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2017. A Look Back on a Tumultuous Year.

2017 was a lousy year that followed another lousy year (2016). That I’m alive and have a roof over my head sort of surprises me. I’m VERY GRATEFUL for what I have, so grateful. I’m lucky, even with very serious financial problems because it could be so much worse. I feel for the millions of people who lost their homes this past year due to floods, fire, hurricanes, tornadoes…not to mention all the suffering caused by social upheaval, reports of rampant sexual abuse, and the fears stemming from the actions of the so-called leadership of our precious country.

January

Annie, one of our Kitten Associates fosters, fell ill yet again. She’d been punky after recovering from intussusception surgery in October of 2016. Even though Dr. Larry said she looked good, I pushed to do blood work. It revealed Annie was seriously anemic, to the point of an Internist feeling she might have lymphoma. I asked if we could treat her for my nemesis, Bartonella, because there are some forms of the infection that cause anemia. We couldn’t re-test her so we tried a new treatment. Within a few weeks and some TLC and vitamin B12 injections, Annie bounced back and regained her good health, but just as she was recovering I got a disturbing call.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Fly Free sweet Lady Saturday. We miss you so much.

Lady Saturday was ailing. She was skin and bones. I didn’t know. Our foster family called and said she needed to see the Vet. She’d been pretty weak and eating a lot less. When Dr Larry saw her, he was shocked. She only weighed 4 lbs and was near death. We didn’t know how old she really was, but we knew she’d had kidney issues for the nearly two years she’d been part of our foster program. She’d gotten fluids, a heated bed, good food, supplements, but we couldn’t cure old age. On January 16th we said goodbye to our sweet girl.

With all of that going on, my cat Petunia began having focalized seizures. We didn’t know the source even after taking her to a neurologist. We started her on Phenobarbital in the hopes it would give her some relief, but did she have cancer? Would she eventually have a grand-mal seizure and I’d come home to find her dead?

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Petunia is doing better these days and no longer needs medication to control her seizures.

The year wasn’t off to a good start, but thankfully it was pretty quiet as far as rescue went. After years of saying I was taking a break from taking on kittens, I decided I would really do it. Then I saw a post online about a huge feral colony in Waterbury, CT. Over 50 cats were struggling to survive and were breeding out-of-control. Read about the first cat we rescued HERE along with follow up stories them HERE and HERE) While doing TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) isn’t my forte, I thought I could help raise funds for these cats and do some social media outreach.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. My first sighting of the Waterbury Ferals.

My mistake…I decided I had to go to the location to see for myself what was going on, to take some photos, then start raising money for the #Feral50 #waterburyferals. Once I saw a horrifically sick cat, I knew I had to get more involved. I had no idea that instead of taking a break, I was going to be busier than ever for the sake of these cats.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. This little sweetie is feral. She was eventually named Tulip and was the first cat trapped. You can read about her story HERE.

February

I pushed the limits of what I could handle and was pushed beyond my limits by another volunteer who worked doing some of the trapping of the feral cats in Waterbury. The things I saw, some cats barely clinging to life…I found placements for 10 cats, but it wasn’t enough. I had to do more and more and more until February 13th when I ended up in the hospital during a snow storm. I was diagnosed with an ulcer, along with an anxiety attack that I was certain was really a heart attack in disguise. The stress was just too much.

But in rescue "too much" always ends up becoming "just help one more." I decided to take on a pregnant feral from the Waterbury colony.

It was very risky, because I didn’t know what I was going to do with her after the kittens were born and weaned, but as so many other rescues, I just took it one day at a time. Solve one problem at a time-that’s the key. The cat had been named Waverly. She was covered with oil and metal dust. She was too dirty to give birth, but we have a great foster mom who is gentle and patient and who was able to wipe Waverly down every day until Waverly was clean enough to give birth-and just in time, too. By the end of the month, Waverly had given birth to three kittens. Sadly only two of the three survived. I knew that if we hadn’t taken Waverly on none would have made it.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Happy Birthday Willoughby and Weatherby!

I’ve come to the understanding that in rescue you shouldn’t try to do everything. Rescue the kind of cats you can handle and do your bit. Other people, who are great at things you may not be so great at can do their part. It all adds up to be much more effective than trying to take on more than you can handle and getting sick from it. What I learned is that I am not cut out for TNR. I want to give every cat a chance to become socialized. There isn’t time or space to take that on.

While I respect every cat who just can’t become social kitties, and I will return those cats to the outdoors, it kills me because I know their future will be very difficult, even with a great caretaker looking after them.

Meanwhile, Spencer had a re-check of his blood work because in late 2016 we found out his kidneys weren’t working very well. The new test results showed us that Spencer might only have a few months left because his values changed for the worse, so very fast. We were to start him on fluid therapy and see how he did in 6 months.

March

Things started looking up. I was a Guest Speaker at the first ever, Cat Camp NYC. I had a blast, made new friends and saw some of my most cherished cat lady friends. It did my heart good to be reunited with them and energized me for Kitten Season, which was right around the corner.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Artist Cathi Marro (left), Me and Jodi Ziskin of Treatibles (right)

We took on #FairfieldCountyGives and had our best fundraising day ever, raising over $3500 in a single day-most of which were $10 donations. We’d be ready to take on kittens, but where were they?

I got an email from a guy who asked for cat behavior help with his 5-month old kitten, Holly. She’d been peeing on the family beds. The guy turned out to be musician and songwriter, Stephen Kellogg. What transpired next even surprised me. You can read about this crazy trip in these stories HERE (including links to all 5 chapters). I’m glad to say that after all the trials and tribulations that Holly is in her home and that Stephen has become a good personal friend and newly minted Cat Daddy.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stephen visiting Holly while she was here being evaluated for behavior issues.

Weird April

I wasn’t getting calls about kittens. It was very strange. Then I thought about why it might be so quiet. We’d had a very mild January giving intact cats plenty of time to become pregnant, but in February we had a few brutal snowstorms dropping a lot of snow. I didn’t want to imagine it, but I started to believe that perhaps a lot of kittens just didn’t make it and that the “season” would be starting later in the year.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Will Bills was a bit too wild for Bill.

For once I got out on my birthday for a short road trip and lunch at O'Rourke's diner. We stopped at a crazy place called Wild Bill's. The namesake and owner was there as we strolled down the aisles. I didn't think he looked so hot. I guess I was right. He died a few days later. I couldn't help but feel like I better not take having another birthday for granted.

May

Ah, Stormy; a purebred Russian Siberian cat whose owner really was allergic to her entered the picture in May. Her mom, Kim, was sick all the time and though she felt terrible about it, she needed help getting Stormy a new home. The problem was, Stormy was not very nice. I thought it might be due to her being declawed. Perhaps she was in pain? So we did a lot of tests to see if that was the problem.

The bottom line was I promised to help find a home for this 9-year old aggressive cat, but how was I going to pull it off?

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stormy.

I found what I thought was a good home in Boston, but the people were terrible, fearful, posers. A few weeks later they brought Stormy back to Kim’s where I was under even more pressure to find Stormy a placement because her home was about to undergo a serious renovation and they’d have to put her in a boarding facility if she stayed much longer. I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever be able to find Stormy a home. I even tried to get a breeder from the CFF Cat Show, where I took part as a guest judge, to take her on, but with her anger issues it was a lot to ask.

June and July

I wasn’t going out of my way to find kittens to rescue since I never got a break over the winter, but then I got a call from my friend Joan. She told me one of the shelters down south had 65 kittens. They were going to start putting them ALL DOWN in 12 hours. Could I take even a few? She’d foster for me and even go get the kittens.

I decided to take 6 kittens, which turned into 8, except that they counted wrong and there were twins so 8 became 9 and I got another rescue friend to approve taking 3 and somewhere in the middle of that Moe, our other southern foster mama asked me if I could take just one more to make it 13 kittens.

Yes. I’m insane.

I nicknamed the group, the #SweetSuperheroes. If only they had lived up to their name. I wrote about what happened to them, how it broke me in ways rescue never broke me before, but I never published what I wrote. I may some day reveal all the details when I feel I can tell their story without it wrecking me.

In a few words, it was our first experience with Feline Panleukopenia. Within the first week, two of the kittens were dead and the threat of many more hung over us as poor Joan feverishly scrubbed and cleaned, while I spent thousands of dollars on vet bills, cleaning supplies, cages, food and litter for the remaining kittens.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Some of the kittens we rescued. Thankfully, our offering to take so many inspired other rescues to take kittens, too so a majority of the kittens made it out alive.

Some of the kittens were in isolation at the vet in Tennessee, while some remained at Joan’s foster home. We both did as much as we could to get the survivors healthy for the long transport to Connecticut, but in all honesty I did not want to bring them here at all. I was terrified my cats would get sick.

I’m not a fan of the FVRCP booster vaccination, but we had to make the difficult choice to booster most of our adult cats right away because there is no definite period of time for how long kittens who are exposed to PanLeuk are still contagious. To be safe, the kittens were isolated for 6 weeks, which ruined their window of adoption by a great deal, but I also didn’t want them here if there was any chance at all they’d sicken my cats, too.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. In honor of Super Nibs, who died from PanLeuk. You are forever in my heart. I wish you had a chance to grow up and find your forever family as your siblings did.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. and Major Muffin. He died so fast there was nothing we could do to save him from the ravages of Panleukopenia.

I spent most of the end of June and into July crying, worrying, researching PanLeuk and trying to prepare things here for their arrival. It was the first time in years I dreaded taking on more kittens.

Stormy was proving to be a tougher case than I imagined. The shocker, what I realized much later was that Stormy had reverted to being feral from not being handled for many years. She wasn’t in pain at all.

Because she had to be moved into the in-law apartment in the home and be in close proximity to her family, Stormy ended up getting handled more and sure enough Stormy became friendlier. So friendly that a lovely lady named Annabelle flew to Connecticut from Philadelphia so she could adopt this magnificent cat. They’re doing great and Stormy no longer lives up to her name.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stormy says farewell to her sweet mom, Kim and hello to her new mama, Annebelle.

August

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Leslie Mayes gets ready to interview us for #CleartheShelters.

My rescue took part in #CleartheShelters, a national program to help pets get adopted in a 24-hr period. We were off to a great start because Heidi Voight, journalist and Anchor on the local NBC affiliate came over to interview me and meet the #SweetSuperheroes. We did an hour-long live Facebook event and I think we were in the news about 10 times over the next few weeks.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Ready for their big adoption day, most of the Sweet Superheroes.

The problem was, we didn’t have a shelter to clear, so that meant doing an adoption event at Watertown BMW. Being surrounded by $100,000 cars and anxious adopters and yet more news media was literally a crazy ride. The folks at Hoffman Auto Group BMW were awesome, but some of the potential adopters left something to be desired…yes, screaming kids, demanding kids who wanted a kitten “RIGHT NOW” and unapologetic parents shocked and angry with me. They asked why I would deny their application to their face when the dad would declare they would let our kittens outside even after the mom hushed him and said “They don’t allow going outside. Don’t you get it?” Followed by "dad" getting so angry I thought I was going to have to call the police.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. The Kitten Associates, associates from left to right: Grace, Me, Sam, Adria, Jame and Frances.

Thankfully, one kid was nice and his parents were just as sweet. They saw a poster of Buddy and Belle, my ex-boyfriend’s two cats. They’d been in our rescue for almost a year with not one application for their adoption and they would be too scared to be at the adoption event so the best I could do was have a poster advertising them.

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©2017 Kathleen. Buddy & Belle in love with their new mama.

I told the lady their story and she was smitten. A few weeks later, Buddy and Belle were adopted. Her new mom says it’s like they were home from the second they arrived. They’re doing great and the new joke is her son likes to blame things he did on the cats.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Poor Fluff Daddy!

And then Fluff Daddy got really sick, really fast...Horrible, bloody mushy stool. I was terrified it was PanLeuk. How did he get it? He had to be confined to a cage, then a few other cats got very mildly ill. Tests came back positive for Giardia. How could he get it? Guess what I didn't know? Adult cats can have chronic episodes of it or it can be intermittent! Gah! It's really contagious, but thank God it wasn't PanLeuk.

Shitty September

The brown month. Diarrhea. Kittens with diarrhea. Kittens squirting the walls, floors, bedding, pretty much everywhere but the litter pan, with stinky, pudding poo. I could not get most of the foster kittens to resolve their runs. We did so many tests and trips to the Vet followed by a zillion de-worming protocols and found NOTHING.

Joan had warned me about Tritrichomonous Foetus. It’s pretty much impossible to test for, though we did do a PCR fecal test (negative) and treatment can cause neurological damage and may not even work. I was to a point where I didn’t want to go into the foster room because it would take over an hour to clean it every time I entered it. I was so angry and frustrated that I imagined kicking the kittens outside, but I would NEVER DO THAT EVER. Instead I just cried as I scrubbed the floor yet again. The kittens were oblivious to my suffering. They were not sickly at all, unless you counted them leaking stool out of their rear ends while they were playing.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Yes, it's poop. The poor kittens couldn't have much of anything soft in their room because it would get filthy so quickly. I don't think any of us got any decent rest that month.

I put the cats on a raw diet. They got better quickly, so as the kittens got adopted, their new families had to promise to keep them on the raw diet. So far, so good.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. The good with the bad...de-wormer for the kittens first followed by a freeze-dried chicken heart treat.

The highlight of the month was my play date in NYC with Mario Arbore who is an architect by day and fantasy cat furniture designer by night. I can’t do better than to have a buddy who builds cat furniture, right? His business is called Square Paws (humans measure space in square feet, so Mario’s coined the term “square paws” to indicate how cats measure space).

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Mario putting the moves on Fluff Daddy.

Mario had been graciously helping me design a brand new foster room for Kitten Associates. We’d bounced a few ideas around over the summer that were truly inspired. The main foster room in my home is totally run down and I want to create a showpiece for our kittens and to allow us to increase adoptions and have a safer, more entertaining home for our fosters. Mario is incredibly creative and though our workload has prevented us from locking down a theme, I hope we’ll get there in 2018.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Uncle Mario surprised Fluff Daddy and the rest of the kitty-clan with a hand-built giant mouse trap for our cats! Check out more of Mario's wild designs at Square Paws.

October

The Big Chocolate Show returned after being on hiatus for a few years and boy was I happy it came back. The show was fantastic. I learned that there’s some kickass chocolate coming from Ecuador and that I will eat as many samples of chocolate as the vendors will hand out.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Thank God for chocolate.

Adoption Day
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Thunder Cake and Wonder Waffles get adopted together!

With Buddy, Belle and many of the kittens adopted, I took time to focus on trying to make a living and for a quick escape to New York City!

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. I actually left the house! Here I am at NY ComicCon where I got to meet one of my idols, Bob Camp, who did the animation art for Ren & Stimpy. I also had a chance to get back to work as a Graphic Designer. I love working with Royal Bobbles on their carton graphics for the main cast of Better Call Saul.

I also had the honor of creating the carton for Bob Ross, the afro-hairdo-headed painter who had a show in the 1970s on PBS that’s in re-runs on Netflix even today.

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To see more examples of my design projects, visit Ultra Maroon Design.

The biggest thrill was having a chance to design the new cartons for over half a dozen of The Walking Dead figures. Those designs are still in development so I can’t show them, but I’m crossing my fingers they’ll be greenlighted into development in 2018. The only problem with this project was I felt I needed to watch all 8 seasons of TWD so I could do a better job with the design. It’s a compelling and interesting show, but watching the entire program over the course of a month left me feeling a bit paranoid. I had to fight off the urge to strap a weapon to my leg when I did a run to the grocery store.

November

Waverly found her forever home with a retired couple named Molly and Sam. I was thrilled that the cat we feared was feral was really just a sweet, mild-mannered lady. Her kittens, Willoughby and Weatherby were adopted together over the summer.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Dear Waverly with her daughters.

Then one night, just before Thanksgiving, my dear 16-year old cat, the Mascot of this blog, Spencer vomited. It was a lot of food. He sounded like he aspirated some of it. Normally I’d wait it out and see how he did, but something told me to go to the vet right NOW because they were going to close soon.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Waverly on her Gotcha Day with Sam & Molly.

Dr. Mary found a big mass in Spencer’s abdomen and feared it was an aggressive cancer. So began our journey of tests, scans and treatments until we realized that the next step would have to be surgery or palliative care and prepare to say goodbye. We'd already lost 4 cats in 2017. I prayed there wouldn't be another.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. The x-ray that changed everything for Spencer.

December and Beyond

Every time my cats get really sick, I get sick with worry. I try to take a breath, have faith, focus on my cat, but I often find myself not sleeping, not being able to concentrate on work and wanting to bury my head in the sand. But it was Spencer. I had to face whatever it was. I had to face that maybe this was it and I had to face that I couldn’t afford to provide surgery for my beloved cat even if there was a chance it could give him more time.

I almost didn’t ask for help, but in the end I did do a fundraiser. Thanks to A LOT of REALLY REALLY REALLY AWESOME people, we raised just enough to have the surgery done. I still can’t believe it happened at all and am blown away that we got the funds together in just four days.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. What do you mean SURGERY?!

Now that I had the funds, I had to decide for sure if we were going to move forward because there were lots of risks involved and quite a few could happen after the surgery was over.

On December 5th, Dr. Weisman removed a 6cm mass off the very tip of Spencer’s pancreas. The amazing thing was it wasn’t cancerous, but there WAS small cell lymphoma found in other areas. It’s extremely rare that a cat has a benign mass like Spencer’s and I was so grateful, because those sorts of masses often are very aggressive cancers and lymphoma is slow-growing. At the time, I didn’t know if removing the mass would help him, but now, a month later, I can say that Spencer is so much better that he often surprises me.

He’s had a lot of ups and downs and I have to carefully monitor what he eats because he did get pancreatitis after surgery. He’s eating all right, not quite enough. He’s given me some very bad scares, like trying to eat cat litter when he got badly constipated and was battling anemia (He lost a lot of blood during surgery and I read that cats who lick cement or cat litter often are anemic.).

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Doing well and I am oh so very very very grateful to have this extra time with my boy.

We recently did new blood tests to confirm the pancreatitis and anemia and were surprised to see Spencer’s kidney values had improved some.

Today, Spencer’s getting up the stairs to come to bed and tuck me in just like he used to do. He’s also smacking foster cat Andy in the face and chasing after toys. He LOOKS better. His eyes aren’t so sunken. He’s grooming himself more. I honestly am completely thrilled to see him like this.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Naked belly requires a heated bed for full napping comfort.

It’s time to start him on Chlorambucil, a form of chemotherapy that we hope will retard the growth of the lymphoma and help him feel even better. I already have him on CBD Oil, which may also help and will certainly keep him comfortable even if it doesn’t effect the cancer. I’ve decided to put off starting him on prednisilone because it IS a steroid and Spencer’s oncologist is ok with not using it right away. I’m hoping the CBD oil will take the place of the pred for now. Why? Because steroids really do a number on the body and I’d rather help give him vitality and protect his failing kidneys for as long as I can.

Needless to say, with all the vet runs and care Spencer needed, Christmas cards didn’t get printed and I didn’t do much to plan for “the day.” Somehow it was still a really nice holiday, aside from all the guilt I had for not getting everything done and for not being able to buy presents for anyone except Sam.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Our Holiday e-card.

Sam and I have had one thing after another go wrong with our finances and honestly I’m terrified that if things don’t improve we will lose our home. We’re trying to keep the faith and we’re both working as hard as we can. So many people have it far worse off than we do, I can’t complain. I’m happy I have a home, it’s not on fire or swept away by a hurricane. I have my dear cats, as much as they often annoy me, they’re still one of the few reasons I get out of bed in the morning.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Bye bye Sprinkie! I'm going to miss you!

And I’m determined, after nearly eight years of constant fostering, to take this winter off and focus on work and getting funds for Kitten Season. The other cat rescue in town surprised everyone by deciding to close after many years.

Their reason, they aren’t needed any more, which is completely absurd. They spun it into making it sound like they solved the feral and free-roaming cat problem in Newtown so they can look like heroes and get out of doing rescue any longer. It just puts a bigger strain on Kitten Associates so we’ll need to ramp up.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Macaroon is a total goof head who loves to fetch her pom pons. Her new family promised to make sure she has as many pom pons as her heart desires.

I expect 2018 to be very busy for us as we shoulder more responsibility in helping local cats, but in a way I’m excited for the challenge and crazy as it seems, I really do miss having little ones here.

Here’s to 2018. May we all have a safe, loved, prosperous and Happy New Year!

Oh, and the last two kittens from the #SweetSuperhero rescue were adopted just after Christmas. Congratulations to the Mighty Macaroon and Professor Sprinkles!

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Last night Mackie and Sprinkie met their new family. Here's Suzanne and Maddie, totally psyched to have their first kitties ever!

-----------------A few hours later------------------

….I just got a text message…“Robin, I just found a kitten. Can you take him?”

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Uh oh...

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 7

(continued from Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.)

Ten Days Later

 

Holly began peeing on the bed, on her own cat bed that was on the mattress, on Mia’s cat bed that was on the mattress. I did load after load after load of laundry. All the pillows (all six of them) had a little bit or more of urine and had to be washed, too. Clearly Holly was adjusted to being in my home and was back to her old behavior issues. Even though I’d been through things like this in the past, this was really bad. I was constantly on edge and it was a vivid reminder of what the Kelloggs had being going through.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Screen shot from my web cam footage showing Holly peeing in her own cat bed. Andy is peeing in "her" litter pan (they were all using either pan by then) but he got in there AFTER she started peeing in the cat bed.

Kirsten and the girls came to visit Holly. Less than 10 minutes before they arrived, she peed on the bed for the second time that day. About an hour after they left she peed yet again. I felt that Holly was spinning out of control, fast. Also, the amount of urine was alarming. It wasn’t a small puddle. It was a great volume of urine.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Good thing she's cute.

I spoke with Dr. Larry again and we were both torn about next steps. Did Holly need an ultrasound now? Another urinalysis? Or did she need Prozac? I did NOT want to put her on medication at such a young age, but I did find out that unlike other anti-depressants, with Prozac Holly would feel more relaxed, stopping inappropriately eliminating and learn that she does not need to continue this behavior. There was a chance that in 6 months to a year she could be weaned off the meds and in essence grow out of this behavior problem.

I had to do something so I started Holly on Canna-Pet. From the company: "...Canna-Pet is NOT simply a “CBD product.” In fact, Canna-Pet is something totally and truly unique. All Canna-Pet products are formulated with an awareness of the benefits of whole plant extracts, to provide an “entourage effect” from the inclusion of eight additional cannabinoids and more than 20 terpenes beyond “just CBD” – along with higher bioavailability. This proprietary production and formulation makes Canna-Pet® unique."

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Everyone on my lap.

I’d been using Canna-Pet on my cat, Spencer, to soothe his arthritic bones and saw it helped him a lot. It can also help with stress, and I didn’t have to ramp up the dose or worry about weaning her off it if it didn’t work. Dr. Larry agreed to give it a week and see how it went. If it didn’t work we could go on from there.

 

A day or two passed without incident, but Holly began peeing on the bed again every so often. It was very difficult not to strangle her I was so tired of doing laundry and cleaning up the room. The room was becoming empty of any furnishings. There were no pillows on the bed and barely any cat beds left. If Holly began to pee on the cat trees that would be a deal-breaker. I wouldn’t be able to launder them and it could ignite a fire under the other cats and they might pee on everything, too.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Funny-Face.

She didn’t even make it a week. It was clear the supplement wasn’t the right fit for Holly. Stephen was coming home soon. Things were as bad as ever. I spoke with Dr. Larry yet again and we decided to start Holly on Prozac. Inasmuch as I felt like a failure, I just could not give up on this cat. It reminded me of a nursery rhyme my mother used to recite:

There was a little girl, 
Who had a little curl, 
Right in the middle of her forehead. 
When she was good, 
She was very, very good, 
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

(I later found out it was attributed to a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem.)

Kirsten and the girls came to visit again and again I had to have a sit-down with Kirsten about what was going on. I knew it was shocking to her that I felt we needed to go to Prozac, but I got her blessing to start that day. I felt so badly. I really didn't want to have to do this, but my hand was forced. I showed Kirsten how I’d be sneaking the pill into a treat. It’s only ¼ of a small pill so it was easy enough to hide. I gave Holly her first dose, realizing it was her last chance to stop her inappropriate behavior.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Fits in like one of the Kitten Associates family now.

The girls were great with Holly and so happy to see her. It made me feel doubly worried that maybe this was the last visit they'd ever have with her. I tried to shift gears emotionally, so I changed the subject and asked the girls about Irish Folk dancing and why they keep their arms down straight. Sophia, Stephen's eldest daughter, said it would look funny if they moved their arms around and proceeded to do an amazing Irish Stepdance in my living room both with her arms straight and then waving her arms around. It was hilarious and just what I needed.

--------

Day 3 of Prozac. Nightmare.

 

From my journal: "Holly has pretty much become unglued. She just peed on a cat bed, right in front of me. A bed that was not on the mattress, but off on another side of the room. She peed a lot of volume. I lifted her during her peeing to put her in the litter pan and she peed ON me."

 

 

It was 1 o’clock in the morning. I was so mad I wanted to throw her into the wall, but I just cleaned up with tears of rage rolling down my cheeks. I was so fed up and tired. Three days on Prozac turned her into a nutcase worse than before. It was the third time she’d peed on something that DAY.

 

Sam was exhausted, too but I begged him to help me. With great reluctance we set up a big dog crate with a litter pan inside it and some bedding for Holly. She went into the crate easily and didn’t seem to mind being confined. I just wanted to sleep, but I still had to do more laundry. I felt a bitter mix of anger and frustration. This cat was completely impossible to deal with. I was “done.”

Script

But I couldn’t give up. I knew if I did I would hate myself later. Under the veil of my frustration was care and concern for this creature. She was a total love-muffin and happily fell asleep with her head against my cheek. I loved her! I knew if I could get some rest I could re-set my emotions and try yet again.

The next day I gave Holly her pill. Somehow a tiny bit of it wasn’t covered and the terrible taste freaked Holly out. It took 8 more tries over the course of the day to get her to take the pill. I hid it every way I could think of, even in a frozen ball of butter, but every time she outsmarted me. I finally was so fed up I had to get Sam to hold her so I could shove the pill into her mouth-she spit it out-but I finally got the job done.

 

I knew it upset Holly forcing the pill into her, so I expected her to begin peeing. I wondered how I was going to get a pill into her ever again. I wondered if she would ever trust me again. I knew if I gave her some time and was careful that maybe she would recover from the pill being forced on her.

 

I didn’t put Holly back into the crate. I let her be. I let myself be and took some time off to be alone. If she peed, she peed. I couldn't do any more for anyone.

------------------

The Next Day

Guess what? She didn’t pee on anything over night. It was a new day. Fresh start.

I was able to figure out a new way to hide her pill and it worked-easily!

Holly was playful, continued to eat well and even sat on me, purring loudly. Who was this cat?

The next day, same thing. No peeing on anything. Got her pill into her easily. There was something different about Holly. It was as if her edges were ever so slightly softened. I left 2 pillows on the bed over night. She didn’t pee on the bed or the pillows.

I left the pillows on the bed a second night. They were fine the next morning.

 

This morning I returned Holly’s cat bed to the bed. If something was going to set her off, this was going to be it. Annie and Andy ran over to it, sniffing at it. They began to “make muffins” on it as Holly walked over. I tensed, ready to see Holly furiously scratch at the bed, then pee in it, but she was barely interested in it at all. In fact, she walked away and played with a pom pom instead.

 

This is the first time I’ve felt like maybe Holly is “over” this behavior issue. That’s a nutty thing to say, considering this cat constantly throws me curve balls, but in my heart it feels like maybe she’s okay now. Of course I’m going to to upstairs to check on Holly and she will have peed everywhere, right? It’s only been 4 days since the triple-pee storm, but it’s been one week that Holly’s been on Prozac.

I think that perhaps Holly was fighting the effects of the Prozac so that's why she got so bad on day 3 and by day 4, the Prozac had "taken over" and begun working.

The Kelloggs are on the road with Stephen. They come home in a day or two. Perhaps Stephen will come see Holly. I know that all these weeks away from her makes him more reluctant to come back. It’s easier to let her go if the connection is fading, but with this promising news maybe I can get him to give her one more chance?

IMG 0901
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Come on Holly-girl!

 

In my journal I wrote, “Come on Holly! You can DO THIS!” And I hope, pray, and cross my fingers and toes, that maybe we finally found the answer to help Holly keep her home.

 

[sorry, we're not done yet...to be continued...two more chapters to go...]

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 6

(continued from Part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.)

Annie and Andy’s (A&A) possible adopter was willing to wait a few weeks, while Holly stayed with us. It also gave me a few more weeks with A&A, who YES, I love way too much (if there is such a thing as too much) and who I'm reluctant to adopt to anyone.

 

The Kellogg ladies did come visit. I offered to take them over to Wildflour Confections and Tickled Pink, which I consider to be a perfect girlie-afternoon adventure. They were in agreement because really, cupcakes and cute girlie things to buy? What is better?

 

Tickled Pink Easter R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Tickled Pink.

We began with a visit with Holly, breaking up the large family into smaller groups of two so Holly wouldn’t get overwhelmed. Greta and Sophia and I were having fun with the kitties while Kirsten, Noelle and Adaline were with Sam in the living room. Holly was playing fetch with her pom poms and all was well.

After a while we switched things up. Greta and Noelle were downstairs with Kirsten and Sam while I was with the older girls and Holly. Suddenly I heard a tremendous crash from downstairs. I could not, for the life of me, even guess what the sound was, other than breaking glass, a lot of glass.

I ran downstairs to find the 1950s glass topped table that’s in the room by the front door, turned onto its side with everything that was once on it in pile on the floor. Pressed up against the wall was Greta, terrified, not saying a word, not admitting she tipped the table over while her mom had gone outside to get something from the car. There is no other explanation and somehow I had to bite my tongue and not flip out as I carefully picked through the things on the floor to assess the damage.

Kirsten was immediately apologetic and confused-as we all were. If I had thought there’d be a risk of the table being turned over I would have taken precautions. Luckily, the table was ok, but one glass piece, not a valuable one, was destroyed. Later I discovered my kitschy bowling ball decanter that had a music box in the base, was also broken. That would be tough to repair and I knew everyone felt terrible and Kirsten wanted to make it right. I get it, things like this can happen. It’s only stuff and no one got hurt. I was afraid that our afternoon trip would be cancelled, but thankfully we agreed to move past it and focus on having fun.

Kirsten got everyone into their 8-seater van so we could travel together. She has so much energy and is so bubbly, I don’t know how she does it. My guess is she goes to bed at 7PM because it has got to be a tremendous amount of work to just stay present and pay attention to four children, let alone care for them and keep them all safe.

IMG 0855
©2017 Robin AF Olson. The lovely Kellogg ladies at Tea with Tracy.

We had a very lively conversation during our drive. The girls mostly occupied themselves and, once again, I was impressed by how quiet they were.

IMG 0390
©2017 Robin AF Olson. STRAWBERRY. POPTART. CUPCAKES.

I urged Kirsten to head for the cupcakes first because I was worried they’d run out since it was a bit later in the afternoon by the time we arrived (full disclosure: I NEEDED A CUPCAKE). The girls had fun choosing cupcakes and though I had every intention of only getting 4 cupcakes (to share with Sam), somehow I got 6 (thank you to Kirsten for buying them for us!). After getting cupcakes, we decided to try to have high tea down the street at Tea with Tracy. On a Saturday afternoon, the odds were not so good we’d get a table. The owner was very nice to us even though he was booked up he said if we could order and be done in 30 minutes he could seat us. We took on the challenge and had the fastest tea in history. We didn’t even finish so cups of tea were transferred to “to go” cups and the food was boxed up. No one complained. Everyone did their part and had as much fun as they could, promising they would do it again when they could make a reservation ahead of time. I was sorry we couldn’t have stayed longer, but it was nice to be part of a family for a time.

Wildflour cupcakes r olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Wildflour Confections.

Our last stop was Tickled Pink, mecca for girlie-gifts. As we walked around the shop, the girls were allowed to choose one modest gift for themselves. We broke into smaller groups pointing out things we liked. Little Greta chose a stuffed white kitten toy and clung to it as we continued looking at the displays of adorable giftware. She saw some hair combs that looked like a tiara. She tried to put one onto the kitten’s head. It kind of shocked me because a few weeks before I had done the same thing to a real kitten (I didn’t use the comb part on the kitten, just placed the tiara-comb on her head). I showed the girls the photo and we were all amazed by the synchronicity.

Will with Crown Robin Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Princess Willoughby.

 

I think we all enjoyed our time together. Kirsten congratulated me for surviving the day with the girls, but in truth I enjoyed myself. I haven’t been around children much, other than my nephew and he’s going to be 24 soon. I find that I like kids a lot. Maybe it’s because I still feel like one inside.

 

I kept in touch with Stephen, updating him on Holly's progress. He sent her some video messages to keep her company, assuring her he still cared about her. The problem was I was the human on the other side of the messages and in a lot of ways the messages felt like they was directed to me, even though rationally I knew they were not. My God this man can make a person swoon, no doubt there. With his permission, this is what he sent Holly [see below] (and by the way, Holly heard his voice and pawed at my phone, then meowed, so his swoon-powers work on cats, too).

©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Used with permission. [SWOON!]

So things moved along. Holly began to settle down. I wondered if she’d start to pee on the bed once she felt safe in the room and if she began to bond with me. I began looking for a kitty-buddy for Holly since the Kellogg’s decided adding Annie and Andy would be too much to take on. I wasn’t surprised at all, but it would have been the easiest transition for the cats.

©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Used with permission. Holly-girl, Stephen's special nickname, along with the special message that made Holly swoon, too.

I found a possible cat-candidate with my friend Katherine who runs AID. He was the right age, mellow cat, who liked being with other cats. I trust Katherine and knew she would back him up if it didn’t work out. The Kelloggs were anxious about getting a second cat and looking forward to adding to their family. They knew I had to offer them a cat so I could carefully assess them up front to give them every chance of making a good match. I wish I had a cat that could be a solo cat but none of my fosters fit the bill.

I also realized I needed to push Holly a bit to see if she would react inappropriately, so two nights ago I didn’t clean the litter pan before going to bed. That day I hadn’t spent much time with the cats because two of my own cats, Spencer and Nora, had health emergencies. I was also trying to wean Willoughby and Weatherby off their mom, Waverly, and onto cat food. I was tired and stressed out. Annie, Andy, Mia and Holly only got the basics that day.

 

The next morning, Holly peed on the bed…on MY side of the bed where I spend my time hanging out with the cats. I was pretty shocked and saddened to see the large stain on the sheet. Thankfully I had prepared the bed beforehand using a waterproof mattress pad, topped with a shower curtain, topped with puppy pads, THEN covered with a fitted sheet. The urine was mostly absorbed by the pads, but one pillow did get a bit wet so I did a few loads of laundry.

 

Pee On Bed
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Heartbreak comes in the form of a puddle of urine exactly where I sat each night with Holly.

I thought about what this means for Holly. It could mean she will lose her home. I have to talk to Stephen about it, but I want to have more data points before I tell him.

Sam and I spent yesterday (Saturday) afternoon with Holly and the kitties. Their pans are cleaned three times a day. I made sure Holly got a snack so she wouldn’t be stressed from being hungry. Right before bed I cleaned out the pan again.

IMG 1428
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Being prepared made a big difference. There was no way any urine was going to get on the mattress with a shower curtain under these puppy pads.

This morning the bed was dry. I got up early to make sure it was ok. I scooped the pans, then went downstairs to get the cat’s food. About an hour later I served breakfast. Everyone ate well, then started using the litter pans so I scooped them since I was there. While I was scooping, I heard a noise on the bed. Holly was sniffing the area where she’d peed the day before and was furiously pawing at the area. I responded by making a short loud hiss-like sound at her. She stopped, jumped off the bed and into the litter pan and peed.

Holly pees in pan r olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Whew.

I didn’t know if she was reacting to a urine smell that I didn’t clean well enough or if she was energized by my being there a few times so early in the morning and by just eating. She corrected her behavior immediately once I hissed, but what was the bigger meaning here?

Was she stressed from me being gone the day before and wanting to have her scent mix with mine? Was she just having an “oops” moment that needed a quick correction? What I knew I couldn’t tell Stephen was definitively what we had to do for Holly. I couldn’t guarantee anything would work. In my own home I still deal with inappropriate elimination issues because I have 8 cats. It’s not bad compared to how it was years ago, but if I’m not careful there are still things that can trigger a cat to pee somewhere they shouldn’t.

Could the Kelloggs still love Holly if they knew they’d have to clean up after her from time to time? Maybe she would grow out of it. She'd gone TWO WEEKS without one misstep. I know she can do it and maybe in a few more months she will be using her box all the time?

IMG 1471
©2017 Robin AF Olson.

 

IMG 1473
©2017 Robin AF Olson.

 

The problem is, I can’t know how she will behave. I can put her on anti-anxiety meds, but she is only 7-months old. I’m going to talk to Dr. Larry tomorrow and I’m going to work up the courage to talk to Stephen. He’s only on the road for another week so my time is running out.

 

 

I’m afraid Holly’s is, too.

 

[to be continued...]

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 2.

(continued from Part 1)

After my first visit, I put together a written game plan of steps to take next. I didn’t want to over-complicate things by telling them EVERY SINGLE THING we could do to change Holly’s behavior. It can be overwhelming, so I started simply: add another litter pan, slightly move the one they had away from a drafty doorway and add two sessions of play time to Holly’s day.

The second litter pan was a hit. Holly used it right away, but she continued to pee on a bed every so often and clearly even one time would be too many times. I knew that Holly could be reacting to old stains that were not cleaned up so I urged Stephen to get a black light (because urine and some other bodily fluid stains glow under black light), cleaning supplies (like vinegar and a CO2 enzymatic cleaner). We set another date to tour the entire house.

I tried to make it sound fun; like we were detectives on a mission. Stephen was all for it. He wanted to do whatever it took to get Holly to be happy and not feel like she had to pee on anyone’s bed. Many other people I’ve worked with push back about doing the work to solve the behavior problem but Stephen was intrigued. He’d never really considered how a cat thinks or feels about their environment before. He wanted to dive in, get it right, and return to a happy home life.

 

I felt like Mary Poppins. I arrived with a stash of items in my shoulder bag. I had my own black light and cleaning supplies, too, plus a few other goodies for Holly. Stephen, Kirsten and I began checking every single bed, carefully going over each one with the lights. It was then I discovered a surprising fact. Two of the younger daughters either had or have a bit of a problem wetting the bed or having a diaper leak. Then it hit me. They didn’t have one cat, they essentially had two (one was human) who were staining some of the beds. Maybe Holly was reacting to human urine stains?

The answer was clear right away. First bed we checked had sparkling clean sheets and blankets, but the mattress had a butt-shaped urine mark on it. Of the three of us only Stephen had a decent sense of smell. I think mine died from cleaning one too many ammonia-scented litter pans over the years. He dove in. He didn’t get fussy about it. He sniffed away and acknowledged that the mattress did have some scent. We got to cleaning it, while Holly ran into the room, jumped on the bed and was completely uninterested in peeing on it. She played in the corner on a fuzzy pillow and promptly fell asleep while we continued to scan the beds.

We didn’t find much more, but one of the girl’s bed was going to be an issue so that room was going to be closed off from Holly, period. The last room we did was the master bedroom. Okay now this was a bit weird for me. Rock star bedroom? The inner sanctum!

I tried to be respectful and not have any thoughts about what I know about black lights, but my God, I had to say out loud that the black light picks up ALL sorts of STAINS, not just cat urine (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Thank GOD the bed was very clean other than one small area that had to have been from Holly.

 

Okay, so we had a clean space. The bedrooms would be shut down for now. We’d see how it went with Holly. The Kelloggs looked relieved. Maybe this would do the trick?

-------------------

Being a singer/songwriter means traveling to events or going on tour from time to time. The Kelloggs went out of town for the weekend, leaving the kids and Holly with grandpa. I didn’t hear anything for a few days but when they came back I got a long text late at night from Stephen. Holly had peed on the sofa, passed stool on it and on a sleeping bag that was on the floor and I think peed on a bed, too. I tried to soothe Stephen’s concerns. Firstly, Holly was accidentally locked in a room that had no litter pan in it so a few of the issues weren’t her fault. I didn’t know if the schedule was completely in turmoil or if the girls were acting up because the parents were gone. Maybe Holly was upset by the change. Maybe this would not continue to happen?

But it did.

 

Holly stopped passing stool inappropriately, but began peeing more often in places she shouldn’t. I decided we needed to get her to the vet to be certain she wasn’t sick. They hadn’t looked for infection or other issues and being so young she could have something going on that a urinalysis wouldn’t show.

 

So we took Holly to the vet.

I’ve been to many vets over the years. I was not a big fan of this person. He didn’t want to listen to me but clearly was focusing on Stephen and the fact that they both had four kids. The vet was almost proud to say he was split from his wife and only had the kids on weekends as if it was a relief. I was horrified. Stephen and Kirsten smiled and were polite, listening attentively, adding their take on the situation. I wondered what they thought of the vet and if they shared my disdain. They certainly had far a better poker-face than I do.

IMG 9720
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stephen with Holly-girl at their vet.

 

The vet did a quick exam and suggested tests. Stephen was not used to seeing gnarly vet estimates and the $1000 price tag seemed a bit high to me as well. I worked it out with the vet to cut the bill down by more than half. I felt we could get away with a full CBC and Chemistry Panel, an x-ray, but to not do urinalysis again since they’d just done it a month prior. What we ended up with wasn't what I expected. It was blood work but it didn’t have a Chem Panel and the x-ray showed Holly had a lot of stool in her but it obscured seeing her kidneys or bladder-so it was almost a wasted test. The results we got were normal so the vet suggested putting Holly on a prescription dry food to solve her problem.

 

I had warned the Kelloggs ahead of time that this might happen and to NOT buy the food. The vet gave a compelling pitch about why the food would help her, telling them it had helped other cats because it had “soothing proteins” in it. Excuse me? What the HELL are “soothing” proteins? I almost popped my lid when I heard that line of BS. I could see Stephen was tempted. Heck, I’d be tempted, too if I didn’t know any better, and if I believed just feeding my cat would stop her deeply rooted behavior issue. Thankfully he listened to me and didn’t buy high-carb, grain-loaded junk.

Holly Lateral XRAY SS
All we learned from Holly's x-ray...she needs to poop.

 

Once I got home, I looked up the food on the internet and was completely horrified that it had literally EVERY SINGLE type of GRAIN in it you can imagine. What was soothing about that? Nothing. The supposed “soothing” part was listed near the bottom of the ingredient panel-which also meant the amount of it was far less than any other ingredient. It had .08 L-tryptophan in it, which is an amino acid that is found in turkey. It’s the stuff that makes you sleepy after a big Thanksgiving meal. If you really wanted to dope up your cat you’d have to feed them a heck of a lot more of it to get an adequate dose…oh and this stuff was ungodly expensive to boot.

 

So now what? I really wanted to take Holly to see MY vet, Dr. Larry. He’s a great diagnostician and he knows not to try junk foods on any of my cats, but I’d just encouraged Stephen to drop a lot of money on Holly. I couldn’t ask him to do it again.

Meanwhile, I reached out to a few of my cat behaviorist friends. I ran Holly’s history by them to make sure I hadn’t forgotten something. They all agreed there was nothing more to do other than confine Holly to a smaller space, which was next on my “to do” list.

So we confined Holly to the master bathroom. Perhaps the house was too much for her and the quiet of the bathroom would keep her away from the kids a bit more, in case they were stressing her out. Holly had her own litter pan that was kept perfectly clean, her new diet (which she liked very much) and some comfy beds. This was going to work, right?

Nope.

 

Well, it did work for almost a full week. Holly used the litter pan every day. She had play time and lovey-dovey time. The girls were instructed to let Holly come to them and not grab at her. Things were going great until one morning they let Holly out early in the morning while Stephen and Kirsten went back to bed. Holly peed on the bed while they dozed.

 

 

Then everything fell apart.

 

 

Holly began to urinate in the sink, then the second sink in the master bath room. She used the litter pan, then she’d pee on the bed even if it was right after using the litter pan. I had Stephen track how many times Holly was peeing. It was 4 times a day, then 6, then up to 8. Something was STILL WRONG. We had to see Dr. Larry and the next day we did just that.

 

IMG 0375
©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Two litter pans in the master bathroom: one with the litter Holly used at the rescue and one with World's Best.

I was also toying with the notion that Holly maybe needed a cat-buddy. Maybe her being the only pet in such a large home was too much for her and that a friend would help her adjust. Stephen and Kirsten were open to the idea, but I didn’t want to, again, do too many things at once, plus they’d have to introduce the new cat to Holly and that was just going to add more stress to the situation. No. We had to get Holly’s health issues resolved-IF she had any.

Since the first days I’d begun this case Stephen and Kirsten kept returning to the fact that Holly began peeing on things AFTER she was spayed. I called the clinic who did the procedure and they spoke with their vet who does the spays. I spoke with two of my vets, a handful of vet techs, did research online and found that there ARE incidents where there are post-surgical complications or there are genetic deformities that can’t be visualized on x-ray which could be the culprit. It was rare that this happened and Holly would have shown incontinence issues, along with inappropriate elimination. I knew we’d have to do an ultrasound to get this resolved, but I also knew that there was only so much money we could spend without the Kellogg’s pushing back. In truth, they have to balance the vet costs with the costs for caring for their family. It didn’t make them villains. Everyone deals with this balance who has a pet.

I had high hopes we’d find SOMETHING wrong. In a way it would be a great relief. I felt terrible wishing she was sick, but at least we could probably cure whatever it was and having to deal with cat pee in your bed is very high up on the “sucks!” list.

IMG 0017
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Holly waiting for Dr. Larry. While I wonder what the heck is going on with this kitten.

Dr. Larry was great. He even suggested maybe Holly needed a friend. He also said that some cats do better going outside-for which he knew I was going to flip out over. He sees this situation over and over again and how people deal with it is as different as are the cats who have the problem. He’s had people want to euthanize their otherwise healthy cats. They don’t want to spend money doing tests. They want the peeing to stop but they won’t do what it takes to really SOLVE the problem.

 

I was SO grateful to the Kelloggs that they were in it for the long haul. Stephen surprised me by digging in, asking question after question, offering his hypothesis; fascinated by the process, the detective work, the documenting, the study needed, to sort out what was going on. He even told me he was fascinated by ME. What? No! Yes!

 

We finally did a full blood panel and the results were normal. Urinalysis and culture were normal, too. Fecal test was normal. IF something was wrong with Holly the only thing we could do was ultrasound and they’d already spent a lot of money. It would have to wait…if the Kelloggs could keep the faith.

By now a month had passed. We’d had good and bad days but trending towards worse days. Maybe Holly was upset from being confined. Stephen had the added pressure of leaving for 3 weeks to go on tour soon. If Holly wasn’t improving how could he leave his wife to care for the family AND deal with Holly’s urinary mishaps?

I returned to the Kelloggs’ home to assess Holly again. I felt like I was losing my mind. I told them new things to try and they had failed. What was so bizarre was that Holly wasn’t peeing on the lovely pure white very soft and fluffy rug in the bedroom. She only peed on Kirsten’s side of the bed. I’d asked her about laundry detergents, perfume, makeup, hair spray, anything that had a scent that could set Holly off, but there was nothing that made sense to cause the peeing.

I contacted one of my mentors and we spoke again about this case and again I was told I had done the right things and that we could continue to tweak how we dealt with Holly, IF the Kelloggs were okay with it.

I also had more detective work to do. I spoke with the lady who runs the rescue where Holly came from. What I found out made me change my opinion again that this wasn’t a health issue. It had to be a behavior issue.

IMG 9723
©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Holly home from the vet, but when will we find out if she's sick or if it's a behavior problem?

Holly was rescued from a kill-shelter in North Carolina with her siblings where she lived in a cage. She was only 5-weeks old and had no mother with her. She was transported to Connecticut and went into another cage on arrival. Holly spent her life in a cage up until she was adopted at 11-weeks of age. What had gone on with her social skills? She couldn’t learn as much without her mom. Maybe she never had proper experience with a litter pan? What did the stress of being confined, then removed from her siblings, do to her?

 

I imagined her going from a small cage into a HUGE home with 4 kids. Wow. That would make ME pee on the bed, too. I felt really sad for Holly because if she didn’t make a positive change she would lose her home and have to go back into a cage at the rescue until she found another home…and what if she peed in that home, too? Holly could end up being euthanized.

 

[to be continued]

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 1.

I don’t know how this story is going to end and frankly there have been times I just wanted to walk away from this whole situation with my hands up in the air, completely surrendered to failure, but something inside me pushes on, unwilling to give up just yet.

It all began innocently enough. My rescue, Kitten Associates, offers a Free Cat Behavior Counseling program, available to anyone who needs it. The hope is that with my help as a Cat Behavior Counselor, I can keep cats from losing their home by supporting and educating their family, while helping work with the cat's behavior issues in any way I can.

I received an email from a fellow wanting a cat behavior consultation. He told me that his kitten was peeing outside of the litter pan. She was only 5-months old. As I read on, I began to think of questions I’d ask, as often times, the solution for things like this can be rather straightforward once a few questions are answered.

Some of the most often asked questions included: Did they make sure the cat didn’t suffer from a medical issue? Were there enough litter pans? Were the litter pans cleaned often enough and with litter the cat wasn’t opposed to? Was the stress level in the home too much for the kitten? Were there other pets in the home intimidating the young cat?

Then I looked at the signature on the e-mail. Stephen Kellogg. Below his name was a list of URLs, his TedXTalk, a link for his new record, and another for his movie on Amazon Prime. Oh sh!t. He’s a rock star.

Album covers
Just a few of Stephen's albums. You can learn more about him on his web site.

I saw his TedX Talk, watched his movie, listened to a few songs (very good!). I imagined a cool, but probably entitled guy with lots of tattoos and attitude. I wondered what he was doing contacting me. Surely he had a “person” to deal with all these things so he could spend time writing hit songs, but talking to him was surprisingly different than what I expected. Unknowingly, this was going to be the theme of our time together.

 

We made an appointment to talk on the phone. I had my 10-pg questionnaire printed out so I could get a history on the kitten, but I was nervous about the call. I wanted to focus on the cat, be professional, and hopefully solve the issue promptly. I’m just a humble nobody. I don’t have a cheering fan base. I didn’t know if I could even keep my voice steady. I was literally shaking when he first called.

 

As our conversation began, I could tell this guy sang. His speaking voice had a luscious lilt, a blend of husky and honey. He was polite, respectful, and seemed kind. He wasn’t anything like what I expected or feared. He was so sincere it was almost painful to hear him talk about his frustrations with his kitten.

I learned about Holly, a little tortie with white paws who was adopted the day before Christmas as a gift for his four, yes, four daughters (who range in age from about 4 to 13). Stephen is a family-guy who married his high school sweetheart, Kirsten, and whose songs often reflect his love and struggles with his most adored people on Earth.

IMG 9538
©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Holly at home.

 

He referred to Holly as their “fifth daughter,” but was admittedly feeling both sad and stressed that Holly had been peeing on some of the kid’s beds. I promised I’d do everything I could to get to the bottom of the issue and that odds were good that this was a solvable behavior problem.

 

I asked if I could meet Holly to gather more information, since it turns out they live near my home in Newtown. I was so determined not to mess this up that I figured a home visit would help me make sure I was giving them good advice. We planned to meet a few days later and after a long, miserable winter of difficult issues with the Waterbury Ferals (more on that in another post), I was glad to have something to look forward to.

I planned to stop at the pet supply store to get a few things for Holly and pick up some other things for our foster cats before I visited with the Kelloggs. When I got to the store I chatted with Scott, the Manager, who’s also become a friend after the many years of me coming to his store. Scott referred Stephen to me, so I had to update him on what was going on. While we were chatting away, Courtney, one of the other employees shouted that she saw Stephen walk past the window and that his wife and youngest daughter were about to walk into the store.

 

Now what? Do I play it cool? I’m not supposed to know who they are, but the entire staff is making googly eyes at me while they walked over to the cat food aisle where I was standing. I was trying to figure out what to say when Kirsten said hello and asked if I was “Robin.”

 

Flummoxed, I said yes and she immediately reached out and gave me a hug then said hello as her youngest daughter, Greta clung shyly to her leg. We began chatting about cat food when Stephen walked in behind me. Instead of how I’d imagined walking up to the door of Stephen’s home to meet him, there he was, the rock star in the cat food aisle. I had dressed carefully, trying to look less like myself and more like a cooler version who wasn’t covered in cat hair. My gut was twirling and I had no time to take a breath to steady myself because it was “go time.”

Stephen is tall and slender with mischievous nutmeg colored eyes. He wore a bandana around his unruly brown hair. He radiated confidence and had sizzling charisma. His attire was casually chill featuring jeans and t-shirt. I wanted to make a joke about him wearing a hoodie that had his name silkscreened on the back. I wanted to ask why did he have to wear something with his own name on it? Did he forget who he was from time to time and needed a reminder? I was too “deer in the headlights” to say what I was thinking. He gave me a warm smile and hug to match, as we chatted about how funny it was to meet in the cat food aisle. But now I had to focus on the matter at hand. Clearly these people were depending on me.

I couldn't get over what sweet people they were. Their little daughter, Greta with her baby blonde hair, was wearing funky blue glasses and didn’t say a word, she was so shy. Stephen explained they were going to get some food for Holly since I’d suggested taking her off kibble and putting her on a high-protein canned food with a scheduled feeding regime, instead of free-feeding her dry and supplementing with some canned. I took that to be a good sign that they were going to follow through on my suggestions.

IMG 9921
©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Holly with her daddy.

We agreed that I’d still meet them in a few minutes at their home. I had to stop shaking and gather my thoughts, but I told them I had to go to the grocery store where I wished I could buy some time.

 

Doing cat behavior consultations is always very challenging. By the time someone finds me they’re usually about to toss their cat out on the street they’re so distressed. Working in that kind of environment is definitely a skill that takes years to finesse. I had to remember: DO NOT BE JUDGMENTAL and to ask open-ended questions. Be calm. Go slowly. LISTEN. Pay attention to what you can learn in the environment; there you will find clues.

 

I got to the Kellogg’s red clapboard sided home. Their place is vintage, much homier than I imagined, and pretty darn huge. The remaining three Kellogg-daughters were spread out around the house doing their thing. I expected chaos, but it was surprisingly calm. We stood in the gleaming white kitchen as I began to get more in depth information on Holly.

I was grateful that Stephen and Kirsten were open-minded and thoughtfully replied to my many questions. I asked why they adopted only one kitten when their home was grand and with four children. Certainly only one pet wasn’t enough for them to cuddle and snuggle with. The answer was they really only wanted one cat right now but maybe some day they’d get another.

IMG 9510
©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Two cool people and a dork (middle).

 

I told them I was concerned that some of Holly’s behavior might be linked to being overwhelmed. She’s immature, in a big home with one litter pan on the second floor. She was 11-weeks old and had a URI when they adopted her, then was spayed about a week after she recovered her health. The peeing started after the spay surgery and they feared it was a complication of that procedure.

 

Holly had been taken to the vet soon after the peeing issues began. They performed a urinalysis that came up negative. It wasn’t a thorough test of whether or not she had an infection, but the vet felt that it was enough to do to rule out her behavior issue as health-related.

 

At the time Holly was peeing on beds once a week or so, but that was about to change, and not in a good way.

 

[to be continued]

Product Review: DNA TESTING FOR CATS REALIZED!

You’re at a shelter or rescue a cat from the street. You don’t know anything about how they’ll behave once they’re in your home. One of the biggest fears is that this new cat won’t get along with the other pets or family members or that they’ll set off a chain reaction of behavioral problems that will ruin your furnishings.

 

What if there was a way to know exactly what kind of cat you were adopting and what their predispositions were to certain situations? Perhaps that shy cat who was overlooked was really a “diamond in the rough” and with a little time and attention had the potential to blossom into a lap cat? Wouldn’t you give that cat a chance?

 

What if you knew that by adopting the friendly calico who caught your eye, you’d be bringing home a cat who will thwart all attempts to rub her belly?

Problem Solved!

CDNA logo

 

DNA testing has evolved, going beyond what can be learned for humans or what breed of dog you have. A new company, CDNA (CatDNA), is using emerging technology to intelligently discern actual emotional and situational traits in cats and kittens (as young as 6 weeks old).

 

With a simple swab and quick swipe along the inside of the mouth, your cat’s sample is sent to the CDNA lab in Whynot, Mississippi for testing. In 4 to 6 weeks the test results will be delivered to your e-mail inbox.

Below is a listing of the initial group of traits that can be tested. If all goes well and there’s enough interest, there’s talk of capturing more data points and expanding into other areas like food preferences, ability to wear "Cone of Shame" and how intense your cat's drive is to "make muffins" on you (especially when their claws need a trim).

Data Points

• Always Hovers Over Litter (A.H.O.L.) Cats who stay in litter pan while it’s being scooped out.

• Cognitive Reaction to Audible Stimuli (C.R.A.S) Positive or Negative reaction to being told to get off the counter

• Diarrhea or Other Poop Explosions (D.O.P.E.) Cats who need pro-biotics

• Belly Rub Attempts Thwarted (B.R.A.T.)

• Pees Everywhere Soiling Things (P.E.S.T.)

• Belly Up Remains in Place (B.U.R.P.)

• Has Underwear Moving Predisposition (H.U.M.P.) Cats who will take their human’s clothing and move it to their stash area, usually a basement or closet

• Inappropriate Mounting of Stuffed Toys (E.W.W.)

• Meowing with Toys in Mouth (M.T.M.)

• Eats Greens Almost Daily (E.G.A.D.)

• Purrs in Tones, Annoying (P.I.T.A.)

• Definitely Effective Reasoning Powers (D.E.R.P.)

Thanks to CDNA for sponsoring this post, I was able to test my cat DOODLEBUG (the DOOD) free of charge.

Here’s Dood's chart. As you can clearly see, DOOD is a few fries short of a Happy Meal because his D.E.R.P. score is not even calculable. Clearly DOOD is a freak about vegetables and don’t go near his belly. Huh. I guess I already knew that, but it’s good to have confirmation. Would it have stopped me from adopting him? No. There’s no test (YET) for adorability and DOOD has that in spades.

Pie Chart April Fools

In closing, I’d say the cost of CDNA's test could be worth it to new cat parents. Perhaps it would inspire them to give their cat more greens or to realize they really can’t ever rub their cat’s tummy safely and to stop trying.

 

As far as I'm concerned, I'll love DOOD test results or no test results, and in the end maybe that's what really matters.

 

---------------------

If this tickled your funny bone, I hope you'll check out these very special April 1 blog posts from years gone by.

Product Review: Flunette

Product Review: GLITTER CAT LITTER

Product Review: PetBit

and my favorite: Pebble Associates

The Feral50. Unimaginable Pain. Ch 1.

I still remember the first time I heard about TNR (trap, neuter, return). It was twelve years ago and it was very clinically explained to me by a woman who did cat rescue. I later learned she didn’t have much compassion for cats. She would trap, neuter/spay, return most of the cats, even ones that could have been socialized (due to their age or due to the fact they were friendly cats who had been outdoors a long while and needed time to adjust). The kittens came to me and got homes, but in my heart TNR never sat well with me because I’m a softie. I don’t like to see cats outside, filthy and starving, or worse…but TNR is the only effective way to compassionately care for feral cats and many of them, who have a caretaker, do great. We've had as many as four feral cats in our yard that Sam and I cared for and we loved them dearly.

I get it. Some cats are going to live outside and there are plenty of things we can do to keep them safe and healthy, at least to a degree. Maybe we can’t medicate them or keep them away from predators completely but we can do better than turn our heads and hope someone else will do something for them.

Cats on truck r olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. How many cats do you see in this photo?

 

Over the years, too, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m good at some things about rescue and not so good about other things. I’m not a trapper. I’m better at being a nurse to the sick. I can do a bit of fundraising. I can educate people about nutrition or cat behavior so cat’s can have a better life.

 

The good news is I finally figured out that I don’t have to do everything to rescue a cat because if I can find a good team, between all of us, we can find a way. It always takes a village to rescue a cat.

That’s why a week ago I decided to offer my help when I heard about a colony of over 50 cats in the neighboring town of Waterbury. Normally, this is not something I can take part in, especially a group this size. I decided grant some funds and to help raise more. I knew it would cost a great deal to vet these cats, but it had to be done. With no one doing anything about it, the colony size was exploding.

IMG 7664
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Everywhere I looked there were cats.

So I raised my hand and thankfully, so did many other people. People who run rescues, who volunteer, who love to trap cats, who don’t mind driving a truckload of trapped cats to the vet. Some offered room to take on the friendly cats, if there were any. Most of these people never worked together before, but because of their dedication to these cats, they’re trying to put aside any differences and focus on the alarmingly huge task ahead.

 

What’s also amazing is the location is next to a very large manufacturing plant and warehouse. While there is a nuisance aspect to having so many cats on their property, most of the employees love the cats. They just don’t know what to do for them. A few of them even adopted previous litters of kittens. It’ll make our job a lot easier to have their support and permission. In return, I realize we need to educate them and leave them with resources so they know what to do when the next feral cat shows up at their door---and it will happen.

 

Parking lot with cats
©2017 Robin AF Olson. This is where I started to get scared I should have stayed home and hid under the bed, but I couldn't give up on these cats.

 

The main contributing factor to our job is the enormous apartment complex right behind where the cats are living. It’s very clear to me due to the wide variety of cat colors and patterns that many of these cats were dumped. There’s no way they are all inter-related. It makes my blood boil because none of this had to happen, and certainly in not such gross numbers, if only their former families had spayed or neutered their cats. Now we’re the unpaid volunteers who will deal with this situation, spend many long hours and drink too much coffee while waiting for traps to snap shut.

 

The first time I walked the property it reminded me of being on a ride at Disney World; the one where you ride a boat around a lagoon. You turn left and an alligator pops up out of the water, then right and you see a monkey swinging out of a tree, towards you on a vine. At the lot, it was almost as if the cats appeared on cue. As I opened pouches of food, they slowly walked towards me. I’d see one sitting on the hood of a car, then realize there were really three cats there. They blended in to their surroundings so well my eyes had to adjust to seeing cats everywhere I turned.

Lots of cats r olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Getting ready for snack time.

Within a few minutes, I quickly counted twenty cats. I was told that the rule of thumb is to double the number you see in the daytime because many more come out at night. The workers had told us they counted up to 63 cats, but until we start trapping we won’t really know. We just know it’s a bad situation even though the cats are being fed every single day by a very very wonderful lady who works across the street from the lot.

Of course, as I looked at each cat I had to fight off the urge to try to pet them. They came close to us, but did not solicit attention. Some of them were fairly dirty and a few looked like they had a slight upper respiratory tract infection. One had lost a good deal of her fur, another had a slight limp. I expected to see things like this, but I was not prepared for what I saw next.

 

I was standing next to a flat bed trailer, opening more pouches of food. I looked down and what I saw made me gasp in horror. It was a small black and white, long haired cat. At least I think it’s fur was long, but it was so seriously matted and filthy it must have given up grooming itself months ago. In contrast to the other cats in the lot, this cat was in dire condition. It still had lovely crystalline green eyes and a sweet face, except for the band of thick, ropey mucous or maybe even pus, coming out of his mouth. He moved very slowly. I could tell he was skin and bones and in a unimaginable amount of pain.

 

Waterbury 1 by tire r olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. My first glimpse of pure heartbreak.

He or she walked past a pile of kibble. I doubted he could smell it. I happened to have some fish flavored canned food and he could smell that. He came over and greedily tried to eat turning his head to the side, then scooping small mouthfuls out of the side of his mouth as fast as she could.

Most of the other cats had enough weight on their bones, but this one did not. He needed to get to a vet as soon as possible, but without a trap it was going to be tough to get him.

Waterbury 1 with other cat
©2017 Robin AF Olson. She looked even worse in person.

 

I had to fight the urge to try to scoop him into my arms and race to the vet, but it was vital he eat something. If I took a step too close he would back away. I stood as still as possible so he could focus on trying to get food into his mouth. As I stood there my chest tightened and my eyes burned as I fought off crying over this poor animal. I’ve seen lots of very sick kittens in my day and I’ve had to humanely euthanize some of them, too, but I’ve never seen anything this bad in my life and it was ripping my heart out to see this sweet kitty suffering.

 

I called over to my associates and told them about the cat. We all agreed he had to be the first one we trapped. Though we did try to coax him into a cat carrier, he was too timid. I almost got him, but he was still strong enough to know to stay away from us. We knew if we didn’t act fast he’d die.

It broke my heart to leave. I didn’t sleep much that night. I kept thinking about that cat and all the others, trying to find a warm dry place to sleep, most probably full of parasites or fleas. What a lousy life.

GOOD NEWS! The next day, I was thrilled to learn that the cat got trapped. It took all afternoon before it was found, then trapped. But shortly thereafter we realized we had to quickly figure out the answer to the “now what do we do” question. We had this cat, but we didn’t have time to do a fundraiser for the spays/neuters that needed to be done, let alone an emergency vet visit.

Waterbury 1 close up
©2017 Robin AF Olson. That discoloration under her nose is a great deal of mucuos.

I offered to cover a some of the costs through my non-profit, Kitten Associates, until we could fundraise, but it was a Friday night and the vets were all closing.

We also had to have a depressing conversation about what would cause us to tell the vet to humanely euthanize this cat. First, could he be saved AT ALL. Were we already too late?

 

Would we put him down due to costs? No. Would we put him down if he was positive for Feline Leukemia. No, not right away. We would re-test a positive result and honestly, I think as long as he had good odds to recover we’d find a safe placement for him. If the vet said there was no chance to save him, then we agreed we’d have to let him go.

 

Now began the long painful wait to get answers on this cat’s future.

 

With tech at vet watebury 1 400
Trapped! A good start, but are we too late to save her life?

 

None of us wanted to start this mass-rescue by killing any of the cats, especially since I had to make the painful choice to put Lady Saturday down just a few days before. Her age and failing kidneys had caught up with her. There was no way we could help her other than to let her go with peace and surrounded by people who loved her. I couldn’t face that again, even if it was with a cat I didn’t know.

 

One of our teammates got the cat to her vet. It was late and they couldn’t do much for the cat until the next day, but right away they got her on antibiotics and pain meds. They only had time to shave her behind so they could tell that we did have a SHE and not a HE.

It took another day to find out the answer to the big question: did she have FIV or FeLV? Thankfully, the answer was NO. She was clear of those diseases.

Waterbury 1 perspective
Waterbuy 1's view of the world as she begins her life version 2.0.

 

The cat needed to be groomed to cut the filthy, smelly mats off her. She appeared to be 3 to 6 years old, but it was too tough to tell because one way is by looking at her teeth and her mouth was in one of the worst conditions the vet had ever seen. She has such severe stomatitis that it’s amazing she could eat at all. She also has ulcers on her tongue, too. It must hurt like Hell.

 

 

ALL OF HER TEETH HAVE TO BE REMOVED if she is to have any chance at a comfortable life.

 

It’s a painful, long procedure and quite expensive, but in the end she should be able to live a normal life, with one big exception.

SHE CAN NEVER GO BACK TO THE COLONY. She would not survive without her teeth and she’d freeze without her fur. She needs a safe, warm place to recover from her procedure, then a forever home. We need to sort this out, but right now we need to get her dental done ASAP.

 

The good news is we’ve already raised $800. The bad news is we need to raise about $800 more and that’s just to cover this cat’s dental care. We also need to raise funds beyond the $800, to spay/neuter the remaining cats and based on the two other sick cats, funds to help them, too.

 

Estimate2It's hard to read but the estimate is basically $1000-$1600.00. Our vet's info is below where you can confirm with them or make a donation.

If you’d like to help give this feral kitty a chance to have a pain-free future, here are ways you can make a big difference.

The kitty is named Waterbury 1, but we'll give her a proper name soon.

DONATE: DIRECTLY TO HER VET-A special fund has been set up for her with:

Dr. Kristine Matz

"c/o Kitten Associates and Waterbury 1"

Animal Medical Care of CT

490 Cornwall Avenue

Cheshire, CT 06410

203-439-2597

DONATE: TO KITTEN ASSOCIATES and we'll provide the funds to the Vet. Any left over funds will go to our spay/neuter needs or to vet care for another sick cat from this colony.

Use these quick links:

To donate $5: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/5

To donate $10: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/10

To donate $25: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/25

To donate whatever you wish: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/

To mail a check, make it out to: Kitten Associates, P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354

Your gift is tax deductible. Kitten Associates is a 501c3 non-profit. Our EIN Tax ID is 27-3597692. PLEASE PUT A NOTE ON YOUR CHECK: "Waterbury Ferals" or "Feral50" so we can direct the funds appropriately.

TO HELP SPAY/NEUTER CATS DONATE DIRECTLY TO NUTMEG CLINIC. Please add a note that it's for KITTEN ASSOCIATES, WATERBURY CATS/Feral 50

 

THANK YOU for loving and caring for cats and their well-being. We can't do these rescues WITHOUT ALL OF YOU.

 

Waterbury 1 in cage at vet
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Already in love with this sweet baby, I've got everything crossed that she will be okay one day. We're off to a good start.

 

UPDATE: Waterbury 1 is stable and I will have news about her condition shortly. Stay tuned for more news...and news about a few other kitties who have just been trapped! 8 cats trapped and a bunch more to go (including, dare I say it, the newest member of my family?).

 

Of Cancer, Carbs and Cats: Emergencies all Around. Part 2 of 3

Continued from part one.

Here’s where I sound like a b_tch.

 

Thing is, O.F. NEVER took his cats to the vet in their entire LIFE (other than the waste-of-time visit Buddy had a few days before we picked up the cats where the Vet wanted to run some tests and where they said not to bother). They’d been fed cheap dry food for SIX YEARS. They never were given “people food,” nor did they get canned food of any kind. I didn’t see a scratching post or a toy in the apartment they shared with O.F.. I asked O.F. if I could bring a cat bed or blanket with me that they slept on so they’d have something familiar smelling when they came to my home. There was NOTHING there for me to take. What kind of life did they have?

 

I asked for a very generous financial donation towards their care. I figured it would probably cost me about $2000 (this is without even knowing what might really be going on with them). I got half that amount. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful. I was, but I also assumed they both needed dental cleanings, at least, and that I couldn’t cover those costs with what we had. It wasn’t fair to ask me to take these cats on, with all the issues we knew about, plus the fear of what was to come and to do it for FREE or to magically pay for it when we didn't have the funds to do so. Yes, O.F. is very sick but he also didn’t tell me that with chemo he could live another year to THREE years. Somehow he skipped telling me that fact. I learned it through a friend of his. Was this such a dire situation or an easy way out to play the “C” card when he probably could have found a family member or friend to take the cats? It would have required effort and time, and I'm betting he didn’t want to deal with it. I began to feel my hackles go up, wondering if I’d been duped.

Buddy a few days later 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Buddy the day before surgery.

Once we got the cats home and I got a chance to really look at them, it was clear they were in terrible shape. I have six-year old cats, too, but these guys acted twice that age. Buddy kept going in and out of the litter pan. He could pass some urine, but I could tell it wasn’t enough. The fact that he kept going to the pan meant he was in pain and something was wrong. His eyes were running badly. His coat was dry. He was terrified and withdrawn. He and Belle were growling at each other. The two of them were quite overweight, with Belle overshadowing her brother by a lot.

I made an appointment for Buddy to see Dr Larry. I wanted to give it a few days so Buddy could calm down, but I was concerned that Buddy had crystals in his bladder. All it would take would be for one to slip into his urethra and cause a blockage, which would be an expensive emergency surgery. I prayed it was only a bladder infection, which would only mean giving him antibiotics for a few weeks. I knew we’d have to run blood work and urinalysis, update Buddy’s vaccinations and test him for Feline Leukemia and FIV so he could be adopted one day. I added up what I thought would be the costs in my head having had these things done so many times before. We could get by with what I had, but just barely.

Belle Reflecting R Olson 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Belle at 17.2 lbs.

 

But Buddy was too sick to delay getting him to the vet. Dr. Larry had to keep him for the day in the hopes he could get some urine to test. I got a call a few hours later. Buddy had a lot of blood in his urine. They did an x-ray and his bladder was full of LARGE stones. While we could change his diet, get him off dry and give it time over doing surgery, we’d be at high risk of him blocking up. We couldn’t wait. I begged a favor to pay off the costs over time, so we could do the surgery the next day. Buddy stayed at the Vet overnight while I began to do an emergency fundraiser. There was no way we could afford to drop $2000.00.

 

I hate asking for donations. I shouldn’t run a non-profit cat rescue. While I am deeply humbled and so very grateful we get the help we need when we need it, we NEVER have much in the bank to fall back on when there’s an emergency and that stresses me out to no end.

Funds began to come in for Buddy and we barely reached our goal after two days. Buddy had his surgery and came through with flying colors.

Dr. Larry said his bladder was loaded and the stones were very large. Buddy had to have been in pain for a very long time. Knowing that made my blood boil because O.F. lives about a block, tops, from a Vet. How hard would it have been to get the cat checked out years ago? Instead of saying no to diagnostics, say yes. Find out what is going on and face it. No. That was on me to deal with.

 

Buddy Stones 650
The stones removed from Buddy's bladder. They were quite large indicating they had been present for some time.

While Buddy recovered from surgery, I knew I needed to find out what was going on with his sister Belle. She wasn’t eating; not a bite for days. Nothing. I had to syringe feed her and that was very difficult. I’ve syringe-fed cats MANY times but Belle fought, spit, hissed, growled. Some how she spit cat food all over the ceiling. She also upset Buddy so much he ran behind me and attacked me, clawing my behind. Yes! It’s called re-directed aggression. Belle got upset and it upset Buddy so he attacked whoever was close to him---ME! I was not loving having these cats in my house.

Meanwhile, our 16-year old cat, Nicky, was depressed. I could tell he was in pain, too. He was losing weight even though we were offering him food many times a day. I was very worried about him.

 

Nicky had a seizure a few weeks ago right under my office desk, while I was working on a design project. I rushed him to the Vet where they put him on valium to stop the episode. Later that night, Sam took him to a neurologist where we learned he’d lost some vision in his left eye. It might come back. It might not. He might have underlying lymphoma causing the seizures, but it was too soon to do more tests.

 

We started Nicky on Phenobarbital but it left him doped up and miserable. We changed his medication but he still wasn’t right. He would “forget” the litter pan was in front of him and would urinate on the floor. Having chronic kidney disease, also meant when Nicky peed, it was a tremendous amount of output, often covering half of our kitchen floor. If he did it overnight while we were asleep, the urine would warp the wood floor near the kitchen. It infuriated me and kept me on edge. Every time Nicky got up, Sam or I would have to keep an eye on him because many times we’d have to grab him before he peed on the floor. I had to remind myself that it wasn’t Nicky’s fault at all. We loved him and would do what we had to do. The urine was very dilute anyway. It was mostly like cleaning up water, but it was exhausting trying to keep up.

Nicky Sick July 2016 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Our sweet Nicky, not feeling well at all. By the way, when you see your cat is depressed, something is wrong. They should be taken to a Vet to be checked out.

The night Buddy has his surgery, Nicky really seemed to be feeling lousy. Sam hadn’t given him his fluids because he got home late and was tired. I pushed Sam to do the fluids, while we made sure Nicky had a nice meal. Sam sat on the sofa and held Nicky as he often did, like a baby with his belly up and his hind legs stretched out. Sam was cold so I wrapped a blanket around his shoulders so he wouldn’t have to disturb Nicky. He sat there for a long time in the dark, just holding and comforting his dear cat. I asked Sam about getting Nicky’s blood work checked in the morning. I had an appointment set for Belle. He could have my appointment if there weren’t any others that day. Belle could wait if needed. He agreed Nicky should be seen.

I felt good going to bed that night. Nicky seemed much happier and comfortable. He didn’t come upstairs to snuggle with us as he used to do because he was somewhat weakened by his illness. We didn’t want to push him to do something he couldn’t do and Sam was worried he would fall and hurt himself getting on or off the bed.

 

If I only knew that was our last night together…

 

Part 3, the final chapter: Where we have to make a heartbreaking choice and I show my true colors about how I feel about O.F. and his cats.

Kiss Your Kittens. Don't Kiss Your Kids!

Erin Ross, in her recent article Kitten Conundrum: Cat-Scratch Disease is Making People Sicker, suggests that if you want to stay healthy, it would be wise to “avoid kittens”, citing a recent report by the CDC about Cat Scratch Disease (CSD) or Bartonella henselae. The article warns that CSD may have the the potential for causing serious illness, particularly in children and those who are immune-compromised.

 

But let’s take a closer look before we start euthanizing more kittens because they won’t be getting adopted due to irresponsible fear-mongering.

 

While I agree it is vital to provide information to the general public regarding zoonotic disease (illness that can be transmitted between humans and animals), it is equally, if not more important, to take a common-sense approach when reading information about such findings. Yes, it’s possible in a very few cases to become very ill from CSD, but if you look at the numbers, it’s so low I have to ask myself if it's certainly worth all the fuss the press has been making about it. If you're immune compromised, of course you're at a higher risk to get ANY disease. You might not want to share your home with a pet at all, not only for the CSD risk.

Again, common sense must prevail. Wash your hands. How many times did your mom tell you to do that? If your cat or kitten nips or scratches you, WASH the wound to prevent infection. DUH. Really, people, do you have to be told this?

Black kitten photobomb with P R Olson
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Pizzelle, wondering what all the fuss is about.

 

I have fostered over 500 kittens in 15 years. I have NEVER gotten ANY illness from my cats or kittens. Okay, wait, I did get a spot of ringworm once. I kiss the kittens. I give them baths. They bite and scratch me, some times by accident, and some times on purpose. I’ve been to the ER once for a bad bite that was my fault. Did I get CSD? No.

 

What my concern for articles like the one found on NPR's web site and many others across the globe is that it can take a toll on the most innocent of creatures – kittens. It’s hard enough for shelters to find a foster home or a forever family for their most fragile residents and with this biased reporting it puts how many more lives at risk?

Kittens are euthanized every day in shelters across the country because they catch a cold or get a treatable skin condition like ringworm. Now with families afraid there’s a hidden disease in seemingly healthy kittens, that their kids are going to get sick enough to require hospitalization from being in contact with them, they're going to give up on adopting cats. Clearly there is little concern that the article could send a shock-wave of panic resulting in needless death, and cause rescues to lose foster homes and adoptions, just to make a buck on a click-bait headline.

Let’s look at some facts:

• Number of owned cats in the USA 85,800,000
• Number of people sickened by CSD per year 12,000
• Number of those people seriously sickened by CSD per year 500
• Highest average annual CSD incidence for outpatients and inpatients was among children 5–9 years of age (9.0 cases/100,000 patients and 0.4 cases/100,000 patients, respectively) …and, by the way, DOGS can also transmit CSD so maybe you better get rid of your dog, too.

 

What About Kids? If You Want to Get Sick, Kiss a Kid.

 

While everyone is panicking that little fluffy Puff is going to kill their kids from CSD, what about the other way around? Want to get SICK? BE AROUND KIDS!

This is from Pinkbook, the CDCs guide to routinely used vaccines and the diseases they prevent regarding Influenza:

"Healthy children 5 through 18 years of age are not at increased risk of complications of influenza. However, children typically have the highest attack rates during community outbreaks of influenza. They also serve as a major source of transmission of influenza within communities. Influenza has a substantial impact among school-aged children and their contacts. These impacts include school absenteeism, medical care visits, and parental work loss. Studies have documented 5 to 7 influenza-related outpatient visits per 100 children annually, and these children frequently receive antibiotics"

What Does This Mean?

 

9 out of 100,000 or .009% of people get sickened by CSD and 5000-7000 of 100,000 people or 5-7% get sickened by KIDS.

 

 

GETTING SICK FROM A KID IS 550 to 770 TIMES MORE LIKELY THAN GETTING SICK FROM A KITTEN.

 

Even the CDC study mentions its own failings:

"Our study has several limitations. First, the case definition relies on diagnosis by clinicians and subsequent coding by clinicians or billing specialists, both of which are subject to error. For example, the 078.3 code could have been inappropriately used for care of a cat scratch wound but not actual CSD. Also, in some cases, the 078.3 code may have been recorded as a rule-out diagnosis when CSD was not actually confirmed. To our knowledge, there are no data on the sensitivity and specificity of the 078.3 code for CSD."

They also state that they expected the results to be higher! So what are they telling us? Hey, maybe it’s not that bad.

"The lower incidence of inpatient admissions found by our study is surprising, given that the number of US households with cats has increased in recent decades to an all-time high of 45 million." (there are now 85.8 million “owned” cats in the USA alone)

Minne and Family
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Minnie with her kittens and what would have become of them if they'd been in a shelter effected by a drop in adoptions and foster homes?

The last point that chaps my ass is the one that’s missing from the article. There is no mention on the toll CSD on the cats themselves. My rescue, Kitten Associates, now routinely tests for Bartonella and we DO find positive cats and kittens from time to time. We do this not only to protect our adopters, but because bartonella can mimic other illness. It might end up being overlooked while the cat ends up suffering for years, secretly sick. I’ve even randomly screened my own cats and was surprised at how many were positive, even though they were indoor-only cats and didn't have fleas. My Vet suggested that up to 20% of cats could have some level of infection (from mild, suggesting exposure but not needing treatment, to strong positive which requires treatment) and most people don’t even know it.

 

Ross ends the article saying not to kiss your cat until they are flea-free, which ignores the fact that if the cat has CSD, treating it for fleas is NOT going to fix the problem. You need to keep your cat INDOORS, keep him or her flea-free, test for bartonella, treat with antibiotics if there’s a strong positive, then run a titer in 6 months to make sure that cat is free from the infection. In my opinion, during the entire process you can KISS YOUR CAT all you want (I wouldn’t tongue-kiss though because that is GROSS). Let them lick your face. If they bite or scratch you, do what your mom told you to do and stop worrying about getting sick, especially if you're not immune compromised.

 

And get out there and adopt a kitten; better to adopt a pair. We have plenty ready to go right now!

But stay away from KIDS!

Sheesh.

 

Quad Shot of 4 Kittens
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Which kitten is going to infect you with a horrible disease? Adopt one to find out. (top left: Slinky, top right: Herbie, bottom left: Aunt Bee, bottom right: Mr Peabody).

The Last Feral Cat. Part 2 of 2.

[continued from part 1]

This time it was a nip, not as serious as that first chomp, but it made me recoil in fear. What did I do to cause this or did Barry have aggression issues? Barry was bored. I felt it in my gut. He needed out of the crate.

When the day finally arrived for him to come inside I was both worried and relieved. First, I had to get him out of the crate and into a cat carrier so I could bring him into my home. I purposely skipped Barry's dinner the night before, thinking if he was hungry enough I could lure him into the cat carrier with food. I was terrified that if he didn't cooperate and I had to handle him that it would end badly for me. But Barry was being Barry. Show him food and Barry will go anywhere you want. I had to give his behind a quick shove so as to not get his tail stuck in the door of the carrier, but he went right inside. He was too focused on food to mind. Whew.

This was it. Time to find out what Barry was made of. Would he continue to be aggressive or would he relax with space to move around and the company of another cat? He'd been friends with Bronte. Surely he and Mia would be friends, too. I prayed that being out of the cage would be what Barry needed to begin to blossom and where I could finally trust him.

Barry looking out window 650
©2015 Robin AF Olson. It made me sad that Barry spent countless hours looking out the lone window in the bathroom. I knew he was safe where he was. He wanted to get outside, but since he wasn’t feral I had to give him every chance.

Barry was a bit bossy with Mia at first, but there was enough room for the cats to have their own space. My instructor urged me to do two, 15-minute play sessions every day with Barry. He loved them and it helped him relax afterwards. What was so completely charming was how awkward Barry was when he dove after a toy. His body was not built like a gymnast, more like a wrestler. He'd dive after a toy, then thud onto the floor. His eyes lit up and he wheezed as he vigorously grabbed at the toy then bit hard into it. Finally, something else was getting bitten besides me.

Barry 11 15 400
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Handsome man.

One night I sat on the floor and encouraged Barry to come over to me. I reached out for him and pulled him onto my lap. He sat there like a brick. His body was heavy and solid. I carefully petted him, worried I would over-stimulate him and cause him to bite again. He sat there quietly, but I was tense. Barry sensed it, too. He got up and jumped onto a small cat condo. I froze since he was towering over me. I spoke to him quietly and reached out to pet him. His mouth opened to take another bite of my hand, but this time I disengaged with him, got up and walked out of the room, closing the door behind me. He could not do that to me or anyone or I'd never get him adopted. My non-reaction was a message to him that he wasn't going to get what he wanted by biting.

Barry and Mia play time 11 2015
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry and Mia at playtime.

A few months passed and Barry and Mia became friends. I even played with Mia when I had a session with Barry. It helped her come out of her shell a little bit more, too. Barry continued to charm me but I felt terrible he was in such a small space. I cleared off the top of my washing machine and put a cat bed on top of it. He loved hanging out there since it was big enough to hold him, unlike the cat trees that were woefully inadequate. Though I was still a bit on edge, I began to worry less and less that Barry would bite me. The more time we spent together, the more I saw him as a clown instead of a fearsome beast.

©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry & Mia, BFFs.

Barry’s biggest change was when I was finally able to move him and Mia into the main foster room. There Barry quickly made friends with Jelly (who was in a big crate recovering from surgery on his leg) and his brother, Lolli, who wasn’t too thrilled, but eventually accepted the newcomers. I had a large wicker basket that I put on top of a storage container, about a foot off the ground. I had an old rag rug that I lined the basket with. It became Barry’s favorite place to hang out and I often found him there, belly up, snoring softly.

Barry on the washer R olson copy
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Barry, the washing machine attendant.

Jelly and Lolli got adopted, giving Barry and Mia plenty of space to stretch out and enjoy life. There are two sunny windows in the room, one that was very large and overlooked the same spot in the front yard where I first saw Barry so many months before. Barry had been up for adoption for awhile, but I didn't get much interest in him. Last week I got an application that looked good, but they have a young daughter. They asked me if Barry really couldn’t go to a family with young children because their kids had been around a cranky old cat and knew to be careful AND they were falling in love with Barry’s big head and goofy markings (intact male cats get really big heads. In the northern USA, we call them “apple heads” and in the south they call them “biscuit heads”).

We discussed Barry in detail and they sounded like a perfect match. Sam and I did a home visit and their home is more windows than walls and is surrounded by the woods. They promised not to let Barry outside and they agreed to give him time to adjust and not overwhelm him.

IMG 2796
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Barry and his new family (with Freya).

Nearly a year after I first trapped Barry, he found his forever home. Frankly, I’m in awe. I had no idea we’d ever find something for him, but he’d blossomed and mellowed out so much (he hasn’t bitten me for at least for six months!) that it shouldn't have surprised anyone that he found a home. I didn't want to admit it, but I'd become very attached to the big lug. He makes me laugh. He talks to me some times. He lays belly up and hugs tight onto his rainbow catnip toy. He's a far cry from the cat who tried to rip through the screen to get into my house. Now he licks Mia’s head and chases her around the room. He lets the just-arrived foster kittens push him out of his food. He’s a big, (17 pounds now!), dopey, love bug.

Living in a home with two parents and their two young kids is a good match for Barry and though I will never know, maybe he had a home like that once long ago. This time he won’t lose his home when times get tough, because I’ll always have his back. This time he'll be in a place where he's appreciated and cared for and where he's valued.

---------------------

Barry funky 10 2015
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry in the blue bathroom.

 

For the first time in almost ten years, Sam and I decided to close off the screened porch so our own cats could finally use it. We haven’t seen any cats in our yard over the past year so it was time. Barry may be the last cat I will ever trap. Now I can go back to doing what I do best, and that’s caring for kittens and their moms.

 

I miss you, Barry, but I’m glad I miss you because you’re in your forever home than because I didn’t give you a chance and you were lost to us as Bronte was. Have a wonderful, loved life, big guy. You deserve it.

And please don’t rip up any more window screens.

©2015 Robin AF Olson. A year later, a very mellow fellow with his catnip rainbow.

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