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Who Knew?

Nursing Mama Found, but Where are Her Babies?

Our intrepid foster mama, Maria got up early to hit the local tag sales. It was a hot Saturday just southeast of Atlanta, Georgia. Maria was taking a break from a long work week. Tag sales were an enjoyable adventure since she could save some money and find something fun to bring home while she was at it.

This weekend Maria got far more than she could have expected when she saw a cat LAYING in the middle of the street. Maria stopped her car and got out; worried the cat would be hit by a car. The cat came over to her and rubbed on her leg. She cried to Maria and within a moment, it was obvious that this cat was very thin. Maria, of course, had cat food in her car and offered some to the cat. She gobbled it up right away.

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©2011 Maria. S. A stray cat makes a new friend with Maria.

Maria took a closer look at the cat and saw that the cat's nipples were enlarged, a sure sign the cat was either nursing or pregnant. She sent me a text. It was not even 8AM. She wanted to talk to me, so I got out of bed and went into the foster room so I could talk to her without waking Sam up.

She didn't know what to do and I can't say I blamed her. She didn't know if this was someone's cat, but if it was they weren't taking care of her at all. If the cat had kittens, WHERE WERE THEY?

I encouraged Maria to ask anyone in the neighborhood if they knew the cat. She found one person to tell her he'd seen it before but didn't know where it belonged. I told Maria to get the cat to the Vet. If she did have owners, they didn't deserve this cat, who seemed to have no fear and who kept "talking" at Maria. Too bad she didn't speak cat.

Her tag sale plans disrupted, Maria went to her Vet. They weren't busy and offered to do an ultrasound of the cat FOR FREE. They didn't see anything unusual inside her so either she had already given birth or she was not far along enough for them to see anything. Maria spent her tag sale money to have a "snap test" done to determine if the cat had FIV or Feline Leukemia. She did not. She had some flea dirt on her, as well as two ticks. Her belly fur was bare, possibly from being itchy, they weren't sure. The cat only weighed FIVE POUNDS. They couldn't tell her if the cat had given birth.

Now what?

A few hours had passed since Maria took the cat to the vet. She noticed the cat's mammary glands were more enlarged. I told her to go back to where she got the cat and let her go. See if she would take Maria to where the kittens were located-if there were any. Surely she would need to feed her babies soon.

A severe thunderstorm hit just as Maria arrived at the drop off point. There wasn't much she could do, but wait. She was able to let the mama cat out of the car, but all she did was cry, then run into the street. Maria wasn't going to let this cat get hurt and it was clear the cat wasn't going to feed any kittens-if they even were alive. It was late. Reluctantly, Maria headed for home, the cat crying next to her in the car.

I quickly designed a flyer, hoping against all odds someone would step forward and help us find the kittens and I told Maria to just get the mama to her house and we'd sort it out the next day.

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I don't know much about finding where a mama cat might hide her kittens. I asked all my rescue friends and most of them said that since the mother was only 8-10 months old herself, that odds were she had abandoned the litter and was not going to care for them-IF they were alive. It's hard not to give up hope, but we knew that between the 95°F temperatures, rain, predation and starvation, these kittens might have 24-48 hours left to live.

Maria skipped Father's Day with her stepdad and her day off and got back into her car with the cat she named, Amberly. Amberly had a good night's rest, drank a bowl of water and had some food. She was in much better shape than she was the day before.

Maria let Amberly out of the car and she strutted off into someone's yard. Maria followed and saw the cat go into a storm sewer. Her heart sank. If the kittens were inside it would be very tough to get them out. A moment later, Amerbly returned and decided to look around at another drain. A neighber saw Maria and she told him what was going on. He offered to help her look. Then, Amberly dashed out of sight.

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©2011 Maria. S.

The neighbor called out to Maria. “I see something!”

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©2011 Maria. S.

Maria ran to his side. In the base of a tree, they could barely see Amberly's eyes. Being black let her disappear easily. They walked up to the cat. She didn't move, but something else near her, did.

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©2011 Maria. S. If you look closely, to the left are two kittens.

Maria could see a tiny kitten nursing on her mother, Amberly. It was a miracle. The kitten had been found. Maria let Amberly nurse as the neighbor, who admitted he didn't even like cats, went to get her some gloves so she could dig into the base of the tree to find every kitten that was there. I can't imagine how scared and excited I'd be if I was Maria. I'd be scared to find dead kittens, but excited that some might make it.

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©2011 Maria. S.

Slowly and carefully, she lifted a tiny calico kitten into the sun. The kitten squinted her eyes and let out a small cry. She was alive, not near death, but alive.

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©2011 Maria. S.

Maria looked again and found a second kitten. This one a little gray guy wiht white paws. He wriggled around in her hands, but seems all right, too.

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©2011 Maria. S.

Maria continued to remove kittens from their nest. Another gray and white kitten, then a tortie.

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All said and done, there were FIVE kittens rescued. Each one was alive, but after barely being fed for 24 hours they needed a lot more nourishment.

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©2011 Maria. S.

First things, first-they needed to get to Maria's house, away from all the dangers they faced and into a safe, loving environment. From looking at them, we estimate they're barely 2 weeks old.

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©2011 Maria. S.

There's much to sort out. Names to be given-perhaps something from the Hobbit since they were found under a tree? We'll need to do an emergency fundraiser to provide for their care and get them over to the Vet for a checkup to make sure they're all right. We didn't plan on rescuing any families since funds are tight and foster homes are tough to find, but we'll make it work somehow.

We'll see how the babies do over the next 24 hours. Will Amberly feed them and give them the care they need or were the kittens left alone for too long and Amberly will reject them?

Yesterday we hoped we'd find these precious little ones and thankfully they were found. Maybe, just maybe, the worst of their troubles are over and now the fun can really begin for them all.

And to Maria, who missed going to the tag sales, I'm sorry about that and I know you got more than you bargained for this weekend. I can't express fully how completely over-the-moon-happy I am that you gave up your time and money and kicked ass and rescued those babies. My hat's off to you, Maria. Way to go, baby. Way to go!

We'll Never Really Know for Sure-Part One

As I drove to the Vet to pick up some ungodly expensive cat food for Cara, all of a sudden, I got this really bad “feeling.” It was a dark sense of dread, like I knew something very bad was going to happen. I tried to focus on the feeling. Would it further guide me? I felt like I needed to drive home on the backroads instead of taking the highway. I felt like it was a very big, but I didn't get a sense of exactly what it was.

Am I flakey? I don't think so. Sometimes I just get a gut feeling about something and I try to just go with it. Usually it does make sense some time later, OR I find a way to make it make sense. I get that, but I believe there's more going on in our minds, that we have more capability than scientists can prove with a test or wires tapped to someone's head.

Haven't you ever just got a feeling about someone or something that turned out to be correct?

I got home safely. Driving the backroad reminded me that a new Ice Cream shop, called Ice Cream Heaven, just opened. That certainly wasn't bad news!

At 1pm, we packed Bob into his carrier to take him for his 11th (!) chemotherapy treatment. The drive to Wappingers Falls, NY takes about an hour. It was bloody awful hot and humid. I was determined to sit in the back seat and keep Bob company, but it was very uncomfortable in the car. I reflected on that sense of dread I had, but I was too hot to think deeply.

Sam was driving. He kept spacing out. I had to remind him not to exit, then later, TO exit the highway. He was hot and tired and had driven one too many trips to New York City to see his Mother the past eight weeks since her suicide attempt and his “auto-pilot” kept making him want to head south, instead of west.

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©2011 Guy Peifer, For the Poughkeepsie Journal

As we were finally getting off the highway, I noticed a helicopter flying very low. No sooner than we got off the ramp, I saw the road was blocked in both directions. The helicopter was a rescue chopper that was heading to the scene of a very serious car crash. There were all sorts of emergency vehicles blocking the road. Maybe that was what gave me the sense of doom I had earlier?

We were late getting Bob to his chemo. All I could think about was the poor people whose lives were changed forever.

As always, we have to wait about two hours for Bob to get his chemo so we left for our favorite hangout, Panera Bread, to get some lunch. I knew that the weather was going to pick up due to the incredible heat wave we were suffering under. I looked at the weather radar and sure enough there was a line of very strong storms headed towards us and one small rogue cell about to dump some rain.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson

It poured. You could barely see it rained so hard. It was time to go get Bob. We debated going outside, but we figured it would let up soon. Two seconds after we got into the car, it started to hail, hard. Sam's car was getting pelted. It was so hot outside the hail melted quickly. I did my part and used my brand new NOAA Official Weather Spotter card to call the National Weather Service to report the hail. A very nice lady told me to call back if the hail was larger than a pea. As she said that, we saw hail that was about quarter sized hit the ground. As I told her it was getting larger, she laughed and agreed with me, saying she could hear it hitting the car. I ran out and got a quick photo, which left me drenched, but my heart was pounding with excitement.

The Vet called. The storm took out some of their equipment and they were re-booting the systems. They needed us to kill another hour. We decided to play tornado chaser. The sky looked very foreboding. The weather radar showed a distinct hook in the shape of the storm.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson

Was THIS my bad feeling coming to life?

We drove around watching the sky churn. I noticed that the radar indicated the storm was moving to Connecticut and was going to hit our house square on. I wanted to get Bob and go home. I was really feeling anxious and rightly so. A funnel cloud was spotted very close to where we were driving and my nephew, Ryan called me to say that the power just went out and the weather picked up. Ryan lives 2 miles from my house. I suddenly wished he had a key so he could go check on the cats.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Some times Bob looks out the car window and HISSES at the traffic going past!

We weren't able to pick up Bob until nearly 6pm. The GOOD NEWS was that he had GAINED 5 ounces in four weeks. On a person, that would have been about a 5 POUND weight gain. This was the first weight Bob's gained since he was diagnosed with small t-cell lymphoma in January! We were delighted.

The storm passed as we left New York and headed home. I still felt that sense of dread. We couldn't get home fast enough, but traffic was slow. Why they call it “Rush Hour” is beyond me. No one ever rushes anywhere. It should be called “Slow, Frustrating & Annoying HOURS.”

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob—back seat driving yet again.

As we got into town, every so often I'd see a big tree limb snapped off, lying in someone's yard. There was a lot of debris on the road, but nothing too serious. I looked at the homes in our neighborhood. Their lights were on, so that was a good sign. As we pulled into the driveway, we quickly realized a big tree had fallen, just missing the house. If Sam had left his car outside the garage, which is does most days, it would have been smashed. My side of the garage was blocked so I could not get my car out.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Missed us by “this” much!

We got Bob inside and started to check around the house. I went out on the deck and surveyed the property. No more fallen trees, but the flowers in my planters were stomped on. We focused on getting the cats fed, then we had to see what we could do about the tree.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson

I began chopping off as many branches as I could, but we don't have a working chain saw. I guess buying one 20 years ago and having it still be in the box, never used, is not going to help us. I chopped and Sam cleared. It rained on us, but I hoped we wouldn't get hit by lightning. I just wanted to get done. It was almost 9pm. We were both soaked, sweaty and wiped out.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Freshly denuded tree. Now if we could just cut those long branches down.

The temperature had dropped over twenty degrees, but even in the 70's it was still too humid. We dragged ourselves inside to shower and take a break. I sent out emails to friends who had working chainsaws, to see if anyone could help. By then I was ready to fall over.

We have a joke about many TV shows that are documentary-ish in nature. Often, at the end of the show, the narrator says; "We'll never really know for sure...” regarding how the story ends.

And I say, we'll never really know for sure if I had ESP yesterday or if what happened was just coincidence. All I do know is we found something out about Bob last night, in addition to the happy news he gained weight, there was something more troubling on the horizon. The results of his blood test were very sobering, indeed.

I think I'm getting that bad feeling again and I know, for sure, how this is going to end.

Bob's Battle with Lymphoma: Bob is My Co-Pilot

It's the cusp of June and five months have passed since Bob was diagnosed with small t-cell mesenteric lymphoma. To say I'm surprised he's still with us is an understatement. I'm stunned, a bit in awe...and delighted!

His difficult journey began right before Christmas last year when Bob had 1/2 of his liver removed. It was another form of cancer that's considered gone since the tissue was removed. He recovered from that and we recovered from having to crate him (we built him a pen to go with his crate-see HERE) and fuss over him while he regained his strength and interest in eating.

Of course, being FIV+, Bob picked up the damn ringworm fungus that we know is in the house. Our feline dermatologist told me I'd have to wait until ALL the cats DIE, repot or get rid of ALL the plants, throw out anything the cats touched or disinfect it, get the ductwork sanitized, change the filter on the furnace, scrub down every item and ever surface in the house, wash every drape, wipe down the blinds, then WAIT TWO YEARS...then it will be gone. Uh-huh.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. In March, on a cold morning, Bob on his electric blanket. Me, with a heavy heart, as I take the photo. Bob looks terrible.

With Bob's health issues, I could not give him an anti-fungal. It would wreak havoc on what's left of his liver. I didn't want to do too many topicals for fear of him ingesting it. So, in April we started bathing him a few times a week and that helps keep him comfortable and less itchy. After looking at a photo of him from March, I can see he IS getting better and his fur is starting to come back. It's been such a slow change, I could barely tell that he's improved. Now that I see the photos I realize he's looking all right for a sick ol' man.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. An early bath featuring a very scared Bob.

The baths are down to a science. To keep Bob from slipping, I put a bath mat on the inside of the tub. It prevents him from hurting his hind legs even if it DOES give him traction should he want to get OUT. He's not that strong any more, but also, I think he's found a way to sit through it. We quickly wet him down, only getting him wet, then shutting the water off. I don't want the sound of the running water to frighten him. Sam and I furiously lather him up. Then..the hard part. We have to let it SIT for 10 LONG MINUTES. Then we can rinse him off, then he gets towel dried, rubbed down with a second lotion, then, to keep him from grooming himself while the lotion dries, we give him some food and we gently brush him.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. We get the hang of it. Now baths take 15 minutes, tops.

Until recently we kept him in our bedroom with a space heater and wrapped him in an electric blanket. He would shiver since much of his coat is gone. Thankfully, with the warmer days, he's more comfortable and we don't have to worry that he will catch a cold on top of everything else.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob seems to like his bath, okay, like maybe not “like” per se.

Bob made it as far as I had hoped. I just wanted him to be able to go outside on our deck, which is 16.6 feet off the ground. I know this measurement because I scared Bob once and he FELL off the deck. It was a terrible day. (Read about it HERE), but since then he doesn't walk on the railing any more. He just loves to sleep on his fluffy bed and soak up the sun.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it myself. Bob on May 29, 2011.

I know, too, that this will help KILL the ringworm, so the more he wants to get outside, the better. I also feed Bob on the deck, a few extra meals. Bob has to eat every few hours. The cancer absorbs a lot of the nutrition he gets. It's a constant battle to keep loading Bob up with food without the other cats pushing him out of the way to get at it. I find myself having to guard Bob while he eats. I really want to get back to work, but I know if I move, Bob won't get a full belly. Feeding him a few meals outside worked great, until the other day when I heard a huge crow cawing. I looked outside and saw him in a tree, near the deck, eyeing Bob's leftovers. Then my stomach did a flip and I got Bob to come back inside. The last thing I need is for the crow to confuse Bob with a meal!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob is a back seat driver, but Sam is being cool about it.

Bob's still getting Chemo. We had to opt to do it once every FOUR weeks because we just can't cover the $600 payment every three weeks. I'm not even sure how we will keep this going, but we have to find a way. The oncologist said he was looking for problems with Bob, but couldn't find any. Even though Bob lost a few ounces, he wasn't particularly distressed about it. He felt that Bob was responding well to chemo and that all things considered, Bob was doing great.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob, down to 12 pounds, 11 oz. from 16 over a year ago.

Bob is an amazing creature. He has beat SO MANY ODDS-it blows my mind. He's overcome being homeless, having diabetes, losing many of his teeth due to a very poor diet, treated for Bartonella, had pancreatitis, upper respiratory infections, then everything else with FIV+ and losing part of his liver and now, cancer and yet, he is right here, purring away, eating well. I even saw him play a little bit. Does this mean Bob is invincible? NO. It does not. It does mean that Bob...well all I can do is shrug my shoulders. I have no answers for how he's still with us, I'm just REALLY GLAD he's made it this far (:::knock wood:::). I know it things can change for the worse in a moment.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Chillaxin' in his favorite place. Outside on the deck on a fluffy bed.

It would be greedy for me to want more time with Bob, but I'm game, if he is. If I have to hover over him while he eats for another few years, great. Bring it! Bob climbed into my lap and took a nap the other day. It was the first time he ever did that since I brought him home in 2006 after my Mother (his former Mama) died.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Watching the world go by at 65 mph.

It's pretty obvious that Bob is my co-pilot. I would be lost without him.

Hiding in Plain Sight

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From CNN.com last night.

It's tough to be in a bad mood today, knowing that President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden is DEAD. Perhaps Donald Trump will shut up and stop asking for Obama's birth certificate now? As someone who bares the scars of living through 9/11 in New York City, I can say that I AM very glad, bin Laden is gone-even if it doesn't end terrorism. Our Country has been in dire need of something positive-good news. Between the economy, foreclosures, job losses and the horrific number of violent weather spawned problems, it's really ABOUT TIME we had something to SMILE ABOUT.

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Found on Facebook. Originally posted by Mike Green. Copyright holder not known.

Yes, I know about the controversy about the good old USA taught bin Laden how to fight and gave him lots of money to do so. Is it a surprise he turned on us? No. Using tax money to build secret armies is not my idea of a wise use of money, but honestly, I don't know much about this issue. I know about cats, that's about it. Oh and I know that maybe today is the start of better times for us all...okay, except for one guy. Not a good day for him as his body starts to rot in the Arabian Sea. Then again, good day for the fishes!

What do photos of Nora's butt have to do with Osama bin Laden's dead body?

Both things make you smile and they both smell bad.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Nora chants to herself; “You can't see me! You can't see me!”

Okay, it's a bit of a stretch. I don't care what anyone thinks. I'm in a good mood. Now that President Obama figured out where bin Laden's been hiding, maybe he can help me figure out the answer to why Nora has to sit, head-first into one specific cat condo, many times a week. She just sits there, not moving. I don't know if she's meditating or if she thinks she's hiding but we know she's failed miserably.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Nora's brother, Nicky, goes in for the sniff test that will certainly alarm Nora and force her to leave her “hiding place.”

The other cats check on her to make sure she's all right. After a few minutes she pops her head out of the condo, looks around nervously and runs off. Guess bin Laden can't do the same any more.

Way to go Navy Seals! Way to go.

Cara's Big Adventure

It's been a long week of Vet trips. I think Cara's getting used to being in the car, as long as I don't go faster than 70 mph. The faster I drive, the more distressed she gets, so I try to go easy, though if any of you have driven I-95 through southern Fairfield County you'll know the motto is: “I survived 95.”

I find that the longer I have cats and the more often I go to the Vet, I find myself questioning their choices and pushing back on the test or medications they prescribe. I know these cats medical history better than the Vet. They have many other patients to tend to. I can't expect them to remember everything. I find, too, that it's a good idea to make the most informed decision you can. Sure, I'm not perfect, but I can tell you if I had gone along with some recommendations to feed Cara dry food, that she'd be dead by now or at least in very serious shape.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara, chillin.'

I found myself doing that, again, regarding giving Cara antibiotics even though I knew she had an infection of some sort. I wanted more answers before giving her ANYTHING. Two Vets said, Convenia. Well, I've heard too many bad things about it and even if all if it was false, the fact that it's injectable and lasts for two weeks, means you can't STOP giving it if she has a bad reaction to it. Also, she's been on almost EVERY antibiotic there IS and I do NOT want to give her more unless her life is at stake.

So I compromised. Two days in a row of a single shot that lasted one day. It may have been enough to get Cara over the edge. We repeated her blood work and the white blood cell count was back to normal, but her Eosinophils were quite high-indicating either infection or allergic reaction to something.

Again, you must remember that blood work is a snapshot, not the full picture. Often times you have to repeat blood work to make certain there's a problem. I know we'll have to repeat Cara's again at some point.

Cara vomited a few more times. Once at the Vet (good timing so they could witness what was going on) and once a day after that for two more days. I knew Cara was facing something major-another endoscopy or exploratory surgery. Surely this darn cat was going to bankrupt all of us!

I was slated to meet Dr. K in Norwalk, abut an hour drive from here, Friday morning. I knew I was going to have a rough time with the drive because I HAD to get up at 4AM to watch The Royal Wedding. I'm not a nut about weddings, per se, but I did it because it's part of history and I like to be part of things, even if I'm in my PJ's eating scones and watching it on TV. I also did it because my Mother and I watched Charles and Diana get married and it was a nice memory to have, now that my Mother has long since passed away.

I saw the monumental “Kiss,” then ran out the door before the shocking second kiss occurred. No sooner than I got in the car, I realized I was really tired. The last thing you want to do is drive I-95 when you're sleepy, but that's what I did. I decided I'd take it slow, just stay in the right lane-be mellow.

Once I got on the highway, it was clear, you can't be on 95 and be mellow. That doesn't work. You're either stuck behind a diesel belching dump truck doing 45 mph or you get tailgated going 80 mph. Even the middle lane was full of nutty drivers, so I sucked it up and got in the left lane. Better to get it over with.

At one point I decided I HAD to wake up so I slapped myself! HARD! I've never done that before and I must say it did help my face sting. but I felt like I was going to shut my eyes and go to sleep, anyway. I opened the window and let the fresh air slap me, but Cara didn't like the extra noise, so I shut the window.

I got to VCA VREC right on time-alive, so that was good. I didn't have to wait long for the appointment. Out came Dr. K. She's awesome, but very speedy. She just cuts to the chase and goes over what she feels needs to be done, talking 100 words a second. Fortunately, I was able to keep up with her or in my sleepy-mind I fooled myself into believing that was the case. She decided she wanted to take a quick look at Cara using their ultrasound machine-even though we just had it done by another Vet at a different hospital. Before I could start my mental adding machine, she said she was just going to take a peek-don't worry about any charge.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara was VERY popular with the ladies at the front desk.

This is when I was sure I was sleeping, because I must have been dreaming. Dr. K whisked Cara away and I went back to the waiting room and got a “free” cup of tea, hoping it would revive me. Everyone in the waiting room had a dog-purebred. I was definitely in the wrong place. I ended up impressing a woman by identifying her dog—a schipperke. The lady next to her challenged me to guess her dog's breed. Without missing a beat, I said; Clumber Spaniel. She was surprised I knew it and said most people got it wrong. I told her I watch Westminster Kennel Club dog show every year, which I do, but I didn't tell her I knew it was a Clumber because I really don't like that breed at all.

Another lady brought in a Scottie. He was carried in the door, wrapped in a towel. They rushed the dog into the back where the Vets do their secret things. The woman had been crying. The other dog owners were telling her they knew what she was going through and they were so sorry. I didn't want to know what was going on. I'd rushed my own cat, Stanley, there many years ago and he came home with me, in a cardboard box. It was too late for them to help him, too.

Dr. K came out of the exam room and motioned for me to join her. She said that (BIG SIGH HERE), there was no need to do endoscopy on Cara, nor did she feel there was a need to do exploratory surgery-just yet. She repeated the x-rays we just did two days ago and DID see evidence of a small amount of corn-based cat litter in her intestines. She didn't see anything else that was alarming, but did feel Cara could still have some sort of parasitic infection or allergic reaction to her food.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. They let her answer the phones, but she wasn't good about writing down messages.

Oh no...her food. Here we go again. She better not tell me to feed Cara dry food. Thankfully, she only asked me to feed a unique protein in a canned food and she had to write a prescription for me to get IVD Duck & Peas formula. I asked if it had grain. She assured me it did not. I grumbled about the food, but told her I would get some. She told me to de-worm Cara for three more days using Panacur and she also gave Cara an emedic to keep her from vomiting for a day or so. Other than that, we'd just wait and see.

Of course, if Cara DOES continue to vomit, we're looking at endoscopy AND possibly surgery. I wasn't going to start worrying about that. I wanted to focus on getting Cara better.

It's been two days since we saw Dr. K and Cara has been keeping her food down. Last night her energy level was jaw-dropping. She could almost fly on her own she can jump so high. This morning there was a mishap, a step back. I discovered one of the cats had broken the light bulb in the lamp in their room. Broken bits of glass were all over the floor. The cats were right in the area with the broken glass. I acted quickly to get them out of the room, but the next thing I envisioned was yet another trip to the Vet. What fun would it be...four cats with glass in their paws?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara doesn't like “Love Triangle,” but I can't help watching it.

That Vet bill is not math I care to do. The cats seem fine, but Cara got so badly frightened by the vacuum cleaner, even though it was quite far away from her and she couldn't even see it. She started to viciously hiss at me, then ran and hid. She's never ever been even the slightest bit nasty with me or her siblings. She's doing better now, but I think we all need a nice quiet evening with NO MORE VET TRIPS and perhaps a restful nap.

Yes, a nap. I could go for that, just not a dirt-nap.

Cara's in Trouble.

This morning I brought Cara in to see Dr. Larry. Thankfully, they were able to fit her into the schedule for today without an appointment, but it meant I had to leave her there and they'd do x-rays and an exam at some point during the day. I got home and sat in the foster room with Mazie, Chester and Polly. They've been in that room for FOUR MONTHS. Only Mazie can be adopted and no one has been interested in her. Polly STILL has a URI and Chester is dealing with that spot of ringworm on his head. I know that being in a small room, even if it does have one huge window that overlooks the yard and another smaller window that gives them a view of the sky and tree tops, is not enough. Since they can't really catch anything from my cats and vice versa, I let them out into my bedroom once in awhile. There's more room to run around, but they really need a huge space to stretch their legs. I suppose if being bored or not having a lot of space was their biggest problem, I'd be lucky.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. What's next for this poor cat? I'm afraid to find out.

Dr Larry called me early this afternoon. Cara's x-rays did not show any obvious foreign object, but he wanted to do a blood panel to make sure she didn't also have an infection. I wanted to push back and say, no, not to spend the money since Cara seems fine, but I agreed. He told me to meet him at 4pm and by then he'd have the results and I could take Cara home.

Things were busy at Maple Ridge today, so I grabbed a People magazine and looked at it while I waited for Dr. Larry in exam room number 2. I noticed photos of celebrities in their bathing suit, walking on the beach at some exclusive resort. I didn't even know who half the people were. Then, it dawned on me. Why does it matter that I need to see these photos at all? If there were photos of my neighbors walking on the beach, I would be just as uninterested. They're on vacation? So what! What are they doing that's unusual, interesting, important? Maybe People should be renamed; “Photos of people on the beach with really nice bodies, wearing huge sunglasses, but otherwise not really doing anything.” I swear they use the same photo each week, they just photoshop the latest celebrity A-lister face over the body they used the week before.

I was just about to read about why Catherine Zeta-Jones is disclosing she has Bipolar Disorder II and why there is a “II” and what that means? Is it a sequel to Bipolar Disorder I? Maybe it's fancy movie star version of Bipolar disorder? Dr. Larry entered the exam room before I could sort it all out. He sighed. Then he said something about me having too much on my plate. I had a feeling he was about to add more to it and I was right.

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Cara's x-ray. The arrow points to some of the particulate I noticed in her stomach. Her filled up intestines can be seen at the bottom and top of her body, on the left side.

Cara's blood work showed her White Blood Cell Count was VERY HIGH. High-normal is about 20,000. Cara's is 35,000. She's got a raging infection. Her stomach is swollen full of gas. Her intestines are full of stool-almost packed solid. I looked at the x-rays and asked about something I saw in her stomach-some small particulate. Dr. Larry waved it off saying it was the cat food I feed...you know the RAW food with the BONES in it. I balked. Cara does not get raw. She gets canned. So of course it has to be the canned food. It's CANNED FOOD! There aren't BONES in it. Then it hit me. It was the cat litter. It confirmed what I had been suspicious of all along—that Cara has been eating the corn based cat litter. Perhaps the high WBC count is due to her eating out of the litter pan?

It's tough to say what's going on exactly. Dr Larry wanted to have an ultrasound done. The Vet who performs them had a cancellation. It's for tomorrow at 8:30AM. Larry felt we might be able to see if there's still a piece of yarn toy acting as a filter between her stomach and her intestines or if there's any damage to her stomach from eating the toy or ingesting the litter. It would give us some info, but potentially not enough.

Cara may need exploratory surgery or another endoscopy. Dr. Kittral, who's been performing all Cara's endoscopies needs to be included in our decisions. Sadly, she doesn't start her work week until TOMORROW. Dr. Larry wanted to put Cara on antibiotics, which, of course, raised a huge alarm bell in me. We can't give her oral meds or we risk causing her strictures to return. We compromised and Larry gave her an injection that will only last until tomorrow. By then, hopefully we will have more answers and be able to figure out a game plan for Cara.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh Cara! You poor baby!

I tried to be brave, but I felt a bit weak in the knees. Cara could be in a very dangerous situation. With her esophagus compromised already and her stomach lining possibly being damaged, we can't try to clear the stool out of her without risking her rupturing somewhere. Anything invasive that needs to be done, has to be carefully considered. Any medications given must be carefully scrutinized. She's been on too many antibiotics. She's been through so much already. I just don't know how we're going to get her over this next hurdle.

This Vet bill, even with a discount, is going to be bad. It could be the beginning of VERY BAD, I don't know how bad just yet. I'm going to open up yet another fundraiser for Cara. Her last two Vet bills came to $1500.00 and with the loan I got, we were able to pay everything off in full, but now we're back to loose change in our pockets to pay for the next Vet bills. I'm guessing that between today and tomorrow it will be $600.00 and counting. I can't give up on Cara even if the timing is the worst, ever. I thought we were over the hump, but now we've been pushed back down the hill like a feline version of Sisyphus.

I also have a lot of guilt about this situation. The past two weeks I just haven't been home much with frequent trips to NYC to care for Sam's mother. I couldn't feed the cats as regularly as usual and I fear that Cara resorted to eating the litter out of desperation and perhaps now has developed a taste for it. I really LIKE the litter and the other cats are fine with it, but I have to stop using it around Cara.

As for Cara; we've just GOT to get her well; for once and for all.

I realize we've had to ask for help more often than I ever imagined to get Cara well. I'm blessed with having devoted and compassionate friends of this Blog. My hope is that not one person has to donate more than $5. If we can all ChipIn, we'll hit our goal in a heartbeat. If you can share this request with your friends, I would appreciate it very much. Your donation IS tax deductible, as the funds go to a Kitten Associates, Inc. foster kitten (Cara).

Foster Cat Journal: Cara Struggles with New Problems

I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. I just saw Cara PROJECTILE vomit. I've never seen so much fluid come out of such a small animal, so quickly, in my LIFE. The vomit was mostly water. She'd eaten a good 5 hours before she vomited, so this indicates she was able to digest her food, but why so much water? Clearly something was wrong with her when I sat down to have some play time with the foster kitties around midnight.

Cara licked her mouth—a lot. This is a strong indicator of nausea. I knew she hadn't eaten recently, so I couldn't figure out what was going on. I got her a bowl of fresh water, not really knowing what else to do. I have had some fears she's been eating her corn based cat litter and perhaps that was the culprit? I spread some chunky Yesterday's News over the corn litter to put a “protective coating” over the corn until I could change out the entire pan.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor Cara. She's been through so much already.

Meanwhile, Cara was troubled and uncomfortable. I lifted her up to listen to her belly. Was it rumbling? Was her breathing ok? Her heart was racing. I put her down, then moved her inside her cat carrier because if she was going to get sick, she could do it there instead of on the bed (which is why I've had to do a lot of laundry lately.). The past two weeks I've been finding these enormous watery vomits in the foster room. Due to the volume of fluid, I thought it was Mazie or possibly Polly or Chester. They're still twice Cara's size. Certainly it was not her.

Between everything else going on in my life, I just wasn't able to give Cara the close attention I normally can provide. I've had to spend much less time with the fosters.

The biggest reason it's been difficult to be more attentive to the foster cats is Sam's mother. She's having surgery today. I was told to stay home and keep things going here. It's partially due to the reality of having relationship problems with Sam, and possibly moreso that the folks at the hospital don't even know what time or what HOSPITAL she's having the surgery done. After being in the Psych Ward for TWO WEEKS, with little information provided, we only know she's had her meds adjusted for the pain in her hip and now her Orthopedist says, at 82, she's still a good candidate for a hip replacement. So...after her attempting to take her life over the pain she was in and the fear of having to have surgery to repair her hip, now she is fine with the notion of having her hip replaced, which I believe is far simpler and less painful than the corrective surgery she had five years ago. It's rather ironic she's at this place after where she started off, but she's alive and hopefully her surgery will go well and she'll be on to a new, happier chapter of her senior years.

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I'm writing this at 12:30 AM, so as soon as Dr Larry's office opens at 8 AM, I'm going to call to see if they can fit Cara in for an x-ray and an exam. Last week in one of the vomits, I found a length of a knitted curlycue cat toy that was attached to a plastic wand. I caught Polly gnawing on it and figured she had also been the culprit who threw up a piece of it. I made it tough for the cats to get at the toy. I was stupid. I should have thrown it out. I saw Polly chew it again a few days later, so that's when I finally did throw it away.

The problem is-it may not have been Polly eating the toy. In Cara's vomit, there was a 2 INCH long piece of that darn toy! Cara HAD eaten it. Was there MORE in her stomach? If I had saved the remaining cat toy, I would have been able to make a guesstimate, but with that gone, my only choice is to get her x-rayed to see if there's more inside her.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. 2 inches long. I measured it!

Cara's energy has been off and on, but mostly normal. She eats well. Her eyes are bright, yet...after days of wondering who was vomiting, I had to do something to figure out which cat was sick. I crated Cara for two days until she vomited in her crate, proving to me it was her all along. I made an appointment for her to see Dr. Kittral, her Internist, right away. The soonest we can get in is on Wednesday. I know I can't wait that long, so we'll start with x-rays in a few more hours and I've left a message for Dr K for when she starts her week on Tuesday, so she knows what's going on.

I'm terribly worried that after ALL the effort, the two endoscopies, the medications every 6 hours...has it all been UNDONE because Cara ate a cat toy? Are we back to square one? I'm terrified of what this is going to cost, but I'm going to take it one day at a time. We'll do the x-ray and hope for the best. Maybe Cara just popped out the only foreign object inside her? Maybe pigs will fly out of my butt, too?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Polly (left), Cara (center) and Mama-Mazie (right) settle down on the electric blanket for a nap.

I have to admit, this cat is driving me nuts. She's so sweet and so dear, but I just can't keep up with all her problems! I keep thinking we're over the hump and she's on the road to being 100% healthy, but she just isn't getting there any time soon! Maybe her Internist will adopt her and make my life a lot easier and her's a lot better? Yeah, right...like that's gonna happen.

I'll update this post as soon as I can get Cara to Dr. Larry...

Product Review: Inappropriate Urination SOLVED!

I've rarely been so excited to write about a new product. It's so top secret, I'I had to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. I've been lucky, heck, honored to be the ONLY BLOGGER TO BE GIVEN BEHIND THE SCENES ACCESS TO THE MOST DAZZLING NEW PET PRODUCT TO COME TO MARKET SINCE CAT LITTER!

I can't even believe I'm going to write this...inappropriate cat urination problems have been SOLVED with the modification of a simple device that's been around since the 1930's.

I give you, Flunette™

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Let’s start with the obvious question: What is this thing? Flunette is a silicone container, a reusable device that collects the urine of female cats rather than allowing it to be released, then collected (by you) as clumped waste in litter pans. The container can be worn continuously for up to 12 hours, including overnight, before it must be emptied. This just means a quick rinse off with their Feelin' Good Feline Wash Liquid and you're ready to go.

The Flunette is based on menstrual cups, which were first used in the 1930's. It was a reusable alternative to tampons and pads that collects the menstrual flow rather than absorbs it. With a slight modification and adjustment downwards to a small size, the Flunette was born.

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There’s a learning curve, for sure. But there’s also a payoff. Flunette is comfortable, well at least that's the theory. Your cat can do everything she normally does – take a nap, eat, play with a mousey toy – but no matter how mad or territorial she may get, the last thing she can do is empty her bladder onto your favorite chair, the wall in your bedroom or even on your kitchen counter! All her urine is safely contained inside the Flunette until YOU empty it.

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Made of silicone, the Flunette (above) is flexible enough to ensure comfortable insertion. Note: I wear kevlar gloves when I insert the device into my cats. I find it's safer for us both if I take that simple precaution.

Insertion is a snap. Just press the sides together to collapse the container area then insert open end first. The tapered tip should face OUT. It's the handle you'll tug on later to remove the Flunette from your cat.

For those of us who suffer, as I do, with cats peeing all over their homes. The Flunette is a lifesaver. Sure, it was difficult to insert the device into my cat's urethra, but I found that if I gave her a bag of treats, she was so busy gobbling them up, she didn't notice what was going on in her back end. Yes, I did get clawed and bitten the first few times, but never so badly I had to be hospitalized and like anything else, persistence pays off.

I can't believe how clean and fresh smelling my home is now that I have Flunettes in all my female cats! Now that they stopped spraying, the males stopped, too and they didn't even need to wear the cup!

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In the big picture, using a urination barrier device is better for the environment since it reduces the need for cat litter! Now Fluffy will only need the litter pan for moving her bowels, though don't tell, but there is a rumor that Flunette will soon have a companion product; Turdtainer.

Think of the money you'll save on cat litter, since a Flunette device can last for several years with proper care. Your back will thank you, too. No more lugging heavy bags of cat waste to the trash!

Flunette is:

Made of 100% medical grade silicone

Hypoallergenic and latex-free

Environmentally friendly

Rinse carefully with soap and water (or Feelin' Good Feline Wash)

As with all of my Product reviews, know I did not receive any payment for my review, only a sample of the product and the wash. My results are simply that, mine! Your results may vary. Also, make sure you have health insurance before you purchase this product.

Ordering information for Flunette is HERE. The Flunette is $12.95 for one and $16.95 for two. The Feelin' Good Feline Wash is $6.95. Both products will be available April 31, 2011 for one day only, so ACT FAST! Please share this post with ALL your fed up, peed upon friends! You'll be glad you did.

FCJ: Full Speed Ahead

Cara had her first endoscopy performed twelve days ago. She was weak, frail and exhausted on that drive home after the procedure. The next day I began giving her medications at least every six hours. It's a complicated combination of medications that have to be given on time. Although I'm turning into a zombie from lack of sleep, Cara's been turning the corner!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara nibbles on her arm. Good eats!

Each day I brought Cara her food. Watered down baby food plus A/D (which I do not want to feed her!). It's a thin porridge-like consistency. I trained Cara to eat inside a cat carrier. This way her siblings or mother can't bother her (much) as she's eating and I can monitor how much she eats. It also keeps HER from getting into the canned food her family gets. I have to make sure Cara's esophagus has time to heal. Should she eat thick canned food, it might open up a sore or cause a stricture to reform.

I have to be scrupulous about not letting her have a nibble of anything, because she knows to explore the area where her family is fed, after I take up their plates and wipe down the rubber placemat. Cara frantically sniffs and licks at the tiniest morsel. At least her drive to eat is strong, but it could get her into trouble.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara and Polly watch President Obama's speech after the earthquake. The kittens and I are very sad.

Then, I'll wait. I'll sit with the cats and watch Cara. She had some grumbling tummy, some burps, but nothing too bad. I looked for signs of vomit around the room and found none. I decided after more than a week, to give Cara different canned food, baby food and water. She ate it but it was a bit thick and I thought she might vomit. The next morning I found a HUGE vomit all over the bed, with lots of water in it, too. I couldn't believe that tiny Cara had that much food in her AND she would have done it many hours after eating. I hoped that maybe her mama, Mazie had done it, not her.

Since I was worried that it WAS the food, I went back to the old standby.

After the first week, I spoke with Dr. K and she said to stay the course. Now we're at almost the end of week two and it's time to update Dr. K again to see what should be done next. Cara is growing rapidly and gaining weight. She's running around the room like a maniac, chasing after Polly and Chester. If she can keep down thicker food, then she may be out of the woods and will not need another balloon dilation. It's too early to say, but right now, she's looking great!

And since it's been almost two weeks, I think I can safely (I hope) say that I'm very glad we did NOT place a feeding tube into Cara. Cara seems very comfortable now, so perhaps we're one step closer to Cara being ready to be adopted? It's truly amazing to see her progress.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Who feels better? ME!

Go little sweetie, go!

FCJ: The News We've Been Waiting for About CARA

I feel hungover from interrupted sleep, and little of it. I can't imagine how Cara feels in comparison. From the look of her, I'd say she feels a lot worse than I do. The last 24 hours have been difficult.

Yesterday we started fundraising for Cara's Vet Care so we could get funds for her to have an Endoscopy. It's a much needed diagnostic test that we hoped would lead us closer to finding out what's wrong with Cara.

We were very lucky that a compassionate, anonymous person (really a Guardian Angel) came forward and offered to LOAN us enough money to get the test done. It WOULDN'T solve our fundraising problem because we have to pay it back, but at least we could move fast and get the test done. I was able to book her an appointment within an hour of getting help from Cara's Guardian Angel.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara, ready to just play and love life just hours before her procedure.

It was a good thing we didn't wait another SECOND longer. We have answers. No more tests needed. It's not good news.

Cara's esophagus is in TERRIBLE shape. It's filled with bloody ulcers. The lining of the esophagus is thickened from being so irritated.

Cara has TWO strictures-which is a closing of the esophagus due to, in Cara's case, either a genetic component or the fact that she had Doxycycline at such an early age (which I didn't know was something that can cause a problem and I need to look into this further). One of the strictures was SO SMALL they could not get the scope into her stomach-how was she getting any food at all?

Cara must be in HORRIFIC PAIN. Think of the worst sore throat you ever had, times 10. Every time you eat it hurts. No wonder Cara was vomiting! The food could barely pass into her stomach, yet she was losing vital nutrients and was SO VERY HUNGRY at the same time!

The options:

Balloon dilation. Just what it sounds like. Under anesthesia, they insert a small balloon into the esophagus and inflate it very carefully. It forces the esophagus open. Then they inject a small amount of steroid into the thickened tissue to get the swelling down.

If they do this, the esophagus can tear, the chest fills with air and you have a VERY SERIOUS LIFE THREATENING situation on your hands, but you HAVE to do something because soon, Cara will not be able to pass ANY FOOD into her stomach.

If the dilation works, then they would want to insert a feeding tube into Cara. It would bypass her esophagus and go right into her stomach. I've heard about feeding tubes and how they can cause more problems than they solve. They can become infected, come out-which results in emergency gastric surgery. Considering Cara's in a room with her family and is a playful kitten, I couldn't imagine doing this to her. I also didn't feel I had the “chops” to provide that level of care without making a deadly mistake. I wanted to talk to Dr. Larry and find out if he could board Cara and provide her care for the two weeks we'd need if we put her on a feeding tube. I needed more time to think, but didn't have the luxury of having any.

I tried to stay calm while the Internist, Dr. K. gave me the news, but inside my heart was breaking. Would Cara ever have a normal life? Would she ever have a home of her own?

The Vet told me that Cara could have a good future, but that there was also a very good chance that the strictures would recur-soon. That the procedure would probably need to be re-done up to 3 times, before the stricture would stop closing up. Cara would have to be on a high calorie, liquid diet during this time.

Cara could also end up having to be on a liquid diet for the rest of her life and face having a stricture issue recur even if we fix her up now. That yes, it will cost money to provide the care, but no where NEAR the cost of the surgery to fix a PRAA, which would have been at least another $5000.00 on top of the money we needed for the balloon dilation, so that was good.

The Vet wanted to know if as a rescue group, if she should proceed with the treatment. She'd do the best she could for us regarding costs, but I could read between the lines of what she was really asking.

My reply was simple: We do NOT EUTHANIZE ANIMALS BECAUSE OF MONEY. She sounded relieved. I gave her the okay to do the dilation, but to hold off on the feeding tube. My hope is to see how we do for a few days. IF we can get Cara comfortable and eating well, she may heal on her own if she survives the dilation.

There are so many IFs. It's very tough to know what's best, but I knew that I'd be risking all sorts of extra trouble inserting a feeding tube. One step at a time...

The Vet called me a short while later. The dilation went VERY well. In fact she said that it just “popped” open and did so well enough that they could re-insert the scope and see into Cara's stomach. She said; “it looked beautiful.” That was a BIG RELIEF.

They kept Cara for about five hours after the procedure. Sam and I picked her up late last night, along with a huge BAG of medications and a two page list of directions for her care.

Sam drove and I ended up holding Cara, swathed in a big towel. She stretched out her front legs across my shoulder and put her head down and closed her eyes. Her front legs were both shaved in a band around half way up her leg. It made her paws look like she was wearing white mittens. Cara felt like a dead weight, which was very unnerving. She just laid on me, barely moving, the entire drive home. This wasn't the bouncy full-of-life kitten I'd seen just a few hours earlier. I felt panicked about my ability to provide the right care for this little sweetheart and her ability to survive the treatment.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara, this morning, after endoscopy. Not eating much and obviously feeling dreadful.

We finally have answers to what's been ailing Cara. It's not a PRAA-Persistent Right Aortic Arch. We don't have to travel out-of-state to find a surgeon to save her life. We can do everything we need to do right here, but the problem is-will Cara respond well to treatment or have a life filled with suffering?

We still need to continue to raise funds for Cara's care. Yesterday's procedure came in under the estimate, but Cara will likely need a few more balloon dilations. We're going to cross our fingers and leave our goal as is, for now. In a week if Cara is doing well, we'll lower the goal. We never want to ask for more than we need. Every dollar is sacred.

Thank you to the MANY people who responded right away to help Cara. It makes all the difference to be able to provide care for this much-deserving little darling. If you can't donate any funds, PLEASE DO CONSIDER SHARING THIS POST WTIH YOUR FRIENDS!

If Cara could talk, I bet she'd say; “Thank you for thinking my life is precious and worth fighting for.”

I couldn't agree more.

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