I don’t feel like I can breathe. It’s 1pm. I haven’t eaten anything since last night. I feel like I’m going to collapse. I’m so wrung out and tired. I don’t want to hear the sound of my phone ringing or the tone that indicates I have an incoming text message. Every time I hear my phone chime, my heart races. What am I going to find out now? How much more can I take?
I barely stepped off the plane at JFK Airport when things started to race downhill. Opal, our rather feral, far too young mama, gave birth to a kitten last Monday. Cyndie, the foster mom, found the kitten laying on the tile floor, cool, but alive. She put the kitten with Opal, hoping Opal would care for her newborns. Twenty four hours later, Opal gave birth to 3 additional kittens.
The next three days were a blur of phone calls, texts, e-mails. Opal wasn’t caring for her kittens and we weren’t even sure if she had any milk to give them if she could. Opal was more and more fractious. Cyndie had a tough time intervening, but eventually was able to start bottle feeding the neonatal kittens to ensure they were getting some sustenance.
The challenges began to pile up. Cyndie couldn’t provide round-the-clock care to such young animals. Frankly, I couldn’t have done it, either. I started a frantic search to find a nursing mama cat we could either rescue (and take any of her kittens, too), or one we could put our four kittens with. There were no mamas to be found—all already had 5 or 6 kittens. We couldn’t put 4 more with them.
©2012 Cyndie Tweedy. We need a name for this little kitten.
Cyndie called an old friend who had experience with newborns. She offered to take the kittens and give them all the care they needed. It would relieve Cyndie and give the kittens a better chance at surviving. Cyndie chose to only give her to the two most critical kittens, a boy who was born first, and a girl who was born last (Opal wouldn’t even clean off the amniotic sack on this kitten, who Cyndie initially feared was dead). The other two kittens appeared to be doing ok. Opal seemed to be feeding them, but no one was really sure since getting close to Opal meant getting clawed.
Meanwhile, two kittens were doing worse and worse. Then, on Thursday, the little boy passed away. We knew that the mortality rate for newborns is 30-40%, but it didn’t make what happened any easier. The little girl, Baby G., was not doing well, either. As if things couldn’t get worse for her, they did. The bottle feeder who was helping Cyndie had to rush to the hospital because her Mother had a bad gallbladder attack and had to have emergency surgery. Now Cyndie was alone with the ailing kitten and didn’t know what to do. She placed the kitten with Opal, who ignored her baby. When Cyndie looked at the little kitten, she realized the other two siblings were MUCH larger and clearly doing much better. A few hours passed and Opal had her leg over Baby G. Baby G. wasn’t nursing or doing much of anything. Something had to be done.
©2012 Maria S. Maria took this photo last year. This is Opal, just a kitten, before she became hateful of humans and had her kittens. It's so unfair to see this precious kitty and know her fate as it is now.
I have to take on the responsibility for ALL decisions for our foster cats and trying to do it from 1000 miles away is grueling. Not only do I emotionally support our volunteers, I have to help them make difficult choices and I have to KNOW what I’m talking about to do that…which would be fine IF I knew what I was talking about.
I took a Bottle Baby Bootcamp class at Tabby’s Place a few months ago and it dawned on me that Baby G. should be tube fed. Cyndie was massively sleep deprived and stressed out and didn’t feel this was a good option and that it could hurt the kitten. I had to try to draw from my own reserves to help her have faith that tube feeding was the best and possibly last option for Baby G. I wished I could have just taken the situation out of her hands so she could rest. We were both so tired, but in the end the buck stops with me. It was barely 6:30 AM on Friday the 29th. Not the best time to even be able to think (at least for me)
Cyndie rushed Baby G. to our Vet. They weren’t busy and could offer her supportive care until she stabilized. Over the course of the next few hours Baby G. was fed and got some fluids. She perked up and they thought she was going to improve so we made plans for them to keep her at the Vet partly so Cyndie could rest and partly so we could be sure Baby G. was stable before we brought her back to her mom.
The Vet graciously offered that one of their Vet Techs would take Baby G. home and tube feed her over the weekend. They would do it for NO COST, which truly was a blessing. I think everyone on Facebook started to feel like all their prayers and hopes were working. I did, too.
Early that evening, Cyndie called me. Baby G.’s temp started to fluctuate
wildly. Shortly thereafter Baby G. took her last breath and passed away. I was speechless. What happened? I really thought we were going to save her life. How arrogant of me to think that! Now Baby G. would join her brother, the two would be cremated together. I found it ironic that the costs for the cremation would be more than what we spent for her Vet care. They would ship the ashes to me. I already have many little tin boxes of ashes and these two babies could rest with my cats, never to be forgotten.
©2012 Cyndie Tweedy. Opal with the surviving kittens.
After many tears I hoped that perhaps we all could finally breathe? The stress gone, only our broken hearts remained. Over the past day, Opal had started to produce milk and eat a great deal of food, indicating that her milk production was strong. The two remaining kittens, a boy and girl, were twice the weight of the kittens who died. These two had a very good chance of making it. Opal, fiercely protective of her young, was in mom-mode now. We just had to keep her fed and keep an eye on the kittens, but she would do the rest for the next few weeks.
©2012 Maria S. Tater Tot on the way to the Vet.
Less than a day passed and Maria called me. She didn’t like the way Tater Tot was looking. His belly was big, his eyes runny, he seemed flat. She feared FIP. I didn’t want to accept that-who would? I asked if she de-wormed him and she said she had a few days ago when she first noticed his belly getting round.
The next 24 hours were spent in a mad dash to see if there was anything we could do to save Tater's life. Part two shares our roller coaster ride with you.
©2012 Maria S. Chased up a tree by a Pit Bull, this kitty needed help-and FAST!
In the past week Maria, our amazing foster mom in Georgia, has kept running into cats who need a helping hand. My rescue, Kitten Associates, has offered to help take on every cat she's found so far. All but one of these cats came from the SAME property. To date we've rescued 5 kittens and one adult. Though we have few resources, we're making room. Somehow it will all sort out. We can't and won't look away when a cat needs us.
©2012 Maria S. Maria-super-cat-lady to the rescue!
When Maria contacted me about a cat who was up a tree and needed rescue, I couldn't believe it. It seems this year more than any I can remember, there are cats coming out of the woodwork-and now are they raining down from above? There are so many kittens that are turning up alone on a neighbor's front steps-even my own cousin found one in her yard, lost and sick-so covered with ticks he almost died. Thankfully she was able to get him the care he needed in time and he will be going to a rescue in eastern CT today.
©2012 Maria S. & Robin A.F. Olson. You MUST listen to the voiceover on this cute video of Maria saving little Willow.
We had to act quickly. Maria, with the aid of her neighbor, whose voice over on the video below is quite amusing, managed to get the kitty down without too much trouble. Sadly, it was very clear that this kitty was sick. Flea covered, dirty, with a runny nose and tearing eyes. The cat kept gulping, a reflex from having too much mucus in her sinuses.
©2012 Maria S. It looks like Willow is telling Maria she's scared.
We couldn't know if this was someone's cat. She was very friendly so she'd known humans, but where was her family? If she had one, why did they let her get so sick? Why was she so thin?
Maria looked at the cat's abdomen. Her nipples were a bit swollen. One expressed a tiny bit of milk. As Maria was relaying this information to me we both realized this could be another “Amberly”-a found friendly stray who had kittens in the area. Finding Amberly's kittens was truly a miracle, but could we do it again?
©2012 Maria S. Getting some much needed rest.
I had Maria take the cat to the Vet. We'd sort everything out later. The Vet did the exam. The cat, who we named Willow (thanks to a suggestion by our friend Judy), just rolled over and wanted to be loved. She didn't care about being sick, she just wanted to be petted. This kitty was so darling we all fell in love with her on the spot.
The Vet didn't feel she was pregnant and if she had kittens she was mostly dried up to the point that they are probably weaned by now. Sadly, we have no idea where Willow came from, but the following day Maria did put a harness on the little cat and walked her around the area, hoping Willow would lead her to her family. None were found.
©2012 Maria S. Willow loves the Vet!
Maria also asked around the neighborhood, but no one had seen the cat before. Willow was either lost or dumped. Whatever happened to her, we'll keep her safe and hopefully in time she will recover from her illness. She's been too stuffed up to smell her food so Maria has syringe fed her for a few days. This morning she's starting to improve enough to eat some on her own. She's still rolling over to get belly rubs. Whoever had her must have been kind to her at some point.
I hope Maria doesn't find any more cats who need help. We're really full up and funds are low-even with the awesome amount of donations we just got in. We have to be careful so we'll have enough for everyone as their need arises.
©2012 Maria S. Another unsprayed female, barely a kitten herself, needs our help, too.
P.S. Maria gave me the OK to show her to all of you in her PJs. She was glad she wore the ones with the kitties on them.
©2012 Maria S. Lucky for him, Maria saw this poor little kitten laying in the street when she was driving home from work.
I just got these disturbing images of a VERY WEAK, sick, flea-infested, 4 week old kitten who is barely alive. He's VERY THIN and too weak to run off. Maria found him, along with his sister in the SAME YARD as where we just rescued a mama cat and 3 of her kittens a month ago. These folks have a track record of NOT caring for their cats at all. Last time two of the kittens we were going to rescue "disappeared" and were never seen again! We can't let that happen a second time so we've offered to take these two kittens before they DIE!
©2012 Maria S. This poor little guy couldn't even stand.
We MUST get some funding to help provide for immediate Vet care (which will cost more money, but we can't wait until Wednesday to get them to our low cost Vet), along with funds to provide for their future Vet care.
There are TWO kittens. I only have photos of the one right now. The other is a shy Tortie!
©2012 Maria S. How can the person who is supposed to be caring for this kitten NOT NOTICE the little guy is SICK???
The donation you provide to this Emergency Rescue is TAX-DEDUCTIBLE as we are a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Cat Rescue.
If you'd prefer to send a check, please make it out to: Kitten Associates and please note on the check the funds should go to "Two Kittens Fund" mail it to:
P.O. Box 354
Newtown, CT 06470-0354
Any funds not used for the care of this family will go into our General Fund.
©2012 Maria S. What did he ever do to deserve this?
After having to re-schedule three times over the past month, this morning I dragged my weary butt out of bed and took the Kittens in Black to visit the Vet. Sabrina and Black Beauty are getting spayed (as I write this) and the others are getting their Distemper Combo booster vaccination. Normally, I'd be assisting on the spay surgeries, but I admit to feeling grateful they didn't need me today. I've had the kittens since they were a week old. The idea of doing things to them that I know will make them uncomfortable and cause them pain is very difficult to accept. These procedures must be done, but can't I sit in the other room and not watch this time?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sabrina this morning before I took her to her spay appointment.
The kittens are growing rapidly and I need to get them all adopted soon before they lose that super cute kitten quality. The problem is I don't have time to get them adopted!
A week from today I'll be packing for my trip to Salt Lake City, Utah where I'll be a Speaker at BlogPaws. The only problem with this is: 1. I'm terrified of flying. Just thinking of it makes me want to throw up. The last time I flew this far was in 2000. 2. My computer hard drive died and I couldn't work for the past 4 days which puts me way behind schedule for getting things ready for the trip. 3. I got some freakish food poisoning a week ago and haven't been able to shake it (sorry for the almost gross pun). 4. I am so stressed out about traveling, not having enough time or money that I'm sure I'm making myself sicker and I'm not sleeping well (partially due to Jackson the cat's random early morning yowling).
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Don't you want to adopt me?
The good news is that I'm up for TWO BlogPaws Nose-to-Nose Awards and the event will be streamed live a week from Saturday! I don't know if you have to be a paid registrant to view the festivities, but once I find out I'll let you all know since it was all of YOU who got me the nominations for Best Meow Blog and Best Blog Writing!
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Dahlia wants money to buy a catnip tea. She's such a gold digger!
I'm trying to sort through applications and find good adopters. I really need an assistant. Between making calls to the adopters, the vets, doing a background check, then trying to co-ordinate home visits and having the adopters come here, get cats to the Vet and put them on Petfinder, leaves me little time for anything else. I've been trying to get volunteers, but I'm starting to wonder if I don't have a good gene for volunteer-finding. It's been over a year and I have one person I can count on to help with adoption events. I need to find time to get some volunteers..sort of ironic, now that I think about it.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Cutie Patootie wants to know where breakfast is and why it's late (answer, you're going to the Vet, don't back talk your foster mom!).
I got an update on the Kittens in Black's mama, April. She's doing very well and has gained a FEW POUNDS now that she is on her own in foster care. April's been spayed and though her foster family loves her, they're not sure they can adopt her. I hope it works out for April because this family also adopted April's daughter, Bon Bon!
©2012 Helen T. Bon Bon.
Bon Bon is doing very well and loves that she can spend time with her mother and her new friend, Wolfie (who is not too sure about Bon Bon but he's warming up to her). I'm told that Bon Bon is very confident, playful and affectionate.
Our family in Georgia, Cami, the feral mama and her kittens Coco, ChiChi and Choco have also experienced a few changes.
Cami is feral. There was no warming up to her, though Maria tried very hard to work with Cami and to socialize her. We realized the best thing for Cami was to find her a guardian, but finding homes for feral cats can be a tall order to fill.
©2012 Maria S. Cami, off to her new forever home-where she'll get three squares and a warm cot.
Because we recently changed the Vet we use in Georgia, Maria met with a Vet named Dr. Ann. Dr. Ann did the initial exam of Cami (if you want to call watching a cat fly around a room, hissing and spitting an exam) and told Maria that she'd recently had to put one of her barn cats down and was open to the idea of taking in another one.
©2012 Maria S. We're all sad that Cami couldn't live indoors, but this is the best possible outcome for her. If she only knew how lucky she was!
It was too good to be true, so Maria and I vowed to keep quiet about it until Cami was ready to be spayed. We had her spayed last week and Dr. Ann took her to her home on Saturday. Cami didn't give Maria any trouble and Dr. Ann will keep Cami in a big crate in the barn for a few weeks so she'll get used to her new home. To have a Vet adopt one of our cats-especially one who is feral is simply outstanding! We're very grateful Dr. Ann was willing to take Cami on and now Cami will have a safe place to live and a full belly. She won't be left to fend for herself. It's a great outcome.
©2012 Maria S. The gang. Coco, Choco and ChiChi (far right).
The kittens are doing well, though ChiChi remains very small and underweight. I'm hoping she'll catch up at some point, but her siblings are almost a pound heavier than she is and that does worry me. Maria tells me they all play and eat well. She de-wormed them (right, Maria?!) and otherwise they seem to be thriving.
©2012 Maria S. Our little (and first!) flame point, Coco.
Jackson Galaxy-the cat continues to yowl late at night or early in the morning, but each day it's less and less. He's attacked most of my cats at least once. I rarely ever see things heat up so I don't know who started it or why it's happening. My cats give him a lot of space, but I also see them sitting a foot away from him looking out the same window or sleeping not far apart. I see Jackson wanting to play, but some toys scare him. He loves to chase after a stuffed carrot cat toy or the laser pointer, but he doesn't like feathers or strings waved in his face.
©2012 Maria S. Goofy Choco.
Jackson slept on the foot of the bed the other night, which was a very surprising sight. A few of my cats didn't come to bed that night, which wasn't very surprising. I realize they have to work out who gets what space and that takes time. Day to day things are better. Jackson's rough coat is getting silky. His feline acne is going away. He loves to give head butts and kisses and even let me pick him up for a few seconds, but he weighs almost 15 pounds so he's not so easy to lift him anyway.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson enjoying the view of the woods.
And finally, King. King is doing well. We ordered his Leggings for Life to cover his back legs. King's back legs end an inch short and he has no back paws. We want to cover his back legs so the ends of the legs, which end in a callus, don't get scraped or bruised. Personally, I hope these things come in cool colors!
©2012 Maria S. Belly rub, please!
King has been living with Maria's other cats and gets along great with all of them-even the dog! (you can read King's back story HERE and HERE) I still can't believe this handsome boy came from living outdoors on his own at a palette factory!
I'm hoping that King's forever home is out there and will find him soon. King's been waiting for six months, but until the time for him to go to his family, at least he's safe and happy and getting a requisite number of belly rubs each day.
I brought Jackson home three weeks ago, on the heels of Bobette, our former foster, being adopted (and who's doing marvelously well with her new mama, JaneA Kelley of Paws & Effect).
Jackson wasn't interested in being confined to “his room” from the get go. He was ready to meet everyone and get himself settled. After just two days to decompress, I followed his lead and let him out of his room. He'd already been vetted, tested, in a home-not a shelter. I thought it would be all right to give it a chance.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My sad foster kitty, Jackson Galaxy, a few days after he arrived.
I had the Feliway diffuser plugged in and all the cats had already been on Spirit Essences for a few weeks. I expected hissing and difficulty and was ready to calmly move Jackson back to his room if problems arose.
But they didn't…at least not right away.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson LOVES raw food.
Jackson began to vocalize, a lot. His powerful meow carried throughout the house. Some of my cats reacted to it, but mostly they just ignored it. After Bobette and her attacks on any cat who came close to her I think they were ready for anything but Jackson just walked around with his tail up in the air, yowling. He didn't bother with any of the cats. A few tried to give him a quick sniff when he passed by, but he gave them a look which told them to back off.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Ever elegant, Jaks points his paw as he has his morning bath.
I took some time to get to know Jackson. He's a tall cat with a big “Biscuit Head” from being neutered late in life. He weighs almost 14 pounds, but he's lean. He's quick to purr or “burble” when I pet him. He loves to give head butts, but he's not big on being held and so far he's not a lap cat. In some ways he's a bit like a dog-he likes to follow me around the house. He likes to be near the action, but I could tell he was looking for a place to call his own within my home. With 8 resident cats that was not an easy thing to do.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Mr. Handsome settling in on the cat tree.
I tried to find a balance between allowing Jackson his freedom to roam around and to give my own cats some peace and quiet. I knew that having a new cat in the house would cause problems and it did. Nicky unleashed a torrent of urine all over the house. Even though he had no contact with Jackson, it didn't matter. He was distressed and displeased. Again I had to search for balance while my cats worked out what to make of this stranger in white.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. High four.
Each night I “tucked” Jackson into his room, but after an hour or two he'd start to yowl and bang on the door to get out. I tried to tough it out. If he made a fuss and I got up, I'd be training him to make a fuss so I would get up. Instead, I didn't sleep.
I didn't get much sleep for two weeks.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Feeling blue.
Then I started to wonder if Jackson was sick or that something happened to him in his last home. He didn't care to be touched on his side and would warn me to stop with a nip to my hand. At rest, the rise and fall of his chest looked odd, not smooth and fluid but hitched. Jacks eyes were a bit runny-one stuck closed on and off for a day. He was still eating well, but seemed down. I knew I'd have to run him to see Dr. Larry. My guess-list of what was bothering Jackson was growing. Did he have HCM? Upper Respiratory? Allergy? Heart or lungworms? He's from the south. It's possible.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Kiss-face.
And then the fights began. I didn't see them, but I heard them. One by one, Jackson was asserting himself with my cats, letting them know he was the boss. Each confrontation lasted a few seconds, but it was enough to change the hierarchy of the cats for good.
None of the cats were injured, but there were plenty of clumps of fur on the rugs-none of it was Jackson's. This surprised me because I'd heard that Jackson was picked on, which was why he was surrendered. Perhaps he'd had enough from being picked on before or the family wasn't up front with what really happened. My cats gave him a wide berth, but as each day passes I see him sitting calmly in close proximity to one or more of the cats and the fighting stopped almost as soon as it began.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Life is so tough here in foster care. Don't let me keep you up, Jacks.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Burrito-boy.
Jackson's coat feels a lot better and his feline acne is almost gone. He actually enjoys it when I clean his chin. When I'm done cleaning him off, I lean down and he gives me a few head butts, purring loudly. Jackson's had some rough days. There are times when I reach out to pet him that he shrinks back in fear and runs off. I think someone must have hit him, which makes me sad and more protective of him than ever. When I think about all the care that goes into raising kittens so they never react like that to being petted, I wonder what sort of hellish life this cat may have had.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This big guy just wants some love.
If you're interested in adopting Jackson, visit Kitten Associates Adopt Page and fill out a Pre Adoption Application. Also, please read our Adoption Policies regarding diet, declawing and more. Jackson's forever family should live within or in one of the states surrounding Connecticut-United States of America. For the right adopter, we're open to discussing an adoption that's further out of state, but use your good judgement regarding appropriate distance. As an extra treat, Mr. Jackson Galaxy has graciously offered a 15 minute consult to the person or family who adopts this marvelous kitty.
We're also still looking for a great home for King. We've had NO applications for him and he's been with us for six months. King LOVES people, cats and dogs. He just needs to live with carpeting so he can get around. King was born without his hind paws, but is quite mobile and playful. He just can't “do” hardwood floors.
Last month I wrote Save Your Cat's Life with a Question, about how to work WITH your Vet, not just listen to what is told to you and follow orders accordingly. You have to do the research, push back, ASK QUESTIONS. YOU know your cat better than anyone else and it's up to YOU to take ownership of what's ailing your cat and make certain you understand both what your Vet is telling you and agree with any treatments or medications being handed out. It's easy to just let the Vet dictate, then find out later they were either way off base, want to use “off-label” medications on your cat, or don't tell you about the potential side effects.
I got a lot of comments about that post and one email I got from reader, Juli, really made me take notice. With her permission, I am able to share it with you.
Juli wrote (I edited very slightly):
I am a Rescuer, so I have a lot of experience with sick, under the weather and cats that hide that there is something wrong. Well, to try to make 5 long stories shorter, I 'll probably omit a lot of info (easier to tell the stories than type). #1~Greyson was 15 yrs old, the vet said to prepare myself (he was my favorite), he wouldnt last another month. He said he had cancer. He lived to be 17 1/2!!
#2~ Orange was a male who was diagnosed with FIV after he was tested 2 years before that (neg-that is another story). When he was about 4, he stopped eating (he ate and pooped every hour !!). I knew immediately something was wrong. He spent 4 nights in hospital, the last night he had ripped his IV out of his vein but not out of his arm so he had like 300 mls floating freely in his arm. It was very painful and no one was at the clinic overnight. When I came in at 9am to see him and try to coax him to eat, I saw his arm and he had urine all over him. I told them to clean him up, get my meds and I will take him home. They had 3 different vets come in separately to try to talk me out of taking him home and putting him to sleep right now. Well, needless to say, antibiotics and pain meds was the answer. He got better and was his usual self…for another 2 yrs !
#3~ Barkley was 19 yrs old and spit up blood. I rushed him to the vet who said he was too old for surgery so no matter what was wrong (teeth or tumor), he'd have to be put to sleep now. I refused and asked for antibiotics in case it was a tooth problem. They looked at me like I was crazy and gave it to me since I wasn't going to be spending any money on a surgery. Barkley got better and lived another 11 months !
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Princess FiFi. One of our rescues who was deathly ill from an upper respiratory infection. Princess is happy and healthy today and living in North Carolina.
#4~Cube, who was 14 yrs old in 2009, was drooling so I took him to the vet. They told me he needed $1200.00 surgery to save his life. I didn't have $1200.00 right then so I asked for antibiotics and pain meds and took him home. It is 2012 and Cube is sleeping on the bed upstairs.
And #5~Quills was rescued May 30, 1997 at 3 months old, in the pouring rain, snot closing both nostrils, eyes crusted shut and crying at the top of his little lungs, in the middle of a grassy field. We rushed him to the Vet. He had lifelong upper respiratory infections. Nothing ever took it away. He got antibiotics and prednisone for life (on & off). Every time he'd go to the vet, they'd take X-rays and always say "no he doesn't have asthma" I'd say; “Even though he has all the symptoms?”.
Long story short, vet gave him 2 puffs of inhaler, his breathing rate went from 60 to 30 breaths a minute !! They couldn't argue about it anymore, that was proof he had asthma! All this time, 15 years of wrong meds, stuffed up nose and hard breathing for 15 yrs. 2 years before he was finally diagnosed correctly, I had rushed him in to ER at like 4am. They tried to talk me into putting him to sleep right then and tried to make me feel guilty that I wasn't doing what they said to do. Quills lived 4 years after this incident. His best years were once he had his own inhaler and could breathe like everyone else. I hate when I hear about when a vet tells people theres no other hope and they are suffering…”
I'm telling you to take a breath when the Vets says; “there is no hope.” Ask questions. Be your cat's advocate and you'll never look back with regret over the choices you make regarding her health.
As this post was about to go live, I got a note from Juli. Her cat, Cory, who was spayed when she was 10 months old (because she was a PREGNANT stray at just 6 months of age), has been diagnosed with mammary gland cancer. This type of cancer can occur when cats are spayed after six months of age. The cancer can metastasizes into the lungs and is always fatal. Cory is just 10 years old and the cancer is in her a mammary gland and under one of her legs. My deepest wishes for peace and love go out to Juli & Cory during this very sad time.
Note: I felt the message in this post from 2011 was worth sharing again, along with some revisions and updates. I've included helpful reference information at the end of this article you'll want to take note of and hopefully, share.
Motherhood is a sacred institution, but not if you're a cat. Motherhood can mean an end, instead of a beginning. This year, with a warm winter behind us, cats around the country bred in record numbers. “Kitten Season” which usually starts in April, began earlier. More pregnant cats have been surrendered to shelters. More are struggling to survive on the streets. More will die.
©2010 Maria Sandoval. Tansy with daughter, Pattycake. Patty and her brother, Moonpie were adopted by a big family who spare no expense on their care. They are so lucky. Update: Tansy is not doing as well. Her adopter is facing allegations of animal hoarding and Tansy has been in a North Carolina shelter, as part of a seizure of the animals in the home, waiting for a judgment since September of 2011. 2013 Update: After 2 years in a cage, Tansy, renamed Mabel is living with me, safe and sound at last!
Motherhood is the worst thing I could wish on a cat that isn't a purebred show cat (and I won't get into what I think of THAT right now). Most shelters aren't equipped to deal with pregnant cats, especially because their offspring can so easily and quickly get sick, then spread that virus through the shelter since most don't have a quarantine room. They treat newborns like hot potatoes-MUST get them OUT of the shelter and into foster homes BEFORE it's too late! Many of my previous foster cats are a very good example of that. They were born in a shelter and by the time they were 3 weeks old, they were so sick, their care cost thousands of dollars and the end result is a lifetime of waxing and waning illness. To make matter worse, if we hadn't gotten them out the day we did, they all would have been euthanized.
©2009 Henry Co. Care & Control. Cupid with “Santa's Team.” Cupid, the creamsicle-colored mama, gained 5 pounds after rescue. She almost died she was so thin from nursing her kittens. She is adopted and with a family who loves her dearly. Her best buddy is her Nanny, yes she has a Nanny and she's pals with the family dog. If you look closely, the creamy fur-blob at her feet, is my boy, Blitzen.
There's no bouquet of flowers or box of mouse-shaped treats for a mama cat within the concrete walls of animal control and the people that work there have their hands tied. I KNOW they want those cats (and dogs) out, but the numbers are rising so fast—especially this time of year, how can they keep up? Where's the town budget to add a quarantine room for newborns? Who would happily see their Property Tax go up to make this happen? Where are the guards at the doors that tell people with pregnant cats they shouldn't even step foot inside a shelter!
©2010 Henry Co. Care & Control. Our own Mazie with Chester, Polly and Cara. All were very sick for months after they got out of a shelter and all are in forever homes and doing well.
I go back to square one-we all know this: the mamas don't get to BE mama's if they're spayed. There's simply NO excuse not to spay your cat. There are low cost Spay and Neuter clinics all over the country. Many Humane Societies and Municipal Shelters will offer low cost vouchers. You're doing your cat (or dog) a HUGE disservice leaving it intact. Not only is the cat apt to get mammary cancer and tumors in the uterus and ovaries, but spaying avoids birth complications. Your cat will greatly reduce its chances of getting FIV+ or Feline Leukemia. But most importantly, you're preventing MORE cats from being born into a world that cannot handle them-there are TOO MANY CATS and NOT ENOUGH HOMES.
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. Rose, Poppy and Daisy.
We've got to stop this nonsense. We've got to make sure our neighbors stop this nonsense and take care of their cats, females AND males. We have to tell our neighbor why they MUST do the right thing and make sure it gets done and not just wag a finger at them, help them. Offer to pay for their spay. Offer to drive the cat to the clinic and pick it up afterwards. Do whatever it takes. Just ONE LESS MAMA means potentially hundreds of less cats! It takes more than a village, but even if it's just a handful of people who do this, it's a great start.
Maybe someday, not in my lifetime, but someday, we won't have cat overpopulation and allowing cats to have kittens will be thoughtfully controlled. Until then, we need to truly revere Motherhood and respect it and respect the fact that some times NOT being a Mother is the smartest and most appropriate thing we can do.
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. “Last Chance”-Angel with her son, Spyder.
Today, I sit here feeling sick. I already know there are thousands of Mama cats who have already given birth now that spring is here. Personally, my little rescue group can't even take ONE family in unless we get some foster homes. As for the other rescues, they are full up, overloaded, scrambling to help as many as they can, but with thirteen new mamas at ONE shelter in Georgia and half a dozen at another, WHERE are these cats going to go?
©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. CallaLily and her babies. Callie is doing great in her new home.
I can tell you. They are not going anywhere. They won't even live to see Mother's Day.
Where we're overjoyed if a woman is “expecting,” but if a cat, or dog becomes pregnant, odds are, if those animals aren't in a safe and loving home that will care for them, they'll be given up to a shelter and soon, we'll kill them.
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. “Huggy Mama”, Dash & Snuggles. All got adopted TOGETHER! Yes, all three!
Let's make it a better world for our cats and show them how much we really DO respect and care for them by making certain they're ALL spayed and neutered.
No more Mothers, please.
If you'd like to find a Low Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic here are some resources. There are MANY MORE OUT THERE. Odds are, check with the biggest Humane Society in your area and they will also either have a program, or know where you can find one. A few minutes of research online will save you hundreds of dollars AND you'll be doing the right thing for your cat.
ASPCA & PetSmart Charities® Database for locations in the USA
North Shore Animal League's SpayUSA
Live in Georgia? Try Spay Georgia.
Leo survived the first night at Aslan's Cats, though Hilary told us he wasn't interested in eating after the long trip. She got him settled into a large pink cage in the spare bedroom. I thought he should be locked away from other cats since he has a bad upper respiratory infection, but at least they couldn't get to him or vice versa. There were two or three cats in the room sitting on a bed looking up at Leo. Leo wasn't too thrilled to see them, but he was too sick to make a fuss.
©2012 Hilary Harris. Leo's first night.
The next morning, Hilary took Leo to the Vet. They felt he no longer needed to be on an IV and sent him back to Aslan's to recover. There wasn't any news from Hilary the following day and many of us started to worry. In fact a few folks involved in getting the message out about Leo started to flip out and make all sorts of accusations about Hilary and that she was nuts, that cats at Aslan's die (well DUH, they have feline leukemia!) and that it's a terrible place.
I didn't know who these people were or why they were making such declarations after many other people online spoke lovingly about Hilary and how selfless she was, caring for so many terminally ill cats.
©2012 Hilary Harris. Leo visits the Vet.
That same morning the news broke that Animalkind, a cat rescue not 20 minutes from Aslan's in Hudson, New York had a fire and the resulting sprinkler damage destroyed the interior of the 4 story building, forcing the shelter workers to evacuate and find temporary homes for 150 cats. I thought that maybe Hilary was with them, offering to help with the cats. I wanted to think the best of her. She seemed very bright and friendly and most of the cats looked to be in good shape at Aslan's, but why weren't we getting updates?
Two days later there was word. Leo was eating on his own and doing a little bit better as each day passed! Leo has a long road ahead of him, but he's survived through what may have been the worst of it. It's far too soon to know if Leo will be strong and well again or if he'll relapse, but one thing's for sure. I'll be staying in touch with Hilary and will go visit him when I travel to Hudson to help out with the rebuiding at Animalkind in a week or so.
©2012 Hilary Harris. A bit step-eating on his own!
I wonder where Leo came from, if his family is looking for him or if they dumped him when they moved? I'm grateful he found compassion (and Vet care!) through Gina and her husband. It was enough good to tip the balance of how bad his life had become. It doesn't erase the cruelty for there will be scars and a shortened life from having Feline Leukemia, but now he has found love and a safe place to live. You can count on that.
There are times when something happens that stops you cold in your tracks. Whatever pressing engagements you had fall to the wayside without guilt or concern. You're driven by a mixture of shock and adrenaline. You must act immediately, even though you're not sure what to do.
On Saturday, April 28th, a couple noticed a cat wandering outside their apartment. The cat walked oddly and was very thin, but seemed to know they were there and didn't run away. When they got closer to the cat, they saw something so shocking they were stunned into silence.
The ginger tabby's eyes were sealed shut by a crust of some sort. His nose must have been running for a long time which caused it to seal shut, as well.
One of the saddest things I've ever seen. This is what Leo looked like when he was discovered. Click to view the image and click again to hide the image, BUT BE WARNED IT'S GRAPHIC and may upset you.
It's easy for some people to come up with a reason to look away-to not help an animal in need. They may not have money or time or experience in knowing what to do. This couple didn't have a cat, nor could they have one in their apartment, but that didn't stop them from helping a cat they'd only just met. They carefully approached the cat, who turned out to be very friendly, even though he could not see them. It didn't take them long to realize they needed to get this cat to the Vet right away.
Leo after his face was cleaned for the first time. No one even knew if he could see or if he'd gone blind from the horrific upper respiratory infection he was battling.
They named him Leo.
Leo was in sorry shape. The Vet began to carefully clean away the crusts covering his eyes and nose. Leo was too weak to make a fuss. He had probably been unable to eat for long time. They put him on an IV and a combination of antibiotics. The protocol for vetting an unknown cat is to perform a combo test to test for FIV+ and Feline Leukemia, so they did that, too. The test came back positive for Feline Leukemia which is contagious to other cats and ultimately fatal. Leo was also neutered, which meant he had a home at some point, but where was his family now?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Leo under the lights at Home Depot.
As with every positive test, Leo would need to be re-tested at a later date to prove his Leukemia positive status, but the problem was that there was no where for this cat to go-IF he survived treatment. Who would take a Feline Leukemia positive cat who was battling a horrific upper respiratory infection? Maybe Leo would be better off if they euthanized him?
Calls were made, emails sent out. All the rescue groups in Long Island alerted all the rescues in New York and Connecticut. They needed a foster home or an amazing adopter or an amazing rescue to take this cat on, knowing full well he would require expensive Vet care. They chose to try to save his life if they could find a place for him to go. When I saw the photos of Leo, my heart broke. I couldn't do much, but I contacted Gina, who rescued Leo and told her about Aslan's Cats Sanctuary in upstate New York. Their rescue takes only feline leukemia positive cats. Maybe they could help?
I also offered to help transport Leo to Aslan's should it come to pass.
Leo was on an IV for a few days. Gina and her husband got a bill for $1500.00. When I told them we'd do a fundraiser, they said to donate any money to Aslan's because Leo will need much more Vet care and they had secured a placement for him there…and oh, by the way, could I drive two hours north that very night? Leo was stable enough to be moved.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our first real look at this lovely “apple-head Tom.”
So barely twelve hours after I first heard about Leo, I was driving to the Home Depot in Brewster, New York (along with Sam) to meet Gina by 8:30pm. Gina bought a crate for Leo and a blanket that she wanted to donate to Aslan's. She gave me his paperwork and I peeked inside his carrier. His eyes were open just a bit, which was an improvement over the last photo I'd seen, but he looked like he was in rough shape. His right front leg was bandaged. I could see he still had a catheter in his leg. It reminded me of my cat, Bob, which immediately made me feel sad. I started to pray Leo would not die before I got him up to Catskill, New York where Aslan's is located, but I had a two hour drive ahead of me and plenty of time to worry.
I-84 and I-87 have seen better days. There were bumps and potholes aplenty. I kept saying “I'm sorry.” to Leo since I needed to drive “enthusiastically” if I was going to get to Catskill before 11pm, but driving at highway speeds made every bump even more obvious. Leo didn't make a fuss. I always consider that a bad sign when a cat is quiet in the car.
About 30 minutes into the drive I heard an odd sound, then I heard it again. I realized Leo was wheezing, but it was not the sort of wheeze I had ever heard before. Since I was driving I kept asking Sam to check on Leo. Is he sitting up? Is he looking fairly comfortable? Is his nose running? Is he ALIVE?
Leo was uncomfortable but did not appear to be in any danger. I made good time and we arrived at Asland's at a few minutes after 10 pm. Hilary Harris, the Director, met us with open arms. She's the kind of person you can warm up to right away. I brought up some of my Halo Spot's Stew canned food donation to offer her and we started talking about appropriate food for cats. We talked shop. She introduced us to many of the cats-and there are 60 of them. She knew every name and where every cat came from. It felt peaceful there, but I felt very sad, too. Here is a house full of cats who have a terminal illness. Many will never have a home to call their own, but being at Asland's is a very good option for them. [I'm going to go into more detail about Aslan's Sanctuary at another time because they deserve a blog post solely about what they do and about the tragedy that befell them last autumn.]
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Leo, severely underweight and weak, gets a lift from Sam.
I finally got a chance to see Leo for a moment as Sam lifted him out of the carrier and placed him into a nebulizer tank, which is basically a plastic tub with a tight fitting lid. There's a hole in one side for a tube to enter the tub, which is attached to a nebulizer. It's a way to deliver medicine to the sinuses and lungs that will help decongest Leo and ease his breathing. It's also very unnerving for a cat, but it had to be done.
As Leo got his treatment, we got to know each other. Hilary told us she could have lived offsite from Asland's but prefers to live with the cats. She has a small bedroom and tinier office space in Victorian home she shares with the cats. There are few human comforts. It's all about the cats and keeping them happy.
Everywhere we went the cats followed us, reaching out for attention. I was slow to touch them, thinking about how I was going to decontaminate myself and not bring anything into my own home later that night. After awhile I forgot about the URI's or the leukemia. They were all sweet kitties who needed the same love any cat did. I wished it wasn't so late so we could have stayed longer, but Leo needed to get settled and the next morning he was due to go to a new Vet for more supportive therapy and another checkup. We said our farewells and as the rain began to tickle our shoulders, Sam and I got back into my car as I set the GPS for HOME.
More on Leo and his struggle to survive tomorrow…
In this follow-up to my post, “Save Your Cat's Life with a Question”, I wanted to share with you some resources you can use to help guide you in making proper choices for your cat's care. Please note: there are certain situations where you do NOT have time to do research. Please use common sense to determine what is most appropriate. The information below is a partial list of what you can find on the internet. When in doubt, keep looking, the answers are out there.
One of our friends wrote a comment yesterday about her cat who was mis-diagnosed with liver failure: “On day 7 I heard my cat screaming in my bedroom & ran in to see him in the cat box. He pooped out a poop that was rock solid about 8 or 9 inches long AND it contained a blue wal-mart bag. MY CAT ATE A PLASTIC BAG! OMG!!! I scooped it up into a plastc baggie & Monday morning I took it to the vet office & gave it to the vet & said - here is your liver failure!
The vet did not do any blookwork on my cat, even though his belly was rock hard & solid, they never offered an xray or ultrasound. Had they done an xray or an ultrasound they would have seen the obstruction. I did not know enough to ask for it or even question the hard belly. The Vet did not offer an opinion on it after the physical exam so I assumed it was caused by his being jaundiced. My opinion, the vet never looked past the jaundice & just assumed cuz he was a big cat, he was in liver failure even though he had never had any issues like this ever before. ”
This is why you must exercise due diligence and do the research: ask questions, make phone calls, email friends and colleagues. This poor person thought her cat was going to die of liver failure at any moment, but the symptoms didn't add up. Now she knows better to ASK more questions and be a better cat-vocate!
©2010 Bobby Stanford. MacGruber getting checked out. (He was adopted with non-sibling kitten, Polly Picklepuss)
There are support groups online available for just about any disease or disorder you can think of where you can dig deeper and get even more information. Your Vet can't sit with you for hours and go over every detail. It's up to you to do the leg work so you can understand what your Vet believes is going on and so you can compare those findings with other cats who suffer from the same issues and/or test results. MANY of these groups have a presence on Facebook, so look there, too.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. the DOOD waiting for Dr. Larry (he can't fit into that cat carrier he got from his Aunt Elke any more!)
(This is NOT a complete list, but it will get you started):
FELINE CHRONIC RENAL FAILURE (also heart problems included)
FURTHER KIDNEY DISEASE & RENAL FAILURE LINKS
MORE LINKS FOR FELINE ASTHMA
Cornell University Feline Health Center
Dr. Louis J. Camuti Memorial Consulation Service via Cornell University. This is a fee-based phone consultation service that can provide you with a second opinion. I've used the service and found it to be very helpful and the Vets on staff are very caring and compassionate.
WINN FELINE FOUNDATION-currently working on Anti-immune evasive therapy for FIP, as well as decontamination of textiles exposed to ringworm (man, do I need that info!).
Doctors Foster & Smith Information Center. This is not a shameless plug for a retail operation, but I include them because their reference area is very good. I've used it specifically to get information on how to read my cat's blood work. I found the information very easy to understand and well written. Just try not to buy something while you're doing research because you'll certainly be tempted.
A key factor in getting your cat the care she needs is to make sure your Vet is on top of the latest information regarding your cat's issues. All major Universities have research programs, as well as many take on cats as clients just as a “regular” Vet would do. Spending some time looking up what the Universities are researching may lead you to being able to have your cat be part of a study or you may get valuable information that will make a difference in your cat's future.
Here's a short list of Universities with research programs. If you want to see a longer list, you can visit the Ranking of the Top Vet Schools of 2011
UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Research -they are currently researching FIP.
Tufts University, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
Penn Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (they have been doing kidney transplants here for over 10 years)
Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine
North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine
I will say this until I'm blue in the face-avoid MANY of your cat's health issues by feeding a species appropriate diet!
Feline Nutrition Education Society (MUST READ! Great reference material and insightful articles on many different health issues that are effected by diet)
Cat Info by Dr Lisa Pierson, DVM (she was my inspiration for changing my cat's diet and FNES helped refine my understanding.)
©2011 Bobby Stanford. Vet with Phil (who was later adopted & nicknamed, Poppy).
Pardon my use of the word “alternative,” because here in the USA we are so very “western-medicine-centric,” but I'm not sure what would describe these therapies better. There are certain medical issues that benefit greatly from these additional therapies and I encourage you to look into it. I've had great results with homeopathy and kittens with upper respiratory, as well as with reducing anxiety in my cats and I know a few people who swear that acupuncture helps ease their pet's discomfort with joint issues.
That said, as with anything else, do the research, understand the limitations of the type of medicine you're investigating. The thing that's really great about many of these therapies is that they work with the natural order of how the body works. They don't utilize antibiotics, do surgery and, in theory, make your cat feel worse. It doesn't treat all maladies and often times you still need to work with your “Western Vet” depending on the issue. These types of Vets include: Homeopathic Veterinarians, Holistic Veterinarians, Acupuncturists, Vets who specialize in Traditional Chinese & Western Herbal Medicine & Chiropractors. I believe most of these Vets have a “traditional” Veterinary background before they specialize.
Homeopathic Vets can be found via the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy
or by looking up Homeopathic Vets in you area.
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association has a search form that includes the following modalities: Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Homeopathy, Chinese herbs and Western herbs.
Additional LINKS for finding Holistic Vets
Jackson Galaxy said something to me when we were at dinner a few weeks ago. He spoke passionately about the importance of sharing information, whether it be how to give SubQ fluids to a fractious cat or how to medicate a kitten. He has a great deal of respect for people who have been “in the trenches” for years. What they've learned about working with cats needs to be shared. To paraphrase what he meant; “It hurts everyone if there's only one person who really knows every single way to trap a feral cat. We have to share our knowledge. No one should be a gate-keeper.”
So with that in mind, I hope this information helps you and your kitty have a much better, safer, happier and healthier life together.