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Cats Shows and Breeders and Haters, oh My.

I like to think I’m open-minded. I try to give everything and everyone a chance, resisting the temptation to make a judgment about an issue based on little or no facts. With my life, via this blog, being part of the fabric of social media, I find that people are very willing to express their feelings about what experiences I've written about and can be quick to make negative comments. It gives me pause. It makes me wonder if I should not write any more or if it’s worth it to constantly open myself up to a volley of negativity.

As always, I will go to my center, where my goal is simply to tell my story and through my experiences possibly educate anyone who takes the time to read these words. Success AND failure is something we learn from. My ups and downs are like anyone else’s, except for that they’re a lot more public and open to scrutiny.

I ask that you remain open-minded as I tell this tale because I know it’s a minefield and may fill some of you with a lot of strong emotions ready to fire off, but I have to speak my peace.

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It’s been a very long time since I’ve left the house for more than a few hours, and even a longer time since I’ve gone anywhere overnight. As much as I love my cats and Sam, I needed a break.

I was supposed to attend an animal rescue related conference in early April, but I got the flu the day before I was to leave. I was so sick I didn’t do anything for three weeks other than lay in bed and feel miserable. I was so angry, feeling robbed of my one tiny chance to get away. I cursed at the sky and asked whoever the Big Boss is, why, someone who helps others, who is so poor, who works so hard, gets the flu the one day she is supposed to do something for herself (which in truth will help others since she’ll learn things about rescuing cats).

I still had one more trip to look forward to this year and I decided early on that I’d get there, no matter what. I’d been invited to attend a cat show in Massachusetts as a Guest Judge. Judge? Cat Show Judge? Me?

Not only that, but little Freya, our pooping-wonder-cat, was invited to be the Guest Cat! If I wanted to, I could show her in the Household Pet Cat division. Did I? Gosh, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but it also was an opportunity to educate people about the importance of saving the life of a cat who was deemed “un-savable.”

Freya is our Mascot after all. It’s through her that we were able to help save more kittens with atresia ani and put a spotlight on the importance of helping kittens with birth defects reach a happy adulthood.

Okay. I decided to give it a try.

I know what some of you are going to be thinking, and you’ve already voiced your opinion on my Facebook page about how cruel showing cats is and that any animal breeder should be punished, their animals not paraded around to the benefit of their owners and that how could I, as the President & Founder of Kitten Associates, dare do that to our Mascot, leaving her terrified in a tiny cage while waiting to be judged?

Cat show poster 1094410968 o

I’d have to admit that before I attended the cat show, I did have reservations. Sure, I’d been to cat shows plenty of times before, but only to oooh and ahhh over the pretty pedigreed felines and buy cat toys. I thought about how many cats are in kill-shelters, how many are starving and dying horrible deaths and that cat breeders just made the problem worse by adding more cats to the population problem.

I’d heard stories about breeders euthanizing cats that weren’t up to Standards, or not breeding their cats responsibly and causing birth defects or genetic health issues, then selling the cats for twisted amounts of money under the guise that they were healthy and robust.

 

I’m sure that there are those of you who know every fact and figure to prove the point that breeding should be outlawed completely, so how dare I spend the weekend at a cat show, showing my little cat in the Household Pet Cats ring?

 

There’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye.

Firstly, there is no black and white about cat shows and breeders being all good or all bad. There are degrees of both states, just like in anything else. I did a lot of thinking about this topic as I walked around the show floor. I wanted to hate the breeders and be pro-cat-rescue, blinders firmly in place.

But then there were the cats.

Holy shit they were stunning. I thought about what the world would be like if no one preserved or created new breeds of cats (like the Napoleon who I just saw this weekend who was so cute I practically melted or the mind-blowingly magnificent orange Maine Coon with paws as big as my hands).

Baccaruda R Olson 475
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Baccaruda, one of my new BFFs gets shown. He is all fluff, all the time.

 

What if we DID outlaw breeding and all we had were what I usually see in my rescue-world—an assortment of tabbies, gray cats, lots and lots of black cats, fluffy cats, orange cats, calicos or torties, but I wouldn’t see a magnificent, mellow-minded Birman, with big white mitts, sapphire blue eyes and chocolate coloring that fades along the abdomen and darkens at the paws. I wouldn’t see a delicately proportioned, trouble-making, Singapura with a ticked coat and pale green alien-like eyes who had so much energy she was practically vibrating.

 

What goes beyond looks is that these cats are also bred for temperament. Some are chosen for being curious and playful, while others are gentle giants. I never know what I’m going to get when I rescue a cat. Usually they’re sick, thin, full of fleas. When they feel better, they can sometimes become pretty obnoxious, while others might become fearful once they’re strong enough to show their true nature. I work hard to help them become confident and loving, but if they were genetically predisposed to be sweet and I knew that ahead of time, gee, there is something to be said for that.

I’m not looking to start a big argument about what is right or wrong, but I am hoping that maybe some of you will just be open-minded enough to think about a world without purebred cats and focus your anger on anyone who is cruel to animals, period.

Do I love that these cats are sold for crazy amounts of money? No.

Do I love that there ARE some cats who are stressed out of their minds and should not be shown. NO!...but we’ll talk more about that in my next post because I did see some pretty amazing changes in the cats as they quickly acclimated to their surroundings (including Freya).

Gorgeous Maine Coon R Olson 475
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Stunning Maine Coon KITTEN.

That said, I would never condone making a cat miserable just so I could show him or her off and I am clear in the fact that there are breeders who do horrific things to their cats in the name of the almighty dollar.

 

Then there’s something I’m not sure many folks consider. There are a few people who do the cat shows who would otherwise have little or no contact with anyone in society. They use their cats as bridge so they can be comfortable around others. It gives them reason to get out of their home, socialize, and make friends when they probably can’t do that very well in their day-to-day life. I honestly think it improves their mental health.

 

Is it right that cats could be seen as being used to help humans? Well then what about service dogs? Horses? Police dogs, bomb-sniffing dogs, cancer-sniffing dogs, therapy cats? Is it so different that some of these cats provide their guardians with a feeling of safety and security in social settings?

And lastly, when you look at any cat, what’s one of the first things you do after cooing over how cute it is? You try to sort out what breed it might be. I think it would be a sad world if we were reduced to describing our cats, as, well, cats or by color or fur pattern alone.

Freya Helps 475 R Olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Freya "helps" me pack up for our trip.

Slowly, over generations of not preserving breeds, we’d end up with a mixed bag of cats, who have no interesting personality traits that we can count on and probably less and less remarkable coloring or characteristics. I’m not sure what the impact would be on over-crowded shelters because the sort of people who don’t spay/neuter their cats isn’t going to change. Yes, some unscrupulous breeders dump their pet-quality kittens or adults at shelters, but my gut tells me the folks who don’t spay/neuter their cats or give kittens away for free on Craigslist without them being vetted are a bigger concern.

As humans, it’s in our nature to categorize, identify and create. Over the millennia, we have come to do that with our cats, too. We have bred cats who are sweet lap cats and cats who are glorious athletes. Just as humans are diverse, so are our cats. Do we really want to get rid of cat breeds because some breeders are rotten apples? Do we really want to close down cat shows because some of the cats experience stress for a few hours? How many cats are in homes that experience stress 24/7 due to their guardians behavior or suffer stress from the other pets in the home because they were not introduced properly or don’t have appropriate places to flee when they experience fear?

While I can’t say I love every aspect about breeding cats, maintaining a standard, or cat shows, I can say that after being part of one I see value I couldn’t see before. I hope you can, too.

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So, yeah, I judged a cat show, but first, I had to get there and let me tell you, THAT was a story in and of itself.

Warning Lights R Olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Anti-lock brake, brake and traction control warning lights come on 12 hours before I have to drive to MA. Do I stay home or risk driving a car that's about to crap out on me?

Next up…the trip from HELL, in a hateful car, with a dead phone and no way to navigate my way out of a horrific traffic jam where I was traveling at a blazing 4 MPH. How determined was I to get away for a few days after all? Maybe I should have just stayed home?

Happy Birthday to Me. The Best Gift Ever.

It’s the morning of my birthday, a fresh coating of snow outlines the branches of each tree. The temperatures dropped from the 60’s down to the 30s. The wind is picking up. It’s going to be a blustery day. Whatever plans I may have had are cancelled due to the worsening weather. I guess at my age, an age that I don’t even want to admit to, it doesn’t much matter if there is a celebration or if it’s “business as usual.” I don’t want to be old. I’m longing for my youth. I suppose that happens to most of us. We don’t have much choice. There are people who embrace their wrinkles as a badge of wisdom, but I’m not there yet.

Robin Birthday April 1963
©Robin AF Olson. Me, at 2. I was never a skinny kid.

 

On my last birthday I weighed 50 lbs more than I do right now. 50. POUNDS. I still can’t believe it’s true, but looking back on photos of me, I can see it is. My moon-shaped face is being replaced by one that has a jawline and now, a lot more wrinkles, the price of “deflating” I suppose. Most of my clothes don’t fit me any more. I purged some of them because it was a foolhhardy to try to wear pants that only fell off if I slipped them on. It feels like someone played a prank on me. I went to sleep and the next morning all my clothes felt like a tent. I used to wake up in the morning and wish I could magically lose 50 lbs. There was no magic, but the dreamy feeling still lingers.

 

I’ve dropped 4 sizes and very soon I will never have to shop in the “Women’s” department (a term I loathe) or the “Plus” section (it’s disgusting that there’s a separate area for these clothes. It’s just fat-shaming and you know and I know the plus-size girls have to shop in the dark corner of the store, not out in front).

Robin feminella
©Robin AF Olson. The ever-familiar round face. I was 16 in this photo. After going away to college I really started to pack on the pounds.

Maybe part of my journey was inspired by sheer anger. Anger at the media for still making it ok to make fat people feel they don’t belong, of course because we’re lazy (are you kidding me?) and unhealthy, that we all must fit into an ever-changing height to weight ratio. We have to do this and do that. Don’t eat this, but eat that. No. Let’s change it and don’t eat the other thing we said was good because it’s bad. Let’s just all go insane worrying about what we’re eating, drinking, if we’re sitting or running because whatever we do we’re just not good enough as we are. I think that’s a crime of the century and a waste of someone’s life-to fret and fuss and feel unworthy or ashamed of their body. I wish we could all just look at each other as we look at ourselves and love each other and respect each other for our different shapes and sizes. It’s been said much better by others, but if we could only take away stigma of all kinds and be open and accepting of each other, wow, what a world it would be.

I lost the weight because I had two big health scares last July; diabetes type 2 and heart troubles. I don’t have diabetes now and though the heart issues aren’t sorted out, I usually feel a lot better day to day. I gave myself a gift through a lot of sacrifice and continuing day to day struggles, but it’s worth it. My health is not simply a personal thing, I have to be in good shape to care for my own cats and the cats who are in my rescue. I can’t assume someone else will step in and take over if I can’t. I could continue down the path of spaghetti and meatballs many times a week (partially to save money) or eat much better (spend a lot more on food), cut carbs down to the nubs and kick sugar and processed foods in the ass.

2012 with care bears
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Super-sized me at Toy Fair in 2014.

 

Again my anger flared. FUCK YOU to the food companies for putting SUGAR in pretty much everything, like chicken broth. Why the HELL does chicken broth need sugar added to it? It’s chicken and water and spices. And FUCK YOU food companies for LYING to the public about what you put into the food, how you know those additives make us yearn for more. You make it cheap (fast food) and use lousy ingredients that we’ll love to eat more and more of because it hits our taste buds just right because you have labs and food scientists making sure of it.

 

It’s a joke, but a painful one; who CAN eat just one potato chip? Well, that’s the whole idea. You can’t.

They want you to eat and eat and eat so they can make a buck. Then someone else wants you to not eat and not eat and exercise so you can stop being a fat pig, but how can you break being addicted to sugar, fats, all the other secret goodies in food? If we’re so fat, we’re getting sick (as I did), then how can we fight back? We can’t. We’re too tired from the mid-day slump. We’re too caffeined up from not sleeping well because we need a C-pap machine to sleep.

 

Birthday 2005
©2005 Robin AF Olson. My dad committed suicide a few years before this birthday, I went through a divorce and a year later my mother would be gone. Lots of reasons why I gained, but I own my choices. I could have not taken out my pain on myself.

It’s not adorable that there are a zillion combinations of Oreo cookie. It’s not good for any of us to believe that anything that says “all natural” is better and worth the cost. Arsenic is natural and so are a whole host of other things that are either poison or that screw up our metabolism and push us into taking acid pump inhibitors (by the way DO NOT DO THAT you need the acid and produce LESS as you age…look it up!).

For me, losing weight was terrifying because I feared 1: I could not do it, 2: I could not stick with it, 3: If I did lose weight I couldn’t keep it off because hardly anyone who looses CAN keep it off and 4: I feared the effects of diabetes on my body (amputations, neuropathy, macular degeneration and more). It was not easy to lose weight and I had to re-tool my life and re-learn to cook. I doubt it’s easy for anyone, but I was lucky that I had already cut out most processed foods and no fast food, a long time ago.

 

In a way I’m just like my cats. I had to cut all the junk out of their food, ditch the dry and get them onto a fresh diet with wholesome ingredients. Most of them slimmed down, increased in their energy and zest for life and stopped getting IBD, pancreatitis, diabetes and other disorders. I’m giving them a better future and I guess I finally felt like I deserved the same.

 

Me at Toy Fair with Duck copy
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Me and Duck at Toy Fair 2016.

I feel a lot better. I’m happier. I sleep better. I have energy all day. In all these months I only once felt like I had to have a nap. Am I perfect about my eating habits? No. Do I expect to be? No. What I expect is that I will take it one day at a time for the rest of my life. That’s it. If I eat something on the bad list then I will go for a walk afterwards, but I find that less and less I’m even interested in eating those things. I recognize the addiction to carbs and sweets is a powerful one, but I’m trying to acknowledge it, but not let it rule over me. I’m not a bad person if I eat a cookie and I certainly felt a lifetime of guilt over doing just that.

Sprinkles make the world go round copy
©2013 Robin AF Olson. If looks could kill.

So on the morning of my birthday I know I will not have a cake or candles to blow out. I might have a scone with high tea or allow myself a few finger sandwiches on white (gasp!) bread, too. After I eat those things, when I start to feel a brain fog, a stomach ache and tired, I’ll remind myself that those things are what’s keeping me from my next birthday and maybe one day I’ll learn, but I’ll also go back to eating well as soon as I can.

And to everyone out there who is overweight, I love you as you are. If you want to lose weight, you can. If you don’t want to, then don’t. You have the power to give that to yourself, but you have to find motivation to stick to it and you most importantly have to FORGIVE YOURSELF when you have a misstep and not use it as an excuse to give up. Just start again and get back on track and again if needed. Keep at it. It does get easier AND in truth, better food tastes a lot better. You’ll find you feel gross if you don’t eat well.

Portrait 4 2016
©2016 Robin AF Olson. The new, older me.

We’re all just a skin bag full of chemicals and what works for me, may not be the best thing for you. Talk with your doctor, but also do some research, ask friends, ask another doctor or someone who works holistically. Don’t look to a pill to fix whatever ails. It’s on the plate in front of you. Put the right things on it and just like our cats, with good nutrition we can do a great deal to correct many of the medical issues we face and give us a much brighter future.

Happy Birthday to me. I made it another year.

The Wonderful World of Gracie

Gracie aka, “Beanie,” or “Miss Bubbles” is gone, but instead of making all of you cry, yet again, I wanted to share some stories about her life and why she was so very special to us. Although you might not guess it from looking at her, Gracie was a very funny cat. She was also magnificent in her youth, truly a spectacle of fine flowing fluff. She was fearful, but lion-hearted. She was kind. I do not believe she ever hissed or growled at anyone. Super-Deb, our friend and Vet Tech at Dr. Larry’s called her, “A Lady” and remarked that you could do whatever you needed to do to her and she wouldn’t cause a fuss.

Gracie Petunia
©2003 Robin A.F. Olson. Mama-Gracie with Petunia.

Gracie was my first “unwed mama-cat.” I’d only fostered one cat before she arrived and he was a foster fail named Spencer who became the mascot of Covered in Cat Hair. I didn’t quite know what to do with Gracie or her three kittens: Scooterpie, Annabelle and Petunia. Gracie was very skittish and didn’t exactly welcome my presence, so I gave her plenty of space and focused on socializing the kittens. I can’t say I really got to know Gracie very well during those days, but when it seemed as though she was never going to be adopted and I only had a cat or two at the time, I decided that she and her daughter Petunia could stay with me.

Ladies Napping
©2006 Robin A.F. Olson. Ladies nap.

Gracie was a great mama and when it was time for her to leave the confines of the foster room, Gracie hid a lot or ran off if Sam or I tried to come to her. Again, we gave her space to acclimate and in time she began to appear on our bed in the morning or sleep a bit closer to us when we watched TV in the living room.

The one thing Gracie loved was to be brushed. I used to call her a “Brush Whore” because she would probably have sold her soul to get brushed. All I had to do was ask Gracie; “Brush?” and she’d run over to me excited and ready to be groomed. She’d sit still as I got the clumps out of her thick ruff. She’d purr, but she had a very soft purr I could barely hear. Maybe she was too shy to let it rip. I didn’t care. I was just glad that I found something she enjoyed. Brushing Gracie was something we did every single day, over the last few months of her life. We did it after she had to be pilled or syringe-fed, so our encounter would always end pleasantly.

Brush Time R Olson
©2006 Robin A.F. Olson. Will work for brushing.

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Gracie loved toy mice. She’d grab one, then sit motionless holding it in her mouth for what seemed to be an hour. I don’t know why she did that, but after a time she’d start to yeowl while continuing to hold onto the mouse. Maybe she was announcing her latest victory over the toy mouse population? I know she lived outdoors before she came to us so maybe she was reliving the good old days?

Work it Baby Work it
©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. Just plain weird.

One night Sam and I were in bed reading. We heard Gracie’s familiar yeowl and saw her running down the hallway into our bedroom with a toy mouse in her mouth. I looked up at her, amused at her silly antics, then went back to reading.

Gracie ran around the bed to Sam’s side. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Gracie throw the mouse up into the air. Sam, glued to his book didn’t pay any attention. Gracie was making odd sounds, really getting frantic over this toy.

Once again I saw the mouse fly up into the air but this time it landed on the bed between Sam’s legs. My primitive brain reacted to the sight first. Suddenly I found myself out of bed and halfway down the hallway as my modern brain caught up with the visual. I screamed:

“That’s NOT A TOY!!!!!”

There, in Sam’s lap was a dead mouse; A REAL MOUSE. There, was Gracie looking up at him as if to say; “What? What’s the matter? Can I get that back?”

This mornings breakfast
©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. One morning I bent down with a plate full of food for Gracie and saw (right center belly up) she'd already had an appetizer!

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Something happened to Gracie after she had a dental about eight years ago. She started to drool when she got brushed or petted for a long period of time. I nicknamed her Miss Bubbles because the drool always came out in perfect crystalline beads. Somehow they always ended up on my arm even though I tried to avoid the onslaught of saliva.

Sadly, it seems that her daughter Petunia also does this now and she drools so much it’s like turning on a faucet. As much as I love her it’s kinda gross to pet her for very long.

Furry New Year ROlson
©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. aka, Miss Bubbles.

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Something else also appeared after Gracie’s dental, milliary dermatitis. I wrote about my struggles with her (HERE and HERE). I don’t know what caused it or why she had it. I know we could not get it to go away even with a clean, raw diet, even with two years of going to see dermatologists here and in New York, giving Gracie shots, pills, tests, biopsies. I couldn’t give her steroids because I knew at only 7 years of age she’d have a significantly shorter life. I was, however, able to stop her from barbering off her fur and vomiting the fur back up every day. She seemed comfortable and her skin improved enough so she stopped feeling itchy.

ACK R Olson
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. Noooooo!

Part of helping Gracie feel comfortable required giving her a bath a few times a week. Though she was not a fan of her bath time, she was a pretty good sport. I even took her to Dr. Larry’s because Super-Deb could give Gracie a “spa day” of grooming and bathing to help soothe her crusty skin. I was always so proud of Gracie because Super-Deb always said she was a good girl and easy to bathe.

I never learned the root cause of Gracie’s condition, but I do know that it lead to one cancerous lesion that we had removed many years ago. Looking back I believe that was the culprit in what eventually caused Gracie’s premature demise. And yes, I do believe 14 years is too young for a cat to pass away, especially because not three months ago Gracie seemed to be in such fine form. But I promised happy stories so let me think of another.

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In the past few years Gracie overcame a lot. She stopped being so shy and began to seek out attention. It was marvelous to see her blossom, but it also unleashed a bit of a devil. You see, if we didn’t get up early enough to get her breakfast started she would quietly enter our bedroom, then stand up on her hind legs and drag her front paws, claws out, down the bedroom door. This would not only damage the door (because it’s a cheap piece of crap), but she would push the door shut which would flip out the cats who were on either side of the door.

Prettiest Pouff
©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. Sunny days.

I knew if I got up I was training her that I’d react to her antics, but if I didn’t get up one of the other cats might flip out or need to get out to use the litter pan and there isn’t one in our bedroom.

Gracie often made me grumble as she sat defiantly near the door. If she was Simon’s Cat I’d expect her to point at her open mouth wanting to be fed. I guess I should be glad that unlike Simon’s Cat, Gracie couldn’t mange to bring a baseball bat into the bedroom.

Gracie always had her way.

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Gracie’s latest crazy thing was to sit on the kitchen table every morning and cry to get her goat milk/pro biotic drink. Her meow was very raspy and, well, not very delightful. She sounded like a really old cantankerous lady who only knew how to complain. I’d tell Gracie to shush and that I’d get her her drink right away. I think that looking back on this, too, I should have realized she might have been self-soothing her belly. If she had cancer back then it might have been starting to bleed and perhaps the cool drink and the goat milk comforted her. I know that cats hide illness very well and I’d say she did a really good job keeping the wool over my eyes for way too long.

She loved that drink. It gave her a milk moustache.

Sunny Side Up copy
©2006 Robin A.F. Olson. Belly good belly.

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Gracie had a feather-fetish. If there were feathers attached to a toy instead of chasing them she would lick them. She’d lick and lick and lick as if she was grooming herself after a meal. I never let her have the feathers for too long for fear she’d ingest them. Even on her last days I gave her a catnip carrot that was crowned with green feathers instead of leaves. I knew she was still Gracie because she still licked the feathers.

Princess Bubbles
©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. Fluff fantasy, the Princess of Pouff.

After Gracie passed away and before we had her privately cremated, Sam and I wrapped her in a gorgeous new turquoise blue fleece blanket. I added a photo of us, to which we each wrote Gracie a special message. The final piece was Gracie’s catnip carrot. I slipped it between her front paws so she would always have it with her. I didn’t want Gracie to be wanting for anything even as she embarked on her next journey to the Rainbow Bridge.

Gracie brought us a lot of joy over the twelve years we had together. When I think of her I try not to think of the dark days. It’s not easy, but I know that in time I’ll only smile when I hear her name or look at a photo of her. Right now my heart is still raw from grief, but I’d do it all over again if it meant having those sunny days back, too.

Mother and Daughter R Olson
©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. Petunia and Gracie watching the birdies.

©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Turn up the volume!

2014: The Year in Review

January

The year began with our litter of chronically sick orange kittens nicknamed The Clementines. They’d arrived from Kentucky, months before, supposedly after being in quarantine, they arrived to my home covered in fleas and with bad eye infections. A kitten named Sherbert got so sick we thought he’d lose his eye. What I couldn’t have known then was that 2014 ended up being “The Year of the Vet Visit” with so many sick and injured cats. What I thought was a lot of vet runs in January was nothing compared to what happened throughout the year.

Clementines Arrive R Olson 350
©2014 Robin AF Olson. The Clementines.

Our black, white and gray foster cats, Mochachino and her son, Pizzelle fond their forever home together with an outstanding family here in Newtown. Soon after that, Mocha’s other sons, Nanny and Linzer found their home together, too.

Tired mama with kittens
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Mocha finally getting some rest now that her kittens are safe after being rescued from being sealed up inside a tiny cat carrier, left in the street in the hot summer sun of Atlanta for a few days. It's a miracle they survived.

It left Biscotti on his own so I let the Clementines share his room. Of course Biscotti got the eye infection from the Clems so it was back to the vet and weeks of terramycin eye ointment (it was on national shortage so the only way to get it was to have it compounded at a pharmacy for $60 a tube-we went through over half a dozen of them).

Sweet Biscotti R A F Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Biscotti, rescued out of a hot metal dumpster, burned, to this gorgeous, friendly creature.

By the end of the month, after many discussions and visits, Minnie, our lovely mama-kitty got the chance to move out of her former foster home where she was being frightened by other members of the household and other cats in the home. I couldn’t move her fast enough and luckily I found a quiet place with Susan and her hubby, Barry. The challenge for me was that Susan was pregnant and would it be a wise choice to have Minnie be part of a family with their first baby on the way? Susan wasn’t sure that Minnie was her forever-kitty, too, after still mourning the loss of her previous cat a few years prior, so the plan was to foster Minnie for a few weeks and see how it would go. The first goal was that Minnie had gotten a bad allergic reaction to something in her former foster home and if she couldn’t heal from it, then Susan would have a harder time if Minnie needed a great deal of care. It wasn’t because Susan wouldn’t provide the care, it was just really bad timing and I didn't think it was fair for her to have a sick cat and be pregnant. I worried that Minnie would become unhappy with a new baby, but there was something really special about this couple and they were determined that it would work out well so I gave it a chance.

Minnie Good Girl  R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Minnie, with scratches from other cats and sores on her face from some sort of allergic or stress reaction.

February

If February is the month of Love then it was no surprise when I got a call about a cat named Popcorn who would make me gush. He was listed on Craigslist-which is a dangerous way to find a cat a new home. A rescuer offered to take him from his family who had not provided care for him and as a purebred Himalayan Flame Point, not being groomed is not an option.

Licky during Clippy R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Two hours of grooming and this cat just let us do what we had to do.

I had a potential adopter for Popcorn so I worked it out for the cat to go straight to this woman’s home, do the adoption and call it a day.

But the cat’s coat was in horrific shape. The rescuer called me asking if I had clippers and that could she stop by and trim the cat before she took him to his home. I had clippers so she came to my home first.

The end.

Okay, maybe not the end. Popcorn was in such bad shape the matted fur had trapped urine from escaping very far so his behind was always wet and his skin was literally melting off his back end. It must have hurt SO BADLY and also been the reason why his former jerk-owners sprayed Axe body spray on him because he smelled terrible.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Mr. Cranky just after being groomed.

Two hours later, after a miserable time trimming him, this cat never hissed or bit me. After he was shaved he looked so adorable that between his china-blue eyes and silly expression I fell in love. I knew Popcorn would need serious vet care and though we did bring him to his new home, I told the woman to bring him to the vet the next day so she could use our discount. When she balked at being able to afford ANY charges, I realized I had to get this cat back. At the vet I made her realize he was better off with me until he was healthy. She couldn’t lift him to get him cleaned and every day his rear end needed to be medicated. It was just “for now,” right?

March

We renamed the cat, Fluff Daddy, even though it was only supposed to be his nickname, the name stuck. Fluff had lots of health issues, but nothing severe. He was so easy-going I let him leave confinement to hang out with my cats. Even though he’s half the size of my guys, he doesn’t take crap from any of them. I’d never had a purebred cat in my life, ever, and it seemed everything he did was unusual and fascinating. He also loved the foster kittens so I started to think that maybe he should be our rescue mascot.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Fluffzilla.

The Clementines were still sick. I started to wonder if they’d be with us for eternity. They were all so lovely, I wasn’t sad they were still here, but it also wasn’t fair to them to be here for so long. Biscotti also struggled with the repeating eye infection, too. It was endlessly frustrating.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. I will never forget you, Jackson.

On March 27, 2014 I got the call I’d been dreading. Mickey, the devoted and loving mama to Jackson Galaxy, a cat I’d rescued from Georgia, called. Jackson almost died a few times from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and Mickey had been the needle-in-the-haystack adopter who wasn’t phased to adopt a cat she knew wouldn’t live for many years. After a year and a few months together, Jackson cried out in pain. He was rushed to the vet, but there was nothing more to be done and he was released from this world surrounded by love, even his Vet cried. Jackson who had always been fussy at our vet, loved his new vet and had charmed everyone there and they were all so saddened by his passing. Jackson was one of the most special cats I’d ever known and to this day I get a lump in my throat when I think about him.

April

Biscotti got adopted twice in April, once to the WRONG family and at last to the perfect family, a super-smart-talented-writer named Amanda, came all the way to Newtown from Massachusetts and fell in love. Biscotti was smitten, too. It was one of the most perfect adoptions we’d ever done.

Then the call from Susan, they wanted to make it official. Minnie was adopted, too!

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©2014 Warren Royal. Maggie (grooming) and Junie (center orange) were part of a 5-cat rescue. Two of the cats went to another group and my rescue, Kitten Associates, took the remaining three cats.

The Clementines started to find their families, Maggie, Junie and Purrcee, from Georgia arrived and began finding their homes, too.
We took in a semi-feral mom named Mia and she gave birth to five kittens, Mickey named one of them Woody Jackson in honor of her sweet boy Jackson.

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Mia and family.

May

Our first pregnant rescue was a gorgeous chocolate point Siamese named Celeste. She was dumped outside and a good Samaritan found her and asked for help. She was willing to cover the cat’s vet care and would even adopt the mom after she was done weaning her kittens. I felt it was a great fit and I was eager to see kittens being born.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Pregnant and dumped by her family, Celeste needed rescue right away.

On May 13th, just days after Celeste arrived, she gave birth to five kittens. I could tell right away that something was wrong with one of the kittens. I also realized I was in way over my head when I tried to get that kitten to nurse on Celeste, who never ignored her kitten, so I thought if I could get him to latch on he’d be okay. I tried to feed the little guy, but he was much smaller than the others. I named him Fiorello and I stayed with him all night, keeping him warm and urging him to eat, but he would not. I think we all knew he wasn’t going to make it and by the next morning he was gone. In grief, Celeste reacted by furiously scratching all the litter out of her pan. She growled and hissed at me and for a few days I knew she was mourning the loss.

Thankfully the other kittens, Twinkle-Twinkle, Little Star, Astro and Hubble were doing well.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Celeste with Fiorello.

June

When the Danbury Fire Department got a call about a weird sound in a wall, they responded. They had to break a hole into a concrete basement wall where they discovered a tiny kitten. With no mother or siblings to be found they took the cat to a vet for help. They vet wouldn’t help unless the care was paid for so they called me.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Wallace.

Enter Wallace, the tiny tabby who needed to be bottle fed. After losing Fiorello, I didn’t want to bottle feed again. Lucky for all of us Chris, a Vet tech offered to help. She and her Great Dane, Nina became Wallace’s new family until he was weaned.

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©2014 Christine C. Wallace with surrogate mom, Nina, the Great Dane.

July

A crazy month. Our foster mom, Moe told me about neighbors who had a cat that never got spayed. She’d had at LEAST 4 litters in three years, probably more than that. Kittens were dead in their yard or sick. None were getting vet care. I told Moe I didn’t want to add more cats to our program but I couldn’t say no. One by one, Moe got the cats. Six of them were older kittens, covered in fleas, really sick. There was the first mama, Laney and her daughter, Winnie and they were both pregnant. We had a few other of the older cats vetted, then began the arduous task of vetting everyone else while we waited for the kittens to be born.

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©2014 Foster mom Moe. The J's, the first group of 15 cats we took from ONE family's yard just because they didn't spay their female cat.

Meanwhile Celeste’s kittens were weaned and were spayed/neutered. I had to cancel Celeste’s appointment because she was in heat, which ended up being a temporary blessing.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Hubble (far left), Twinkle, Astro and Star (far right).

August

Winnie has her first litter. Two kittens-one was stillborn, one was very tiny and pale. She was named Piglet but we didn’t think she’d survive because Winnie wasn’t interested in caring for her offspring. Being so young herself, we understood her reluctance to nurse her baby. We also knew she was mourning, too.

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Laney and Piglet.

Thankfully for Piglet, his grandmother, Laney, began to care for him. As she did, Winnie took interest. Both cats mothered Piglet and a week later when Laney had six healthy fat kittens, her first concern remained that little Piglet got the best care.

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Laney (left) and her daughter Winnie (right) with all their kittens.

Minnie’s mom, Susan gave birth to a son, Henry. I held my breath, waiting for bad news that Minnie would have to go, but it never came.
Instead I got photos of Minnie, sitting next to the baby, seemingly protecting him while he laid in his mother’s arms. Susan reported that Minnie was fantastic with the baby and that she was already telling her newborn son that he should be gentle with Minnie and love her like a sister.

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©2014 Susan Whalen. With son Henry at her side, Minnie, completely relaxed keeps her family company.

September

If I knew then what I know now I would have moved to the North Pole.

In late August, kitten Twinkle got her leg stuck in such a way that she panicked, then ended up breaking a tiny bone in her leg to get free. She caused everything I’d stacked on top of the washer and dryer to fall to the floor as we heard one of the kittens screaming. I didn’t know which kitten it was until I looked at her and she cried, trying to stand, but fell over. It was late at night and I rushed her to our Emergency Vet. They wanted $5000 to fix it with 75% up front. I didn’t have it.

Before surgery
©2014 Robin AF Olson.

At 3AM, after I got home from the Vet, asking them to get her stable until the next morning and give her pain meds, I started a fundraiser hoping we’d get enough to get us half way there. I honestly didn’t know what I would do if we couldn’t raise the funds.

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In less than 24 hrs we had the full amount. I’d never raised that sort of money, ever. I made a tearful, kind of embarrassing video thanking everyone for knocking one out of the park for Twink. She made a full recovery after being on cage rest and in a cast for over a month.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. With daddy Sam.

Ten days later, more screaming, but from a different foster room. I am sick to say our web cam captured what happened. At the time all I knew was to run upstairs and find out who got hurt. It took all of a second to know it was Fernando because all I saw when I looked at his face was that one of his eyes was covered in blood.

Another Emergency Visit, another few thousand dollars later, Fernando’s eyelid was ripped in three. When I viewed the footage of the accident I cried. He had been upside down, wrestling with Wallace. Somehow his eyelid caught on the metal “finger” of a dog crate divider I had stored out of harm’s way. At least that’s what I had thought. It’s in the dump now.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. At the Vet for his final checkup after ripping his eyelid in three.

So now I had a cat with stitches and cone-of-shame and another in a cage with a cast. What’s next? I shouldn’t have thought about it, but then came the call that changed my life. A little kitten was at the Emergency Vet. She was messed up but the family couldn’t afford care for her. My friends at Animals in Distress had already told the Vet the couple could sign the kitten over to them, but then where would it go? I offered to go there since I live nearby to take photos and help do yet another fundraiser. They asked me if I’d foster the cat and I said no way I had too much going on.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. The first look at Freya. She was too tired to even worry that she was almost euthanized due to the rareness of and difficulty to repair her birth defects.

When I got to the vet the couple told me the Vet said the kitten had a 10% chance to live. That she had a rare birth defect called Atresia Ani and that only surgery would save her life, but it would be $5000.00. I asked the cat’s name. They said “Freya.” She was so tiny, almost pure white with an odd thumbprint of tabby on her forehead. The vets decided to give the kitten a few days to get bigger before they tried the surgery. She weighed just over a pound. Since it was “only a few days” sucker-me said yes, I would take her, not knowing her care would end up almost shutting down my rescue for the rest of the year.

October

Though the month got off to a happy start, with Kitten Associates winning the Dogtime Pettie Award for Best Cause Blog, things turned dark quickly.

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Celeste needed to be spayed, but I was overwhelmed with caring for Freya. I got an air mattress and basically slept on the floor with Freya every night. Celeste was at another foster home so I had room for Freya. I was so tired from all the cats who needed extra vet runs and care that I was having a breakdown. One of my friends said she’d take Celeste to be spayed so I could get a bit of rest.

Celeste got spayed, but no one at the vet told me they had a very hard time with her. They never told me she was 10 years old, not 2. They didn’t tell me her uterus was full of cysts and that those cysts would have caused her to be in heat 365/7/24. I only learned all that after the early morning call from her foster home saying something was wrong.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson.

Although I got Celeste to the vet within the hour, she died. I was devastated. Celeste’s blood wouldn’t clot. It might have been caused by severe stress, it might be hereditary, it might be from being so much older than we thought. We’d never know the real reason, but the kittens all had to be tested to make sure their blood clotted normally (all did).

After that day we made changes so that all our mama-cats get pre-op bloodwork and any other tests they might need. If they are fractious then our vets know to give them a day to relax and to call us if there are problems. As we all grieved this loss, I also continued to worry about Freya because it was a challenge to get her good nutrition without it adding to the stool that was slowly filling up her abdomen. Would a foolish mistake about her diet end up killing her?

Having Freya for a few days turned into two weeks, which turned into six weeks, which made it impossible for me to deal with finding adopters for our cats, work to make a living and write a blog post or two. I was making up my own idea of what a good diet would be for a kitten who could only pass less then a pea-sized stool out of her vagina. Every two weeks we did x-rays to see how Freya was doing and her intestines were getting more and more filled with dangerous stool.

Then just as October was coming to a close, worse news. Big Daddy, the charming, dearly loved cat had died due to complications from lymphoma. I’d been part of Big Daddy’s team, first finding him a rescue to take him after his daddy Warren trapped him and got him ready to be adopted. Having FIV meant it would be tough to find Big Daddy a home, but after reading my blog, Angels of Assisi in Virginia offered to foster him and find him a forever home.

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In the end, Big Daddy returned to Warren after it was discovered that Big Daddy had lymphoma. Warren had been missing his big buddy and with such a serious health issue it was decided it would be best for him to return to Georgia. Warren took Big Daddy to oncologists and researched treatments to get Big Daddy the best care possible. For a time Big Daddy did well, but other days were very tough. As with most cancers, it’s hard to know where it spreads until it’s too late.

Big Daddy’s life was not lived in vain. He still has a fan club and mission, through his devoted dad, Warren, to help remove the stigma of cats with FIV and provide education and awareness about this disease.

November

I was certain I was going to have a breakdown from nonstop stress, I somehow manage to pack up Freya and all our things and head to Boston where Freya would finally get her surgery. I felt like it was very possible these were her last days because even at three pounds, she was still small. The surgery was VERY RARE and had many risks. What I never expected was that Dr. Pavletic knew after a few minutes that she was still too small and he wanted to wait until January. After a hair-raising 4 hour drive to Boston, I had to turn around and go back home barely after I’d arrived. Part of me was wrecked by the news and the other part was relieved. I wanted Freya to have the best chance to survive, but I also knew the longer we waited, the more likely the stool build up would get worse.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Dr. Pavletic decides it's too soon to do surgery after examining Freya.

Sometimes I think I should never answer the phone. A friend contacted me about a cat his wife had found near the side of the road the night before. They asked me if I could help them with it since they weren’t sure what to do. I told them we could take the cat to my vet and we’d do an exam. I didn’t think it would cost more than $200. What I didn’t know was that the cat was very old, emaciated and VERY SICK.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. A very sick, skinny lady in ICU/Isolation.

So began the next rescue-odyssey. We needed a name for the cat right away so Betsy, who works for my Vet, blurted out “Saturday?!” At that point I didn’t even know if the cat would live so I said okay.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Erich, Saturday's foster dad, holding Saturday after she'd survived three weeks in intensive care and was finally stable.

For the next week, every day I expected the Vet to call and tell me the cat had died. I’ve rarely seen a cat in such poor shape live. She was a bag of bones, hunched over, snorting and coughing. Not eating. Three weeks passed and somehow, some way, Saturday got better and again, a bit better. She needed a tremendous amount of care and it cost over $3500.00. She still needs a dental to clean her teeth now that she’s stable and has gained a few pounds. The hope is to raise the funds for her teeth, then find her a sweet place to retire. We call her “Lady Saturday” now as she’s so regal and fine and sweet-tempered. She was one of our best transformations-a work in progress.

December

I honestly don’t know how I made it to December. I didn’t have a day off, certainly no vacation of any kind, really no break from anything. All the foster cats were huge because I hadn’t been quickly processing applications. Frankly, I just gave up. The kitties were safe and well fed and loved, but I just didn’t have the bandwidth to do everything. I knew that 2015 would have to be the year of saying NO and creating a better space to take time for my life and to just have some peace, but before I could do that, Freya’s bi-weekly x-rays told us that it was time to go to surgery. We wouldn't make it to January after all. With the holidays upon us we had to act quickly.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Our last night before the big surgery.

On December 9th Freya and I left once again for Boston, this time through a Nor’easter that pounded New England and made the drive a dangerous nightmare. All I wanted was to rest the night we arrived, but I was so worried about surgery the next day, rest never came.

On December 10th, Dr. Pavletic proved once again that he is a genius. He performed Freya’s surgery in just under two hours. She did well and was coming out of her sedation. He was ready to release Freya that night but I insisted she stay, shocked that she could go home so soon. It was the first of up to three more surgeries, but it would be months before we knew how Freya would really do. Would she be incontinent for the rest of her life? Would she handle more surgeries? It was wait and see. At least now, finally, she had a chance to pass the stool that had been trapped inside her for months.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Just after surgery, Freya is already back on her paws.

So here we are on the evening of the last day of 2014. It was a very tough, draining year. I won’t label it a “bad” year because I learned a lot and I’m very proud of all we’ve accomplished. Though due to chronic illnesses of the kittens and lack of adoptions we only helped 64 cats this year, but we also created awareness about Atresia Ani, which is helping to save the lives of other cats with this very rare birth defect. We’ve also just been awarded one of the Top 50 Pet Rescues of 2014 by Entirely Pets, which is pretty darn cool considering we’re a tiny rescue.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. Jasmine, Junipurr (upper cat tree) with Josh (center) and Jules (below) just a day before three of them broke with bad eye infections and a URI.

Midnight, December 31, 2014 arrives and what am I doing? I’m putting terramycin in the eyes of a sick orange tabby bringing the year to some sort of strange perfect closure.

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If you'd like to read more about any of these cats, simply use the SEARCH box to the right and enter the name of the cat. You should find a list of posts related to each one.

The Squee Diaries. Ch 10 Watch Me Soar

The kittens are 10 1/2 weeks old and today is the "big day." It's time for the boys to be neutered and Gracey to be spayed. Although it's vital this procedure be done, I dread it. I'd rather wait until the kittens are a few months old, but this is their best chance to be adopted, when they're still little. I could have done it even sooner than today, but I dragged it out as long as I dared. They're all at a good weight and the soft stool they suffered from for so long seems to have resolved by feeding them a raw diet. I think they're ready.

So while I put the kittens into their carriers and kiss their little faces, take a moment to enjoy this celebration of my dear kittens. To Stanley, the high-flyer, to Mel the comedian, to Gracey the tough-cookie, to Petey the rascal and to Joey the gentle soul, I honor your amazing journey; being fearless, taking delight in your ever-expanding world, and reminding me that joy can be found in the simplest of things. I love each one of you very much.

I present to you, my fearless flyers. Enjoy!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Invisible ladder.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Put your paws in the air like you don't care.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Invisible rope climbing.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Petey is a big boy now.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Double dutch jumpers.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Put your hands up!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Pole-dancer Joe.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I got it! I got it!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Extreme gotcha!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Going up!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Lil' Gracey at 10 weeks.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Invisible pony ride.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Beware the toilet-zombie!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Wrong way Mel.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Invisible recliner.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Joey at 10 weeks.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Marmalade mayhem.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mellie at 10 weeks.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Twist and shout!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Catch me when I fall.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Petey at 10 weeks.

If you'd like to catch up on The Squee Diaries, just visit these links:

Chapter One. We Are Born.

Chapter Two

Chapter Three. The Unbearable Cuteness of Kittens

Chapter Four. The Pitter Patter

Chapter Five. The Last Days of the Blue Bathtub

Chapter Six. Happy Family No More

Chapter Seven. Let the Good Times Roll

Chapter Eight. Paint the Town Brown

Chapter Nine. How Do I Love Thee?

The Dreaded M.D.

“Is that kitten missing some of his fur?”

I looked over at Barney. He was playing with a toy held by a little girl who was taking part in our Kitties for Kids program. Barney was oblivious to the fact that the fur on his side looked like it had been wiped away. He wasn’t completely bald and with his white and orange coat, it was tough to see how much he was missing at a glance.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney's naked patch.

I took a closer look and it was clear that Barney was licking off his fur, not just on one side, but on both.

Shit.

I’d noticed the foster cats have been itchy for a few weeks or more, but not so much that it caused alarms to go off. They’ve been checked a few times for fleas, but we find nothing, not even flea dirt. Last year was a VERY bad year for fleas so it wouldn’t be surprising that there were some in the foster room.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Dr. Larry takes a look.

What to do?

I’ve had a lot of experience with Miliary Dermatitis. My cat Gracie suffers from it. M.D. is basically “I don’t know that the heck it is” but it’s some sort of skin issue. Many times it’s related to a stress reaction, food or a mite or flea bite. In Gracie’s case, after YEARS of doing tests, seeing specialists, trial and error, only homeopathy worked to reduce the problem and steroids resolved it for a few weeks. The problem with steroids is-it will end up killing Gracie over time so for me, giving her more wasn’t acceptable.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred seems fine.

Gracie is covered with scabs. She stopped “barbering” (chewing) her coat and no longer has bloody lesions, but her fur is not plush and her skin feels terrible. I’m looking into acupuncture, but other than that I feel as though I’ve tried it all.

I look at Barney and think about the MANY things that could be causing him to lick off his fur. I knew a trip to see Dr. Larry would probably be a waste of time, but I had to start there.

Dr. Larry agreed with me that it was most likely M.D. and made some suggestions. One startled me, but also inspired me. He said to let Barney be an indoor/outdoor cat. That the stimulation of being outside reduced the need to over-groom because the cat was having so much FUN!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Caught in the act.

What? I can’t let my cats outside!

Then I realized I have NOT been spending enough time with the kittens. Playtime is for five minutes here and five minutes there. I’ve been too busy to do more than that. I figured since I hear them running around they must be playing. There are five cats in the foster room after all.

I also thought about the Kitties for Kids program. Was the stress of meeting all these strangers getting to Barney? Thing is, he is the FIRST cat to go over to a new person and say hi! He’s very social. If he was upset by the visitors wouldn’t he be hiding instead of playing?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. What the?!!!…the kittens are nursing on Willow!

What about diet?

Yes, that could be a factor. Since ALL the foster cats are scratching, something is making them itchy. The donations of food we’ve gotten lately is a mixed bag of canned, grain-free food. They get fed what I have on hand, not something consistent AND I’ve fed them a tuna based food recently for the first time. Did that set them off? Gracie seems to react to having fish.

The more I learn about cats, the more I sense that playtime is the key to more than we understand.

It reduces stress, stretches the muscles and the mind, it helps them have an outlet for their prey drive. If we simply shake a toy at them once in awhile, it’s just NOT enough. Their mind needs to be engaged if they stay indoors. I’ve seen Jackson get very nasty with the other cats when he’s clearly bored.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Liftoff during one of our Kitties for Kids visits.

Normally, what you do is change ONE thing and see if it works. If that doesn't work, then go on to the next thing. Because Barney is so young and should NOT be having this issue, I’m going to do a few things and hope that one of them is the answer.

I’ll start with an application of Revolution®. I like it better than some other flea treatments and it does affect mites and internal parasites, too. I realize it could make things worse, but Barney’s skin is fine. There are no open lesions. He does NOT have ringworm.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Coco shows how it's done.

I’ve already started ramping up playtime. I got a new Da Bird donated to us. It REALLY tires the cats out as long as I don’t let the cats catch the toy. If so, they destroy it in about 2 seconds. What I do is basically make them go nuts for at least 15 minutes. After the cats slow down or start to lay down instead of chase the toy, I start up with ANOTHER toy. I use a Cat Dancer and Rainbow CatCharmer or a laser pointer or both. I throw balls around, mouse toys, Kong® Cat Kickaroos. I want to see the cats get to the point of just about falling over they’re so tired. I’ll even open up my old iPad and play Game for Cats for them to further stimulate their minds. If I see Barney lick at himself I distract him with more playtime.

Lastly I’ve simplified their diet. Ideally I would feed them raw but that’s not in the budget. I’m cutting out fish and only giving them chicken/turkey. It’s very high quality grain-free canned food and I’m feeding them more often so they’re less stressed when they get their food. I noticed they were gulping at their meal the other day so clearly they need more to eat and more often.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Entertained by his Kong Cat Kickaroo.

The hope is that one or more of these things will work and Barney will stop licking off his fur. The fear is that he won’t and this will be a chronic problem for him. I’m also thinking about letting him run the whole house instead of just the foster room. The extra space might do him good.

Last night I let him out for a few minutes and he was terrified, so for now I’ll go more slowly and only open up smaller areas at a time.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor sweetie.

What is ailing Barney and making the others itchy? Is it dry skin or is Kitties for Kids going to have to be shelved? I can’t say right now. All I know is that I need to find an answer fast before Barney makes this into an OCD-like reaction that will require heavy-duty meds for years to come.

In my heart I feel like the key to keeping Barney healthy is more playtime, not just for him, but for ALL of our cats.

2012 The Year of Heartbreak and Hope Part 1

January

We began the year with a rescue, going beyond our comfort zone by taking on an adult, instead of an easy-to-place kitten. The cat was a huge, white, “biscuit head” tom-cat from Henry County Care & Control. I saw his photo and saw something about him that made me take action. I named him Jackson Galaxy in honor of the Cat Daddy/Cat Behaviorist on Animal Planet's hit show, “My Cat From Hell.”

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©2012 Henry Co. Care & Control (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson was a miserable wreck when we first took him into Kitten Associates as our first rescue of 2012.

Jackson had a rough start. He frightened Maria but we realized later it was because he was in great pain. He had a terrible infection from his neutering and he needed emergency surgery to correct the problem and get him back on the road to good health. By the end of the month, Jackson was on the transport headed to Connecticut to find his forever home.

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©2012 Bobby Stanford (inset). ©2012 Leesiateh.com. Miss Fluffy Pants shortly before being adopted.

Our friend and volunteer, Bobby Stanford, told me about two cats living outside a palette factory in McDonough, GA. They were living in poor conditions and in danger of being hit by any one of the numerous fork lifts that raced around the premises. One of the two cats, a dirty, thin tuxedo we named King Arthur, seemed to be missing his back paws. Completely horrified I decided we'd help him and the other cat on the premises, who we named Miss Fluffy Pants, because we worried she was pregnant.

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©2012 Maria S. (inset). King's mama, Judy. King's journey has been quite amazing. I'll be doing a more in-depth update on him in January.

I was fostering a little orange tabby spitfire named Bobette, along with her two boys, the third had just been adopted. Bobette needed surgery to repair her luxated patella, so I sat in on the procedure and helped her in recovery and for the next few weeks while she healed.

February

February was a month of discovery. We learned that King's missing paws were due to a birth defect. He didn't need surgery or prosthetics. He could walk on carpeting, but who would adopt this cat? King began to clean himself and gain some weight. He loved being petted until Miss Fluffy Pants came to join him.

Miss FP was not pregnant. We thought the two cats were friends at the factory, but they were not happy to see each other. With some quick thinking and the donation of a cat tree, Miss FP could sit high up, away from King and both cats relaxed into their new foster home.

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©2011 Henry Co. Care & Control (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bobette with one of her kittens while at the kill shelter and after surgery in Sam's loving arms.

We also learned the Miss FP was FIV+ which we knew would put a roadblock in our ability to find her a good forever home. With her taking up valuable foster care space I got to work trying to figure out what to do for her that didn't mean putting her in a sanctuary.

We were heartbroken to learn that after some behavior issues gave us a clue to trouble, Dr. Larry diagnosed Sam's cat, Nicky with Chronic Renal Failure. We began giving him sub Q fluids every few days and began to learn more about this condition and ways we could lengthen his life.

Jackson arrived in Connecticut and was placed with my friends at Animals in Distress, but fell ill after arriving there. They thought it was a mild upper respiratory infection and in time he was feeling better. By the second week of February, Jackson found his forever home with a loving family. We were all delighted.

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©2011 Maria S. (inset) ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Two of Bobette's boys, Jakey & Teddy.

Bobette continued her recovery, but was still limping. I had to separate her from her boys because she hissed and growled every time she saw them. The boys, Jakey & Teddy had a blast hanging out with my cats while I continued to try to find them a great home.

March

The saying is March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but this March was the opposite; quiet for a few weeks, then things started to go crazy.

Bobette had the staples taken out of her leg and due to a problem with the bandage removal she ended up biting my hand so badly I had to see a Doctor.

I found a blueish growth on my cat Gracie's abdomen. She had a dental done and had the cyst removed. It ended up being an Apocrine Gland Carcinoma, but was considered to be completely excised and of no further concern.

Jakey & Teddy were adopted together and Bobette was glad to see them leave.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me with Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy.

On March 26th, a few days before my birthday, Jackson Galaxy emailed me and asked me out to lunch (which ended up being dinner). It was one of the best days of my life, but that wasn't all that happened. That night in the frigid cold in nearby Trumbull, CT, six mostly black kittens were born to a gray mama named April. I didn't realize it at the time, but they would be my next foster family.

The next day, still buzzing from my visit with Jackson, I was honored by Freekibble.com with a donation of a full palette of Halo® canned cat food! The press came to document the event and I started to wonder if the foster cats would eat it (they loved it!).

April

The Worst Birthday Ever was followed by picking up April and meeting her mostly all black female kittens for the first time. Three kittens were polydactyl and there was no way I was going to be able to tell most of them apart for the next eight weeks.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. April and her kittens.

I rescued a senior cat named Leo who was an adorable long haired tuxedo. The poor cat was forced to live outside on scraps when his owner's wife had a baby. I begged my friend Katherine to take him into Animals in Distress if I paid the Vet bill. We worked something out and Leo was saved. A few months later, Leo and a second cat found an amazing home with a family I found for them here in town. They are doing GREAT.

A missing cat alert showed up in email with a very familiar name, Amberly. One of my former foster cats was MISSING and the family didn't have the nerve to tell me. I leapt into action. Thank GOODNESS Katherine has good instincts and lived nearby the family. By the next DAY Katherine found Amberly and the family promised to work harder to keep her inside.

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©2012 Maria S. (inset) and Robin A.F. Olson. Coco, all grown up with siblings Choco and ChiChi (inset).

Maria contacted me about a tortie mom cat we named Cami and five kittens in her neighbors yard. She was very worried about them so I told her to find a place to put them and we'd take them on. By the time Maria got back to the home, two of the kittens were gone, never to be seen again. We named the surviving kittens Coco, ChiChi and Choco.

May

On May 1st a shelter called AnimalKind in upstate New York suffered the total loss of their facility after a small fire caused the sprinkler system to flood the 3-story building. Through my contacts a pet product companies I was able to provide them with palettes of food and litter. Later in 2012 I visited their facility and met with their Director, Katrin Hecker. You can read about my visit HERE.

I travelled to New Jersey to attend Bottle Baby Bootcamp at Tabby's Place. The timing was great because the black kittens needed help since poor April was having a tough time feeding all the kittens. I worried the littlest one wouldn't make it, but Cutie Pie surprised me and began to do well. I named her sisters Sabrina, Bon Bon, Beauty, Belly Holiday and Hello Dahlia (in honor of my friend, JaneA's cat Dahlia who had recently passed away).

Then a crazy thing happened.

JaneA came to visit us and instead of falling in love with her cat's namesake, she threw me a curveball, clearly falling in love with our little spitfire, Bobette. She adopted her the next morning before she left for her home in Maine. It was a one of the happiest adoptions I'd ever done.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. JaneA with her girl, Bobette (who she later named, Kissy)

By the end of the month there was more somber news. Jackson the cat lost his home and was being returned. Since I had space I offered to take him back since AID was full up.

June

June will forever be a tough month for me since it's the anniversary of my Father's passing and of my favorite cat's passing. I hoped that this June would not be under such a dark cloud but it was not meant to be.

Thankfully it wasn't all bad news. After months of searching, begging, dealing, I was able to get Miss Fluffy Pants transferred to Good Mews in Marietta, Georgia.

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©2012 Maria S. (inset) and Robin A.F. Olson. Willow is still looking for her forever home! You can visit her Petfinder page HERE

Maria, our cat-magnet, rescued a cat from a tree. She named her Willow and we added her to our group of rescues in Georgia. Meanwhile, I got a curious email from a lady in New Hampshire inquiring about King. She had a fully carpeted home. She had two cats. Did I think King might be happy with her?

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me, Jill Delzer (center) and Ingrid King (far right). Inset: Joanne McGonagle, Me with Gracie the cat.

And for the first time in many years, I took a fistful of Xanax and boarded a plane headed to Salt Lake City where Sam and I were Speakers at BlogPaws 2012. I was up for two awards that I did not win, but I had so much fun and made a great new friend. In those few days I was re-energized enough to keep doing rescue work once I got home.

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred & Barney and Barney at six months. The boys are still looking for their forever home! Visit their Petfinder page HEREand HERE

Maria removed another cat from her neighbor (with his consent)- who NEVER spays or neuters his cats. Maria has tried repeatedly to get the cats taken care of but he just puts it off and his cats get pregnant. A nine month old kitten named Opal, who had become almost feral, was pregnant. Our new foster mom, Cyndie offered to take her in and help her along. Sadly, the stress of being in a home pushed Opal in to premature labor. Four kittens were born, but after extensive attempts to save their lives, only two survived. She named them Fred & Barney. We had their siblings Pebbles and Bam Bam cremated and their little wooden urn is here with me placed next to my cat, Bob's ashes.

Stay Tuned! 2012 has more surprises in store and some so shocking their effects rippled throughout the world in the final part of this post.

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: AWKWARD FAMILY PET PHOTOS, the CALENDARS Edition

Last year I reviewed Mike Bender and Doug Chernack's wonderfully warped book, Awkward Family Pet Photos which hit the market on the heels of their New York Times Bestselling book: Awkward Family Photos.

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©2012 By Awkward Family, LLC. Pretty in Pink..and blue and purple?

Awkward Family Pet Photos 2013 Wall Calendar

This year the purveyors of preposterous are back, just in time for the Holidays, sporting a dazzling duo of 2013 Calendars. One is a well designed, colorful, 12-month Wall Calendar whose message, “Celebrating the Special Bond Between People and Their Pets” is achieved in the most twisted and sometimes downright creepy fashion. Each month celebrates a particular species. The year begins with dogs. In April, they celebrate bunnies or animals dressed a bunnies. One month features monkeys but I won't spoil it by telling you which month it is. Can you guess which one it is?

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©2012 By Awkward Family, LLC. I hope they get matching cars one day, too.

I'd like to know the criteria Bender and Chernack use to choose their photos. The process must be a delicate one, walking the fine line between photos that make you shudder with delight versus photos that are simply vintage images including pets.

Perhaps they have an inner guidance system that recognizes they're on the right track when scrutinizing a family's precious photos? They might wonder aloud; “Why did they do that to their hair?” or “Did they really wear that sweater with the image of the cat rear ends on it, then send it out as their Holiday card?”

If Bender and Chernack ask themselves “What were they thinking?” I'm guessing it seals the deal and the photo is accepted into their collection.

Clearly the people and pets featured in this calendar never asked themselves these sorts of questions and we are all the richer for it.

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©2012 By Awkward Family, LLC. Well said.

The beauty in projects like Awkward Family Pet Photos 2013 Calendar is that it reminds us that we're not as cool as we think we are. Everyone has a photo (or in my case albums full) tucked in a drawer somewhere they'd rather no one else ever see… and no, I don't mean that kind of photo!

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Awkward Family Pet Photos 2013 Day-to-Day Calendar

If you can't get enough Awkward Family Pet Photos, then check out the 365 days of screwy-louie-weirdness in their 2013 Day-to-Day Calendar. Each day reveals a new image of the curiously clueless. I love it. Unlike some desk calendars, this one is in full color so you can appreciate the awkwardness even more. The only thing lacking is that it should be in 3-D and come with a pair of glasses. Maybe they'll do that next year?

9781449420475 3d.jpg©2012 By Awkward Family, LLC.

 

If you'd like to WIN a copy of “Awkward Family Pet Photos 2013 Day to Day Calendar” simply leave a comment below and tell us about an awkward moment (with pets). Increase your odds by emailing me an awkward pet photo at info@coveredincathair.com. Share your awkward photo if you dare! ONE comment or photo will be selected to WIN! You can only email me ONE photo for one chance to win OR make ONE COMMENT HERE describing an awkward family photo. Voting ends NOVEMBER 15, 2012 at 11:15 AM EST and is open to residents of the USA, only (sorry guys-licensing issues!). Rules subject to change without notice.

 

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©2012 By Awkward Family, LLC. I want to see the photo that was taken 30 seconds after this one.

Oh, and make sure you check out May 16th if you get a copy of the Day to Day Calendar…I'm just sayin'...

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In honor of Awkward Family Pet Photos, I thought I'd share a special one with you from my archives.

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©1992 Judith K. Feminella. My dad in his underwear reading the Sunday paper---if Blue the cat will let him.

If you want an even bigger Awkward Family Pet Photos fix, visit their Webby Award winning web site HERE or Like them on Facebook and let them know Covered in Cat Hair sent you!

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After careful consideration, from time to time I write a product reviews. If you see it here, it's because, at LEAST I think it's worth you knowing about even if I have an issue with it and, at BEST, I think it's amazing and we should all have one, two or more of whatever it is I'm reviewing. I get NO reimbursement for writing these reviews, though to write a review I am supplied with the item, as I was in this case. This review is MY OPINION, ONLY. The result you experience using this product may differ.

WEIRDEST GIVEAWAY EVER

the DOOD weighed four pounds when I rescued him last year, but he was a kitten back then. Over the past year the DOOD's been growing. About six months ago I noticed he was getting BIG and I mean BIG, not exactly chubby but large in size. I referred to him as a “ham hock” when people remarked on his girth. He's young and should increase in size, to a point but when is he going to STOP growing?

I just weighed him.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My “Baby.”

I almost fainted when I saw the results.

the DOOD still runs around but can't quite get “hang time” when he jumps after a toy. His back legs are a bit bowed. He wipes out if he runs too fast. If he decides it's time for lap time with me, I KNOW he's on my lap because I feel like I just got pinned to the sofa.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Finally, a low-calorie food he can eat!

Before you start guessing he weighs 30 pounds, he doesn't. He's nowhere near a record breaking size, but…I will tell you he weighed 14 lbs, 4 oz in April. He doesn't get overfed. He doesn't get kibble. He DOES get broccoli, which he loves, but is pretty much not something that would ever make him fat.

Today's contest: Guess the DOOD's weight. I have him weighed on my scale here AND I'm getting him weighed at my Vet's office this afternoon. I will take the average of those two weights and use that for my result.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

The “WINNER” who guesses closest to the DOOD's weight gets a copy of the “5th Edition: Small Animal Clinical Nutrition.” (brought to you by Hill's) It is supposedly THE most comprehensive guide to small animal nutrition. This tome includes nutrition for dogs, cats, birds, reptiles and other small mammals. It has contributions by over 125 authors. Do I agree with what it says? I don't know yet, but I'm guessing it will be steering readers away from raw food so I would say I might find fault. Thing is, this guide covers nutrition guidelines YOUR VET REFERS TO, so good to know what they are going to tell you about nutrition IF they read the gazillion pages of this book.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

Leave a COMMENT guessing the DOOD's weight. COMMENTS are MODERATED so your guess may NOT appear right away. I will check a few times a day and publish all guesses. You have until SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8th at 8:08PM (Eastern Standard Time-USA) to guess. Though I would LOVE to open this giveaway up to everyone, I can ONLY SHIP TO ADDRESSES in the United States of America. This book is VERY HEAVY. I doubt I can afford shipping overseas.

Good Luck!

Trying to Move Heaven & Earth Part 2 of 2

When we rescued Tater on June 15th, he’d been very frail. He was already flea covered and underweight and battling an upper respiratory infection. After a bath and good food, some eye meds, he began to perk up. A few days later, we took in his sister, Latte and the two of them stayed together in Maria’s home.

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©2012 Maria S. Tater waiting to see the Vet.

Being concerned about FIP, Maria moved Latte into a separate cage. I told her to take Tater to the Vet right away. I didn’t know must about FIP, but I knew it was fatal and I knew diagnosing it isn’t clear cut, either.

Since Sunday morning, Maria and I have been working non-stop. I’m doing research, trying to understand what to do, what to test for, if there’s new research, anything we can do to save Tater’s life. We just lost two kittens! My rescue group is small. We shouldn’t be seeing so much loss, let alone FIP! I know a few others who have never seen it who have been in rescue longer than I have.

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©2012 Maria S. Sunday before his Vet visit.

E-mails poured in, comments on Facebook were all supporting Tater and Maria, saying prayers, wishing us all well, sharing their stories of losing kittens to this unforgiving disease. I hated to keep loading up the bad news. I know it takes a toll on readers, but I can’t lie and pretend everything is ok. From the get-go this has been an unvarnished look a life doing cat rescue. It’s a very gut-wrenching thing to write about. I want my happy stories back. I want my miracle-rescues! I don’t know if I can take this pressure after just having lost two kittens.

I’m not going to go into a long description of what FIP is other than to say there are two mains forms of it: “Wet” and “Dry.” One is basically an immune reaction that causes an accumulation of fluid in the belly (wet), though there are more symptoms that I've listed. The other one is neurological in nature (dry). There is no cure. It’s fatal. There are whisperings of advancements in the treatment or cure of FIP, but so far the only hope is one study says they saved 20% of a small number of FIP cats who had the dry form. Steve Dale covered this story using Polyprenyl Immunostimulant. You can read more about it HERE

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©2012 Maria S. Back home eating normally.

Some say that if FIP occurred in puppies this would have been cured 20 years ago. Cats have been “second class” animals for far too long.I’m glad that UCDavis is doing a major study and Vets like Dr. Dianne Addie, among others, have been working tirelessly to come up with a cure. /

So where does this leave Tater?

Tater is a sweet, lovely little boy. The Vet felt that he did have FIP but there are no clear diagnostics. Tater’s belly is full of fluid-so much so that an xray couldn’t even see his organs through the liquid. The liquid was slightly tacky-another indicator. We were going to run a titer, but after doing more reading, it was clear we didn’t have time for the results and it wouldn’t really tell us anything. We could run a test on the protein levels in the fluid and that would be a better indicator, but what is the point? Tater’s got a fever, runny eyes and fluid filled abdomen. I couldn’t get a clear answer on what ELSE it might be and I’m not sure other than heart issues, if there would be anything else it could be.

 

There is an urgent need to figure out what to do next and again, I don’t have many answers. I must help Maria, who has to face the difficult question of having to help Tater pass away when he gets too sick. In the meantime I want to move Heaven & Earth and find that needle in the haystack.

 

It doesn’t hurt to try alternative therapies as long as Tater is not suffering badly. I found out about a rescuer who is using a different method, who swears she is having success turning kittens around who have FIP. That she has one kitten in her office who is running around, doing fine.


©2012 Maria S. Tater playing less than 24 hours ago.

Yes, I know. I don’t know her but a trusted friend put me in touch with this person. I know it’s not traditional western medicine, it’s eastern medicine which is based on 4000 years of study. I can’t disregard that and I’ve had success using different treatments for upper respiratory and skin ailments. And if it doesn’t work, Tater dies. Tater is going to die, anyway, so I want to try.

The problem is getting the medicine to Maria in time. It will arrive tomorrow at some point. Tater has been to the Vet again today. I asked them to remove some fluid from his abdomen to buy us time. They only got about 1cc out of him-not nearly enough to make a difference.

After another endless number of texts, calls and e-mails, Maria opted to take Tater home. If he continues to be uncomfortable, she’ll bring him back to the vet to get a shot of Depo (steroids). It’s not ideal, but we have to keep him going until tomorrow. We have to try. If this person says she’s helped quite a few kittens with FIP maybe there is a bizarre chance. Yes, I could be deluding myself. Maybe I’m an idiot. Maybe she didn’t have cats with FIP? Maybe we don’t?

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©2012 Maria S. No one can tell me why this would happen to such an amazing little guy. No one can tell me IF he truly has FIP or something else. We're doing our best, all we can think of…but it may not be enough.

The problem is NO ONE KNOWS. The stress of not knowing, of trying to make the BEST choice for Tater, has gotten to Maria and myself. We’ve both broken down, crying. We both are second-guessing our every move. We have to hurry up and accept what may come to pass. We have to make life or death choices. Death doesn’t wait. We’re trying so hard to keep him from coming in the door.

If we could get Tater to live until tomorrow, perhaps this stuff will work or we’ll have to say farewell to a very sweet little guy. I don’t know. All I know is I wish the phone would stop ringing and the questions would stop coming. I need peace in my heart. I need to get some sleep, real sleep. I hate feeling greedy, but I can barely function. After the stress of two weeks of being sick and stressed out of my mind about flying before I flew to Salt Lake for BlogPaws, then the stress of what to do with Opal’s kittens and now the troubles with Tater…it just feels like way too much, but I can’t give up for Tater’s sake. No way.

 

Maria just called me. She found tapeworm segments in Tater’s stool. I do not want to hope that his big belly is the result of one or more parasites. He’s been de-wormed as recently as Friday, but no de-wormer kills all worms.

 

Please, please, please…let this be some freakish or just “normal” parasitic infection combined with an upper respiratory infection that we can CURE!!!!!Please let Tater Tot live a full and happy life.

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