In October of 2012, we rescued two cats. One cat was on “death row” at a municipal shelter and the other was toughing it out, a dumped stray cat, who chose to seek help at an apartment complex where the owner was considering poisoning the many homeless cats on the property to “deal with” the situation.
©2012 Maria S. (inset) ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson (main). George with a lipstick stain on his forehead and ratty coat right after being rescued and now stunning beauty.
It's not easy for us to take on young adult cats because without a brick and mortar facility, where folks can come and see our cats, it takes a long time to find forever homes. People will make an effort to go through the application process and home visit for a kitten, but for an adult, that's another story.
©2012 Maria S. (inset) ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson (main). I can't get over the transformation of Bongo! He weighed four pounds on intake.
So here we are, eight months later with our cats Bongo and George. They've both blossomed from being underweight, flea-covered, suffering with ear mites and tattered coats, to magnificent, radiant, affectionate beings. Looking at their before and after photos surprised me. I hadn't realized how far they'd come. It makes me proud to see their positive transformation.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh George, I will forever swoon when I think of you.
There were a few bumps in the road, particularly with Bongo. I noticed he'd pant after a short period of playing and at rest his respirations were far faster than the normal, roughly 20-40 per minute. This concerned me greatly because I'd lost a cat to HCM, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and the only sign I had that something was off was his breathing had a “hitch” to it. By the time I knew he was really ill, it was too late and he passed away during attempts to treat him. Ever since that horror, I've been more vigilant.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney and George.
I brought Bongo to visit a new Vet, Dr. J., and he examined Bongo carefully. They did some blood work, a chest x-ray and some tests. One of the test was for Heartworm and the other was for Bartonella, either issue could cause Bongo's problems though it was less likely that Bartonella had anything to do with his respirations, but it might have an issue with his chronic loose stools.
The tests showed that Bongo was negative for heartworm, but a STRONG positive for Bartonella which is transmitted by flea bites and IS contagious to humans. In humans it's nickname is Cat Scratch Fever.
I urge you all to learn about Bartonella (which can also be called, Mycoplasma) because it can mimic MANY other health issues in cats. Look out for upper respiratory issues that just won't clear up, especially eye problems. Look for digestive issues, too, like chronic loose stool. If you run a stool sample on your cat and it keeps coming up negative and you've de-wormed your cats according to your Vet's recommendations, then consider testing for Bartonella. I mention this because more and more Vets are starting to test for this. They're seeing cats with very few symptoms or NO symptoms and have it. I do random tests on my own cats and was shocked that some of them had it and they do NOT go outdoors.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The tail of tails.
We decided to do the treatment for Bartonella, then wait to see if Bongo improved before going to the next step, which would be doing an echocardiogram, the only way to see the thickening in the walls of the heart that is indicative of HCM.
Meanwhile, life in the foster room had improved for Barney, who during the past six months has been over grooming his fur, leaving shocking bald patches on his sides and belly. I'd been running Barney to see Dr. Mary and we did some tests, but nothing helped. I didn't want to put Barney on steroids because they truly harm so many systems in the cat that it's a last-ditch treatment in my book.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bongo-loaf.
Since Bongo, Bunny and George joined Barney and after a few days of hissy behavior, Barney began to enjoy his new companions and his over-grooming began to wane. Looking back I think Barney knew that Fred was sick before we did and his anxiety about it was reflected in him licking off his fur. With new friends who are healthy and can play with him, Barney's coat is filling in and he spends the day rubbing up against his new friends and enjoying games of “chase me around the room” and “Ooo! Chase me some more!”
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Geogre can you stop being so pretty?
The pace of each day fell into a familiar routine. Each night I'd sit with them for a few hours. We'd have play time, snuggle time and a snack. Bongo and George would often lay in my lap and give me those lovey-eyed looks that made me want to keep them here for good.
But I was waiting. I knew I had a home for Bongo, not long after I rescued him. A friend of mine brought over a donation of cat food from a couple whose cat had recently died very unexpectedly. The FIV+ cat had had its' leg amuputated, and not long after, the Vet had over-prescribed medication for it, which ended up killing the cat.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. George and his mama-Beth.
I wrote the couple a very nice thank you note and sympathy card for their loss. A few weeks later, in late December of 2012, I got photos and a heartbreaking letter about their wonderful kitty. Clearly, these people LOVED their cat and even mentioned that “one day” they would want to adopt another 3-legged cat. I knew right then and there that Bongo was going to be theirs-maybe not today, but some day.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bongo and Mama.
Six months later, the couple reached out to us and asked about Bongo. They wanted to make sure they could adopt him, but could I hold onto him for a few weeks while they do some home repairs? The last thing they wanted to do was bring in a new cat and stress him out. I didn't mind the added wait and they graciously brought me cat food to cover his extra time with us AND a PIE (for me and Sam!).
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Newly minted brothers, Bongo and George.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney reaches out for a kiss goodbye, which Bongo graciously gives him-though it doesn't look like it in this photo!
Though having fosters cats here for many months is not ideal and keeps us from helping more cats, knowing that these two will be going to a fantastic home, where their every need will be met, where they will be looked after and cherished, is a thrill. They're both such deserving cats, I can't help but smile thinking about them leaving us.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney still waits for a home. His Petfinder page is HERE.
I love both cats dearly and will miss them very much, but this time there are no tears. I won't be worrying that they won't get what they need as I sometimes do after adoptions.
My focus now is to find a home for Barney, who just had his first birthday and who still has no one interested in adopting him. It makes me so very sad. Barney is the sole survivor of his litter and is the most easy-going, friendly cat you'd ever meet. He makes me laugh with his silly antics. I just wish someone else would see that and want to open their home to him.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bunny is waiting, too! Here's her Petfinder PAGE.
Barney is also very close to Bunny Boo-Boo, who with her shyness is going to be tough to find a home for. She's sweet and playful and loves other cats, but she tends to hide when new people enter the room. Perhaps with George and Bongo on their way to their forever home, she'll have a chance to flower?
I guess we'll just go back to waiting and hope that one day the family for Barney and Bunny will contact me so they can find their rightful place in the world, just as Bongo and George have.
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.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney's naked patch.
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.
©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.
©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!
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Caught in the act.
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?
©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.
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.
©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.
©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.
©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.
©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.
July was even more difficult on us than June. Maria had taken in two more kittens from her neighbor who were very sick. A buff tabby named Tater Tot was the most ill. The Vet told us it was the “wet” form of FIP which is fatal. His sister, Latte was struggling with a terrible upper respiratory infection. Maria took time off from work to care for the cats around the clock. Neither of us slept much. I researched alternative treatments, testing, anything I could think of while we expected that Tater wouldn't be with us for much longer.
©2012 Maria S. (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our amazing survivor-Tater Tot.
Because Maria is so good at what she does, she noticed that Tater had tapeworms. We ran more tests. His belly was big and round from the tapeworms, giardia and what was almost pneumonia. Once we started treatment he began to show improvement. It took a few weeks but we were very happy to take FIP off the table as we saw Tater eat on his own and gain weight.
King arrived in my home for a few days. He was quite the charmer, but he wasn't meant to be here for very long. Sam and I drove King to New Hampshire, to his new home where his mom, Judy was waiting to adopt him. I loved this home for him and this good woman and her sister. I never thought King had a chance and here he was 1400 miles from the palette factory in a safe, loving environment.
Two of my dear friends adopted Sabrina and Cutie Pie. Their mom, April, found a home in Brooklyn, NY and their sister Bon Bon was adopted in June.
We took on another pregnant mama named Winnie and got a new foster home here in CT. Donna and her husband, Paul are great foster parents. Winnie had five amazing kittens on 8.10.12 named Buttons, Bandit, Honeydew, Charly and Pinkie.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Mama, Winnie (inset) waiting to see Dr. Chris. Buttons flying high while Honeydew and sister, Bandit look on.
I took another fistful of Xanax and flew to Topeka, Kansas to tour the Hill's Global Pet Nutrition Center. I tiptoed through the “dark side,” but made some good friends and learned a lot more about pet food ingredients.
Something horrible happened to my cat Spencer. He stopped eating and hid. X-rays showed a strange mass in his sinus. I tried to prepare myself for the worst. It turned out to be a false alarm which added many more gray hairs to my head.
I was honored to be chosen as one of five members of the Animal Control Advisory Panel, overseeing the operations of our brand new town's Animal Control facility here in Newtown, CT. We had our first meeting and I was delighted to be nominated as Co-Chair of the committee.
Just as I was about to get inundated with kitties from Maria and Cyndie, I found a foster home for two of the remaining black kitties and the final one, Hello Dahlia, was adopted. We got the word that Miss Fluffy Pants found a GREAT forever home and Coco, Chichi, Choco, Tater Tot, Latte, Fred & Barney, and Willow arrived!
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. (inset) the DOOD resting in his cage while his mysterious back injury slowly healed and a few months later enjoying the new cat tree in my office.
Chichi and Choco got adopted right away into a great home.
One morning, the DOOD couldn't get up and walk and was in terrible pain, growling or crying if we touched him. We did x-rays that showed nothing and began talking about taking DOOD to a neurologist or starting him on steroids. It took six long weeks, most of it forced cage rest, before he was well enough to walk again without pain. I think he fell down the spiral staircase to get into the basement where we store food for our feral cat, but we'll never really know what happened.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson getting oxygen before we raced him to the Emergency Vet and Intensive Care (inset). Jackson at home feeling better.
With Maria having space in her home open, we took on a kitty named Bongo who has nerve damage to his front leg. It had been a Hell of a month, but we kept on.
Opal went to a sanctuary and is doing well. She is becoming more friendly each day and she may one day be put up for adoption.
There was troubling news about King. He'd been struggling with chronic, severe and frankly bizarre ear infections. He had to have surgery, loads of daily cleanings, antibiotics. The other cats in the home weren't too sure about him. King faced losing his ears and his home, but his mom never gave up on him.
©2012 Maria S. Bunny Boo Boo (inset) with Bongo (left) and George (right)-who are all ready to be adopted! Email email@example.com for more info.
I rescued a knockout silver tabby Maine coon mix named Nico from a kill shelter in Georgia because I knew I could find him a home and I wasn't going to let him die.
Maria found a kitten in a parking lot she named, Bunny Boo Boo that she rescued on her own and we took on another cat whose former mom was going to lose her home if the landlord found out she rescued a cat from the parking lot nearby. We named him George and he and Bongo and Bunny Boo Boo are great friends.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hurricane Sandy, no power for almost a week-just a bad flashback to the year before when we got nailed at almost the same time by “Snowmageddon.”
Hurricane Sandy killed the power and made life HELL for a week making a mess of my home in Sandy Hook, CT.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. You are deeply missed, sweet girl.
Nico arrived and was adopted a few weeks later. The rest of Winnie's family found their forever homes. There were lots of inquiries about adopting kittens since the Holidays were approaching. Tater Tot, in a surprising twist, got adopted instead of Willow, who the family had come to meet. Willow, Fred & Barney and Latte were still with us waiting for their forever homes.
I got good news that King overcame his severe ear issues and was finally settling in with his new family. The other kitties were slowly accepting him and King was finding his place. His mom is the sort of adopter I always wish for-after a very rocky start, loads of vet bills and difficulties, she kept on. She never complained. She was completely devoted. My only hope is that her reward is enjoying the love of a very dear cat and hopefully a much easier future.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our mascot of Covered in Cat Hair and my baby, Spencer before and after surgery.
Spencer had a very challenging dental cleaning where he lost two more teeth and surgery to remove a mass from one ear and another from inside the other. I prepared myself for bad news, but the shock came as the test results indicated it was an apocrin gland cyst with “no content”-meaning NO CANCER.
Sam and I cleared out the garage of recycling one bright sunny morning. After we were done we went to Panera Bread to have a late breakfast. While we were sitting there we saw police cars racing past. I knew something bad had happened and a few minutes later I heard the news of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, which you can read more about HERE and HERE.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My home town will never be the same again. The school is a few miles from my home.
Wanting to reach out and help heal the broken hearts in our town, I created “Kitties for Kids” a kitten-therapy for the children, first responders and residents of Newtown, CT. We were featured on national television news and major news outlets online. We got loads of donations of plush toys and the first children and parents began to arrive to visit our kitties.
Although we had no Christmas and sent out no card (for the first time in my adult life), the joy of knowing I was helping people and the overwhelming honor of so many people reaching out to us was my gift.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. We will never forget and find a way to heal our hearts.
It's been quite a challenging and painful year. I realize that 2013 may be no easier. All I can do is hope that I'll be better able to handle what is yet to come and that for the cats out there who need me, that I'll have the resources to help them when the time comes.
The first morning after Spencer's surgery I went over to his crate and opened the door so he could stretch his legs. I hated having to confine him, but it's only for a few days. There's a pen attached to his crate once the door is open. It gives him more space, but keeps him from running around. He's supposed to rest. He's supposed to wear that damn “cone of shame.” He's supposed to be feeling awful for a few days.
I started placing the dishes out onto the counter. I count to myself the numbers 1 through 9. I have enough plates. Next is to get the raw food thawed so I go over to the refrigerator and pull out a package of food that Sam made up a few days ago. I hear a weird sound and turn. I don't see anything so I go back to what I was doing but something caught my eye. It was Spencer. He was sitting in his “spot” where he usually waits to be fed. He looked up at me and gave me the ever-familiar silent meow, letting me know he was hungry. The sound I heard must have been him jumping over the pen when just the night before there was no way he could manage.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. “This is your cat on drugs.”
It would be a good hour before the food was warm and Jackson, too, was fussing about wanting to eat. Who am I to say no to them after the last day we had?
I grabbed a few cans of one of their favorite canned grain-free foods and scooped some out on a dish. I hid Spencer's antibiotics and Jackson's pile of pills into the food after I'd coated them in my favorite stuff-Flavor Doh. It really works to hide pills! I put the food down and within two seconds, pills and all, it was gone. Spencer ate normally for the first time in MONTHS. He'd been chewing out of once side of his mouth, a telltale sign of some sort of dental problem. Here he was, like nothing ever happened. Meanwhile, Jackson was chowing down, wanting more. I couldn't be happier.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Purple-buprenex-haze.
Later that morning, as I sat at my desk, Spencer ran over and jumped into his favorite cat bed which is at table top height and is right next to me. I was so glad to see him, even though he was supposed to be in his cage resting. He seemed very comfortable even though he was still on Buprenex and was a bit loopy. Blitzen and Nicky were also in my office fast asleep. I felt safe again with them here. I couldn't get over how dreadfully lost I felt without them less than 24 hours ago. We were a family again and everyone was basically okay.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson, back to his old self.
I've said it many times before that my finances are in the shitter. Part of it was due to how much we spent trying to keep Bob Dole (my cat) alive, along with some other very costly Vet visits. I knew if Spencer had cancer I'd have a very very very hard time paying for his care. I would find a way, but when you're in a deep hole already, you don't have much energy or tools to dig deeper.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My lovely floor.
Meanwhile Jackson was back to his old ways. He was LOUD, meowing the second we went to bed, then starting up again very early in the morning. He wants his pills/snack at 7:20AM. I do not need an alarm clock with him. He's almost spritzed cat urine in the bedroom but I watch him like a hawk and have stopped him a number of times. It's exhausting. I don't know what it would take to get him to stop doing it. There's competition for the bedroom and he rarely stays the night. He's probably trying to scent the place so he can take over. Meanwhile it's pee pee pads by the front of the bed to protect the rug and a lot more policing then I'd like to do.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Yummy goodness, but naughty boy.
Jackson is not deaf. He MAY be hearing impaired to some degree, but I'm not sure how severe it is. He CAN hear me, especially if I YELL at him to NOT PEE on the BED. As for more subtle sounds, he may have a problem. More testing needs to be done.
For now it's simply watch and wait—make sure everyone stays out of trouble, eats their food, takes their medicine. Spencer's been very good about not picking at his sutures and for that I continue to be happy.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer with the only Friskies I allow in the house.
I also have one more thing to be HAPPY about.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Soulful Jackson.
I could barely speak and I had to hold back my tears as I thanked her profusely and hung up the phone. I ran to Sam to tell him, the tears falling freely, before I could get the words out, leaving him to think it was the worst before he realized it was the BEST NEWS EVER!
Not only was Spencer just fine and dandy, but the weight of worrying about how I would pay for his care lifted. What a great gift! It was completely unexpected and so very very sincerely appreciated. My boys were back home with me, just where they belong. I wanted to hold each one tight and never let them go.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me and my baby. It's going to be okay.
I may not have ever had human children, but I suddenly felt like I understood how the bond between a Mother and child-how it must feel to almost lose someone you love very much, then yank the back from the edge of the cliff at the very last second. It's been quite a week and this time we get a happy ending. I know it won't always be like this, but for now it's all good.
Jackson made it to the Vet without dying, but he cried pitifully once we entered the waiting room and were met by two big dogs. I blocked Jackson from seeing them as much as I could, fighting off the urge to grab the dogs and run them out of the building and release them into the parking lot while their owners ignored their interest in my cat.
One of the Techs took Jackson into the back room. This time I wasn't invited to join them. She came back out and we discussed Jackson's symptoms. We'd noticed he was a bit off and on over the past few days, but he'd maintained his good appetite until that day. He'd regurgitated his food after eating two days ago, but other than that he was just a bit more quiet than usual.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. At the Vet, now would he survive the Exam?
That was it. Now we wait. We wait for two cats who are at some risk of having a really bad day. I asked after Spencer, but they hadn't gotten his blood work back yet, which would either allow them to do his surgery of have to postpone it. Sam drove us home. Neither of us spoke a word. I closed my eyes and tried to rest. I realize stress is a killer and I have to work on how I deal with situations like this. What I really wanted to do was crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head.
When we got home, as I walked in the door, I stepped on my stupid-jeans again, re-igniting my irritation. If it hadn't been such a cold day I would have yanked them off then and there. Instead, I got to work and focused on keeping myself busy. I kept looking at the clock, trying to imagine what was being done.
Shortly after 2PM Dr. Larry called me. He's just finished working on Spencer and wanted to give me his findings.
Spencer's mouth was a MESS, his gums were like “hamburger meat.” Spencer needed two molars removed which were very difficult to get out. The other teeth looked remarkably good. I need to insert a note here that I've recently learned that the theory about WHY cat's teeth are SO BAD is because they no longer gnaw on food as they would if they were killing a mouse or chewing on a bone. They can't crunch dry food and canned is too soft. Since their teeth have no real pressure on them the blood supply is reduced, hence poor oral health. To solve this if you're like me, you'd give the cats raw chicken necks, wings or turkey necks or wings to give them something to sink their teeth into. NOT COOKED with brittle bones-just rinsed with cold water and served raw.
Dr. Larry removed the small wart on the back of Spencer's leg (that I discovered as I was loading him into his cat carrier that morning).
…and Dr. Larry didn't feel comfortable taking it now. We'll keep an eye on it instead.
The good news was that Spencer's blood work was “very good,” ”nothing remarkable.” Considering Spencer is about eleven years old, having good blood work results is something to be proud of-Go Raw Diet!
Dr. Larry offered to give Spencer a shot of Convenia to which I adamantly opposed. He doesn't like it for oral issues anyway so I'm to give Spencer Clindamycin for the next two weeks as well as give him pain meds for a few days. Spencer is to get cage rest and wear “the cone of shame” until “he doesn't need to any more.”
By 6PM Spencer was ready to come home, but what of Jackson? I hadn't had any update. I didn't even know if he was ALIVE. When we reached the Clinic the first thing we asked was; “Do we have one or two cats to bring home tonight?”
The answer was TWO.
Okay, good start. They brought Jackson out. He was sitting up, meowing loudly. He looked GOOD, perky, ready to go HOME. Dr. Mary did his examination and talked about how she worked hard not to upset Jackson, which also meant she couldn't do many tests other than an examination and get his temperature. She gave Jackson more lasix to help move the fluid out of his lungs and around his heart. Jackson sounded VERY WET when he coughed and I'd already spoken with Dr. Larry about changing the dose, but he wanted to wait. Cats don't do that well on diuretics so adding more has to be done very soberly and thoughtfully.
After the injection, Jackson took a big pee, then perked up. Because his lungs are really wet and they could be breeding bacteria, she also gave him antibiotics (which I will continue for two weeks). We discussed changing Jackson's meds and will work something out there. For now he was to go HOME, get something in his belly and see how he does.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Feel beter, Jackson Galaxy!
It would answer the question of why he yowls just as we go to bed each night. He can't hear where we went off to and wonders where we've gone. He may be causing fights with the other cats because he can't hear their cues/warnings to get away. I said we'd observe him and report back. My goodness Jackson's certainly keeping me on my toes.
They brought Spencer out and he was growling a little bit, clearly whacked out on painkillers. They forgot to give me the cone of shame and I silently hoped he wouldn't pick on his stitches. Ears can bleed a lot and if he messed with the stitches I'd have to get one on him right away. He can get very crabby. Having to cage rest him for a few days would be asking too much of him already.
I had my boys back home and I hoped they were changed for the better. It was back to watch and wait to find out if they'd benefited some long term positive results. I had a better idea of what I was dealing with and they both survived the day.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer in his pen with Blitzen wondering what's going on.
Once home, I was finally able to take off my annoying jeans and toss them into the laundry. Next stop the dry cleaners to get the dammed things hemmed up or maybe dig out some duct tape to do the job?
Stay tuned for part three!
The past 24 hours have squeezed the life out of me. I could barely make it to my bed last night I was so tired.
The morning started off too early. I wanted to go back to bed as soon as I left it, but I pushed myself to get into the shower. Get dressed. Get going. I had to get ready to leave for Dr. Larry's with Spencer in tow. It was finally time for Spencer to get his MUCH NEEDED dental cleaning done, as well as the removal of an ugly black growth from the edge of his right ear. Spencer also had a small growth INSIDE his left ear that had to go, too. It was these two unwelcome guests that I was most worried about. Was it CANCER?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My baby.
I got dressed and put on a new pair of jeans. I managed to get them half price on Cyber Monday. It was the first new pair of clothes I'd had since I could remember. They fit great but were a bit too long. As I walked I kept catching the ends under my feet, causing me to hike up my jeans as high as they could go, but then they'd slip back down. I'd get them hemmed later, but it made me crankier.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Growth highlighted. Was VERY difficult to notice this until it was bigger due to Spencer's coloring.
Spencer was a dream to get into his cat carrier, but once we got into the car, his pupils dilated and he started to, well, not meow, per se, but sort of squeak. Spencer doesn't meow. He never has. I call what he does "air meow" because he WILL look at me, then open his mouth; it's just that nothing comes out but some air from his lungs.
I took the back roads instead of the highway, determined to keep Spencer as comfortable as possible. Just before we reached the Clinic, a cop car whizzed past us, lights and sirens blaring. I knew from the days when I volunteered with EMS that it had to be bad news, the more noise and fuss the car was making, the worse the situation. I wondered where he was going as a sense of dread filled my heart. I hoped this wasn't a bad sign of things to come.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This is Spencer's favorite spot, right next to me when I'm working at my desk.
It was quiet at the Clinic so I asked if I could set Spencer up in his cage and to spend a few minutes saying goodbye. I've been a client of Dr Larry's for over 15 years so I get to go in the back where client's aren't usually allowed.
There were two big dogs barking loudly. The Tech got them to quiet down, but it ticked up my anxiety wanting to protect Spencer from these beasts. Spencer didn't want to come out of his carrier. I couldn't blame him. I ended up having to tip the carrier up on its edge hoping gravity would do the trick and it did.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Dirty, yucky, teeth and gums.
I spent a few minutes talking to Spencer, petting him, kissing him, somehow trying to capture this moment because of the fear under all the other fears—that I would never see Spencer again. I realize it may sound dramatic, but over the past few weeks so many cats have died that I just felt this sense of impending doom. I kept thinking about Bobette and how we all thought she was going to be fine and she didn't survive her surgery. I pushed back my fears as best I could, but I wasn't raised to have faith, my parents feeling we should decide our own path to religion (if we had one at all). It left me struggling with my feelings.
I didn't go straight home. I decided to go grocery shopping, get just a few things. I was tired of being hungry and broke, but I certainly had enough to buy some bread and eggs, maybe some soup. The store was not crowded, being that it was not even 9AM. I enjoyed the meditative quality of walking up and down the aisles, looking at all the food, wondering what was on sale and what would make for an inexpensive meal while my tummy rumbled reminding me I'd skipped breakfast.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Not comin' out!
As usual, I bought more than I anticipated, but took advantage of the sales and saved $40.00, for which I felt quite proud. I distracted myself long enough to forget my worries about Spencer. He was in good hands. I had to wait and see how things would unfold, but I couldn't fool myself completely. I was really cranky from being tired and from struggling to not to be worried. By the time I got home I was in a bad mood.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Too fluffy for feet? Spencer in his cage.
I got the car unloaded and Sam helped me put the groceries away. He didn't say anything to me until we were done.
“I need to talk to you about Jackson.”
I felt a ice pick in my gut and my legs go wobbly.
“He didn't eat this morning and is hiding in your office. I can't get him to eat. Something's wrong.”
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This makes me sick-I think of all the “urgent” cats who need to get out of shelters and I look at this photo and see my sweet kitty-how much I love him-how easy it could be for him to be one of those cats.
I began rattling off questions as we walked into my office. Sure enough there was Jackson with his front legs tucked under him. It's called “meatloafing” and it's an indicator that Jackson was in pain. I squatted down and petted Jax. He didn't respond. Normally Jackson would press his head back into my hand and start purring right away. He just sat there in stone silence.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The day before he was a bit “off.”
I hustled back into the kitchen, my jeans getting caught up under my feet. I wanted to rip them off and throw them out. My mind racing, I thought of things I had on hand to tempt Jackson to eat. Nothing worked. I even brought out the big guns-DRY FOOD. He wouldn't even sniff it.
Once at the Vet we wouldn't be able to do anything to him other than an exam because the stress, again, could push him into heart failure. Jackson was only to have home visits from Dr. Larry, not trips to see him!
We started to get ready, then I stopped Sam. We both sat down in the living room, looking at Jackson, who'd relocated along with us. I didn't want to rush a decision. He'd only missed ONE meal and we were running him to the Vet. How nutty did that sound? Maybe we should wait a day and see how he does? Maybe he's in trouble and we need to bring him in right away?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. We chose to risk the trip to the Vet. It was up to Jackson if it could make it.
We went back and forth weighing the pros and cons.
We offered him the cat carrier and he got up and went right inside it-no fuss-no stress. It was a good start, but would we MAKE it to the Vet?
I asked Sam to drive slowly, to take the back road I'd just been on an hour before with Spencer. We stopped part way into the trip because Jackson started to cry. I was sitting next to his carrier with the door open, my arm snaked around the door so I could offer him what comfort I could. He was sitting awkwardly, crying as I scratched his neck. I wondered if I'd made a terrible mistake and if this trip was sending Jackson's heart into dangerous rhythm.
It’s (s)Not All Right
Poor Tater and Willow. They’ve been chronically sick. Willow shoots snots across the room and Tater’s eye is always running and he sounds stuffed up. I decided it was worth the risk of not getting any information (some times these tests don't tell you much) to get an expensive DNA test on Tater’s eye goop called a PCR for URI. With any luck we’d find out what was causing Tater his misery.
It took a week, then the news: Mycoplasma.
My reaction, duh, of course. Tater’s constant runny eye is definitely indicative of mycoplasma (but it's also a symptom of other issues which is why we do the PCR test).
Latte and Fred and Coco started to get sick. They’d all been in the same room for a month. I had the kittens examined. Only Coco was running a mild fever in addition to a runny eye and sneezing. It was bizarre the ALL the cats had an issue in their right eye, except for Tater. We decided that the best course of treatment would be to hit the kittens hard with antibiotics for 30 days because mycoplasma is bacterial, not viral.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Re-check for fleas. None were found. Whew!
I’d heard from a lecture by Dr. Hurley at UC Davis, that they will go to a 60 day protocol to really infiltrate the fine bones of the nose. My Vet hadn't heard of this so I thought we'd start at 30 and see how it goes.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow waits while the other cats get examined.
Medicating cats is never fun, BUT with Doxycycline as the medicine of choice, I had a scary task ahead of me. I learned the HARD WAY that…
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor Coco.
Having to pill 6 cats X 2/day for a month means 360 chances for me to screw up and cause multiple strictures in the kittens.
I’m determined, as always, to do right by these cats. While some scratched their head at me for not opting to use a liquid version of the antibiotic, I opted for ¼ of a tablet per cat. Each pill is coated in Flavor Doh. I like it much better than Pill Pockets® and the cats do, too. THEN I sprinkle dehydrated chicken over the pea-sized coated pill and feed as a treat, making SURE the cats are HUNGRY and more apt to eat what I put in front of them.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow weighs in at just five pounds.
The new problem I made for myself is they will eat anything and charge me at the door when they're really hungry. Entering the room is a comedic farce. I try to balance a plate with six tiny pill-peas on it, the cats push past me and run down the hall, unleashing their snottiness and frustration about being hungry all over the vicinity. In a panic, I put the plate down. With the cats corralled (and my blood pressure soaring), I turn to retrieve the plate only to find Latte had eaten all but the last remaining pill.
The Vet said she would have “GI upset” and not to pill her again that day (DUH!).
Meanwhile I had to go back and prep more pills, make sure they eat just one, then syringe them with 3mLs of water, then feed them. All this to make sure that pill doesn’t sit in their throat. All this while they are racing around the room in a panic because they’re so hungry.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Staying on track with a chart.
Today marks one full week of medicating the cats. It’s amazing that I can even do this when previously this would have freaked me out to the point where I’d just be upset all the time. Now I grab the cats unceremoniously and do what I need to do. I give them love afterwards so they don’t hate me forever and I move on. I think I’m finally getting the hang of (some of) this rescue stuff.
Part three is up next…what about Jackson? What about the DOOD? What about that bigass Hurricane Sandy headed my way?
It's been a long three weeks since the DOOD injured his back. I don't know how it happened, but it must have been pretty bad because he hasn't been able to walk comfortably since. You can read more about the injury HERE.
DOOD's been under strict cage rest since Thursday. He's also been on an opiate-based painkiller called Buprenex. It makes DOOD loopy and very friendly. It keeps him quiet, though I'm not sure he's getting very good rest. DOOD also gets a baby aspirin, which is normally a big no-no, but he's only had it a few times.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. the DOOD's temporary home-featuring a heated bed.
During the past few days DOOD has barely moved. If he does move, he appears very weak and I feared he was getting worse. If cage rest didn't help, the next step would be to see a specialist, do a CT scan and probably have to do surgery to take the pressure off what we fear is a pinched nerve.
I know the danger of having all these thoughts-of thinking too much and creating awful scenarios in my head. I have to face only what is wrong now and do my best to help DOOD until that information changes. To upset myself with “what ifs” is a waste of time.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson often sleeps in the cat carrier next to DOODs crate-which is odd since DOOD often hisses at Jax.
Of course, being rational is never easy when you add stress and fear to the mix so last night I had an impressive melt down.
I function day to day knowing that I'm walking a tightrope. Bills get paid, but there isn't much leftover. If something bad happened to any of the cats or my car, my house, etc., it could just toss me over an edge I can't recover from. My rational mind says things have been tough for a long time, but I'll find a way. My fearful mind pushes me to flip out over not being able to open a bottle or that I can't nicely encourage Spencer to get out of my office so I can shut the door-so the cats won't go in there and pee while I'm sleeping upstairs. I have to yell at him to get him out of the room. This is not me, I love Spencer. I don't want to yell at him, but after years on end of stress, of cats peeing all over, of Jackson and his issues and now he's been attacking my own cats…the vice grip on my poor head gets tighter and tighter. The headaches are worse and worse and I can't find an escape from all of this. There is too much to do, to tend to, other people to help, cats in need.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen visits DOOD every day.
I can usually take it on in fairly good humor or make a joke about it, but last night I could not. I just raged and sobbed while Sam sat there, not sure if he'd lose his hand if he reached out to me. There was a time he would talk to me, help comfort me, but even with our relationship, there is another tightening of the strap around my head. We don't talk much. We don't do much. We both focus on caring for our cats and we both do our little chores and that's about it. I feel pretty empty inside.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. At Dr. Larry's this morning as lovely as ever.
After my nice fit, I went to sleep. I dragged myself out of bed this morning and started the usual boring routine of caring for the cats, cleaning up vomit or pee, scooping the pans, feeding the foster kittens. Before too long it was time to pack DOOD up and take him to see Dr. Larry. Today was the day. Would DOOD finally be able to walk again? From what I'd seen the answer would be no, but I hadn't encouraged DOOD to move this week so perhaps I'd be surprised.
DOOD was great at the Vet. His temperature was back to normal for the first time. He lost a few ounces, which in his case is a good thing. Dr. Larry examined him and DOOD didn't fuss. He didn't seem to be in much pain, but I wondered if the last of the Buprenex was still in his system.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This is what I miss seeing.
Dr. Larry gingerly placed DOOD on the floor. I walked to the other side of the room and called to him. With tail held high, DOOD took his first few steps. I expected his back legs to wobble as they had this past month, but they did not.
My Mother had a bizarre saying that popped into my head; “I didn't know whether to shit or go blind.” I couldn't believe DOOD looked so much better. It's as if one cat was lying injured in my home while this doppleganger was healthy in Dr. Larry's office.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Dreams.
Of course my fearful mind didn't want to get too excited. Dr. Larry said DOOD should have one more week of cage rest and two more aspirin but no more buprenex. We would continue to be conservative about DOOD's care and hope that another week would give him the recovery time he needed before he joined the rest of the family.
Some good news at last and some hopeful news, as well. DOOD must have been wiped out from the little bit of walking he did because when we got home I let him out of the cat carrier and he walked quickly into his cage and laid down on his cat bed. A few minutes later he was sleeping soundly. If that cage had been any bigger, I would have joined him.
On to the next thing…Bobby called with news about Bongo and it wasn't good.
You never know what will come to pass when you rescue a kitten with a known physical problem. With King, we wondered if he'd been abused or if he was born deformed. Could he function better with a cart or prosthetic enhancements to his prematurely shortened hind limbs? In the end, King was perfect as he was born, missing the last inch or so of his legs and his paws. He does fine getting along on carpeting in his new home without any help or special surgery.
©2012 Maria S. Bongo enjoying a soft bed and freedom from the death row at the shelter.
With Bongo, our latest rescue, we have more questions than answers. Things we do know:
Bongo is NEGATIVE for FIV+ and Feline Leukemia.
Bongo is about seven months old.
We x-rayed his right front leg, which he does not use. His paw is warm, there is blood flow and sensation. There were no signs of major breaks but the x-ray could not detect any possible small fractures in the paw. The Vet felt amputation might be the best thing to do. If you watch the video, it's be clear his limb is slowing him down.
Thankfully, Bongo is also VERY FRIENDLY which will make whatever he needs medically, easier on him and foster mom, Maria.
©2012 Maria S. & Robin Olson. Bongo's first steps.
I've never had to give the OKAY to amputate an animal's limb before. I've only ever had one foster cat who had to have his right front leg removed. He was about Bongo's age and did very well after surgery. His leg had no sensation and was probably ruined in an accident, so in his case there was little to question.
X-ray of Bongo's Leg.
I realize there are some folks who would just take the leg without getting more definitive answers. It's a lot less expensive to take a leg off than it is to repair it. The recovery time is less and there are no chances of having to do a second surgery if the leg is already gone, instead of if the surgery is done badly.
©2012 Maria S. Someday we hope Bongo will be able to run and play like any other kitten.
We're doing a small fundraiser to cover the office visit and additional x-rays. Anything we don't use for this visit will be used for Bongo's future care. If you can donate the price of a cup of coffee to Bongo, it could mean a world of difference. Small donations pooled together can make big things happen!
We realize things are tight for everyone so if you can't donate, then would you please SHARE this post with your Bongo-loving friends?
Your donation is TAX-DEDUCTIBLE as my rescue, Kitten Associates is a 501©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 "Bongo" mail it to:
P.O. Box 354
Newtown, CT 06470-0354
Thank you and stay tuned for more updates on this sweet little guy.
The fur is growing back on Jackson's front legs from where he was shaved to insert an IV needle. The fur is growing back on Jackson's chest where he was shaved so the cardiologist could get a better echocardiogram of his malfunctioning heart. In some ways, Jackson appears the same as he did when we rescued him from a kill shelter nine months ago, but in some ways Jackson is being transformed and the results have been surprising and shocking.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Beginning to feel better.
It's been about ten days since we discovered Jackson was suffering from Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy—a thickness of the lining of the walls of Jackson's heart. Twice each day Jackson needs to be medicated with two tiny pills. Every third day, Jackson gets a quarter portion of a baby aspirin to prevent clots from forming.
At first I worried if I'd be able to keep to the schedule of medicating Jackson. I feared he'd be resistant and grow to challenge my attempts. Luckily, Jackson's been surprisingly easy to pill-so far-knock wood. I can hide Jackson's pills in minute amount of Flavor DOH along with a little bit of his favorite canned food.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Is Jackson a good egg?
The only difficult thing about treating Jackson has been keeping his pills organized and making sure each Sunday I prep his pills by cutting them into halves and placing them in a pill box. I went a bit overbid and got his prescriptions compounded into liquid in case I couldn't give Jax a pill. It was expensive and turns out, unnecessary. At least I have more meds should I run out without having a refill on hand.
Before the “incident” Jackson was either very quiet or cried at night. He mostly kept to himself and slept. Once in awhile he'd play with the laser pointer. Now that he's been on his medication, a new Jackson is emerging. One I'm not sure I like very much.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Petunia, Nicky and Jackson (in egg).
Don't get me wrong, Jackson is a sweet cat, friendly and affectionate, but as soon as his energy level increased, his behavior changed. I caught Jackson spritzing urine near the kitchen, then again in a few other places. I deal with cat pee every day, but adding ANOTHER cat to the “who did the peeing” list is a nightmare.
I do the best I can to clean it up and sort out why they feel the need to do that. Sam and I are always looking for more ways to make them feel more comfortable and at ease. We want them to be happy, but we need some sense of autonomy over our own living conditions, too.
Yesterday something happened that could be the beginning of the end-the one thing I cannot tolerate and I can tolerate a lot. Without provocation Jackson charged after Petunia, scaring her badly. That's not the end of the world, but what he did next shocked me.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor Cricket is still stressed after being attacked.
Jackson jumped up to the top of a cat tree where Cricket was sleeping. Cricket is our “former feral” cat. He keeps to himself and he doesn't bother with any of the other cats. He's probably the most submissive cat in the house and one of the sweetest.
What the HELL was going on? This is NOT acceptable. My cat-mother-protectivness came out with a vengeance. My cats are not going to fall victim to attacks like this. I don't care what is going on with Jackson. If he's injuring my cats that's it. He's out. It's not fair that my cats are subjected to new cats from time to time or have to suffer upper respiratory because I have sick kittens in another part of the house.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson just wants to be understood and loved for who he is.
But how am I going to talk about this? I'm going to get judged for what I do or think about this situation? Perhaps knowing that gave me pause and kept me from kicking Jackson out of the house.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
Tomorrow Jackson returns to the Vet. This is his first Vet visit since he almost died. He's no longer in pain and feeling better. We're repeating his x-rays to see how his heart is responding to medication. We're running a FreeT4 blood test to look at his thyroid levels and we're checking his kidney function because he can have kidney problems due to the fluids he has to move to keep his heart and lungs clear.
Perhaps we'll find out that all these issues are caused by his thyroid, which can be treated. Perhaps it will make it a lot easier to forgive Jackson for his mis-behaviors. I realize he's not a man in a cat suit and he's behaving as a cat does, but who IS this cat? Is he as sweet as sugar or the devil in disguise? Is he just bored? What am I doing to contribute to the problem or am I the problem?
I can't say today, but fairly soon we'll know more and hopefully be able to get a better understanding of just who Jackson Galaxy really is.