Continued from Chapter 1.
Instead of freaking out, I sat for a moment and thought about it. What did I need to bring with me? Maybe there was someone who could also help and advise me. I called our vet at the Cat Clinic and asked if there was anyone on staff who could possibly bottle-feed a kitten if my mama-cat rejected him. They put me on hold for a few minutes then told me to call Christine. She would be glad to help. GLAD TO HELP? Really? I didn’t have to make 100 phone calls? I didn’t have to beg for favors? All I had to do was keep the kitten alive for 24 hours and she could pick him up the following day. Even though I was woefully stiff, I got up and started to put together a kit of things for the kitten, energized by knowing that a Vet tech, no less, had my back. This was going to work!
Sam drove us to the Fire Station, while I went over in my head what I’d do once I saw the kitten. First, see if it was warm enough then give it a small amount of warmed goat milk. I had some in a baby bottle and in a syringe, covered by a portable heating pad so it would stay warm. I had a cat carrier with a warm blanket. I brought a flea comb but then realized he would be too young to treat with any flea products so he’d have to get a bath-which I still fear doing to little guys.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Our first look at Wallace.
Once we arrived at the Station we were greeted by the Dispatcher who called for Lt. K. to bring us the kitten. She arrived moments later carrying an old blue milk crate with a towel inside it. I couldn’t see anything more than that at first, but as she placed the crate down, I saw a little kitten's head covered by a towel. The kitten started to cry. I saw stripes. It was a little silver tabby.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. After giving Wallace some goat milk he was so hungry he licked some of the drops off Sam's hand.
I lifted the kitten from the towel. I could feel dirt on his coat from being inside the wall. He was crying, very thin, but definitely about 3 weeks old-the same age as the kittens I was fostering, but half the weight. I checked him quickly for fleas while Sam held him. I didn’t even realize it but four other firemen had joined us and were watching my every move. As I continued to examine the kitten, one of them asked if it was a boy or girl. I took a look and I was certain it was a boy. They were delighted by that and amazed how I could tell the difference. Sexing kittens is not too difficult at that age, but they had never done it before. I realized how odd it was to be rescuing a kitten from people who spend their life doing rescue. We were giving back to our community and were honoring what they did every day by assisting them when they needed us. I felt really proud at that moment.
Wallace had a runny eye and continued to cry. I fumbled around and got a syringe of milk ready. Not even caring that I was the center of attention, I focused on being gentle, carefully urging the kitten to drink. I’d failed completely with Fio. He never took any nourishment no matter how much we tried. Wallace was quite different. He greedily slurped at the formula to everyone’s amazement. I quickly got two cc’s into him, which is not nearly enough, but I didn’t want to drop his body temperature and put him into shock since I didn’t know when he’d last had food. Clearly it had been a long time. I wanted to get him home, warmed up and fed again, but then I remembered…had he been voided?
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mabel heard Wally's cries and ran over to be near him. How I wish I could have put them together, but I couldn't risk anyone getting sick or harmed.
I asked if they had helped void the kitten and they hadn’t, not clear on what I was asking. Panicked I asked for warm, wet paper towels ASAP. Of course they responded like lightning, and moments later I was gently stimulating Wallace’s genitals and rear end to get him to void. Sure enough we got some pale yellow urine out of him. The color was a good sign. Darker urine would have indicated dehydration or possible other problems. With at least some urine out of him and some food in him, he was stable enough for us to get him home.
The firemen thanked us and I promised to give them updates. It was such a strange situation. There I was, possibly seen as a true cat rescuer for maybe the first time in my life. I knew what to do. I got the job done. I asked, in parting, if I provided them with a kit of information and supplies on how to care for kittens would they make use of if and they eagerly agreed. They’d even share it with their other stations so in the future perhaps any kittens discovered would get better care until a rescue could be called upon. I felt like the seed of an idea was born at that moment that would allow Kitten Associates to be more involved with our community and would help save more lives. I’d even make up a kit for our Newtown Fire Dept, too, but first we had to get Wallace home.
As Sam was reaching the car, I realized I forgot my purse and turned to get it. Lt. Katherine was there holding it in her outstretched hand. I thanked her and smiled awkwardly, then turned back to the car. I almost ran into who I assumed was the Captain as I turned. He asked me a few questions about the kitten and if I thought he would be all right. The Captain was clean cut, muscular, with richly toned skin. His uniform was pressed and spotless. Seeing him made me realize I rarely ever see men doing rescue, let alone one who was so handsome. I'd been so wrapped up in Wallace, it never occurred to me to take a moment to enjoy the thrill of being near so much testosterone (excluding Lt. K, of course!).
I told the Captain I'd keep them updated and he thanked me for helping them. I looked up and one of the fire trucks was pulling out of the bay. Some of the folks who had been with us moments earlier were on the rig. I raised my hand to wave, feeling a tickle of delight when they waved back. For those few seconds, I was part of the team.
Wallace cried as Sam drove along the highway. I took the tiny kitten out of his carrier and held him. He squirmed and wriggled, then got very quiet. I flashed back to Fio, how he would be so vibrant, then nearly dead after he was fed. I knew Wallace had a very big day and had just been fed so I tried not to be upset when he seemed to pass out in my arms. He was just tired. Let him be.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. The little guy purred for us right away.
We got home and checked Wallace for fleas. I didn’t find any or any flea dirt. His ears looked good. I opened his mouth. He had a few baby teeth and no visible sores. Another good sign that he might be fairly healthy, other than very thin.
Sam and I discussed putting him with Celeste. I was still very fearful of being the sole caregiver for this kitten after just losing Fio, so we decided to try. We brought Wally to Celeste. He was crying. She saw him, sniffed then backed off, growling. I tried to pet her and pet Wally but she was far too angry to give it a chance. Even if with a scent swap she accepted him, I’d have to stay up all night out of fear she could turn on him and kill him. We decided to not risk it, but instead pull an all-nighter to make sure he was fed when he needed it.
One of our Facebook friends shared a link with me to Kitten-Rescue (thank you JodiAnn!). This web site is not fancy but wow they have great, simply prepared info on kitten care. I’d read other books about it and frankly they fell very short. This one gave me the info that I couldn’t find elsewhere-a clear cut amount of formula to give the kitten and WHEN. It’s 8cc per ounce of kitten. Since we could only guess at Wally’s age, it looked like some time around every 4 to 5 hours we should feed him. Void him first, then feed, then wait 15 minutes then void again, then a warm place to sleep.
Thanks to one of our donors we had a big case of evaporated goat milk. Another donor sent us special nipples for the baby bottle and our friend Joanne McGonagle sent us a SnuggleKittie,™ a plush cat toy that comes with a battery operated heart beat. I’d had it on hand for months and now I could put it to use.
Sam held Wallace while I tried to bottle feed him. It just didn’t work well at all. I used the syringe and that was a bit messy but it got the job done. I gave him 7cc of milk and he seemed full. He was so thin I didn’t want to push it. I’d give him a few hours before feeding him more, but for now it was time to pee and get some sleep.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. I honestly believe that without his SnuggleKittie™ Wallace never would have had any sort of comfortable time sleeping. He got as close as he could to the artificial heartbeat and fell fast asleep.
After we got Wallace cleaned up we put him back into the small cat carrier with his new plush buddy. I slipped a heated pad under the blanket in the carrier, but placed it so only half the space was warm in case he wanted to get off it. He didn’t want to have anything to do with it. He wanted OUT of the carrier and weakly stood up, crying with all his might. Sometimes he only opened his mouth, but no sound came out. I found it unnerving. Maybe he was getting weaker? I hoped to God I hadn’t messed it up and that he was too cold to be fed and was going to die.
Mabel ran over, jumped on the garbage can next to the counter where we had placed the cat carrier. She pawed at the cat carrier door, wanting to get at Wallace. Her mothering instincts were in high gear. Wallace saw her and tried to get at her, too. I so wanted to let her soothe little Wallace, but I had also just discovered that Mabel has ear mites so I couldn’t risk it-also if Wallace was sick, then Mabel would get sick or vice versa and all our other cats could get sick, too. I felt terrible so Sam and I took turns holding little Wallace and soothing him the best we could.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Feeding time was a bit messier than I imagined, but together Sam and I got the job done.
It was almost 10pm. Sam and I talked about what we’d do for the rest of the night. We worked out a plan then grabbed a quick bite to eat. I kept checking on Wallace. I had to make sure he was breathing-he was.
I slept fitfully between feedings and had bad dreams about Sam’s clients chasing us down and forcing us to hide in the bathroom to get away from them. I was holding Wally in my dream and we were hiding in the shower stall. When would these people leave us alone? In truth, Sam has been so busy with work it was a small miracle that he was willing to help with Wally. I hated to ask for more but between my back problems and this kitten in crisis I had no options.
Chapter 3 is next…where we find out how Wallace fared after his first night and what lies ahead for our latest foster kitten.
I’ve come to the understanding that doing cat rescue is more often based on gut instinct than rational thought. Is one better than the other; one more appropriate to doing rescue? I suppose being rational would leave less to chance, but I also think that something gets lost in being so very careful. Mistakes are made, but lessons follow. Perhaps that’s how I make sense of this next story about a fearless little kitten whose accidental separation from his mother may have also been his saving grace.
My back has been killing me over the past week. So much so that the pain flares up to the point where I have to catch my breath and to sit down after standing for a short time. I blame it on no exercise, sitting here at the computer for hours without getting up, and having too small of a bed with too many cats vying for the same small space. Waking up with pretzeled limbs is okay some days, but after chronic repetition, my body had to revolt.
After lots of ice, heat, ice came some small relief. I had a bad health scare two weeks ago, heading to Urgent Care, certain I was having a heart attack. Fortunately, it was a confluence of issues, one being a possible ulcer from taking too much naproxen to counteract constant headaches-again from sitting down at the computer, eye strain, poor position at the keys. The other was from lifting too many heavy objects (aka taking cats to the vet) which pulled on the joints on either side of my sternum. The resulting double-whammy caused severe chest pain.
Something had to give.
I made big sweeping changes. I quit gluten and sugar. I don’t sit at the keyboard for long periods of time. I had to stop pain killers, for now, to let my gut heal. When my back started to go out, I decided to treat it with ice and heat, no meds…some rest…go easy…hope for the best.
With all that I did start to feel quite a bit better, other than missing having cake or a big fat croissant.
My back was improving. I figured another day or two and I’d be okay. That’s when the phone rang. It was after 6pm and usually I don’t pick up calls on the Kitten Associates line that late in the day. I need to have time for myself and I have to make boundaries, but I did look at the Google Voice transcript of the call. Even though the transcription leaves a lot to be desired (e.g.,“police station” is transcribed to “please state one”), I did see three words that caught my eye: Kitten and Fire Department.
There were two messages one right after the other. I listened to them both. One was from an associate who does wildlife rehabilitation. She told me that I’d be getting a call from the local 24/7 Vet hospital about a kitten that had been trapped in a wall and needed help.
I’ve had a problem with this Vet hospital for a long time. They’ve taken advantage of us before, having people call us when they can’t afford care, putting the burden of the life or death of that animal on whether or not we can pay the bill. I’ve had words with them about this. We’re a small rescue. We paid $1200.00 for one cat that did not even belong to us AND they called us at 10 PM the night of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting to put that life or death burden on us! What would we say-especially on THAT night? It wiped us out.
Here they are calling yet again, but this time for a tiny kitten they easily could have helped. At least they could have shown the Firemen how to feed and void the kitten. What would that have cost? The Fireman didn’t have to save the kitten. They did what they felt was the right thing to do. They pitched in. They didn’t charge anyone for their efforts. Why couldn’t this Vet give this kitten some support? No. They sent it away. Now it was on my rescue, with few resources, to take care of this fragile creature. Who know how many hours had passed since the kitten had been found? When did it eat last? Little ones need to be fed every few hours or even more often if they are neonatal. Every second wasted put the kitten at higher risk of dying.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Little Star looks on as her mom, Celeste feeds the rest of the family. Would Celeste accept a fifth kitten?
Did I really want to try bottle-feeding again so close to just losing and failing another? What if this one died, too? Could I stand the heartbreak; the shame of failure?
I called Lieutenant Katherine and spoke to her about the kitten. My heart was racing. What was I getting myself into? Time was of the essence. I couldn’t back out. My instincts told me to hurry along and not worry about the consequences.
Lt. K. told me the shift before hers had been on a call to a property where there were people living illegally. They reported hearing cries coming out of the inside of a wall. Since calling for help also meant they would be kicked out of their illegal squat, they weren’t particularly happy about calling the Fire Department. I’m not sure why they called. They could have opened up the wall on their own, but then what would they do? They might not have realized it was a tiny kitten crying. Perhaps they thought it was something wilder?
What I know is that the mother and siblings were nowhere to be seen. The firemen looked for them but were told she had probably left the crawl space she’d been hiding the kittens. One kitten was left behind-the one that was in the wall. He was very thin and crying for his mother. They discussed leaving him there to be found by his mother, but they felt the people living at the location could possibly harm the kitten. It was decided to remove the kitten and find him some help. They had no idea what to do for the kitten, other than keep it warm. They weren’t sure they should give it cow’s milk, which was all they had, so they opted not to give him anything.
I asked Lt. K. to tell me how big the kitten was. Was it’s umbilical cord still attached? From what I was told, that’s what I expected. Her reply surprised me. She said, no, that he was walking a little bit, that his eyes were open, but were blue. I asked if his ears were straight up and down and she replied no. From what she told me I figured we had a 2 to 3 week old kitten. Okay. I can do this. Bottle-feeding an older kitten isn’t so tough. I thought I could manage his care.
Chapter 2 is up next, where we finally meet the little kitten and try not to drool on the sexy firefighters.
“Running on empty.” That’s how I’d describe the last month or so. Kitten Season is here and in full swing with no end in sight. All my rescue friends are reporting they are inundated with pregnant cats. I'm stunned since I thought we had a tough winter and didn't expect things to ramp up so fast. Meanwhile, Kitten Associates is slowly but surely growing into what I’d call a “real” rescue. We have a new foster home, another on the way. We have some other folks who can help foster from time to time, expanding our efforts to five homes and mine being the sixth. Because we can extend our efforts, I’m willing to forgo the “break” from rescue I was hoping to take (after 4 years of NO break) and plunge headlong into the craziness of the season. There’s SO MUCH to tell you I have to break it up into separate stories that cover a total of 20 cats!
First up, is a long overdue story of escape as winter slowly lets go of its grip in southern Georgia...
“Running on empty.” That’s how I’d describe the last month or so. Kitten Season is here and in full swing with no end in sight. All my rescue friends are reporting they are inundated with pregnant cats. I'm stunned since I thought we had a tough winter and didn't expect things to ramp up so fast.
Meanwhile, Kitten Associates is slowly but surely growing into what I’d call a “real” rescue. We have a new foster home, another on the way. We have some other folks who can help foster from time to time, expanding our efforts to five homes and mine being the sixth. Because we can extend our efforts, I’m willing to forgo the “break” from rescue I was hoping to take (after 4 years of NO break) and plunge headlong into the craziness of the season.
There’s SO MUCH to tell you I have to break it up into separate stories that cover a total of 20 cats!
First up, is a long overdue story of escape as winter slowly lets go of its grip in southern Georgia...
©2014 Warren Royal. Can you help me save some kitties? Which ones can you take? How about ALL?
For a colony of 12 feral cats, the sound of the dogs terrifies them as they do their best to hide from danger. They may skip the meal left out for them by a lady who owns the farm where they live. She does her best for them, but she doesn’t understand that to fully care for these cats, they need to be vetted-especially sterilized. She’s not a cat rescuer. She’s a kind soul who just wants to help these poor creatures and feeding them, in her mind, may be all that is required.
©2014 Warren Royal. The buff long haired cat is sick, with what we don't know but those crusty eyes look like a bad URI at least. I fear the worst for this baby. I hope he or she will be okay.
She may not even know where a vet IS in her part of the state. It’s probably too far away and she doesn’t have access to traps. She loves the cats, but in this case love is not enough. The cats hide in the barn, behind bales of hay, under the porch. The farm spreads across 40 acres and beyond that there isn’t much of anything, certainly no services for animals. The dogs can roam anywhere without fear of animal control. There just isn’t anyone to bother.
©2014 Warren Royal. What a handsome boy…which I later found out was a GIRL who we named JuneBug.
One by one, the cats began to fall prey to the dogs. The original number of 12 goes down to 7. The woman’s husband doesn’t fuss over the cats, but he does care that his wife is upset. They don’t have the resources to provide proper vet care for such a large number of cats or to work with them so they will no longer be feral and could be adopted. They don’t hang out on Facebook and get tips from rescuers in their area or have ever heard of Petfinder or Alley Cat Allies or any other resource that might make a difference. They do what they know to do. They feed the cats and hope for the best.
Something had to be done before all the cats were killed.
©2014 Warren Royal. Even though I had no idea if we could socialize these cats I could not say NO to this face!
As a small rescue, my group, Kitten Associates can get a lot done by working in partnership with others. When I heard about the cats, I wanted to do something. The cats weren’t fractious from what I was told. They were young, maybe a few months old and they’d had some contact with their caretaker, so possibly in time we could socialize them enough to help them find homes.
It’s not the dog’s fault that they weren’t cared for. They were surviving as best they could. I’m sure they’d never touch the cats if they had a decent meal, but they must have been in a very bad way to have to make those choices.
©2014 Warren Royal.After being trapped, three of the rescues head off to the vet. The dilute calicos are with Good Mews now.
Our friend Warren volunteered to drive 4 hours to get to the location and once he arrived he got to work quickly trapping 5 of the 7 remaining cats. On a Sunday, not near any familiar Vet, Warren spent a lot of money getting the kittens snap tested so we could accept them into our program. Our amazing foster in the area, who had asked me to take a break from fostering, decided she needed to help these kittens regardless of how tired she was. She got her foster space prepared for them, dropping the other things she hoped to accomplish for that day.
I contacted Good Mews Animal Foundation and asked for help. They stepped up and offered to take 2 of the kittens as long as they were friendly. It was a big risk because we were worried they’d need too much work. I told Warren that the friendliest cats should go to them. We would take the 3 timid long-haired cats (considering I'm a freak for the long hairs, I almost didn't care how much work they needed anyway) and Good Mews would get the sweet short haired calicos. The 2 remaining cats we would try to get as soon as possible, but for now getting most of the cats out was a big win for us all.
©2014 Foster Mama. Headed to our vet, then to their new temporary home. We have two girls and a boy.
Good Mews reported that the 2 kittens they received were very sweet and they didn’t have any concerns about finding them great homes. If it wasn’t for Good Mews, we would have had a problem, because our foster mom doesn’t have space that’s big enough for 5 cats.
©2014 Foster Mama. Lovely Purrcee, an artistic interpretation.
Now was the time to focus on continuing getting the vetting done on the cats, get them spayed/neutered, their vaccinations, de-worming. Maggie and Junie began to allow their foster mom to pet their bellies. Purrcee was a bit more shy but still not aggressive. He’d come around in time, so we could take a moment out to appreciate that things had gone so well.
Some time later I learned that the remaining 2 cats did not have to worry about being safe. Their caretaker was considering taking them into her home and getting them vetted. At about the same time, I heard the heartbreaking news that her husband, wanting to protect her and the cats, shot and killed the pack of feral dogs. I had no idea he would do that, because it just never occurs to me it could happen. Guns? Shooting dogs? I’m not even sure how to make sense of it.
©2014 Foster Mama. JuneBug makes me swoon.
I would have tried to do something to save their lives if I’d known, but in truth I had to wonder what sort of life they would have had without him intervening. I’m not sure there was any way for their story to end happily. Picked up by Animal Control they would be euthanized. They would not be suitable or safe to be around kids. I am not qualified to vilify this man for what he did. I AM “qualified,” however, to be busted up that any animal died. I sincerely mourn their passing.
©2014 Foster Mama. Maggie waits for a wonderful home now that she's safe.
©2014 Foster Mama. After a few weeks struggling with shyness, the kittens emerge to discover the delight of playing with toys.
Instead, thanks to a few very hard working, generous souls, these cats can begin their story with us. We pick up their tale as they complete their thousand-mile journey to Connecticut and into the home of Jame and her daughters Frances and Grace, where they will complete their socialization and begin the journey to find their forever homes.
To be continued…
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. We were able to save more lives because we have a new foster home with Jame and her family.
Today “Chapstick” celebrates reaching the second week of life. During that time there have been many struggles. After being thrown into a dumpster like a piece of meaningless garbage on a cold early spring afternoon, with a sibling kitten who didn’t survive, this poor little creature was lucky to have Guardian Angels on its side.
We’re fairly sure that Chapstick, whose given name has been changed to Miracle, is a girl. At her age and stunted size, it’s tough to tell, but for now we can think of her as a little girl who, so far has lived up to her name.
©2014 Jeannie Garrison. Our first glimpse of Miracle beside a tube of Chaptstick® to show just how small she was.
Miracle is finally bigger than the lip balm she was photographed next to and in the latest photos from her foster family Christal and Jonathan, you can see her limbs look thicker and more robust and her fur looks like it’s growing softer. In fact, Christal believes that Miracle may be a long haired cat. It’s another one of those things where it’s too soon to know for certain.
©2014 C. Peruzzi. The same age as her step-siblings, Miracle is dramatically smaller, indicating it's very likely she was born premature.
What we do know is last week Miracle was not doing well and Jonathan realized he hadn’t gotten her to pass stool for far too long. How he did this or how he KNEW to do this, is beyond my knowledge of neonatal kitten care, but Jonathan managed to give Miracle an enema with a small amount of mineral oil. He also fed some to the kitten to see if he could get her to function normally.
It worked. The next day Miracle passed very hard stool and after that she began to struggle less and thrive more.
©2014 C. Peruzzi. Able to sit up on her own.
Miracle doesn’t fight off attempts to feed her any longer. She goes for her bottle and is happy to latch on to her new stepmom-kitty a moment later. She’s eating like a champion and we hope this means the worst days are over for her.
Her step-siblings are about the same age as she is, but compared to her they are gargantuan. They are healthy, happy, thriving, as all kittens should be, growing lovelier every day.
©2014 C. Peruzzi. Miracle's eyes are opening, yet another good sign.
©2014 C. Peruzzi. The results of round-the-clock care are clear. Miracle IS living up to her name.
We just took a pregnant mom into Kitten Associates, my rescue, and she gave birth two days ago to five healthy kittens (more on that in a future post). I fear “kitten season” is going to be brutal this year, which shocks me because the winter was fairly harsh yet kittens are being born barely moments after the first day of Spring.
©2014 C. Peruzzi. She feels so good she accepts belly rubs now, too.
I still think about the person who put Miracle and her sibling in the garbage, assuming they would die fairly soon. I wonder if they regret what they did and feel badly about it. I wonder if they don’t sleep well realizing what a horrific thing they did. I wonder if they knew one of the kittens still lived and was possibly going to make it if they would be relieved or just not care. Sometimes I imagine telling them she’s still with us, but they don’t deserve any chance to feel relief. Every day that Miracle is loved and grows bigger and stronger is proof that her precious life DOES matter.
Plus, if I ever met the person who did this I would skip any updates and go straight to hurting them with all I've got.
Life is precious and should be revered in all its forms, whether it be a plant, or bug, a whale or amoeba. It’s also natural and expected that all forms of life draw to an end at some point, whether it be after only a few moments or many years. Death must occur to make way for new life to emerge in an endless cycle.
When a life comes to an end we may not even notice. We might step on a bug on a walk to the bus, while the end of another life form might break our hearts, making living our own life difficult, if not impossible.
When faced with losing our own precious life, we fight, we take medication, we have a surgery, we ask for prayers. We may also do the same thing in honor of a life we want to protect that’s in the balance. It might be our child or our friend or in this case that of a tiny newborn kitten who was found inside a dumpster with his sibling.
Someone who did not consider life to be precious had a pregnant cat. The cat gave birth far too soon. Perhaps she was highly stressed or sick. She may have even died due to complications from the delivery. Her kittens were smaller than normal by more than an ounce, when a birth weight of a newborn kitten should be at least 3 1/2 ounces. Being down 1/3 of normal weight meant those kittens had a high probability that they would be robbed of having a normal life span.
I want to know what sort of monster would do such a thing. Why was throwing away a precious life was the answer to their problem. What other things was this person capable of? What excuses did this person give himself or herself so that person could feel like their choice was acceptable and they would remain blameless for their heartless actions?
But what the person didn’t expect was that a man named Sal went to the gas station some time later. While he was getting gas he heard crying. He thought the high-pitched sound was made by birds at first. He went to investigate, and to his surprise, he unearthed the box of kittens, who were so small their umbilical cords were still attached.
He has a dog and cat at home. Life is precious to him. He brought the kittens home and called a Vet who gave him some idea of what to do and what to feed the kittens, not understanding that these kittens were newborns, called neonates, and that they needed more care than a kind-hearted soul could give them.
I got a call about Sal needing help so I called him, concerned about what I’d heard. I had no idea how serious the situation was either, but I asked, truly urged Sal to let my rescue, Kitten Associates, have the kittens. I’d called Jeannie, one of our foster moms who has a lot of experience with kittens, far more than I do, and she was on standby to take them.
Sal wanted to try to provide care. His girlfriend was home all day and would stay up and watch over the kittens. Less than a day later, I got a call that the kittens weren’t doing so well. I rushed to reach Jeannie and she changed plans to take the kittens as soon as possible. I worried we were too late.
The prognosis for the other kitten wasn’t so good either. This little black kitten was very thin and not very lively. Jeannie took a photo of him for me. She put a Chapstick next to the kitten to show me just how tiny he was. It was a shocking sight.
Jeannie stayed up all night with him, trying to get him to take nourishment, trying to get him to warm up, but he wasn’t responding very well and seemed depressed. We all knew about Failure to Thrive or Fading Kitten Syndrome-when due to illness, gestational issues (born too soon or developmental issues) or some times it’s not even known why, some kittens just don’t make it. They are too weak, too fragile and once that process starts they usually die very quickly.
©2014 Jeannie G. The lone survivor moments after entering our rescue.
I wanted to hurt someone, specifically I wanted to hurt whoever robbed these innocents of their life. They didn’t ask to be born, but they were here, so let us respect that. Ask for help from a local rescue. Reach out to SOMEONE. There are many resources where you can get help. Why would anyone THROW THESE KITTENS AWAY? I don’t understand. I don’t understand how cruel this person could be and I worried about the mom cat. What became of her? But I could do nothing other than sob for what will never be–two kittens having a chance to grow and thrive and live a wonderful life. Now it would not happen and as bad as this was, I worried about what this heartache would do to Jeannie, too.
Early that afternoon I texted Jeannie. I hadn’t heard from her that the kitten had died so I wanted to check in. I asked if he was gone and she answered, “no.” I asked; “is that good?” and she replied, “no.” I knew it meant the end was near. I hung my head and cried some more. That was all I heard for a few more hours, until my phone rang. It was Jeannie.
©2014 Jeannie G. First look at Midnight after surviving the second night.
“Wait…so the kitten is not DEAD?”
“Right. He’s alive, but I have to tell you I don’t think he’s going to make it.”
©2014 Jeannie G. Little Man.
I didn’t want to shoot off fireworks and proclaim all was well with the world, but I had a glimmer of hope that somehow he would make it. Jeannie told me that she had stayed up all night and tried to get the little kitten to eat every hour or so. By morning he was doing so poorly and she was so tired, she finally gave up. She let herself sleep for a few hours, leaving the kitten in a warmed up blanket in a box next to her bed. She knew when she woke up that he would be gone, but when she woke up and touched him he cried. He was hungry. She fed him, but he was still very weak and probably fading away.
With nothing to lose, Jeannie brought the kitten to Jonathan and his wife Christal. Over that night we heard no updates. In fact I was wondering if it was some crazy tall tale and that this guy didn’t even exist. I couldn’t get his contact info, but I knew Jeannie was exhausted so I didn’t bother her to get it. I called Sal and asked for the info but he never called me back. Almost a day later I got the number from Jeannie, but she said the number was disconnected. I called it and sure enough, the phone was off! What happened to the kitten? I had to know.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Unable to right himself, Midnight wobbles. I assure you we quickly helped him adjust his position (see below), but I include it so you can see how TINY his legs and paws are.
Jeannie said she was going to go back to the home. I asked to go with her but she said it wasn’t necessary and that these folks were very private. I was jumping out of my skin, but there was nothing I could do. I had to keep waiting and wondering what I’d find out.
Not long after I got another message and a new phone number. The couple had recently moved here and had coincidently just gotten a new phone number. Not only that, but Jeannie had just been to the home and believe it or not, the kitten was STILL ALIVE. She said in 15 years of being a nurse, of working with little kittens, she was impressed with what this guy did to keep the kitten going. She said the kitten looked a little better, still very week, still far too tiny; that he was put with a mama-cat who accepted him and 4 new sisters who crowded around him to keep him warm. I was thrilled and anxious to offer support. I couldn’t let this good deed go unrewarded.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.
I was finally able to get in touch with Christal while Jonathan tended to the kitten. I offered them food, goat’s milk, whatever they needed. I offered to help them with placing and vetting the kittens and getting mom spayed one day. I couldn’t do enough to help them, but they were probably shocked that a stranger would want to do so much, so it took a few emails and calls and finally we set it up so that the next day I could bring them supplies as a gesture of thanks and of support.
Thanks to some donations we already received, I was able to buy a few cases of cat food, some hybrid grain-free dry/raw food and some goat’s milk with probiotics in it. I bought the kitten and his family a very soft, flat bed, no sides for him to get hung up on. I had some toys that were donated to us so I grabbed a bunch for the adult cats and the kittens for when they got bigger. I knew the couple had children so I packed up a donation of plush cats so the kids weren’t left out.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. My trunk loaded with goodies.
My rescue has been very lucky to be on the receiving end of many acts of generosity, but it was nice to be able to pay it forward. It had only been 2 days since the kittens were found and here I was in a part of a nearby town I’d never been to, hoping what I’d heard was really true and that this kitten was still with us.
I expected that when I met Jonathan he’d be tired, but this poor guy was loopy from being exhausted. He came out and met me after Christal had welcomed me into their home. He’s a young man, wearing a t-shirt and jeans, barefoot, with his hair askew. He apologized for just waking up even though it was mid-afternoon. I told him not to be sorry and that I truly appreciated what he was doing. I couldn’t wait to find out how the kitten was doing when he quickly left the room and returned, holding the little guy out to me in his hands.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Literally and figuratively-Midnight is in good hands now.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Fussy feeding time while Cupcake looks on.
Jonathan spoke at a rapid fire pace. I asked him how he got this far and he told me so much that it made my head spin. He said he’d lived on a farm and had raised hundreds of kittens over the years. He knew about fading kitten syndrome but he was not about to let that beat him. He told me how he slowly but carefully got the kitten’s core temp to rise, how he made up some homemade Karyo syrup to get his blood sugar up. He gave the kitten, who he calls Midnight, an extremely minute dose of amoxycylin and something that helped perk up his electrolytes. I was aghast. Whatever he was doing resulted in this little guy latching on to his new mom for a moment. It caused this little guy to allow being syringe fed a tiny amount of milk. This kitten was reacting to the world around him even though he was far too weak to do much more than wiggle against sensations like being held or being syringe fed that he didn't understand yet.
Jonathan felt the kitten had been depressed from being alone, but now had become more energized now that he was with his new family. The fight was back in his heart. This little kitten wanted to live again and Jonathan was going to do whatever it took to keep him going.
I wished I could take Jonathan home with me so we could write everything down-so this information would not be lost, but I also had to wonder if there was just something about him and his wife, too, that was something more than just knowledge—maybe it was their faith? I told them that I’d posted the photo of the kitten on Facebook and asked for good wishes and prayers and that almost 30,000 people had been rooting for this little guy to live, but the news didn’t effect them. They were so focused on this one fragile life that that was all that mattered. I also knew they were both exhausted.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. So very tiny!
I thanked them again. I didn’t stay long. Jonathan needed rest and the kitten needed more meals. I promised to help them cover the costs of the vetting, spay/neutering of their current litter of cats AND the second litter (yes there’s a second pregnant cat in the home-they assumed the cat was a boy because it was an orange tabby and it’s less common for the orangies to be female). I will help them find good homes. I offered to take some of the kittens into our program but right now they want to see the kittens placed themselves. I honestly am so indebted to them I would move mountains for what they’ve done. I know it may not last. I know this kitten is far from being out of the woods, but I am trying to have faith that he will be okay.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Ready for more nourishment.
©2014 Christal P. Midnight surrounded by his new siblings.
Day six. Guess who is still with us? Midnight eats more from his new mama now and is a little bit bigger. Christal estimates he’s the size of a 2-day old kitten. She feels he can go the distance and frankly nothing would make me happier if that truly came to be.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. I was honored to have a moment to be able to meet Midnight's sisters who are all adorable torties. They are almost the same age as Midnight, but so much bigger.
Midnight, his new mom, his 4 new sisters, a dad and another mom and her as-yet-to-be-born kittens will all need to be spayed or neutered, vetted and have proper food and care. I would like to be able to provide that care for these families, which I estimate to cost over $1000.00 as long as no one gets sick or needs critical care. I’m passing around the hat in the hopes that in honor of this precious life we all are blessed to have, that you will consider sharing your love with this family.
©2014 Christal P. I love this photo. Midnight stretching out on his mom while her sister (who is also going to give birth soon) reaches out to comfort the little guy .
March 26, 2014 UPDATE
March 27, 2014 UPDATE
Fundraising services either ask for a donation towards their service to direct your funds to PayPal or they take a percentage of your funds before it goes to PayPal. PayPal also takes a cut.
To maximize every contribution, we’re asking you simply go to our web site and press the Donate button which will take you directly to PayPal. Once we reach our target, I will update this post and end the fundraiser.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. One of Midnight's sisters.
HAPPY ONE WEEK BIRTHDAY little one! Midnight has lived a week, is growing and eating much better. He also doesn't sit still for photos.
©2014 Christal P. I will never stop being amazed to know that Midnight lived another day. Look at how much bigger he is today!
Chelsea Ellis, of Angels of Assisi in Roanoke, VA didn't waste a minute after Big Daddy arrived at their shelter barely a week ago. This morning Big D. made his first television appearance on the Fox 21 27 Morning News segment called Furry Friends.
What amazes me is Big Daddy has only been off the streets for about a month all told. First Warren trapped him by Home Depot, thinking he was an injured feral, but he quickly discovered his first thoughts were wrong. Big Daddy's story took another turn that once again left us in awe shortly after I covered his tale and Chelsea Ellis read about him.
With all the love and fuss over Big Daddy, I feel very hopeful his forever family will find him soon. Whoever they are are very lucky folks. I can't imagine anyone meeting him and not falling in love.
I hope the next chapter in his story is about just that—finding home.
Read the entire The Accidental Feral Series
Part One Warren traps an injured feral, who ends up surprising everyone
Part Two Big Daddy's Trip to the Angels
IBKC is beautifully laid out. As a Graphic Designer, I especially appreciate the lovely typography and design of the book. It’s an easy read for an adult, as would be expected, but I still found myself getting carried away as each story reminded me of many of the cats I've fostered over the years. It's impossible to read this book without having a smile on your face.
There are also special sections highlighting different aspects of kitten care, without going into too much detail for a child to absorb. The photos are real show-stoppers, making it difficult to choose a favorite—probably like picking a favorite kitten from a litter, you just can’t do it.
I shared an advance copy of the book with Hanna, an 8-yr old whose family had just adopted their first cats from my rescue, Kitten Associates. Although she was a bit too young to understand the information completely, she was delighted and giggled at some of the photos. Her father helped her go through the book and was thrilled to have something on hand that he could refer to to help Hanna understand the basics of kitten care. He mentioned he planned on reading the book to Hanna as part of their bedtime ritual and that she would be taking it to “sharing day” at school.
Based on Hanna’s reaction to IBKC it was clear that shelters and rescues could also benefit from selling copies of this book to new adopters with young kids.
CiCH: What was your inspiration to begin fostering kittens and did you foster for more than one place before you found a good fit?
LC: We moved into a new neighborhood and met our neighbors, Kim and Sarah, who were fostering our now permanent resident cat, Charlene Butterbean. Prior to that, I didn’t even know that foster programs for animals existed. We got see a few litters come and go at their house, and eventually we decided to try our hand at it too.
CICH: What do you tell people who ask you: "how you can let those foster kittens go? Doesn't it break your heart? Do you want to keep them all?"
LC: It is hard to say goodbye, but that’s just part of the process. It has gotten a little bit easier over the years, but still, it’s never easy and sometimes there are tears.
We’ve been lucky to find some really amazing families to adopt our kittens, and knowing the kittens are going to be loved and well cared for by these fine folks, makes it all bearable.
There are been a few extra-special ones that we could have easily kept, but we just can’t do that. We need to keep our cat population at a reasonable number if we want to continue to foster.
CICH: I see it says your book is for middle grade readers. Would you also suggest it for younger kids or adults? If so, why? Why did you choose this level of reader? Was that on purpose?
LC: I think it’s appropriate for kitten lovers of all ages! I’ve shared it with adults and young children too, and they all seem to enjoy it. It’s packed with lots of photos of adorable kittens, which works for any age group!
I had many conversations with my editor about what this book could be. We knew it would be for kids – Roaring Brook Press publishes children’s books – but it took some time before the full idea took shape. Once it did, we decided on what the age of the audience should be and tailored the content for that.
CICH: Do you mostly take on whatever fosters your shelter gives you or do you find kittens who need help?
LC: Once our kittens leave our nest, I’ll let the shelter know that we’re ready to receive more, and they let us know who is available. Sometimes we get kittens that need a little more help than others – they have medical issues, or need help transitioning from bottle to solid food. Sometimes they need help with socialization.. Sometimes they just need a little bit of time to get bigger.
We’re happy to take on whatever or whomever they send our way. Each batch is different when they arrive, but all leave happy, healthy, social and trusting.
CICH: Do you often face having to medicate sick or injured cats? Were any of them remarkable in how much care they needed? Perhaps more so than you could include in a book for kids? Can you give an example of one or two of those kitties?
LC: With each litter, there’s usually a medical issue or two to deal with. We’ve seen a lot of diarrhea, vomiting, fleas, ear mites and upper-respiratory infections. We’ve had to give many rounds of antibiotics and lots of sub q fluids over the years.
The transition from wherever they were before, to the shelter, and then to our home can be stressful on their little bodies. We are fortunate to have great vet staff at our shelter to guide us through any issues we have.
The biggest challenge we have ever faced was with the last litter we fostered. One of the kittens, Filbert, came to us with the Panleukopenia virus, which sadly took his life. It’s a highly contagious, so after his passing, we were quite worried it would take his sisters down too. They survived, thank goodness, but later we discovered that his sister Wylla had a condition called Megaesophagus. With this condition, she didn’t have the muscle tone in her esophagus to push food into her stomach, and she regurgitated nearly everything she ate. It took many trips to the vet to diagnose her condition, and a lot of work to learn to manage it.
Eventually, we decided we would keep her. After all we went through with Wylla, we just couldn’t say goodbye.
CICH: How did you get your book idea sold? Did the publishers come to you or did you have an agent?
LC: My editor had been following the blog, and when I mentioned on Twitter that I had dreams of publishing a book, she contacted me.
CICH: What is the one thing you hope results from kids reading your book?
LC: I hope it makes them happy. This parade of kittens that has passed through our home has brought a tremendous amount of joy into our lives. I want others to experience that same joy.
I also hope they’ll take a way some good practical information and become responsible and respectful pet owners.
ONE entry will be CHOSEN AT RANDOM to WIN. You may only leave ONE comment for ONE CHANCE to win per person. This Giveaway ends Wednesday, MARCH 26, 2014 at 11:11 PM EST and is open to residents of the USA, only (sorry guys!). Rules, quantities and whatever else I forgot are subject to change without notice. WINNER will be notified via email. If you do not respond within 48hrs another winner will be chosen.
The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee is available for purchase for $12.99 (list price) for a softcover version or less for Kindle and other e-readers at Amazon and other outlets.
©2014 Warren Royal. Big Daddy doing what he does best.
Within a few days an email arrived from a woman named Chelsea. I could tell from her words she was very upbeat and interested in Big Daddy, not just pie in the sky dreams of wishing she could adopt him. She'd known other cats like Big D and knew she could take him into her shelter. She and her peers love difficult to place cats and they work very hard to find them great homes. They aren't spooked by FIV. They know Big Daddy can be with other cats and people. They can find him a home.
Chelsea's the Foster Coordinator for Angels of Assisi and it's in Roanoke, Virginia, about a 6 hour drive from northern Georgia, where Warren and his wife, Terri are currently fostering Big Daddy. Since I've had a few unfortunate experiences transporting cats to rescue groups I'm not familiar with, I began to ask around to find out more about A of A and make CERTAIN they were legitimate. Why? Here is just one reason.
©2014 Lori D'Angelo. I just realized the origins of Lori's last name most likely described a person who was "angelic." Come on...tell me you don't believe in fate now!
One of our readers named Lori, offered to go to A of A and, just like a spy, took lots of photos covertly so she could report back to us. Okay, she didn't have to do that as I'm sure no one would have minded. She let us know that the place looked good to her and she'd been there years back and found it to be a good place back then, as well. Another friend of Covered in Cat Hair named Tori, told me they had a good reputation and she gave me more info about what good community outreach they have and how she felt it would be a good place for Big Daddy, too.
Angels has the best animal photos I've seen in a long time. Their Blog and Facebook pages are well done and active. I asked Warren to do some checking, too and by total coincidence he discovered a new client of his has a BIG location in Roanoke AND they'd love to meet Warren if he was in the area…then he finds out his client adopted a cat from Angels!
The decision was made. Big Daddy will be leaving Warren and family this weekend. Warren is personally driving him to Angels to make absolutely certain it's a good placement for him.
©2014 Warren Royal. Best friends forever.
Big D has blossomed since he was first trapped. Almost daily Warren has sent me a photo of Big Daddy looking more and more relaxed and content. I almost begged Warren to keep this big boy, but after many long conversations with his wife, he couldn't sort out how to make it happen with the cats he already has. I know Warren's saved so many cats over the years…
I'll cross my fingers that in the coming days we'll get the best news-that Big Daddy has found his forever home, but for now I'll be happy that Big Daddy is with the Angels.
Northern Georgia’s had a rough winter. With snow, ice and freezing cold temperatures that vastly skew from what’s considered normal, the feral cat population has had an even tougher time surviving.
These cats are not accustomed to the colder temps and may not be as successful as their northern counterparts in finding adequate shelter. Their coats may not be as thick and their struggle to have a full belly leaves them even more vulnerable.
For a lucky few cats there’s Warren and his wife, Terri, who I’ve written about in the past. They get out there and trap, neuter, and some times return the feral cats they trap. They help the pregnant cats and the kittens find homes. They are very passionate about their rescues and have even hoped to open their own sanctuary one day.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Big Daddy the day after being trapped.
It’s not unusual for Warren to stay up late at night, watching a trap, hoping the cat will enter it so he can get it properly taken care of. Most of the time the process is straightforward. The cats are vetted, spayed or neutered, given some time to recover, then he brings them back to their colony where he and his wife will make sure they get fed.
That’s why when Warren noticed a big tabby, limping, clearly injured, who also looked a heck of a lot like one of the kittens Warren rescued (read about Dexter’s amazing and scary journey HERE), he knew he had to trap him and get him to a vet. The problem was, what could he do for this kitty, AFTER getting vetted? Surely it would be difficult to treat a fractious cat, which could mean Warren could get hurt or the cat might not recover from his injury if he couldn’t get him medicated or change bandages.
First things first…get the cat trapped.
Warren got his supplies ready and opened up the trap. He saw the cat who he called, Big Daddy, not far away, watching him. As soon as Warren opened a can of food, in a flash, there was Big Daddy by his side, pushing Warren away so he could get at the tempting morsels. Shocked, Warren carefully, lured the cat into the trap, fearful he could be harmed at any moment if the cat was separated from his food for too long. Clearly the cat was starving and didn’t care if he was in a cage or not.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Getting fueled up (again!).
Warren quietly closed the trap door and rushed Big Daddy to the Vet. Big Daddy wasn’t thrilled to be in the car but there was something odd about him. For a feral cat, he wasn’t crouched into a tight ball. He wasn’t hissing. He wasn’t struggling to break free from the trap. He was just eating.
The plan was to leave Big Daddy with the Vet for a few days while Warren was here in New York City at a trade show. I was with Warren when the call came in on the cat. He had an abscess from a bite wound, but they felt it would heal. Against Warren’s orders they gave him Convenia, assuming that since the cat was feral it was the best they could do, [even though Convenia is NOT for bite wounds but because it’s injectable and there are no pills, people tend to use it so they don’t have to pill their cat. The problem is-once injected it stays in the body for MONTHS. If there’s an allergic reaction you can’t get it out of the body. It’s really only good for certain bacterial issues regarding the SKIN. Using it after a dental or for some other reason is not safe and contra-indicated.]
They went ahead an ear-tipped him even though Warren said not to because he wasn’t sure the cat might not be feral. When we found that out we were both very angry. If Big Daddy ended up being a cat we could socialize, then ear-tipping him could further reduce his chances for adoption.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. What a face!
They neutered him and vaccinated him. They snap tested him and discovered he was positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV. We weren’t surprised, but it meant that letting him back outside was not an option, but now what would we do with him? Warren feared he might have to euthanize the cat if he couldn’t go back to the colony or if he was too fractious to find a forever home.
Warren came home and discovered his hunch was right. Big Daddy wasn’t feral, but how friendly was he? Did he have behavior problems? If so, how severe were they? When Warren approached Big D’s crate, Big Daddy stepped forward and seemed interested in sniffing Warren’s hand. Worried he would get bitten, Warren cautiously offered the back of his hand. Big Daddy head-butted it.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Waiting for the next part of his journey to begin.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission.
Over the past few weeks, Warren and Terri have been working with Big Daddy, assessing his behavior to see if he’d qualify to be adopted. Big D nipped at Warren a few times, but Terri said he never nipped her. Why? Turns out Warren needed to learn that Big Daddy didn’t care for being petted like he was a dog—oops! (Warren admitted to not realizing that right away since he’d known dogs most of his life). Once Warren made a slight change in how he petted Big D the nipping stopped.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Loves that brush.
Big Daddy’s met a few other cats. He’s interested, but neutral. A further test revealed another surprise-Big Daddy LOVES to be brushed!
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission.
Big D’s leg is healing nicely and he’s relatively content in his big crate in the garage, but yearns to be out of it and in Warren’s house. Sadly, Warren’s other cats won’t welcome a newcomer and ultimately Big Daddy needs a home of his own.
This very sweet, affectionate, gentle giant weighs 15 pounds and is about 4 years old. He's physically he’s a large kitty. Aside from having FIV, his health is good. He does not have issues with his gums, teeth or digestion, which can happen to FIV cats. With a GOOD DIET and I mean NO DRY FOOD, low carb, grain-free canned food or better yet, dehydrated raw or really any raw diet, he will do well.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission.
There are Vets who vilify cats with FIV and say they can’t be with non-FIV cats, but in my own experience with my cat, Bob, he was with not only my 7 cats, but countless kittens and none of them ever got sick. Bob would have had to BITE them so seriously his teeth would have had to sink into flesh to transmit the disease. Yet, there is a vet who just said she felt it was passed through a litter pan, which defies logic.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Meeting Murphy.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. What a cutie pie!
Warren definitely has Big Daddy’s back. Because he cares for him so much Warren will cover transportation costs to an approved home or non-profit, no-kill rescue group or shelter. He will also TAKE BIG DADDY BACK, should the adoption or rescue placement not work out. Ideally this home will be in northern Georgia, but if it’s anywhere along the east coast of the USA, we can get Big Daddy to your door. If you live outside the east coast, let’s talk.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Big Daddy with our Rescuer-Daddy, Warren.
If you’d like to adopt Big Daddy, go to our rescue group, Kitten Associates, and fill out a Pre Adoption Application and I will forward them to Warren.
If you have any questions or are with a rescue and can help Big Daddy find his home, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are times I don’t realize something profound just occurred. Looking back on the situation I see what I missed was truly amazing. A milestone was reached, a torch passed, leaving me feeling sad that I didn’t honor that moment the way it deserved, so perhaps these words will serve as a testament.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey (left) with brother, Joey (right) watching the squirrels.
Lil' Gracey and Confetti Joe have been with us since they were 4 days old. Their brothers, Yukon Stan, Jellybean Mel and Precious Pete have long since found their forever homes and as of last week, the final papers were signed as their mom, Minnie, found her place, too (with a couple I truly LOVE..and where Minnie is blossoming by leaps and bounds every day).
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Joey (inset) just 11 days old and again recently.
The remaining two kittens had been living in my home up until 3 weeks ago when I was fortunate enough to meet with Jame, who offered to foster kittens for our group. Jame and her family don’t currently have any pets which greatly simplifies whether or not I can have them foster. They impressed me by bending over backwards to clean and prepare their entire basement for us to use for our kittens. It’s a large, bright, sunny space with windows along one side of the room. Jame’s daughters, Grace and Frances were sweet-natured and had a very calm energy. When they came over to meet our cats and fosters, they were affectionate and gentle, clearly enamored with all the cats they met. I had no concerns that any cat we placed with them wouldn’t be completely happy in their care.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Sleepy time boy.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey chill in' with the DOOD.
As much as I loved every second with the kittens, they were big enough to be part of the general population, instead of housed in a separate room. With full run of our home it opened up new adventures for them, but our cats were not too thrilled. We had some issues, like inappropriate urinating and a brief spat or two. I knew Joey and Gracey would be better off with Jame’s family, not to mention reducing the stress on my own cats, but I was very sad to see them go.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Time to wrestle in 3…2…
Because we had an unpleasant situation with Minnie’s last foster home, I was more careful about who fosters for us going forward. I wrote up an agreement for fostering and had Jame sign it. The time with the kittens would be limited and monitored. I'd let it go too long with Minnie, only to find out she was getting injured by the other cats in the home and exposed to food that ended up giving her a bad allergic reaction. I was determined to check in on the cats more often to make sure they would continue to be well cared for, but Mother Nature had a different plan.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. In their new foster home, Gracey makes sure the other cat she sees really IS her brother.
The one-week agreement was extended another week and another. The weather was so poor and we got so much snow that I could not get out of my driveway. When I could escape, it was to get cat food or do a vet run. I just didn’t have time to visit the kittens, though I did communicate with Jame often.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Joey's always had the goofiest tail. He walks around with it over his back like a carrying handle of some sort.
Jame did a great job reporting every little thing, sending photos, updating me on progress. Her daughters were having a great time getting to know the kittens and they were thrilled with each success (“Joey sat on my lap! I made Gracey jump after the toy!”). I realized with a sinking feeling that what happens to all fosters was happening to them. They were getting attached. Too much time had passed. Now I was worried that I would hurt them because I’d found an adopter named Dana and it was very likely that Joey and Gracey would be leaving them soon.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Joey with heart on his rump.
When I told Jame the news, she emailed me asking me if we could talk. I had a feeling she was going to tell me she wanted to adopt the kittens. I had mixed feelings about it because if they did, I might lose a great foster home. I knew they’d be a great home for the kittens, so I was curious to know what she wanted to talk about. Since she needed more cat food I asked her to meet me at the pet food store so I could get her more, then we ended up walking over to the little café inside our local grocery store to talk.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. With foster mom, Grace.
As Jame spoke, tears welled up in her eyes. It was hard not to cry along with her. She told me that she and her family had fallen in love with the kittens and were miserable at the idea of them leaving and wanted to adopt them, but…there was a problem. She didn’t feel they could afford to provide for them if something happened to them and she knew that wasn’t right. Jame continued to tell me that things would be changing later in the year when she expected to be able to find work, but for now they lived on her husband’s salary. The problem was how could I have her wait months to make Joey and Gracey's adoption formal when the situation was in such flux? Jame was being very responsible by not letting her emotions cause her to make a choice that could end badly. I knew how she felt. I probably shouldn’t have half the cats I have, but we find a way (but I don't have two children to provide for, either). I didn’t want her to be miserable about letting the kittens go. She was doing the right thing. I had to find a way to make this better.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. With foster mom, Frances.
I gave her as many options as I could, but in the end, this is not the time for them to adopt. In a flash of clarity, I blurted out that she hadn't even had the joy of fostering little kittens yet and to focus on knowing that by letting Joey and Gracey go, she was making space to take more kittens on. I talked to her about the pain of letting go and...
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Checking out the view from their new foster room.
I hoped she realized that the sharpness of letting go would soften into sweet memories. She barely knew me and I was asking her to trust me; that all she had to do was let us bring her more cats to foster and the love and happiness that gave them so much joy, would return. She had to have faith, too.
Of course, getting her children to understand and prepare for this was going to be the tricky part and I offered to do whatever I could to help them transition.
©2014 Frances R. Frances is quite the artist and drew his adorable scene featuring her foster kittens.
When the day came for Dana and her young sons to meet Joey & Gracey, I took one look at the girls and at Jame and knew they had all been crying. They were being brave, but their struggle to remain cheerful was percolating just beneath the surface. They were doing what needed to be done. They watched the young boys learn how to play with the kittens, how to pick them up. They gave them pointers on what the kittens liked and which toys were their favorites. We talked with Dana about how beautiful and sweet the kittens were. At one point I asked her if these were her cats. I wasn’t feeling “it” from her—that glimmer I often see of love’s seed taking root in an adopter's heart. I told her about our other kittens, just in case she would prefer them. They had better energy to match that of her little boys. I could see Jame and her daughters holding their breath, hoping the woman would not want Joey and Gracey.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. A hug from Frances.
Her boys looked at photos of the other kittens we have, but they only had eyes for Joey and Gracey. Dana added that Joey and Gracey were even more beautiful than she imagined from their photos and said she would love to give them a good home. I knew Jame and the girls were disappointed but the choice was made. This would be a good home. The kittens would have the boys to play with and a mom and dad to snuggle with inside a lovely home that overlooks a lake.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Lil' Gracey at 11 days old and again recently.
I gave the kittens a kiss goodbye. I thought about how they used to fit in my hand. They didn't even look like cats, more like hamsters. I'd worried, fussed, and after they were weaned, took great joy in watching them grow and thrive. The familiar pang of heartbreak and reluctance to let go returned. My eyes burned as I held back my tears. Joey and Gracey were two of our brightest stars. They’d grown into magnificent cats. It was a privilege to be part of their journey. Their little family, who so easily could have drowned in a window well during the torrential rains last June, have only happy days ahead thanks to our generous donors and skilled Vets. Now they had their forever homes. My job was done.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey with her mom, Minnie, who is very happy in her new home.
As Dana and her sons placed Joey and Gracey into their car and drove away, I stood in the kitchen with Jame and her daughters. I started to cry, but managed to not burst into tears. They offered me a tissue. Their eyes got watery and their faces pinked up. I gave them each a hug. I was SO PROUD of them-especially Frances and Grace. These girls did something tough for an adult to do and they handled themselves VERY WELL. In that moment something happened between the four of us. I’d passed the baton of fostering over to them. They had survived the first heartbreak and were ready to do it again. They were part of a sisterhood of cat rescuers now and between the tears my heart swelled with joy.
If you'd like to see lots more photos of Gracey, Joey and their family from the first days in foster care, you can read these posts:
The Squee Diaries
P.S. If you've gotten this far, Jame and her family are getting 3 kittens on Saturday that were part of a bigger rescue in Georgia. Their story begins next...