prozac? I did NOT want to put her on medication at such a young age, but I did find out that unlike other anti-depressants, with Prozac Holly would feel more relaxed, stopping inappropriately eliminating and learn that she does not need to continue this behavior. There was a chance that in 6 months to a year she could be weaned off the meds and in essence grow out of this behavior problem.

I had to do something so I started Holly on Canna-Pet. From the company: "...Canna-Pet is NOT simply a “CBD product.” In fact, Canna-Pet is something totally and truly unique. All Canna-Pet products are formulated with an awareness of the benefits of whole plant extracts, to provide an “entourage effect” from the inclusion of eight additional cannabinoids and more than 20 terpenes beyond “just CBD” – along with higher bioavailability. This proprietary production and formulation makes Canna-Pet® unique."

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Everyone on my lap.

I’d been using Canna-Pet on my cat, Spencer, to soothe his arthritic bones and saw it helped him a lot. It can also help with stress, and I didn’t have to ramp up the dose or worry about weaning her off it if it didn’t work. Dr. Larry agreed to give it a week and see how it went. If it didn’t work we could go on from there.

 

A day or two passed without incident, but Holly began peeing on the bed again every so often. It was very difficult not to strangle her I was so tired of doing laundry and cleaning up the room. The room was becoming empty of any furnishings. There were no pillows on the bed and barely any cat beds left. If Holly began to pee on the cat trees that would be a deal-breaker. I wouldn’t be able to launder them and it could ignite a fire under the other cats and they might pee on everything, too.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Funny-Face.

She didn’t even make it a week. It was clear the supplement wasn’t the right fit for Holly. Stephen was coming home soon. Things were as bad as ever. I spoke with Dr. Larry yet again and we decided to start Holly on Prozac. Inasmuch as I felt like a failure, I just could not give up on this cat. It reminded me of a nursery rhyme my mother used to recite:

There was a little girl, 
Who had a little curl, 
Right in the middle of her forehead. 
When she was good, 
She was very, very good, 
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

(I later found out it was attributed to a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem.)

Kirsten and the girls came to visit again and again I had to have a sit-down with Kirsten about what was going on. I knew it was shocking to her that I felt we needed to go to Prozac, but I got her blessing to start that day. I felt so badly. I really didn't want to have to do this, but my hand was forced. I showed Kirsten how I’d be sneaking the pill into a treat. It’s only ¼ of a small pill so it was easy enough to hide. I gave Holly her first dose, realizing it was her last chance to stop her inappropriate behavior.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Fits in like one of the Kitten Associates family now.

The girls were great with Holly and so happy to see her. It made me feel doubly worried that maybe this was the last visit they'd ever have with her. I tried to shift gears emotionally, so I changed the subject and asked the girls about Irish Folk dancing and why they keep their arms down straight. Sophia, Stephen's eldest daughter, said it would look funny if they moved their arms around and proceeded to do an amazing Irish Stepdance in my living room both with her arms straight and then waving her arms around. It was hilarious and just what I needed.

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Day 3 of Prozac. Nightmare.

 

From my journal: "Holly has pretty much become unglued. She just peed on a cat bed, right in front of me. A bed that was not on the mattress, but off on another side of the room. She peed a lot of volume. I lifted her during her peeing to put her in the litter pan and she peed ON me."

 

 

It was 1 o’clock in the morning. I was so mad I wanted to throw her into the wall, but I just cleaned up with tears of rage rolling down my cheeks. I was so fed up and tired. Three days on Prozac turned her into a nutcase worse than before. It was the third time she’d peed on something that DAY.

 

Sam was exhausted, too but I begged him to help me. With great reluctance we set up a big dog crate with a litter pan inside it and some bedding for Holly. She went into the crate easily and didn’t seem to mind being confined. I just wanted to sleep, but I still had to do more laundry. I felt a bitter mix of anger and frustration. This cat was completely impossible to deal with. I was “done.”

Script

But I couldn’t give up. I knew if I did I would hate myself later. Under the veil of my frustration was care and concern for this creature. She was a total love-muffin and happily fell asleep with her head against my cheek. I loved her! I knew if I could get some rest I could re-set my emotions and try yet again.

The next day I gave Holly her pill. Somehow a tiny bit of it wasn’t covered and the terrible taste freaked Holly out. It took 8 more tries over the course of the day to get her to take the pill. I hid it every way I could think of, even in a frozen ball of butter, but every time she outsmarted me. I finally was so fed up I had to get Sam to hold her so I could shove the pill into her mouth-she spit it out-but I finally got the job done.

 

I knew it upset Holly forcing the pill into her, so I expected her to begin peeing. I wondered how I was going to get a pill into her ever again. I wondered if she would ever trust me again. I knew if I gave her some time and was careful that maybe she would recover from the pill being forced on her.

 

I didn’t put Holly back into the crate. I let her be. I let myself be and took some time off to be alone. If she peed, she peed. I couldn't do any more for anyone.

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The Next Day

Guess what? She didn’t pee on anything over night. It was a new day. Fresh start.

I was able to figure out a new way to hide her pill and it worked-easily!

Holly was playful, continued to eat well and even sat on me, purring loudly. Who was this cat?

The next day, same thing. No peeing on anything. Got her pill into her easily. There was something different about Holly. It was as if her edges were ever so slightly softened. I left 2 pillows on the bed over night. She didn’t pee on the bed or the pillows.

I left the pillows on the bed a second night. They were fine the next morning.

 

This morning I returned Holly’s cat bed to the bed. If something was going to set her off, this was going to be it. Annie and Andy ran over to it, sniffing at it. They began to “make muffins” on it as Holly walked over. I tensed, ready to see Holly furiously scratch at the bed, then pee in it, but she was barely interested in it at all. In fact, she walked away and played with a pom pom instead.

 

This is the first time I’ve felt like maybe Holly is “over” this behavior issue. That’s a nutty thing to say, considering this cat constantly throws me curve balls, but in my heart it feels like maybe she’s okay now. Of course I’m going to to upstairs to check on Holly and she will have peed everywhere, right? It’s only been 4 days since the triple-pee storm, but it’s been one week that Holly’s been on Prozac.

I think that perhaps Holly was fighting the effects of the Prozac so that's why she got so bad on day 3 and by day 4, the Prozac had "taken over" and begun working.

The Kelloggs are on the road with Stephen. They come home in a day or two. Perhaps Stephen will come see Holly. I know that all these weeks away from her makes him more reluctant to come back. It’s easier to let her go if the connection is fading, but with this promising news maybe I can get him to give her one more chance?

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Come on Holly-girl!

 

In my journal I wrote, “Come on Holly! You can DO THIS!” And I hope, pray, and cross my fingers and toes, that maybe we finally found the answer to help Holly keep her home.

 

[sorry, we're not done yet...to be continued...two more chapters to go...]

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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©2017 Robin AF Olson.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson.

 

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

 

 

I’m afraid Holly’s is, too.

 

[to be continued...]

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 5

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

Then this happened…

 

…I got to meet my cat behavior mentor, Pam Johnson-Bennett.

 

 

Seventeen years ago I read Pam's book, “Think Like a Cat” and it changed my life. A light went off, a fresh awareness blossomed; cats are not humans in little furry outfits nor do they think like them. They think like cats. It may be stating the obvious, but understanding how to decode those motivations, behaviors is eye-opening. A cat peeing on the bed or other unwanted (by humans) behavior is perfectly appropriate in the cat-world. They're sending a message in cat-language, but when they live with humans who don't speak "cat," that's when conflict occurs.

 

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The meeting almost didn’t happen. I’m dealing with two sick 7-week old kittens, Weatherby and Willoughby, and I was worried about leaving them alone while Sam drove us to New York City to attend Pam’s Cat Wise Cat Cafe Tour (thanks to Wellness Natural Pet Food) at Meow Parlour.. It was to celebrate the launch of her latest book, Cat Wise. I knew there wouldn’t be another chance to speak with Pam and the timing couldn’t be better for Holly. I could ask Pam about Holly’s case and get feedback on whether or not I was nuts to take her to my home as part of the solution for her inappropriate elimination problems.

I fed the kittens and cleaned their goopy eyes right before we left. I figured we could do the trip in about five to six hours, most of it being the drive-time between Newtown and New York City. It was a lovely cool spring afternoon and fortunately with good weather meant the drive time should go smoothly.

Or not.

We had planned to arrive by 6:30 PM but the traffic was so bad we got to Meow Parlour just as the event was going to get under way at 7:30. Thankfully, even though we were running late, I had a chance to get my photo with Pam. Many people didn't show up regardless of the event being booked solid. Not only was it rude of those folks to skip out, but I couldn’t imagine why they’d miss this rare opportunity to meet Pam if they were cat lovers. The good part about it was I got to have more time with Pam...and I freely admit that I was all "fan girl" with her. Totally embarrassing, but what the heck. I love PAM! She's my heroine!

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Pam giving out tips while one of Meow Parlour's foster kitties looks on.

 

Pam gave the audience some great tips and things to think about to help them better understand their cat. What delighted me is she was willing to take on cat behavior problems and offer suggestions. One of the folks there stunned some of us by saying she took her cat on the subway every weekend and that she was worried about the stress on the cat. Then she added, the cat traveled loose inside her PURSE. No wonder the cat was scared!

 

Even though I wanted to scream at the woman, Pam was calm and relaxed. She gave very clear suggestions and explained why these things needed to be done. Meanwhile Sam and I were rolling our eyes at each other, stunned that anyone could be so foolish.

I asked Pam about Holly and she began to suggest things I’d already done but didn’t have a chance to tell her. She quickly realized we were well down the path of things cat behaviorists can suggest. Then I told her about my out-of-the-box idea of bringing Holly to my home for kitten bootcamp. She said it was a good move and the right choice. She confirmed what I’d wondered from day one-Holly needs a buddy. Her peeing on even a shower curtain covered bed, on her “mom’s” side of the bed is saying she wants to bond with her family and is anxious they are going to leave her alone again.

This explains why that after almost a week here, Holly has used her litter pan perfectly. Even though I'm not in the room that often, Holly has become friends with Andy and even Annie is starting to tolerate her. This was the answer I needed. Of course it begs the question of “now what?” "How do we take the next steps?"

Holly has been introduced to Annie and Andy already and they do well together. Would Stephen and Kirsten go this far for Holly? I knew they’d be ok with a buddy-kitty for Holly, but two? At least they didn’t have to spend another thousand dollars doing more testing on Holly, so that was good news.

This is somewhat uncharted territory. My gut says they should all three together because it would be easier on the family. It’s a known quantity. They don’t have to introduce a new kitten to Holly and frankly I don’t know what Holly might do in her home with a new, unknown cat there. Pee more? If they don’t do the introduction correctly, then what happens? BUT, it means adding two more cats because they want to keep one. That's just crazy!

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Pam Johnson-Bennett (left), me (center), Sam (right).

 

I so was energized by talking with Pam. It also helped my confidence soar. I identified the problem early on but I had to go slowly and rule out other things before jumping to adding a new family member.

 

The true test is to return Holly to her home. I could probably return her tomorrow, when the Kellogg ladies come to visit. It would mean Holly leaving two weeks early, but without Stephen home it wouldn’t be a fair test. And do I tell the Kelloggs NOW about what I’ve learned or wait at least another week to see if once Holly is settled down she’ll start to pee on the bed?

As excited as I am I should wait a bit longer. Holly can stay here and I can be even more sure it’s the right thing by the time Stephen is back from being on tour.

 

The only problem is, I just found an adopter for Annie and Andy.

 

[To be continued…]

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 4

(continued from Part 1, 2, and 3)

 

I have to say it again, the Kelloggs are some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. Kirsten is sweet and lovely. The girls are all so polite and well-mannered, smart and outgoing (except for little Greta, but even she is starting to open up around me). Their warmth opened me up, giving me insight into the other side of cat behavior and cat rescue—that of the family who is dealing with the possibility of giving up their cat. Reluctantly, I admit I tend to vilify people who don't do the work to keep their cat. I try so hard not to do that, but in the back of my mind, I often find that I’m not too thrilled, and often frustrated when it comes to the human part of doing rescue, but this was different.

 

Holly wasn’t being given up for good, she was being given up for now. Stephen was really shaken up about it. It made me want to help him all the more to see him fight off tears when he put Holly’s cat carrier on the bed in the foster room. I rattled off how things were going to go next, to give him time to take a breath. I quickly started to talk about what to expect from Holly in a new environment to help distract Stephen from his heartache.

 

 

I wanted the whole family to see for that it would be okay, and moreso that leaving Holly with me wasn’t a failure of any kind. It was about love. The love this family has for their kitten meant giving her up for a few weeks to give her every chance to learn appropriate behavior in a situation that might be better for her. I honestly think they would do anything to help Holly and because of that I was inspired to take her on.

 

I hooked up our old web cam so the family could check in on Holly, silently praying that they’d never see her getting beat up by the other cats-a possibility-or they might see worse, me in my jammies scooping the litter pan! I promised to keep them updated and assured them that if there were any health issues I’d advise them immediately.

We said our farewells and Kirtsen and I decided that a weekly visit would be a good idea to help the kids stay connected and help Holly know she was loved. With Stephen being on the road, it would be strange not to have his late night texts, but he gave me the ok to update him. Once again I was so glad to know how much this guy cared about his family, even the furry kind.

Fostering Holly Begins with a Bite

Holly was not happy. She was angry about being with other cats. The first twelve hours she hunkered down in her cat carrier. I wondered if she was peeing inside the carrier, but she was so upset I didn’t want to try to handle her after my first failed attempt ended in being nipped.

My foster cats were upset, too. Mia, was effected the most negatively. She hid. She wouldn’t eat dinner. That night while I was trying to sleep in the room she cried every hour or so. Her meow is hoarse and ragged and pitiful. I felt terrible upsetting her so much.

Annie and Andy were staying away from Holly, too, because for a little “punk” she is an alpha cat, really a full-blooded tortie full of ‘tude. During times like this it’s difficult to imagine that it will ever change for the better. In all my years fostering, I’d seen kitten after kitten behave the same way until they felt safe. With Holly doing things outside the norm in her home, would she be unpredictable in mine, too and NOT settle down?

IMG 0540
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Holly arrives and the rest of us hide.

That first night was rough. Holly came out of her carrier around 11 PM. I’d moved her litter pan close to her spot on the floor below the bed where her carrier was located. She was acting fussy. I lifted her into the pan and stood guard, while Annie and Andy stared at her. I blocked their line of sight the best I could so Holly was able to feel safe enough to urinate in the pan. I checked her cat carrier while she was doing her thing and it was dry.

There wasn’t much room on the bed. Holly returned to her cat carrier. I was exhausted and wanted to sleep, stretch out and relax. It wasn't possible, but I managed to slide my feet behind Holly’s cat carrier. As I laid there trying to get comfortable, I thought about how Stephen had told me he spent his last night with Holly laying on the floor of his bathroom with Holly’s cat bed as his pillow. She laid next to her daddy, a sweet final night together. Now Holly was slowly creeping out of her cat carrier to snuggle up against my ankles. Unlike most kittens, she didn’t attack my feet. She was also probably exhausted from stress. As she slept, I laid there and listened to Mia crying. She was scared and wanted to get out of the room, something she's never tried to do. I dozed off for a short time until Mia began again, always sitting next to the door, anxiously trying to get out, get away from the “interloper.”

 

The next day was Easter Sunday and Sam and I had to leave early to drive to NYC to take Sam’s mother to Easter service at her church. I was scared to leave Holly alone. I'd gotten about three hours of sleep and was barely coherent. I had to go. I had to hope the room wouldn’t be soaked with urine or sprayed with blood when I returned.

 

Holly hadn’t been inappropriate so far. I was keeping a journal so I’d know if she was peeing 8 times a day as the Kelloggs had noted. Things in the room were a bit calmer, too. I knew they’d have to work out their hierarchy and since there hadn’t been any violent fights that maybe by the time I got home they’d be buddies.

I kept checking the web cam while I was on the road. I saw Annie and Holly smacking each other, but that was it. I also saw Holly use her litter pan. So far, so good, but Mia was still hiding and miserable.

IMG 0539
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Via our web cam I saw Andy sneaking a look at the newcomer.

I observed that Holly began to take ownership of the bed. It was the prime position in the room and I couldn’t allow her to do that. She had to share it with everyone. Mia’s favorite cat bed was in the back corner on the mattress and she hadn’t been in it for days. I kept moving things around in the room, trying to gauge whether a cat bed here would make Holly pee on it or block others from using it. I finally settled on repositioning items so Holly didn’t have the main location of her scent on the bed.

I knew every time I made a change, she could react by urinating or it causing a fight if I didn’t sort out how to position everything from the litter pan to her cat carrier (she needed it to hide in for the short term) into locations that were workable for the cats. Was the litter pan too exposed? Too protected? If I moved the cat carrier would Holly flip out? It was a slow process that had to be refined again and again.

IMG 0571
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Out of her cat carrier, but still not so sure of her surroundings.

 

Then, a breakthrough. The following night I was watching tv in the foster room. Holly chirped to Andy and he sat up and ran over to her. They began chasing each other around the room in a playful manner. Holly slapped at him a few times and he slapped back. It wasn’t vicious, it was simple roughhousing. Somehow they'd worked things out enough to begin playing together.

 

Holly continued to use her litter pan, then used the main pan the fosters used, too. It was interesting they were not using hers, but I was glad they were not using the bed either.

IMG 0671
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Making friends.

Today is Day 6 of Holly being with us. She is using her litter pan faithfully. There were two incidents where I thought she might be showing a possible medical issue, but it hasn’t happened recently. She’s eating well, playing, still a bit hissy, but she’s also fearless and has a huge personality. Annie and Mia are coming around. Mia is eating and finally went back to her spot on the bed.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Relaxing enough to sleep soundly-at last.

Holly is very chatty and lets me know if she’s hungry and dinner is late. She loves her pom poms and spring toys and will fetch them on occasion. She likes to sit behind me or will pass out on my lap completely stretched out and limp. I’m grateful she trusts me. Making friends with her is important. She has silly markings on her face. It looks like she doesn’t have a nose at all but it’s just her coloring. I can see why her family loves her so much. She's pretty darn cute.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. The web cam shows me Holly IS using her litter pan.

Kirsten and the girls are coming over to visit in a few days. She was kind enough to share a photo of something her daughter Noelle created. When I saw it I cried.

 

Here’s a little girl who feels she is lucky because she has a kitten. I remember feeling like that, too, when I was a kid. I have to make this work with Holly. I have to find a way for Holly to be happy and appropriate in her home with humans. I got a glimmer of why Stephen is so passionate about helping Holly because of the impact this little tortie has on his family. This is not just a kitten who can easily be replaced. This is a kitten who will break her family’s heart if they can’t find a way to live with her.

 

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©2017 The Kellogg Family.

Now I want to know how this is going to end because I finally have a measure of hope that perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe that light is actually furry and has oddly shaped paws and is named Andy? Maybe Holly just needs a friend? All I know is I’ve got to get this right for Holly’s sake and for the Kelloggs.

[to be...yes, you guessed it...]

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 3.

(continued from Part 1 and 2)

 

 

Late one night Stephen texted me. I had told him to put a shower curtain over their bed so Holly could be in their room unattended and not be confined to just the bathroom. They put it over most of the bed, but the bed was bigger than the curtain. Holly peed between the pillows, which wasn’t covered, AND she peed ON the shower curtain. Again, alarm bells went off. The shower curtain trick should have worked, but it didn’t. They had blocked off the sinks so Holly wasn’t using them. She was using both of the litter pans in the bathroom, but still peeing on the bed, covered or not.

 

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Oh Holly!

Time was running out. Stephen was emotionally drained and was leaving in a few days. I knew he’d stick with whatever I said, but I imagined how bad it would be for him to be gone and Kirsten to be left home to deal with this so I did something I’ve never done before. I told Stephen to let me foster Holly here. She could meet my so-very-mellow foster cats, Annie, Andy and Mia. I’d be able to assess her for the next three weeks. I’d be more sure she’d need ultrasound or more sure she has a behavior problem. Maybe I could help her more here than I could from a distance. I would not be able to properly introduce Holly to the foster cats, but I bet that because she was only 6 months old, she’d integrate easily after a few days as most of our fosters have…but Holly is a tortie, remember?

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. ON the shower curtain that was on the bed...no, this should not be happening, yet it was.

 

Stephen had a family-meeting and they agreed it was worth doing. When we spoke about it on the phone I could hear the grief and heartache in his voice. He didn’t want to fail Holly and neither did I. He didn’t want to give up and re-home her, but he was beat down. He asked me if it couldn’t work out with Holly would I consider allowing him to adopt one or two of my foster cats? He was honestly scared that I would think they were a bad family and wouldn’t adopt to them. I assured him I would be honored to help should that time come, but to not worry about it now. Even I have a cat (Petunia) who should have been in a different home years ago, but I made it work. It’s far from a perfect solution for either of us, but she is loved and cared for (and far too old to be re-homed). What I did for Petunia wouldn’t be right for Stephen or his family OR Holly. It was too soon to make such decisions. There was still a lot more we could do.

 

Stephen was mentally exhausted (both of us were). Throughout our month working together he constantly kept me on my toes. I knew he needed a break, even if it meant I’d have a lot on my hands and possibly a big nightmare of peeing in the foster room. It felt like the right thing to do, so I spent a few hours preparing the room for Holly’s arrival. The next morning the entire Kellogg clan came over to see Holly’s new temporary home and to say goodbye for now.

If you’ve read my stories before you know there’s one common thread-the one that goes “what have I done?”…and “let my actions be a warning to others.” Right? Remember those fun stories? Ha ha ha…here we go again…

[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]

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

(continued from Ch 1 and Ch 2)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

This is why we do rescue.

 

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

 

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

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

The Feral50. Unimaginable Joy. Ch 2.

continued from Ch.1

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Or maybe we won’t…

Meanwhile…

 

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

 

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

 

No.

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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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!

IMG 7797
©2017 Robin AF Olson. A few of these guys have already been trapped.

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

And further surprises…

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

IMG 7799
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Gray kitty needed help, too, so he was high on our list to be trapped.

 

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

 

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

IMG 7801
©2017 Robin AF Olson. They got him and now I've got him!

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

IMG 7802
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Temporary lodging, gray kitty is hiding in his cat carrier. He ate 9 oz of food over night. Glad he has a full belly.

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

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

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

The tough part is believing it.

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

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

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

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