BlogPaws 2011: The Next Few Hours

Maria was certain something was terribly wrong with Amberly. The cat is very small to begin with and was still healing from spay surgery that was done 10 days prior. What was making the cat's belly distend? Then Maria mentioned very smelly poop, which can be a sign of Giardia. I told her I thought maybe it was worms or just the effects from a long ride in the car. She felt it was something worse than that-perhaps life threatening! I promised I'd find a Vet. She said they would be arriving in about an hour. I had to act quickly.

Thankfully, Caroline Golon, one of the Founders of BlogPaws, was able to find a Vet. She didn't tell me she was going to find me a really cute Vet to boot..and one who does Acupuncture and Wellness! I wish I had had time to have a conversation with Dr. Patrick Mahaney, instead of pleading for his advice!

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Margaret Gates, Dr. Patrick Mahaney, & Me just after the phone call..and the relief that all was well for Amberly.

Margaret Gates, from Feline Nutrition, was with me. We were both giving Dr Patrick big-eyed “Puss-in-boots” look, asking if he wouldn't mind talking to us about this cat problem we had. Of course Dr. Patrick did not see Amberly, nor could he advise us since he's from California and not licensed in Virginia, but it didn't hurt to ask for his opinion, which he was gracious enough to give us. I put Dr. Patrick on the phone with Maria while my heart raced. It was 4:45pm-in fifteen minutes, the Pettie Award winners were going to be announced via the web. Almost all of the nominees were at BlogPaws and we all sincerely wanted to watch the broadcast, but I had to make sure Amberly was all right over anything else.

Thankfully, Dr. Patrick agreed that Amberly needed to be de-wormed and I promised to get a stool sample over to my vet when we got to Connecticut. As a personal THANK YOU to Dr. Patrick, I'd love it if you ALL go visit his web site: and LIKE him (what's not to like?!) on FACEBOOK!

With that issue put to rest, Margaret and I started to look for the room where we could watch the Pettie Awards. I have to note that for some reason, Dogtime Media pulled out of attending BlogPaws 2011 about 2 weeks before the Conference. Many of us were very upset about this because there would be no formal ceremony, handing out of trophies and no chance to give that acceptance speech we'd all been planning. The Petties were going to be broadcast as a pre-tapped video.

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Instead, we were sent off to a private room with a nice big screen projection setup. Everyone else was off to a screening of a new Disney movie called Spookie Buddies. About 20 of us were sitting around waiting for something to happen. I didn't see any computer hooked up to the screen so I ran off looking for help. Michael, our very nice A/V guy, got there with minutes to spare! My heart started racing. We were all getting nervous with anticipation.

Then I started getting texts from Maria. They were going to arrive in about 15 minutes! What was I to do? Make them sit out in the hot car? I had to go meet them, but I just HAD to see who was going to WIN!! Covered in Cat Hair was up for TWO awards!

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Then the video began, featuring Leslie Smith, Editor at We all started buzzing...first up, our friends Kate Benjamin of ModernCat and JaneA Kelly of Paws & Effect! When Kate won, we all erupted in screams and clapping! I wish both ladies could have won, though.

The awards were being announced at lightning speed. Next up was one of my categories: Best Social Integration! Stephanie Harwin of Catsparella won! I was very happy for her, but then I was my best shot to win. There was no way I was going to win for Best Cat Blog. The competition was way too stiff.

My heart felt like it was going to bust out of my chest. Maria was texting me. They were about to arrive! My category finally came up. I thought to myself-it's about time I was a WINNER. After the pure HELL of the past few weeks, I was due..due for something good to happen and I'd worked very hard for 5 years writing Covered in Cat Hair. Surely, I had a shot, but it also meant that my good friend, Ingrid wouldn't win and I wanted her to win, too.


The intro screen came up...

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They announced the four finalists....


And when they said MY NAME and COVERED IN CAT HAIR, I jumped out of my seat and threw my hands over my head and yelled; OH MY GOD!!!!!

Ingrid was right there, giving me a big hug. She was so gracious and I knew from our talks that we both would be happy if either of us won. I wanted to cry. I was so happy, but I had to leave the room! Bobby and Maria had arrived and were waiting in the Lobby. They'd just driven 10 hours. I was not going to make them wait.

©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Just after the WIN!

I floated out of the room and there were lots of folks from the show milling about. I wanted to scream “I WON I WON!!!” but I had to drop the urge and get back to business. I could celebrate later.

And then, across the lobby, I saw Bobby and Maria walking towards me. It was so odd. I knew what they looked like and we'd talked many time over the past year, but here they were in the flesh, like nothing particularly strange was going on. I'd been looking forward to this moment for a long time, but I could see how tired and hot they were so I got them to sit down and got them a drink. As I was walking back, I saw everyone leaving the room where I just watched part of the Petties. Ingrid, it seems, won for Best Pet Blog-the TOP honor of ALL the awards! I WAS SO HAPPY FOR HER and now things just felt complete! EVERY award-other than than the Best DOG Blog, was WON BY A CAT WRITER!!!!!

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Bobby & I cuddle with Peri & Amberly.

And then, like moths to a furry-flame, the cat writing ladies managed to find that Amberly and her kittens were in the lobby and within seconds they were all cooing and smiling over their new friends. Maria and Bobby were good sports. I think the energy in the room revived them and all the fussing about the kittens was a treat to see. What was even better was that most of us had just won a Pettie Award and it felt so empowering for us to be together! It was a moment I really cherished.

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Ingrid King (left), Foster Mama-Maria (seated), Tamar Arslanian of I Have Cat (rear), Margaret Gates of Feline Nutrition and Kate Benjamin of ModernCat (right)

I think I had about fifteen minutes of feeling good, happy, visiting with everyone...then, as things often do...the shit hit the fan. One of the ladies came up to me holding BlueBelle. She said something was wrong. I looked at the incision on Blue's belly. She'd been spayed 10 days earlier. I have to say the "person" who did the spay did a terrible job. I've never had to put kittens on antibiotics after being spayed because they got an infection. Their incisions were horrible. Here was Blue, very calm and serene and the glue had popped and her incision was opening up and was bleeding.

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Sam & Bobby with Periwinkle & Amberly.

We were all supposed to go out to dinner to celebrate, but I had to find a Vet and this time we were going to need to do more than just have a consultation about what to do. We had no idea where Dr. Patrick was and I had no idea what to do next. BlueBelle was in trouble and we had to do something for her right away.

Find out what happens tomorrow's post!

If you'd like to see the Pettie Awards presentation, just go HERE to see the show and a complete list of all the WINNERS!

BlogPaws 2011: The First 24 Hours

It was very difficult to leave home last week. The decision to make the trip to Virginia to attend BlogPaws 2011 was not made lightly. Sam and I both changed our minds as we sat glued to the TV, watching the latest reports on Hurricane Irene. The closer we got to leaving, the closer the Hurricane was coming to the United States. We knew we'd have to cut our trip down to the shortest time away, possible, if we had any hope of getting back before the weather turned. Add to that our Pet Sitter and our backup, Jennifer, both got the flu, my car died on the highway the day before and Bob...Bob was growing thinner and thinner. His time was coming. Would we be away when he passed on?

Reluctantly, I packed, thinking it was a fool's errand to even bother. I knew I made a commitment to be a Speaker at BlogPaws and I also knew it was my only chance to be able to have Amberly and her kittens transported to me at the hotel, instead of facing putting them on a paid transport. It was my only chance to finally meet, in person, Maria & Bobby who I've been working with for over a year. I had to go.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Headed over the Tappen Zee bridge.

We decided to leave later and come home sooner. At noon on Thursday, I took half a valium. It was the only way I was going to be able to leave and not have a nervous breakdown. I did not want to leave Bob. I started crying. I said goodbye to him, not knowing if I would ever see him again. Our pet sitter came through and said she would be there as much as she could, but of course it would never be enough since she couldn't live here while we were gone. I had to be ok with that.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. D.C. Traffic.

The drive to Vienna was mostly uneventful. Sam and I talked, but often we sat quietly. As we got further from home, I tried to focus on what I wanted to get done at the conference and I thought about the presentation we were going to give about Analytics. I did what I could to prepare, but I just wanted to go home.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Almost there...

We made good time to the hotel, even though the traffic near it was terrible. We're used to traffic in New York City, but somehow this seemed worse. We were lucky we were headed into the city because we saw the northbound traffic backing up from Baltimore to the exits for D.C.

After we got into our room, which had a great view of the pool and from the 15th floor we could see what the weather was doing, too, we got unpacked. This is when I discovered that my old digital camera was not working properly. Great. Just what I needed. I would have to use my iPhone and do what I could. I didn't want to think about how much it was going to cost to replace that camera. Or could I get it repaired? I was too tired from everything breaking. I put the camera away and shelved my disappointment for later.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. I tried to resist the temptation to jump.

Ingrid was waiting, anyway.

Ingrid King, who writes The Conscious Cat, and I have become good friends since we met at the Cat Writers' Association conference a few years ago. Ingrid is one of the nicest, most kind-hearted people I have ever met. Being around her always cheers me up and I knew she was waiting for us in the Lobby, so we made a beeline down to see her.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. A SMALL sample of the swag we got.

We got gigantic goody bags when we registered. They were so huge we had to bring them up to our room. No way were we going to carry that stuff around all night. I took a peek inside the bags. I saw a lot of dog-centric things, but I must say I really liked the BlogPaws t-shirt. Very nice design. Anyway..back to Ingrid!

The worries about doing the right thing began to fade as soon as I started to see my friends and meet new ones. It was great to see Ingrid again and I finally got to meet Margaret Gates, who is the Executive Director of Feline Nutrition Education Society. We love what Margaret does to help people understand the benefits and importance of feeding a species appropriate diet. I saw JaneA Kelley from Paws & Effect. She is one groovy chick. Wendy Christensen, a fellow CWA member and awesome artist was there with my new cat charm bracelet-she made just for me! (I will have to take a photo of it soon!) Wendy has a shop on Etsy you can see HERE. I also met my new BFF, Kate Benjamin whose website, Modern Cat is one of my favorites for discovering simply beautiful products for cats. Kate and I didn't get to talk much, but I could tell right away we were going to be good friends. Kate is really awesome and has a kickass tattoo on her arm of a tribal stylized cat. Very cool!

We loaded up on an array of appetizers and got to chatting, about cats, of course. I was really impressed that there was a lot to choose from and the place was buzzing with excitement. Hurricane Irene hadn't kept folks home, that's for certain. I was told that there were about 400 people, up from 250 at the first BlogPaws 2011 in Ohio. Very impressive! Sam and I had to run off to test our Presentations and check out the room we'd be using. It was very big with lots of windows. The reality of doing the session in less than 24 hours hit me. Was I even mentally prepared for this? Guess I'd find out.

But first...cheesecake!

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. YAY!

The gals, Sam and I went to the Cheesecake factory to chat and load up on sugar. The conversation was non-stop and there was a great deal of laughter. I REALLY needed that, more than I can say. It was so good to be around like-minded folks, who were all passionate about the same thing-cats, cats and more cats!

I would have been happy to stay up all night, but I knew I had a 7 AM (as in the MORNING!!) breakfast meeting to get to, so we all said our good-nights.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Prepare to be assimilated.

Somehow I managed to drag my butt out of bed and get to the Breakfast meeting held by World's Best Cat Litter. They'd invited a small group of bloggers to talk about their products and their vision for getting the word out on their brand. I was too delirious to say much, but it was interesting to know they realized the value of having our good opinion. I got a coupon for a free bag of litter, so I was pretty happy about that, but really, where is the money? Sorry, but we all work very hard at what we do. It just seems to be very tough to figure out if there's a way to make a reasonable income when, clearly we can help this company make some money. All we get out of it is more visibility for our blog-maybe. This is something I need to ponder further.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Rescue Ink Guys, Big Ant and Joe.

Next up was a trip back to the big dining hall for a presentation by two of the guys from Rescue Ink: Joe Panz and Big Ant. Now it's clear these fellas really care about helping both people and animals that are in danger of being abused, but I have to admit that there is something about them that makes me giggle and I can't take them seriously. I'm really sorry to say that because I don't know them, but they are so completely different than the female-centric rescue people I know that seeing these big guys with tattoos talking about how they scare off the bad guy...I dunno...I reminds me of going to a friend's house for a party and meeting a guy who brags about things but you're never really sure if he's telling the truth or just trying to be cool.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Ooo..I feel so tiny.

After the presentation was over, I spoke to the guys about a situation my rescue has been dealing with regarding a nut-job woman who is in jail and how she dumped her cats on poor Jennifer without surrendering them to her. So Jennifer is stuck-she should be able to give the animals to the pound, which is very nice in Milford, and they cannot do anything to those cats until the owner is out of jail. I wanted to know about the law regarding removing animals from a home and personal property laws. What would happen if one of those cats got sick and died while the woman was in jail? Their advice; talk to the cops. They didn't even seem to know about animals being considered personal property. Hmmm...well I got my photo taken with them so that made up for a few misgivings.

After that, I had to find Megan from Purina. She'd asked me if I wanted to be interviewed about Kitten Associates. Sure! Of course! The Purina Cat Chow Correspondent, Andy Senor Jr. wanted to meet with me. I had no idea how they knew about me or why they wanted to chat. I was still half-awake, but figured I better get this done. I walked over to the Purina booth and introduced myself. They knew who I was and were ready to do the interview right then and there. I was escorted outside (for better light) by Andy, himself, a camera man and Bill a very big wig from Nestle/Purina. I'm a very informal person, but suddenly I felt like I needed to step up to the plate.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Andy is dandy! Hee hee. (and me)

Firstly, Andy is VERY charming. Apparently he's an actor and has been in the cast of “RENT” for over a decade. Andy shares ownership of a cat named Buster with his friend. His cat spends two weeks at one apartment and two weeks at Andy's. Shared custody? ONE CAT? Okay, what does this guy know about cats? He certainly loves them, but I really wanted to get him alone to find out what was going on or to make out with him, one of the two.

Oh professional! Andy starts interviewing me. Wow is he good at what he does! The camera guy was walking around us, getting different angles. I tried not to look in the camera, but it certainly was an odd feeling having someone watching your every move. I know how these things work-they shoot a lot of footage and cut it to 30 seconds. I tried to remember to sit up straight, be clever and clear and make sure to get out my message. Oops. Problem. One of the missions of Kitten Associates is to feed a species appropriate diet-which means no dry food. Guess I better tread lightly on that topic for now.

Andy oozed confidence and compassion. Either he was a great actor or really cared. He was very polite and kind and very easy to like, which made the interview go that much better. Due to Hurricane Irene, Andy had to hustle back to New York City, but our interview will be posted in the coming weeks. You can subscribe to Andy's feed on YouTube HERE so you'll be notified of when our interview goes live.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

And now it was time for lunch! Remember, I'd been up since 6 AM so I was covering a lot of ground.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Let us eat cheesecake (again)!

I decided to attend a presentation afterwards-the one just before the one I was doing. It was about monetizing your blog. Great! What they didn't tell us what HOW MUCH MONEY we could get for doing whatever we were going to do to sell our souls to the Devil to make a buck. I still have no idea how this happens because it sounded like you have to pitch company's what you want to do to help their brand, then get paid to do that via your blog. I don't know how I could do what I do, tell my stories and share my knowledge all “sponsored by” some big corporation. I think I would lose my credibility. I hate being poor, but really? Isn't there some other way to make money? I bet I could do consulting. That might be the answer, but again, what are people getting paid to do this sort of thing? They wouldn't say!

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©2011 Ingrid King. Sam is up first.

Then it was our turn to do our Presentation. I was not nervous, for once. In fact, I was raring to go. I think doing that stand up comedy/storytelling show in New York City made me stop being scared to talk in public.

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©2011 Ingrid King. I get started.

Sam was up first. He went over all the nitty gritty about Analytics. I was watching the time and he was going long. I started to get worried I wouldn't have more than 5 minutes to talk. Then Sam started to show slides about things I WAS GOING TO TALK ABOUT! What the heck was going on? I tried to be funny and remind him to move along and that I had that covered. I think the stress from the past week had gotten to Sam, too. He was clearly tired and jumped into action to wrap things up.

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©2011 Ingrid King. Last slide. Whew!

Things went quickly and before I knew it I was done and we were fielding questions. I started getting text messages from Maria before we started. She was worried about Amberly. Her belly was big. She was gassy. Maria thought it was something bad. They were about an hour away. At the end of my talk, I saw she had sent more texts, frantic that Anberly needed to be seen by a VET.

It's Friday afternoon, almost 5pm. I need a Vet. I don't know where there is a Vet. I don't know where I am! I ran out of the conference room and started to search for Yvonne and Caroline, who are two of the founders or BlogPaws. They would know where I could find a Vet to talk to.

But what I couldn't have known then, that even though I found a Vet, not 30 minutes later, would I have a real crisis on my hands and need another.

Tomorrow...the next 24 hours...

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Not on My Watch: The One Yes

I'm wiped out. I spent all day yesterday emailing rescues, trying to sort out what could be done to save the lives of these big siamese brothers. I wasn't surprised to get lots of “sorry, can't” replies, but I had to keep hoping someone would be willing to take them on. I started to think that someone was going to be me, but I'm going to have a full house pretty soon and I was worried that if I said, yes, to the boyz, I would be taking on way too much.

Many of you wrote to me and offered suggestions and even contacted some rescues on behalf of the kitties. Thank you all for your help! Even though most didn't pan out, it only takes ONE “YES!” to make the difference.

Yesterday morning, Marty, from DCIN, went to the shelter and checked their blood sugar levels. Neither cat is diabetic which will make placing them that much easier. Thank you, Marty & DCIN!

Yesterday afternoon, I contacted our friend Jennifer H. at the Humane Society of Forsyth County. You may remember Jennifer, she was the one we got to rescue the Cow Mama and Babies and the kitten with the deformed legs. I didn't expect that Jennifer could help, but I didn't know one thing-Jennifer has a soft spot for fat cats, especially siamese cats! When I asked her for help, she said, YES!

Even though Jennifer is out of town attending a family FUNERAL, she took the time to reply to me and give me the OKAY to pull these cats on her behalf. I offered to do a fundraiser to cover the initial costs for vet care and food (the cats MUST be on a grain-free canned diet now), to make it easier for her to agree.

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Meet Nigel (left) and Basil (right).

A few minutes ago, Bobby, our intrepid cat-rescuer, picked up the cats and they are now at the Vet, waiting to get their very important snap test. We all have to cross our fingers and hope that both boys are negative/negative for FIV and Feline Leukemia!! After that, it “should” be smooth sailing. They'll be whisked away to their Auntie Bobbie's house to be fostered until they can be moved northe to HSFC.

We named them, Basil & Nigel after Basil Rathbone, the actor who portrayed Sherlock Holmes in the 1940's and Nigel, after Nigel Bruce, who portrayed Dr Watson.

Our coffers are almost empty and we REALLY NEED HELP getting funds together to cover the Vet care and the boy's food for the next few weeks. If you can help make a donation towards their care, it's tax deductible!

Donations can be made via the ChipIn Widget, below, or you can mail a check, payable to:

Kitten Associates

P.O. Box 354

Newtown, CT 06470-0354

Thank you for all your support and for caring about these big boys. I hope to report, one day, that they are sliming down and blossoming into fine felines. The weight loss process must be done slowly and carefully, so it will take some time, but one day they will be feeling much better! Today starts their new life!

Bob's Battle with Lymphoma: And Everything Else

I'm still struggling with putting words together when it has to do with Bob. Writing about it makes me think about him, his care, about his challenges, which ultimately lead me to worrying (even more) about how much time is left. I'm trying not to worry, not to fret, but I am an anxious person by nature, so how easy is this to accomplish? It's a struggle to stay with it-stay with the fear of seeing your cat growing more frail while you try to be present in each moment.

It's Monday. Bob should have been dead for three days already, but I cancelled the appointment to have him put down. Each day that ticks by, is a bonus day for him (and me). Each day I worry that I will wait too long or that Bob will go into distress when I can't get Dr Larry here, but it's a chance I have to take. Some amazing things have happened for Bob. I have to ride this out, regardless of how difficult.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Just Bob.

I mentioned in my last post that I gave Bob insulin and I want to talk about how I arrived at that decision.

I've come to the point where I don't just blindly follow what my Vet tells me. I have to really consider what is said, but then do my own research. Vets are like anyone else, they can't know everything and I doubt they know my cat better than I do. Think about it. Your Vet has to treat how many animals over a given day? How many upset pet-parents call him or her? There is a tremendous amount of information they have to keep track of, but they can't give your cat or dog 100% of their attention. It's just too much to take on. They also don't LIVE with your pet. They don't see the fine details that you may have forgotten to mention. When your cat is terminally ill, as Bob is, I think it's okay to take a step back and really consider what is before you and not make a decision solely based on what someone tells you to do.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob still LOVES his cat grass.

So even though the tests say things look terrible for Bob, Bob, himself is still plugging along. He has recently become diabetic from the steroids I had to give him to control his cancer and if that was not treated, Bob would suffer terribly from bladder infections, muscle wasting and organ failure. Something had to be done about his blood sugar. Because of this problem and because chemo is no longer an option, I decided to ask Jennifer, our Board Member of Kitten Associates and my good friend, to help me with Bob. Jennifer is a Case Manager for Diabetic Cats in Need and she really knows her way around diabetic cats.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Yes. Bob is eating DRY FOOD! It's grain-free and very high quality. Bob gets what he wants these days and this is one of the few things he eats on his own.

We did a Blood Glucose Curve over the course of an afternoon. Every hour Jennifer took a tiny speck of blood from Bob's ear and tested it on a meter. The first reading was almost 500 when under 100 is normal. The next few readings dipped down into the 400's, but on his own, Bob couldn't get his sugar to come down enough. We gave him 1 unit of Lantus, which is slow acting and gentle. We re-checked Bob's blood and the number came down a bit, then into the mid-300's an hour later. This meant that Bob was getting some help from the insulin and if he continued to go down, he might feel a lot better.

The next day I started to see a change. Bob was a bit brighter. He was more willing to eat. Not a lot, but he ate. I still syringe feed him at least twice a day to supplement what he can eat on his own.

When you're assessing your cat for “Quality of Life,” you take everything into consideration. This is my informal checklist:

Using the litter pan? YES! Bob even had a big ol' normal looking poop which I haven't seen him do in months.

Preening? Or grooming? Yes, Bob still washes his face and we give him a bath to help sooth his awful ringworm.

Eating!! The big one: Bob IS eating some. He is pickier than ever, but at this point, he gets what he wants as long as it's not grained food. I ain't gonna feed that. NO WAY. Bob's offered food MANY times a day. The cancer gets most of his nutrients so sadly Bob is very very thin. Bob's also drinking a lot of water because of the diabetes, but I've seen him not drinking as much over the past few days.

Interacting with family? YES! Bob gave me the “Puss in Boots” look that tells me he's hungry. He slept on the sofa next to Nicky. He's not hiding. He doesn't move around a lot, but he DOES get up on his own and he still purrs, just not as often.

Is the cat comfortable? Or does he/she sit “meatloafed” with paws tucked under the belly, NOT looking relaxed at all? Bob has been looking more relaxed lately. I've seen him flatten out and even have dreams while he sleeps. Does the cat cry in pain?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. A shadow of his former 16 pounds, it's still BOB at just over 9.

People have come up with all sorts of formulas about how many good days the cat has versus how many bad and how to know it's time. I think it's a start, but really, as most of us know, we'll know when it's time. Be observant. Try to watch out for the urge to just get it over with because YOU are suffering watching this natural process occur. This is very very difficult, but we owe it to our animals to give them every option and every day we can.

As for Bob. He's still Bob. He is the coolest cat I've ever known. Though it hurts my heart to pet him, because he's so thin, his soul is unchanged. He's cool even in his last days.

I love Bob.

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Cara's Journey: In Sickness & In Health

It's been a VERY LONG JOURNEY for Cara Melle-one I wonder will ever come to a happy conclusion. Cara's been sick for SEVEN MONTHS. When we cure one issue, another problem pops up. We've squeezed everyone's pockets to shake loose every last penny. This little kitten has cost my rescue group thousands of dollars in Vet care. This is not about the money, but it is an illustration of how far we've travelled to find a way to get Cara HEALTHY.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara knows she's at the Vet. Been there, done that, one too many times now.

There've been a few times when we thought we had Cara's problems licked. At first, it was a terrible URI that permanently effected her brother and sister. They both have scar tissue in their tear ducts which slows draining of their tears and causes them to have one or both eyes weep. They won't suffer much as a result of this, but it's a reminder to us of what they went through, too.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Those big eyes just cut right through my heart.

Cara, however, was hit the hardest. She had two esophageal strictures from being burned by Doxycycline when she was just a little kitten. It was avoidable had we known the antibiotic was so acidic. It could have been caused by her genetics, too. We'll never really know for sure. Either way, it caused her tremendous suffering, for a very long time. Her growth was stunted and she remains underweight.

We treated her strictures twice and medicated her every six hours for weeks. We gave her “novel protein” diet to make sure she didn't also have a food allergy (turns out she did not). We gave her the best food, the most love and tender care, but it was not enough.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara's resemblance to her mother, Mazie is very clear. Mazie still waits for her forever home, but was very glad to see Cara again.

Cara continued to vomit-PROJECTILE vomit. If you've never seen that before, imagine a hose being turned on inside little Cara. The spigot flies open and a torrent of fluid comes out. It's shocking. Disturbing. Horrifying. It leaves Cara limp. She rarely ever plays. She sits hunched over, uncomfortable, licking at her mouth, her tummy grumbling.

On Friday Cara returned to see Dr. K. Our last three weeks of feeding her a special diet showed us she had no food allergies, but she was still vomiting. A repeat of her blood work revealed her White Blood Count was still shockingly high at 29,500. Dr. K needed to do a third endoscopy to find out what was going on. The results surprised all of us.

While Cara's strictures were healed, her stomach lining, which was once fine and normal, was now “grossly” full of Helicobacter. To understand how common this is, here's a portion of an article by Bob Sherding in 2001

“Various surveys have found a high prevalence of Helicobacter approaching 100% in most shelter and colony cats and 30 to 100% in pet cats. The spiral organisms identified most often in these surveys are the large Helicobacter-like organisms, e.g., H. felis and H. heilmannii. Because of the high prevalence of infection in animals without clinical signs, the clinical significance of gastric Helicobacter-like organisms (GHLO) in cats is uncertain. Helicobacter organisms may be an incidental finding in clinically normal animals, but when they are associated with clinical signs (chronic intermittent vomiting) and gastric mucosal inflammation (lymphocytic gastritis), it is possible that they should be considered potential pathogens and treated.”

The treatment remains the same-even today: Amoxicillin and Biaxin™

But that's not all Cara is dealing with. She also has Leukocytosis-which is a high White Blood Cell Count. Because her Neutrophils are also high, it means she probably has a nasty bacterial infection. Last month, Cara had a high Eosinophil count, which could have meant she was having an allergic reaction to her food or medication. That indicator is back to normal, so it leads us to believe that Cara has a “Mother” of an infection.

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What causes this? Another mystery. Helicobacter is common. It making us or our cats sick, is not so common. What caused Cara to have such an overwhelming infection leaves us all scratching our heads. All we can do is treat her and hope it resolves. She may get better or she may get this on and off for years to come.

The saddest thing to consider is that this infection can be a precursor to Adenocarcinoma or Lymphoma. Adenocarcinoma is always malignant. My cat, Bob, has lymphoma. It can be treated, but there is no cure. To think that Cara, at such a fragile age, could face this one day is unbelievable and completely cruel. I hope it is not so. Today it's too soon to tell.

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Cara's endoscopy. Tough to see here, but her stomach lining is a mess.

And then there was Cara's pancreas to consider. Either it was inflamed and getting worse, or it had been and was resolving. They ran a PLI test to determine how badly her pancreas has been effected. This is in a EIGHT month old KITTEN. To have such problems is disturbing, gut-wrenching and heartbreaking.

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Cara's pancreas shows white highlights. This means it's inflamed and irritated. Is it getting worse or is it getting better?

Who will adopt a kitten with such health history? Who would I even TRUST to give this kitten a home? We have a long way to go before we can even worry about that. Right now there's much to be done, but the fear sits in the back of my head. I don't know that Cara will ever be on Petfinder looking for a forever home.

Sam was able to drive with me down to Norwalk to pick Cara up after her procedure so I could hold her on my lap the entire drive home. She was very weak and withdrawn. Although she had a nice reunion with her Mother, Mazie and sister, Polly, Cara wanted to be alone, to rest. She ate well for me the first night, then the next day, back at her foster home with Aunt Connie, she stopped eating. Her coat was rough. Her left eye was now weeping from the URI. She hid under the sofa where no one could get at her.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. After endoscopy, Cara is wiped out and sick with a URI.

We had to give her antibiotics, so after some coaching, were able to get her to come out so we could treat her. It took two long days, but Cara started to turn the corner just a bit. She began to eat some food and came out from under the sofa. Her eye stopped running, but she was still very worn out.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara looks out the window into the darkness. She didn't want to visit with us. She just wanted to be alone to rest and try to recover from the procedure.

This morning Cara projectile vomited again, so I called Dr. K. to let her know. She said the infection was so bad that she wasn't surprised there was more vomiting. She said to stay the course, keep giving her the meds and give it a week. By Saturday, maybe she'll show signs of feeling better. We can only hope.

I have no idea what is to become of Cara. Once her meds are done in two weeks, we'll re-evaluate the situation. If Cara is responding well, then what? I don't know. Will Cara get something else? We she relapse? Will she even live to be an adult?

Cara looks right into my soul with those big owly eyes. She's so much like her Mother that way. I only wish she was just as healthy and ready to be adopted. For now, all we can do is keep our commitment to her, in sickness and in health, for better or worse.


If you'd like to read more about Helicobacter, how common it is, how it may be transmitted and its' effect on humans, you can read this article on DVM360, as well as on Wikipedia

Bad News: Endoscopy Number Three Tomorrow

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What a nightmare. I had Cara's blood work repeated on Tuesday after three weeks of diet change and a short course of antibiotics. I'd hoped to see her White Blood Count come down to normal levels. It was not. It was 29,500-high normal is 19,000. Cara also showed elevated Nuetrophils (26,500 and high normal is 12,500) and 295 bands (300 is high normal). From the Cat Spay of Sante Fe this article describes in better detail what these values mean: “Band neutrophils are the youngest form of the neutrophil, and indicate that the bone marrow is trying to produce and release cells as quickly as possible. A few bands can be present in a normal patient, but an overload of bands always means that there is an active infection. ” This all adds up to something is wrong and Cara has a festering, lingering, S.O.B. infection of some sort.

Dr Larry and Dr Diane (Cara's Specialist) agreed that this is indicative of an abscess-probably in her esophagus. The only way to be certain is to look. The only way to look is to knock Cara out and use a scope on her. The cost is going to kick us in the shins, but I'm not going to do another fundrasier. I've already bugged you guys too many times and many of you have helped out. Cara doesn't look sick or pitiful, but she's harboring quite a serious problem. She gained 8 ounces over the past month, which is remarkable, but puts her at 2-3 pounds under what she should weigh for her age. She's grown a bit, but I have to wonder how she will be stunted from months of being debilitated. She continues to projectile vomit once a week. I may have to make a deal with the devil to get her the treatment she needs, but I'm not complaining.

We need ANSERS and we need them NOW and we need to “FIX” this girl for once and for all! Cara needs a warm and loving home, not to have to spend her life being run back and forth to Vets.

P.S. and will someone please tell me why cats always have to have expensive Vet care done on Holiday weekends?

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Nursing Mama Found, but Where are Her Babies?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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©2011 Maria. S.

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

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©2011 Maria. S.

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

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

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

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©2011 Maria. S.

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

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©2011 Maria. S.

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

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©2011 Maria. S.

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

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

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©2011 Maria. S.

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

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©2011 Maria. S.

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

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

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

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

A Day with Little Cara

After a long chat with Cara's Internist, instead of going straight to a third endoscopy, we're giving Cara yet another round of Clavamox to treat her high White Blood Cell Count for about 10 days. Cara's also on a special diet, which I pushed back on, (you know how fussy I am about diet)! But after looking at the ingredients and realizing it was only for three weeks, I decided it was all right. Well, feeding her the special diet was ok. That it cost $52 for one case, well, I was not too happy with that!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Little cutie in the tunnel.

Cara's been back home with me and her Mama, Mazie and siblings Polly and Chester after staying with her foster mom for two weeks. Everyone got along well. Mazie licked Cara's face as a way to welcome her back. Cara is still half the size of her family, but I can see that Cara has grown some, too.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara with Mama-Mazie.

Cara still has that big, sad-eyed look and she still shakes her head and licks at her mouth. After being here for a day or so, she vomited again and was a bit lethargic. The next day she was brighter and ate well. She's still not vibrant, in the way her siblings are, but she's starting to explore more of her surroundings now that she can leave her foster room and meet my cats.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. What a face!

Cara doesn't go too far. She'll stay upstairs and nap or sniff around my bedroom. I think the stairs are tough for her because she's still so small. She can't race down the steps the way Polly is accustomed to doing and I think seeing my HUGE cats makes her a bit shy.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

I've noticed she's starting to purr more frequently. I think the clavamox might be helping her. In some respects, she is stable, but she is clearly still struggling with something. The constant head shaking and mouth licking must mean she's feeling queasy or her tummy is acting up.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

When it's all said and done, I know in two more weeks, when Cara has completed eating the special diet, we'll have to re-visit getting her spayed and doing endoscopy and biopsy at the same time OR they may say we can't spay her for the time being and just focus on doing further examinations of her digestive tract.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara and Mama.

In a few days it will mark SIX MONTHS since this family first arrived. Six months and they are ALL still here. I try not to beat myself up about how many cats I could have helped if I could have gotten this family out of her faster. I'm devoted to the cats that are in my care. They are all getting to a point where they can be adopted. It would be great to see them get out of here. The price I've had to pay is that my own cats are angry and frustrated having newcomers running around and every day we find a new, horrifying place where one of them has decided to pee.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

We may have more SSSCATS than anyone else in the world. There are Feliway diffusers everywhere. Some of my cats are making friends with the fosters, but even those cats we've caught marking. I know the best solution is to get the fosters OUT and give my own cats a break-especially with Bob having cancer. I think more quiet time would be good for him, too.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

While I wonder when we'll finally get Cara's health issues sorted out and find her a home, something lovely happened. One of the fosters MAY be getting adopted in a few days. I don't want to jinx it, but it's looking very good. I wish I had more adopters like this family. If they go through with the adoption, I'll let you know just how wonderful they are in more detail.

For now, I'll just enjoy the company of the fosters and their crazy antics with a roll of paper towels and odor neutralizer in hand.

We're still trying to raise enough funds to cover Cara's endoscopy in a few weeks. She looks bright and well, but she, like most cats, is very good at masking illness. She weighs just over 4 1/2 pounds. The normal weight for a cat her age is 6 to 8 pounds.

We'll Never Really Know for Sure: Part Two

The tree that crashed into our driveway has been chopped up, thanks to Connie's sweetheart, Howard. He came over with mighty chain saw in hand and attacked the fallen tree with surprising gusto. I helped clear the brush away while we both sweated under the hot, steamy sun. Howard was great. He cut the tree back much further than I hoped. So much so that I won't have to call in the arborist to finish the job.

If only everything was so easily managed.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The "M" on Bob's forehead returns.

Yesterday I wrote about taking Bob to get his eleventh chemo and that the Oncologist remarked at how proud he was of the care we were providing Bob. He said that most people would have given their cat Prednisone for a few weeks, then euthanized the animal. He seemed clearly impressed with our willingness to go the distance for our cat. I didn't really understand. It's Bob. We aren't just going to let him have a shortened life because it's inconvenient or expensive. It's HIS life. He deserves to have every good day he can.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

My joy at Bob's clinical improvement was short lived. The next day I got Bob's blood test back. His ALT (liver function) was over 1000. This is very bad. From the first day I took Bob into my home almost five years ago, Bob's ALT has never been normal. Before Bob had surgery to remove half of his liver (which was cancerous) last December, it was 1400.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer looks out onto the deck while Bob enjoys his afternoon in the sunshine.

Last month Bob's ALT was about 400. For him, even being 300 higher than normal, that was good. 1000? Not good. Not good at all.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

I've been religiously giving Bob Denamarin, which I had hoped would help strengthen whatever was left of his liver. I thought it was working and, maybe it is. Maybe it would be worse without it? Dr. Joe called me to talk about the ALT. We discussed whether or not we did another ultrasound to see if Bob's liver showed signs of further cancer. We both agreed it was pointless. If we looked at his liver, we'd have to get a biopsy if they saw a mass. Then Bob would have to have more surgery to take away even more of his liver. His recovery from the first surgery was about two to three weeks. At his age, with FIV+ and lymphoma, it just didn't seem kind to put him through that all over again when they might find out the cancer was all over his remaining liver.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

Dr. Joe said that elevated ALT can also spike cyclically so maybe, just maybe, Bob's liver isn't in such bad shape. It was nice that he said it, but I took it as a reminder that although Bob's whiskers have grown back on the top of his head and although his fur is slowly returning here and there, that Bob has two types of cancer. The liver cancer, we thought was excised and considered to be gone, but maybe just enough was left so the cancer could continue to grow? We'll recheck his blood work next month when we do the twelfth chemo.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob being Bob.

Dr. Joe and I discussed if there were any other things that I could do to help Bob. He suggested adding Proanthozone to Bob's diet. Maybe it would help. At this point, there isn't much to lose.

Bob's story isn't over yet. And truth be told, Sam and I are both surprised six months have passed and this shaggy sweetheart is still with us. I'm so grateful for each day and I'm still surprised that Bob continues onward. Bob's even become more social with us and likes to sit half on my lap and half off-something he had to do with my Mother because he was too heavy to sit across her legs. The other day he sat on me, burbling, the sound I call his nutty purr. It's a charming sound. It makes me forget to be sad for a little while.

Bob's good like that. Even in his darkest days, he finds a way to make me smile.

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Cara's in Trouble Again.

I keep hoping we're getting to the point where all the foster cats are well enough to be adopted. A few weeks ago, Polly FINALLY got spayed. She made it through the surgery and recovery well, but she's still got a lingering issues with recurring upper respiratory tract infections. She gets sick for a few days, then is miraculously over it. Sadly, her left eye, which has been a problem for her since she first became ill when she was three weeks old, has never resolved its cloudy appearance. I fear Polly has lost some vision in that eye.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Polly Picklepuss.

The only way to resolve this for her is to get her to a specialist. Perhaps there's something we haven't done that could help her? Her brother, Chester is doing great, for the most part, but he has a chronic runny eye. He should see the specialist, as well. These kittens have cost a fortune to care for. I'm very grateful they are so very sweet natured and loving. It makes seem even more worthwhile to make sure they get whatever they need.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Chester is a knock out! You can see the stained fur near his right eye.

Polly has been spending more and more of each day with my own cats. She gets along GREAT with them and I'm constantly hearing her making trilling sounds as she races through the house-most often with MacGruber on her tail. She's come a VERY long way from the kitten I thought we were going to lose late last year. You can see a before and after photo of her HERE.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara waiting for Dr. Larry.

Then there's Cara. Cara! What am I going to do with you, girl? Cara has been doing okay-ish, not great. She gained just five ounces over the past month. To me, that is not enough. She's still under five pounds while her siblings are easily over six pounds, each! Cara has episodes of vomiting every two weeks or so. The volume of what she outputs is frightening. It seems as though it must have come out of a much larger animal, there's so much fluid.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

I've been in regular contact with Cara's Internist, Dr. K. and her assistant, Laura. I was hoping that we could get Cara spayed and while the spay was being done, Dr. K. was going to look at Cara's esophagus. Cara's been scoped twice now for strictures in her esophagus. If you're not familiar with her story, you can read more HERE and HERE (or use “Cara” in the Search field on the top, left of this page to read all the stories about Cara and her family)

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Dr. Larry listening to Cara's lungs and heart.

Cara's been struggling for a very long time. I thought it was a good idea for her to go to a new foster home so she could have “alone time” and a chance to flower without her big brother and sister there to push her out of the food bowl or away from the toys. Cara has been in another home for about two weeks and was doing fairly well. Then, the vomiting started again and Cara became withdrawn.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

Yesterday I brought Cara to Dr. Larry for blood work. We discussed seeing her shake her head and lick her mouth. She is nauseous, clearly. She's quiet. Not a bouncy, crazy kitten. She's alert. She eats well, but...something is wrong. I brought her home with me so I can keep an eye on her.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

Last night I got the results of the blood work. Cara has a SCREAMING high white blood count-AGAIN. It's 28,000, when a high normal is about 19,000. Dr. Larry is worried Cara has aspirated some of her vomit into her lungs and that is the reason for the high count. Cara's in trouble and needs to go back to the Specialist, Dr. K., as soon as we can work it out. I put Cara on clavamox last night, to start knocking out the infection, but Cara is going to need another endoscopy, no doubt.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Cara.

This morning, Cara was bright and ate well for me. When I look in her eyes, I see a frail little kitty. She's far too thin and struggling to be well. I'm glad she's a fighter, but she can't fix what is wrong and neither can I—not without some help.

Our resources are depleted and we need to do yet another fundraiser for Cara, Polly and Chester. I don't know exactly how much we'll need for Cara, but I do know some of the cost. I'm going to estimate what we need, then adjust it up or down as soon as I have more information. Anything we don't use will go into the General Fund of my Non-Profit Rescue: Kitten Associates, Inc., to provide food and basic Vet care for any of the cats in our Program.

If you have the resources to help out, we are deeply appreciative. Your donation IS Tax Deductible, which is always a good thing!

If you can't help with a donation, if you would kindly help us spread the word, that would be terrific. We need to get the donations put together BEFORE we can go to the Vet, so we gotta make this happen fast if we can.

Thank you to the many folks who have jumped in to help Cara along this difficult journey. I hope you can help again, for Cara and her family.

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