Wellness

The Accidental Feral. Big Daddy’s Near Death Scare.

Saturday morning I got a text message from Warren that made me burst into tears. It was bad news about a cat named Big Daddy, a hunk of man-cat Warren had trapped behind Home Depot near his house in northern Georgia a few months ago. At the time, we assumed the cat was feral, but within hours after being trapped it was clear this cat was the exact opposite. He was SO charming we ALL fell in love with him. I wrote about Big D’s adventure in the post: The Accidental Feral, Big Daddy.

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©2014 William Mahone. Used with permission. www.WilliamMahonePhotography.com. The face that launched 1000 sighs…Big Daddy.

Soon after my post went up asking for a shelter to take on Big Daddy we were delighted that Angels of Assisi, of Roanoke, VA, offered to provide a placement for him until he was adopted. [You can check out that story here The Accidental Feral's Next Journey is with the Angels]

After only a few weeks of being with A of A, Big Daddy was adopted, but sadly, was returned due to his serious fear of dogs. We knew he'd find his home so he returned to the shelter to wait. As far as we knew, Big D was fine until the shocking news on Saturday.

Big Daddy who has FIV, was in critical condition from a serious upper respiratory tract infection that had gotten so bad one of his lungs collapsed. The lack of oxygen in his system caused him to go blind.

My own vet, Dr. Larry, had never even heard of anything like that happening before and neither had I. Though technically it could be possible, it was not something that happened with any regularity and also proved how seriously ill Big Daddy was…

…and explained why there was little hope he’d make it through the night.

I posted a PawCircle for Big Daddy right away on our Facebook page and so began the flood of good wishes, prayers and loving messages from over 30,000 people from as far away as Australia and the UK.

If love alone could cure Big Daddy, then he should be fine, but I knew better.

It was up to Big Daddy’s compromised immune system as to whether or not he would survive once he was getting IV antibiotics and other supportive care.

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©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Before Big Daddy got sick

I wanted to bargain with God to spare Big Daddy’s life. I promised I’d rescue more cats or be a better person…I was so busted up I couldn’t stop crying. For the next 24 hours I felt sick to my stomach with worry, hoping Warren wouldn’t update me or that he would, but only with good news.

Megan, Big Daddy’s foster mom at A of A relayed the story of how things unfolded. With her permission I’m sharing her words here with some minor edits:

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Big Daddy first got sick last weekend, Chelsea and I saw him on Saturday April 26th and he had the typical URI symptoms - runny nose, sneezy, congested, a little lethargic. He was still in good spirits at that time, while he wasn’t coming to the front of his cage demanding love he was accepting when we reached in. He had been started on antibiotics at that point. Put a bowl of wet food in front of him and he chowed down. By Monday (April 28) he was getting worse – very congested, blowing snot, not eating. The vets changed up his meds at this point to guifasen cough tabs, clavamox, and some nasal drops to help with the congestion.

On Wednesday (April 30) I brought him home to foster and help him recover, I have a very good track record with sick kittens and thought I’d give Big Daddy a try here. I was aware that because of his FIV he would have a harder time fighting this infection, but I had no idea what was in store for us over the next few days. … I was syringe feeding him (he was not eating on his own at all at this point), giving him his meds, nebulizing him twice a day, and keeping a humidifier running in his room all the time.

He seemed stable Wednesday and Thursday, but Friday evening he began going downhill very quickly. He was wheezing and gasping for breath most of the night. As I was trying to syringe feed him Friday night he had started clenching his jaw so tight I was not able to wiggle the syringe in to feed him at all. At that point I started panicking, unsure what to do for him. I tried giving him subcutaneous fluids, but he was fighting so much that the needle wouldn’t stay in.

After another attempt at syringe feeding he got very agitated and started walking away from me… He got to the edge of the bed and walked off, not jumped, walked off the bed right into the floor. This is when I REALLY panicked and started to think maybe he couldn’t see, I had also noticed that he would sit with his face against a wall and paw at the wall.

I slept in my guest bedroom with him Friday night, unsure if he would even make it through the night. Saturday morning I got him to the vet at Angels of Assisi with tears in my eyes because I was afraid there was nothing else we could do for our sweet boy, our fabulous veterinarian Dr. Raeann Foster immediately started working on Big Daddy in between paying clients.

He was started on oxygen via facemask; she gave him some steroids, and was planning on starting an IV to give him fluids. After describing how he walked off the bed and was staring at walls she tested his vision and confirmed that he was blind.

She believed that his brain had been oxygen deprived for so long and that’s what had led to the blindness. Obviously, with the blindness everything we tried to do was absolutely terrifying to him and he became very stressed and started lashing out at everyone who would touch him. Raeann (with the help of two great vet assistants!) was finally able to start an IV catheter so we could give him fluids.

We got him back on the oxygen, but he became very stressed and thrashed until he ripped out the IV. At this point Chelsea spoke with Warren to update him on Big Daddy’s status and let him know that we may lose him…Warren generously offered to sponsor Big Daddy’s care if we could/would get him to a full service clinic.

I high tailed it to Emergency Veterinary Services of Roanoke and they quickly took him from me to begin examining and working on him. The vet there updated me quickly and warned me that his prognosis was not good and that he could crash and go downhill very quickly. She told me the plan was to place him in an oxygen chamber where he would be able to get continuous oxygen to help him breathe better. When he was more relaxed they would start running blood work and get chest x-rays. They had to take everything very slowly as it didn’t take much to stress Big Daddy out and cause him to lash out at the staff. I left him in their very capable hands at this point. I called later that evening to check on him and was told that they’d been able to start an IV to give him fluids and antibiotics, had drawn some blood, and he was resting comfortably.

I called again late that night to check on him again and they’d been able to do all his blood work and x-rays, but did not have results yet. I tried to get some sleep Saturday night wondering if Big Daddy would make it. I called first thing Sunday morning for an update on him and was shocked to hear that he’d eaten a little on his own! The oxygen and fluids and antibiotics were working wonders! He seemed to be regaining some vision; he was more relaxed and very friendly with the staff taking care of him. She even told me that he was purring!

She told me that he was not out of the woods just yet, but that she was very happy with the progress he’d made over night. His blood work results were in – his WBC count was very elevated (Which was expected with an infection); his kidney enzymes were slightly elevated (possibly due to dehydration). His x-rays showed the he had a possible collapsed lung, which explained his difficulty breathing. She said they would begin trying to wean him off the oxygen then. So while he was not out of the woods, we became cautiously optimistic for a full recovery!

I went to visit BD that evening at the Emergency Vet clinic and he was looking amazing, I could not believe this was the same cat I’d dropped off just 24 hours prior when he couldn’t breathe or see! He was now completely off oxygen, his vision was returning, he was eating on his own, he was purring and loving on the staff…

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©2014 Megan Greer. Used with Permission. Big Daddy, down 3 pounds from being sick, got a visit from Megan at the ER Vet.

As the hours ticked by it seemed that Big Daddy was responding to treatment enough to leave the ER. By Monday he was back home with Megan, who would provide him with continued care and monitoring. With the good news spreading that Big D. was going to make it I think we all shared a sigh of relief and plenty of tears, but it also left us with more questions.

What was next for Big Daddy? How could he go back to A of A’s shelter after being so very sick and be exposed to other cats? If he couldn't be in the shelter where would he go? Could he stay in foster care for the time being…but how long could he stay there if it prevented the shelter from saving more lives?

The answer was starting to take shape, but right now we have to focus on getting Big Daddy stable and off his meds, then see how he does.

Angels of Assisi has an Amazon WishList that includes some food for Big Daddy. If you'd like to send him a Get Well gift please visit THIS LINK. MAKE SURE YOU LEAVE A GIFT MESSAGE THAT YOUR GIFT IS FOR BIG DADDY (he likes Blue Buffalo and Spot's Stew and others).

A of A would also like to THANK everyone for their support and words of encouragement and to Warren for covering 100% of Big Daddy's vet care costs.

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Stay tuned for Part Two…“The Accidental Feral. There's No Place Like Home.”

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The Eyes Have It. Ch 6. Adoptions At Last!

Of the six Clementine-kittens only one has been adopted. Marigold found her forever family while her brothers and sisters continued to wait. The Clems had been with me for over SIX MONTHS when Mari left us. The delay was mostly due to a reoccurring eye infection/upper respiratory tract infection. Though not seriously ill, I couldn’t let them be adopted until I had a better understanding on whether or not this was going to be a chronic condition. It wasn’t fair to adopters.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mandy, Blossom, Bert and Mango (I can FINALLY tell them apart!)

The reason Mari got adopted was that she had been one of the most healthy of the litter and I’d just started a new treatment that we thought would resolve her issues. She seemed to do well so I believed I could move on with adopting out the others, but I was wrong. Buttercup got the eye infection again and Bert looked like he was getting it back, too.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Vampire Buttercup!

In March, one of our vets suggested we test the kittens for Bartonella. I almost slapped myself in the head when he said that. Of all the treatments and tests we’d never done that one and it made PERFECT sense. Bartonella is transmitted by fleas and the Clems were COVERED with them when we got them off transport. No wonder the kittens were never 100% well—especially Bert, who early on got hit the worst. I chose to test Bert for that reason and wasn’t surprised at the result.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Rock Star Pose with Mandy (left), Blossom (center), Mango (right).

A week later the results came in. Bert was a STRONG positive for bartonella. This was great news because it’s treatable, but the bad news was for Buttercup and Blossom, who were on the cusp of being adopted by Ellen and her family. Sadly Ellen has to be extremely careful about her health and after a long talk with her Doctor and Vet they decided it would be safer for the kittens to get their treatment here, THEN finalize the adoption.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Silly Mandy with her “Precious” toy. She is obsessed with it.

I could not argue that point, in fact, I wanted them to stay with me. Why have the first few weeks of an adoption include their new mom having to medicate them for 3 weeks? Also, bartonella, also called Cat Scratch Fever, IS contagious to humans and from what I’ve heard from a Vet that caught it, it’s a very painful infection.

The medication cost $235.00 for the 6 Clems and Biscotti, who I decided to treat at the advice of our Vet. I almost fell over at the cost. This litter of kittens was one of the most expensive to care for to date. Some times it amazes me just how expensive it is to care for a few kittens. It can really add up fast when they get sick.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Bert and Mango want MOMMY while Blossom jumps down to rub against my legs

The risk of making the adopters wait was that the adopter could give up on doing the adoption and the girls would lose their home. There was nothing I could do expect hope for the best and that the family would still want the “kittens” now that their kittenhood is long past them. The “kittens” are huge, too, eating me out of house and home. I have to feed them at least 10, 5 oz cans of food a DAY. I can barely keep up with demand. I’m used to feeding a few little kittens, not the equivalent of 6 more adults who are pushing 8 pounds each (their brothers will be 9 pounds any second now). I really needed to get these cats placed before I ran out of money to care for them.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mandy and the faux-sniff.

Ellen and I volleyed emails and photos, making sure our connection wasn’t lost. She watched SqueeTV , our webcam, with her boys all the time so she could keep up on how the kittens were doing. I could tell she was anxious to get the girls and was willing to wait the extra time to be able to finalize the adoption. I was very relieved.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Biscotti, always in the background with Blossom and Mango.

Finally on April 6th, Sam and I drove the girls to their new home, which is a block away from Long Island Sound. It was one of the first really sunny spring days so it was a very enjoyable drive to Westport, CT. The girls were a bit fussy in the car, but surprisingly Blossom got out of her carrier and sat in my lap, purring, watching the traffic go by. Buttercup was a bit more reserved but the trip wasn’t very long, so I don’t think she was too stressed.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mandy and Buttercup.

After over a month wait, the girls got to meet their new family. Ellen was making sure everything was set in the kitchen where the girls would start off their new life. We took away a few items that might cause problems, then let the girls out. Blossom fared better, but both girls were very scared. The room was big and bright with lots of windows for bird watching. I knew they would be happy, but I knew it would take time.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Blossom, Buttercup and you-know-who watch Mango fly.

As we filled out the paperwork the girls began to explore a little bit. We gave them a snack and they both ate, which was a good sign. The neighbor’s cat, who looked like their dad, walked past the front window but the girls didn’t notice. I warned the family that the girls might flip out if they saw the cat again and that they could start peeing in the kitchen. I silently prayed there’d be no problems. The girls were very easy going and sweet. I hoped they’d get a kick out of seeing another cat.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. NOT photoshopped! Mandy (left), Blossom (center), Mango (right), Biscotti pose for the camera (for once!).

Once we got everything settled I gave the girls a kiss goodbye. It wasn’t a sad parting because I knew Ellen would make sure they got everything they needed and that her husband and sons would help her give them a great life. It wasn’t because I didn’t love them, because I did, but in truth they should have been adopted months ago and now we have more kittens in our program who need our help.

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©2014 Ellen Gleicher. Used with Permission. The girls together in their new home.

I’m glad the girls get to stay together, because I always prefer litters to be split into pairs if possible. Now I had 3 kittens left from this family: Mango, Bert and Mandy.

But what of Biscotti, the shy kitty who always got overlooked? He’d moved in with the Clementines after his surrogate mom, Mocha, and her kittens were all adopted. I worried that Biscotti, who hides and seems to be completely mortified when new people arrive, would never find his place. The Clems are outgoing, fearless. I will find them homes, but I had my doubts about what was in store for the little tuxedo until a few days when I got a fateful call.

…to be continued.

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The Shocking Case of What Ails Minnie

I sat in my car, in the dark, cold night and started up the engine. It rumbled to life as I grabbed the gear shift and slowly put the car into reverse. Shifting into first gear, I eased the car down the steep driveway of Susan and Barry's home. I'd just left Minnie in their bedroom and my mind was in playback mode, going over the last few hours and imagining what would yet come to pass.

I was fit to be tied.

Minnie is the mom to our most miraculous, stunning, kittens, Lil' Gracey, Confetti Joe, Jellybean Mel, Yukon Stan and Precious Pete. Minnie, who'd starved on the streets in Bridgeport, CT, then given birth, then got such a bad infection she almost died, had struggled enough in her short life. My only goals for her once in my care were to fatten her up and get her a wonderful home as she recovered from her difficult life.

As most of her kittens found their forever homes, Minnie found a new foster home right down the street from my house. I was thrilled to let Minnie go because it meant she'd have more space to live and the love of a family and their two children, one of whom, a young girl, had a gentle and affectionate regard for Minnie right away.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Minnie.

While Minnie passed the days in her foster home, I searched for her forever family. Months passed. I checked in on Minnie once in awhile, but didn't worry about anything, figuring if there was a problem, I'd find out.

At first it was little things, like I'd heard Minnie had some fights with one of the family's two cats, but they seemed to be working it out. Minnie had long tired of the small bathroom that was her initial home, so she was allowed full run of the house. Since she was going to be there, potentially, a long time I thought it was fine.

Last week I got an email saying Minnie had a cut over her eye that didn't seem to be healing. I went over and took a look, brought some calendula cream (a plant-based antibiotic cream) and treated her. I assumed she'd been scratched. Clearly she was not the aggressor. Minnie was also behaving fearfully. I assumed, again, it was due to the cats, but I also knew that the 12 yr old boy in the home did NOT like Minnie and told me she'd scratched him. I asked him what he did to provoke her, but all I got was an innocent shrug as he repeatedly told me how much he hated her.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Dr. Mary examines the injuries on Minnie's face.

As fate would have it, I got another email about the same time Minnie's problems were starting. This one was from a woman named Susan. She'd seen some news about Kitten Associates and wanted to let me know how proud she was of our work and she also told me about her boy, Duke, her beloved kitty who had died after struggling with heart issues for years, not long ago. Devastated by his death, she and her husband felt having another cat wasn't in the cards. I could tell her heart was broken, so I told her to come over and visit the kittens, just to cheer her up, no strings. No bothering her to adopt from us. That was all.

You can guess what happened next. They came over and fell in love with Buttercup, one of the "Clementines" orange foster kittens. Further surprises came shortly after that. Susan was pregnant. When they asked about possibly adopting Buttercup I had to say no. I couldn't let her go to a home with no other pets. Buttercup NEEDS that emotional support from her siblings and with a baby on the way, would little Buttercup be mature enough to handle this life-change?

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Injuries all over her face. What happened to you, Minnie?

Normally I would have just tabled the conversation, but I REALLY LIKED this couple. They were truly devoted to their last cat. They were respectful to my wishes about finding them a good match based on the cat and their life, not just picking a cute kitten. I thought about it a lot, then I realized that Minnie might be a good choice. She was grown, cute, and was able to get out of the way of any child and had a very mellow vibe about her. At the same time I was discovering that Minnie might be getting beaten up, so I told Susan about her story. Susan read some of my blog posts about Minnie's tough life and fell in love. We decided to take it slowly. Susan and Barry had never met Minnie and they didn't want to go to her foster home and meet her while she was scared. I agreed to do a home visit and bring Minnie to them. They'd foster her for a few weeks, then either they'd adopt or we'd take Minnie back. It felt right, so that's what we did.

I picked up Minnie last night, but first she had to be cajoled out from her finding place-inside the box spring of a bed. This is not a good sign, when there were plenty of places to relax all over the house. Why was this cat away from all the other rooms and hiding in a box spring? I didn't have time to ponder it since I had to get to Susan's.

When I arrived, we talked about Minnie possibly being attacked by other cats and probably having spent the past few months being afraid. That she HAD to give Minnie some time, maybe longer than we thought, to blossom again.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. A startling discovery-eosinophilic plaque.

I let Minnie out of her crate and she began exploring the bedroom where we were going to let Minnie start her new life. Her tail was up. She didn't run and hide. She came over to Susan and rubbed up on her. She did the same to me as she energetically moved around the room exploring all the furniture and rugs. I took out a catnip banana and she went crazy over it. The fearful cat I'd seen not even an hour ago was gone.

As Susan and I sat on the floor, petting Minnie, Susan felt something odd. I took a look and in the low light of the room I could see an open, bloody wound on Minnie's left shoulder. I couldn't get a great look at it, but the more I looked at her, the more scratches I saw on her face and neck. I was really pissed. What kind of foster home lets a cat get THIS bad and doesn't NOTICE IT? How MUCH had Minnie been suffering these past months when I was foolishly thinking she was doing just fine-even hoping her foster family would adopt her.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Wondering what all this means and how it happened.

It was clear Minnie needed to see a Vet. I called right then and there and got an appointment for this morning. There is no way I was prepared for what we were about to find out. I spent a good part of the drive home guessing at what the vet bill was going to be, especially if we had to stitch up that wound or if we found more problems, like an abscess.

This morning, I got an email from Susan saying Minnie was scratching a lot. This had to mean she had fleas! Minnie was cleared of them months ago…in fact she never HAD THEM but we treated her just in case. Now what was I going to do? Susan is pregnant. Minnie had been in her bedroom! Fleas? Chemical agents to remove them? What was Susan going to say about this? Was I going to have to take Minnie home with me? Where in the world would I put her?

Frankly, I was pretty miserable this morning. I was angry and worried and scared we couldn't cover the vet bill. Fundraising over the holidays was a total bust. The account is scary-low, but if I'm careful we can limp a long.

Susan was right on time. She reported that Minnie wasn't hiding, she was playing eating, using her litter pan, happy to hang out, but itchy. Indeed, Minnie was quite calm in the exam room, too with her tail up, curious, happy, not stressed at all.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Minnie while she was here with us this past summer.

I told Susan my fears about fleas and she took it well. I'd packed up every flea treatment I had and was ready to give Minnie some topical flea treatment, but the exam had to confirm it first. Good thing I waited.

Dr. Mary did the exam. As always she was sweet with Minnie and ever so careful with her. Minnie responded in kind, keeping calm and letting Dr. Mary do her thing. As Dr. Mary turned Minnie, I saw the wound on her side. As Dr. Mary spoke, in unison we said the same thing. "Eosinophilic plaque!"

This was likely a LESION caused by stress that lowered her immune system, followed by an allergic reaction to something. It all became clear. Minnie was having a reaction to being fed DRY CAT FOOD!

I'd seen it the week before but was told Minnie didn't eat it, even though the bowl of kibble probably sat there all day long. Even though I provided her food. Even though I checked to make sure they didn't need more and was told she was getting it…there is it..she's so itchy from the junk that she's scratching herself raw.

She hadn't been fighting. She didn't have fleas or mites. Susan said she'd been drinking a lot of water, another indicator to me she was given dry food. If I see my cats drink water, I know they are likely SICK. Raw food has enough moisture-and, in the wild, cats get moisture from their prey, not by drinking.

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©2014 Susan W. Minnie the first night in her new foster home.

Poor Minnie. If this had kept going, she really would have been a mess. As it is, it will take awhile for her to recover. Not being stressed out will REALLY help and so will a belly full of good, appropriate food. Susan understands what has to be done, but other than good food and love, there's nothing more to do other than keep an eye on it and make sure she's getting better.

While at the Vet, Susan remarked many times over how cute and sweet Minnie was, how easy going, how different she was than their old cat, Duke, who fussed and hated being at the Vet. Susan had a gleam in her eye when she spoke about Minnie, even though she's not making any declarations about her future. I have a sneaking suspicion that Minnie may not be in foster care much longer. I like this couple. I like their home. I like seeing Minnie with them. It feels right and in the end, that's all that matters.

I hope it's a match for life, but right now baby steps...

…speaking of baby steps…I have a new foster kitten coming. Some of you may already know him, but for months, behind-the-scenes, since I first saw his face, a little cutie pie is coming to Connecticut.

Wait! Isn't my home already stuffed to the gills with foster cats? Actually, no.

In the past week, FIVE CATS HAVE BEEN ADOPTED! And that story, my friends, will be the focus of my next blog post.

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A Home At Last for Bongo and George

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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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!”

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©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.

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©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.

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©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!).

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Newly minted brothers, Bongo and George.

Meanwhile George's adoption fall through, twice, with the same family. Though I was very sad it didn't work out, with George being available again, once the couple saw him, they knew that he needed to be part of their family, too. That meant Bongo and George would be brothers and have a wonderful life together.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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 2

July

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.

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©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.

August

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.

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©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.

September

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!

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©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.

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©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.

Jackson fell ill with a temp of 105.1°F. We put him on antibiotics and waited two weeks to do a re-check. At his re-check, since Jackson did NOT like to be messed with, we had to sedate him to get a good x-ray. I didn't like the way his chest looked when he breathed. That day Jackson went into heart failure from the effects of sedation and we almost lost him. He had undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and was in poor condition. The next day Jackson was supposed to be adopted. Instead, Jackson fought for his life in intensive care at an emergency Vet. We took Jackson home later that night, unsure of how much longer we'd have with him.

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.

October

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.

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©2012 Maria S. Bunny Boo Boo (inset) with Bongo (left) and George (right)-who are all ready to be adopted! Email info@kittenassociates.org 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.

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©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.

November

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. You are deeply missed, sweet girl.

More vet runs, some of Winnie's kittens found forever homes, but all that didn't matter after learning the shocking news that Bobette, who was now named, Kissy, had passed away shortly after surgery to remove the same leg we'd tried so hard to save. JaneA drove five hours to be with us over Thanksgiving so we could all mourn together. I had a breakdown, sobbing uncontrollably, saying I wished I could make it better or could have done something different. JaneA comforted me when I really wanted to comfort her. I'd rescued Kissy over a year before and suffered when three of her kittens died a few days after rescue from a kill shelter. Here it was just over a year after I'd saved her life. I'd never worked so hard or for such a long time to make a cat's life pain free and happy and now she was lost to us forever.

December

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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. We will never forget and find a way to heal our hearts.

As the year draws to a close, we have saved over 60 lives by networking, rescuing, fostering…and many of those cats were tough to place. I also helped people keep their cats by offering them suggestions on how to work with their cat's behavior and health issues. I even covered the Vet bill of a few cats in dire need so they would keep their homes, too.

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.

Happy 2013 to All!

That Which Doesn't Kill Us-Part Three

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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson, back to his old self.

All that remained was to wait a few more days for Spencer's biopsy results to come in. I knew it was probably cancer. I just didn't know what kind it was or if we could treat it or if it would mean disfiguring Spencer to save his life.

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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

Lauren called from Dr. Larry's office. She asked me how Spencer was doing, then told me the biopsy results were in a FEW DAYS EARLY. I had NO TIME to ready myself for the news, but she sounded very cheerful so she was either a sociopath or had good news. Spencer's growth is BENIGN. It has “no content,” to which I interjected, “You mean like my life?” Lauren laughed. “It means it's NOT CANCER.”

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©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!

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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.

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©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.

That Which Doesn't Kill Us…Part 2

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.

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©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).

He removed the ugly black growth on Spencer's left ear and sent it out to be biopsied. He DID NOT remove the growth INSIDE Spencer's right ear-why? IT SHRANK. It was TOO SMALL to excise without a scope and a laser…

…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.”

I HATE CONE OF SHAME, but not as much as Spencer does!

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.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Feel beter, Jackson Galaxy!

The one thing they wanted to add was something quite surprising-JACKSON MAY BE HEARING IMPAIRED OR DEAF!

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.

I made the right call about Jackson. Who knew how bad his condition would have become if we hadn't acted so quickly? Jackson probably would have drowned in his own fluids. I guess it wasn't so crazy to run him to the Vet because he missed a single meal.

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©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?

But what happened once Spencer was back home? Did he blow his stitches out and bleed all over my ancient oriental rug? What about Jackson? Did he relapse? Is he really deaf?

Stay tuned for part three!

That Which Doesn't Kill Us…Part 1

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?

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My baby.

Was this the beginning of the end for my sweet boy?

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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.”

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©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.

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©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.

I called Dr. Larry and they said to bring him in-of course, but HOW could I do that? With Jackson's bad heart, the stress of the trip could kill him.

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?

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©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.

My gut told me to GO. Jackson was NOT behaving normally at all. We had to try for his sake.

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.

Stay tuned for part two…the shocking news about what ails Jackson and an update on Spencer's surgery results.

The Winds of Change-Part 2 of 4

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).

The Problem

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.

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©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.

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©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…

…given incorrectly, Doxy can SCALD the esophagus of a cat causing a STRICTURE to form. The cat can’t pass food into the stomach and my oh my what a party you don’t have. It cost many thousands of dollars to repair this damage to our tiny kitten, CaraMelle last year after we'd given her Doxy when she was just 3 weeks old and VERY sick with a URI. She was many months old before we understood what was going on with her and were on the path to resolve it.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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?

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