July was even more difficult on us than June. Maria had taken in two more kittens from her neighbor who were very sick. A buff tabby named Tater Tot was the most ill. The Vet told us it was the “wet” form of FIP which is fatal. His sister, Latte was struggling with a terrible upper respiratory infection. Maria took time off from work to care for the cats around the clock. Neither of us slept much. I researched alternative treatments, testing, anything I could think of while we expected that Tater wouldn't be with us for much longer.
©2012 Maria S. (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our amazing survivor-Tater Tot.
Because Maria is so good at what she does, she noticed that Tater had tapeworms. We ran more tests. His belly was big and round from the tapeworms, giardia and what was almost pneumonia. Once we started treatment he began to show improvement. It took a few weeks but we were very happy to take FIP off the table as we saw Tater eat on his own and gain weight.
King arrived in my home for a few days. He was quite the charmer, but he wasn't meant to be here for very long. Sam and I drove King to New Hampshire, to his new home where his mom, Judy was waiting to adopt him. I loved this home for him and this good woman and her sister. I never thought King had a chance and here he was 1400 miles from the palette factory in a safe, loving environment.
Two of my dear friends adopted Sabrina and Cutie Pie. Their mom, April, found a home in Brooklyn, NY and their sister Bon Bon was adopted in June.
We took on another pregnant mama named Winnie and got a new foster home here in CT. Donna and her husband, Paul are great foster parents. Winnie had five amazing kittens on 8.10.12 named Buttons, Bandit, Honeydew, Charly and Pinkie.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Mama, Winnie (inset) waiting to see Dr. Chris. Buttons flying high while Honeydew and sister, Bandit look on.
I took another fistful of Xanax and flew to Topeka, Kansas to tour the Hill's Global Pet Nutrition Center. I tiptoed through the “dark side,” but made some good friends and learned a lot more about pet food ingredients.
Something horrible happened to my cat Spencer. He stopped eating and hid. X-rays showed a strange mass in his sinus. I tried to prepare myself for the worst. It turned out to be a false alarm which added many more gray hairs to my head.
I was honored to be chosen as one of five members of the Animal Control Advisory Panel, overseeing the operations of our brand new town's Animal Control facility here in Newtown, CT. We had our first meeting and I was delighted to be nominated as Co-Chair of the committee.
Just as I was about to get inundated with kitties from Maria and Cyndie, I found a foster home for two of the remaining black kitties and the final one, Hello Dahlia, was adopted. We got the word that Miss Fluffy Pants found a GREAT forever home and Coco, Chichi, Choco, Tater Tot, Latte, Fred & Barney, and Willow arrived!
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. (inset) the DOOD resting in his cage while his mysterious back injury slowly healed and a few months later enjoying the new cat tree in my office.
Chichi and Choco got adopted right away into a great home.
One morning, the DOOD couldn't get up and walk and was in terrible pain, growling or crying if we touched him. We did x-rays that showed nothing and began talking about taking DOOD to a neurologist or starting him on steroids. It took six long weeks, most of it forced cage rest, before he was well enough to walk again without pain. I think he fell down the spiral staircase to get into the basement where we store food for our feral cat, but we'll never really know what happened.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson getting oxygen before we raced him to the Emergency Vet and Intensive Care (inset). Jackson at home feeling better.
With Maria having space in her home open, we took on a kitty named Bongo who has nerve damage to his front leg. It had been a Hell of a month, but we kept on.
Opal went to a sanctuary and is doing well. She is becoming more friendly each day and she may one day be put up for adoption.
There was troubling news about King. He'd been struggling with chronic, severe and frankly bizarre ear infections. He had to have surgery, loads of daily cleanings, antibiotics. The other cats in the home weren't too sure about him. King faced losing his ears and his home, but his mom never gave up on him.
©2012 Maria S. Bunny Boo Boo (inset) with Bongo (left) and George (right)-who are all ready to be adopted! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
I rescued a knockout silver tabby Maine coon mix named Nico from a kill shelter in Georgia because I knew I could find him a home and I wasn't going to let him die.
Maria found a kitten in a parking lot she named, Bunny Boo Boo that she rescued on her own and we took on another cat whose former mom was going to lose her home if the landlord found out she rescued a cat from the parking lot nearby. We named him George and he and Bongo and Bunny Boo Boo are great friends.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hurricane Sandy, no power for almost a week-just a bad flashback to the year before when we got nailed at almost the same time by “Snowmageddon.”
Hurricane Sandy killed the power and made life HELL for a week making a mess of my home in Sandy Hook, CT.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. You are deeply missed, sweet girl.
Nico arrived and was adopted a few weeks later. The rest of Winnie's family found their forever homes. There were lots of inquiries about adopting kittens since the Holidays were approaching. Tater Tot, in a surprising twist, got adopted instead of Willow, who the family had come to meet. Willow, Fred & Barney and Latte were still with us waiting for their forever homes.
I got good news that King overcame his severe ear issues and was finally settling in with his new family. The other kitties were slowly accepting him and King was finding his place. His mom is the sort of adopter I always wish for-after a very rocky start, loads of vet bills and difficulties, she kept on. She never complained. She was completely devoted. My only hope is that her reward is enjoying the love of a very dear cat and hopefully a much easier future.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our mascot of Covered in Cat Hair and my baby, Spencer before and after surgery.
Spencer had a very challenging dental cleaning where he lost two more teeth and surgery to remove a mass from one ear and another from inside the other. I prepared myself for bad news, but the shock came as the test results indicated it was an apocrin gland cyst with “no content”-meaning NO CANCER.
Sam and I cleared out the garage of recycling one bright sunny morning. After we were done we went to Panera Bread to have a late breakfast. While we were sitting there we saw police cars racing past. I knew something bad had happened and a few minutes later I heard the news of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, which you can read more about HERE and HERE.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My home town will never be the same again. The school is a few miles from my home.
Wanting to reach out and help heal the broken hearts in our town, I created “Kitties for Kids” a kitten-therapy for the children, first responders and residents of Newtown, CT. We were featured on national television news and major news outlets online. We got loads of donations of plush toys and the first children and parents began to arrive to visit our kitties.
Although we had no Christmas and sent out no card (for the first time in my adult life), the joy of knowing I was helping people and the overwhelming honor of so many people reaching out to us was my gift.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. We will never forget and find a way to heal our hearts.
It's been quite a challenging and painful year. I realize that 2013 may be no easier. All I can do is hope that I'll be better able to handle what is yet to come and that for the cats out there who need me, that I'll have the resources to help them when the time comes.
The first morning after Spencer's surgery I went over to his crate and opened the door so he could stretch his legs. I hated having to confine him, but it's only for a few days. There's a pen attached to his crate once the door is open. It gives him more space, but keeps him from running around. He's supposed to rest. He's supposed to wear that damn “cone of shame.” He's supposed to be feeling awful for a few days.
I started placing the dishes out onto the counter. I count to myself the numbers 1 through 9. I have enough plates. Next is to get the raw food thawed so I go over to the refrigerator and pull out a package of food that Sam made up a few days ago. I hear a weird sound and turn. I don't see anything so I go back to what I was doing but something caught my eye. It was Spencer. He was sitting in his “spot” where he usually waits to be fed. He looked up at me and gave me the ever-familiar silent meow, letting me know he was hungry. The sound I heard must have been him jumping over the pen when just the night before there was no way he could manage.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. “This is your cat on drugs.”
It would be a good hour before the food was warm and Jackson, too, was fussing about wanting to eat. Who am I to say no to them after the last day we had?
I grabbed a few cans of one of their favorite canned grain-free foods and scooped some out on a dish. I hid Spencer's antibiotics and Jackson's pile of pills into the food after I'd coated them in my favorite stuff-Flavor Doh. It really works to hide pills! I put the food down and within two seconds, pills and all, it was gone. Spencer ate normally for the first time in MONTHS. He'd been chewing out of once side of his mouth, a telltale sign of some sort of dental problem. Here he was, like nothing ever happened. Meanwhile, Jackson was chowing down, wanting more. I couldn't be happier.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Purple-buprenex-haze.
Later that morning, as I sat at my desk, Spencer ran over and jumped into his favorite cat bed which is at table top height and is right next to me. I was so glad to see him, even though he was supposed to be in his cage resting. He seemed very comfortable even though he was still on Buprenex and was a bit loopy. Blitzen and Nicky were also in my office fast asleep. I felt safe again with them here. I couldn't get over how dreadfully lost I felt without them less than 24 hours ago. We were a family again and everyone was basically okay.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson, back to his old self.
I've said it many times before that my finances are in the shitter. Part of it was due to how much we spent trying to keep Bob Dole (my cat) alive, along with some other very costly Vet visits. I knew if Spencer had cancer I'd have a very very very hard time paying for his care. I would find a way, but when you're in a deep hole already, you don't have much energy or tools to dig deeper.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My lovely floor.
Meanwhile Jackson was back to his old ways. He was LOUD, meowing the second we went to bed, then starting up again very early in the morning. He wants his pills/snack at 7:20AM. I do not need an alarm clock with him. He's almost spritzed cat urine in the bedroom but I watch him like a hawk and have stopped him a number of times. It's exhausting. I don't know what it would take to get him to stop doing it. There's competition for the bedroom and he rarely stays the night. He's probably trying to scent the place so he can take over. Meanwhile it's pee pee pads by the front of the bed to protect the rug and a lot more policing then I'd like to do.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Yummy goodness, but naughty boy.
Jackson is not deaf. He MAY be hearing impaired to some degree, but I'm not sure how severe it is. He CAN hear me, especially if I YELL at him to NOT PEE on the BED. As for more subtle sounds, he may have a problem. More testing needs to be done.
For now it's simply watch and wait—make sure everyone stays out of trouble, eats their food, takes their medicine. Spencer's been very good about not picking at his sutures and for that I continue to be happy.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer with the only Friskies I allow in the house.
I also have one more thing to be HAPPY about.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Soulful Jackson.
I could barely speak and I had to hold back my tears as I thanked her profusely and hung up the phone. I ran to Sam to tell him, the tears falling freely, before I could get the words out, leaving him to think it was the worst before he realized it was the BEST NEWS EVER!
Not only was Spencer just fine and dandy, but the weight of worrying about how I would pay for his care lifted. What a great gift! It was completely unexpected and so very very sincerely appreciated. My boys were back home with me, just where they belong. I wanted to hold each one tight and never let them go.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me and my baby. It's going to be okay.
I may not have ever had human children, but I suddenly felt like I understood how the bond between a Mother and child-how it must feel to almost lose someone you love very much, then yank the back from the edge of the cliff at the very last second. It's been quite a week and this time we get a happy ending. I know it won't always be like this, but for now it's all good.
Jackson made it to the Vet without dying, but he cried pitifully once we entered the waiting room and were met by two big dogs. I blocked Jackson from seeing them as much as I could, fighting off the urge to grab the dogs and run them out of the building and release them into the parking lot while their owners ignored their interest in my cat.
One of the Techs took Jackson into the back room. This time I wasn't invited to join them. She came back out and we discussed Jackson's symptoms. We'd noticed he was a bit off and on over the past few days, but he'd maintained his good appetite until that day. He'd regurgitated his food after eating two days ago, but other than that he was just a bit more quiet than usual.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. At the Vet, now would he survive the Exam?
That was it. Now we wait. We wait for two cats who are at some risk of having a really bad day. I asked after Spencer, but they hadn't gotten his blood work back yet, which would either allow them to do his surgery of have to postpone it. Sam drove us home. Neither of us spoke a word. I closed my eyes and tried to rest. I realize stress is a killer and I have to work on how I deal with situations like this. What I really wanted to do was crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head.
When we got home, as I walked in the door, I stepped on my stupid-jeans again, re-igniting my irritation. If it hadn't been such a cold day I would have yanked them off then and there. Instead, I got to work and focused on keeping myself busy. I kept looking at the clock, trying to imagine what was being done.
Shortly after 2PM Dr. Larry called me. He's just finished working on Spencer and wanted to give me his findings.
Spencer's mouth was a MESS, his gums were like “hamburger meat.” Spencer needed two molars removed which were very difficult to get out. The other teeth looked remarkably good. I need to insert a note here that I've recently learned that the theory about WHY cat's teeth are SO BAD is because they no longer gnaw on food as they would if they were killing a mouse or chewing on a bone. They can't crunch dry food and canned is too soft. Since their teeth have no real pressure on them the blood supply is reduced, hence poor oral health. To solve this if you're like me, you'd give the cats raw chicken necks, wings or turkey necks or wings to give them something to sink their teeth into. NOT COOKED with brittle bones-just rinsed with cold water and served raw.
Dr. Larry removed the small wart on the back of Spencer's leg (that I discovered as I was loading him into his cat carrier that morning).
…and Dr. Larry didn't feel comfortable taking it now. We'll keep an eye on it instead.
The good news was that Spencer's blood work was “very good,” ”nothing remarkable.” Considering Spencer is about eleven years old, having good blood work results is something to be proud of-Go Raw Diet!
Dr. Larry offered to give Spencer a shot of Convenia to which I adamantly opposed. He doesn't like it for oral issues anyway so I'm to give Spencer Clindamycin for the next two weeks as well as give him pain meds for a few days. Spencer is to get cage rest and wear “the cone of shame” until “he doesn't need to any more.”
By 6PM Spencer was ready to come home, but what of Jackson? I hadn't had any update. I didn't even know if he was ALIVE. When we reached the Clinic the first thing we asked was; “Do we have one or two cats to bring home tonight?”
The answer was TWO.
Okay, good start. They brought Jackson out. He was sitting up, meowing loudly. He looked GOOD, perky, ready to go HOME. Dr. Mary did his examination and talked about how she worked hard not to upset Jackson, which also meant she couldn't do many tests other than an examination and get his temperature. She gave Jackson more lasix to help move the fluid out of his lungs and around his heart. Jackson sounded VERY WET when he coughed and I'd already spoken with Dr. Larry about changing the dose, but he wanted to wait. Cats don't do that well on diuretics so adding more has to be done very soberly and thoughtfully.
After the injection, Jackson took a big pee, then perked up. Because his lungs are really wet and they could be breeding bacteria, she also gave him antibiotics (which I will continue for two weeks). We discussed changing Jackson's meds and will work something out there. For now he was to go HOME, get something in his belly and see how he does.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Feel beter, Jackson Galaxy!
It would answer the question of why he yowls just as we go to bed each night. He can't hear where we went off to and wonders where we've gone. He may be causing fights with the other cats because he can't hear their cues/warnings to get away. I said we'd observe him and report back. My goodness Jackson's certainly keeping me on my toes.
They brought Spencer out and he was growling a little bit, clearly whacked out on painkillers. They forgot to give me the cone of shame and I silently hoped he wouldn't pick on his stitches. Ears can bleed a lot and if he messed with the stitches I'd have to get one on him right away. He can get very crabby. Having to cage rest him for a few days would be asking too much of him already.
I had my boys back home and I hoped they were changed for the better. It was back to watch and wait to find out if they'd benefited some long term positive results. I had a better idea of what I was dealing with and they both survived the day.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer in his pen with Blitzen wondering what's going on.
Once home, I was finally able to take off my annoying jeans and toss them into the laundry. Next stop the dry cleaners to get the dammed things hemmed up or maybe dig out some duct tape to do the job?
Stay tuned for part three!
The past 24 hours have squeezed the life out of me. I could barely make it to my bed last night I was so tired.
The morning started off too early. I wanted to go back to bed as soon as I left it, but I pushed myself to get into the shower. Get dressed. Get going. I had to get ready to leave for Dr. Larry's with Spencer in tow. It was finally time for Spencer to get his MUCH NEEDED dental cleaning done, as well as the removal of an ugly black growth from the edge of his right ear. Spencer also had a small growth INSIDE his left ear that had to go, too. It was these two unwelcome guests that I was most worried about. Was it CANCER?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My baby.
I got dressed and put on a new pair of jeans. I managed to get them half price on Cyber Monday. It was the first new pair of clothes I'd had since I could remember. They fit great but were a bit too long. As I walked I kept catching the ends under my feet, causing me to hike up my jeans as high as they could go, but then they'd slip back down. I'd get them hemmed later, but it made me crankier.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Growth highlighted. Was VERY difficult to notice this until it was bigger due to Spencer's coloring.
Spencer was a dream to get into his cat carrier, but once we got into the car, his pupils dilated and he started to, well, not meow, per se, but sort of squeak. Spencer doesn't meow. He never has. I call what he does "air meow" because he WILL look at me, then open his mouth; it's just that nothing comes out but some air from his lungs.
I took the back roads instead of the highway, determined to keep Spencer as comfortable as possible. Just before we reached the Clinic, a cop car whizzed past us, lights and sirens blaring. I knew from the days when I volunteered with EMS that it had to be bad news, the more noise and fuss the car was making, the worse the situation. I wondered where he was going as a sense of dread filled my heart. I hoped this wasn't a bad sign of things to come.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This is Spencer's favorite spot, right next to me when I'm working at my desk.
It was quiet at the Clinic so I asked if I could set Spencer up in his cage and to spend a few minutes saying goodbye. I've been a client of Dr Larry's for over 15 years so I get to go in the back where client's aren't usually allowed.
There were two big dogs barking loudly. The Tech got them to quiet down, but it ticked up my anxiety wanting to protect Spencer from these beasts. Spencer didn't want to come out of his carrier. I couldn't blame him. I ended up having to tip the carrier up on its edge hoping gravity would do the trick and it did.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Dirty, yucky, teeth and gums.
I spent a few minutes talking to Spencer, petting him, kissing him, somehow trying to capture this moment because of the fear under all the other fears—that I would never see Spencer again. I realize it may sound dramatic, but over the past few weeks so many cats have died that I just felt this sense of impending doom. I kept thinking about Bobette and how we all thought she was going to be fine and she didn't survive her surgery. I pushed back my fears as best I could, but I wasn't raised to have faith, my parents feeling we should decide our own path to religion (if we had one at all). It left me struggling with my feelings.
I didn't go straight home. I decided to go grocery shopping, get just a few things. I was tired of being hungry and broke, but I certainly had enough to buy some bread and eggs, maybe some soup. The store was not crowded, being that it was not even 9AM. I enjoyed the meditative quality of walking up and down the aisles, looking at all the food, wondering what was on sale and what would make for an inexpensive meal while my tummy rumbled reminding me I'd skipped breakfast.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Not comin' out!
As usual, I bought more than I anticipated, but took advantage of the sales and saved $40.00, for which I felt quite proud. I distracted myself long enough to forget my worries about Spencer. He was in good hands. I had to wait and see how things would unfold, but I couldn't fool myself completely. I was really cranky from being tired and from struggling to not to be worried. By the time I got home I was in a bad mood.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Too fluffy for feet? Spencer in his cage.
I got the car unloaded and Sam helped me put the groceries away. He didn't say anything to me until we were done.
“I need to talk to you about Jackson.”
I felt a ice pick in my gut and my legs go wobbly.
“He didn't eat this morning and is hiding in your office. I can't get him to eat. Something's wrong.”
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This makes me sick-I think of all the “urgent” cats who need to get out of shelters and I look at this photo and see my sweet kitty-how much I love him-how easy it could be for him to be one of those cats.
I began rattling off questions as we walked into my office. Sure enough there was Jackson with his front legs tucked under him. It's called “meatloafing” and it's an indicator that Jackson was in pain. I squatted down and petted Jax. He didn't respond. Normally Jackson would press his head back into my hand and start purring right away. He just sat there in stone silence.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The day before he was a bit “off.”
I hustled back into the kitchen, my jeans getting caught up under my feet. I wanted to rip them off and throw them out. My mind racing, I thought of things I had on hand to tempt Jackson to eat. Nothing worked. I even brought out the big guns-DRY FOOD. He wouldn't even sniff it.
Once at the Vet we wouldn't be able to do anything to him other than an exam because the stress, again, could push him into heart failure. Jackson was only to have home visits from Dr. Larry, not trips to see him!
We started to get ready, then I stopped Sam. We both sat down in the living room, looking at Jackson, who'd relocated along with us. I didn't want to rush a decision. He'd only missed ONE meal and we were running him to the Vet. How nutty did that sound? Maybe we should wait a day and see how he does? Maybe he's in trouble and we need to bring him in right away?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. We chose to risk the trip to the Vet. It was up to Jackson if it could make it.
We went back and forth weighing the pros and cons.
We offered him the cat carrier and he got up and went right inside it-no fuss-no stress. It was a good start, but would we MAKE it to the Vet?
I asked Sam to drive slowly, to take the back road I'd just been on an hour before with Spencer. We stopped part way into the trip because Jackson started to cry. I was sitting next to his carrier with the door open, my arm snaked around the door so I could offer him what comfort I could. He was sitting awkwardly, crying as I scratched his neck. I wondered if I'd made a terrible mistake and if this trip was sending Jackson's heart into dangerous rhythm.
I think we all need a reason to smile after everything that transpired this week. It's fitting that I have some good news at last. A week after all Hell broke loose there are promising signs that things are changing for the better.
This morning ALL the cats showed up for breakfast. They sat in their usual places, near their food plate, clearly hungry. Though we're not feeding their regular diet, they were all receptive to the grain free canned food we put down. Each cat walked over to their plate, sniffed, then licked at the warm mound of food, tentatively, then with more gusto.
The cats I'd been most concerned about were Gracie and Petunia. They've eaten the least amount of food and been afflicted the longest. Knowing that they ate their breakfast was a tremendous relief. Perhaps the worst is over?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Meanwhile, my foster kittens "help" me make the bed in their room.
The PCR test results are not in yet, but we hope to have news that will guide us to an answer. We may never know what happened to our cats, but today I learned from our foster mom, Cyndie that some of her clients had similar problems with both their cats and dogs down in Georgia. Our cats had zero contact with these animals, so I wonder if there's an odd virus out there or this was just another red herring?
I'm still busted up about Spencer. He's feeling better and comes to me to tell me he's hungry every few hours. He's eating small meals, but eating with the enthusiasm he had before he fell ill. He hates getting ear drops, but he forgives me soon after I apply them. It was very lovely that so many people cared about him possibly having cancer. It means a lot to have such compassion and support when I felt like giving up. Thank you to everyone who shared their messages both here and on Facebook
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Human scratching post, NOT!
The silver lining began a week ago, before our cats began to get sick. My good friends Lynne and her husband, Steve, came over to visit my black foster kittens. It was their third visit, but this time I had a feeling they weren't going to leave empty handed.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Fresh kittens ready to be adopted!
Steve had a cat named Clevie, who he rescued from a video rental store (which will give you a hint as to how long ago it was). Clevie was Steve's little girl and he loved her dearly. After he and Lynne married, Clevie became part of their kitty-family. Sadly, Clevie was diagnosed with cancer and a few weeks ago she passed away. Clearly this is not a time to adopt another cat.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. You gotta sandwich there? Can I have a bite?
The first time the couple came to visit the kittens it was just for fun, but one kitten left a lasting impression. Lynne and Steve pushed their feelings aside, knowing it wasn't the right time.
After Clevie passed they came to visit the kittens again, but it was too soon. I couldn't push them to adopt and they were grieving. I think seeing the kittens helped cheer them up. Who can't smile when they see kittens being kittens?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. A rare sight-kittens sleeping.
The third time they came to visit, they brought an empty cat carrier. The cat they'd fallen for was Cutie Patootie, partially because of her silly floppy, extra-toed feet and partially because she is very outgoing and loving. Cutie was the kitten I worried about most. I didn't think she'd survive her first few weeks and I was constantly bottle feeding her so she wouldn't have to compete with her five sisters for nourishment. Secretly, Cutie was my favorite and if she had to go, I was glad she was going with my friends. I'd get updates on her and even get to see her once in awhile. They're great people and so devoted to their cats. I couldn't ask for a better home.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Cutie.
Though Cutie would have two other adult kitties to play with, Lynne and Steve had other plans. They'd also fallen for Sabrina, the kitten with the cutest little black toes-the kitten with the goofy markings on her face. 'Brini was another gem, truly all the kittens of this litter are extremely loving kitties. When they offered to adopt Sabrina, I was delighted. The girls would always have each other and be in a loving home.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sabrina, growing up fast and looking lovelier than ever.
We did the paperwork and got the kittens ready to go. I gave them a quick kiss on the head and wished them happy journeys. For once, I didn't even cry when they left since it wasn't really saying goodbye, it was just saying goodbye for now. I knew I'd see them again one day.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Steve & Lynne with their new kitties.
-------------------One week later-----------------------
The girls have new names. 'Brini is now Ripley (Sigourney Weaver in the Alien movies), and Cutie is now Neko Case (Neko Case is a wild haired singer and just Neko means “cat” in Japanese). I'm told they're doing great, eating like piggies and keep trying to bust out of their room (just as they did here every day!). They can't wait to meet their new kitty family and be able to race all over the house to their heart's content.
Boogie, the feral kitten I was working with is doing better, but he won't be coming back here again. One of the Vet Techs where he's staying is going to give him a forever home and work with him to help him out of his shell! His brother, Otis, is getting adopted in a few hours by a young family and I've offered to take Milo and put him with my girls so he can have company until we find him a forever home.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Otis is getting adopted today!
-------------------And More Good News!-----------------------
Update on KING: King is able to go UP AND DOWN the stairs in his new home! Not only that but his mama-Judy reported the following about King meeting the alpha cat-Yasmin: “At one point she was lying on my bedroom floor - she sort of lies on her side with all her legs stretched out in front of her - and King Arthur lay down in almost exactly the same pose about 2 feet away from her, they looked like bookends, it was cute. Then he kept looking at her, and he'd scootch over a little to be closer to her - then he would wait a minute and do it again. This went on for maybe 5 minutes until they were maybe 6 inches apart. I kept waiting for her to jump up and bop him one, but she didn't do anything - I'm sure she knew he was there even though her eyes were closed. If they were people, I'd say it was like a little kid trying to get closer so they could hang out next to the cool teenager (or cool old lady in this case). So they just napped there together for a little while - I thought that was kind of a breakthrough.”
I believe we have a Silver lining on quite a few or our dark clouds. It's been a Hell of a week. I wonder what will come next?
Day six has drawn to a close. I can't sleep. My heart is broken. It's not that I even feel the need for it ever to be “repaired-” if such a thing is possible. While I was working on the story of my cats falling ill, another story began to form. Stories that follow along with a real person's life don't transpire in tidy little packages, so here I stop to inject something else before I get back to the mystery ailment.
Two nights ago I found a small, odd looking black growth on the edge of Spencer's right ear. In my foggy memory, I believe I saw it long ago, thought about running Spencer to the Vet, got sidetracked and forgot. There it was, this rubbery, creepy mass, well hidden by the dark fur along the cap of Spencer's head.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Back at the Vet for a second time.
At first I thought it was a tick, then realized there were two masses, one “tick sized” and the other much smaller. I knew this was something that Dr. Larry needed to take a look at so yesterday morning I took Spencer back to the Vet for the second time in less than a week.
Super Deb entered the exam room first. After working with Spencer the other day, she realized that he was calmer if we didn't cover him during procedures. She got to work taking his temperature and he was basically calm. He had no fever.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The growth was easily overlooked. Follow the left edge of Spencer's ear. Where the fur gets dark you'll see a tiny black area where there is no fur. That's the growth. It's just right of center of the photo.
She weighed him and he'd lost 4 ounces in five days. Not surprising, but a reminder to keep him eating as much as he wanted while he recovers from his illness. His fluffy rear end, which had become soiled yellow from having diarrhea, was looking cleaner. Perhaps he was feeling better?
Dr. Larry entered the room and I was relieved to see him now that he's back from his vacation. He's been my Vet for more years than I can remember. Though we may not always agree on things, he's open minded and in return I'm very respectful of him. We've had some difficult discussions about my choice to feed a raw diet to my cats. It's unfortunate that even now I have to be on the “down low” about it, but there is so much fear mongering going on about it that it's just easier not to talk about it.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. She didn't even buy him dinner first! Spencer gets his temperature taken.
On this day we HAD to talk about it. He approached the topic carefully. I felt myself taking a step back, crossing my arms over my chest as he spoke. What is sickening my cats could have been caused by the raw food. Though rare, salmonella could be a culprit, yet we did NOT see any indications in the blood work to show us it was a possibility. It could be e.coli or other bacterial culprits. To really know for certain, Dr. Larry asked if we could get a stool sample on Spencer and run a PCR test on it. Though expensive, running over $200.00, the test would show us what was causing the diarrhea. If we could manage, he wanted a sample from Nicky, as well. Using that information we could get a better picture of what happened and how to NOT let it happen again-IF it's something we can control.
I said yes to the test and I told Dr. Larry that we stopped feeding raw the day the cats got sick. We've discussed how we prep the food and saw some minor things we can and will correct. We're going to throw out the litter pans and start anew. We've been feeding raw for many years and the cats have NEVER gotten sick, but in case we did something to cause this, we will find a way to do right by them.
Before we went too much further down this path we agreed it might still be something else and NOT the food.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. At least he's starting to eat again.
Then Dr. Larry examined Spencer's ear. He measured it and said it measured out larger then he expected. He didn't “like the look of it” and said we should remove it. He looked at Spencer's teeth and mentioned Spencer really needed a dental cleaning. I asked him to look into Spencer's ears because I noticed they appeared a bit dirty.
Spencer fussed and hissed angrily as Dr Larry looked into his ears. The right was dirty and irritated. Dr. Larry told me that some times cats can have an over production of a greasy residue in their ears. The ear gets dirty and very itchy. Certainly Spencer would need drops to get him feeling more comfortable.
Next, Dr. Larry looked at Spencer's left ear. As Spencer fussed, Dr. Larry adjusted the angle of the scope. He stopped for a second and removed the scope.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Measuring the growth.
I felt a lump form in my throat. I took a deep breath, trying to steady myself. I brought my cat to the Vet to look at this weird thing on his ear. Hopefully it was just a funky benign mole or something, but with the discovery of a second growth I knew what that could mean and I didn't know if I could get the words out to ask the question.
Dr. Larry has this serious expression I've seen too many times before. He had it when he examined Bob's belly and said it didn't feel right. It turned out Bob had a cancerous tumor engulfing half his liver. Dr. Larry never makes light of a diagnosis like this. Being conservative and I'm sure not wanting to upset me, he would only answer; “I don't like the look of this. It could be benign, but…”
He said if it was cancer that the rule of thumb would be to excise enough tissue to get a clean margin. It would mean removing Spencer's ear or ears. It was too much to imagine. I had to keep it together. I said if it was malignant, what was the point of cutting his ears off? His lovely little elfin ears…how could I do that to him? We didn't talk much beyond that. It was too soon to go down that road.
First Spencer had to get well and recover from whatever was causing his gastric issues. We'd schedule a dental and surgery for sometime near the end of the month. He wished me well and left to attend to the next patient. I put Spencer back into his cat carrier and went to the lobby to pay the bill, not sure I could get out of the clinic without bursting into tears.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My little pouff-waiting, wondering and scared.
Although I have no idea how I'm going to pay for this surgery, I will find a way. The overriding thought in my mind as I waited to hand over my credit card was; this can't be cancer. I just lost a cat to cancer 11 months ago. I just watched my dear Bob slowly die over the course of a horrible year. I can't go through that again.
I thought about what my lawyer said to me on the phone when we were talking about a car accident I was in two years ago. The case is either going to be settled or go to trial. He asked me my age, then told me the insurance company figures that based on my current age I have 29 more years to live which is how they will base my settlement offer. At first it really bothered me that there's a computer program that bets on how long I'll live. After we ended our conversation, I started to think maybe that was too many more years; more years of witnessing the pain and suffering of my dear cats.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. After the exam, Spencer sat in the window, trying to regain his composure after being poked and prodded.
Last night Spencer came over to me as I laid in bed. He did his little routine of laying on my arm, with his fluffy ruff in my face, purring loudly next to my ear. I tried to hold back, but I began to sob. I wondered how many more nights we would have together like this-where he is himself, not broken or wasting away. He is my beloved cat and together we have a simple joy that is deeply profound.
Spencer got up and walked to the end of the bed. I gave up trying to sleep, got up and went downstairs to my office and began to write. Between writing and tears I heard a sound. I turned to look and Spencer was there in his cat bed next to me. He was purring away like nothing was wrong.
I hope he's right.
The PCR test results are due in a day or two. I won't know about Spencer until we biopsy the mass towards the end of the month. The sliver lining has to do with a surprise adoption. Find out who it was and about their forever family in the next installment (unless something ELSE happens first).
Everything that wasn't related to caring for cats, cleaning up after the cats, or trying to figure out what was wrong with the cats, was put on hold over the weekend. Plans were cancelled. I made notes about who was eating, what they ate, if they vomited. I did research and spoke to my friends who were as confused as I was as to what was going on. We tossed around some ideas: Feline panleukopenia/Distemper, Parasites, a virus, food bourne illness. Nothing really added up. Four of the nine cats weren't eating. One cat was vomiting. Two cats had diarrhea (that I knew of). Four cats were “limp.”
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Mr. Unhappy at the Vet. Thankfully Spencer's blood work was normal, good even, for an 11 year old cat.
I was in a trance of despair. I couldn't do much other than worry. My temper was on a hair trigger. As I laid in bed Saturday night, hoping that by Sunday things would get better, I realized I was alone. There were no other cats on the bed. Spencer, who has a little routine with me most nights, was nowhere to be seen. My heart sank as I realized how much he meant to me. My inner voice chided me with a quote from an unknown author; “You never know what you've got until it's gone.”
Usually after I get into bed, I turn over onto my right side. Spencer will walk from the foot of the bed up towards my head. I have my right hand under my pillow. He'll lay across my arm and place his front paws onto my pillow, pining me in place. He's so fluffy that his fur covers my face. His purr is so loud I have no hope of sleeping. It sounds terrible, but I like it. I like the closeness-that he wants to send me off to dreamland even if it means he's smothering me (in a nice way, I'm sure).
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer giving me a nasty look because I interrupted him when he was getting ready to spoon with me.
Other nights he'll wait until I turn onto my left side. He'll make the same initial approach, but this time he'll turn his back to me and snuggle under my arm, effectively spooning with me. He never stays more than 15 minutes or so, but it's his way of saying good night. As I pet him, I relax and can fall asleep knowing all is well with my little cat-world.
Yet there was no good night that night or the next. I woke each morning in a panic, wondering where Spencer was. He was hiding between two storage containers under the bed or he found he way back into the basement to hide so well it took another hour to find him. I couldn't bear it.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. At least the DOOD was spared from getting sick-so far-knock wood.
Worrying about Spencer was bad enough, but it's curious how something completely banal, like feeding your cat, becomes the most precious moment of the day when your cats are sick. I so desperately wanted my cats to eat, but even the ones I didn't believe were sick barely touched their food.
By Sunday, with tempers flaring between the human residents, I left the house. It wasn't to escape, even if in my heart I wished I could just keep driving. It was simply to buy cat food. My goal was to purchase a wide variety of food, from expensive delicacies to what I would consider total junk. We were on day three. The cats HAD to eat.
Everyone who works at the store where I buy my cat food knows me-no surprise. As I walked into the store, Lindsey came over to say hello. She took one look at my expression and asked me what was wrong. I told her about the cats being sick and she walked me over to the cat food aisle to help me make some choices.
Most of you know I'm very picky about what my cats eat. They NEVER get dry food, but this time I had to make an exception. I figure if I eat cookies (more often than I care to admit-like right now while I'm writing this), they can have kibble this ONE time IF they'd eat it. I'd get something high quality, with only one grain. I'd also by lower quality canned food and some very nice “on your birthday” type of expensive canned food. At that point it didn't matter-as long as they ate.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh Lindsey, you slay me!
Linsey excused herself, then returned a few moments later. She asked me what I thought. I looked up and in her hands was a huge sex toy. My eyes almost popped out of my head! Before I could say a word she said; “No…it's a DOG toy…for DOGS.”
For a moment, all the tension in my body slipped away as if a trap door opened up under it and it rushed into a puddle at my feet. I took a photo and smiled, appreciating the fleeting moment of happiness. Just as quickly, my shoulders slumped and I sighed as I turned to select a few more cans of food. Back to it. I had to get home soon.
Petunia and Gracie weren't eating. After trying many options, I finally cajoled 'Tunie into eating a small amount of dry food, but the second the other cats heard the sound of it hit the dish they ALL wanted some. Since Petunia is skittish, trying to feed her without the other cats interfering was nearly impossible. I had to toss them pieces of kibble so they'd run off to grab them as Petunia took wary mouthfuls, ready to dash off if I moved too fast.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. I blocked some of this out. You get the point without having to see the goo in all it's “gory.”
Nicky remained the most sick of all the cats.We caught him moving his bowels on the floor, then caught him peeing on the floor. Either he was too sick or in too much pain to make it to the pan. All we could do was clean it up and move on.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracie getting 150mL of fluids.
I decided we needed to give the sick cats subQ fluids. I'd completely forgotten how beneficial it might be, especially if they had diarrhea they'd suffer fluid loss. We had a phone consult with a homeopathic Vet in Florida (thanks to Jen for hooking us up at the last minute!) who agreed that fluids would be great. We were to also try some remedies that I had on hand and we had to get some Bentonite Clay to help cure the liquid stools without having to use harsh pharmaceuticals.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer got 80 mL because he was too cranky to get more.
Sam and I were barely speaking to each other at that point, but we worked together to get the cats their fluids. I also took the temperature of some of the cats (I want to keep all my fingers so I couldn't temp all of them) and gave them their remedy and the Bentonite Clay. I felt that in doing something like this it was at least buying us time. Maybe it would help, who knew? None of the cats I tested had a fever. That was good news. We could hold off on going back to the Vet for awhile longer.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Petunia only got 100 mL of fluids, but I felt lucky to get that much into her.
I felt a glimmer of pride that we got the job done. I was rewarded a few hours later when Spencer came over to me and “told me” he was hungry. He didn't eat much, but he did eat.
No other cats seemed to be getting sick, but that could change in a heartbeat if this was something that the cats could reinfect each other with. So far the kittens in the foster room were eating well and behaving normally. At least they were all right (so far, knock wood!).
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Both feeling sick and tired, Spencer and I have a nap.
Any satisfaction I had was short lived. I got sick, too. Was this a coincidence or was this yet another clue? I felt awful and though I wasn't vomiting I did have other similar symptoms to what the cats were experiencing. What the HELL was going on?
Stay tuned for part four, the PCR test of POOP that may tell us what happened, the triumphs and the surprise…yes there's more to this story…the silver lining is coming soon, I hope.
German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said; “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”After enduring the past four days I would add; “That which does not kill us, makes us eat a bag of Lays Wavy Potato Chips and a container of French Onion dip—and feel no guilt in doing so.”
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. You can tell from Nicky's posture that he doesn't feel well.
Nicky was the camel and white colored canary in the coal mine. It started on Friday. Nicky wasn't “right.” He wouldn't eat and he vomited. As I was about to brush my teeth, I heard the sound of water running. I turned to see Nicky urinating on the floor a few feet away from me. A few hours later, he walked over to the base of a cat tree and began to urinate on it-not even stopping as I started to scream, unable to reach him through the jungle of furniture blocking my way. I was jumping up and down like a two year old having a tantrum. I had no effect on his eliminating. He just kept peeing. There was no way to get to him from where I was standing so all I could was watch him ruin something else.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. With Dr. C and Super-Deb.
Nicky has Chronic Renal Failure and has been known to get urinary tract infections (as I wrote about HERE). Clearly something was WRONG. Dr. Larry was out of town until Monday so I made an appointment to bring him in then. I HATE it when Dr. Larry goes away because we often seem to have an emergency when he's not available. As the day wore on, Nicky grew weaker. I took his temperature. It was 103.2°F. He had a fever. We couldn't wait until Monday.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Fun at the Emergency Vet…and this was the cost to basically have them hook up the IV to Nicky's catheter (which was in place already) and giving him a place to lay in over night.
Dr. C examined Nicky and took his temperature again. It was over 104°F. They took some blood and did an in-house test. The good news was that basically the values did not indicate something terrible was going on-like kidney failure or high white blood count, which would show he had an infection. The bad news was that we didn't know what was going on but with a fever on the rise we agreed he should be on an IV. The Vet closed in two hours so they could get him started, but we'd have to move him to the Emergency Vet to continue treatment overnight.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Portait of a sick kitty.
Sam and I cringed. Hearing “Emergency Vet” means huge expense. How were we going to pay for all of this? How could we not? We HAD to find a way. Both of us were panicking. We had to wait and see how Nicky would respond to treatment first before we'd even know if he needed to be moved.
Nicky's temperature when to 105.1°F. After two hours it went down to about 103°F so there was a chance a few more hours of treatment would benefit him.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Another Vet, another examination with Sam reaching out to comfort his cat.
It would have been somehow manageable if we only had to help Nicky, but after getting him settled at the Emergency Vet and putting another charge on my AmEx, we discovered he wasn't the only cat who was not feeling well.
With all the commotion going on with Nicky, I didn't get to pay as much attention to the others cats as I would have liked. Even with that, I did notice something out of the ordinary. When we got home around 7pm, I realized I hadn't seen Spencer ALL DAY. I knew he hadn't eaten his breakfast. He's not always a fan of turkey, but this cat always shows up for a meal.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky with Sam.
Sam and I tore through the house, calling out to Spencer. The longer it took, the more I started to panic. Had he gotten outside? Was he stuck in a closet? Spencer has no real meow, so he couldn't cry to us for help. Where the heck was he? Why wasn't he showing up for dinner? Now that I thought about it, where were the rest of the cats? None of them were hungry and waiting by their food dishes. Something was wrong. Something bad.
Sam found Spencer in the basement, which is very tough area for the cats to get into. For Spencer to not be near me or near any of us was a bad sign. Spencer wouldn't eat his dinner. In fact most of the cats were off their food. I told myself there was no need to panic. No one would die without eating for a day.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky at the Emergency Vet hooked up to his Heska VetIV 2.2
The next morning we got the news that Nicky's fever broke and he'd eaten a small amount of food. He was ready to come home. The news should have been cause for celebration, but Spencer had vanished again and I knew he had to go to the Vet, too. It wasn't a big, obvious sign of sickness but it's so out of the ordinary I had to make sure he wasn't sick, too.
Again I started to panic. We'd just spent so much money on Nicky, would anything be left for Spencer? I was angry and resentful, all stemming from the fear that I wouldn't be able to do for Spencer what we just did for Nicky. If Spencer was ailing, I HAD to do something for him, but my own Vet refused to just give me antibiotics without seeing the cat firstI realized they were right, but I was truly hurting. There's dust in my bank account. I thought about home remedies and trying to avoid a Vet visit, but Spencer was due for blood work and a checkup anyway. If I could avoid hospitalizing him, I'd be able to have the exam and tests for done, but I couldn't do much more.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Saying good night to Nicky.
I took Spencer's temperature. It was 102.3°F which put him in the range to be percolating a fever. I was really missing Dr. Larry and wishing I didn't have to see Dr. C, but he'd seen Nicky so he could compare the cat's symptoms.
The exam went fairly well. The Vet retained use of his fingers. Spencer's not the easiest cat to mess with and he gets crabby if he's at the Vet. I warned the staff and fussed over Dr. C, worried he'd get bitten. Spencer was pretty good-for Spencer. They managed to get some blood and sent it out for testing. Since we didn't know what was going on the Vet suggested putting him on antibiotics “just in case,” but I won't do that without having a darn good reason. It could make whatever is going on even worse. I'd do the best I could for Spencer until we had the test results.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky being a good boy, as usual.
I started making charts and lists of each cat-if they ate, if so, what they ate. I was looking for a pattern. I began to have suspicions that Gracie, Petunia and Jackson were also getting sick based on my notes about them not eating and their behavior. I knew I'd just had Boogie in the house. He was separated from my cats and I washed my hands and showered after I was with him, even though I didn't touch the kitten until the last day he was here. Boogie was VERY sick, but he had an upper respiratory infection, not something potentially gastrointestinal. What was going on?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hiding under the bed between two storage containers-not a good sign.
Feeding time was bizarre, maybe one or two cats showed up for their food. The others weren't even in the vicinity. I'm so accustomed to the energy of feeding time, the cats circling, meowing, the sound of them lapping at their food. It was too quiet. My babies weren't eating. My fear factor increased tenfold.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My poor, sweet baby, Spencer-the mascot of Covered in Cat Hair.
Saturday night the mood in the house was downright miserable. Nicky stopped eating again. of course, the benefits of the IV wore off. Whatever he had, whatever Spencer and the others may have was not going to just go away. We had to buckle down and figure something out. The clock was ticking. The spector of Hepatic Lipidosis was hanging over our heads. If the cats didn't start eating soon, they could all sicken and die. This is why you can't put a cat on a diet. This is why if you don't get some food into the cat after four days, your cat could enter a whole new world of pain.
We were approaching day three. Time was running out and we had more questions than we had answers….
Stay tuned for part three next..and YES, there IS a silver lining coming…
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. A still from the Oscar-nominated film: “The Nightmare on Cat Bed Street”
Spencer, the Mascot of Covered in Cat Hair, has reached a new zenith in acting. Not only does he portray an innocent sleeping cat (which anyone who knows him knows he is FAR from innocent), but he reveals a level of raw emotion rarely captured on film.
I hope you'll be as moved as I was when I first screened, The Nightmare on Cat Bed Street…Enjoy!
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson
As the three to five inches of snowfall turns into more like ten, let's take a break from stories about sick cats or cats who need a rescue and just have a laugh. I certainly could use one.
The cats aren't allowed in the Pantry. I guess the DOOD forgot the rule and decided he wanted to get into the shipping container where I stashed my last box of Raspberry Whippets.
You realize he thinks I can't see him, right? Oh yeah, the DOOD is feeling better, isn't he? Yes, he is!
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The Cookie Thief, aka, the DOOD.
Next up, I share a few moments with Spencer, Blitzen, Justin and the DOOD as they investigate their new cat tree (which was just donated to us!)
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. SBlitzen and Justin/Snowball.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer, Blitzen and the DOOD.
Other than the fact that we're trapped in the house, things are looking up. Bobette is more energetic than ever and it's only two more days until her bandages come OFF. I can't WAIT (and hopefully I'll be able to get out of the driveway by then).