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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com 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.
I decided it was time to move foster kitties George, Bongo and Bunny-Boo Boo from Maria's house in Georgia to my house in Connecticut so we could get going on finding the cats forever homes. We rescued them FIVE MONTHS AGO and in that time I had hoped my other foster cats would have been adopted. With Kitten Season upon us, I have to crank things up a notch and hope we adopt out at least some of these foster cats before there are loads of kittens competing for adopters.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Meet George.
Most of the time I use a professional transport service to move our cats north. I really like PETS, LLC because they have been very trustworthy and prompt and their rates are reasonable. The only bad thing is the transports are usually filled with dogs. None of us love that the cats are with dogs, but the cat's discomfort only lasts for about a day's time (and they ARE in separate crates and some times even a separate walled off space from the dogs). The cats adjust and after they arrive here, within a very short amount of time, they are playing, eating and enjoying their new home.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. How many gorgeous cats are in this photo? Answer: All of them!
But…Maria didn't want to put these cats on the transport. I understood her reservations and certainly didn't blame her one bit. In five months of fostering, the close bond Maria had with the cats made it even harder for her to let them go on a truck full of dogs. Our only other option was to ask our friends Izzy and Mark if they were going on any road trips to Florida any time soon.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Keep that pretty face clean, George.
Izzy and Mark LOVE cats. If you've read my blog before, you know they will do anything to help any animal and their home in Pennsylvania reflects their passion. They've shared photos of their bed-it's covered with cats. I've seen a photo of Izzy on her sofa, working, flanked by the couple's two dogs, with cats at her feet. When Izzy and Mark go on a vacation, the always offer to bring rescue cats back north with them and many rescues are very grateful for their generosity.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Helloooooo Bongo!
Though they had no plans to travel, Izzy and Mark offered to drive down to Georgia, then drive back to PA and meet us with the cats! Yes, that's something crazy people do (lucky for us)! Before I knew it, in the space of a day, a plan was hatched. Izzy and Mark would leave Wednesday morning and drive to just north of Maria's in Georgia. They would get a good night's sleep, then pick the cats up very early on Thursday. By Thursday night (last night) they'd get the cats to the Perkins near the state line of NY and PA where we would meet them and take the cats the rest of the way home.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bongo is the spitting image of our former foster kitty, Charly!
Tuesday night, Coco fell ill. She had a fever and wasn't eating. I took her to see Dr. Mary the next morning. They ran some blood tests and re-ran her snap test to see if she had Feline Leukemia or FIV. Great.
Now what do I do? Do I tell Izzy and Mark to turn around and go home? What if Coco had something terrible? What if she was contagious? Sure, she wouldn't be in the same room as our new arrivals, but it's pretty much impossible for me to prevent transmitting disease as I go from one foster room to the next-even if I wash my hands and change clothes.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Portrait of cuteness.
If I cancel the trip, it will be TWO MORE weeks before the PETS transport runs and then we're in mid-March.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. LOOK AT THAT TAIL!
I spoke with Maria and we realized we needed to just do this transport. It would be better for the cats and after having nine deathly ill foster cats here two years ago, I figured with any luck, I would be able to manage what was yet to come. Ha ha ha. I think it's funny, too…funny or foolish.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. White Lion or domestic house cat?
I spoke with Dr. Mary the next morning. Coco's blood work indicated her white blood count was very high, which was her body's response to a virus or bacterial issue. She wanted to put her on antibiotics. Normally, I would just do that, but now I'm much more conservative about using antibiotics and more prone to allow the body to defend itself. Coco had begun to eat and perk back up after we'd given her subcutaneous fluids the day before. The blood test results were from the day before, too. Just because her white blood count was high then, did not mean it was STILL elevated now. I decided to let Coco heal on her own and, of course, if she showed ANY signs of feeling poorly I would get her on the medication right away. She was still negative for Feline Leukemia and FIV, too.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Goofhead.
Now I just had to get ready for the new arrivals so I got to work cleaning the foster room. After that I made myself a sandwich for lunch. I'm including this boring detail because not long after that I got SICK. Needless to say, driving 100 miles each way to pick up three cats at 9:00 PM in the middle of the boonies of mid-state New York is NOT something you want to do with a stomach ache and little, if any, access to a bathroom.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor Bunny. She'll feel better soon.
Izzy and Mark were running ahead of schedule AND the weather was about to take a turn from just cold to rain, sleet and snow mixed together. There was no way to back out of the pickup trip. I decided to take a nap and see if that would help any. Sam took a nap, too, since he was really tired and we were both going to do the run together (and hopefully not both GET the RUNS together since I made HIM a sandwich, too).
When I got up I felt just as awful as before, but now I also felt really groggy. I woke Sam up and had a difficult conversation with him. He had to do the run on his own. I just couldn't do it. I'd print out the directions, get him everyone's phone number and stay up in case he needed me for anything while on the road. I felt so terrible asking him to go alone, but he took it with a grain of salt while I stewed in my guilt.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh so delicate.
As it turns out, the trip was a quick one. Izzy and Mark were very tired and just wanted to get the cats to Sam and head home. They had been on the road for nearly fourteen hours by that point and still had three and a half more to go. Sam texted me saying he was turning right back around and would be home soon. By 11pm Sam called saying he was down the street. I thought; “Here goes nothing.” Then started praying this wasn't the stupidest idea I've ever had.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bongo wants to start the day with a belly rub.
We got the cats into the foster room. I had my first look at each one. George was calm, cool and collected. He let me hold him right away. I took one look at him and knew I was in trouble, suddenly realizing that to avoid “foster fail” I should rescue cats I'm NOT going to LIKE, yet here in my arms was my dear cat, Spencer's little twin brother. George has the same mostly white Norwegian Forest Cat body, the crazy spots of tabby, the biggest, fluffiest tail I have EVER SEEN, a plush coat and ruff AND he's a NICE CAT to boot.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The CRAZIEST tail I have ever seen!
Bongo hid behind the litter pan. Poor Bunny didn't even come out of the cat carrier. I knew to keep the room dark and quiet. I put out some food and left them to rest from their long trip. I set up an electric blanket for them in case they wanted to snuggle and I whispered goodnight to them and headed to bed…but first another trip to the bathroom. Ugh.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh Bunny, it's going to be OKAY!
This morning George and Bongo came over to say hello. I saw Bongo's nerve-damaged leg curled tightly against his body as he walked towards me. He walks with a wobble, but he doesn't let that stop him. He came over and laid down on the floor next to me. He rolled over and showed me his belly. He got up and laid against my lap and purred deeply. Oh crap, another cat to fall in love with!
Bunny is still scared, but I know she'll come around. It hasn't even been 24-hours yet and we all need time to get used to all the changes.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Doomed. I'm doomed!
July was even more difficult on us than June. Maria had taken in two more kittens from her neighbor who were very sick. A buff tabby named Tater Tot was the most ill. The Vet told us it was the “wet” form of FIP which is fatal. His sister, Latte was struggling with a terrible upper respiratory infection. Maria took time off from work to care for the cats around the clock. Neither of us slept much. I researched alternative treatments, testing, anything I could think of while we expected that Tater wouldn't be with us for much longer.
©2012 Maria S. (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our amazing survivor-Tater Tot.
Because Maria is so good at what she does, she noticed that Tater had tapeworms. We ran more tests. His belly was big and round from the tapeworms, giardia and what was almost pneumonia. Once we started treatment he began to show improvement. It took a few weeks but we were very happy to take FIP off the table as we saw Tater eat on his own and gain weight.
King arrived in my home for a few days. He was quite the charmer, but he wasn't meant to be here for very long. Sam and I drove King to New Hampshire, to his new home where his mom, Judy was waiting to adopt him. I loved this home for him and this good woman and her sister. I never thought King had a chance and here he was 1400 miles from the palette factory in a safe, loving environment.
Two of my dear friends adopted Sabrina and Cutie Pie. Their mom, April, found a home in Brooklyn, NY and their sister Bon Bon was adopted in June.
We took on another pregnant mama named Winnie and got a new foster home here in CT. Donna and her husband, Paul are great foster parents. Winnie had five amazing kittens on 8.10.12 named Buttons, Bandit, Honeydew, Charly and Pinkie.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Mama, Winnie (inset) waiting to see Dr. Chris. Buttons flying high while Honeydew and sister, Bandit look on.
I took another fistful of Xanax and flew to Topeka, Kansas to tour the Hill's Global Pet Nutrition Center. I tiptoed through the “dark side,” but made some good friends and learned a lot more about pet food ingredients.
Something horrible happened to my cat Spencer. He stopped eating and hid. X-rays showed a strange mass in his sinus. I tried to prepare myself for the worst. It turned out to be a false alarm which added many more gray hairs to my head.
I was honored to be chosen as one of five members of the Animal Control Advisory Panel, overseeing the operations of our brand new town's Animal Control facility here in Newtown, CT. We had our first meeting and I was delighted to be nominated as Co-Chair of the committee.
Just as I was about to get inundated with kitties from Maria and Cyndie, I found a foster home for two of the remaining black kitties and the final one, Hello Dahlia, was adopted. We got the word that Miss Fluffy Pants found a GREAT forever home and Coco, Chichi, Choco, Tater Tot, Latte, Fred & Barney, and Willow arrived!
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. (inset) the DOOD resting in his cage while his mysterious back injury slowly healed and a few months later enjoying the new cat tree in my office.
Chichi and Choco got adopted right away into a great home.
One morning, the DOOD couldn't get up and walk and was in terrible pain, growling or crying if we touched him. We did x-rays that showed nothing and began talking about taking DOOD to a neurologist or starting him on steroids. It took six long weeks, most of it forced cage rest, before he was well enough to walk again without pain. I think he fell down the spiral staircase to get into the basement where we store food for our feral cat, but we'll never really know what happened.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson getting oxygen before we raced him to the Emergency Vet and Intensive Care (inset). Jackson at home feeling better.
With Maria having space in her home open, we took on a kitty named Bongo who has nerve damage to his front leg. It had been a Hell of a month, but we kept on.
Opal went to a sanctuary and is doing well. She is becoming more friendly each day and she may one day be put up for adoption.
There was troubling news about King. He'd been struggling with chronic, severe and frankly bizarre ear infections. He had to have surgery, loads of daily cleanings, antibiotics. The other cats in the home weren't too sure about him. King faced losing his ears and his home, but his mom never gave up on him.
©2012 Maria S. Bunny Boo Boo (inset) with Bongo (left) and George (right)-who are all ready to be adopted! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
I rescued a knockout silver tabby Maine coon mix named Nico from a kill shelter in Georgia because I knew I could find him a home and I wasn't going to let him die.
Maria found a kitten in a parking lot she named, Bunny Boo Boo that she rescued on her own and we took on another cat whose former mom was going to lose her home if the landlord found out she rescued a cat from the parking lot nearby. We named him George and he and Bongo and Bunny Boo Boo are great friends.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hurricane Sandy, no power for almost a week-just a bad flashback to the year before when we got nailed at almost the same time by “Snowmageddon.”
Hurricane Sandy killed the power and made life HELL for a week making a mess of my home in Sandy Hook, CT.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. You are deeply missed, sweet girl.
Nico arrived and was adopted a few weeks later. The rest of Winnie's family found their forever homes. There were lots of inquiries about adopting kittens since the Holidays were approaching. Tater Tot, in a surprising twist, got adopted instead of Willow, who the family had come to meet. Willow, Fred & Barney and Latte were still with us waiting for their forever homes.
I got good news that King overcame his severe ear issues and was finally settling in with his new family. The other kitties were slowly accepting him and King was finding his place. His mom is the sort of adopter I always wish for-after a very rocky start, loads of vet bills and difficulties, she kept on. She never complained. She was completely devoted. My only hope is that her reward is enjoying the love of a very dear cat and hopefully a much easier future.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our mascot of Covered in Cat Hair and my baby, Spencer before and after surgery.
Spencer had a very challenging dental cleaning where he lost two more teeth and surgery to remove a mass from one ear and another from inside the other. I prepared myself for bad news, but the shock came as the test results indicated it was an apocrin gland cyst with “no content”-meaning NO CANCER.
Sam and I cleared out the garage of recycling one bright sunny morning. After we were done we went to Panera Bread to have a late breakfast. While we were sitting there we saw police cars racing past. I knew something bad had happened and a few minutes later I heard the news of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, which you can read more about HERE and HERE.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My home town will never be the same again. The school is a few miles from my home.
Wanting to reach out and help heal the broken hearts in our town, I created “Kitties for Kids” a kitten-therapy for the children, first responders and residents of Newtown, CT. We were featured on national television news and major news outlets online. We got loads of donations of plush toys and the first children and parents began to arrive to visit our kitties.
Although we had no Christmas and sent out no card (for the first time in my adult life), the joy of knowing I was helping people and the overwhelming honor of so many people reaching out to us was my gift.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. We will never forget and find a way to heal our hearts.
It's been quite a challenging and painful year. I realize that 2013 may be no easier. All I can do is hope that I'll be better able to handle what is yet to come and that for the cats out there who need me, that I'll have the resources to help them when the time comes.
We began the year with a rescue, going beyond our comfort zone by taking on an adult, instead of an easy-to-place kitten. The cat was a huge, white, “biscuit head” tom-cat from Henry County Care & Control. I saw his photo and saw something about him that made me take action. I named him Jackson Galaxy in honor of the Cat Daddy/Cat Behaviorist on Animal Planet's hit show, “My Cat From Hell.”
©2012 Henry Co. Care & Control (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson was a miserable wreck when we first took him into Kitten Associates as our first rescue of 2012.
Jackson had a rough start. He frightened Maria but we realized later it was because he was in great pain. He had a terrible infection from his neutering and he needed emergency surgery to correct the problem and get him back on the road to good health. By the end of the month, Jackson was on the transport headed to Connecticut to find his forever home.
©2012 Bobby Stanford (inset). ©2012 Leesiateh.com. Miss Fluffy Pants shortly before being adopted.
Our friend and volunteer, Bobby Stanford, told me about two cats living outside a palette factory in McDonough, GA. They were living in poor conditions and in danger of being hit by any one of the numerous fork lifts that raced around the premises. One of the two cats, a dirty, thin tuxedo we named King Arthur, seemed to be missing his back paws. Completely horrified I decided we'd help him and the other cat on the premises, who we named Miss Fluffy Pants, because we worried she was pregnant.
©2012 Maria S. (inset). King's mama, Judy. King's journey has been quite amazing. I'll be doing a more in-depth update on him in January.
I was fostering a little orange tabby spitfire named Bobette, along with her two boys, the third had just been adopted. Bobette needed surgery to repair her luxated patella, so I sat in on the procedure and helped her in recovery and for the next few weeks while she healed.
February was a month of discovery. We learned that King's missing paws were due to a birth defect. He didn't need surgery or prosthetics. He could walk on carpeting, but who would adopt this cat? King began to clean himself and gain some weight. He loved being petted until Miss Fluffy Pants came to join him.
Miss FP was not pregnant. We thought the two cats were friends at the factory, but they were not happy to see each other. With some quick thinking and the donation of a cat tree, Miss FP could sit high up, away from King and both cats relaxed into their new foster home.
©2011 Henry Co. Care & Control (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bobette with one of her kittens while at the kill shelter and after surgery in Sam's loving arms.
We also learned the Miss FP was FIV+ which we knew would put a roadblock in our ability to find her a good forever home. With her taking up valuable foster care space I got to work trying to figure out what to do for her that didn't mean putting her in a sanctuary.
We were heartbroken to learn that after some behavior issues gave us a clue to trouble, Dr. Larry diagnosed Sam's cat, Nicky with Chronic Renal Failure. We began giving him sub Q fluids every few days and began to learn more about this condition and ways we could lengthen his life.
Jackson arrived in Connecticut and was placed with my friends at Animals in Distress, but fell ill after arriving there. They thought it was a mild upper respiratory infection and in time he was feeling better. By the second week of February, Jackson found his forever home with a loving family. We were all delighted.
©2011 Maria S. (inset) ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Two of Bobette's boys, Jakey & Teddy.
Bobette continued her recovery, but was still limping. I had to separate her from her boys because she hissed and growled every time she saw them. The boys, Jakey & Teddy had a blast hanging out with my cats while I continued to try to find them a great home.
The saying is March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but this March was the opposite; quiet for a few weeks, then things started to go crazy.
Bobette had the staples taken out of her leg and due to a problem with the bandage removal she ended up biting my hand so badly I had to see a Doctor.
I found a blueish growth on my cat Gracie's abdomen. She had a dental done and had the cyst removed. It ended up being an Apocrine Gland Carcinoma, but was considered to be completely excised and of no further concern.
Jakey & Teddy were adopted together and Bobette was glad to see them leave.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me with Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy.
On March 26th, a few days before my birthday, Jackson Galaxy emailed me and asked me out to lunch (which ended up being dinner). It was one of the best days of my life, but that wasn't all that happened. That night in the frigid cold in nearby Trumbull, CT, six mostly black kittens were born to a gray mama named April. I didn't realize it at the time, but they would be my next foster family.
The next day, still buzzing from my visit with Jackson, I was honored by Freekibble.com with a donation of a full palette of Halo® canned cat food! The press came to document the event and I started to wonder if the foster cats would eat it (they loved it!).
The Worst Birthday Ever was followed by picking up April and meeting her mostly all black female kittens for the first time. Three kittens were polydactyl and there was no way I was going to be able to tell most of them apart for the next eight weeks.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. April and her kittens.
I rescued a senior cat named Leo who was an adorable long haired tuxedo. The poor cat was forced to live outside on scraps when his owner's wife had a baby. I begged my friend Katherine to take him into Animals in Distress if I paid the Vet bill. We worked something out and Leo was saved. A few months later, Leo and a second cat found an amazing home with a family I found for them here in town. They are doing GREAT.
A missing cat alert showed up in email with a very familiar name, Amberly. One of my former foster cats was MISSING and the family didn't have the nerve to tell me. I leapt into action. Thank GOODNESS Katherine has good instincts and lived nearby the family. By the next DAY Katherine found Amberly and the family promised to work harder to keep her inside.
©2012 Maria S. (inset) and Robin A.F. Olson. Coco, all grown up with siblings Choco and ChiChi (inset).
Maria contacted me about a tortie mom cat we named Cami and five kittens in her neighbors yard. She was very worried about them so I told her to find a place to put them and we'd take them on. By the time Maria got back to the home, two of the kittens were gone, never to be seen again. We named the surviving kittens Coco, ChiChi and Choco.
On May 1st a shelter called AnimalKind in upstate New York suffered the total loss of their facility after a small fire caused the sprinkler system to flood the 3-story building. Through my contacts a pet product companies I was able to provide them with palettes of food and litter. Later in 2012 I visited their facility and met with their Director, Katrin Hecker. You can read about my visit HERE.
I travelled to New Jersey to attend Bottle Baby Bootcamp at Tabby's Place. The timing was great because the black kittens needed help since poor April was having a tough time feeding all the kittens. I worried the littlest one wouldn't make it, but Cutie Pie surprised me and began to do well. I named her sisters Sabrina, Bon Bon, Beauty, Belly Holiday and Hello Dahlia (in honor of my friend, JaneA's cat Dahlia who had recently passed away).
Then a crazy thing happened.
JaneA came to visit us and instead of falling in love with her cat's namesake, she threw me a curveball, clearly falling in love with our little spitfire, Bobette. She adopted her the next morning before she left for her home in Maine. It was a one of the happiest adoptions I'd ever done.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. JaneA with her girl, Bobette (who she later named, Kissy)
By the end of the month there was more somber news. Jackson the cat lost his home and was being returned. Since I had space I offered to take him back since AID was full up.
June will forever be a tough month for me since it's the anniversary of my Father's passing and of my favorite cat's passing. I hoped that this June would not be under such a dark cloud but it was not meant to be.
Thankfully it wasn't all bad news. After months of searching, begging, dealing, I was able to get Miss Fluffy Pants transferred to Good Mews in Marietta, Georgia.
©2012 Maria S. (inset) and Robin A.F. Olson. Willow is still looking for her forever home! You can visit her Petfinder page HERE
Maria, our cat-magnet, rescued a cat from a tree. She named her Willow and we added her to our group of rescues in Georgia. Meanwhile, I got a curious email from a lady in New Hampshire inquiring about King. She had a fully carpeted home. She had two cats. Did I think King might be happy with her?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me, Jill Delzer (center) and Ingrid King (far right). Inset: Joanne McGonagle, Me with Gracie the cat.
And for the first time in many years, I took a fistful of Xanax and boarded a plane headed to Salt Lake City where Sam and I were Speakers at BlogPaws 2012. I was up for two awards that I did not win, but I had so much fun and made a great new friend. In those few days I was re-energized enough to keep doing rescue work once I got home.
Maria removed another cat from her neighbor (with his consent)- who NEVER spays or neuters his cats. Maria has tried repeatedly to get the cats taken care of but he just puts it off and his cats get pregnant. A nine month old kitten named Opal, who had become almost feral, was pregnant. Our new foster mom, Cyndie offered to take her in and help her along. Sadly, the stress of being in a home pushed Opal in to premature labor. Four kittens were born, but after extensive attempts to save their lives, only two survived. She named them Fred & Barney. We had their siblings Pebbles and Bam Bam cremated and their little wooden urn is here with me placed next to my cat, Bob's ashes.
NOTE TO READERS: It's been a week since I wrote this post, but I felt it was still worth sharing. This is a behind-the-scenes look at the birth “Kitties for Kids” and its initial flowering. I hope it inspires all of you that next time you get an idea that rises from your heart, you just go with it. You may change the world, or only a small part of it or just your own soul. Whatever comes of it, do it. The world needs you.
My Mother used to say to me: “Never wish for anything. You're liable to get it.”
A week ago I wished I could pay my mortgage, find more donations for Kitten Associates and get the kittens adopted so I could finally take a MUCH needed break from fostering. Things were looking up. I had good possible adopters for Coco, Fred & Barney, Nico and Willow. That left me with Latte and George & Bongo (who are still down in Georgia).
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The size of the memorial grew every day until the sidewalks were jammed with toys, flowers, candles and messages of love.
Then the world stopped spinning and the tears began to flow after the vicious rampage and mass murder at our local elementary school. The following day, Saturday the 15th of December, an idea blossomed. I'm not one to sit idly by when something bad happens. I need to take action on some level, in some way. Maybe running a cat rescue predisposes me to be the type of person to run TO trouble, instead of AWAY from it?
There are so many times when I believe I have a good idea, but never act on it. There's always a reason to watch more TV or to not bother because it would take too much time and keep me from other things I've made a commitment to already. Between tears I said to Sam that maybe we should open up the foster kitten room and invite the children of Newtown to come here and just pet the cats. We knew the effect playtime would have on the kids. I'd seen it many time before-their eyes lit up, twinkling, giggling like mad, their voices rising in glee. I thought if I could help them, even for a short while it would be worth it.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. So many candles. So many tears.
I knew I couldn't take away their pain-or frankly, anyone's here in Sandy Hook, CT for that matter, but I HAD to try. I feel very protective of the people in this town-which surprises me because often I feel like an outcast. Sam and I don't have any children together so we miss out on a lot of things since Newtown IS very family focused. Some times I resented living in a bedroom community where we didn't drive an SUV or go to soccer games. I found my way to fit in through my love of animals and now I get to do something with that love that might be of some benefit on a grand scale. I've always wanted to make a difference. Maybe with this little idea to help the children I COULD.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The note reads: “Sandy Hook Elementary. With all my love and lots of Hugs. Sandy Hook Class of 1972.
I called the program Kitties for Kids (though looking back on it I wish I called it Kitties for Kiddies, but it's too late now) and put together a mental picture of how it would work. I bounced the idea off Sam and he said; “Go for it.” He didn't find any serious issues with doing it and I was so energized by my need to help that I sat down and started making lists. I went online and added a number of plush cat toys to our Amazon WishList. As I do with every adoption event or promotion I went online and told my Facebook fans, both of Covered in Cat Hair and of Kitten Associates, my non-profit cat rescue organization.
I thought that after the kids came to visit, I'd give them a plush cat toy because I feared they would either not want to go home after 30 minutes OR not want to go home-EVER. Perhaps getting a parting gift of a plush cat would help soothe them and remind them of the nice time they had.
I got a text message from my foster mom down in Georgia. “Where were the plush cats on the list?” She didn't see anything.
Neither did I.
I added more and they, too, were gone in minutes!I began getting emails from folks asking how they could help. One woman, who created K.T. Cat, an adorable plush toy designed to help young children talk about their feelings, offered a donation of her plush.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Every day the UPS driver kept bringing us packages. It was like Christmas for days and days!
She offered 50 K.T. Cats and I gladly accepted. I knew a special therapeutic plush like this could REALLY make a difference.
I was stunned by all the sudden activity and interest in my idea. I started to worry about what-if's: What if I don't have enough space to store all these boxes of plush cats? What if no one shows up? What if TOO MANY people show up and I can't take them all on for fear of stressing my kittens? What if we have to rent a haul and a storage container? What if I RUN OUT OF FOSTER KITTENS?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sorting out what we have and trying to keep it all away from inquisitive cats.
My dear friend Mary, of The Word Forge LOVED the idea and offered to help write a Press Release. Another friend, Irene, my super-volunteer offered to come over and help me clean out the foster room and go to Target so we could get some things to cheer the space up a bit (even though i really wanted to completely re-do the room there wasn't time). It seemed as though EVERYONE I told about Kitties for Kids LOVED the idea. Their enthusiasm kept me going.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. A huge box of plush ready for the children to take them home.
I got very little sleep and barely ate. There was a lot of time spent answering calls and emails. Kitten Associates was FINALLY starting to become known in Newtown, something we've been very weak on since being established in 2010 and the word is spreading about us beyond the borders of the USA.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen and his plush counterpart, both offering comfort to those effected by the Shooting in Sandy Hook.
And then the phone started to ring. The people I needed to reach were getting the message and wanted to book an appointment. Kitties for Kids was really happening. Now it was time to found out if my idea was a good one.
Next up-"Media Mayhem," followed by “Terror-tourists GO HOME!”, then we do a wrap up with an update on how the Kitties for Kids program is doing along with some very special photos.
For more information about Kitties for Kids, or to find out how you can visit our kitties visit Kitten Associates!
The first morning after Spencer's surgery I went over to his crate and opened the door so he could stretch his legs. I hated having to confine him, but it's only for a few days. There's a pen attached to his crate once the door is open. It gives him more space, but keeps him from running around. He's supposed to rest. He's supposed to wear that damn “cone of shame.” He's supposed to be feeling awful for a few days.
I started placing the dishes out onto the counter. I count to myself the numbers 1 through 9. I have enough plates. Next is to get the raw food thawed so I go over to the refrigerator and pull out a package of food that Sam made up a few days ago. I hear a weird sound and turn. I don't see anything so I go back to what I was doing but something caught my eye. It was Spencer. He was sitting in his “spot” where he usually waits to be fed. He looked up at me and gave me the ever-familiar silent meow, letting me know he was hungry. The sound I heard must have been him jumping over the pen when just the night before there was no way he could manage.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. “This is your cat on drugs.”
It would be a good hour before the food was warm and Jackson, too, was fussing about wanting to eat. Who am I to say no to them after the last day we had?
I grabbed a few cans of one of their favorite canned grain-free foods and scooped some out on a dish. I hid Spencer's antibiotics and Jackson's pile of pills into the food after I'd coated them in my favorite stuff-Flavor Doh. It really works to hide pills! I put the food down and within two seconds, pills and all, it was gone. Spencer ate normally for the first time in MONTHS. He'd been chewing out of once side of his mouth, a telltale sign of some sort of dental problem. Here he was, like nothing ever happened. Meanwhile, Jackson was chowing down, wanting more. I couldn't be happier.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Purple-buprenex-haze.
Later that morning, as I sat at my desk, Spencer ran over and jumped into his favorite cat bed which is at table top height and is right next to me. I was so glad to see him, even though he was supposed to be in his cage resting. He seemed very comfortable even though he was still on Buprenex and was a bit loopy. Blitzen and Nicky were also in my office fast asleep. I felt safe again with them here. I couldn't get over how dreadfully lost I felt without them less than 24 hours ago. We were a family again and everyone was basically okay.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson, back to his old self.
I've said it many times before that my finances are in the shitter. Part of it was due to how much we spent trying to keep Bob Dole (my cat) alive, along with some other very costly Vet visits. I knew if Spencer had cancer I'd have a very very very hard time paying for his care. I would find a way, but when you're in a deep hole already, you don't have much energy or tools to dig deeper.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My lovely floor.
Meanwhile Jackson was back to his old ways. He was LOUD, meowing the second we went to bed, then starting up again very early in the morning. He wants his pills/snack at 7:20AM. I do not need an alarm clock with him. He's almost spritzed cat urine in the bedroom but I watch him like a hawk and have stopped him a number of times. It's exhausting. I don't know what it would take to get him to stop doing it. There's competition for the bedroom and he rarely stays the night. He's probably trying to scent the place so he can take over. Meanwhile it's pee pee pads by the front of the bed to protect the rug and a lot more policing then I'd like to do.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Yummy goodness, but naughty boy.
Jackson is not deaf. He MAY be hearing impaired to some degree, but I'm not sure how severe it is. He CAN hear me, especially if I YELL at him to NOT PEE on the BED. As for more subtle sounds, he may have a problem. More testing needs to be done.
For now it's simply watch and wait—make sure everyone stays out of trouble, eats their food, takes their medicine. Spencer's been very good about not picking at his sutures and for that I continue to be happy.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer with the only Friskies I allow in the house.
I also have one more thing to be HAPPY about.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Soulful Jackson.
I could barely speak and I had to hold back my tears as I thanked her profusely and hung up the phone. I ran to Sam to tell him, the tears falling freely, before I could get the words out, leaving him to think it was the worst before he realized it was the BEST NEWS EVER!
Not only was Spencer just fine and dandy, but the weight of worrying about how I would pay for his care lifted. What a great gift! It was completely unexpected and so very very sincerely appreciated. My boys were back home with me, just where they belong. I wanted to hold each one tight and never let them go.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me and my baby. It's going to be okay.
I may not have ever had human children, but I suddenly felt like I understood how the bond between a Mother and child-how it must feel to almost lose someone you love very much, then yank the back from the edge of the cliff at the very last second. It's been quite a week and this time we get a happy ending. I know it won't always be like this, but for now it's all good.
The past 24 hours have squeezed the life out of me. I could barely make it to my bed last night I was so tired.
The morning started off too early. I wanted to go back to bed as soon as I left it, but I pushed myself to get into the shower. Get dressed. Get going. I had to get ready to leave for Dr. Larry's with Spencer in tow. It was finally time for Spencer to get his MUCH NEEDED dental cleaning done, as well as the removal of an ugly black growth from the edge of his right ear. Spencer also had a small growth INSIDE his left ear that had to go, too. It was these two unwelcome guests that I was most worried about. Was it CANCER?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My baby.
I got dressed and put on a new pair of jeans. I managed to get them half price on Cyber Monday. It was the first new pair of clothes I'd had since I could remember. They fit great but were a bit too long. As I walked I kept catching the ends under my feet, causing me to hike up my jeans as high as they could go, but then they'd slip back down. I'd get them hemmed later, but it made me crankier.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Growth highlighted. Was VERY difficult to notice this until it was bigger due to Spencer's coloring.
Spencer was a dream to get into his cat carrier, but once we got into the car, his pupils dilated and he started to, well, not meow, per se, but sort of squeak. Spencer doesn't meow. He never has. I call what he does "air meow" because he WILL look at me, then open his mouth; it's just that nothing comes out but some air from his lungs.
I took the back roads instead of the highway, determined to keep Spencer as comfortable as possible. Just before we reached the Clinic, a cop car whizzed past us, lights and sirens blaring. I knew from the days when I volunteered with EMS that it had to be bad news, the more noise and fuss the car was making, the worse the situation. I wondered where he was going as a sense of dread filled my heart. I hoped this wasn't a bad sign of things to come.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This is Spencer's favorite spot, right next to me when I'm working at my desk.
It was quiet at the Clinic so I asked if I could set Spencer up in his cage and to spend a few minutes saying goodbye. I've been a client of Dr Larry's for over 15 years so I get to go in the back where client's aren't usually allowed.
There were two big dogs barking loudly. The Tech got them to quiet down, but it ticked up my anxiety wanting to protect Spencer from these beasts. Spencer didn't want to come out of his carrier. I couldn't blame him. I ended up having to tip the carrier up on its edge hoping gravity would do the trick and it did.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Dirty, yucky, teeth and gums.
I spent a few minutes talking to Spencer, petting him, kissing him, somehow trying to capture this moment because of the fear under all the other fears—that I would never see Spencer again. I realize it may sound dramatic, but over the past few weeks so many cats have died that I just felt this sense of impending doom. I kept thinking about Bobette and how we all thought she was going to be fine and she didn't survive her surgery. I pushed back my fears as best I could, but I wasn't raised to have faith, my parents feeling we should decide our own path to religion (if we had one at all). It left me struggling with my feelings.
I didn't go straight home. I decided to go grocery shopping, get just a few things. I was tired of being hungry and broke, but I certainly had enough to buy some bread and eggs, maybe some soup. The store was not crowded, being that it was not even 9AM. I enjoyed the meditative quality of walking up and down the aisles, looking at all the food, wondering what was on sale and what would make for an inexpensive meal while my tummy rumbled reminding me I'd skipped breakfast.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Not comin' out!
As usual, I bought more than I anticipated, but took advantage of the sales and saved $40.00, for which I felt quite proud. I distracted myself long enough to forget my worries about Spencer. He was in good hands. I had to wait and see how things would unfold, but I couldn't fool myself completely. I was really cranky from being tired and from struggling to not to be worried. By the time I got home I was in a bad mood.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Too fluffy for feet? Spencer in his cage.
I got the car unloaded and Sam helped me put the groceries away. He didn't say anything to me until we were done.
“I need to talk to you about Jackson.”
I felt a ice pick in my gut and my legs go wobbly.
“He didn't eat this morning and is hiding in your office. I can't get him to eat. Something's wrong.”
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This makes me sick-I think of all the “urgent” cats who need to get out of shelters and I look at this photo and see my sweet kitty-how much I love him-how easy it could be for him to be one of those cats.
I began rattling off questions as we walked into my office. Sure enough there was Jackson with his front legs tucked under him. It's called “meatloafing” and it's an indicator that Jackson was in pain. I squatted down and petted Jax. He didn't respond. Normally Jackson would press his head back into my hand and start purring right away. He just sat there in stone silence.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The day before he was a bit “off.”
I hustled back into the kitchen, my jeans getting caught up under my feet. I wanted to rip them off and throw them out. My mind racing, I thought of things I had on hand to tempt Jackson to eat. Nothing worked. I even brought out the big guns-DRY FOOD. He wouldn't even sniff it.
Once at the Vet we wouldn't be able to do anything to him other than an exam because the stress, again, could push him into heart failure. Jackson was only to have home visits from Dr. Larry, not trips to see him!
We started to get ready, then I stopped Sam. We both sat down in the living room, looking at Jackson, who'd relocated along with us. I didn't want to rush a decision. He'd only missed ONE meal and we were running him to the Vet. How nutty did that sound? Maybe we should wait a day and see how he does? Maybe he's in trouble and we need to bring him in right away?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. We chose to risk the trip to the Vet. It was up to Jackson if it could make it.
We went back and forth weighing the pros and cons.
We offered him the cat carrier and he got up and went right inside it-no fuss-no stress. It was a good start, but would we MAKE it to the Vet?
I asked Sam to drive slowly, to take the back road I'd just been on an hour before with Spencer. We stopped part way into the trip because Jackson started to cry. I was sitting next to his carrier with the door open, my arm snaked around the door so I could offer him what comfort I could. He was sitting awkwardly, crying as I scratched his neck. I wondered if I'd made a terrible mistake and if this trip was sending Jackson's heart into dangerous rhythm.
The day has come at last. We begin with the end of the story. Adoption. The time to say farewell to our foster cat, Tater Tot. Along this journey, there were many fear-filled weeks when I wondered if this tale had any chance of ending with happy tears.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The goofy big lug we'll never forget.
Tater's rescue began when our uber-foster-mom-Maria spotted kittens in her neighbor's yard. It was a hot summer day in Georgia, too hot for tiny kittens to be in the sun. Seeing such tiny kittens gave Maria pause. She knew her neighbor wasn't paying much, if any, attention to the many offspring of his unsprayed female cats. Each year he promised to do something about it, giving Maria lip-service, saying some of the cats were placed with friends and the others "he would get around to fixing" one of these days. Maria offered to help, but she had to tread lightly. In the meantime, the cats continued to give birth to more litters.
©2012 Maria S. Too weak to stand, our first glimpse of Tater Tot.
She asked me if we could take the kittens into our Program and I agreed, in some way grateful they weren't coming from the local kill shelter we usually get our cats. At least these kittens wouldn't have upper respiratory infections, which is so common in shelter cats.
In total we planned to help ten cats from this one home. On one of the rescue days, two of the kittens were gone, never to be seen again. The remaining cats, two mamas and six kittens became Kitten Associates' wards.
©2012 Maria S. Not happy about getting a bath, but Tater was full of fleas.
What I didn't plan on was how SICK these kittens would be. As Maria fired off photos to me 1000 miles away, she was assessing how serious the situation was. A buff tabby kitten was laying on the pavement, barely able to stand. He was riddled with fleas. His left eye was swollen. He was grossly underweight.
©2012 Maria S. Our sick sweetheart.
Maria spent weeks sleeping on a tiny cot in the room with Tater and his sister, Latte. I was going crazy from the stress, jumping if the chime on my iPhone indicated I'd gotten a text message or if Maria called me. From afar I did as much as I could. I did research, spent money on weird homeopathic treatments, did fundraisers for more and more Vet visits because this kitten was VERY VERY SICK.
©2012 Maria S. Another trip to the Vet.
©2012 Maria S. Getting used to car rides.
…until Maria saw that he had tapeworm and that changed everything.
The parasites bloated his abdomen, just as we would expect to see from the "wet" form of FIP. Once we began treatment, Tater began to improve.
©2012 Maria S. This time we fear we'll be getting very bad news.
Over the weeks Tater's condition waxed and wanted. He finally began to have more good days than bad, but his left eye continued to run and his breathing was very loud. Tater also retained his big belly which made him look pregnant and was an odd mix with his long, skinny tail.
©2012 Maria S. With new medications on board, Tater finally sleeps comfortably in Maria's lap.
As Tater grew stronger, his personality began to shine. He'd been handled so much by Maria that nothing phased him. He just wanted to be loved and enjoy life.
He was finally well enough to be transported to my home, along with his cohorts and sibling a few months later.
©2012 Maria S. Feeling better, growing bigger!
I remember seeing Tater for the first time in person. I gasped when I saw him. His eyes were the color of ripe pumpkins and so large and round. With his angular face it gave him a comical look. Tater also made funny noises almost constantly. He was confident, friendly and wanted OUT of the big dog crate we used for the transport. I knew I was going to enjoy my time with this stunning, yet silly cat and couldn't wait to get him home.
©2012 Maria S. With buddy, Sammy, one of Maria's cats.
Tater's been here for four months. I haven't gotten a single adoption application for him. No one wanted him. I couldn't imagine why. Over the months I've come to know Tater as a real charmer, laid back, anything goes. He got on well with all the other cats. Nothing phased him. Life was good. The sad thing was that Tater never stopped sneezing and his eye wouldn't heal properly, either.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Chillin' in Connecticut.
We invested in a PCR DNA test of Tater's mucus and determined it was mycoplasma, which is a bacterial parasitic microorganism. We started treatment and he got better right away. After 30 days we stopped for two days and he began to get sick again, so we went for another 30 days (which will be done just before Christmas).
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Growing big and strong.
Initially it was Willow who was supposed to be adopted three days ago. A family came to meet her and it went well, but it was Tater they had eyes for-Tater was "the one" for them. Though I tried to convince them to adopt Tater and Willow, they wanted to start slow and just adopt the one cat.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Realizing it's tougher to get off the ground the bigger you are.
This one cat who was near death in the road last June is going to live in a 5000 sq ft plus sized home with his own "in-law suite" to start, then full access to the house. Tater will have big windows to watch birdies. He'll have two little girls to be friends with. Tater's Mom and Dad are doctors and I may have been pushy, but I made his Mom promise me that she'd stay on top of Tater's health issues and that his runny eyes and sneezing would be taken care of right away. She easily agreed and had no problem continuing Tater's medication and making sure he was fed a good grain-free canned diet for the rest of his life.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Tater's family.
Although I wish Tater would have a kitty-friend, he may yet, one day. Until then he'll have plenty of human friends who will love him and protect him, just as Maria and I did. They will continue our good work and will keep him safe. They will care for him, not with indifference, but with loving kindness and respect.
Tater Tot was our first poster boy in a series we did based on before and after rescue images showing what we do best. You can visit Kitten Associates to learn more about our programs.
I was finally well enough to sit at my desk and try to string together a few cohesive thoughts. Three days of a cliché cold: sore throat, stuffy head, lungs loaded and tight were in the rear view mirror now. The only thing remaining was the kind of headache that makes you wish you didn't have a head. I couldn't spend another day in bed watching episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs on my small iPad screen. I would muddle along.
I tried to catch up on e-mails and sort out what I needed to get done. I didn't want to do too much right away because relapse is not an option, especially this time of year. As I sat at my desk, the late morning sun was bright and warmed my feet. Cats came and went, searching for the prime spot to nap away the afternoon. I heard Bandit and Honeydew running around the house, chasing each other, wrestling, but eventually they, too, couldn't resist my warm office full of soft cat beds.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bandit keeps me company while I'm in bed with a cold.
I happened to glance down to my left. Bandit was belly up, apparently asleep. She was trembling. Amused, I thought she was dreaming, but her movements weren't the quirky-jerky shifts I've seen other cats do. I shot a video of her, at first trying not to wake her, then worried something was wrong. I woke her up and she was still shaking. I wondered if she was cold so I cradled her in my arms as her body continued to quake.
I petted her and talked to her. For a second or two she'd stop, then start up again. She seemed sleepy so I sat back in my chair and held her, falling ever deeper in love with this tiny little kitten. She's half the size of her brother and light as a feather. She would wake slightly, but the shaking didn't stop. I called the Vet and they said to watch her, keep her warm, let them know if it keeps going on.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. If you're not in love with Bandit there's something wrong with you.
I called out to Sam and the two of us began to set up a heated bed for her. I worried she was feverish so I took her temperature. It was 100.6°F which is normal.
After fifteen minutes passed, with Bandit still shaking, I called my Vet again. They could see her at 5pm. It was barely 12:30pm. Something in my gut said not to wait. I asked if I could bring her and leave her in case they could see her sooner and they agreed, offering I could see Dr. Mary right away if I didn't want to wait to see Dr. Larry.
As I raced to the Vet, I started to run through what could be troubling Bandit. Was she fighting off an infection? Was a toxin coursing through her? Did she get hurt? I said a silent prayer for Bandit to please be all right. Not Bandit. Not this sweet angel of a kitten. I also hoped this wouldn't cost too much. Our finances aren't the best and I knew too well how one Vet visit could easily break the bank.
Thankfully it was quiet at my Vet's office. They immediately took Bandit in the back room to check her temperature. It had gone up to 101.4°F which is still normal, but on the rise. I felt panicked and weak. I realized I hadn't eaten anything and my stomach growled loudly. I didn't care about eating, but the stress and low blood sugar was making me feel faint.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bandit appeared to be dreaming, but then I realized she was awake and shaking badly. I rushed her to the Vet shortly after this was shot.
Dr. Mary and Super Deb began a careful examination. Dr. Mary talked about everything she was doing and what she was or wasn't finding. “Her heart and lungs sound normal. I'm palpating her abdomen and she's not complaining so there's no pain there. I don't feel anything abnormal.” Dr. Mary continued on as Super Deb comforted Bandit and kept her from wiggling off the table. She put Bandit on the floor and we watched her walk. I called to her and she ran over to me with her tail up high.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
They ran a complete blood panel and re-did her snap test. I sat in the waiting room with my heart pounding. Every time a door opened I jumped-wondering what the news would reveal. Those fifteen minutes passed, taking a few years off my life as I worried. When Dr. Mary came to discuss the results I almost jumped out of my skin.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Super Deb comforts Bandit.
Dr. Mary began researching toxins. The only thing I could think of were a few plants-none were an issue and an open (empty) bottle of Dayquil that I remembered I'd left on the counter. Dr. Mary was very worried about that and said that the blood work wouldn't show if Bandit had been poisoned, depending on what she ingested and when. My heart sank. Surely this kitten wasn't going to DIE?!
We discussed everything from epilepsy to birth defects to the dry form of FIP. Red-faced, I told her that earlier that morning Bandit almost jumped into an open toilet and I'd had no other choice but to pin her against the vanity with my leg to keep her from falling in. I felt terrible. Did I cause her internal damage? What the HELL was going on?
I had to leave Bandit with Dr. Mary. They gave her pain meds and sub q fluids. Dr. Mary felt if she could calm Bandit down and soothe her pain she would stop shaking, then hopefully it would not resume once the pain meds wore off. If not, Bandit would have to see a neurologist and get a CT scan. I knew if that happened we were done for-the costs-$1200 to $1400 just for the scan. Bandit had to get better.
It was a long afternoon. I kept running things over in my head. What did I do? What did she get into? Facebook friends gave suggestions or left supportive comments, praying for Bandit to be ok.
I had the difficult task of calling Donna, Bandit's rescuer and first foster mama to tell her the news. I knew she'd be just as upset as I was and I struggled, trying to be calm and not burst into tears. She took the news well, but I knew it was killing her, too.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bandit says goodbye the to the staff at Dr. Larry's.
I felt so happy and light, not bothered by anything as I drove along the crowded highway, a journey I've probably taken a thousand times over the years. This was a good trip. I couldn't wait to see Bandit. I got to the Clinic, smiling and anxious. One of the staff told me that Dr. Mary wanted to talk to me. I said I'd just spoken to her on the phone and she said she knew that, but that the doctor still wanted to talk about something. My heart sank.
I went in the back room where only staff were usually allowed. The walls are lined with varying sizes of stainless steel cages. It's brightly lit and spotlessly clean. I zeroed in on Bandit. She was far off to the left, curled up on a heated pad in the back of her 2' x 2' cage.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. After a long, difficult day, finally some rest.
Whatever joy I may have felt evaporated into the frosty night air. The drive home in the darkness did nothing to soothe either myself or Bandit, who cried, desperate to get out of her carrier. We set up a dog crate for her, hoping she would rest and do nothing else. I offered her a litter pan and she peed away all the sub q fluids. I gave her something to eat and she didn't hesitate to enjoy her dinner. I shut the door to the crate and she sat there, mild tremors coursing through her body. I resigned myself to it being a long night and began my hyper-vigilant watch of her every move.
Over the next hour or two it was clear that Bandit was not happy being confined. Each time I opened the crate door she'd slip past me and dash around the living room. I decided to bring her to my bedroom and close the door so I could watch her and she'd have space to move around and not feel stressed. I offered her toys and she wanted to play. She jumped on the bed. She chased her brother, then her brother chased her. She wouldn't sit still long enough for me to see if she was shaking. She seemed like her old self, yet I couldn't believe she was suddenly just fine.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
I didn't want to believe it, but she seemed fine. This morning she was playful, hungry and just as loving as ever. As I sat at my desk, trying to put this story together, she climbed into my arms, fussing about until she found a comfortable position. I cradled her just as I had a day before, but this time the only vibration I felt was from her deep, blissful purr.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This morning with Bandit in my arms.