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

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

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

 

Game over.

 

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

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Holly.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t know.

 

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

 

…twelve more hours later...

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Time passes...

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

HOLLY. IS. STILL. HOME.

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. BFFs.

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

DAYS ON PROZAC 19

GOOD DAYS 14

 

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

 

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

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

“To My Dear Family,

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Love,

Your Holly-girl

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

…12 hours later...

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

 

Holly peed on the eldest daughter’s bed.

 

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

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©2017 Robin AF Olson.

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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©2017 Robin AF Olson.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson.

 

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

 

 

I’m afraid Holly’s is, too.

 

[to be continued...]

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

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

Then this happened…

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

Or not.

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

[To be continued…]

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

(continued from Part 1, 2, and 3)

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

Fostering Holly Begins with a Bite

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Making friends.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

IMG 0732
©2017 The Kellogg Family.

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

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

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

(continued from Part 1 and 2)

 

 

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

 

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Oh Holly!

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

[To be continued]

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 1.

I don’t know how this story is going to end and frankly there have been times I just wanted to walk away from this whole situation with my hands up in the air, completely surrendered to failure, but something inside me pushes on, unwilling to give up just yet.

It all began innocently enough. My rescue, Kitten Associates, offers a Free Cat Behavior Counseling program, available to anyone who needs it. The hope is that with my help as a Cat Behavior Counselor, I can keep cats from losing their home by supporting and educating their family, while helping work with the cat's behavior issues in any way I can.

I received an email from a fellow wanting a cat behavior consultation. He told me that his kitten was peeing outside of the litter pan. She was only 5-months old. As I read on, I began to think of questions I’d ask, as often times, the solution for things like this can be rather straightforward once a few questions are answered.

Some of the most often asked questions included: Did they make sure the cat didn’t suffer from a medical issue? Were there enough litter pans? Were the litter pans cleaned often enough and with litter the cat wasn’t opposed to? Was the stress level in the home too much for the kitten? Were there other pets in the home intimidating the young cat?

Then I looked at the signature on the e-mail. Stephen Kellogg. Below his name was a list of URLs, his TedXTalk, a link for his new record, and another for his movie on Amazon Prime. Oh sh!t. He’s a rock star.

Album covers
Just a few of Stephen's albums. You can learn more about him on his web site.

I saw his TedX Talk, watched his movie, listened to a few songs (very good!). I imagined a cool, but probably entitled guy with lots of tattoos and attitude. I wondered what he was doing contacting me. Surely he had a “person” to deal with all these things so he could spend time writing hit songs, but talking to him was surprisingly different than what I expected. Unknowingly, this was going to be the theme of our time together.

 

We made an appointment to talk on the phone. I had my 10-pg questionnaire printed out so I could get a history on the kitten, but I was nervous about the call. I wanted to focus on the cat, be professional, and hopefully solve the issue promptly. I’m just a humble nobody. I don’t have a cheering fan base. I didn’t know if I could even keep my voice steady. I was literally shaking when he first called.

 

As our conversation began, I could tell this guy sang. His speaking voice had a luscious lilt, a blend of husky and honey. He was polite, respectful, and seemed kind. He wasn’t anything like what I expected or feared. He was so sincere it was almost painful to hear him talk about his frustrations with his kitten.

I learned about Holly, a little tortie with white paws who was adopted the day before Christmas as a gift for his four, yes, four daughters (who range in age from about 4 to 13). Stephen is a family-guy who married his high school sweetheart, Kirsten, and whose songs often reflect his love and struggles with his most adored people on Earth.

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Holly at home.

 

He referred to Holly as their “fifth daughter,” but was admittedly feeling both sad and stressed that Holly had been peeing on some of the kid’s beds. I promised I’d do everything I could to get to the bottom of the issue and that odds were good that this was a solvable behavior problem.

 

I asked if I could meet Holly to gather more information, since it turns out they live near my home in Newtown. I was so determined not to mess this up that I figured a home visit would help me make sure I was giving them good advice. We planned to meet a few days later and after a long, miserable winter of difficult issues with the Waterbury Ferals (more on that in another post), I was glad to have something to look forward to.

I planned to stop at the pet supply store to get a few things for Holly and pick up some other things for our foster cats before I visited with the Kelloggs. When I got to the store I chatted with Scott, the Manager, who’s also become a friend after the many years of me coming to his store. Scott referred Stephen to me, so I had to update him on what was going on. While we were chatting away, Courtney, one of the other employees shouted that she saw Stephen walk past the window and that his wife and youngest daughter were about to walk into the store.

 

Now what? Do I play it cool? I’m not supposed to know who they are, but the entire staff is making googly eyes at me while they walked over to the cat food aisle where I was standing. I was trying to figure out what to say when Kirsten said hello and asked if I was “Robin.”

 

Flummoxed, I said yes and she immediately reached out and gave me a hug then said hello as her youngest daughter, Greta clung shyly to her leg. We began chatting about cat food when Stephen walked in behind me. Instead of how I’d imagined walking up to the door of Stephen’s home to meet him, there he was, the rock star in the cat food aisle. I had dressed carefully, trying to look less like myself and more like a cooler version who wasn’t covered in cat hair. My gut was twirling and I had no time to take a breath to steady myself because it was “go time.”

Stephen is tall and slender with mischievous nutmeg colored eyes. He wore a bandana around his unruly brown hair. He radiated confidence and had sizzling charisma. His attire was casually chill featuring jeans and t-shirt. I wanted to make a joke about him wearing a hoodie that had his name silkscreened on the back. I wanted to ask why did he have to wear something with his own name on it? Did he forget who he was from time to time and needed a reminder? I was too “deer in the headlights” to say what I was thinking. He gave me a warm smile and hug to match, as we chatted about how funny it was to meet in the cat food aisle. But now I had to focus on the matter at hand. Clearly these people were depending on me.

I couldn't get over what sweet people they were. Their little daughter, Greta with her baby blonde hair, was wearing funky blue glasses and didn’t say a word, she was so shy. Stephen explained they were going to get some food for Holly since I’d suggested taking her off kibble and putting her on a high-protein canned food with a scheduled feeding regime, instead of free-feeding her dry and supplementing with some canned. I took that to be a good sign that they were going to follow through on my suggestions.

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Holly with her daddy.

We agreed that I’d still meet them in a few minutes at their home. I had to stop shaking and gather my thoughts, but I told them I had to go to the grocery store where I wished I could buy some time.

 

Doing cat behavior consultations is always very challenging. By the time someone finds me they’re usually about to toss their cat out on the street they’re so distressed. Working in that kind of environment is definitely a skill that takes years to finesse. I had to remember: DO NOT BE JUDGMENTAL and to ask open-ended questions. Be calm. Go slowly. LISTEN. Pay attention to what you can learn in the environment; there you will find clues.

 

I got to the Kellogg’s red clapboard sided home. Their place is vintage, much homier than I imagined, and pretty darn huge. The remaining three Kellogg-daughters were spread out around the house doing their thing. I expected chaos, but it was surprisingly calm. We stood in the gleaming white kitchen as I began to get more in depth information on Holly.

I was grateful that Stephen and Kirsten were open-minded and thoughtfully replied to my many questions. I asked why they adopted only one kitten when their home was grand and with four children. Certainly only one pet wasn’t enough for them to cuddle and snuggle with. The answer was they really only wanted one cat right now but maybe some day they’d get another.

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©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Two cool people and a dork (middle).

 

I told them I was concerned that some of Holly’s behavior might be linked to being overwhelmed. She’s immature, in a big home with one litter pan on the second floor. She was 11-weeks old and had a URI when they adopted her, then was spayed about a week after she recovered her health. The peeing started after the spay surgery and they feared it was a complication of that procedure.

 

Holly had been taken to the vet soon after the peeing issues began. They performed a urinalysis that came up negative. It wasn’t a thorough test of whether or not she had an infection, but the vet felt that it was enough to do to rule out her behavior issue as health-related.

 

At the time Holly was peeing on beds once a week or so, but that was about to change, and not in a good way.

 

[to be continued]

Of Cancer, Carbs and Cats: Emergencies all Around. Part 2 of 3

Continued from part one.

Here’s where I sound like a b_tch.

 

Thing is, O.F. NEVER took his cats to the vet in their entire LIFE (other than the waste-of-time visit Buddy had a few days before we picked up the cats where the Vet wanted to run some tests and where they said not to bother). They’d been fed cheap dry food for SIX YEARS. They never were given “people food,” nor did they get canned food of any kind. I didn’t see a scratching post or a toy in the apartment they shared with O.F.. I asked O.F. if I could bring a cat bed or blanket with me that they slept on so they’d have something familiar smelling when they came to my home. There was NOTHING there for me to take. What kind of life did they have?

 

I asked for a very generous financial donation towards their care. I figured it would probably cost me about $2000 (this is without even knowing what might really be going on with them). I got half that amount. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful. I was, but I also assumed they both needed dental cleanings, at least, and that I couldn’t cover those costs with what we had. It wasn’t fair to ask me to take these cats on, with all the issues we knew about, plus the fear of what was to come and to do it for FREE or to magically pay for it when we didn't have the funds to do so. Yes, O.F. is very sick but he also didn’t tell me that with chemo he could live another year to THREE years. Somehow he skipped telling me that fact. I learned it through a friend of his. Was this such a dire situation or an easy way out to play the “C” card when he probably could have found a family member or friend to take the cats? It would have required effort and time, and I'm betting he didn’t want to deal with it. I began to feel my hackles go up, wondering if I’d been duped.

Buddy a few days later 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Buddy the day before surgery.

Once we got the cats home and I got a chance to really look at them, it was clear they were in terrible shape. I have six-year old cats, too, but these guys acted twice that age. Buddy kept going in and out of the litter pan. He could pass some urine, but I could tell it wasn’t enough. The fact that he kept going to the pan meant he was in pain and something was wrong. His eyes were running badly. His coat was dry. He was terrified and withdrawn. He and Belle were growling at each other. The two of them were quite overweight, with Belle overshadowing her brother by a lot.

I made an appointment for Buddy to see Dr Larry. I wanted to give it a few days so Buddy could calm down, but I was concerned that Buddy had crystals in his bladder. All it would take would be for one to slip into his urethra and cause a blockage, which would be an expensive emergency surgery. I prayed it was only a bladder infection, which would only mean giving him antibiotics for a few weeks. I knew we’d have to run blood work and urinalysis, update Buddy’s vaccinations and test him for Feline Leukemia and FIV so he could be adopted one day. I added up what I thought would be the costs in my head having had these things done so many times before. We could get by with what I had, but just barely.

Belle Reflecting R Olson 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Belle at 17.2 lbs.

 

But Buddy was too sick to delay getting him to the vet. Dr. Larry had to keep him for the day in the hopes he could get some urine to test. I got a call a few hours later. Buddy had a lot of blood in his urine. They did an x-ray and his bladder was full of LARGE stones. While we could change his diet, get him off dry and give it time over doing surgery, we’d be at high risk of him blocking up. We couldn’t wait. I begged a favor to pay off the costs over time, so we could do the surgery the next day. Buddy stayed at the Vet overnight while I began to do an emergency fundraiser. There was no way we could afford to drop $2000.00.

 

I hate asking for donations. I shouldn’t run a non-profit cat rescue. While I am deeply humbled and so very grateful we get the help we need when we need it, we NEVER have much in the bank to fall back on when there’s an emergency and that stresses me out to no end.

Funds began to come in for Buddy and we barely reached our goal after two days. Buddy had his surgery and came through with flying colors.

Dr. Larry said his bladder was loaded and the stones were very large. Buddy had to have been in pain for a very long time. Knowing that made my blood boil because O.F. lives about a block, tops, from a Vet. How hard would it have been to get the cat checked out years ago? Instead of saying no to diagnostics, say yes. Find out what is going on and face it. No. That was on me to deal with.

 

Buddy Stones 650
The stones removed from Buddy's bladder. They were quite large indicating they had been present for some time.

While Buddy recovered from surgery, I knew I needed to find out what was going on with his sister Belle. She wasn’t eating; not a bite for days. Nothing. I had to syringe feed her and that was very difficult. I’ve syringe-fed cats MANY times but Belle fought, spit, hissed, growled. Some how she spit cat food all over the ceiling. She also upset Buddy so much he ran behind me and attacked me, clawing my behind. Yes! It’s called re-directed aggression. Belle got upset and it upset Buddy so he attacked whoever was close to him---ME! I was not loving having these cats in my house.

Meanwhile, our 16-year old cat, Nicky, was depressed. I could tell he was in pain, too. He was losing weight even though we were offering him food many times a day. I was very worried about him.

 

Nicky had a seizure a few weeks ago right under my office desk, while I was working on a design project. I rushed him to the Vet where they put him on valium to stop the episode. Later that night, Sam took him to a neurologist where we learned he’d lost some vision in his left eye. It might come back. It might not. He might have underlying lymphoma causing the seizures, but it was too soon to do more tests.

 

We started Nicky on Phenobarbital but it left him doped up and miserable. We changed his medication but he still wasn’t right. He would “forget” the litter pan was in front of him and would urinate on the floor. Having chronic kidney disease, also meant when Nicky peed, it was a tremendous amount of output, often covering half of our kitchen floor. If he did it overnight while we were asleep, the urine would warp the wood floor near the kitchen. It infuriated me and kept me on edge. Every time Nicky got up, Sam or I would have to keep an eye on him because many times we’d have to grab him before he peed on the floor. I had to remind myself that it wasn’t Nicky’s fault at all. We loved him and would do what we had to do. The urine was very dilute anyway. It was mostly like cleaning up water, but it was exhausting trying to keep up.

Nicky Sick July 2016 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Our sweet Nicky, not feeling well at all. By the way, when you see your cat is depressed, something is wrong. They should be taken to a Vet to be checked out.

The night Buddy has his surgery, Nicky really seemed to be feeling lousy. Sam hadn’t given him his fluids because he got home late and was tired. I pushed Sam to do the fluids, while we made sure Nicky had a nice meal. Sam sat on the sofa and held Nicky as he often did, like a baby with his belly up and his hind legs stretched out. Sam was cold so I wrapped a blanket around his shoulders so he wouldn’t have to disturb Nicky. He sat there for a long time in the dark, just holding and comforting his dear cat. I asked Sam about getting Nicky’s blood work checked in the morning. I had an appointment set for Belle. He could have my appointment if there weren’t any others that day. Belle could wait if needed. He agreed Nicky should be seen.

I felt good going to bed that night. Nicky seemed much happier and comfortable. He didn’t come upstairs to snuggle with us as he used to do because he was somewhat weakened by his illness. We didn’t want to push him to do something he couldn’t do and Sam was worried he would fall and hurt himself getting on or off the bed.

 

If I only knew that was our last night together…

 

Part 3, the final chapter: Where we have to make a heartbreaking choice and I show my true colors about how I feel about O.F. and his cats.

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 2

Part 2 of 2. Read part 1 HERE.

An hour later Dr Larry came into the waiting room to escort me into the back to look at the x-rays. Before he could even point them out, I saw them. Petunia has a mass of stones inside her. One looked fairly large. While we could try a diet change to acidify her urine and dissolve the stones, the most humane thing to do is to surgically remove them as soon as possible. The diet change would take months and it might not work depending on what kind of stones she has. It must be incredibly painful, yet Petunia never acted like she was in pain. She always was ready for a pet or snuggle. She never licked at herself or squatted and left small pools of bloody urine, but she was very sick.

Dr. Larry asked me what I wanted to do-do the surgery or wait? He told me he'd do whatever needed to help, but all I could do was cry. I asked him the cost of the surgery and he told me it would be about $1500.00. He does these surgeries all the time (which is fodder for another post because WHY are so many animals getting stones in the first place?). Normally I wouldn't bat an eye and just say let's do it, but this time I was lost and scared. I HAD TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN and by God I would no matter what.

Petunia Olson stones copy
Bladder stones. Lots of them.

Dr. Larry patted me on the back and said not to cry. I didn't have the nuts to beg for a big discount. I had to be a grown up and figure it out. I would find a way, but some times it's just tough to struggle and struggle, then feel like you're starting to make positive changes, then WHAM!, another big bill. I know I'm not the only one who feels like that, but it's hard to keep your head up some times.

I told Dr. Larry that I needed some time to gather my thoughts. As I drove home, I flashed back over the decade of peeing issues we've dealt with. I was fed up. I can't list how many things were ruined by her because there were so many. I was sick and tired of trying to find a way to get the cycle to stop. I thought about how many times I wished Petunia would die so the rest of us could live in peace. I know it's wrong to think that way but that's how far I'd been pushed. But all that ill-will vanished, quickly replaced with shame when I looked over to Petunia as she sat in her carrier on the passenger seat. I stuck my index finger into one of the holes on the side so I could touch her face. She rubbed her cheek against my finger a few times, desperate for some love. I realized that Petunia must have been in pain for YEARS and even through all of that she still loved me. How could I be so heartless to her in return?

A few minutes after we got home I called Dr Larry's office and made the appointment for Petunia's surgery. There would be no waiting on this. It had gone on far too long already.

©2015 Robin AF Olson. Petunia was in so much pain and desperate to drain her bladder she ends up urinating on her own mother, who is in the spot where Petunia has been peeing the past few weeks.

Though I arrogantly thought we’d checked Petunia for everything last year, we hadn’t and she’s been suffering in silence, been called names and shunned because of her behavior. All it made me want to do was hold her and tell her how sorry I was for being such a moron. I recalled that when Petunia was very young she had struvite crystals in her bladder. We treated them with a special diet and within a year we started transitioning our cats off kibble, to canned food without grains, and finally to a raw diet. It never occurred to me that she could even GET stones again since she gets appropriate nutrition. It’s clear this may have been going on far before the transition and is only getting to a point of severity where we’re noticing it.

I am so ashamed. The only thing I can do to make it better is to get this surgery done ASAP and help Petunia get on the road to recovery. Perhaps she’ll never need to be on anti-anxiety medication but it’s also possible that her anxiety is the root cause. There’s something called FLUTD (Feline Urinary Tract Disease) that could be part of the problem and it's also VERY LIKELY related to a whole-host of issues Petunia may have called Pandora Syndrome.

Pandora Syndrome can be a combination of many factors—genetics, environment, stress and diet. The result can be IBD, dermatitis, cystitis and more. Once I read this article, I realized that because this might have genetic aspect we may never be able to “cure” Petunia entirely. Then the light bulb moment: Petunia’s mother Gracie must ALSO have it! It would answer the question as to why we have never found a treatment for Gracie’s mysterious miliary dermatitis.

Gracie in 2013 at Vet
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Gracie at one of her MANY vet visits.

I spent two years searching for and trying treatments on Gracie. I sought out different specialists, did tests and biopsies. Gracie's a lot like her daughter and tends to be high strung. We've been working with her every day and over the past year Gracie's become less and less fearful, but now is more clingy and demanding. Her skin is improving slightly. We got her to stop vomiting clumps of fur every day and she no longer “barbers” her fur. She needs more work to help her mojo return, but I think the fog is lifting off these mysteries. I'm not happy about what might be going on because it means these cats are just not able to handle the stress they feel and how to reduce that will continue to be one of the biggest challenges of my life.

While I have failed these cats, I also feel hopeful that we may finally have some light at the end of the tunnel. I know that someone out there will read this and will say “hey, that’s my cat!” too. Perhaps they’ll take their cat to the vet and discover there was more going on than imagined. Perhaps it will save a cat from being given up or let outside to fend for itself. I can only hope that baring my soul will help others, because I really hate myself right now.

So, to all of you who feel like they’re suffering with inappropriate elimination problems with their own cats, don’t make the same mistake I did. Even if you already took your cat to the vet and they found nothing, KEEP SEARCHING if you can't solve the problem. Do research online, talk to your friends who have cats, try to see the world through your cat's eyes and if you feel they are subjected to a lot of stress, there's a big clue to how to help them feel better.

Get your cat vetted again, if needed, or get a second opinion. Yes, it may be costly, but this is YOUR cat, YOUR responsibility. Your cat may be in a lot of pain and I can promise that your cat is not trying to get revenge or ruin your life. They’re not “BAD” cats. They’re communicating in the only language they know and it’s up to us to be better at translating their message.

I’m so sorry, Petunia, but I will make it right. I promise.

Your surgery is tomorrow.

2013 Sweet Petunia R Olson 475
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Petunia suffered in silence for a long time, but I truly think I've learned an important lesson.

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