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Cat Camp NYC. Love at First Sight.

 

It’s impossible to describe a whirlwind, but I’ll do my best. There’s a blizzard churning outside my window so maybe that will inspire me. I’m just back from the very first ever Cat Camp NYC and I’m trying to piece things back together in my mind. For a cat-writer, cat-lover, cat-parent, Cat Camp NYC was a tasty morsel of all the things that make my heart go pitter-patter.

 

Cat Camp Sign R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson.

Cat Camp NYC, conceived by Christina Ha, owner of Meow Parlour and the Meow Parlour Patisserie, had a hunch that with the explosion of cat images, blogs, TV shows and movies that a symposium on the east coast, of all things cat, would be well received.

She was right.

With full disclosure I have to add, or is it brag or is it sing to the heavens, that yours truly was invited to be one of the Speakers at this year’s event. My task was to hostess a storytelling hour focusing on heartfelt cat rescue tales. According to the schedule, I’d be going right before The Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy’s VIP Meet and Greet. Be still my heart! What a thrill and honor to be included with such a respected cat behaviorist.

Lounge Sign R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Okay, so maybe they forgot to make a sign for the Lounge schedule. They did a nice job considering.

Okay, but that was Sunday and Cat Camp NYC was a two-day event.

Saturday

It was bitter cold but a crystal clear day. We’d gotten a few inches of snow the day before, but the sidewalks were thankfully well-groomed. With my face half-hidden by my scarf and my hands about to break off from the cold even though they were in my pockets, I was happy to finally arrive at the Metropolitan Pavilion on west 18th street a few minutes before the event opened.

Cat Camp Badge 1000

Security stopped me, but I proudly told them I was a Speaker and then suddenly I was welcomed into a group where I could have only dreamed of being a member years ago. I was greeted by a friendly volunteer who got me a Speaker badge and showed me where I could stow my things. The room was abuzz with last minute activity of the many vendors setting up their wares. I told myself I wasn’t going to spend all my money on items for the cats, but I also doubted I’d keep that promise.

It was lovely to walk the show before it got crowded. The exhibitor space was large and well lit. Off to one side were banks of tables topped with small black cages. In each cage was a cat available for adoption. I wondered if I should have had a table there for my rescue, Kitten Associates and our cats, but I also realized the stress from traveling would be awful coming from Sandy Hook, CT.

Tommy R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson.Tommy Boy. See him in action HERE.

I was glad to see that some of the cats were seniors or special needs cats. As I walked past each cage I silently prayed that by the end of the show all the cats would be adopted.

I met a cat named Tommy Boy, an FIV+ cat with the burden of also having hypertrophic cardiomyopathy-the heart condition that eventually took the life or our dearest foster cat, Jackson Galaxy. Though it can be managed and the medications aren’t costly, HCM is eventually fatal. Tommy Boy was clearly a big, love-bug, just like Jackson was. He had no problems head-butting my fingers through the cage. Tommy needs to find a forever home ASAP so he can purr and relax with a loving family. To adopt or inquire about Tommy see his listing on Kitty Kind's web site.

 

Cone of Shame Robin LR

The lure of knowing there were cool things to see and learn about was too much. The show opened and the crowds were starting to enter. I got my photo taken with a giant cone of shame on thanks to Worlds Best Cat Litter (who also later donated some litter to my rescue-Thanks, Scott!). I began to see some of my cat lady friends, like Tamar from IHaveCat and Joanne from The Tiniest Tiger, who had a table displaying all her lovely cat-themed products for humans.

Tamar and Robin 2017
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Tamar, from IHaveCat.

 

I decided it was a good time to do a Live Facebook video where I’d do a quick tour of the show hall. Things went pretty smoothly until I entered the cat adoption area. Just as I panned right, a guy stood in front of me. He bent over to get a better look at one of the cats when his behind popped out of his pants! FAIL! Plumber’s butt? After that I thought it might be wiser to stick to taking photos.

 

Robin and Brandy R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. My new BFF, Brandy, who adopts senior cats and I think adopted one at the show!

 

In addition to the cat products and adoptable cats there were two tracks of Speakers ranging from Hannah Shaw, the Kitten Lady, Kate Benjamin of Hauspanther to VIP meet and greets with Lil Bub. There was so much going on it was tough to decide what to do or see-a good problem to have, but I also felt like I wanted a chance to see everything and not miss a beat.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Hannah Shaw, Kitten Lady., gave an inspiring lecture on neonatal kitten care.

I learned some interesting things about neonatal kittens from Hannah, who I had the good fortune to speak with one on one. We traded some tips and I was thankful she's open minded and interested in learning as much as she can. Years ago I caught myself becoming arrogant about what I thought I knew about cat care and that was a huge mistake. You can’t learn enough because there’s always something else to discover-whether it’s the hard way or by having a support network you can go to when times get tough and the unexpected occurs. With all of the Kitten Lady’s fame, she's still humble and approachable. She’s already opened the door to inspiring others to foster the tiniest, frailest foster cats and I can see her doing even more amazing things in the future.

Kate B and Robin 2017
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Kate Benjamin looking adorable as usual!

I also attended Kate Benjamin’s Feline Design presentation, which to me is like watching a porno because after she gave us the story of her fascinating background before launching Hauspanther (which, by the way I designed the logo for!), she started showing photo after photo of gloriously designed cat furniture. Oh be still my heart!

Kate Doing Preso R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Kate kicking butt.

 

And then there was Jackson Galaxy. As some of you know, four years ago, before he was a superstar and travelled with bodyguards, Jackson took me out for dinner. (It's three parts in case you missed it: Ch 1, Ch 2 and Ch 3. ) It remains one of the best nights of my life, certainly one I’ll never forget, but a lot had changed since I last saw him.

 

I lost 60 pounds and had to chop my hair off after an unfortunate magenta hair color fail. Would he even know me? Why would it matter? I should be happy to even see him and leave it at that.

Robin Jackson Vinci 2017
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Oh boy! Oh boy! I got my hug. Oh, and learn more about Jackson's charity the Jackson Galaxy Foundation.

What was sweet was when I did get to have a chance to have quick chat with him, he seemed a bit taken aback that I thought he wouldn’t remember me. From the hug I got I’d say we were good. From the photos one of my fans took of us, you can see in my expression that I am about to fly without an airplane I’m so happy. Jackson has a natural charisma and warmth that is off the charts. He also is adorable, but out of deep respect for his wife, Minoo, who is one of the most kind and compassionate people, that’s all I’m gonna say. It’s ok to enjoy someone’s company and just let that good feeling keep you going after you part and leave it at that.

Plus, I had stuff to buy so off I went!

Jamie Shelmen, a “moderately crazy cat lover” and artist who has a shop called The Dancing Cat penned a number of hilarious greeting cards and t-shirts. I couldn’t pass up grabbing as many cards as I could, along with a much coveted t-shirt (see photo below).

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. WOO!

I met with Mario from Square Paws and we had a great conversation. His cat trees are pure fantasy realized. His creative talent and architectural background give his pieces a sense of whimsy I have rarely ever seen. I told Mario about my dream to re-do our main foster room. About how all our cat trees fall apart because kittens are very hard on sisal and carpet covered cat trees. I told him about the theme of the room (secret for now!) and about how I wanted innovation beyond just a cat tree. The room isn’t very large. The cat tree has to work for kittens 8 weeks and older so it has to perform for cats of many different sizes up to adults. Mario seemed very interested in our project and I’m hoping this connection will be a great benefit to our foster cats one day.

Of all the ways Cat Camp NYC succeeded, the best part of it was the networking. You can’t really connect when you’re commenting on a social media post the way you can in person. I also enjoyed meeting new people and making new friends, like Cathi De Meo Marro, an artist and flutist who created some hilarious cat-themed paintings. Her business is called Cat-Hi.

I got great tips about our TNR, Waterbury Cats project from the NYC Feral Cat Initiative. and I learned about two documentaries about cat rescuers who do TNR. One is called Catnip Nation and the other is called The Cat Rescuers. Both projects highlight the importance of doing TNR in ways that aren’t upsetting to viewers. I was glad to know that they both felt that in effective storytelling they could help people not familiar with community cats learn that we need to do more and be more compassionate about their plight without shock tactics. I’ll have more about these projects and their fundraising in a future post.

Felted Cat Beds R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Distinctly Himalayan's crazy cat beds (the googly-eyed ones are for cats up to 15 lbs).

There was so much more to see like the Distinctly Himalayan felted cat beds or the hilarious tiny sombreros and faux hot sauce pouch catnip toys of Polydactyl Cats. That said, I would have liked to see even more vendors and I hope that if Cat Camp NYC continues that next year will be even bigger and better.

The only shortcoming was that the areas were only curtained off for the special presentations instead of being in a separate walled off space. It was very loud in the Metropolitan Pavilion and the flat screen in the lounge area needed to be about four times bigger so everyone could see the presentations better. That said, the presenters were high-caliber and the presentations were packed full of eager and interested cat people.

Robin and Ingrid 2017
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Ingrid King of the Conscious Cat (left) and moi (right).

 

As for my presentation, I was delighted to have some of my readers in attendance, along with Sydney, one of my adopters, who drove down from Connecticut to see me. We had a very lively group, but again, the noise level made having an intimate discussion a bit tough…and wouldn’t you know it, right in the middle of one of my stories, Jackson Galaxy enters the lounge, which I feared would distract everyone in my group (including ME!).

 

MY PRESO by sam copy
©2017 Sam Moore. Trying to stay focused when you-know-who is right behind me-not in those cat pants though, behind her.

I focused on my tale and was really getting into the story when I got tapped on my shoulder. One of Jackson’s staff whispered to me that if I wanted my photo with Jackson to be used on our Kitten Associates promotions I could get that done but it had to be right now…right in the middle of my session!

Robin GLowing A Marttila 1200
©2017 Andrew Marttila. Used with Permission. Um. Yeah, so don't say anything to me about the look on my face. You'd look like that too if you were standing next to Mr. Jackson.

I quickly excused myself and what was kind of funny was his assistant introduced me to Jackson (not realizing I knew him) so I extended my hand with a smirk on my face and said; “how do you do.” Jackson rolled his eyes ever so slightly, then put his arm around me (:::Swoon:::). He asked me which camera to look at for the photo (there were a few photographers clicking away) and I stupidly replied “who gives a sh_t” because by then I figured he must have been completely wiped out by book signings, meet and greets, getting his photo taken with a zillion people already and traveling from Los Angeles. I hoped he didn’t get offended. By then I was pretty delirious, too. It’s not my fault that I was an idiot. Okay it was my fault! I had my story to get back to telling-which I did, seconds later, even though I wish I could have grabbed his hand and run out of the building.

I didn’t get a chance to see much of Lil Bub. Though I love her dearly and think so highly of her dad, Mike, I also didn’t want to take up time for those who had never seen her before. Bub had her own table of goodies at the show which always make me smile. I finally got to see the Bublehead box I designed for her. Looked great! I also found out there are some new Bub plushies coming out and I’ll have more info on them soon.

Bub Sign R olson

There was a lot more going on at Cat Camp, but I was so weary by the end of Sunday that I was glad Sam had driven to the city to see my presentation and could drive us home safely while I slumped in the passenger seat. With the daylight savings time change that weekend, the traveling, walking a zillion miles and the excitement of seeing my friends I was ready to pass out.

Line for Jackson ROlson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. The line to get into Jackson's keynote address went around the entire event space.

 

Cat Camp NYC was a well laid out, well planned event. I wish it had been in an even bigger space yet somehow magically a quieter one. I had so much fun, but I hated leaving my friends so soon. Cat Camp NYC is like going on a first date with “the one.” It’s thrilling to feel connected to someone you have so much in common with that it just feels "right." When it’s time to part you feel sad, wishing it could go on forever, but you know that all good things must come to an end eventually. Maybe you'll meet again soon and that's what keeps your heart beating.

 

I hope Ms. Ha will decide to launch Cat Camp NYC in 2018 because I will be there with my cat ears on and ready to rock.

Robin Cathi Jodi TIRED R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Cathi De Meo Marro (left) myself (center), the Healthy Pet Coach, Jodi Ziskin (right). Very pooped after an exciting weekend!

The Last Feral Cat. Part 1 of 2.

Cat rescue doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone who does it. What I’ve found over the years is that most folks tend to specialize in the area they feel most comfortable. Some people, like me, will take on a pregnant cat or foster and socialize orphan kittens, while others prefer to do TNR (trap, neuter, return) of feral cats.

Within those areas are so many other facets. Some people prefer to specialize and only take on blind cats or cats with feline leukemia, while others take on the tremendously difficult task of caring for neonatal kittens (difficult because easily 40% of any litter of kittens can die even if you do feedings every two hours around-the-clock, keep them warm and clean, do everything you’re supposed to do..it's not for the faint of heart).

Ready and Waiting
©2007 Robin AF Olson. My first attempt at trapping.

I no longer feel like I have to do it all. I can’t. I’m not that great at all aspects of rescue and thankfully, I don’t have to be because usually if I can’t do it, I can find someone who can.

Eight years ago I tried doing TNR but I always felt badly letting the cats go. I trapped a cat in my own yard and was tempted to work on socializing her, but the person I did rescue with told me not to bother, that it would take too long and to let her go. I always regretted listening to her because the cat wasn’t aggressive, just scared. I named her Bronte. Sam and I set up a wonderful home for her using our screened in porch as a home base. We got her two heated cat cabins and made sure she was fed and cared for. Bronte had a daughter I named Madison, and years later another cat, Buddy, joined her, but only for a short time. Bronte was the only one who survived more than a year, out of the three cats.

Feral Cat 1 Trapped
©2007 Robin AF Olson. Bronte.

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Nearly two years ago, the idea of doing TNR came up again. I was sitting at my desk when I heard a cat yeowling outside my window. I looked up and saw a black and white cat sitting on the hillside partially hidden by tall weeds. I didn’t see Bronte, but I did see this newcomer. My hackles raised. I wanted to protect my girl from this interloper, but he ran off into the woods when he saw me approach the window to get a better look at him. Who was he? Where did he come from? It was very unusual to see a cat outside in my neighborhood.

Sam reported seeing the cat again and again. We put out food for him and sure enough, he began eating comfortably alongside Bronte. Clearly he was no evil-doer and I was glad she had a friend. Winter was coming. We often saw them cuddled together in one of the cat cabins.

Barry and bronte eating rt
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry and Bronte have lunch.

 

We couldn’t handle this new cat. He'd run off if we got too close. We weren’t even sure he needed our help. I designed a flyer and put one on my neighbor's mailboxes. One contacted me and said she fed him but that it was not her cat and that once he came inside her house and flipped out so she put him back outside. She assumed someone dumped him.

 

I asked around, called my friends at animal control, posted his photo on Facebook but no one stepped forward to claim him. I figured I’d borrow a trap and deal with the cat some day, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with him. Would I give him the chance to come around that Bronte never had? I didn’t have loads of space to foster him in and he was far from a kitten. If he was feral I’d have to let him go back outside and I hated having to do it. I know that feral cats are by definition, wild, and that it’s not fair to keep feral cats indoors, but we have coyotes in our yard. Our home is next to a state forest. There are many real dangers here and I didn’t want this cat to become a predator’s next meal.

Barry comes a courtin R AF Olson
©2015 Robin AF Olson. the DOOD and Blitzen taunt Barry.

 

The following autumn the cat sat outside my office window once again. Blitzen and Dood were sitting on the window ledge staring at the cat. Within seconds I heard something ripping. I looked up and the cat was hanging off the screen window, ripping at it to get at my cats! He put a big hole in the screen ($100 to fix!) and scared the crap out of all of us. It made me even more concerned about trapping this cat because if he was that ferocious from outside, how would he behave INSIDE my house?

 

But my hands were tied. Sam called out to me a few days later. He had just seen Bronte. She was visibly thin and limping. Something was terribly wrong with her so we put out a trap, hoping we’d be able to get her to our Vet. She’d been trapped a few times over the years and was trap savvy. I knew we might have to get the help of one of my friends who does a lot of trapping and could use a drop trap, but we were quickly running out of time.

Barry Poster 400

The trap was set and we heard it slam shut not long after. We had hoped to see Bronte sitting in the trap, but low and behold there was the big black and white cat sitting hunched over in the trap that was barely big enough to hold him. I had to deal with him now, even though my cat Gracie was critically ill and we were doing almost daily vet runs with her, even though Bronte needed help first. We had him, now he needed to be vetted. I called a favor from my friends at Nutmeg Spay/Neuter Clinic and got him booked to be neutered.

Unfortunately, it meant he had to stay in my garage in the trap until he could be taken care of and the fastest I could get it done was in two days because it was a weekend.

Barry in trap r olson
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Gotcha!

I didn’t get too close to the cat. I changed out the newspapers that lined the trap and gave him fresh food. He wasn’t aggressive with me, but I didn’t want to find out if he was, either. He was a big cat and he scared me. His ears were ripped up and he was missing fur on his front right leg, scars from years of fighting, no doubt. I decided to call him Barry Lyndon. I don’t know why I named him after a truly terrible movie, but I liked the Barry part so it stuck.

 

We continued to try to trap Bronte, but we never saw her again after Barry was trapped. Sam and I had fed her for so many years, never missing a day. She’d become part of our family and now she was gone, never to return. I hate to think of what became of her. We gave her the best life we could. I yearned to hold her, to tell her we loved her, that we missed her and we’d probably never stop looking for her. That’s why I don’t do TNR. I’m too much of a softy. I want all the cats to live in my house and be happy. I don’t want them to have a difficult life and a sad, maybe very scary ending of that life.

 

Meanwhile, Barry got neutered. We found out he was about three years old. Thankfully, he hadn’t gotten FIV or Feline Leukemia, but I had to believe there were lots of baby Barrys running around the area.

Barry in the Garage
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry's home for a grueling 6 weeks.

I wasn’t sure what the heck to do so I set up the biggest dog crate I had and made it into Barry’s temporary home. I’d assess him while he was confined inside the garage and decide in a few days whether or not I should release him or bring him into the house. He weighed 13 pounds and looked like it was all muscle. His golden eyes blazed at me from inside the crate. I wondered what he was thinking.

I had to feed Barry, but I was scared to open the crate. Would he charge at me? Flip out? Instead he surprised me by coming right up to me, then ate every last bit of food. I didn’t try much with him at first, but he was so focused on eating I pet the top of his head. He didn’t care. He just wanted a meal.

Fortunately for me I had begun to take a Cat Behavior Counselor certification course though the HSUS. I knew it would help me with Barry, but I didn’t know I’d need a lot more help than I thought.

Within the first few days I knew Barry was somewhat friendly. I was confident enough to put my hand into the cage to offer Barry food. He’d spilled the contents of his litter pan and I was trying to brush some of it up with a paper towel. Before I realized I was in trouble, Barry lashed out and bit me, HARD. He bit me so hard my hand was black and blue (really purple) for TWO WEEKS. Some how he barely bit into the flesh of my hand. It was a freakish crushing bite.

©2015 Robin AF Olson. How to get bitten.

I asked my instructor for guidance. I was terrified of Barry, though I realized that between his still-surging hormones, being scared and bored in a crate and seeing my hand moving like prey, of course he would bite me. I wanted to believe he didn’t mean it. I didn’t scold him, but in all honesty, I didn’t know if I could give him any more time.

He cried a lot. He wanted out of the crate. I had to crate him for 6 long weeks because the only place I could put him was inside the now famous blue bathroom, where Mia still lived. If I put a fractious cat in with Mia it could be very dangerous for her. Once Barry’s hormone level was down (hence the six week wait), it would be safer for all of us, but it also meant it would really flat out suck for him. He was letting me pet him. He wasn't feral. I had to give him a chance.

During times like this I force myself to look at the big picture. Yes, it was awful to confine Barry for weeks on end, but if I looked at what might be the rest of his life, living in a home, safe, warm, and happy some day, then these weeks would soon be forgotten.

 

And then Barry bit me again.

 

part two next...

NEFHS Conference

I'm sitting in my hotel room at the Crown Plaza in Worcester, MA. after attending most of The New England Federation of Humane Societies Conference (say that five times fast). The hotel appears to be located in the center part of town, right next to some glorious old churches and WPA era buildings. My GPS didn't seem to know exactly where this hotel was so I had a not-too-thrilling-drive around town late Saturday night. Needless to say, there are some parts of town that don't appear to be places where one wants to drive a BMW. Our building is newish (less than 100 years old) and I'm sorry to say a bit creepy-okay, a lot creepy.

I was trying to figure out how to explain the decor. In the “common” areas, no pun intended, it appears that someone went to an auction of many hotels that were closing and bought up everything they could. The range of styles of furnishings is from 1970's dreck to 1990's faux antiquey. There are brown upholstered lobby chairs that look innocent enough, until you foolishly try to sit in one of them, at which point your buttocks is squeezed like a tube of cake decorating icing, then squirted into a vortex that drags you downward to the ground. They're VERY tough to “de-chair” without first having to roll to the floor, as though you're on fire and attempting to “stop, drop and roll” yourself to safety, after which you quickly stand up, brush yourself off and try to appear normal.

I know I should talk about what I learned at the conference, but the scent of lye? soap? was so strong in the hallways and guest rooms that it seared my sinuses a bit and caused me run to the window to crank it open to gasp a gulpful of freshish air.

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The rooms have been updated and they are relatively nice. The caveat is the fabric wall paper behind the bed NEEDS TO BE VACUUMED! It's covered with dust. I can see where the wall was wiped down and where it was not. It would be a very bad choice for someone with cats. That is for sure.

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I'm trying not to write a whiney beyatchy review, but I believe that the crunky location, the equally crunky, err, dreadful food, the overly lit lighting and the overly warm conference rooms, just left me feeling drained and gassy (no meat for us meat eatin' folks and all dem healthy veggies go straight to “fumes.”). I also couldn't help but compare it to BlogPaws, which was a lot of FUN, high energy, a great location and good food.

Maybe that was the problem? It was the energy of the folks at the Conference? Yes, I should blame myself first, so blame me, but then blame..what was going on? I did not feel the warm welcome or the general friendliness I've felt at other conferences.

I took classes on Infectious Diseases, Working with Adopters, Social Media for Shelters, and got to see this new way to quickly socialize feral kittens. It ONLY takes a few HOURS. I'm somewhat suspect of this procedure, but it sure seems to work. I'm going to plug it so you can check it out. Fearful to Friendly. While I feel the author is on to something, I do warn you that the web site is not too informational and it points to buying a DVD. We saw some of it, and with all due respect, it's rather long and needs some editing. If you can glean the info from it with the soundtrack turned off, you're golden. I think there is valuable info there, but I would love it if it could be presented more succinctly and professionally. That said, if you can turn a kitten or cat or dog around really fast, it's worth the money and the tedious sound track.

I also learned that I'm basically f-cked. Between having coccidia and ringworm in my house, the only way to get rid of it is really to BURN the house to the ground. The ringworm will live on in HAIR for YEARS and the coccidia is not killable, if that is a word. I'm not going to get my panties in a bundle about it. It's too late. What is done is done. My cats, knock wood, are fine, but the next litter of fosters I get will be the test subjects. They say to treat the kittens for Coccidia if we had it in the foster rooms, but I am reluctant to medicate kittens unless they really need it.

I also learned to listen more to potential adopters, to not judge them first (yeah, like I'm going to be able to do that!) and speak less AND that for a few bucks, I can drive a mile and get a really BIG grilled cheese with HAM sandwich.

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The Boulevard Diner, Worcester, MA

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I'm looking forward to going home and getting ready to FINALLY get my hands on some new fosters! (crossing fingers)

Special Delivery!

About two years ago I trapped a few feral cats. Two of them: Buddy and Bronte, have taken to hanging around our house; enjoying the endless buffet, fresh water and cute little feral cat shack-including a heated cat bed!

The kitties have been showing up more and more often. It's nice to see them relaxing in the screen room, out of the worst of the weather. They're not terribly afraid of us, but they do keep their distance. I keep toying with the idea of pulling Bronte back inside for hard core de-sensitiazation, but she is chubby and seems happy. If I kept her indoors all winter, it would mess her up if I had to let her go back outside come spring, if she didn't want to be a domesticated kitty-pal.

I suppose that one of the cats wanted to thank us for the great grub, since they're probably “not that into” mice any more and they're probably trying to tell us that we suck at providing for ourselves. Obviously they haven't seen the mountain of crap we eat every day.

Or perhaps they have?

Regardless, this (see below) was left outside our front door.

mouse rip copy.jpg
Gore blurred out of respect for the mousey and so you guys don't barf.

This poor little mousey is in Heaven. It's earthly remains are all that linger. I'm sorry the little mousey died, but am glad to know that should I run out of cash, feeding all these damn cats, that I can count on my feral cats to provide for me.

Now if I could only train them to rob banks and vacuum the house, I'd be all set.

Rest in Peace, little mousey.

The Tweetie Chronicles: Chapter Six

This chapter is a difficult one to write both physically and emotionally. Last night I wrestled with whether or not I should leave out what happened and just keep this as a positive, uplifting story, but that's not how life goes some times.

The truth is, socializing feral kittens can be difficult, frustrating and painful. It's part of the process. Some times all the work is for naught. Some times we have to accept the results we get, knowing we did our best. Some times things go beautifully and without a hitch and it's just another notch on our belt of success.

Yesterday, though Tweetie was mellow and friendly, the three kittens I introduced him to, didn't care for him one bit. Poor Tweetie wanted to fit in and play, but they just hissed and arched their tiny backs. Eventually, Tweetie hissed back and ran off to hide in his carrier. I got them all to play together and eat in close proximity, but clearly the kittens were all stressed.

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Tweetie putting up with hisses from Sprinkles

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Pixie, is not thrilled, while Tweetie looks to make friends elsewhere.

At 6pm Sprinkles' adoptive family come to see her again. Since they also wanted to see Tweetie, I left him in the room, instead of moving him to his private quarters.

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Still hoping to make friends. Tweetie tries his luck with Twinkles.

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Friend or Foe? Who's that knocking upon my door?

It was clear, fairly quickly, that all the kittens were stressed during the visit. Because it was important that Sprinkles show well, I realized I needed to move Tweetie to his room. Tweetie was upset. I reached to scruff him and he went down right away. A good, submissive move.

Because I was distracted by the visitors, I missed scruffing Tweetie properly and grabbed his shoulder. He flipped out and bit me. Instead of moving my hand, which I SHOULD HAVE DONE, I tried to adjust my grip, but it was too late. Tweetie's teeth sunk deeply into my index finger-the same one he bit a week ago.

Instead of screaming, I calmly let him go, stood up and told him to "go to your carrier." As I walked behind him, he ran into his carrier. I shut the door, preparing to return him to his room. My finger was throbbing painfully and starting to gush blood. Sprinkles' family thought I had magic powers over cats, by getting Tweetie to obey me so quickly, but I just knew he'd run to the first, small, dark place he could find.

I summoned up the courage to be calm and excused myself from the room, bringing Tweetie with me. I put him back in his room and quietly left him to calm down while I took care of my wounds.

I have five bite marks on my finger. It hurts like Hell. I furiously cleaned my finger, fearing infection. I've been down this road before with my very own formerly feral cat, Cricket. He sent me to the hospital once when he didn't want to go to the Vet. He sunk his teeth into my hand. It swelled up like a balloon, even though I cleaned it out. I got a few shots, one in the ass, for my troubles. I wasn't sure this wound was that serious. I sure hoped it wasn't.

The family finally left and I basically fell apart. I haven't slept well for a long while and I was very upset, thinking about Tweetie. He'd made all this great progress. Would his chances of being adopted end because he bit me? Would anyone see past that and feel safe around him?

I know it was MY FAULT that Tweetie bit me. He told me, most clearly, that he was upset and I did not heed his warning signs, so the warnings became more explosive. I never should have touched a cat in the "red zone." I should have re-directed him with a toy and got him into his carrier. My fear was how would he behave now that we've had this "incident?"

I went to bed at 10pm after getting everyone fed. Normally I'm up much later, but my body was aching. I laid in bed and couldn't get comfortable. I tossed and turned, worrying about Tweetie. In my heart, even though he hurt me, I know he didn't mean it.

I got up an hour later and made some chamomile tea. It tastes like ass (actually, I never tasted an ass, so this is just a guess). I brought it into Tweetie's room, not knowing what his state of mind would be.

He was sitting on the cat condo, so I sat on the floor next to it. I didn't reach out to give him a pet, I just looked over at him. He looked at me and burbled, then cocked his head, curious as to why I wasn't petting him. He jumped off the condo and nervously ran past me. He sat on the floor and looked at me as I sipped my tea.

He got up and jumped onto my leg. As I lifted the teacup to my lips, he head-butted my elbow and burbled another greeting. I touched his back and he melted into my lap, looking up at me as if nothing tragic had happened and that everything, as far as he was concerned was just fine...and oh, could I pet him some more so he could purr louder??

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So this, my friends, is part of my difficult journey with a cat who has literally gotten under my skin in so many ways. He's a good egg, I promise. I take all the blame for what happened. I'm not sure what this means for him or if it's just another bump in the road? I just hope beyond hope's limits that I can find Tweetie the loving home he so deserves and a band-aid for my finger. I seem to be out.

The Tweetie Chronicles: Chapter Five

Tweetie's Feral Kitty Boot Camp began almost a week ago. What was once a shy and fearful kitten, has softened and warmed into a sweet kitty. The next stage of the process is to begin to open up Tweetie's comfort zone. This will also allow the poor guy to get a break from hours of alone time.

Tweetie's first escapade was to travel with me to one of the only other rooms that, a) has a door on it and b) doesn't need to be kitten-proofed. Yes, another bathroom! Good thing I have more than one.

It was easy to put Tweetie into a carrier and bring him to the Master Bathroom where he could keep me company while I shower. And no, there is no and will not be ANY photos of this! Do you want to go BLIND? I mean, really!

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Never undress in front of a kitten.

Tweetie was a bit nervous, as I expected, but the room isn't that large and he had some toys to occupy his attention. That was, until I turned on the faucet to start the shower.

Tweetie hid. Okay, no problem. I tossed his toys around and coaxed him back out of his carrier. I got into the shower and called out to him. He took one look at me and ripped out a YEEEOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWW!!!!

In cat, I believe this translates to mean: "GET OUT OF THERE!!!! WATER!!!! YOU'LL GET WET!!!!! GET OUT!! GET OUT!! GET OUT!!! OH MY GOD GET OUT!!!"

I ignored Tweetie's pleas and called out again, assuring him that "hoomins need to not smell bad and this is the only way to get there, other than wear too much perfume, which really only masks the problem and doesn't really head the problem off at the pass, like people who think those air fresheners really do anything other than mask a lie. They should clean their house, not spray chemicals on their belongings."

Thinking back on it, maybe all I said was; "It's ok, Tweetie. Don't worry. I'll be out in a minute."

Tweetie just meowed.

After two days in a row of shower-meowing and with feral Mama Cat, Gabby no longer with the other fosters, I got the go ahead to let Tweetie share his play time with the kittens. Finally, no more day-long alone time. There'd be some adjustment time for all kittens concerned, but after that, it should be all right.

In another hour, the lady who is going to adopt Sprinkles will be here with her Fiancè. She wants him to make sure he also wants to adopt Sprinkles. Normally, we have one meeting, they adopt the cat, they go. This will be meeting number two of at least three meetings before Sprinkles goes home. They also asked to see Tweetie again, you know, just to help with his socializing, of course. They don't want to ADOPT HIM. Sure they don't! After all the oo-ing and ahh-ing of their last visit, I have a feeling they will change their mind.

Good thing Tweetie may already be spoken for.


:-)

A Downdropping Story

Well? What's the opposite of "Uplifting?"

Sheesh.

Today had some very big ups that I can't talk about right now, other than to say that there are some very interesting, exciting, joyful things percolating. How it all comes to pass, I do not know, but it's nice to have something to look forward to nonetheless. I don't mean to be a turd by keeping quiet, it's just, well, know that I'll tell you as soon as I can. Ok, you want a hint?

I can't. Not yet. Sue me. No, please don't sue me. I really don't want to be sued for teasing my readers!

Anyway, back to being miserable.

I HATE, HATE, HATE this part of rescuing cats. In fact, it doesn't feel much like something that can be described as part of "rescuing" a cat. That said, I know there are many who would disagree with me.

Our brave and tough-cookie Director came for Mama cat-Gabby this afternoon. It was time to remove her from her kittens, forever. Gabby will be overnighted in a trap, then taken to the Vet to be spayed, given her shots, ear tipped and a checkup while she's sedated. After a day of rest, she'll be taken back to where she was first trapped, a few miles from here. I'm not sure if she'll immediately be released or if she'll be in a dog crate for a few days. Regardless, she will go back to living her wild life, free from ever being knocked up again and free to live her life as she decides is best.

I hate separating Moms from kittens. So does our Director. It's another part of the "tough love" stuff we do. It makes me feel like guano, but I know I can't keep everyone together forever. Sooner or later the day will come. Here it is.

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Mama went ballistic when we tried to get her into the carrier. I felt so bad. I know she was terrified. Ironically, with all her running around we finally got her into the big dog crate. She ran over to the end of the crate where I was standing and climbed up the wall. It was the first time I was less than a few feet away from her. Her eyes were dilated in fear, but all I could think of was how pretty she was, close up, and that it would be nice to have been able to pet her during the eight weeks she's been with me.

Our Director got her packed up. The room was a disaster. I'd removed the kittens before we even started so they wouldn't see what we were doing. When I returned them to the room, after I'd cleaned it back up, they seemed nonplused and went about playing with their toys. I'm guessing they'll notice something's wrong, but I snuck out of the room before they could do that. I just don't have the heart.

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Even though she was nasty and she'd hissed so many times, her "hisser" was barely functioning, I still feel sad. I'm sorry we had to do what we did, but weighing all the options, this was the best choice for her. As with all my fosters, I wish her a safe, happy, joyful life. Her caretaker and his wife will look out for her and make sure she's fed. A week from now she'll be lounging in the grass, enjoying the taste of freedom and because I've got Jewish and Italian heritage, I'll still feel guilty!

The Tweetie Chronicles: Chapter One

I'm really choked up right now. I just finished having a nice, cleansing cry. Some of my tears were for seeing the Masters of Mayhem leave to be spayed/neutered and on to wait for their forever homes. The rest of my tears, were allocated to Tweetie.

As we often see, the kittens we rescue during TNR, aren't always easy to socialize. Some are flat out wild beasts who will only be tamed over a long period of time, if ever. Because we don't have the time to socialize each kitten, we have to choose which are candidates for placement and release the ones that will simply take too much time in foster care to turn around.

It's the part of doing rescue work that I don't care for. I know the kittens who are released will have a harder life. At least they'll have good health and a caregiver to start with. The rest is up to them. I'm a big softy. I admit it. I want ALL the kittens to get a good home and not have to live under a fallen tree or under someone's shed, but it certainly beats being in a cage in a shelter, where they will slowly go mad, never be adopted for being too fractious and end up being euthanized.

So up until this morning, I was mentally preparing myself to be okay with Tweetie being released in the next week. He's getting neutered today, then evaluated, then probably returned to where he was first trapped. His old home base.

Then I got a short email. It was from Sockington's owner, Jason. Whose famous cat looks like he's Tweetie's father. He asked if he could possibly help little Tweetie and then...everything changed.

I realized it would be wrong to release Tweetie, when he has so many friends rooting for him. That perhaps, this one time, this one kitten's story of learning to love, might be worth telling. I spoke with our Director and we had an uncomfortable conversation, which, thankfully, blossomed into understanding and a little "bending of the rules."

Tweetie was slated to be ear-tipped today, just in case he ended up being released. It would prevent him from having additional sedation and stress, but I asked to cancel the procedure, worried that it would effect Tweetie's chance of being adopted. In our give and take, I offered to cover the medical expenses should Tweetie need to be ear tipped at a later point and instead of being evaluated by the Director just now, Tweetie is going to be released...

...to me.

This is going to be tough, but I need to give it a try. Tweetie is going back into my bathroom. He'll be on his own, without his siblings. "Tough love" may help turn him around. I'm going to give him the time he needs—which may be months, but I'm going to stick by him and with any luck, one day I'll be writing about Tweetie getting adopted.

This is very risky. Tweetie could end up not turning the corner, then we'll have to release him, but at what point? If he gets too old-even 6 months, he'll be harder to place and I can't have Tweetie in my bathroom forever.

For now, I'll be writing about Tweetie's journey to find his love for people and and my struggle to help get him there.

NOTE: I just created a special Twitter page for Tweetie. You can follow his "Tweets" here

Weighing the Options

Yesterday I posted a photo on Twitter of one of my foster kittens, Tweetie. He has an uncanny resemblance to The Famous Sockington, a cat so famous he has his own Army! Now, THAT is one cool cat.

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Thousands of folks visited Tweetie's photo and visited my humble BLOG. Many were asking about adopting Tweetie, even though he's still a wild child and has a long way to go before he'll ever like people. It does my heart good to know about that support.

The sad reality for us, is that our rescue group is small and we don't have the luxury of time, to turn Tweetie, and those like him, into adoptable companions. This is why our group does TNR and we don't try to adopt out kittens who won't make good companions without months or years of work.

For those of you not yet familiar with TNR. TNR is "Trap, Neuter, Return" You can read this article on the ASPCA's web site

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Tweetie IS adorable, but he's already bitten two people, myself included. Since he's been here, I've seen him soften a bit and I know I could turn him around, IF we had plenty of foster families or the money to open a shelter, since that would take the burden off me to foster more kittens.

That forces us to weigh the options. If I kept Tweetie for six months, I couldn't take any more foster kittens. That would mean, at least 24 to up to 50 kittens could have passed through my doors, who won't even get a chance to be rescued AND at the end of six months, there is no guarantee that Tweetie would be adoptable by then.

As I write this, I know of two kittens living in a car at one of the nearby town's dump. A very nice man is looking after them, but he knows if they don't get into a home for socializing soon, it will be too late for them, too. We can't help him because adoptions are down to nothing with the bad economy. Once we free up room, we take more. I hope to help these kittens as soon as mine are ready to go.

Alley Cat Allies also has something to say about this problem, too:

"Depending on your initial decision, you will end up with either socialized, well-adjusted kittens who you can easily adopt out, or a colony with fully sterilized, vaccinated feral cats and kittens. Either decision is correct because, as you have read, taking on the task of raising kittens or socializing them is no easy feat. Be secure that you made the best choice for your circumstances and don’t second guess yourself. Kittens can pull at our heart-strings, but in the end, doing what is best for you will ultimately be what is best for the kittens"

After all this, I want to assure you that we are working with Tweetie, in the time we have. We have to face this dilemma with kittens every year. There are always a few we can't turn around, no matter how hard we try. For those, the most compassionate thing we can do, is provide them with a loving caregiver and a safe outdoor home to live in. It's not ideal, but when you look at the figures of how many millions of feral cats and kittens are euthanized every year; a life lived outdoors, in comparison, is a life LIVED.

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