Chloe’s been living with foster mom, Angi for six weeks. The fact that she’s in the same home is in and of itself a wonderful thing. With her aggression issues, Chloe could easily have been sent back to Animals in Distress and possibly been deemed unadoptable, leaving her to possibly face a grim future. Her former "guardian" had called around to the local Vets asking for a house call to euthanize the cat. Thankfully, though they are not bound by law to do so, all the Vets he contacted would not do a “convenience-euthansia,” especially for a cat they had never seen before. How did they know the cat wasn't aggressive due to an underlying illness? I was dismayed to learn that my own Vet said there are some Vets who will do anything for a buck. Sadly, cats are still considered personal property, which means that said property can be disposed of at the owner's discretion. Luckily for Chloe she has a few Guardian Angels looking out for her, especially her foster mom, Angi who has stuck by Chloe through thick (and we’re working on thin).
Since this is Angi’s story, then some of the words should be her own. Here are some excerpts from emails discussing Chloe’s ever-improving progress. We last left off with Chloe starting her life at Angi’s house and Angi having to protect herself from Chloe’s attacks as she entered the room. Angi had to have a cardboard shield in front of her just to get near Chloe. She could have become fearful and given up, but Angi kept at it, slowly gaining Chloe’s trust. After two weeks, I got this email:
©2013 Angi Shearstone. Chloe, relaxed and enjoying her toys.
“Chloe let me pet her, brush her, and play with her a bit with her catnip carrot. She purred throughout nearly the entire exchange, rolled around playfully, even, and I think I have identified her "pay attention to me" meyow over the "I'm gonna get you!" war-cry yowl.
She's still a bit nippy, I utilized the catnip carrot & brush a lot to give my fingers a little distance, but she's not as determined with the nipping as she was when she took that chunk out of my foot!”
“Baby gate is going well. Rudie's popped in to be a minor nuisance a few times, but only minor. Some hissing, but everyone's keeping their distance. I have to pick up Chloe's food to prevent the oranges [note from Robin: two of Angi’s cats are called “the oranges”] from scarfing everything up (they're sort of garbage disposals!).
©2013 Angi Shearstone. Rudie checking out Chloe's room. Should he jump the baby gate or not?
Chloe meowed around mid-morning, and I decided to try something. I put the baby gate in the hallway, and closed off the other bedroom. If she got up to the gate, she'd just about be able to see me working at the desk but not able to come in, and would have access to about half the hallway, and the bathroom. She roamed the bathroom a bit, and then there was a bit of hissing with Rudie and she retreated back into the guest room. Figuring it might be just a bit too much too soon, I put the baby gate back in that doorway.”
“I'm actually starting to suspect she'll love anyone that plays with her a few times a day, as well as offers scritches. I really do think that being able to interact via some cat toys was key to her getting her "frustrations" out. Really, I think she was starved for quality interaction for a long time.
©2013 Angi Shearstone. Bring on the skritches.
I've been opening up the "baby gate" area to include the hallway and my office, but she's not really taking me up on it that much, not after the initial interest. The other day she wandered out, spent a little time in the office with me (I put a pillow out for her, but she left after spending a few minutes hissing at Smudge (who was up in the cat-basket at desk-top level) and retreated to her room - I've been trying to put some of "her stuff" in the hallway to help her explorations, but it hasn't helped so much so far.”
The next morning
“hah! I wrote this this morning & didn't send it immediately because I got distracted, and Chloe just wandered into the office while I was talking on the phone! She's on a cushion behind me! Rosie is in the basket, and they're both minding their own business.…”
©2013 Angi Shearstone. A happy kitty thanks to foster mom-Angi.
“Chloe is doing even more amazingly awesomely. So much so that I'm not taking so many pics & video anymore because it's losing the "OMG!" factor.
©2013 Angi Shearstone. While working, Angi looks down and sees Chloe, reaching up to get her attention!
I've opened up her room during the day and while I'm awake & around, she has the run of the house. She's stayed upstairs except for the one time she chased Rudie halfway down the stairs (I'm sorry, but it's crazy how fast she can move when she wants to), and will sometimes follow me around the house, if I leave the office to go make lunch or something. I can even "call her" and she'll come. I've got some low-laying cushions on the floor in my office, and she'll hang out while I work, just like the other cats (who tend to stay up high, on my desk, shelves, etc…). She's found some peace with Rudie & Rosie, which is good, but also not so good, as she no longer chases Rudie away from her food when he goes into her room (really, she scared the bejesus out of him on a few occasions early on, even leaping off the bed to chase him out of the room!). I'm tapering off leaving food out for her because of that.”
©2013 Angi Shearstone. Completely vulnerable with her belly up, Chloe lays on the sofa and watches TV with Angi. Is this love?
“…Chloe's even come up on the couch while I watch TV, or gone up there while I'm working in the office. The Oranges will keep some distance if I'm watching TV, but will sit on the back of the couch or on the other side of me. Even the nibbles are fading, and are even more "affectionate" than ever, and not mean. I can pick her up (slowly and supportively, as she's still so big!), pet her without worrying about my approach. She even lets me pet her kinda "roughly," I really don't feel like I have to be careful around her at all.”
“… the landmarks are getting smaller now that she's so much more normalized, but I thought this was worth mentioning:
©2013 Angi Shearstone. She's just a cat, doing regular cat things. That this happened is far from regular.
Today, very briefly, I caught Chloe playing by herself. She was in the office with me while I was drawing. There's a cushion I have on the floor that she likes, I keep it near my computer chair. There was one of those furry mousies half underneath it. She pawed at it to get it out from under the cushion, and then played with it for a bit. It was only for maybe 30 seconds, and she stopped by the time I got to the camera. But still. A sign of a much happier cat.”
When I met Chloe back in March I couldn’t even touch her. She was ready to attack me with whatever she had, claws or no claws. If I hadn’t seen her behave normally and confidently before she went into defense mode, I would have been hard pressed to even consider giving her a chance. In that glimmer of sweetness, I saw hope and we had to try to help her. I’m so very glad I stepped in to assess Chloe because if her former “owner” had his way, Chloe would have been dead by now. Instead, Chloe is finding out what it’s like to live a life without abuse or neglect, a life that has richness, love and companionship.
©2013 Angi Shearstone. Friends at last. Way to go Angi & Chloe!
Go Team Chloe!If you'd like to catch up on Chloe's story from the beginning you can check out these posts:
All photos and email-quotes Used with Permission.
I've been keeping some really exciting news under wraps. It would have been good enough to tell you that the Walker Art Center's (WAC) Internet Cat Video Festival is coming back bigger and better to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, August 28, 2013 at 7pm and that the crowds are expected to top 13,000 cat lovers from around the globe, but..there's more!
I'm deeply honored to be part of WAC's group of cat-centric writers, entertainers and cat behaviorists who will be reviewing thousands of videos, with one goal-to tease out top contenders in nine different CATegories. Winning entries get the coveted Golden Kitty (statuette, not a real cat!).
To enter your favorite videos fill out the Internet Cat Video Festival Nomination Form.
Tickets are only $10.00 and are selling fast so don’t miss out. Rumor has it there are going to be some VERY AWESOME CELEBU-CAT GUESTS!
Order by phone at 800.514.3849
If you can't come to the Festival, you can still get a COOL t-shirt (Spencer not included!). ORDER HERE.
You can get more details or sign up to let them know you'll be attending the event via the Internet Cat Video Festival's Facebook page. To find out what other cool things WAC has up their sleeve pop over to their Facebook page. (hint: one of them is specially designed MINI-GOLF COURSE!)
Let me know if you'll be attending the Internet Cat Video Festival and we'll have a special Covered in Cat Hair club gathering! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
See you in August in St. Paul, Minnesota!
I just heard from Lisa, our friend at SPCA of Wake County in Raleigh, NC. She gave me an update on the 9 cats (an additional 3 cats went to another rescue) they rescued from Iredell Animals Services last week. If you recall, these cats were subjected to being caged for 2 YEARS due to an animal cruelty investigation and subsequent court case. Once the cats were free to go, they still faced being euthanized because many have minor health issues and some are senior-aged.
©2013 SPCA Wake County. Tabitha enjoying life out of a cage.
SPCA Wake County didn't balk at taking on these cats. They didn't pick out the prettiest ones or easiest to adopt-they TOOK THEM ALL and my hat is off to them for their good deed.
From Lisa's email, this is what we have learned:
©2013 SPCA Wake County. Brian, still a bit scared, but slowly coming out of his shell.
“Benson, Brian, Cougar and Tabitha are the first ones available for adoption. You can see their photos and listings at www.spcawake.org/adopt by clicking on the "view cats available for adoption" icon and scrolling through the alphabetical list. Attached is a photo of Tabitha and Cougar lounging in one of our communal cat rooms.
Leroy, Max and Jethro all turned out to be intact. They will be neutered tomorrow and available for adoption starting on Friday.
©2013 SPCA Wake County. Cougar, tail up, happy again!
Tori had a cyst on her chin and we're waiting for lab results before we put her up for adoption.
©2013 SPCA Wake County. Tabitha (back) and Cougra (front) relax in their comfortable new shelter. All they need is to be adopted!
All nine cats have done just fine with us so far and I'm so glad we've been able to help them by giving them a high-volume adoption center to call home until the right people come along.”
200 Petfinder Lane
Raleigh, NC 27603
Twelve cats I reported about a week ago who were caged for TWO YEARS at Iredell Animal Services due to a legal dispute, had their dream come true today. EVERY SINGLE CAT HAS A RESCUE. ALL OF THE CATS ARE SAFE AND SOUND. NONE OF THEM WERE EUTHANIZED!
Please visit their FACEBOOK PAGE and tell them THANK YOU from Covered in Cat Hair and LIKE THEIR PAGE!
If you feel so inclined MAKE A DONATION in honor of these cats so that SPCA of Wake County can continue to help cats like these in the future.
SPCA of WAKE COUNTY-YOU ROCK. You took on all the cats. You didn't “cherry pick” out the “good” ones. You're helping them all.
IF YOU LIVE IN OR NEAR RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA, stop by SPCA of Wake County and ADOPT ONE OF THESE KITTIES! They've had a Hell of a long ride and deserve loving homes. If you know of anyone looking to adopt, send them to SPCA of Wake County!
Brian is aNeutered male, short haired white/orange tabby. He's a LARGE cat. Good appetite! Brian is good with other cats, but is a little shy. Not aggressive at all with cats or people, just nervous. Would probably come out of his "shell" once in a calm and quiet home. Does have eye and nose drainage. Has upper resp. issues.
Poor Brian! He sits in his cat litter pan because the scent of it is his only comfort. Brain looks depressed or angry, but he's a nice kitty. He's emotionally exhausted from the stress of living in a cage for so long. Can you love this big lug?
Cougar is a short haired female (underbelly indicates possibly spayed). Good temperament. Possible slight upper resp. symptoms.
Rarely do black cats have a happy ending once their in a shelter. Cougar is a nice cat who just needs a break.
Intact male, 3-5 years of age. Medium haired Tabby/White. Temperament was very good, but in last few months has been slightly temperamental (they believe once out of "caged" environment temperament will once again improve). Possible slight upper resp. issues, but overall seems healthy!
Look at that FACE! Jethro is asking you to bust him out of that cage. He's so handsome and friendly, I'm sure he would make a great addition to any home.
Intact male, short haired gray/white. Very friendly. Seems ok with other cats. Cat is slim, but not too underweight. Cat has good appetite. Slight upper resp. issues. Owner had as 10 years of age, would not guess that old in age.
What do you think? I think Max wants to play and have fun! What pretty eyes, too!
Medium haired, neutered male orange tabby. Approx 7 years old. Cat is overweight and has a great appetite! Very friendly with other cats and with people. Have not noticed any eye or nose discharge, but still possible to have slight upper respiratory issues. Teeth are yellowing and are "worn".
Red Boy is an older kitty. Those of you who know this blog well, will notice that he looks too much like my guy, Bob Dole. Red Boy is too adorable to stay in a cage any longer.
Neutered/Male, Medium haired Orange Tabby/White. Approx 5 years old. Cat is friendly, but VERY nervous. Not aggressive. I believe once out of a "caged" environment will be an independent calm and happy cat. Weight is good. Possible slight upper resp. issues.
Sammy looks so scared, but what a knockout! He's another cat who will blossom once he's safely out of the shelter.
Medium/Long haired, dilute calico/tortie markings. Approx 3 years old. Very friendly with people, but does not like being scruffed. Would do best as an only cat (seems to be agitated by other cats). Cat seems to "talk" instead of meow! Loving girl. Does have issue with hair balls, but I believe once in a home and groomed regularly will improve. Possible slight upper resp. issues. [Note from Robin: I find it tough to agree that the cat needs to be an only cat. She should be evaluated in less stressful environment. She can probably get on with other cats if introduced properly.]
I don't have to convince anyone that Suzie needs to be rescued. Look at her!
Short haired, black/white cat. Has some dental issues. Very friendly and seems ok with other cats. Good body weight, but poor hair coat (dull coat). Has slight upper respiratory issues.
Sweet Tori. It's easy to overlook a cat who might have some minor health issues, but none of them are her fault. With good food and some vet care, this kitty could be your best friend.
Short haired, gray/white cat. Slightly underweight. Very friendly. Has started to defecate outside of litter box in past couple months. I believe once out of a "caged" environment cat will return to using litter box. Fur is dull.
This photo arrived distorted so I tried to fix it. Working on getting a replacement image.
Journey is a senior-about 12 years old. She's a short haired, black/white cat. Cat has no teeth and has been on canned food only. Cat has upper respiratory issues. Cat appears to be losing weight and appears to have stopped grooming regularly. Poor fur coat. Cat is friendly and seems ok with other cats, but is "high energy". Possibly spayed.
This is the initial notes from the shelter. I personally had this cat for a week in my office. She was beyond kennel stressed, and just letting her out in my office to stretch was the best thing for her. She is absolutely hilarious! In the mornings she would greet me at the door, and proceed to stand on my desk in front of my computer screen and paw at me until we had our morning “hellos”. She would only then go and lay in her bed. Wonderfully loving and sweet cat!
She's a SENIOR and a wreck. Of all the cats this one cuts me the deepest. I hope we can find a way to get her OUT. I know she can recover from her difficult time in a cage, but we need help to make it happen.
Benson is an approximately 5 year old, neutered male tabby cat. He has URI issues with an unknown cause despite treatment. [Note from Robin: He may have bartonella which is an easy test to do and 3 week course of antibiotics-not a big deal if that's the case. Just being out of this environment may be all he needs to get better. Cats get SICK if they get STRESSED.] He is friendly to humans and is good around other cats. His left ear slouches, and we suspect that is from an old hematoma.
This guy is a big, friendly dude. Sure he's a bit rough around the edges, but with a little polishing he'll be a treasure. He just wants to make friends and love his family.
Tabitha is an approximately 5 year old female tabby cat. We suspect she is spayed due to her body condition, but we cannot be sure. She is friendly with humans and other cats. She has a chronic URI issue, with an unknown cause, despite medical treatment. [Note from Robin: she may also have bartonella which is an easy test to do and 3 week course of antibiotics-not a big deal if that's the case. Just being out of this environment may be all she needs to get better. Cats get SICK if they get STRESSED.]
She's a sweet tabby who has not only suffered confinement, but illness. She CAN get better and it may take as little as getting out OUT of the shelter and into a loving home. Please don't overlook this little sweetie.
Dee reads my blog (Thank you, Dee!). She bugged her friend, Angi to give Chloe a foster home since Angi lives in Connecticut, has cats and LOVES cats enough to take on one more (and she's also an awesome artist). Dee already fosters cats and knows that Angi would do a great job so she used whatever secret powers she has to urge Angi to give Chloe a home until she's ready to go to her forever home.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor Chloe. Feeling scared was not a surprise, but what happened next certainly was.
I would call this “finding a foster home in a haystack,” because I thought there is NO WAY we're going to be able to find a LONG-TERM foster home for Chloe. Color me surprised.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A little self-soothing foot bath before she explores the room any further.
Angi is awesome. She's vivacious and cute with a funky-cool haircut and an easy going attitude. I did a home visit to make sure she had a good space for Chloe to pass the next few months, recover from her abuse and to lose a bit of weight (she's already lost a pound). Angi had a perfect space-a guest room in the corner of her home that overlooks her yard. It's a far cry from the bathroom where Chloe has been staying with Katherine and it's almost as big as the entire living room where Chloe once lived with her former guardian.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Katherine brings out Chloe's favorite brush.
Everything went well with the home visit and today Katherine and I delivered Chloe to Angi's home.
Chloe didn't protest too much in the car, but Katherine and I both worried what she'd do when she got out of her cat carrier. Would she completely revert to being aggressive with Angi? Would she try to bite her? Would she growl and lash out?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Chloe's FAVORITE-Cat Grass!
We covered her cat carrier and rushed her into Angi's house, before Angi's three cats knew what we were up to. We got the room set up with Chloe's things while Chloe watched us from the safety of her crate.
Then came the big moment-opening the door.
We all took a collective deep breath as Katherine opened the crate. Out walked Chloe, planting her face directly into a small container of cat grass. Content to munch on her favorite treat, we all relaxed. At least Chloe wasn't going to charge us, guns blazing.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Or is Chloe's favorite thing being brushed?
Chloe, energized from her treat, surprised us by getting up and casually began to examine her new home. She rubbed her face onto Angi's outstretched hand, the table, the edge of the cat carrier. She rubbed up against ME, which at first scared, then delighted me, leaving me sitting there with my mouth hanging open like an idiot.
Chloe continued exploring the room. She didn't go very fast or very far. She had to take a break and sit down every so often, but she wasn't hiding. She was simply curious. So far, so good.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Happy Buddha-kitty!
Katherine got Chloe's favorite brush out and that put a smile onto this kitty's face. Chloe loved being brushed and it helped her relax.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Reaching up to be brushed. More, please!
Chloe got a bit irritated from all the attention. Perhaps it was a bit too much, too soon. She gave Katherine and Angi a “love bite,” but nothing worse. Katherine stopped brushing Chloe and decided it was time to go over the instructions for taking care of her with Angi.
Katherine and I left Angi's, feeling happy and hopeful that Chloe would finally have a chance to flower.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A little love from Katherine.
A few hours later, Angi wrote that she was have a bit of hard time getting BACK into the room with Chloe and that Chloe attacked her ankles. I guess I shouldn't have made a joke about the boots, but then I realized maybe someone had kicked Chloe and that's why she was upset? When we let her out of the cat carrier, we were all sitting on the floor, which made us less intimidating. Now what was Angi going to do?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A few skritches from Aunt Angi.
Angi took it in stride. She knows this is going to be a long process and now Chloe will have to learn to trust her, too. She's prepared to give Chloe every chance, if Chloe will just allow her into the room once in awhile so she can water her plants.
©2012 Maria S. Our first glimpse of Willow-stuck up in a tree.
Almost a year has passed since our-Maria rescued a stray kitty out of a maple tree. We didn't know her story, only that she was probably dumped and a pit bull saw her and chased her up the tree. Maria had quite the time getting her down, but from the very first moments, we knew that Willow was going to be a special kitty. (read more about Willow's rescue HERE).
©2012 Maria S. (inset) and ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow's transformation.
From day one, Willow was very sick with some sort of upper respiratory tract infection. She was thin. Her coat was ragged, but Willow was very easy-going and friendly. In fact, Maria soon realized she could put a harness on Willow and take her for walks and even jokingly put a baby doll dress on her. Willow was fine with whatever came her way.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow enjoying the sunshine…
We tried many rounds of antibiotics to cure Willow's sneezes and runny eyes. They worked for a time, but she would get sick again and again. We tried 60 days of doxycycline, only for it to return. Willow had been in our program for over six months with no real idea of what was ailing her. I finally decided to try to test her for Bartonella this bast January.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. …and the view of the woods.
Due to a mixup, I never found out that the test was a STRONG POSITIVE until MARCH! Once we knew, we began treatment and she got better right away.
Of course, I couldn't easily put Willow up for adoption if she was sick, but between cycles of her illness it seemed she was fine so I processed LOTS of applications and even went on a few home visits, but NOTHING EVER PANNED OUT.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A tender moment with Fred.
I got an application from a gentleman named, Matthew. He's young and married and has a nice home north of here. I did a Vet check and it panned out. He was very sweet when he talked about his cats and I really liked him.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow has tortie-patterned paws-you can just see it here.
I knew that telling an adopter about a cat being sick could have them give up on her. Many folks will just think they're getting a terminally sick cat and move on to another rescue. I worried that Matthew would not want Willow but he just asked me if it was contagious and I said no. I didn't hear from him for a day or two and finally he wrote that if I could medicate Willow and keep her here, that he would be happy to adopt her after her medication was done-which would be another month.
©2012 Maria S. (inset). ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. On the way to her new home, Willow's journey is almost complete.
Willow is such a sweet cat. She's become the mother-figure to all the other fosters. They adore her and cling to her and she calmly reassures them as she grooms them. I didn't mind having her for awhile longer.
The day finally arrived to bring Willow to Matthew. I was very sad because Willow is a "top 10" sort of cat. She simply had no unwanted habits, she was always friendly to everyone and affectionate. She was silly and seemed to always be happy and she is so very lovely to look at-with her crazy, undefinable patterning and colors. I loved her dearly and definitely would be missing her a great deal-and I worried that Fred & Barney would, too.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Back seat driver!
We got Willow packed up. I had all sorts of toys, food, a scratcher, catnip, a cat bed-everything I could think of to get Willow off on a good start. I even brought extra toys for her two new kitty friends. She didn't want to be in her cat carrier, so I let her out. She panted a bit, out of fear and excitement, but eventually she just sat on top of her cat carrier and watched the world go by. What a GREAT cat!
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow is so cool she can even travel in the car in style.
We got Willow settled and she immediately started to PLAY in her new room! She didn't hide or run off. She rubbed her face on the furnishings, marking her new space with her scent. She went over to Matthew to get some pets. She seemed completely cheerful, as ever. Meanwhile, Roo, one of her new friends, was sitting outside the door, wondering what was going on.
©2013 Matthew R. Willow, in her new home eats while her new sister, Roo, eats on the other side of the door.
I didn't want to leave Willow, but as it always goes, I have to do it. I have to do it so I can help more cats. I gave her a kiss on the “M” on her forehead, her silky soft fur brushed my lips. I told her I loved her one last time. With a heavy heart I went home wishing she could have stayed with us. I crossed my fingers and said a silent prayer that I hoped I'd made a good choice for Willow and that she would have a lifetime of happiness with her new family.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Our last moments with Willow before it was time to head to her new home.
When I first met Chloe and assessed her for rescue, I had serious concerns that her behavior would change any time soon-that I'd be putting my friend, Katherine into a tough situation because ultimately Katherine would be responsible for this cat's future. I was clear with Katherine that right now Chloe was not adoptable, but I had a glimmer of faith that this cat COULD turn around. We just didn't know if it would take months or years to do so. In cat rescue it's rare to have the luxury of time when there are so many other cats who are just as deserving and who also need help. It's a constant dilemma.
©2013 Katherine Reid. Chloe's back is finally free from mats
The good thing about smaller rescues is that sometimes they can take that time. They aren't faced with the crushing demand big shelters get for space-not that they aren't always busy, but it's not as severe. Even here I've been able to hold cats for over a year when necessary. Is it the best thing to do? No. For those cats, I'd guess they'd beg to differ.
©2013 Katherine Reid. Chloe knows there's a treat on Katherine's leg, but will she try to reach it?
Chloe has made some astounding changes, almost overnight. Katherine has worked tirelessly to offer Chloe everything she can think of to enrich Chloe's life and give Chloe a good reason to bond with Katherine. Katherine tried all sorts of grain-free treats, different types of canned and dry food. Two days ago Katherine brought Chloe an offering of cat grass-something none of us had thought to try. Within moments Chloe was greedily chomping the grass. She was having SO MUCH FUN that Katherine was able to brush away Chloe's matted fur. Chloe was too happy to care about being brushed and the mats came out easily.
©2013 Katherine Reid. Treat gone! Cat on lap-almost!
Katherine persisted, always giving Chloe space and passed only short periods of time in the room with her.
©2013 Katherine Reid. First pets-no growling or hissing, too!
Once Katherine began to pet Chloe, a new cat shyly emerged, one who may have been beaten down, or simply ignored for so long that she gave up, we'll never really know. What we do know is that Chloe is blossoming, instead of retreating. This cat has the heart of a warrior, this chubby siamese mix, and so does her foster mom.
©2013 Katherine Reid.
©2013 Katherine Reid. Katherine tried a number of different brush types on Chloe until she reacted positively. Look a the HUGE change in Chloe's expression.
Katherine and I are cut from the same cloth. We NEVER want to give up on ANY CAT and Chloe was no different. We couldn't know she would begin to trust again, but when I saw that glimmer of joy the moment I met her, fleeting though it was, I had a feeling we needed to try and I'm so grateful that Katherine agreed.
Chloe still has a long road ahead of her, but now that her mats are brushed away and her ears have finally been medicated, each day Chloe will feel more comfortable and confident.
©2013 Katherine Reid. This is the moment all rescuers live for. Thank you to Katherine for sharing it with all of us.
Animals in Distress is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. If you'd like to make a donation to help with Chloe's long-term care, you can use this LINK to their PayPal account. Thank you!
It's been almost two weeks since the grossly overweight and possibly abused kitty, Chloe, was removed from her home and placed under the care of Animals in Distress. For now, Chloe is staying with my friend, Katherine, who oversees intake of all the cats in the AID program and is a very savvy foster mom.
Chloe has had a peaceful few weeks and after only one incident I reported initially, Chloe has not lashed out at Katherine. In fact, Chloe is showing signs of relaxing and learning to trust again.
©2013 Katherine Reid. Hopefully this is one of the last photo you'll see of Chloe's back mats! Katherine is starting to remove them.
The first few days were the toughest. Chloe would not move, urinated and defecated on herself and barely ate. Katherine tried to clean her off, but was met with so much resistance that we all decided it was best to leave her alone. Katherine focused on offering Chloe a variety of grain-free dry food as her first attempt to get Chloe moving in the right direction.
Chloe took to one of the brands and began to eat. Katherine also offered Chloe some plain chicken baby food from a spoon, which encouraged Chloe to both regard Katherine in a positive way and to help Chloe want to interact, instead of withdraw.
Katherine had to move slowly and not do too much. It was easy to upset Chloe, so she did less, instead of overload her. With the guidance of our friend Wendy Christensen, cat behaviorist and author, she kept the pace to baby steps only.
©2013 Katherine Reid. Is that a smile I see?
Chloe began using her litter pan and eating more than a mouthful of food. With such an obese cat, we have to be careful NOT to restrict her food intake as much as IMPROVE her food, for now. Once she is stable, she will no longer be free-fed and will begin the process of eating grain-free canned food, in monitored amounts, until she can lose some weight.
Chloe also may have bad teeth and an ear infection-both issues will be dealt with as soon as we feel Chloe can be handled without it putting her into a panic. We're hoping that at least the ear issues may resolve, to some degree, with better food. Her body may be reacting to the grain in the food by making her ears get a build up of material. It's unlikely she has ear mites, but she WILL get the treatment as soon as it's safe to do so.
©2013 Katherine Reid. Chloe's sweetness may be starting to emerge-and what a cute face she has!
This morning I got a note from Katherine that she had another small breakthrough. Last night she was able to brush Chloe's face, which she liked, and while she was brushing Chloe, Katherine managed to pick out a few of the mats on the cat's back (which she pulled out easily without causing any irritation to Chloe). As you can see in the photos, Chloe looks like she's almost smiling and for that, we are all very pleased and hopeful that Chloe's story will continue to be one filled with promise. I know we're all rooting for this kitty to make it through this difficult time.
Animals in Distress is a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization. If you'd like to make a donation to help with Chloe's long-term care, you can use this LINK to their PayPal account. Thank you!
©2013 Katherine Reid. Lucy, safe in her new foster home.
UPDATE: Shortly after Chloe was returned from the home, the former guardian called saying that Lucy HAD to go, too. Lucy has been placed with AID and is doing well. I've met this cat and she's VERY friendly and gets on well with other cats, too. If you live in CONNECTICUT and would like to know more about Lucy, please visit her PETFINDER PAGE!.
Chloe sits in the center of the living room. I can’t see her back legs from where I’m sitting, a few feet away. Her front legs are comically dwarfed, little white mitts, in comparison to the rest of her body.
It’s completely heartbreaking to look at her.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Look, but don't touch.
I met Chloe last week after getting a number of calls from my Vet, the Animal Control Officer in town and a woman who is friends with Chloe’s guardian. The story I got was that the guardian, who I will call Dave, was calling our ACO and Vet to find out if he could get someone to come over to euthanize his cat.
Upon further discussion it was disclosed the Chloe had been biting people and that Dave, being basically house-bound and disabled, had to get rid of the cat because his caretaker was making a fuss about her.
Obviously there were other reasons why the caretaker wanted to end Chloe’s life, but I couldn’t know the reason until I learned more.
The ACO said she might have to put the cat down if it was a biter. She couldn’t be adopted if she was going to hurt a future adopter. Chloe was at least 10 years old, if not older, and the odds of finding her any home were slim to none, even if she was a Siamese under all that extra weight.
I offered to go to the home to assess the cat. We could hear stories about her, but I needed to see her for myself. I was told the cat was chubby, but I had no idea how grossly obese she was until I met her.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Chole's back fur is quite matted and I'm sure causing her some discomfort.
I visited Dave, along with his friend, Frances (not her real name). She’d met Chloe many times, but was hard pressed to describe her behavior to me, which I found very puzzling. Is the cat friendly or not? What’s the deal here?
I entered the small living room of the 1-bedroom apartment. Chloe was sitting on the top of the sofa. As I walked into the room and sat down on a nearby chair, she came over to say hello.
I let her settle down. She sat in the center of the room, commanding the space. She growled softly, which turned into a whine, then back to a growl. Her ears were not flat. Her tail didn’t whip up and down in anger. Her pupils were dilated. I made no move to touch her.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. There IS a cat under there, somewhere.
I spoke with Dave and got some history on the cat. He’d gotten her a few years ago from a woman in Fairfield. Chloe supposedly slept on his chest and would tap him to get petted. That the day before three Missionaries had come to visit, all men, and she had been fine with them, so why was she so distressed by me?
We talked about food. He said he got really good food (not even close to good-in my opinion) for the cats, some sort of house brand dry and that was it. Clearly this cat was being given a huge bowl of food to snack on day and night. She could barely walk. I imagined that part of her fear was that she was too fat to flee, should I be a threat to her. She might also be in a lot of pain from carrying so much weight on her bones.
I’d worked out a deal with my dear friend, Katherine from Animals in Distress. We would get the cat vetted, then re-assess her behavior at that time. We owed it to Chloe to give her a chance to stabilize her weight and behavior before making any other decisions about her future.
It’s one thing to deal with a feral cat, but a fearful cat is a different thing altogether.
Our choices were to either put Chloe down or give her a chance. Katherine and I chose to give her some time. The problem is we needed a foster home for Chloe and Katherine had to sacrifice the last precious space she has left in her home that doesn’t already have cats in it. It wasn’t ideal, but for now it’s all we had. No one would step up to take this cat and most of my fosters are sick and I know I’d have her with me forever and I just couldn’t do that to my cats. At least Katherine might be able to put Chloe into their shelter if she was ever well enough to go there.
A few days later, Chloe was taken to the Vet. I don’t know how they managed, but they did get blood work done and there was nothing indicating her thyroid was off, which could have caused her emotional issues, or that she was diabetic, which was surprising. I don’t know if the Vet looked at her teeth, but Chloe probably had some painful gums, at least, from all the junky food.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh dear, dear, Chloe.
Katherine brought Chloe home and placed her in a bathroom where she’d be living until we could get her settled. It’s unlikely we’d find her a foster home with her behavior issues, at least for now.
All Katherine was doing was trying to help Chloe feel more comfortable and clean. She called me, distressed, but laughing through her irritation. I felt so badly, but I hadn’t told Katherine anything other than the truth-the cat was NOT adoptable right now, but that we should at least try to give her a chance to blossom. These would be the worst days-hopefully better ones would follow.
I contacted my friend, Wendy Christensen, who is an award-winning author and illustrator. Her books include The Humane Society of the United States Complete Guide to Cat Care. She's written for Cat Fancy, Kittens USA, Catnip, CatWatch, Natural Cat, and Natural Pet. Wendy is one of my go-to people when I have a cat behavior issue that stumps me. Because she’s not directly involved with Chloe, I knew she could offer me perspective without any bias one way or the other.
Wendy wrote me back, a very long email. She was very troubled by what she was told about Chloe. She said what I also feared, it’s very likely that Chloe has been abused.
Wendy wrote: “I would concur that she's probably been abused. What she needs more than anything else is peace and quiet and a calm, stable environment. She is just too stressed to deal with any human interaction right now. I know it sounds "cruel," but she needs to be left alone to get some of her confidence back, stabilize and heal for awhile. She needs to be alone so she can start to feel safe again.
Her size has clearly made it very hard for her to move about and escape whatever peril she was placed in. Escapability is primary for cats' mental health. She has felt (and still feels) utterly trapped and at the mercy of others -- possibly the worst thing a cat can experience. She is in a super-super-sensitive frame of mind. She doesn't need a lot of space, but she DOES need safety, peace, quiet, stability, and predictability.”
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. With pupils dilated with fear, Chloe readies herself to strike, but I can't help wanting to pet her and soothe her anxiety, regardless.
Of course, my first thought was, that the caretaker who hated this cat and wanted her put to sleep was responsible. What was he doing to her when no one was looking?
There’s no way to know if he ever even lifted a finger to Chloe, but it certainly makes sense. There’s no way to know that Dave wasn’t the one who harmed her either, but clearly something terrible happened to Chloe and now she needs us to understand that and give her the space she needs to heal.
And then there’s the other cat in the home, Lucy; Lucy who is so friendly and outgoing. What will become of her? We need to get her out of this place, too. It’s only a matter of time before she is so big she can’t walk either, or so sick from never being vetted that she dies.
Our first goal is to focus on Chloe and hope her sweet nature will emerge one day. I saw a flicker of that sweetness the first moment I met her. She’s suffering from crippling fear brought on by abuse.
I realize this is a long-shot, but if you live in the Wilton, CT area and have lots of experience working with cats, if you can provide a SEPARATE space in your home that’s quiet and safe and you’re willing to basically just keep Chloe fed, but otherwise left alone, please contact me: email@example.com
Chloe is going to need long-term care. If you’d like to make a donation to help Chloe, please donate via PayPal HERE. Animals in Distress is a 501(c) 3, non-profit so your donation is tax deductible.
Wendy has recently begun offering fee-based cat behavior consultations. If you're in need of her services, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details
Another resources for help with cat behavior issues, is Wendy's latest book: Outsmarting Cats: How to Persuade the Felines in Your Life to do What You Want which was just published earlier this month.
The main foster room is quiet now. I don't hear the thudding, stomping, or occasional crashing sounds from above my office in the room where Coco, Latte, Willow, Barney and Fred lived. Three young cats still live there, waiting for their forever homes, but as of this afternoon, two have moved on.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The perpetually lovely, Coco.
I'm sad. I'm always sad to see them go. They were here far too long. These cats were in our program for almost a year-which astonishes me since we had them when they were kittens, but at that time, when they were most adoptable, many of them had health issues and we had to wait to place them.
I was also up to my ears here, having taken on a litter of all black (save for one) kittens who were taking far too long to adopt out, as well. It meant this group from Georgia had to wait even longer to arrive and once they did it seemed like either no one wanted them or one adopter after another fell through.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Ready to pounce.
I must have gotten 50 inquiries and many of the applications on Coco. Of course everyone would want her being a Flame Point Siamese mix. Who wouldn't want a cat with peach and china blue eyes and delicate orange points (a creamy coat with darker facial masks, ears, tails, paws, nose leather and paw pads. These darker areas are known as their points.).
Of the many applicants there were a very few good options. Some just lived too far away, in states with tough animal importation laws, and there were too many other things going on, too. I have no volunteers to help process applications and the task can be daunting for me.
I did one home visit, thinking I had Coco's home, but with all due respect, it was too cluttered and though the people were so very nice and lovely, I just couldn't place Coco there. Knowing she tends to be a bit “Princessy” I imagined her hiding under a bed for the rest of her life. I still feel badly about that, but I had to move on for her sake.
A local family stepped forward to adopt Coco and I thought this was FINALLY who I'd been looking for. They came to meet Coco a few times. They promised they were going to adopt her just as soon as another family member's cat returned to his home with his guardian (they were visiting). Two months went by and I got an email; "Sorry, our daughter didn't do some [no idea what] chore and she can't have the cat.”
What could I do? I moved on. Coco was 7 or 8 months old by now. Lucky for her she still had her looks even if she wasn't a sweet little kitten.
Sifting through more and more applications I finally hit a good one from a very nice lady and her husband. They live north of here and didn't currently have any cats or pets. I was worried that Coco would be sad, but I also was feeling like I had to get her a home and she would be treated so well that perhaps she would be happy being on her own? Her new mom didn't work full time so Coco wouldn't be alone a lot.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
I did the home visit and it went very well so we made plans for the couple to meet Coco in a few days.
The next day, I got an email from the couple; “Family emergency. We have to fly out of town. Can you please hold Coco for us?”
“Oh no, not this again.” I thought.
I liked this family so I gave them a break and said to let me know when they got back from their trip, worrying that I would never hear from them again.
Though there was very sad news for the family, they wanted to move forward with the adoption and let me know when they returned, as promised.
But now Coco was sick! She had a slight fever and wasn't eating. She wasn't running after her toys so I took her to the Vet. They gave her SubQ fluids and sent her home. Hopefully whatever it was would pass. Of course-perfect timing.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The goofy twosome.
I almost lost the adoption again when I had to tell the family Coco was sick. There was some confusion, but in the end it worked out. They waited a few days and came to visit Coco when she was nearly well enough to be adopted. It had taken almost a month to get to this point. I was very hopeful this was going to be the one that would stick.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Those heart-stopping eyes.
During the visit, Faith, Coco's new mom, talked to me about adopting Coco as a sole cat. I was honest, but not pushy. I preferred Coco go with one of the others, but I would never try to manipulate someone to do that. I explained the benefit of having two cats who are already friends-watching them play, groom each other, sleep together. She'd know they'd keep each other company when no one else was home. Since the house was large and there were no other pets, why not, if the family could afford a second cat.
Right away Faith started looking around the room. Her eyes fell on Latte who was rolling around on the floor getting litter dust on her fur.
“I like that one. What do you think of her going with Coco?” Faith asked.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I nicknamed Latte, La-La and she often came to me when I called her by that name.
There was some discussion back and forth about maybe Barney being a better choice. The husband wasn't a big fan of Latte's but I had a feeling she would win him over later. In truth, these were Faith's cats. He just had to nod and smile, which he did with resigned elegance, I must say.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Latte and Barney ready to pounce.
I encouraged them leave without taking ANY of the cats. I wanted them to think about it over night. I promised I'd bring the cats to them, whatever they decided. This is a big commitment to take on and it should not be rushed.
The next morning I got an email from them. I was afraid to read it, but once I did a big smile spread across my face. They wanted both girls and could I please come soon? They didn't want to wait any longer.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Raised together as sisters and will now be adopted together!
This afternoon I packed the girls up into cat carriers and also packed up some food, toys and two cat beds that were made for us by Mrs. Medaugh's Third Grade Class at St. Rose School in New Lexington, Ohio. I packed Latte's favorite Kong toy and I added a catnip banana to the mix since we had a few that were donated to us. The girls were silent the entire journey. I knew they'd be scared, but I knew they'd work past it. My job was to get them settled and say my farewells though I had a very heavy heart.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Latte and Willow had become very close with Latte turning to Willow as she would her own mother. I saw them grooming each other from time to time and I hoped that Latte would find the same affection from Coco one day.
Faith cheerfully met me at the door. She carried Coco into their new room while I took Latte. I suggested that we start the girls off in just one room, so they didn't run off and hide somewhere, never to be seen again. The room Faith chose is a lovely corner space on the main floor. There are french doors on one side, with windows all around. It's brightly lit, clean and warm. Faith set out a big cat bed-enoguh room for two, some cat scratchers, a tiny scratching post and some toys. We sat on the floor together as the girls explored, but mostly hid, in their new home.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The part of the story we're never sure we're going to reach when we first do a rescue. Tiny Coco was living outdoors in terrible conditions when we rescued her. You can read some of her backstory HERE.
I probably told Faith too many little things to make sure she did, so the introduction phase went well…things like not to go after the cats but let them come to her..not to move the litter pans too soon into the basement and to not move the girls out of the room until she saw them walking with their tails held high and were confident in their new space. It would take time for them to adjust, but going slowly would pay off later.
I'd already kissed each cat goodbye before I put them into their carriers and left for their new home. I only had a last glimpse of Latte's nose and tail pocking out from under a dresser and no sign of Coco at all. I knew they were under the dresser together, but I was sorry our final moments weren't a bit sweeter.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Latte and her brother, Tater Tot were terribly ill-especially Tater. Latte blossomed into a big, strong beauty. She and Coco were born on the same property to different mothers. It's possible they may share the same father. Some of her backstory is HERE.
To Coco, you are a true beauty and I'm so happy for you. To Latte, watching you blossom has been an honor; from terrified to a little gem of a warrior. You have a sparkling soul and I adore you. I hope you and Coco will know a lifetime of love. I've done my best to make sure you have the best chance at finding it. The rest is up to you.