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Urine Marking

A Rescuer's Worst Nightmare. Hoarding.

I just did something I don’t feel good about. In fact, I’m shaking.

I just got off the phone with a Humane Enforcement Officer because I needed to let her know about a situation that has weighed heavily on my heart these past few days. Due to the legal implications surrounding this case I have to change names and locations of all involved. I hope you understand that before I go on any further. The last thing I need is for this to blow up, but I can’t keep this story to myself either.

Last week I got a call from a lady who lives out-of-state. She’d called me a few years ago asking for help with kittens. I was able to put her in touch with a great gal who does rescue in her area who could help her. This woman was a bit difficult to work with and seemed easily stressed and somewhat paranoid, but my goal is to help the cats whatever it takes, so I did my best to focus on the task at hand. The very nice gal took two moms and 12 kittens. Everyone of them was spayed and vetted and the moms were returned to the woman. The kittens were all adopted. At the time, I was told there was no concern for the living situation of the cats and that the great gal did not see any sign of hoarding.

When the woman called again the other day, things went differently. The woman told me she had two cats who were pregnant and about to give birth any day. She’d called on other rescues and shelters but they would spay-abort the cats and she couldn’t allow that to happen.

I understood her feelings and I have to admit it’s something I haven’t done, either. This is a divisive topic between people who do rescue. They don’t usually talk about aborting kittens. Frankly, I don’t want to even think about it, but…the woman told me the pregnant cats were 9-10 MONTHS OLD. They were still kittens themselves. The stress on their bodies, their smaller size, their inexperience could add up to a very bad situation. Our foster kitty Winnie was very young when she gave birth and only one of her kittens, Piglet, survived. Piglet only lived because Winnie had parenting help from her cat-mother, Laney. Who would help these cats?

Trying to remain calm I asked about other cats in the home. The woman admitted to having over 30, brushing it off, blaming her husband for taking in a stray male cat who was intact and the fact that they couldn’t get the cats fixed until spring when the mobile spay/neuter van came around. I told her I’d find her a vet to do the procedures sooner and that we’d even pay for it if that would help, but she continued on saying her home smelled like cat urine, as if that was something anyone in her situation would expect.

 

Then she, matter-of-factly said something that made it tough to not crawl through the phone line and throttle her. She told me that last year she lost (died) 16 kittens to a “URI”. SIXTEEN KITTENS DIED. WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON.

 

Clearly there is a much bigger problem going on beyond needing a rescue to “get rid of” (her words) the kittens who would be born soon. She didn’t suggest they be killed, but she wanted them out of her home, just like the last two litters…well they weren’t the last two litters that were born. The last kittens I knew of were born years ago and she's telling me that kittens are still being born because she added there were a bunch of kittens running around “but we’re going to keep them. We just need help with the ones that are being born soon.”

 

I offered to take the pregnant cats and that I’d work with a rescue/s to get the moms back to her once the kittens were weaned in about 8-12 weeks. She flipped out. She began to rant that the cats couldn’t leave her. Why couldn’t I just come get the kittens in 8 weeks? They could be born in her home. She had them locked up in a cat carrier in the bathroom so the other cats couldn’t get to them. I told her about the health risks since she had so many kittens die that certainly there was an illness in her home and she volleyed back that her cats only had worms and that she used Frontline on her dogs and used the SAME stuff on her cats to save money (which can be DEADLY! DO NOT USE FLEA TREATMENT FOR DOGS ON CATS).

 

I explained that complications can arise during birth and asked her if she was ready to take the cats to the Vet should something happen. She said she didn’t drive and was handicapped. I suggested that it would be much safer for the pregnant cats to leave her for now and that I was sure any rescue who took them would give her updates on how they were doing. She got more and more upset, saying she didn’t have email and she couldn’t bear for the cats to leave her. They were “her life” and that “they got upset if she ever left the house.”

The conversation was going south fast. I tried everything I could think of to get her to let me take the cats. She said she’d have to think about it and call me back. I knew she would never call again. As I hung up the phone, I imagined the cats, suffering, probably quite sick, pregnant, in a home that struggled to provide for them.

 

And then I made the mistake of going on Zillow.com to look up her address. She lives in a 470 sq ft trailer WITH OVER 30 CATS. I knew then I could not hope for the best. I had to do something about it.

 

I did some research and there wasn’t much available online. I managed to find the number of that state’s SPCA. Though they did not have jurisdiction where I needed help, the did tell me a few things: 1: Over 24 animals requires a breeder’s license, 2: if there are unsanitary (cat urine!) conditions then it doesn’t matter how many animals are on the property.

The officer gave me the contact info of a Humane Officer who could help and today was the day we were finally able to speak about the situation.

She agreed this person needed to be investigated and also that the part of town was notorious for having issues with animals. Though this person wasn’t on her radar she felt it was definitely something she had to check out. I don’t know when she will go there, but I do know that the local shelter is too small to take all the cats. I’ve already started to reach out to some rescue folks for help but I plan to do a lot more once I have some answers and know what is needed.

 

I asked Sam to give me a hug after the call was over. I felt like the fate of these cats was in my hands; that if they were put to sleep it was because of my call. Sam reminded me that these cats would have died anyway, perhaps a lot slower, perhaps in much worse conditions. Maybe they’d die giving birth? I hate myself for doing this, but I'd also hate myself if I didn't make the call.

 

For me, there is no winner in a situation like this. It's unlikely that all the cats will get out alive. What's likely is that this woman and her husband are being sickened by the ammonia in the air in their their trailer. I want to think of the good that could come out of this. Perhaps not being stressed by the responsibility for caring for so many animals in too small of a space would help them, but I doubt it will happen. I think the woman is going to flip out…way out…if they take her cats away and my fear is she's going to come after me next.

Petunia Inside-Out

(continued from Part 1 and 2)

I wondered if I was seeing Petunia for the last time when I dropped her off early yesterday morning at Dr. Larry’s office. It had been barely a week since I’d found out she had a bladder full of stones, causing her incredible pain that resulted in a flood of inappropriate urination all over my house.

Petunia was quiet in the car as I drove along the river, choosing to take the slow route to the Vet. The brilliant sunshine of early morning began to warm us through the windows, keeping the harsh late winter cold at bay. The winds of March were raging outside the car, but inside it was peaceful.

Tunie in cat carrier
©2015 Robin AF Olson.

I thought about Celeste and about how she died; very possibly because she was so stressed from being at the vet her body shut down on her. I knew that I had to do everything I could to keep Petunia from following the same path. Petunia could be just as fearful as Celeste so I drove slowly and carefully, talking in soft tones to Petunia. I told her it would be all right. I tried to make myself believe that, too.

Once we arrived and before I let one of the techs take her, I told her to NOT do the surgery if Petunia was too upset and to give her another day to calm down if needed. Petunia is 12 years old. We have to respect her if she is just not ready.

In the end, Dr. Larry performed the surgery while I waited for news.

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Meanwhile, I’d gotten word that a very special, cat-mama had fallen ill. Her name is Jodi Ziskin and she’s a pet nutritionist. She contacted me, asking if she could help formulate a diet for our foster kitten Freya. She'd been following Freya’s story and was charmed by her and also concerned that without proper nutrition, Freya would have a difficult time passing stool since Freya had just had surgery to create her rectum.

Jodi and I emailed often and spoke a few times on the phone. We discovered we both went to the same high school in Connecticut, but somehow missed meeting each other back then. She told me about her cats and her husband, Zach. She was training for a marathon she was going to run in LA to help raise funds for a cat rescue. She just amazed me by all she could do and by how well she cared for herself as well as her family.

I got news that at some point after she ran the marathon, Jodi collapsed. She missed her flight home and that’s when people started looking for her. She had been unconscious for a day once she was located. She was not in good shape and was taken to the California Hospital in Los Angeles while her husband dropped everything to leave their home in Florida to be with her.

I should have been thinking about Petunia, but all I could do was worry about Jodi. She wasn’t able to remember much about her life. She knew her husband, but not the names of her beloved cats. We started to fear that Jodi would have a very long road to recovery—if she would ever recover at all.

They began doing tests. Apparently from the extreme exertion of the marathon, Jodi may not have hydrated properly afterwards. Her muscle tissue was shredding, going into her kidneys. It made her collapse. In some people it can kill them.

After a few days Jodi began to recover. She was remembering things 25 years ago. Her kidney values were normal. She messed up her teeth very badly from falling. She hadn’t lost all the memories of her 17 year marriage. She remembered Obi and her other cats, but there are still some scary memory issues going on that are mysterious in origin. More tests are being done to find the root cause. It's a very scary time for Jodi's family and friends.

This is a BIG reminder to all of us NOT to take ANYTHING or ANYONE for granted. Jodi, stay strong. We love you!

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It was 4 PM. Where was my call telling me to pick up Petunia at 5 PM? I started to wonder if that meant she was dead. Dr. Larry always takes a very long time to tell me bad news. I can’t say I blame him. Maybe he was busy and she was fine? I decided to call and find out.

Petunia did well. She was ready to go home, but I didn’t get any more information than that.

I raced over to Dr. Larry’s and waited to speak with him. It was the end of the day and the clinic was quiet. I wondered what he was going to tell me. Was it really bad? Did he find something else? Would Petunia be all right?

 

He looked tired when he entered the exam room. I readied myself for bad news. He told me that the surgery was a long one. Petunia’s bladder was loaded with approximately 40 stones. Most of them had little spikes on them so it had to have been very painful. He told me her bladder was in good condition even with all the stones. The tissue was soft, as it should be, instead of leathery as it would become if her situation was more dire. He spent a long time flushing the bladder out to make sure any tiny grains of stone were cleaned away.

 

Xrays side by side 475
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Clean, plump bladder with little white dashes below. Those are surgical staples.

We looked at a new set of x-rays. He was clearly pleased with what he was showing me. Her bladder had a plump look to it, indicating it was already filling with urine. I could see a carefully placed line of surgical staples along the underside of her belly, glowing on the screen. Her incision was rather serious in size, which meant there would be at least a week or two of recovery time.

I’d asked Dr. Larry to take photos of the stones before he sent them out to be tested. When I saw them my jaw dropped and I got shivers down my spine. It’s clear she needed that surgery and I’m glad I made the financial sacrifice to provide this for her instead of hoping to dissolve them with a diet change.

Petuniaolson2 475
©2015 Dr. Mary O'Donnell. The painful stones.

It was time to bring Petunia home and get her settled into her big dog crate so she’d have a quieter place to recover. I didn’t know what would come of this and if Petunia 2.0 would be better or worse off now that she was feeling well. Would the other cats begin peeing around the house if she stood up for herself? Would there be worse fighting? Would Petunia expand her living space now that she was no longer in pain? Would she still need to be on anti-anxiety medication to keep her from erupting in more bladder stones?

 

Only time will tell as I focus on doing what I do best—being her mom and caring for her, instead of vilifying her unfairly. Pee-tunia is dead, long live Petunia.

 

Tunie in crate 475
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Resting comfortably and on pain medication, now we wait to see Petunia 2.0 emerge.

Suffering for Years. The Shocking Truth about Petunia.

Part 1 of 2

Four years ago I wrote about my cat Petunia. It was a guilt-ridden confession about how I’d missed the signals that she wasn’t just a high-strung, territory-aggressive cat who urinated all over my house. Something else was causing her issues. I foolishly thought I discovered the root cause of her behavioral problems so I stopped looking for a health issue as the trigger. Up until that point I’d never given Petunia a fair shake because she drove me crazy, ruining everything in her path. She was urinating, marking and defecating everywhere. [If you want to read this post it’s HERE].

I thought her issues were due to having impacted anal glands and that her bad scent caused some of my other cats to go after her. She’d flip out, then I’d find something soiled. The cats never fought. They just charged her, but it was enough stress to cause her to inappropriately eliminate.

Once her glands were cleaned the attacks slowed, but never really stopped. Petunia saw Dr Larry, had her teeth cleaned and had some blood work done as recently as last summer. I was under the impression she was in good health and that her behavior issues were genetic and/or stress-based. I was very wrong.

When Petunia was young she had Struvite crystals in her urine. I knew this because her urine was pink, indicating blood. When we tested it we knew she had crystals so the simple answer was to feed her a prescription diet that would acidify her urine, dissolving the crystals (something I would never feed now).

Tunie
©2011 Robin AF Olson. Petunia in a long-ago relaxed moment.

Petunia resolved her peeing issues for a time, but then I did more rescue and our cat-population began to increase. With each cat we adopted, Petunia lost a little bit more of her territory. First it was just that she stopped coming upstairs to bed. In a way I was relieved because it also meant I stopped finding urine on my 80-year old bedroom furniture.

But then her space, got even smaller. Though she stopped peeing on the banquette cushions in the kitchen (I finally had to remove them because they were so destroyed), she rarely ever entered the space to look out the window at the birds who were dancing around the feeders hung over the deck. The other cats enjoyed the view and one or two marked in this area most likely due to her marking first. Petunia made a huge mess and having that stop was yet another relief.

Four Cats on Tree 2012
©2012 Robin AF Olson. The best spot in the house is also the bone of contention between the cats over who rules it.

With her space dwindling down to the living room, mostly all points behind the sofa, we knew we had to do more to help her. We’d tried all along, but with 10 cats it’s very difficult to single one out and only play with that cat and only spend time with that cat. The others were curious if we gave her attention; some took over play time, some attacked Petunia if we tried to play with her.

I tearfully confessed to one of my friends that I needed help. I had re-visit the idea of re-homing Petunia. It wasn’t fair to her, but with her issues and age, it would be VERY difficult to find a new family who was willing to believe that she wouldn’t soil their home, too.

2010 napping girls r olson
©2010 Robin AF Olson. Before we added Blitzen, Mabel and DOOD, Gracie and Petunia often snuggled in our bedroom. They no longer feel safe doing that.

There also was the complication that Petunia’s mother, Gracie lives here and from time to time Petunia still goes to her mother for comfort, so how am I to find a home for a 14-year old and a 12-year old cat?

I was certain this was the answer, but just as much sure that I’d never find a home for both cats. Gracie has an incurable skin condition.

I had to find a solution here, so it was back to the drawing board.

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Over the past year Petunia earned the nickname: PEE-tunia because she began peeing on the SOFA. No matter what we did she kept doing it until I finally got a static mat and that stopped the behavior. Well, really it just encouraged her to pee somewhere else, but it was on a cat bed I could cover with a wee-wee pad and that was something I could deal with.

Sam and I decided to make a concentrated effort to re-catify our living room, to help Petunia find her confidence, which Jackson Galaxy refers to as “cat mojo(a term I quite like). I realized that with the addition of Blitzen, DOOD and Mabel into our family came the reduction in Petunia’s living space. I hadn’t seen Petunia come upstairs to bed in years. Her living area was getting smaller and smaller to just the few feet behind the sofa. She was too fearful to go far because the others would charge at her. We HAD to find a solution.

Before Clean up
©2015 Robin AF Olson. BEFORE: Look for the towel to see the most prized spot in the house. There's a heated pad under the towel and it's next to the sunniest window in the house. SO how could we provide more optimal locations for more cats to enjoy this area? Also the cat trees on either side of the towel are perfect for sneak attacks so they had to be moved.

One night a few weeks ago we ripped apart the areas where the cats hang out the most. We moved cat trees, did a deep cleaning and set up one of our web cams to monitor the area when we weren’t around. We hoped we’d find out what was causing Petunia to avoid the litter pan when there were a few with in feet of where she was sleeping.

Living Room 3500 R Olson
©2015 Robin AF Olson. You can see the static mat on the sofa where Petunia used to urinate. We added a litter pan right near the heated cat carrier where Petunia often hid but we don't believe she ever used it. The cat trees are in front of the favorite window. There aren't any where the ficus tree is because we had a cat tree there that went unused. It was moved to the favorite window area to increase vertical space.

Every day we patrolled the area, particularly behind the sofa. This is the only place where Petunia pees-and when she does it’s A LOT of urine and it really smells bad. I should have known by that smell that something was wrong, but no alarm bells went off. I just grumbled, cleaned it up and looked around to see if I should move a litter pan closer or make another change that would help Petunia feel safer.

AFter on Cat Trees R Olson
©2015 Robin AF Olson. AFTER: The day after re-arranging the space there's a lineup of cats who want to use it. Notice, the three alpha cats are on it while Cricket, a lower cat doesn't get access right now. Petunia is in the cat carrier just off screen.

Sam and I also focused on spending more time talking to, sitting with, petting and grooming Petunia and that helped soothe her to a degree, but she was still anxious around the other cats. It also didn't stop her from defecating on the table just near the sofa.

I decided that after all these years, the last remaining option was to put her on anti-anxiety meds. I thought if she could better handle stress and the cats charging her, she’d stop acting like prey, racing off, which made some of the cats go crazy and chase after her. Poor Petunia would hide on the seat cushion on a chair under a table not far from her “safe zone” every time that happened. It happened so often I was afraid her life would be spent huddled on that chair.

What a terrible life.

Lineup R Olson 650
©2015 Robin AF Olson. A few days after we moved all the cat beds, I saw this. It was the first time more than one cat was on any of the beds. The far left bed is where Gracie sleeps and when Petunia most often pees (yes, even one time ON Gracie).

It’s hard to describe how hopeless I’ve been feeling. I couldn’t re-home her. It was too late. I blame myself for adding so many cats to our home, but I thought it would be all right. The other cats are fine. It’s just Petunia who is so stressed by them.

Petunia had to see our vet before she was put on any medication. Dr. Larry insisted on doing a full CBC, a stool test and urinalysis before giving her anything. When I got the results my heart sank.

While Petunia’s blood work was “Fantastic” (chalk it up to years of being on a raw diet) and her anal glands were fine as is and did not need to be expressed, her urinalysis was another issue altogether. Her urine had blood in it. Keep in mind that doing urinalysis with a needle (cystocentesis) often causes a small amount of blood in the urine, but she had far more than normal. She also had VERY elevated phosphorous and ammonia levels (remember how BAD her urine smelled?). It was an indicator that Petunia might have stones in her bladder.

At Vet 3 15 15 R Olson
©2015 Robin AF Olson. We lower the lights during exams so Petunia will be more relaxed. On this visit it did not help at all.

Last week I took Petunia back to Dr. Larry’s for x-rays that might show us if she had stones. It was a lovely day, lots of bright sunshine, but I was struggling to hold back tears. I knew that if Petunia had stones, it would mean surgery and I asked myself how I was going to make that happen when I’m already struggling. It wasn’t a good feeling. I didn’t have an answer.

What do the x-rays show? Is there any hope for Petunia? Find out in part 2.

A Tough Day for Nicky

AUTHOR'S NOTE: The intention of this post is to help educate, not sensationalize an event that was personally very disturbing to me. I've given it a lot of thought and I feel it could help others if I share what happened yesterday to our cat, Nicky. The video, below, shows puddles of urine that are very bloody. In fact, it looks more like puddles of blood. If this is disturbing to you, PLEASE do not watch the video. There is also a single photo of a second area of urine, below, as well.

 

It's been very challenging to take care of Nicky since we found out he has renal disease, a mass on his spleen (not cancer), and possibly, lymphoma. Nicky gets sub q (under the skin) fluids every other day. We monitor that he's eating well, but he's losing weight. He frequently urinates a great deal of urine, outside the litter pan. We've studied his habits, made certain the pans were spotlessly clean and had to stand “guard” next to him while he urinates in case he feels stressed. We've worked on keeping the stress down. It wasn't possible with kittens running around, but now that Jakey and Teddy are adopted, things are fairly quiet.

Sweet Boy.jpg
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky a few months ago.

Thursday the 12th Nicky peed on one of the rugs. I caught him doing it. As usual, there was a huge puddle to clean up. There was nothing unusual about it. I battle with myself not to get angry, to just clean it up and move on. It's very difficult to watch my belongings and my home get ruined, but I know I'm not alone and that so many other people have far worse situations.

Friday the 13th, I was doing my usual routine of sitting with April and the kittens, getting mama fed, cleaning up the litter pan in her room and so on. Everyone was doing fine. Sam had to step out to run an errand. I said goodbye to him through the closed door of the foster room.

A few minutes later, I heard Bobette get into it with another cat. I've been allowing her the option to come out of her room, hoping she would get acclimated to my cats so I could use her room to foster more kittens. So far the experiment isn't going very well and she screeches at the other cats, then chase them away. So far she is not physical with them. The altercations last a second, tops. I finished up with April and got out of the room to see what had happened.

I went to Bobette's room. She was sitting on the bed. She looked fine. I walked down the hallway into my bedroom. I didn't see any cats. I thought I should take a shower and get ready for the day. I walked to the doorway of the bathroom and something caught my eye. There was a puddle of what I thought was blood on the floor.

urine on floor with blood.jpg
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The first sign of trouble.

I looked at it closely, then cleaned it up. It didn't smell like urine, but I know Petunia will some times mark near that spot.I thought it was her since she's had crystals in her urine in the past, but how was I going to figure out which of eight cats was doing this? I scanned the floor near the first spot and I saw small drops of bloody urine. There's only one cat who would drop urine and that was Nicky. Nicky had “PU” surgery years ago to remove his penis because he was getting blocked up so often. I didn't know about the importance of removing grain from a cat's diet at the time and if I did, we could have cured him without spending $8,000.00 to have surgery done. After the surgery we were told that Nicky may have some incontinence issues. I've never seen much from him, but seeing these drops made me realize it had to be him.

For some reason, I looked on the bed. We have a PawsOff® cover on it, but it wasn't covering next to my pillow, which was exactly where I found a small puddle of bloody urine. HE PEED ON THE BED!!!!!!

I ripped the sheets off the bed and put them into the laundry, then continued my search for both Nicky and for more puddles.


©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Warning: more blood, also, you can hear me crying so please be advised.

There were two bloody puddles on the landing between the first and second floors. There were droplets on the floor headed towards the bathroom. There was a puddle next to the dishwasher. I saw Nicky, he was straining on the carpet. I grabbed him and tossed him into the litter pan, blocking his escape. I was freaked out. I was angry. I knew I shouldn't be either, but I couldn't help it. Nicky ran out of the litter pan and started straining again. I grabbed him and tossed him into the downstairs bathroom and shut the door. At least if he peed on the floor it was tile and I could clean it up. I needed a few minutes to calm down and get things clean.

Then I realized my phone must have rung during all the commotion. There was a voicemail. It was Sam. He got a speeding ticket on the way to the Apple Store where he was going to try to get his dead PowerBook sent out for service! Great! I called him back, but only got his voicemail. I told him what was going on with Nicky. I called the Vet and told them I was pretty sure it was Nicky and they gave me an appointment for 12:30pm

nick and sam at vet.jpg
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky and Sam waiting for Dr. Larry.

Sam called back and told me Nicky had been vomiting earlier that morning. This not good. Clearly something is terribly wrong. Nicky was furiously scratching at the door to be let out. I opened the door.

What I saw took my breath away. The bathroom looked like a scene out of a horror movie. There were puddles of bloody urine scattered all over the room, on the counter, and the floor.

Nicky ran out of the room and vanished. I made myself shoot some video of it because I wanted Dr Larry to see it later, but I was so upset I could barely get any footage. I was certain that this was a sign that Nicky was going to die and soon. I thought that perhaps something had ruptured inside him or that had had a mass in his bladder on top of everything else.

 

I called Dr. Larry's office and Super-Deb answered the phone. Deb is my comfort, my friend. She always has a way to help me calm down and take a breath, but Super-Deb just lost her most dear cat in the world, Pete Puma, to lymphoma. Pete was a big orange Maine Coon. He lived through so many challenges it was amazing he lived into his teens. Here was Debbie, being her usual calm self and I am bawling my head off. I told her I had an emergency and that we couldn't wait until 12:30 to come it and that I was bringing Nicky in NOW. Deb was great and said to come in and they would fit us in. I reached Sam and told him what was going on. He would meet me at the Vet. I just had to FIND Nicky, pack him up and go…oh and put some clothes on! I was still in my jammies.

Nicky was hiding in the closet. Not a good sign. I managed to pack him up and get us in the car fairly quickly, but once I got on the road, it was another nightmare. I didn't get more than 200 yards out of my driveway when I got stuck behind a driver going 30 mph in a 40 mph zone. I waited for the passing zone to come up and I shot past him, cursing the whole way. I didn't get very far because the traffic came to a dead stop. It was 10:30am! What was going on? A semi-truck got STUCK making a turn onto the state road, so the traffic was limping along. It was really only moving because the cars ahead of me were turning around and going the other direction.

I got onto a back road, then got stuck, again behind a driver crawling at abnormally low speed. If they were doing the speed limit I would have just followed along, but I couldn't tolerate these slow drivers. Nicky was crying. I smelled urine. I thought he could be dying. I passed a few cars and just did what I needed to do. I finally got to the Vet. They told us to wait a few minutes. Sam was there already. We both looked pale and miserable. I started to cry again, the sound of it mingled with Nicky's own cries.

meatloafing.jpg
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This is what a cat in pain looks like. If Nicky was hunched over with his front paws tucked under him it would be called “meatloafing” which is another sign a cat's in pain.

Dr. Larry was in the middle of a difficult case regarding a dog. He had his partner take over so he could see Nicky, who he calls; “my boy.” Dr. Larry loves Nicky and would do anything for us. We're very lucky to have such a caring Vet.

Nicky's back end was bloody. They checked to make sure Bobette hadn't bitten him in the butt-which we were all hoping was the case. He had no visible injury so they took him in the back and did blood work and x-rays. We were sent home to wait.

Around 3pm we got the call to come get Nicky. X-rays did not show any mass. The ultrasound guy-Dr Kearns, was not available to come in, but from looking at Nicky's blood work it was clear something was going on. His white blood count was very high. His kidney function, as expected was not great, but not terrible. Nicky has lost over a pound in a month. With only those few things to go on and that Dr. Larry felt nothing on the physical exam, they decided to get Nick on antibiotics. They also gave him Reglan to keep him from vomiting and Buprenex(now that I look up a link for this medication, I see it should not be given to cats with kidney disease!!!!) to make him more comfortable.

We were to wait and see how he does over the next few days.

It's Saturday the 14th. Nicky didn't eat well and paced a bit. As soon as my head hit the pillow last night, he started to cry. I called to him and he came up to bed and was fairly quiet. This morning I haven't found any urine puddles, but I'm not sure Nicky has peed. He did vomit and he may be having problems with the antibiotics or the buprenex or both. Was this a simple urinary tract infection or is something else going on?

 

Looking back on it, I believe the urinating out of the box may have been a brewing infection. We were so locked onto the fact that his kidneys are losing function that we assumed that was the case. Perhaps we had two issues going on that needed to be handled differently?

 

At this point only time will tell if we're treating Nicky appropriately. We'll keep things quiet and hope Nicky improves or we may find out we missed something (again). For now, Nicky's home and that's what counts.

Breaking News: A “Game-Changer” for Cat Guardians!

What does the Periodic Table of Elements have to do with cats? Breaking news out of CERNs research facility near the Franco-Swiss border in Geneva, Switzerland indicates the discovery of a new element that's being called a “game changer” by cat guardians and cat behaviorists across the globe.

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After decades of much heated debate, the International Union of Pure & Applied Chemisty assigned a new Element. Like it’s 118 predecessors, number 119 is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its nucleus. Element 119 bears the name, Urinium.

It's believed that Urinium was first discovered in 1855 by Dr. Joseph King after his tabby cat, Mossander soaked samples he was using in his research to find a new element. What he was close to discovering was Cesium, which eventually documented by noted scientists, Robert Wilhelm Bunsen (later of Bunsen Burner fame) and Gustav Robert Kirchoff.

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The scientific community scoffed and chided Dr. King when he declared that bombarding ammonia gas from cat urine, resulted in the discovery of a pure atom and that atom, alone was the cause of the offensive odor after cat urine was sprayed on household items and the like. Because technology couldn’t confirm his findings, it wasn’t until 2010 when Dr. Mike Hunt, a scientist at CERN decided it was worth a second look.

Sure enough, Dr. King was correct in his findings, but sadly never lived to see the day his discovery would be verified. What this meant for the world is simple. A metering device could be created to measure the density of particulate (P particles), in the same way a Geiger Counter measures radioactivity. Because it works on an atomic level, cat guardians will never have to worry about being bothered by “Phantom Cat Pee” smells ever again.

They’ll aim, scan, locate and remove every cat urine stain in their home with the flick of a wrist and the push of a button. Engage the device, holding it near your cat’s urethra, so it can “sniff” the particulates that emit from the opening. Next it will create a unique algorithm to “track” the “fingerprint odor” wherever it occurs in your home.

The device, in the works right now, is similar to scanners you’ve seen on an episode of Star Trek; like the one where Captain Kirk scans for bio-signs on Sigma Draconis when he’s searching for Spock’s brain (because it was stolen, duh!) except it’s not quite as thrilling when you lock onto a target and only find cat pee.

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I was able to get an EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK at a working prototype. It’s so sensitive you’ll have to remove all the litter pans AND cats from your home and place them into a sealed charcoal lined containment device while you’re scanning the premises so the device doesn’t get “confused.”

Using the searing power of lasers-

the new device, codenamed: Whizzard™, will include this technology as a way to literally “zap” urine smell from the home!

Though it may spark small fires or melt certain objects, I think you’ll all agree, that anything is better than a soiled home that smells like cat urine.

NOTE: The Whizzard is so accurate that once the truth is revealed about the severity of urine all over your furnishings, you may feel you need to move out of your home, but that’s ok. Whizzard’s got you covered. For an extra fee (details are being worked out, now), a Clinical “Psychologist,” named Dr. Larry will come to your home and let you unload all your frustrations on him, while he nods, smiling sweetly, then shakes his head to confirm that he is, indeed, listening to you, cares and wants to help. Larry may carry with him a pocketful of Xanax, but I can neither confirm nor deny that.

The Incredible Transformation of Miss Fluffy Pants

I was very disappointed when King and Miss Fluffy Pants's (is this her name? It was just a code name, but I think it might stick) reunion was not a happy one. It was clear they were never friends at the Palette factory, where they were both rescued from. Perhaps they even competed for the same scraps of food?

King was nonplused at the first meeting, but Miss FP was pissed. She hissed and growled when Maria let her out of the cat carrier, into the small bathroom that would be her new home. We didn't realize it at the time, but Miss FP had just had a terrible 48 hours. She was sedated, then the Vet realized she'd already been SPAYED! She had her blood drawn and we found out she may be FIV+. She was nose to nose with a big dog at the clinic and she was so distressed when she tried to attack him through the door of the carrier, the momentum of all that energy almost flipped her cat carrier over and onto the floor! With her life turned upside down, from the routine of living on scraps at the Palette factory, to a clinic full of scary smells and a big dog encounter, needless to say, Miss FP was not a happy camper to be yet at another strange place full of different smells.

If Maria had space in her home, she would not have put Miss FP with King, but we had no choice. We had to make it work until we could figure out what to do.

After Maria let Miss into the room, she let it be known that she did not want to be touched or be anyone's friend. She was so fractious that Maria was scared to go near her. Fearing for King's safety and with no other options we decided to put Miss into a crate so at least she couldn't bite King. With a disability to contend with, I didn't want King to be exposed to FIV+, too.

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©2012 Maria. S. Miss FP in her little crate.

We were all very unhappy with the situation and I started to scramble, thinking of what I could do to make it better. Maria had to be at work. She couldn't stay home and monitor the cats so Miss was stuck in a tiny cage, probably getting angrier by the minute, while poor King started to cry and urinate all over his bedding.

A day passed and Maria let Miss out of her cage to stretch. She hissed at King, but didn't growl. It was progress, but not much. King was still urinating around the room to the point where we worried he had a urinary tract infection. Maria was very stressed and tired-and who wouldn't be from having to do a mountain of laundry and deal with her own cats and work, then come home to a big mess! I was getting stressed out because I couldn't figure out what to do and living 1000 miles away, I couldn't just come over and help-which I desperately wanted to do.

I realized I had to take it in small steps.

Number one: Western Blot test for Miss-ASAP. If she truly IS FIV+ then maybe she has to go to another rescue? I have two rooms in my home for fostering, that's it, and kitten season is almost here and it will be early this year since the weather is so warm. I can't bring an FIV+ cat who is nasty into my house and hope I will ever find her a home. I'll just end up not being able to help countless other cats if that happens. It was a terrible predicament. We even discussed returning her to the Palette factory now that she was vetted. At least we could donate some food for her and a new cat bed, but I knew in my heart that I'd never sleep again if I did that to her.

I had to find out how to reach this supposedly friendly cat. Bobby had told me she was very affectionate, but all Maria had seen was a cat who would swat at her hand or growl at her.

Maria sent me a photo so I could see some progress in the situation. All of a sudden, alarm bells went off in my head. I realized we had completely misunderstood Miss FP from the start.

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©2012 Maria. S. The photo that changed everything for me.

The photo seems innocent enough. King sits near Miss's small cage. Neither cat is looking at the other. Maria interpreted it as King wanting to be close to Miss to be friends, but because he was ignoring her, I looked at it differently. Was King letting Miss FP know HE was in charge of the room-after all he's free to walk about and that HE could sit right up next to her crate and at any given moment, if he wanted to, he could pounce on top of the cage and get her, attack head on or get at her from any side of the crate. She was completely trapped and completely exposed. No wonder she was freaking out!

Maria also mentioned not being able to go near Miss FP. Then, I noticed the food dishes in the crate. They were full. Another alarm went off in my head-the food had to GO. Miss needed to be fed BY Maria, twice a day and that was it. No free feeding her. Miss needed to bond with Maria and see Maria as something good, not bad. Maria was the food provider, not the Dungeon Master!

Miss needed OUT of the cage ASAP. She needed a place in the bathroom to call her own. The problem is-where would that be in a such a small space? Of course…we needed a cat tree!

A cat tree would add a lot of vertical space to the room. Odds are, King would not be able to climb it, but Miss could. She could have the upper area to herself and feel safe. Perhaps that was what she needed?

In the middle of all this craziness, Maria and I are trying to help a pregnant Tortishell cat who was found by an elderly couple in the area! Maria was running around trying to get the cat some help, run Miss FP to the Vet to get her Western Blot test done AND she had to get to the pet store and find a cat tree ASAP!

I'm very lucky Maria is so devoted to helping cats or this would have been a complete nightmare.

Then, another puzzle piece fell into place. Maria warned the Vet Tech at East Lake Vet Hospital, to be very careful handling Miss FP. That she was nasty and might bite. The Tech said she would do her best and took Miss FP into the back of the building to do the blood draw. Awhile later, the Tech came out. Maria was worried something bad had happened and asked how it went. The answer surprised her and gave me a rush of hopeful excitement:

 

The Tech remarked that in all her years of working with cats, that Miss FP had been ONE OF THE EASIEST, NICEST and SWEETEST cats she'd ever worked with!

What was the difference? Was there a magic pill that she gave Miss FP? No. First, Miss FP was NOT in a room with another cat. Second, Miss FP didn't have to worry about territory. Third, the Tech probably approached her gently-not that Maria didn't do that, but Maria had grown fearful of the cat. All this adds up to-this cat is NOT fractious-she's ANGRY and SCARED!

 

Maria got a great cat tree and thanks to the donations we got for King's care, we could afford to get one right away instead of have to shop for one on discount, then wait a week for it to arrive. Maria set up the cat tree. I told her to take the cage out of the room. No more cage for Miss. We had to trust that she would not hurt King. She might take a swipe and him and claw him, but she'd calmed down enough for us to believe she'd not be a risk to give him FIV+. It was a very tough call, but for the sanity of Miss, we had to do it. Unfortunately, King cried with her out of the crate, then urinated on his bed. Was his sick or scared?

I can't explain how I knew what to do, but I can say that within moments of letting Miss investigate the cat tree, it was VERY CLEAR it was what she needed all along.


©2012 Maria. S. There's no footage of Miss FP being fractious because it was too dangerous for Maria to shoot video. She needed to protect herself and King. This video shows what happened after we put the cat tree into their room.

 

Miss FP climbed onto the top of the cat tree, nervously licked her mouth for a moment, then laid on her side and started to “make muffins” into the carpeting on the cat tree.

Maria didn't hesitate. She reached out to give Miss FP a pet. Her bravery was rewarded with a head butt into her hand. Maria overcame her reluctance to get close to Miss FP and had the simple joy of getting to know her as she really was all along.

 

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©2012 Maria. S. Safe in her new space, Miss FP enjoys some sunshine.

Miss FP relaxed. Her eyes were soft. Her movements were slow and easy. Her tail did not whip around or even move. She was HAPPY and with her happiness came more surprises.

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©2012 Maria. S. The posture and “soft eyes” of a happy cat.

 

Miss loves to be brushed. She loves to be petted. When her anger and fear washed away; a sweet lady emerged.

 

 

King stopped peeing on the floor.

 

 

King stopped crying.

 

King is still lonely and still loves Maria's cat, Kahlua, who comes in to visit for a few minutes once in awhile. King has also perked up now that he has some toys and the cat tree base to play with!

Although Miss and King are not best friends, they both have safe spaces to live in and places they can call their own. I'm sad that King wants a friend, but can't find one in Miss FP, but with all the surprises we've had, perhaps there are more to come?

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©2012 Maria. S. We may make changes for King after this but we'll see how it goes. What do you think?

For now we wait for Miss's blood test results and we hope she is not FIV+.Tomorrow, King goes to meet Dr. Alan Cross, an orthopedic surgeon, who may help us understand what happened to King's back feet and what we can do to help him live a more comfortable life.

 

We couldn't have done ANY OF THIS if we hadn't gotten the support from so many of you. You honor King with your love and your donations. His success is due to your support, Maria's love and devotion to cats in need and my determination to unlock the mystery of what these cats are thinking and how to provide what they need.

 

Jackson Galaxy is My Copilot.

Last year Animal Planet aired a new show entitled: My Cat From Hell. Initially, I decided to avoid watching it, fearing cats would be shown in a harsh, unfair light as overly dramaticized miscreants to be shunned, unworthy of our compassion.

I decided to watch one episode, not having seen any previews. After the first segment was over, not only were all my fears cast aside, I sat there in awe, realizing that this show had the “legs” to do for cats what folks like Cesar Milan and Victoria Stilwell do for dogs. Cats finally had an advocate with a sound approach to training guardians to understand how their cats think—which will, in turn, save the lives of countless misunderstood cats.

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Set your DVR's for this SATURDAY night at 8pm EST (USA) to catch the Premiere of SEASON TWO!

My Cat From Hell features Jackson Galaxy, a Rockabilly styled, Cat Daddy, who is covered with colorful inked portraits of some of his favorite felines. Galaxy must have been a cat in a past life for he has an understanding about their behavior that borders on uncanny.

We watch Jackson strolling casually down a suburban sidewalk with a guitar case in one hand. Is he going to play tunes to this episode's crazy cat? Heck no. Jackson's guitar is left behind. The case is filled with toys, treats and possibly some magic fairy dust; the tools he uses to work with cats that are misbehaving badly and whose owners are at the end of their rope trying to work it out on their own.

I recently spoke with Jackson about his passion for helping cats.

One of the most often asked about behavioral issues Jackson encounters is litterbox issues and aggression. About 90% of the consultations he does encompass these two big issues-and no surprise-as they are the most difficult to live with.

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©2011 Animal Planet. From Season One: Jackson talking to Amanda & Matt about why their cat seems to hate Matt.

How Does He Do It?

Jackson looks for patterns to emerge to help solve the problem. Often times the guardian lacks an understanding of cat behavior and can't spot the patterns that result in the behavior issue. Jackson helps them learn to spot the pattern and make the necessary adjustments.

The solution is not always so obvious. If he's dealing with a guardian who already has a good background understanding cat behavior and can't see the pattern, that's when Jackson's ears perk up. Jackson's been working with cats for over 16 years. When he gets a case that's challenging, those are his favorite ones to work on. It helps keep him grounded, reminding him that cats are individuals and one solution for one cat, may not work with another. It also helps him grow in his understanding of what makes cats tick. His humility about what he knows is clear. He's confident, but humble. He understands there's always more to learn and is a willing and open-minded student with a gentleness that is very endearing.

So He's Like Dr. House on that TV SHOW, House…but for Cats Instead of People?

Some people mistakenly refer to him as the “House” for cats-referring to the fictional character, Dr. Gregory House, on the Fox TV show, HOUSE. House is a genius who loves to solve the puzzle of what's ailing his patients. He's the last stop on the diagnosis train-next stop, death; if Dr. House can't save the day.

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©2011 Animal Planet. From Season One: Jackson with Carre and Brian watching surveillance videos of Minibar.

In some ways, Jackson IS like Dr. House, but he's NOT a fictional character. Jackson is brilliant when it comes to his understanding of cats (and probably many other things, too, but we mostly chatted about cats). Though Jackson does admittedly love the “puzzle” of solving a behavior issue, for him, the payoff is not proving how clever he is, the payoff is knowing he gave one cat a happy life and more importantly saved that cat's life.We all know too well what happens to cats who behave badly. Often times they're cast aside, let outdoors to fend for themselves or dumped at a shelter where they will surely be euthanized.

One by one, cat's guardians are left stunned by the quick improvement in their cat's behavior after they follow Jackson's orders. Cat haters are turned into proud kitty-parents. Though Jackson admits he's only on the cat's side, it's clear, the humans benefit just as much.

Bizarre Behavior or a Cat Who Deserves a Medal?

I asked Jackson about weird behavior issues he's encountered, thinking I had him beat on that one. Again, I was wrong. While it won't be aired, Jackson did a consult about a cat who urinated in his guardian's MOUTH while the guy was ASLEEP! Jackson was able to tease out the issues of what was going on because of his own life experience. Jackson had suffered from sleep apnea and knew the resulting snoring could possibly be terrifying the cat. He asked the guardian to do a sleep study at the local hospital and sure enough, the gentleman's doctor told him he needed to be treated for sleep apnea. His cat was waking him up because the cat was afraid something was WRONG and wanted to make sure he was okay. Perhaps the cat witnessed the guardian stop breathing as sleep apnea patient's often do? Once the sleep apnea was treated, the cat stopped peeing on his dad. This cat should never have been scolded, but given an award!

What Role Would You Say that Nutrition Plays in Cat's Behavior Issues?

Anyone who reads this Blog knows I'm a die-hard advocate for species appropriate nutrition for cats and I was very glad to know that Jackson underscored that nutrition plays a BIG ROLE IN EVERY CONSULT he does. “Free feeding is the devil.” That structuring feeding time can stop your cat from howling, yowling and pacing around your home. That instead of thinking their food just is there all the time from no known source and there's no relationship to you, now your cat sees YOU as the provider of good things. This helps form an important bond. A simple thing like keeping to a timetable of feeding can make big changes in your cat's life-and overall health.

Jackson's passion about proper nutrition came around the same time mine did. We both learned about nutrition after losing cats to diabetes. It just didn't make sense that our cats should die so young. Jackson lost his seven year old cat to insulin resistant diabetes. Something didn't add up about how his cat got sick in the first place and Jackson realized it was up to him to find out what to feed his cats when the advice he got from his Vet just didn't make sense.

What Jackson loves about the internet is the plethora of information out there on what to feed your cat, so now it's a lot easier to find out what to do. One thing is clear and just common sense…as Jackson said: “There's no excuse not to feed a great diet…it's so easy to feed the right food…meat, meat, meat!”

Is There Such a Thing as Too Many Cats?

“Tacit approval to limits is absurd.” That said, of course there are limits, but they're different for every person, size of their living space and personality and number of cats. Galaxy spoke about the “tipping point” which can come at any time depending on how many cats you have and their unique personality. You can have three cats doing just fine together, then you add a fourth. The fourth cat is fine with his new friends, but one of the others declares war and a storm of vengeful bladders begins to destroy the home.

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Of Country Lanes & Super Highways

Jackson had been to a home where there was no furniture at all and only an air mattress for a bed. The owner was so passionate about her cats she would not give them up, but she had no real home left after they had urinated and destroyed just about everything she had. With thirteen cats, you might expect plenty of problems or that she was clearly nuts, but, as Jackson said if you set your home up to be Mabyberry, (for you young folks, that's a reference to the 1960's TV program, The Andy Griffith Show) a one lane town with a dirt road, you're going to have problems. If you have one cat traveling in one direction and another cat headed towards him, there's no way to get out of each other's way. One of those cats will be like a car on that small dirt road-it will have to go into the ditch, which means fights, peeing and unhappy guardians.

What you want to do is create a “super highway” in your home with plenty of “off ramps and on ramps.” Lots of vertical places for the “tree dwellers” (cats who feel safe up high) as Jackson refers to them and plenty of place for the “bush dwellers,” too. If you do it right, you could have no limits to how many cats you have and we all know what happens if you do it wrong.

If Things Don't Work Out, is Re-Homing a Cat Okay?

I admit I asked this question for myself. I've long grappled with the thought that one of my cats would be a lot happier in a new home. I realize it was the easy answer and I've always felt guilty thinking about it, since I don't feel I've exhausted every option to help her be happy here.

Jackson didn't hesitate to answer that all he cares about is cats being happy.

If that means that after observing the situation, there are times when there are no changes that could be made to help that cat be happy in their home. He NEVER would suggest simply giving the cat to a shelter since that's one of the WORST thing you could do. He feels with respect and careful consideration a great home can be found.

Speaking of Shelters…

Jackson is also passionate about helping shelters. He sees so much burnout of the staff, who care for many animals and who put a lot of effort into getting them adopted, only to see more animals coming in the door who need the same love and care. The “conveyor belt” never stops moving and these folks need help. Jackson would love to see a national foster home program, where instead of there being overflowing shelters, people just take foster animals into their homes until a new home can be found. If millions of people took ONE cat or ONE dog, think of how empty we could make those shelters! (and this is of course, taking into account that everyone is also spaying and neutering their pets)

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Will Success Spoil Jackson Galaxy?

I channeled my inner Barbra Walters and asked Jackson how he felt about the reports I read about woman wanting him for more than just his cat-savvy mind? As soon as I asked, I could feel my face turning red, then heat up. I was completely embarrassed that I even asked him that question and I could tell from his bright laugh, that I caught him off guard.

Jackson said the attention was completely unexpected, but given that 95% of his clients are WOMEN, it didn't surprise me at all. We all know the perfect guy loves cats, but when he understands them the way Jackson does, it makes him quite the eligible bachelor.

Jackson's goal, at age 12, was to be a rock star. All he knows is performing on stage. It's ironic he finds his fame (until his CD comes out) through his understanding of cats. Plus, it's not about being a celebrity. Galaxy may have an outer space name, but his feet are firmly planted on the ground.

He admits he's NEVER asked a girl out on a date, ever. He's quite shy and really, who wants to risk being turned down? (not that he would be). Even without asking anyone out, he's found love before, but what about now?

As we spoke, I held my breath, wondering if he was going to answer the question about if he was unattached or not because I know many of you want to know. I got my answer, but was asked to keep it “off the record” for now. Since I'm going to be begging Jackson to help me with my cat issues, I better keep my mouth shut.

Perhaps there's a woman who's a man-whisperer out there who can get to the bottom of this?

Need Help with Your Cats?

Though Jackson is busy with his show just about to air and a new book and possible book tour in May (Cat Daddy: My Life with the Original Cat from Hell), he still does consultations as time allows. If you'd like to book his services (for cat behavior problems!), please email him at: info@jacksongalaxy.com

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MY CAT FROM HELL – New Episodes Beginning Saturday, January 7 at 8 PM ET/PT.

Cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy tackles the most catastrophic cat cases he’s ever encountered in six all-new, one-hour episodes of MY CAT FROM HELL. Armed with 15 years of experience, a proven training program and his signature guitar case filled with cat toys, Galaxy is on a mission to help cat owners find the source of conflict with their furry friends. In this season, Jackson swoops into solve a gamut of feline-related issues and repair the relationships they’re ruining, including the hair-raising case of a cat terrorizing its owner’s Pilates business by attacking her clients. Whether it’s the cat or the owners behaving badly, leave it to Galaxy to save the day!

You can “LIKE” Jackson on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JacksonGalaxyCatDaddy and on Twitter: @JacksonGalaxy Make sure you tell him I sent you!

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Update: The kitty I rescued yesterday from a kill shelter in the south, who was named in honor of Jackson, is doing well in his foster home. He was neutered and vetted and will be coming to CT to my rescue group Kitten Associates, then on to our sister, no-kill shelter, Animals in Distress. If you're interested in adopting Jackson (the CAT), please contact me directly: info@kittenassociates.org

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Lessons Learned and a Guilty Confession

The more I work and live with cats, the more I realize how little I know. After years of fostering and having a house full of cats, you'd think I'd be an expert, but today I learned yet another valuable lesson.

At the beginning of my rescue career, I volunteered with a rescue group in southern Connecticut. I did some design work for their events and eventually began to naively foster cats, as well. After all these years, I have no interest in bashing how they do what they do, but I can say that it was very tough to get my foster cats adopted once they came to my home. Now that I have to approve applications for my group, Kitten Associates, I realize how difficult it is to find just the right adopter...but I also don't let my cats languish in foster care for YEARS, which was a common occurrence back in those days.

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©2003 Robin A.F Olson. Gracie with Annabelle, Scooter Pie and Petunia.

My first foster cat was Spencer and he's our CiCH Mascot . When he joined the family, I only had two cats and one had just passed away. On Christmas of 2003 Spencer's adoption was formalized. It was a meaningful adoption because not only did I help rescue this cat, but now he would be mine for the rest of his life.

The next cats I fostered were an abused mama cat and her three newborn kittens. Two of the kittens were confident, playful, easy to love. They got adopted together, but their sister, didn't show well and would run off and hide. I didn't understand at the time that I should have shown her in a small room where she couldn't hide. She was perfectly friendly with me, but in a big room with loud people talking away, no wonder she ran off.

Since applications weren't coming in and I was still quite the sucker for taking in cats, I said I'd just keep her. What the heck. Her Mother wasn't getting any interest because she was an adult already, so I kept her, too. I felt like I didn't have any other options at the time. Their adoption wasn't very meaningful.

Those cats are Gracie and Petunia.

I don't often write about Petunia. She's 8 1/2 years old now and I'm reluctant to admit, is not my favorite cat. She pees around the house some times. She's neurotic. She gets attacked by Spencer, Blitzen and now, even the DOOD. I've taken her to the Vet MANY times; dealt with any health issues as they come up. I spoke with a cat behaviorist. I tried homeopathy. I changed things around in the house so Petunia would have a place where she could feel safe, but I was always bitter about all the fuss I had to make over her when all she did was flip out over the littlest thing, drool on me if I petted her and sneak attack some of the cats while they slept (because they attacked her when she was awake).

Over the years I've come to resent her being here. She just causes trouble. I HATE that I have to admit this and I feel very guilty. I never should have kept her. I didn't have that bond I had with her siblings or her mother. I felt like I got stuck with her and I've been trying to make the best of it ever since.

Even though it was right in front of me, I couldn't see the good things about her; the way she would “talk” to me if I talked to her. she could do some tricks, she loved to play if she could be on her own to do so, she really loved me, but I was indifferent. How cruel I have been.

I considered re-homing her. She wasn't happy here. We weren't happy she was here, but her mother, Gracie, has to be with her. They are far too bonded for me to separate them now. Gracie is skittish and has health issues. Who would want these two cats?

So Sam and I made an concerted effort to be kinder to Petunia and she did respond, but the same group of male cats kept going after her! We would yell, try to break it up, but every night this would go on and the stress on ALL of us was not good.

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©2008 Robin A.F Olson. The girls.

Then I met up with a friend of mine who is also a cat writer. Her name is Wendy Christensen and she's the author of MANY books about cats. She's also an artist and jewelry designer. Her ETSY page is HERE and HERE are illustrations and some of her books.

Wendy told me that she had a similar problem-male cats going after her female. She took her cats to the vet. The vet couldn't find anything wrong. He kept thinking about this seemingly mysterious problem, some might call it Pariah cat, where one cat seemingly for no reason gets picked on by the other cats in the home. After all I've read on the subject, my short comment about that is I'm not sure it's a fair description or even that it exists at all (more on why another time).

He called Wendy and asked her to bring her female cat in to have its' anal glands expressed. He had a theory that if the glands were very full that the cat might give off an offensive odor that made the male cats react to.

Sure enough-the cats glands were full up. He expressed them and the cat stopped getting attacked!

Once I heard that, I knew I had to try it. Now, remember, Petunia is NOT easy to handle. She overreacts to getting her claws trimmed. It would not be easy to get her to the Vet, but it had to be done.

This morning I took 'Tunie to see Dr. Larry. Because I know that a small, dark place helps cats feel safe, I kept Petunia in a covered cat carrier and tried to keep her very quiet until it was exam time.

Dr. Larry and I discussed what was going on. He agreed that anal glands could give off scent that the males went after. He also confirmed something else I'd heard-that cats with urinary tract infections/issues can also emit an odor that other cats can smell. Petunia has had UTI issues, but was currently clear of them. I had to hope, which sounds weird, that her anal glands were full up.

I asked Dr. Larry if we could turn off the overhead lights, then keep Petunia covered during his exam. By the dim light from under the cabinets, Vet tech Amber held Petunia's scruff and Dr. Larry went to work at the other end.

We all kept quiet or just told Petunia it was “okay” and that she was a “good girl.” 'She was fairly relaxed until Dr Larry hit the right anal gland. Petunia started to writhe and screech. I asked Dr. Larry if he could take a break and he replied that once you start, you have to finish. He worked quickly. I couldn't see if he was expressing anything or not. If it did smell badly-which it should, I wouldn't have known. The day before a dog had come into the clinic. He was bitten by a SKUNK and BLASTED by the same! The whole clinic smelled like skunk a day later.

In a few minutes, the procedure was done. Petunia relaxed and Amber and I both petted her and told her she was such a good girl! She reacted so well. Normally she would have been climbing the wals, but this time she was calm. I realized that how I treat her definitely affected how she responded at the Vet. Keeping the lights low; keeping things quiet-that really did wonders.

I couldn't wait to hear the results. Did she or didn't she?

One of Petunia's two anal glands was VERY FULL, but the other was “HUGE.”

Dr. Larry described that normally expressing the anal glands results in a watery brownish discharge. Petunia's was black, thick and tarry-and very difficult to express. It's VERY LIKELY that Petunia has been in quite a bit of pain for a VERY LONG TIME.

On one hand I was thrilled at the news, but on the other hand I felt very guilty and ashamed. My poor cat-all this time I've been thinking she's a royal nuisance and I wished I could just re-home her. I was tired of all the fights and her screaming in the middle of the night. Maybe a lot of what was going on had to do with the fact that she was in PAIN and that she smelled bad to the male cats.

I took the back road home, driving slowly along the river. The sun was brightly shining and I pulled the cover off Petunia's cat carrier and glanced over at her. She didn't make a sound. She rubbed against my finger when I pushed it through an opening on the side of the cat carrier. I told her again what a good girl she was and for the first time in a long time, I believed what I was saying. I felt real affection for her and real hope, too, that maybe, just maybe she was on the road to a better life.

When we got home, instead of running off in a frenzy, she jumped on the sofa and laid down in the sun. I checked on her a few hours later. She was still there. Normally, if she saw me, she'd sit up on alert, ready to run off. This time I could see contentment in her eyes. She was relaxed and happy. I reached out to pet her and she rubbed her head on my hand, again, instead of running off.

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Petunia this afternoon.

I sat on the loveseat a few feet away from her. I saw Blitzen come over to her. Normally he'd sniff at her, then do this strange sort of dance where he'd rub his head against the leg of the table, then in a few moments, charge Petunia and corner her somewhere. This time he just sniffed at the air, then seemed to change his mind. He walked away.

I don't know if we've solved the problem. It's way too early to tell and I don't know if the cats are so used to going after Petunia that they'll still do it or if she has other issues we haven't yet discovered.

What I do know is I love my cat and I'm so very sorry. I'm sorry for her pain and her unhappiness. I've always felt she deserved a better home and maybe now she'll have one here.

Chaos-Central or Is My Cat Sick?

I can't believe it's been over a month since Bob passed away. It was a tough time-between losing him, then losing three neonatal kittens who were rescued in honor of Bob-it just felt like too much. I got a very bad chest cold and have been sick for four weeks. It's finally passing, but something else is going on in my home that's added to the feeling of chaos.

The heirarchy between the cats has shifted. Clearly there are power struggles going on. Cats who have regularly been a "problem" are fighting with newcomers. The result are urine puddles and poop piles that aren't in the litter pan.

I get it. I really do. Not only is Bob gone, but we're test driving Doodlebug to see if he can live harmoniously with the other cats. Mazie, who I rescued just about a YEAR ago, STILL LIVES HERE. She's become more bold and brazen. She's staking out some territory, too.

It's easy to shake a finger and tell me to not have the cats, but I see Mazie as transient and overall she's a very good cat. The problems I see are with Blitzen, Nicky and Petunia. The others manage okay and they don't spray or mark the house.

The biggest culprit is Nicky. He will literally pee on the floor right in front of me. When this 19+ pound cat lets go, a lake forms below him. He also poops by the doorways, usually one of the first things I see in the morning.

In sorting out what to do, I have to remember that Nicky could be sick. Nicky could be upset that Petunia is asserting herself more than ever now that Bob, her arch enemy is gone. To rule out illness, Nicky went to visit Dr. Larry today.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky, “Mr. Lovey-Dovey” at the Vet with Sam giving him a belly rub.

Nicky has lost over a pound in the past year, which is good, unless it's a trend downward from illness. He has one tooth that might be painful so he'll need a dental. Dr Larry did some blood work and a urinalysis-the results come in tomorrow. We discussed Nicky's water intake, which has noticeably increased over the past few months. This could mean diabetes (which I doubt since I did tested him a few weeks ago and he was normal), hyperthyroid (common in older cats and Nicky is 11) or renal failure (which we hope that's not what it is). ANY of these things, including his painful tooth, could be causing him to eliminate outside the box.

Then Dr. Larry asked me how many litter pans we had. I answered that we have three that are enormous. He seemed surprised, then said that we need a lot more. I questioned him about it because with the cats on a raw diet they don't fill up the pans and we keep scooping them at least once if not more times a day. He told me about a client who has TWO cats. She has one of those perfectly clean homes. She worked long hours and came home and found pee all over the place. To solve the problem, she ended up buying a kiddie pool (!!!), then placing SIX cat litter pans INSIDE the pool with fresh litter.

The inappropriate peeing stopped.

Each of the litter pans was used over the course of the day. There might be something to this after all. Our problem is that our house is a contemporary and all the rooms are open to each other. We don't have a lot of room for litter pans, but we will MAKE SOME ROOM, that's for sure. Tonight we're going out to buy some new pans. We'll see if that makes a dent in it.

The peeing problem is quite bad. It seems every day I find another place they were peeing on. We're trying all sorts of tricks and behavior modification and we've seen a reduction to not happening at all for the pooping, but the peeing..ugh...what IS IT WITH CATS? I am honestly trying to understand what they need and to give each one love and attention. I'm failing. I have to fix this.

Then there's Gracie.

Gracie is a sweet cat. She hardly has a mean bone in her body. Gracie was one of my first foster cats about 8 years ago. She was an "unwed" Mother to three kittens. Gracie's had Miliary Dermatitis for three years. I've done every test, treatment, seen every specialist I can and so far all I know is she seems sensitive to fish and homeopathy helped her stop being so painfully shy. I also think this may be the path to helping Gracie's skin now that we have her in a more calm frame of mind. You can read more about Gracie by doing a search on GRACIE in the sidebar. A few posts about her are HERE and HERE.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracie hiding under the towel. Maybe Dr. Larry won't see her?

A few nights ago I was petting Gracie. She's so jumpy I don't often get to pet more than her head, but this time she let me pet her belly. Right away my fingers detected something not right-a mass on her abdomen. It felt like an M&M.

Sam and I took her into the bathroom and tried to clip the fur away from her belly but we couldn't see much. This morning Dr. Larry got out the clippers and shaved her belly.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The cyst is the blue thing. The scabs are scabs from her dermatitis (looks worse than it really is).

Before he shaved Gracie he felt the cyst. He had a grave look on his face that told me everything. I started to think..."Oh no..not cancer again..we just went through this with Bob...I have no resources if she's that sick." Dr. Larry explained why it didn't feel like just a simple cyst; that he couldn't get under it and the texture didn't feel right.

After he shaved Gracie he didn't look so grim. What appeared to me like a freakish blueberry, Dr. Larry thought might be, I will paraphrase, a pore, perhaps there's ingrown fur in the growth and basically it's like a big zit? I'm to put warm compresses on the thing for the next few days and see if I can encourage it to drain (pop). Weee! Fun! Almost as good as when Dr. Larry offered to let me express Bob's anal glands.

It could still be cancer. We're not out of the woods. If I can't get it to drain, then he will excise it. Gracie needs a dental, too, so he'll do both. We discussed that 3 years ago when she had her last dental, that she got this rash afterwards. He's going to sedate her differently so perhaps she will be less stressed. I know he'll go as easy on her as possible. It just seems as though her skin breaks out when she is highly stressed. I should have named her, Nervous Nelly.

As we struggle to cope with missing Bob and struggle to sort out what's going on with the remaining cats, I know that in time we'll have some answers. I just hope I'm okay with what I find out.

Where Was I?

Last week sucked the life out of me. It was a cumulative effect of the stress of caring for Bob during the last weeks of his life, then watching Bob lose his battle with cancers, then the three little orange kittens dying and so many other things. Pretty much everything that's not an emergency has been kicked to the wayside. I'm just wiped out and sick with a nasty chest cold. After 10 days I think I'm finally starting to feel somewhat better, but now I have a mountain of things to catch up on. I'm still trying to write “thank you” notes to donors from months ago and catch up on posts for cats in need and somehow try to figure out how I'm going to pay the mortgage next month.

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©2011 Maria S. Mikey!

Yesterday I sat in bed and felt guilty, but I really needed to zone out. Things have been very difficult in the house since before Bob died. Everyone needs a break and there's just no way to get one.

Right after Bob died, many of the cats started peeing all over the house. It's been a nightmare. We know that Nicky, one of the big boys, is peeing and pooping inappropriately. He's peed into a cat food bowl that was sitting on the floor. Great aim, but shocking, since he did it right in front of me. Of course, he needs to go to the Vet. We have to rule out illness, but we also just dropped $800. on Nora's (Nicky's sister) emergency dental. Nicky is due for a wellness exam, blood work and urinalysis. Maybe he's not feeling well, but odds are this is the result of the “pecking order” in the house changing.

I upped the number of SSScats and Feliway diffusers. I ordered Spirit Essences from Jackson Galaxy. Sam and I are working with the cats to keep them calm, but Sam and I have not been getting along at all. We don't fight, but we don't talk, either. I know it stresses the cats out. If for no other reason, we had to fix that, too.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Free at last, the DOOD relaxes on a cat tree in the living room.

Then there is the DOOD. Finally freed from two-month quarantine and not sick with Feline Leukemia, his debut into the rest of the house was probably going to spark more flare ups between the other cats and cause even more peeing. I knew it would probably be temporary, but that didn't make the fact that Nicky peed onto my family's heirloom oriental rug any easier to take.

Life is about managing change. Things are always in flux, but how do you deal with it when it all feels like too much?

Shutting down doesn't help and I can't just sit in bed with the cats and watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory for the rest of my life. I have to pick myself up and get to work and plow through some things. It's been a rough time, but I have to have faith that it will get better.

Sunday afternoon, Sam asked me if I wanted to clean the rug (again) or put clean sheets on the bed next? He was placating me. I don't think he wanted to do either, but he feared my wrath since the house is getting really messy and I was very angry about Nicky spoiling the rug. I don't know why I chose that moment, but I asked Sam to sit down so we could “talk.” I was done with being silently furious-it was time to just let it out and be done with it.

We had a long talk. We both let each other know we were fed up with the relationship, or lack thereof. It wasn't overly emotional. There wasn't any yelling. I think we were both to a point of either; “let's just get this over with” or DO something to fix it. I felt dead inside. I figured Sam probably felt about the same way. No reason to be afraid of being hurt. We've been in each other's life for 18 years. It's not always going to be smooth sailing and maybe we had grown apart so far there was no turning back?

I had no feeling about any outcome. However it worked out was fine, as long as something is worked out. I couldn't live like two strangers in the same house any longer. I really thought this was the end.

But...it wasn't. The turning point was when I told Sam I really wanted him to be my friend and he said he wanted the same from me. I had to tell him things that have really hurt me and about things I really need from him and he shared his feelings about what he needed, as well. We didn't try to be something we're not, but we did agree to just try to be friends. Our lives are intertwined in so many ways. We have to keep trying.

I'm glad Sam and I talked. Things are better and the cats seem more relaxed, as well. I realized you can't just plow forward and hope things will work out. They don't. You have to do the work or you can just suffer in silence.

As for the cats, there have been a few surprising updates. More on that in my next post, but first I gotta get some work done.

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